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Latest News in Israel – 10th February

Palestinian assailant wounds Israeli jogger in Gush Etzion stabbing

A Palestinian assailant stabbed an Israeli jogger on Tuesday evening as he ran on the Derech Ha’avot path in the West Bank’s Gush Etzion bloc.

The arrival of a second jogger on the path scared away the Palestinian, who fled in the direction of the village of Nahlin.

The second jogger then called for help. When Magen David Adom paramedics arrived they found Tomer Ditore, 28, lying on the ground fully conscious. He was in an area of the path near the Neve Daniel settlement.

MDA transported the stabbing victim to Jerusalem’s Shaare Tzedek Medical Center where he is listed in light to moderate condition with stab wounds in his upper body.

Security forces have cordoned off road in the area, including to the Nahin village and erected checkpoints in an attempt to locate the suspect.

In a separate incident on Tuesday morning, a 13-year old Palestinian girl with a knife was stopped as she walked toward the gate of the West Bank settlement of Karmei Tzur in Gush Etzion. She was holding a number of school books in her hand.

The security guard asked her to stop and lie down on the ground, because Palestinian school girls do not usually enter the settlement, particularly in the morning, according to a Gush Etzion Council spokesman.

When she did so, she dropped the school books which had hidden the knife she also had in her hand. It too, fell to the pavement, the spokesman said..

The guard held her until security forces arrived. Those security forces have arrested her and are questioning her.

Gush Etzion Regional Council head, Davidi Perl said that “thanks to the awareness of the residents and the professionalism of the security forces a tragedy was prevented this morning.”

Perl blamed Palestinian incitement for the incident and called on Israel to take offensive action.

“When a girl leaves her home to stab Jews rather than head to school, that can only be the result of wild incitement rampant for years in the Palestinian Authority. We once again call on the government of Israel to act responsibly by going on the offensive rather than rely on defensive responses,” Perl said.

On Friday night Palestinian vandals set fire to prayer books in a small synagogue in the Givat Sorek outpost, located just outside the boundaries of Karmei Tzur.       (Jerusalem Post)

Border Police thwart stabbing attack at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem

A stabbing attack was thwarted near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday morning, near the site of a terror attack last week that claimed the life of Border Police officer Hadar Cohen.

According to police, in Tuesday’s incident, a Border Police unit saw a woman who aroused their suspicions near Damascus Gate and approached the suspect. During the inspection, when the woman was asked to hand over her bag, she pulled out a knife and attempted to stab the officers.

The officers responded quickly, and succeeded in gaining control of the suspect. Police described her as a 16-year-old Arab Jerusalem resident.

There were no injuries in the incident.

In a separate incident on Tuesday morning, a 13-year old Palestinian girl with a knife was stopped as she walked toward the gate of the West Bank settlement of Karmei Tzur in Gush Etzion. She was holding a number of school books in her hand.

The security guard asked her to stop and lie down on the ground, because Palestinian school girls do not usually enter the settlement, particularly in the morning, according to a Gush Etzion Council spokesman.

When she did so, she dropped the school books which had hidden the knife she also had in her hand. It too, fell to the pavement, the spokesman said..

The guard held her until security forces arrived. Those security forces have arrested her and are questioning her.

Gush Etzion Regional Council head, Davidi Perl said that “thanks to the awareness of the residents and the professionalism of the security forces a tragedy was prevented this morning.”

Perl blamed Palestinian incitement for the incident and called on Israel to take offensive action.

“When a girl leaves her home to stab Jews rather than head to school, that can only be the result of wild incitement rampant for years in the Palestinian Authority. We once again call on the government of Israel to act responsibly by going on the offensive rather than rely on defensive responses,” Perl said.

On Friday night Palestinian vandals set fire to prayer books in a small synagogue in the Givat Sorek outpost, located just outside the boundaries of Karmei Tzur.             (Jerusalem Post)

Syrian media claims Israeli jets struck army base, Hezbollah base

Syrian media reports claim that the Israeli Air Force on Monday night bombed a Syrian army ballistic missile base, as well as a Hezbollah military base on on the Syrian-Lebanese border.

According to the reports, the alleged strike took place in the town of Qutayfah, located in the eastern region of the Qalamoun Mountains, close to Syria’s border with Lebanon.

However, Hezbollah’s TV channel, al-Manar, denied the reports and claimed that “Israel did not launch attacks against bases of the Syrian army and the Resistance in the region of Qutayfah.”

Israel has not responded to the reports.

Syrian media have on various occasions reported claims of Israeli air strikes.

In late December, Syrian reports said the IAF targeted at least seven Hezbollah targets in Lebanon’s Qalamoun region.

Hezbollah reportedly denied there were any explosions at its bases at the time.

The IDF also refused to comment on that report.

The report came almost a week after terrorist Samir Kuntar was killed in an air strike in Syria, which was also linked to Israel, though not confirmed.

