+61 3 9272 5644

Latest News in Israel – 10th January

Working feverishly together to aid the wounded soldiers

Terror Attack

Scene of ramming terror attack in Jerusalem, January 8, 2017.

As a police helicopter hovered above, dozens of officers and emergency-response personnel worked feverishly on a cold Sunday afternoon to secure the scene of an attack that brutally killed four young IDF soldiers, and wounded 17 of their comrades.

The flatbed truck driven by the terrorist to run down the unwitting soldiers – who were exiting a bus adjacent to Jerusalem’s picturesque Armon Hanatziv promenade – pinned the four conscripts under its wheels.

Rolling the bullet-riddled vehicle was not an option, lest it further crush the three women and one man underneath it, who may still have been alive. Instead, a crane from a nearby firetruck was used to lift its front end.

(Paramedics at scene of Jerusalem vehicular terror attack at the Armon Hanatziv promenade, Jan. 8, 2017 (credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM))

But it was too late to save them. Still, others could be saved, so first responders from Magen David Adom, United Hatzalah and ZAKA worked in lockstep with police to administer first aid and transfer them to area hospitals.

One survivor was in critical condition, while the other 16 wounded ranged from light to serious condition.

Hundreds of concerned civilians, and dozens of reporters and cameramen, were kept at bay behind police lines cordoning off the carnage.

Traffic in the area was shut down.

The killer lived close by, in the Arab neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber, known as a breeding ground for terrorism.

Indeed, just six weeks earlier, two Arab minors living there were arrested for incitement after setting up Facebook pages to deify their two neighbors who stormed an Egged bus and slaughtered three unarmed, elderly Jewish men with knives and guns, less than two kilometers from Sunday’s attack.

Ten other Jews were seriously wounded in that 2015 murder, which helped spur the so-called “stabbing intifada,” and resulted in a temporary wall and checkpoints blocking Jebl Mukaber from the Jewish neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv.

However, human rights activists claimed the blockade and checkpoints were inhumane, and they were promptly removed following an outpouring of international pressure.

Instead, police added multiple patrol units and hundreds of CCTV surveillance cameras to monitor potential violent activity, which in all likelihood recorded the latest mass murder.

Meanwhile, on this chilly Sunday afternoon, ZAKA workers gathered the blood and severed body parts of the four murdered soldiers so that they could be buried by their families within 24 hours, according to Jewish law.  (Jerusalem Post)

Initial IDF probe says soldiers shot at terrorist, countering earlier report of hesitation

A number of Israeli soldiers present at the truck-ramming terror attack in Jerusalem on Sunday shot at the terrorist within seconds of the attack starting, an initial IDF inquiry revealed, contradicting claims made by a guide who opened fire himself that the troops hesitated to respond or entirely failed to do so.

The probe also revealed that a group of soldiers, mainly IDF cadets, seen running from the scene were ordered to seek cover by an officer as the shooting began. Video footage from the attack, in which four soldiers — three cadets and one lieutenant — were killed and 16 were injured, showed members of the group scrambling to run away which sparked criticism for alleged failure to respond.

Earlier, the head of the IDF officers’ training school said that “at least two” of his cadets shot at the terrorist.

Col. Yaniv Alaluf, who commands the officers’ training course, visited the scene to conduct a preliminary investigation into the attack and the soldiers’ response.

IDF spokesman Moti Almoz said, according to Israel Radio there was no indication and no reports that the soldiers hesitated to shoot for fear of what has been dubbed the “Elor Azaria effect,” a reference to the recent conviction for manslaughter of the IDF soldier who shot dead a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian attacker in Hebron last march. The assailant and an accomplice had earlier stabbed another soldier, wounding him lightly.

Following the attack, the army released a video of one of the two cadets who opened fire at the terrorist, detailing how he responded to the truck-ramming. The soldier, who serves in an intelligence unit, speaks with his back to the camera and could only be identified by his first initial, T., due to the sensitive nature of his position.

A composite image of the four Israeli soldiers killed on January 8, 2017 in a truck-ramming terror attack in Jerusalem. From left, IDF Lieutenant Yael Yekutiel, IDF Cadet Shir Hajaj, IDF Cadet Shira Tzur, IDF Cadet Erez Orbach. (Handout photos IDF Spokesperson)

“First we thought it was an accident, but when the driver didn’t stop, we understood that it was a terror attack,” he said.

