US, Israel discussing settlement restrictions — State Department
The United States is in discussion with Israel about holding back on settlement construction, acting State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said Tuesday.
Toner referred to US President Donald Trump’s statement at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, in which he asked Israel to rein in settlement expansion. “We’re in discussions with Israel about how exactly that would look like that,” he said. “It’s under consideration.”
Regarding the peace process, Toner said the new administration is still “looking at the situation and looking at next steps.” The State Department will definitely play a role, he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, a US official in remarks to the Times of Israel emphasized Trump’s call on both sides to act reasonably.
“As he has made clear, President Trump is committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians on a comprehensive peace deal that will allow both sides to live in the peace and security they deserve,” the administration official said on condition of anonymity.
“The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward. We are just getting that process started,” he added. “As the president has said, he would like to see a ‘level of reasonableness of both parties.’”
The official was referring to comments made in an interview Trump gave the Israel Hayom newspaper last month in which he also said he did not believe settlements were “a good thing for peace.”
“I want Israel to be reasonable with respect to peace,” Trump said at the time. “I want to see peace happen. It should happen. After all these years,” he added. “Maybe there is even a chance for a bigger peace than just Israel and the Palestinians. I would like to see a level of reasonableness of both parties, and I think we have a good chance of doing that.”
In that interview, Trump declined to say if legislation advancing the annexation of even small parts of the West Bank, such as the Jerusalem suburb Ma’aleh Adumim (which is generally agreed will remain part of Israel under any conceivable peace deal), would be considered as “not reasonable” in this context.
Subsequently, at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president said Israel should “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
Since Trump’s election, some Likud and Jewish Home MKs have ramped up calls for the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim and other settlements, and on Sunday, Likud MK Miki Zohar called for full Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
A day later, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he had received a direct message from the US saying that “Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank means an immediate crisis with the new administration.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, and other right-wing politicians, attacked Liberman for his statement, arguing that the White House had not yet formed a coherent policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Liberman, who is opposed to West Bank annexation, should not create self-fulfilling prophesies, right-wing politicians said.
Liberman is holding talks in the US this week with administration officials and others.
The White House official said the administration was aware of Liberman’s comments but refused to “speak publicly about the details of private communications between governments.” (The Times of Israel)
Netanyahu, Trump ‘speak at length’ about the Iranian threat
U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone Monday and discussed the danger posed by Iran.
Netanyahu took the call from the American president as he was being questioned by police investigators over alleged misconduct cases.
Following the discussion, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that “the two leaders spoke at length about the dangers posed by the nuclear deal with Iran and by Iran’s malevolent behavior in the region, and about the need to work together to counter those dangers.”
The White House said the two spoke about the threats in the Middle East and the need to face them. Netanyahu thanked Trump for his remarks condemning anti-Semitism in his address to Congress last week.
Earlier Monday, Netanyahu spoke at a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry commemorating the 25th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
He said that one of Israel’s security agencies believes that “over 80% of Israel’s fundamental security problems originate in Iran,” and that Israel is coping with these problems by growing stronger itself.
Netanyahu added that as even in 1992 Israel knew who was behind the embassy attack, saying the Islamic republic “is the biggest instigator of terror in the universe” and aspires to “have a nuclear weapon and is advancing its ballistic missile program.”
With perfect timing, American officials accused Iran of testing two ballistic missiles in recent days. They officials said it was the first time in two years that the short-range Fatah-110 missile was tested.
Iran, meanwhile, has fitted a model of its Fatah-110 missile with a more sophisticated guidance system to better locate and destroy targets at sea. The development has sparked concerns within the U.S. Navy.
Over the weekend, Iranian vessels came dangerously close to a U.S. Navy surveillance ship in the Strait of Hormuz, causing it to divert from its course, U.S. officials said Monday.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters that a number of smaller boats had approached the U.S. ship, closing to within 600 yards.
Another Navy official condemned the Iranian actions as “unsafe and unprofessional,” The Washington Post reported.
Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Moscow on Thursday and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The prime minister is expected to express his objections to a permanent Iranian presence in Syria. (Israel Hayom)
IDF forces defuse two explosive devices found near Gaza border
Two explosive charges found near the border fence with the Gaza Strip were defused by IDF troops on Tuesday morning, the army said.
According to the statement, the two charges which had been laid in an off-limits area in the Northern Gaza Strip, were planted in order to harm IDF troops. After they were neutralized, the charges were taken in for further examination.
No soldiers were harmed.
Explosive device found near Israel’s border with Gaza. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)Explosive device found near Israel’s border with Gaza. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)
Earlier in the day, Palestinians in Gaza had reported of Israeli troops and engineering vehicles operating on the Gaza side of the security fence and reported that a fighter with Islamic Jihad had been wounded after an IDF tank had fired toward an observation post in the Strip near where the IED’s had been placed.
But according to the army, which does not comment on foreign reports, they were “not aware” of any such incident.
Tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip have been high as of late, with the discovery of the two IEDs coming just days after the IDF struck multiple Hamas targets in Gaza on Thursday in response to gunfire emanating from the Strip at Israeli soldiers.
The air force and artillery strikes occurred after troops carrying out routine security activities near the border security fence had come under fire, and while there were no injuries, a military tractor sustained light damaged.
Sporadic rocket fire by terrorists has also been launched across Israel’s border in recent weeks, including last Wednesday.
No rocket warning sirens sounded as the projectile impacted, striking in an open area near the Ashkelon coast. There were no injuries or damage from the rocket, which was fired from Beit Hanun in the northeastern Gaza Strip.
The projectile launching marked the fifth attack on southern Israel in the last month, including two strikes by Islamic State affiliates in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Most of rocket launchings have been claimed by small jihadist groups, many times as a means for pressuring Hamas by raising tensions between the terror organization and Israel. Hamas has cracked down on these small groups, recently carrying out a wave of arrests among Salafi, jihadist, pro-Islamic State organizations. (Jerusalem Post)
‘The Lebanese Army will fight alongside Hezbollah in a war with Israel’
Since the Second Lebanese War, the Lebanese army has rearmed itself, strengthening its ability in the air as well as on the ground and sea, with the help of the United States, France and Saudi Arabia.
In the past two years, a new challenge has risen on the northern front. Should Israel go to war with Hezbollah, the Lebanese army would fight on the Shi’ite terrorist organization’s side, Maariv, the sister publication of The Jerusalem Post, quoted Israeli security officials as saying on Friday.
According to the officials, unlike Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, a future war would feature the Lebanese Armed Forces on Hezbollah’s side.
The army had originally rearmed itself in order to deal with internal terrorism, however they also strengthened their ability to fight an army such as the IDF.
While the army may not have specifically advanced weaponry, they do currently have more ability than before to fight the IDF, including more precise anti-tank rockets.
The Lebanese army is made up mostly of Christians, although Lebanese from all ethnic groups and religions serve in the army as well, which is under the rule of President Michel Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah.
Many Shi’ites also serve in the army, as well as in Hezbollah.
“Shi’ites serving has no correlation to the strengthening of the army,” officials in Israel said. “They have always served. The strengthening came from the army’s rearming as well as its commander- in-chief, Aoun and Hezbollah.”
Aoun, 81 years old, was once a Lebanese Armed Forces officer, and in the 1980s was an ally to Israel. He has since changed his views. Due to changing circumstances in the country, the Christians have grown closer to the Shi’ites, and Aoun was able to win their support, taking office four months ago.
In an interview with Egyptian TV two weeks ago, Aoun hinted that Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces are working side-by-side.
“The Lebanese army is not strong enough to fight Israel face-to-face,” he stated.
“Because of that, Hezbollah is necessary. There is no contradiction between them.
The people of Hezbollah are southerners, they are people of the earth. They protect themselves when Israel threatens or invades them.”
Aoun has said that Hezbollah’s weapons are not considered a problem for Lebanon.
“Hezbollah is a significant factor in protecting Lebanon,” Aoun said.
The website Al-Ahed, which works closely with Hezbollah, published on Thursday what it called a “bank of targets for the next war” with Israel.
According to the website, Hezbollah is targeting nine centers it has declared are holding nuclear and chemical weapons. The site has also declared how many employees each center has.