On December 20, the top Hezbollah commander was killed when a number of rockets hit a building in the Damascus district of Jaramana. The country’s government loyalist claimed the strikes were also Israeli.

In a speech, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel with revenge over Kuntar’s killing.

Kuntar was responsible for murdering the Haran family in 1979 as part of a PLO operation, and later joined Hezbollah following his release from Israeli prison in 2008.        (Jerusalem Post)

Cabinet sparring over Israeli action against Gaza tunnel threat

Amid Hamas reports of tunnel collapses killing its members and complaints of underground construction noises from residents in southern Israeli communities in the Gaza periphery, cabinet ministers have been embroiled in a dispute regarding what Israel should do in the face of Hamas attack tunnels that are being reconstructed in Gaza, according to a Channel 2 report Monday.

According to the report, the discord involves Education Minister Naftali Bennett calling for immediate action while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon oppose such a move that could stir up further contention in the government.

In one closed-door discussion in recent weeks on the Gaza tunnel threat, Bennett reportedly suggested that Israel not hesitate on initiating action against the tunnels Hamas is digging toward Israel, warning against more serious consequences in the future.

Netanyahu and Ya’alon, on the other hand, appear to remain opposed to swift action on the matter.

The Channel 2 report noted that Bennett’s proposition was reminiscent of opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s call last week to to stop hesitating and provide a serious and public response to the matter.

Ya’alon, who last week asserted that no Gazan attack tunnel have so far reached Israeli territory, blasted Herzog for accusing the government of inaction on the rebuilding by Palestinian terrorists of infiltration tunnels – the likes of which the IDF destroyed in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

The opposing positions on the tunnel issue reflect an ongoing controversy among Israeli leaders on the desired time line on operating against the Hamas infrastructure, the report added.

Channel 2 noted that Bennett’s office refused to comment on the report.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office said it does not comment on cabinet discussions in general and on the IDF’s operational plans in particular.

While the premier has refrained from ordering imminent action, he has warned that Israel will respond more forcefully than it did during the 2014 war against Hamas if it is attacked from the Gaza Strip’s terror tunnels.

“I hope we do not need to do this, but our defensive and offensive capabilities are developing rapidly, and I do not suggest that anyone test us,” Netanyahu said last Sunday.

On Thursday, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira delivered a draft report to Netanyahu and top defense officials that charged there were “grave deficiencies” in preparedness for the Hamas attack-tunnel threat that presaged the 2014 Gaza war.

The criticism of how the issue was handled is part of a wider review of war-making decisions before and during Operation Protective Edge. The review started shortly after the 50-day conflict ended with a cease-fire in September 2014.

Since July 2014, the IDF has been accused of being unprepared for the scope of the tunnel threat.

The report followed the collapse of a Hamas attack tunnel in Gaza Zeitoun area on Wednesday, the third such incident in the past few weeks.

In January, Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said that the Palestinian terrorist group will never stop digging tunnels and upgrading rockets in preparation for any possible confrontation with Israel.               (Jerusalem Post)

‘IDF sparing no effort to neutralize tunnel threat’

The Israel Defense Forces is sparing no effort to counter the threat posed by Hamas terror tunnels, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said Tuesday.

Speaking at a conference on military-civilian relations, hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in memory of late IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Eizenkot said the defense establishment is dedicating considerable resources to intelligence gathering efforts.

The threat of Hamas’ network of terror tunnels “has been a top priority for us since late 2013. Our enemies didn’t just forget about it after [Operation] Protective Edge, and they are investing considerable resources in it,” he said.

“We are looking at every possible countermeasure to neutralize [the threat]. We have advanced capabilities … but I can’t elaborate on everything we’re doing. Much of it is done far from the public eye.”

The military is “concentrating considerable engineering and intelligence efforts versus this threat. We possess the most advanced capabilities in the world, and we won’t be fooled by the lull in the south,” he said.

Commenting on the recent wave of Palestinian violence, Eizenkot said that defeating terrorism across Judea and Samaria will not necessarily require a wide-scale operation, as demanded by some ministers.

“We currently have six brigades — dozens of battalions and hundreds of companies — deployed across Judea and Samaria, fighting terrorism nightly,” he said. “Anyone talking about ‘Defensive Shield 2’ simply isn’t familiar with the reality on the ground in Judea and Samaria. The IDF has free operational hand.”

Operation Defensive Shield was a large-scale IDF military campaign waged in 2002, targeting Palestinian terrorist infrastructure across Judea and Samaria.

According to Eizenkot, “While the situation is complex they [the terrorist] don’t have direction. Hamas and Islamic Jihad incite violence but they don’t have infrastructure on the ground [in Judea and Samaria].”

The Palestinian Authority’s incitement plays a key role in the surge in violence, Eizenkot said. “Interrogations all see one thing in common — terrorists saying they were incited by television, Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “These viral trends have a significant effect on Palestinian youth and it is compounded … by the difficult economic situation in Judea and Samaria.”           (Israel Hayom)

Knesset suspends Arab MKs for meeting Palestinian terrorists’ families

The Knesset Ethics Committee on Monday banned three Arab MKs from parliamentary activity for several months, following a controversial meeting thy held last week with families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.

Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas were banned for four months, while Jamal Zahalka for two months, Channel 2 TV reported. All three are members of the Balad Party, which merged into the Joint (Arab) List before last year’s parliamentary election.

The ban extends to Knesset committee meetings and plenum discussions, but the MKs can vote as usual in parliamentary committees and the plenum.

The Ethics Committee said it had taken its decision, following numerous complaints about the three MKs’ behavior, “after receiving their responses in writing, as well as hearing directly from Zahalka.” It said it would publish its detailed reasoning separately.

The ban, according to a statement released by the Joint (Arab) List Monday evening, was the result of a “campaign of incitement led by Netanyahu, who has spearheaded this unethical and undemocratic decision.”

The faction slammed the disciplinary action as a “vindictive punishment” and said the three MKs had paid a “political price for taking a humane and moral stance.”

The parliamentarians insisted they visited the families of the Palestinian assailants solely as part of efforts to secure the release of their bodies for burial. (Israel often delays returning the bodies of attackers until the families pledge to ensure that the funerals will not used as opportunities to incite further violence against Israel.)

The three confirmed that they observed a moment of silence at the meeting, drawing ire from other Knesset members from across the political spectrum. Zahalka said subsequently it was a moment of respect “for all the Palestinian dead.”

Meanwhile, the coalition on Monday approved legislation, promoted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of the Arab MKs’ meeting with the families, that could see lawmakers suspended from the Knesset over ethical violations if 90 of the 120 MKs in parliament vote to censure their colleagues for “unseemly behavior.”

Analysts said the bill, which must now make it way through a series of Knesset readings if it is to become law, might pass, but that it would prove unimplementable in the current parliament, in which Netanyahu’s coalition numbers just 61 MKs. Zionist Union, Yesh Atid and the Joint (Arab) List opposition parties oppose it, as do some members of the coalition.

On Monday afternoon, the prime minister defended the proposed legislation in the Knesset plenum, and praised his coalition for unanimously backing it.

Netanyahu said he strongly supports the integration of Arab Israelis into all fields of Israeli society, but it was intolerable that Israeli MKs had “stood in silence to honor terrorists.”

“We are not prepared to accept a situation in which MKs support the families of those who murder Israeli citizens. There’s a limit. There’s something called national pride. I wonder what would happen in the British Parliament if a British MP stood for a minute’s silence to honor Jihadi John, or if members of the US Congress stood to honor the California murderer,” he said. “[Those parliaments] would not accept it, and neither will we.”

Zahalka responded furiously to the speech, heckling the prime minister with calls of “fascist.” He was eventually ejected from the plenum.

Several Arab lawmakers boycotted Monday’s debate on the new legislation, as well as the session in the Knesset Ethics Committee, saying the discussions were an effort to “delegitimize Arab Knesset members and restrict the scope of their political action.”

A statement from the Ethics Committee highlighted that Zahalka, who received a more lenient sentence, showed up to Monday’s committee hearing over the case.

The Joint List said the ban would not deter their campaign to return the terrorists’ bodies.

All three MKs have maintained that the sole goal of their meeting with the families of the attackers, some of whom were terrorists who killed Israeli civilians, was to advance the release of their bodies, which have been held by Israeli authorities, and did not constitute support for terror. However, they acknowledged holding a moment’s silence at the meeting in honor of Palestinian dead, while Ghattas referred to the terrorists as “martyrs” in a subsequent TV interview.

Netanyahu has asked the attorney-general to examine whether the three could face criminal prosecution for holding the meeting with the terrorists’ families.              (The Times of Israel

Israel agrees to return terrorists’ bodies

Israel has reached an agreement in principle with families of Palestinian terrorists to return the terrorists’ bodies for burial, after holding the remains for a lengthy period, Ynet learned on Monday.

The agreement concerns the bodies of ten terrorists from East Jerusalem who committed attacks in the current ongoing wave of terrorism.

The issue caused controversy after three MKs from Balad – Haneen Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka, and Basel Ghattas – met with the families and even observed a minute of silence with them. Balad members promised in that meeting to work towards convincing authorities to return the bodies to families for burial. The families also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Mohammed Mahmoud, an attorney representing the families, said the body of Ahmad Abu Shaaban, who committed a terror attack near the Jerusalem bus terminal early in the wave of violence, was supposed to be returned on Monday at midnight for burial, but the transfer of the body was delayed at the last moment.

According to the agreement that was reached, the funerals of these terrorists are to occur in the middle of the night and with a limit of only 50 people present. The funerals must end within two to three hours. Each family is also to provide a NIS 20,000 guarantee to police – money that it will not get back if any of the burial conditions are violated.