“We ran to the truck. I loaded a magazine, cocked my gun and fired at the attacker,” T. said.

Alaluf’s initial findings show that, in addition to T., at least one other soldier had opened fire at the attacker “from a close distance,” and it was possible that more soldiers had done the same, an army spokesperson said.

Another cadet rejected any allegation that her colleagues were scared to respond, writing on social media that “there is absolutely no connection to Elor Azaria,” according to Channel 2.

“No one should dare compare between a semi-trailer going 100 kilometers an hour and an incapacitated, supine terrorist. No one was afraid to shoot, people were afraid of being run over by a terrorist…with murder in his eyes,” she wrote, imploring that people “please stop listening to sources who don’t verify and post nonsense.”

Eitan Rund, a civilian tour guide who was with the soldiers and shot at the terrorist, said he felt the troops “hesitated” during the attack and blamed the Azaria case for their delay in responding.

“I’m a tour guide, I was supposed to be guiding groups of youths. We didn’t even manage to say hello before it all happened. I don’t understand why 40 soldiers who were there did not shoot,” said Rund.

Rund, who was lightly injured in the attack, specifically referred to the case of Azaria as a possible reason behind the troops not grabbing their weapons right away, presumably from fear that they too could one day face a military tribunal.

The driver of the vehicle was shot by both the soldiers and by Rund, police said. He died of his wounds.

Security camera footage of the incident shows chaos as soldiers scramble for cover and run away while the driver tries to reverse back into them. However, some soldiers can be seen rushing the truck.

The soldiers were part of a group of 300 noncombat cadets in an officers’ training course that was in Jerusalem as part of a cultural tour with the army, an IDF spokesperson said.

The terrorist, later identified as Fadi al-Qunbar from East Jerusalem, rammed his truck into the soldiers as they got off a bus at a promenade in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem. (the Times of Israel)

Netanyahu: ‘All signs’ indicate Jerusalem terrorist inspired by ISIS

The terrorist who carried out the deadly truck ramming attack in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon was apparently a supporter of Islamic State, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu made his comments at the scene of the attack, where he received a briefing along with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. Soon after visiting the site, he was scheduled to convene a meeting of the security cabinet.

“We know the identity of the attacker, and according to all the signs he is a supporter of Islamic State,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said there may be a connection between this attack and similar attacks recently in France and Berlin. “We are fighting this plague, and we will defeat it,” he said.

The Security Cabinet, meeting in the wake of Sunday’s attack in Jerusalem, decided to approve administrative detention for people identifying with Islamic State.

The security cabinet also decided to destroy the home of the terrorist as soon as possible, reject family-reunification requests his family had filed for relatives in Gaza and the West Bank, and not to hand over the terrorist’s body to his family for burial.

During the meeting Netanyahu also directed the security forces to investigate reports that some people at the scene of the attack had praised it, and that if that indeed was the case, to bring them to court.

The terrorist, identified as Fadi al-Qanbar, came from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber. Netanyahu announced that Jebl Mukaber has been cordoned off in light off the attack.”

“We will overcome this terror, just as we overcame other attacks,” he said. “There are a number of actions that we will not specify at this time, which we will have to take to ensure that incidents such as these do not recur.”

Also at the briefing, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman charged that the truck-ramming attack was not fueled by the issue of Israeli settlements, rather by the mere fact that “we are Jews and we live here in Israel.”

“There was no other reason and no need to look for an excuse – not Jewish settlements and negotiations but an attack inspired by ISIS,” he said while visiting the scene of the attack that killed four IDF soldiers and wounded more than a dozen others.

“We will fight this terrorism with all tools at our disposal and I’m sure that will win,” he stressed.

Among the fatalities were three female soldiers and one male soldier all in their 20s. The terrorist was shot dead by security personnel at the scene. At least 13 others were wounded in the attack on a group of soldiers disembarking from a bus.

The Armon Hanatziv neighborhood abuts the Arab neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber. The area has been the scene of numerous attacks over the past 15 months.