The article featured photos depicting Hezbollah members using Russian-made F-300 missiles to damage the Dimona reactor, which they claim boasts 10 floors and 2,700 employees.
The list included other targets it claimed store missiles and nuclear weapons. (Jerusalem Post)
White House condemns anti-Semitism in ‘strongest terms’
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday said that the Trump administration condemns anti-Semitism “in the strongest terms” as Jewish institutions across north America were hit with a fresh wave of bomb threats.
“We denounce these latest anti-Semitic and evil threats in the strongest terms,” Spicer said, speaking at the daily White House press briefing.
“I share the president’s hopes that we don’t have to continue to share these disturbing reports with you,” he added.
He spoke shortly after at least ten Jewish community centers across North America and four offices of the Anti-Defamation League received attack threats, in the sixth such wave since the beginning of the year.
Spicer said that as long as the threats continue, the administration will keep condemning them and look at ways to stop them.
At least 14 Jewish sites were targeted Tuesday, resulting in multiple evacuations and parents pulling their children out of JCC school programs. Since this trend began in January, more than 100 Jewish institutions have experienced bomb threats and multiple Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized.
Also on Tuesday, the entire US Senate signed an open letter to the Trump administration urging them to take action against the continued surge in anti-Semitic attacks throughout the US.
“These cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve, including in our states,” the senators said in the appeal.
Following a growing uproar over his failure to denounce the recent wave of anti-Semitic incidents, US President Donald Trump issued his first explicit condemnation of the phenomenon last month, calling anti-Semitism “horrible,” “painful and a “sad reminder” of evil.
Trump again denounced anti-Semitic attacks in his maiden speech to Congress one week ago, opening that address by saying the phenomenon was a reminder “of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that remains.”
“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” he said.
Despite Trump’s condemnations of anti-Semitism, US Jewish groups remain concerned that not enough is being done to tackle the problem, with the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Orthodox Union, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Union for Reform Judaism all coming out in support of Tuesday’s letter signed by every US senator calling for a more aggressive stance against anti-Semitism. (the Times of Israel)
US envoy at UN makes bid for reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks
US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday discussed reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations during her first meeting with the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations.
Haley tweeted after her talks with Ambassador Riyad Mansour that the Palestinians should “meet with Israel in direct negotiations rather than looking to the UN to deliver results that can only be achieved through the two parties.”
Mansour told AFP that during the 45-minute meeting Haley “raised the desire to see the two parties engaging in negotiations” and indicated that the United States was considering a fresh bid to revive talks.
“I don’t know at what level they want to do that, but once we receive a request to that effect, we will respond to it accordingly,” he said.
The Middle East peace process has been comatose since former US secretary of state John Kerry’s efforts to broker a deal collapsed in April 2014.
France stepped in and organized an international conference in January intended to lay the groundwork for a return to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but there has been little headway. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives were invited to the Paris confab.
“The US is committed to supporting a true peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” Haley said on Twitter.
Mansour described his meeting with Haley as “cordial” and said they agreed to continue discussions.
The US ambassador earlier this month rejected suggestions that the new administration was abandoning the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We absolutely support a two-state solution, but we are thinking out of the box as well,” Haley said.
The UN Security Council will discuss the Middle East peace process on March 24 and hear a first report on whether Israel is complying with a new UN resolution demanding an end to the building of settlements in the West Bank.
The resolution was adopted after the former US administration did not resort to its veto and instead abstained, allowing the measure to pass.
Haley has fiercely criticized the former administration for failing to use its veto to defend Israel and has dismissed the resolution as a “terrible mistake.” (the Times of Israel)
Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman After Pentagon Meeting With Mattis: Strategic Israel-US Cooperation Vital to Security and Stability of the Entire Middle East
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was hosted at the Pentagon on Tuesday by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis — their second meeting since the Trump administration came to power in January.
In a Facebook post after the meeting, Lieberman said he and Mattis discussed common security issues facing Israel and the US.
“Strategic cooperation between Israel and the US is vital and critical to not only Israel’s security, but also the security and stability of the entire Middle East,” Lieberman wrote.