On Tuesday, the body of Musab al-Ghazali, who committed a stabbing attack in December, will be returned.

The process of returning the bodies is expected to be lengthy and will continue only as long as the relatives meet the conditions. Security sources emphasized that Israel has no interest in holding terrorists’ bodies and it’s been made clear to families for months that bodies would be returned under the aforementioned conditions.

The bodies have not been released because they fall under the purview of the Interior Ministry, which opposed this policy, unlike the Defense Ministry.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan fiercely fought the plan, arguing that the families were not committed to the conditions and that the funerals will become mass displays of incitement encouraging further terrorism.

This stance contrasted with the position held by senior IDF officials who claimed that refusing to return the bodies was causing unrest. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry’s working hypothesis has been that holding the bodies could encourage kidnapping of Israelis as bargaining chips.                     (Ynet News)

‘Israeli man conspired to help jihadi infiltrate into Israel to carry out terror attacks’

A Israeli Arab man from Tel Sheva, 3 km. east of Beersheba, conspired with a Jordanian sheikh to establish a terrorist cell that would attack soldiers, according to an indictment issued on Monday.

Muhammad Alasam, 22, is accused of a number of serious crimes, including conspiracy to assist the enemy in time of war.

The case revolves around a series of connections Alasam allegedly made while he was studying Islamic Law at Yarmuk University in Irbid, Jordan. During his studies he met online with a popular lecturer preacher named Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Fahed Alhalusi and later joined a WhatsApp group where the sheikh would post his sermons, the indictment states.

Alasam was added to the instant messaging group by a Jordanian man named in the indictment as Abu Saed, who then contacted him privately and let him in on his plan to sneak into Israel and make his way to the Gaza Strip, where he would form an armed cell that would attack IDF soldiers, the indictment continues.

Alasam and Abu Saed also allegedly agreed that after Abu Saed entered Israel he would be made the sheikh (cleric) of a Tel Sheva mosque run by Alasam’s family.

Alasam, who had previously worked as a substitute teacher at a school in the Beduin town, was arrested while returning to Israel from Jordan on January 18 and the terrorist plot fell through, police said.

Before his arrest he allegedly contacted a person in Gaza on behalf of Abu Saed to recruit him to the cell, but decided after looking at the man’s Facebook profile that he wasn’t a solid candidate, the indictment says.

Southern District prosecutors on Monday submitted a request to have Alasam kept in custody until the end of proceedings against him: it states that they have a confession from him as well as a number of things that he wrote on WhatsApp and Facebook that indicate his guilt.

Also in the South on Monday, prosecutors indicted a resident of the Beduin town of Hura, located northeast of Beersheba and south of Meitar, on charges of conspiracy for allegedly plotting to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

The indictment alleges that in early 2014, Najuan Abu Alkyan, 20, began to sympathize with ISIS ideology and began attending a local mosque popular with ISIS supporters, including Othman Abdelkayan, a doctor who had been planning to attend a residency program at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba before he left for Syria to join Islamic State in 2014 and was soon killed.

The investigation is part of the wider case carried out by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Israel Police over the past year that saw six other suspects – including four school teachers from the Hura area – indicted in July on charges including distributing an illegal organization’s materials, supporting a terrorist organization, conspiracy to commit a crime and illegally exiting the country.                (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Deputy Minister: US Preventing Closer Ties Between Israel, Gulf States

Israeli Deputy Minister: US Preventing Closer Ties Between Israel, Gulf States The relationship between Israel and a coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia is being held back by US inaction in the region, an Israeli deputy minister said on Monday.

“The United States is not looking at Israel’s and the Gulf states’ interests in the same picture,” Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara said, adding that Israel “is looking for new relationships in our area.”

But closer ties between Israel and the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, would not improve “if the US doesn’t push it,” said Kara, adding that the lack of pressure perhaps signaled Washington was not at all interested in fostering better relations among the countries of the Middle East.

Kara said he believes Israel and many of the Gulf countries have common enemies in Iran, Syria and Lebanon-based Hezbollah — an alliance which has been strengthened by Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war — as well as terrorist groups like ISIS.

Earlier on Monday, according to Israel National News, Kara told the 13th Jerusalem Conference that Israel could “have cooperation with the threatened countries around us, but the United States does not want this to happen, is interfering with it and continues to push us toward the situation with the Palestinians, which has no solution.”

Closer relations between Israel and the Gulf countries could actually “help us to find a solution for the Palestinian issue,” he said, adding that he felt the “United States is not doing anything new here with the peace process.”

“The Saudis every day send me messages that they need a new relationship with Israel,” he said.

According to Israel Radio, Kara told the conference that the US did not want the Israeli prime minister to score politically from better relations with other regional countries — something he reiterated to The Algemeiner.

“They’re not going to give Netanyahu a benefit in this case and make him more popular,” said Kara, who serves as deputy to Netanyahu, who also holds the Regional Cooperation Ministry.