Following a terror attack in which two people were killed by Jebl Mukaber residents in Armon Hanatziv in October 2015, a wall was temporarily erected separating the Arab and Jewish neighborhoods.

The wall was taken down shortly afterward following complaints from numerous human rights groups and left-wing politicians who condemned it as collective punishment that violated the rights of law-abiding Arab residents.  (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Envoy Calls on UN to Condemn ‘Evil’ Jerusalem Truck-Ramming, Blames Deadly Attack on Palestinian Incitement

The truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem in which four Israeli soldiers were killed on Sunday was “evil and cruelty incarnate,” the Jewish state’s UN envoy said.

“This murderous attack is a direct result of murderous Palestinian incitement,” Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon stated. “I call on the secretary-general and the Security Council to condemn this terror attack immediately.”

“The fanatical terrorism that struck in Berlin and Nice did not discriminate in its victims, and neither did the attack in our capital of Jerusalem today,” Danon went on to say.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that “all signs indicate” that the perpetrator of the attack — a resident of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber — was an ISIS supporter.

Referring to a similar modus operandi in Europe, Netanyahu said, “We know there is a succession of attacks, and it could well be that there is a connection between those in France and Berlin — and now in Jerusalem.”

“We will overcome this attack as we have overcome others,” the prime minister declared.  (the Algemeiner)

Cabinet orders IDF to raze home of Jerusalem terrorist

The Diplomatic-Security Cabinet on Sunday approved several security measures in the wake of the Jerusalem ramming attack that killed four Israeli soldiers and wounded 15 that day.

The terrorist was identified as Fadi al-Qanbar, 28, a married father of four from east Jerusalem. He had a criminal record, but had no known ties to any terrorist group, although he recently posted several pro-Islamic State posts on his Facebook page.

His cousin told Israel Hayom that Qanbar had been “very upset” by recent reports that the United States was considering relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying the move would “spark a war.”

After the deadly attack, police and Shin Bet security agency raided Qanbar’s home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber and detained his wife, parents and two siblings for questioning.

Qanbar’s sister told Palestinian media she was “proud” of his actions and “grateful Allah has chosen him to die as a shahid [‘martyr’].”

Nine other people were arrested as well, but a defense official said it is believed Qanbar acted alone and that the attack was not premeditated, but rather a crime of opportunity.

During the cabinet meeting Sunday, the ministers voted unanimously to order the IDF to raze Qanbar’s Jabel Mukaber home. Members of his family will not be able to meet relatives who live in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and his body will not be returned to his family for burial.

The Jerusalem District Police have been instructed to place any east Jerusalem residents declaring their affiliation with Islamic State under administrative arrest.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also instructed security forces to follow up on reports that residents of east Jerusalem celebrated the attack, saying such cases would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Prior to the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the scene of the attack.

“We have just experienced an unprovoked terrorist attack, a murderous attack that claimed the lives of four young Israelis and wounded others,” Netanyahu said.

“This is part of the same pattern inspired by Islamic State that we saw first in France, then in Germany, and now in Jerusalem. This is part of the same ongoing battle against this global scourge of terrorism. We can only fight it together, but we have to fight it, and we will.

“We will overcome this terrorism just as we overcame previous attacks. We are planning a series of measures, which I won’t go into right now, to make sure this does not happen again.”

Netanyahu offered his condolences to the victims’ families and wished the wounded a speedy recovery.

Lieberman said: “This brutal attack was carried out over one reason and one reason alone: because we are Jews living here in Israel. There was no other reason, nor should we try to find any excuse for it, not the settlement enterprise or the [Israeli-Palestinian peace] negotiation. This was an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack, pure and simple.

“We’ve seen this in France, in Berlin, and unfortunately, we have now seen it in Jerusalem. We will fight this terrorism with every measure at our disposal and I’m sure that we will win.”

Some politicians linked the attack to last week’s manslaughter conviction of Sgt. Elor Azaria.

“This terrorist attack is a direct result of the Azaria verdict. I’m afraid the IDF’s ability to generate deterrence has been compromised over the verdict and the public controversy that followed,” Likud MK Oren Hazan said.

Habayit Hayehudi MK Moti Yogev said the “‘Azaria effect’ must be dealt with within the military. To prevent future attacks, the IDF must pursue operations that generate effective deterrence.”

Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said: “There is no doubt that the truck attacks we have seen recently overseas influenced this heinous terrorist’s choice of murder weapon. Jerusalem is scarred by terrorist incidents, but it will overcome terrorism.”

Deputy Defense Minister MK Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi) invited “the U.S. secretary of state and the members of the U.N. Security Council to go visit Jerusalem and see the results of the Palestinian incitement they encourage.”

President Reuven Rivlin offered his condolences to the victims’ families and wished the wounded a speedy recovery.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said: “Unfortunately, terrorists’ cruelty knows no limit, and they will stop at nothing to murder Jews and disrupt the daily routine in the Israeli capital.

“Those who incite violence and terrorism must be made to pay a heavy price. I call on the residents of Jerusalem to remain vigilant, and I urge everyone to continue on with their daily routine and not let terrorism win.”

On Monday, Netanyahu visited the soldiers wounded in the attack at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem.

Wishing the wounded a speedy recovery, he said, “The most important thing to understand is that we are under a new kind of attack. The State of Israel is preparing to meet this phenomenon in three ways: first, expanding the physical infrastructure, such as setting up concrete blocks in bus stops; second, pursuing preventative intelligence, which security agencies are working on; and third, is of course the rapid intervention of soldiers and civilians. We saw this yesterday with the security guard, officer and soldiers who acted quickly and prevented an even greater catastrophe.” (Israel Hayom)

IDF: 41 soldier deaths in 2016

Forty-one IDF soldiers died while on duty in 2016, including 10 career and two reserve soldiers, the army said on Sunday.

According to official figures, 15 soldiers are suspected of having committed suicide, nine were killed in military accidents, seven in civilian traffic accidents, six died due to medical reasons and four were killed in action. In addition, 43 soldiers were severely injured over the course of the year.

The army has “a plan to prevent accidents in the army, with education regarding road safety and accident prevention,” a senior officer in the Manpower Directorate said. “The IDF attaches great importance to the prevention of injuries and death among its soldiers.”

The recent numbers show fewer deaths than in the previous decade, especially from suicides and road and training accidents.

From 2014 through 2016, there were 15 suicides per year, compared to 20 suicides per year from 2008 through 2011, the senior officer said. There was no specific characterization of soldiers who committed suicide, other than noting that all were males on the front line (though not specifically combat soldiers), and a vast majority occurred during initial training and compulsory service.

“There is a very broad suicide- prevention program, not only in the Personnel Directorate, it is shared by many in the military,” the officer said, adding: “We have many partners in this area, including commanders who receive training to identify signs of distress, which aim to help them identify soldiers who may need intervention.”

The army has two centers manned 24 hours per day, seven days a week, for soldiers in distress that receive a very high number of calls, the senior officer said, but did not give precise figures.

According to the army, soldiers who commit suicide are officially defined as “suspected suicides,” until the Military Police finish investigating their case.  (Jerusalem Post)

Syrian opposition figures to make rare public appearance in Israel

Members of the Syrian opposition will make a rare public appearance in Israel next week at the invitation of the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“Representatives from the Syrian opposition speak directly to the Israeli audience on life in the shadow of death, on the refugees and Israel, on the massacre against the population, on the silence of the world,” says the invitation to the event. The gathering will also feature a live video broadcast with opposition commanders and fighters in combat areas of Syria. The event is open to the public but requires advance registration.

The Truman Institute declined to provide the names of those who will appear.

The event comes with the opposition on the defensive following the regime’s victory last month in Aleppo, seen as a turning point in the six-year-old war that has taken the lives of more than 450,000 people.

Opposition figure Issam Zeitoun visited Israel seven months ago to participate in the Herzliya Conference, a large annual gathering devoted largely to security issues. In an interview on the Zaman al-Wasl website, Zeitoun defended himself against criticism of his visit, saying “I work with a group of academics and experts in strategic research centers, Americans and Jews, whom I found to be friends to the Syrian people and who are searching for a solution for the situation we are suffering. My efforts were and still are centered on establishing a safe zone for civilians. Israel is working to provide routes for it, and I work in collaboration with humanitarian organizations alongside academics in the hope of gaining official coverage to establish this area.”