Israel’s Channel 10 quoted Lieberman as saying on Tuesday, “We need an active US in our region.”
Mattis and Lieberman
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Lieberman was also set to meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson while in Washington, DC.
After his first meeting with Mattis last month — on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference — Lieberman stated, “The three main problems we must handle are Iran, Iran and Iran. We must build a genuine and effective coalition to deal with the terrorism it [Iran] spreads around the world, the development of missiles it is engaged in and its nuclear arms race.” (the Algemeiner)
Rivlin invites British royal family to visit Israel
President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday extended an invitation to the British royal family to visit Israel.
The president asked visiting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to relay the invitation to the monarchs to mark the upcoming centennial anniversary of the 1917 Balfour Deceleration, which expressed the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Holy Land.
“This is a very important year in the history of the relations between Israel and the United Kingdom,” Rivlin said in a meeting in Jerusalem with Johnson. “We will mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration and I am greatly honored to extend an official invitation to the Royal family to visit Israel to mark this event.”
The meeting between Rivlin and Johnson was the first in a series of meetings scheduled during the UK diplomat’s one-day trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Johnson arrived in Jerusalem on Tuesday for his first working visit to the region in his current role. Johnson attended former president Shimon Peres’s funeral in September and in 2015 visited Israel as mayor of London.
Johnson is scheduled to travel to the West Bank city of Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki and PA President Mahmoud Abbas before heading back to Jerusalem for meetings with Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Jerusalem Post)
First rocket launch from unmanned IDF navy vessel
The Israeli Navy’s 916th Company successfully concluded the experimental period of the first model of the Sea Knight—an unmanned vessel that was successfully put into action two years ago.
In most cases, it can be controlled from a mobile caravan located in the unit’s base in Ashdod. If necessary, it can also be operated from ships at sea during special operations.
The Sea Knight is an upgraded version of the Protector, both made by Rafael.
This is the first time a remotely controlled, unmanned, operational vessel can also fire missiles.
The model is still in development and will be added to the Navy in the future. At the same time, the unit has been developing a unique, first of its kind system that will intercept anti-tank missiles launched from the coastline at routine service vessels.
Unlike the Protector, which is the smallest, oldest unmanned navy vessel, the Sea Knight is both longer and larger in size, but also has a more substantial fuel tank and a larger range of communication that allows operational flexibility in remote areas.
The unit is set to receive three additional Sea Knights. Currently, the single vessel can patrol for 12 hours straight.
Transforming the Sea Knights into an actual unit will enable the use of unmanned vessels off the coast of the Gaza Strip 24/7. They reach a speed of up to 40 knots (about 74 mph).
The vessel also boasts remotely controlled machine guns as well as water cannons against rioters approaching on boats. The navy is already considering using the unmanned vessel in operative tasks should another war in the south break out.
“We will establish a very powerful unit of Sea Knights, with approximately 30 soldiers,” stated a naval officer to Ynet.
According to the officer, in the future, they will be able to upgrade the vessel and use it in a safer manner when dropping bombs and depth charge against enemy divers. They will also be able to install electronic combat systems onto it and use it to drag other vessels: “The vessel can reach as far as 500 meters from the coastline.”
In the past few weeks, the 916th Company has been increasing its vigilance off the coast of Gaza following the recent escalation in the south.
The Israeli Navy estimates that Hamas has dramatically upgraded its maritime capabilities, with an emphasis on the Hamas commando unit.
Recent navy trainings have also dealt with possible scenarios of Iranian-style swarm attacks, which entail a sudden, combined rush attack of multiple vessels.
“Such an attack could serve as a decoy for a more substantial action taking place such as an infiltration of divers offshore and heavy rocket barrages toward strategic facilities in the south,” said the officer. (Ynet News)
The entire history of modern Israel in 3 minutes
Can Israel’s history be encapsulated into just 3 minutes? Well, perhaps some of what is said here are oversimplifications or exaggerations.
However, Steven Crowder really does do a great job explaining it all in a very succinct manner.
Everything about the Arab-Israel conflict is actually about Arabs trying to destroy Israel and failing again and again.