Kara’s comments came a few weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel’s Foreign Ministry, led by Director-General Dore Gold, had stepped up efforts to court Sunni countries in the region against a common Iranian threat.

These efforts were spurred largely by the July, 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, led by the US, which was labeled a “historic mistake” by Netanyahu and widely criticized by Gulf countries.          (The Algemeiner )

Police dog uncovers illegal weapons being smuggled from West Bank into Israel

Israel Police officers and Defense Ministry security officials on Sunday foiled an attempt to smuggle assault rifles into Israel from the West Bank, the Southern District police said Monday.

Pictures released by the police on Monday showed a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a homemade sub-machine gun, an Israel Military Industries produced magazine clip, and what appears to be part of a LAW rocket launcher.

The weapons were seized during a search of a tractor trailer at the Tarkumiyah crossing east of Beit Guvrin on Sunday morning. Police said they received prior intelligence about the smuggling run and set up at the crossing with Defense Ministry officials, as well as a police dog named “Onyx”.

After stopping the truck police said the dog honed in on the weapons, which were stashed inside the trailer of truck and wrapped tightly in plastic.

Weapons[3]

The driver of the truck, a 34-year-old resident of the nearby town of Adora was arrested and taken for questioning.

The investigation into the smuggling run is ongoing, with police now working to determine the planned recipient of the guns.      (Jerusalem Post)

Small rise expected in South African aliya  

South African immigration is projected to increase in 2016, representatives of Telfed – The South African Zionist Federation in Israel.

Testifying before the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora committee on Monday, representatives of the group cited Jewish Agency projections that only around half of South African Jewish emigrés make aliya but that this number is expected to rise due to inflation and economic problems.

There are around 50,000 Jews in South Africa with annual aliya figures fluctuating around the 200 mark for the past several years.

However, Telfed officials predicted, this number could rise to 300 in 2016.

A Jewish Agency projection forwarded by Telfed officials showed that the aliya organization believes that around 250 will make the move in the coming year.

“Telfed has initiated a special student program to encourage aliya from South Africa,” said the group’s CEO Dorron Kline.

“In the recent past, Telfed has become increasingly aware that there are parents within the South African Jewish community who would like to have their children undertake their tertiary studies out of South Africa, particularly in Israel,” he said. “They feel that a structured framework should be made available in Israel to facilitate this, thus providing a sense of security for the students and parents, whilst at the same time providing an opportunity to study at internationally recognized universities in Israel – in this case mainly the IDC [Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya].”

The goal, he said, was to “provide a comprehensive framework for South African tourists and olim [immigrant] students to study in English.

“Israel is recognized as a financially stable country with good opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship. This is another factor which attracts olim from South Africa.”

Israel and South Africa have been at loggerheads many times in recent years, with officials of the ruling African National Congress party in the past year threatening to punish student members who visited Israel.

The Jewish community and the ANC have squared off before, with Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein in 2014 accusing the party of having “betrayed the South African dream of peaceful and dignified dialogue.”

He was responding to a party denunciation of Israel that likened the IDF’s incursion into the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge to the Nazi war against the Jews.

At the time, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte condemned Israel’s strikes on Hamas targets as “barbaric attacks on the defenseless Palestinian people of Gaza,” adding that Israel had turned the “occupied territories of Palestine into permanent death camps,” calling for all South Africans to boycott Israel.

Several days later the party’s social media manager came under fire for praising Adolf Hitler.

A picture of the Nazi dictator on Rene Smit’s Facebook wall was accompanied by a caption reading, “Yes man, you were right… I could have killed all the Jews, but I left some of them to let you know why I was killing them. Share this picture to tell the truth a whole world.”                (Jerusalem Post)

Dazzling divas from Down Under

Direct from the West End and starring Jason Donovan, the feel-good international hit sensation Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical is coming to Tel Aviv’s Menora Mivtachim Arena from July 4 through 9.

Based on the popular 1994 film of the same name, Priscilla Queen of the Desert follows two drag queens and a transsexual who buy a run-down old bus (they call it Priscilla) and set out on a road trip across the Australian Outback when one of them, Tick (played by Donovan), is invited by his ex-wife to perform his drag show at her far-away resort. During their journey, the trio encounters an array of Australian citizens, some of who aren’t receptive to their lifestyle, while strengthening their own friendship.

Priscilla originally opened in Australia and after a sellout two year run, opened in London’s West End followed by Broadway in the United States. It has won numerous awards all over the world, including Olivier and Tony awards.

With a dazzling array of outrageous costumes and a hit parade of dancefloor classics including “I Will Survive,” “Hot Stuff,” “Finally,” “Boogie Wonderland,” “Go West,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and “I Love The Nightlife,” rush to get your tickets today.            (Jerusalem Post)

Iran Infiltrates the West Bank

by Khaled Abu Toameh         The Gatestone Institute

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7392/iran-west-bank-sabireen

“The Patient Ones,” Al-Sabireen, are seeking Palestinians as a group to become an Iranian proxy in the region, and redoubling efforts to eliminate the “Zionist entity” and replace it with an Islamist empire.