He said his first-hand experience of Israel was very different from the picture the Assad regime paints of it.

“Personally I discovered in Israel the falseness of the propaganda that the regime has filled our heads with, that there is no enemy except Israel, the brute usurper and expansionist racist that will consume the Arabs,” said Zeitoun. “This talk is completely incorrect since the Israeli people, based on my observations, are very sympathetic to us, as are academics.

As for politicians, they have their lines which they cannot cross and other considerations.”

Next week’s event can be expected to be used by the Assad regime to discredit the opposition, which has been depicted in official Syrian media discourse since the beginning of the civil war as being instruments of Israeli and US machinations to dismember Syria.

“Opposition leaders in Syria have generally been very careful to avoid official open contacts with Israel for reasons including that the regime has been trying to portray the opposition as being paid by Israel and the US,” says Benedetta Berti, a Syria specialist at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “By having open relations with Israel, that perception could be fostered. So it’s very sensitive.”

However, she added, “a few people in opposition have made the case that the taboo on Israel is no longer that relevant because of the sheer tragedy of the war and the brutality of the regime. They say ‘we should get support wherever we can get it.’ “I don’t believe anyone really believes at this point that Israel will intervene,” said Berti. “They want to make their voices heard, to foster political relationships, to talk to Israeli civil society. I don’t think they are really hoping to get weapons.”

Israeli decision makers have been split over how to handle the civil war, Berti says, with some arguing that Assad is “the devil you know,” and others more concerned about his regime’s ties to Iran and Hezbollah.

While Israel has humanitarian aid programs for southern Syria, including providing medical assistance at Ziv Medical Center in Safed, their scope does not amount to a clear intervention on behalf of the opposition, Berti says. However, with the regime’s military successes since Russia intervened on its behalf in 2015, the threat of a strong Assad-Iran-Hezbollah axis is becoming more pronounced in Israeli eyes.

Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy said it is no simple matter to decide whether to support opposition elements.

“The opposition is not of one creed or color,” he said. “There are various groups and patrons. It depends who they are, who their patrons are, how much support they have in the field, and what prospects they have of becoming a serious component of any future government in Syria.

“At this stage of the game, what is incumbent on Israel is to try and establish a clear data bank concerning the various components of the opposition,” said Halevy. “I think it’s important for Israel to try and get a deeper understanding of where all these groups and splinter groups stand on major issues. The initiative of the Truman Institute is very welcome and could be a contributory to Israel getting a better feel of what the opposition is.”    (Jerusalem Post)

Let’s say goodbye to a UN that hates the free world

by Jennifer Oriel    The Australian

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/jennifer-oriel/lets-say-goodbye-to-a-un-that-hates-the-free-world/news-story/a0e23f26251725f663e258ef630658ab

If the UN is to be believed, there are three Middle Eastern entities that deserve our condemnation and retribution. One is the Syrian regime, which stands accused of using chemical weapons against dissidents. The other is Islamic State, a genocidal jihadist army that decapitates Christians, sexually enslaves women and children and tortures dissidents to death. The third is Israel, a pluralistic democracy that celebrates equality, liberty, free trade and free speech.

With friends like the UN, the free world doesn’t need enemies.

Last year, the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council adopted 18 resolutions against Israel. The final judgment of 2016 was the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334, which declares that Israel has no right to land its people have inhabited since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Britain and France voted for the resolution while the US chose not to exercise its veto power.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, Fatah (the leading faction of the Palestinian Authority) thanked the UN with a violent image depicting a Palestinian flag fashioned as a weapon stabbing the Jewish settlements. Blood pooled on the earth beneath. Rather than take Fatah’s apparent threat as a sign that the resolution might facilitate mass murder, the UN is standing firm.

The threat to Israel is serious and without the buffering of settlement areas, the state is more vulnerable to attack from jihadists.

The UN should know the history. After Israel withdrew from Gaza and four West Bank settlements in 2005, Islamist terrorist group Hamas established itself as Gaza’s governing force. The notion that Fatah is the moderate reformist alternative to Hamas is appealing, but its response to the UN resolution has distinctly jihadist overtones.