Loosed from its sanction-based constrictions, Iran is now free to underwrite terror throughout the region. This is precisely what is happening in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Iran’s infiltration of the West Bank should serve as a red flag not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and other Western powers. An Israeli pullout, leading to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, has been a subject of concern. Now, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians are wondering if such a vacuum will provide an opening for Iran.

Emboldened by its nuclear deal with the world powers, Iran is already seeking to enfold in its embracing wings the Arab and Islamic region.

Iran’s capacity for intrusions having been starved by years of sanctions. Now, with the lifting of sanctions, Tehran’s appetite for encroachment has been newly whetted — and its bull’s-eye is the West Bank.

Iran has, in fact, been meddling for many years in the internal affairs of the greater region. It has been party to the civil wars in Yemen and Syria, and, through the Shiite Muslims living there, continues actively to undermine the stability of many Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The lives of both the Lebanese and the Palestinians are also subject to the ambitions of Iran, which fills the coffers of groups such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Until recently, Iran held pride of place as Hamas’s primary patron in the Gaza Strip. It was thanks to Iran’s support that Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, held hostage nearly two million Palestinians living in the Strip. Moreover, this backing enabled Hamas to smuggle all manner of weapons into the Gaza Strip, including rockets and missiles that were aimed and fired at Israel.

But the honeymoon between Iran and Hamas ended a few years ago, when Hamas refused to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad — Tehran’s major ally in the Middle East — against the Syrian opposition. Since then, the Iranians, who have lost confidence in their erstwhile Hamas allies, have been searching among the Palestinians for more loyal friends. And they seem to have found them: Al-Sabireen (“the Patient Ones”).

Al-Sabireen, Iran’s new ally, first popped up in the Gaza Strip, where they recruited hundreds of Palestinians, many of them former members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Palestinian sources report that Al-Sabireen has also succeeded in enlisting many disgruntled Fatah activists who feel betrayed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president, Mahmoud Abbas. This sense of betrayal is the fruit of the PA’s failure to pay salaries to its former loyalists. In addition, anti-Israel incitement and indoctrination in mosques, social media and public rhetoric has radicalized Fatah members and driven them into the open arms of Islamist groups.

The Iranian-backed Al-Sabireen is already a headache for Hamas. The two terror groups share a radical ideology and both seek to destroy Israel. Nonetheless, Al-Sabireen considers Hamas “soft” on Israel because it does not wage daily terror attacks against its citizens. The “Patient Ones” are seeking Palestinians as a group to become an Iranian proxy in the region.

Buoyed by the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions against Tehran, Al-Sabireen members are feeling optimistic. The group recently described these developments as a “victory” for all Muslims and proof of their “pride and strength.” Muslims should now unite, they said, in order to stand up to the “world’s arrogance and remove the Zionist entity from the land of Palestine.”

Indeed, Al-Sabireen appears to be redoubling its efforts to eliminate the “Zionist entity” and replace it with an Islamist empire. Toward that goal, the group is now seeking to extend its control beyond the Gaza Strip. The lifting of the sanctions against Iran coincided with reports that Al-Sabireen has infiltrated the West Bank, where it is working to establish terror cells to launch attacks against Israel.

According to Palestinian Authority security sources, Al-Sabireen has already located some West Bank Palestinians who were more than happy to join the group’s jihad against Jews and Israel.

PA security forces recently uncovered a terror cell belonging to Al-Sabireen in Bethlehem and arrested its five members. The suspects received money from the group’s members in the Gaza Strip in order to purchase weapons to attack Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank.

Al-Sabireen is not the only Iranian proxy whose eye is on the West Bank. Last month, in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, Israeli security forces uncovered and broke up a terrorist cell commanded by Hezbollah, which was planning suicide bombings and shooting attacks. The Palestinian members of the cell had been taught by Jawed Nasrallah, the son of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, how to carry out suicide bombings, assemble bomb vests, gather intelligence, and set up training camps.

All of this sounds eerily familiar. As it has spread its wings over Al-Sabireen and Hezbollah, Iran has done much the same with its other proxies such as the Houthis in Yemen and members of the Shiite communities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, all the while fomenting instability and gaining bases of local power.

Loosed from its sanction-based constrictions, Iran is now free to underwrite terror throughout the region. This is precisely what is happening in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Iran’s infiltration of the West Bank should serve as a red flag not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and other Western powers. At the moment, there is little to be done to combat Iran’s presence in the Gaza Strip. But Iran on Israel’s West Bank doorstep is a flag of a different color.

An Israeli pullout, leading to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, has been a subject of concern. Now, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians are wondering if such a vacuum will provide an opening for Iran.

The future of the Middle East and Europe would be shockingly different if any Palestinian state were to fall into the hands of Iran’s Islamic extremists and their allies.