Commentators have defended Resolution 2334 as beneficial to the future of the two-state solution. When pressed, it is common the hear the term “international consensus”. It is misleading. The international consensus, in this case, are the parties to the resolution. However, the citizens of those member states do not necessarily support it. The Republican-dominated US House of Representatives has passed a resolution to condemn the Security Council for censuring Israel over settlements. Importantly, the US resolution includes the call for the outgoing Obama administration to veto any future resolutions concerning the matter. However, fears persist that UN members are determined to pass new resolutions against Israel before president-elect Donald Trump takes office.

A central concern is that rules on the implementation of Resolution 2334 will be established at a Middle East conference in Paris on January 15. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants world leaders to respect bilateralism in negotiating a two-state solution, but Islamist and socialist leaders are keen to impose a supranational ruling.

The majority of member states that passed Resolution 2334 against Israeli settlements are Islamic or socialist in nature. Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, was judged by a panel of theocrats, autocrats and socialists. Of the five permanent Security Council members with the power of veto, three are Western: France, Britain and the US. It is predictable that France would defend the interests of Islamists in line with the socialist EU bloc, but Britain’s Tory PM Theresa May also backed the resolution. May is long-time ally of Israel, but believes the settlements impede a viable two-state solution. She might be encouraged to consider the role of Hamas and Fatah in preventing the two-state solution and the popular Palestinian desire for one state under Islamic rule.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop stated if Australia were a Security Council member, we would have opposed the resolution. Israel needs more than words. It needs action. Australia should withdraw funding to protest the UN’s pact with militantly anti-Semitic leaders in Palestine. We should oppose apartheid against Jews, including economic apartheid in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaigns, by preparing a broader and mutually beneficial bilateral trade deal with Israel. And the Australian government should withdraw foreign aid funding from states, regimes and supranational groups that act against Western interests.

The resolution is not only against Israel. It is against universalism, a core UN principle in theory. A common alternative to universalism is double standards, which divide populations and produce mass resentment. In the West, double standards are codified in discrimination law. At the UN, they are used to justify repeated denunciations of Western democracies by the world’s worst abusers of human rights. The UN resolution against Israel is a case in point. If Israel is forced to surrender settlements to the Palestinians, surely China, which voted in favour of the resolution, should relinquish Tibet. The Security Council should pass resolutions against Islamic regimes whose actions genuinely constitute a “flagrant violation of international law”. It could begin by imposing sanctions on Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. And the UN should be subject to the law of universality. It should be held accountable for violations of international law, including the violation of national security.

In late 2015, UN envoy Robert Serry noted a significant impediment to ending settlements in the West Bank. While he supported a freeze on settlement activity, Serry observed that about 500,000 Israelis live in them, raising the question of how the land could be transferred to PA control. In 2005, about 9000 Israelis evacuated Gaza. If made enforceable, Resolution 2334 would require the eviction of up to 800,000 Israelis. The UN has not elaborated on the fate of 500,000 Jews if evicted from their homes en masse. This story sounds all too familiar.

Thank God for Israel. If it weren’t for the Jews, the UN would have to battle despots, communists and Islamists. Instead, it observes a minute of silence for the murderous Fidel Castro. It rails against fascism while excusing the most murderous totalitarians of the past century: communists and Islamists. It channels free-world citizens’ money into corrupt regimes, despotic states and jihadist armies whose common resolve is to destroy liberty.

The Security Council resolution on Israel is the latest case of UN aggression against the free world. It’s time to say goodbye.

Islamic State attacks Jerusalem

Editorial from The Australian

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/editorials/islamic-state-attacks-jerusalem/news-story/c9e40b4d80c342f9af2acdf3a47d76ec

The barbaric Islamic State-inspired terrorist truck attack in Jerusalem that has killed four young Israeli soldiers and left 17 wounded comes at a challenging time for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Applauded from the sidelines by the Islamist terrorist ghouls of Hamas in Gaza, the attack was similar to last month’s murderous Christmas market assault by Islamic State in Berlin and the jihadists’ Bastille Day onslaught at the French resort of Nice. It suggests an ominous further escalation in the wave of terrorist stabbings and shootings that have targeted Israel’s urban centres for 15 months, leaving more than 40 Israelis dead and hundreds more wounded. As well, it indicates an increasing role for Islamic State in the violence in Israel despite the Jewish state being way ahead of virtually any other country when it comes to security and defeating terrorism.