The Palestinians and all interested parties might remember that Al-Sabireen is — if nothing else — patient.

Palestinian Attacks Wound Israel’s Reputation

By  Daniel Gordis             The Bloomberg View

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2016-02-08/palestinian-attacks-wound-israel-s-reputation

Palestinians’ recent attacks on Israelis are, at first blush, not an existential threat to Israel. Horrific as the losses are, the future of the state is not in question.

Or so it seems. But in a closer look, it appears that this round of violence is costing Israel more than the human toll. As the Palestinians clearly intend, the renewed conflict is doing serious damage to Israel’s international standing.

One of the first indications of this swing in public opinion was a comment by Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, who laid part of the blame for November’s terrorist attacks in Paris on Israel. “To counteract the radicalization we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East of which not the least the Palestinians see that there is no future: We must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence,” she said not particularly coherently on Swedish television.

A tongue-lashing from Sweden was not terribly surprising. Relations between Israel and Sweden have been rather icy since Sweden decided, in October 2014, to recognize Palestine as a state. In response to that declaration, Israel snubbed Wallstrom, who responded by canceling a scheduled trip to Israel. Yet despite the cool relations, blaming Islamic State attacks on Israel seemed a new low for a Swedish official. Israeli officials rebuked Wallstrom, but the public was keenly aware that relations between the Jewish state and parts of Europe had hit a new low.

Last week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said to the Security Council that “It is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.” Once again, the Israeli government responded with fury. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retorted that the secretary-general had provided “a tailwind for terrorism” and insisted that “those Palestinians who murder do not want to build a state, they want to destroy a state and they say this openly.” In this case, even moderates joined the condemnation. After a New York Times op-ed article in which Ban defended his remarks, the centrist columnist Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted that he was “eagerly awaiting Ban Ki-moon’s New York Times op-ed criticizing Russia’s intervention in Syria.”

The momentum, however, was with Wallstrom and Ban. On Wednesday, three Palestinian killed one border policewoman and critically wounded another. After the three terrorists were killed by Israeli security forces, CBS News’s website posted a headline that read “3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on.” Israeli officials responded with outrage, so CBS emended the headline to “Israeli police kill 3 alleged Palestinian attackers.” Still, though, the attackers were only “alleged,” and the two assaulted women were nowhere mentioned. Finally, CBS changed the headline again, this time to “Palestinians kill Israeli officer, wound another before being killed.”

The relentless Palestinian attacks are beginning to evoke policy disagreements inside Israel’s leadership. Netanyahu continues to blame Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for inciting the violence — and to some extent, he is clearly correct. But Israeli military and security services have been insisting that while Abbas is far from innocent, there are socioeconomic factors contributing to the violence. “The motivation for action is based on feelings of national, economic and personal discrimination,” a report from the Shin Bet security agency stated last month. “For some of the assailants an attack provides an escape from a desperate reality they believe cannot be changed.”

The irony — and the danger — is that the Israeli security analysis sounds very much like that of the Swedish foreign minister. Netanyahu can get away with insisting (probably quite rightly) that Wallstrom is simply a foe of Israel, but he cannot say the same of the Shin Bet. So why not make some accommodation to defuse the tension? The prime minister is clearly worried that any change in Israeli policy now will convince the Palestinians that violence works. For indeed, it does. The First Intifada led Israel to the Madrid Conference and subsequent Oslo Accords, while Gazan violence got Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw from Gaza in 2005. So Netanyahu, eager to undo that lesson, is holding fast.

But that may not work for long; there are indications that the violence may be picking up. At the funeral of Amjad Sakari, a Palestinian security officer who opened fire on Israeli soldiers at West Bank checkpoint, wounding two of them seriously before being killed himself, the thousands of mourners chanted “It is time for the machine gun, to shoot 500 people.” That may not be just talk. The three terrorists who were the subject of CBS’s headline were carrying explosives — a reminder of the horrendous bloodletting of the Second Intifada.

Netanyahu is thus in a bind. He can stand firm, as he has so far, refusing to reward terrorism with changes in Israel’s policy. If he does so, however, stabbings and individual shootings may soon be remembered as the mere beginning of something much worse.

How NGOs Became a Weapon in the War on Israel 

One of the biggest controversies in Israel today is over the role of foreign-funded NGOs in influencing the country’s domestic politics. As always, you need to follow the money.

The New Israel Fund (NIF) is a powerful U.S.-based funding framework with an annual budget of $30 million, which provides seed money and ongoing support for many of the anti-Israel NGOs.

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor     The Tower Magazine

Extract:   ….read full article from link  http://www.thetower.org/article/how-non-governmental-organizations-became-a-weapon-in-the-war-on-israel/

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are very big business in Israel. Various NGOs—most of them from the Left and claiming to promote human rights and democracy—are very active in the Knesset, in filing lawsuits with the Supreme Court that seek to overturn government policies, and in the media. They receive hundreds of millions of shekels from large foundations and foreign governments—primarily European. While the activities of these NGOs are criticized by the Israeli Right, much of the mainstream Israeli media supports them. As a result, the “halo effect” that protects these NGOs from independent investigation is particularly strong.

But that halo was shattered recently when the popular Israeli television news program Uvda featured a hidden-camera expose of a little-known “peace group” known as Ta’ayush, led by activist Ezra Nawi. The footage showed Nawi, along with Nasser Nawaja, a Palestinian employee of the NGO B’Tselem, plotting against an Arab who was negotiating to sell private land in the West Bank to Jews. They were trying to lure the Palestinian into a trap where he would be captured by the Palestinian Authority’s security services. As Nawi coldly noted in the video, under PA law, the sale of Palestinian land to Israelis is punishable by death.

The broadcast became headline news and the fallout continued for weeks. Nawi was arrested at Ben-Gurion Airport when he tried to flee the country. A few days later, a follow-up program aired more hidden-camera footage, this time showing Nawi with officials from two other prominent “human rights” NGOs—Breaking the Silence (BtS) and Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR). Both groups were shown giving money to Nawi, who then handed out checks to Palestinians, apparently for taking part in violent demonstrations. RHR claimed that Nawi was paid for providing transportation services. BtS denounced everyone involved in the program as “Stasi,” a reference to the notorious East German intelligence service.

The report was particularly explosive because Nawi had been an iconic hero to the far-Left in Israel and beyond—a gay Sephardi peace activist and pacifist who embodied Western orientalist myths. Prominent leftists like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein described him as “one of Israel’s most courageous human rights activists.” David Shulman, who writes highly critical articles on Israel in The New York Review of Books and happens to be a member of Ta’ayush, referred to Nawi as an Israeli Gandhi. In 2009, after Nawi was convicted of assault following a demonstration, he became the focus of an international campaign, including a sympathetic portrayal in Time magazine. The fiercely anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace claimed to have collected 20,000 signatures on a petition to save him from jail. But in 37 minutes, the Channel 2 program destroyed Nawi’s image.

In a wider context, the timing of the reports was damaging to the entire NGO establishment in Israel. It came in the middle of an intense controversy over the role of Israeli NGOs in the worldwide campaign to demonize Israel through the use of terms such as “apartheid,” the rise of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, and the use of “lawfare” to charge Israeli officials with war crimes and other supposed transgressions of international law.

Prior to the Uvda broadcasts, BtS and its patrons were the particular focus of growing anger among many Israelis on the Right, Center, and even the center-Left. This anger followed a major jump in the visibility of BtS, which reflected the group’s million- dollar budget. BtS events in churches, universities, and national parliaments around the world featured “anonymous testimony” that alleged systematic immorality by IDF soldiers, with no corroborating evidence.

In response, hundreds of IDF reserve officers petitioned the Minister of Defense, demanding that BtS activists be barred from speaking on military bases. In parallel, relatives of terror victims and fallen soldiers demanded that Education Minister Naftali Bennett prohibit BtS from speaking to high school students. NGOs like B’Tselem were also criticized. On Israel’s popular Saturday night satire program Gav Hauma, host Lior Schleien did a ten-minute routine based on the issue, primarily lampooning BtS and related NGOs.

Clearly, Uvda’s revelations amplified a larger controversy surrounding Israel’s NGO establishment. Conspiracy to murder was a smoking gun, which even the Israeli center-Left understood to be entirely incompatible with any principles of human rights. Since then, terms like hypocrisy and duplicity have been used with greater frequency, and not only by right-wing critics.

This backlash was a long time in coming. Over the years, political NGOs in Israel have accrued a great deal of power, without the checks and balances provided by the democratic process. This power was often used to oppose the policies of the elected Israeli government, primarily through activism outside of Israel. NGO activists often employed terms such as “apartheid” and accused Israeli leaders of war crimes, systematic violations of international law, and the suppression of human rights.

It is important to understand that such activities are part of a much larger international campaign against Israel. The infamous NGO Forum at the UN’s 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in which 1,500 groups participated, produced a detailed strategy for demonizing Israel based on the anti-apartheid model. This marked the beginning of the BDS movement and various “lawfare” campaigns. Although most Israeli NGOs did not attend the Durban forum, many became closely involved in these efforts……

Israeli Social Experiment with Blind Man Reveals Honesty of Citizens

An Israeli student conducted a social experiment that proves just how honest Israelis really are. People in other countries did not fare as well.

He had a blind man approach strangers and ask them to break a 20-shekel bill which was actually a 100-shekel note. Not one person took advantage of him. One man even gave him a 20-shekel donation.

Other passersby behaved in exactly the same way when the same experiment was conducted with a 200-shekel bill.

A similar experiment was carried out in Australia where many took advantage of the blind man. This is a representation of Israeli society as a whole – a society in which people truly care about one another.                        (United with Israel)