This comes at a difficult time for Mr Netanyahu as he deals with the deep divisions opened up in Israeli society by last week’s unprecedented conviction by a military court of a teenage conscript, Elor Azaria, who was videoed firing a single bullet at close range into the skull of a Palestinian assailant. The Palestinian was wounded and lying on his back minutes after he and an accomplice had lunged at a group of Israeli soldiers in Hebron with knives. The court, in convicting Sgt Azaria of manslaughter, punishable by a 20-year jail sentence, held that the wounded Palestinian did not pose an immediate threat. The trial has been described as being about “the soul of the Israeli army” and the young men and women the Jewish state deploys to protect its citizens. Prominent political leaders such as Education Minister Naftali Bennett and army reserve generals such as Uzi Dayan have questioned why Sgt Azaria was put on trial. “This soldier was sent by the state of Israel to defend against terror during war,” Mr Bennett has argued, while General Dayan has declared that “terrorists must be killed”, adding that as an army commander he allowed the killing of terrorists even if they did not pose an immediate danger.

A survey by the Israel Democracy Institute shows 47 per cent of Israelis support the immediate killing of terrorists who attack Jews, “even if he has been captured and clearly does not pose a threat”. That number is likely to be boosted following the truck outrage and accounts of how the driver deliberately drove over the bodies of the wounded. With widespread support for Sgt Azaria apparent within the Israeli army, Mr Netanyahu has joined a campaign demanding he be pardoned.

The challenge to Mr Netanyahu is to ensure that while Israel remains unflinching in doing whatever it takes to defend itself against terrorist attacks, it also remains the unique beacon of democracy and religious tolerance that it is in the Middle East. The trial of Sgt Azaria understandably has many critics. But it underlines how the strength of Israel’s institutions and its regard for the rule of law cannot be overstated.

It is impossible to conceive of any other Middle Eastern country undertaking a similar process of open public reckoning. Donald Trump has told Israel to “stay strong, January 20 is approaching”. After eight years of debilitating bickering with US President Barack Obama, Israel’s democracy deserves the unequivocal support Mr Trump promises. Islamic State has shown its evil fangs in Jerusalem — and it must be stopped.

Why Israeli settlements are not a violation of international law

by Robert Stark     The Times of Israel

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/why-israeli-settlements-are-not-a-violation-of-international-law/

Critics of Israel’s policy to allow its citizens to live in the regions of Judea and Samaria have two separate arguments for why the settlements are illegitimate. One is a legal argument, the other is political. In this article, I will explain why Israeli homes in the area are in fact legal under international law. In my next installment, I will address the political argument.

Recently there was a big noise made over a U.N. Security Council resolution that declared Israeli homes, built in the region of Judea and Samaria, a “flagrant violation of international law.” The resolution does not break any new ground, as far as the international community is concerned, because President Jimmy Carter allowed the Security Council to pass a resolution that stated Israeli homes built in Judea/Samaria have “no legal validity.”

Both of these resolutions, although they make a bold and stark statement about the legality of the so called “settlements”, are merely political statements. As I explained at the bottom of a previous article, these resolutions are non-binding under international law. Furthermore, these resolutions are not consistent with objective legal analysis of the subject by world experts on international law.

In order to find Israel’s settlements to be a violation of international law, first, Israel must be considered an occupier of foreign territory. Yet, Israel’s legal claim to the territory in question was recognized by the international community on several occasions. First, the land on both sides of the river Jordan were recognized as part of the Jewish National Home by the 1920 San Remo Conference. This was endorsed by the League of Nations (predecessor to the United Nations) in the 1922 League of Nations Mandate to Britain, and affirmed by article 80 of the United Nations charter in 1945. When Israel’s leaders declared sovereignty in all territory relinquished by England on May 15, 1948 (including the territory that anti-Israel people call the “West Bank”) it was recognized to be the State of Israel by both the General Assembly and Security Council in November 1948.

Jordan invaded (along with four other Arab states) and conquered this specific territory in 1949, annexed it in 1950, and gave it a new name: “West Bank” (of the river Jordan). Only two countries in the entire world recognized Jordan’s annexation (England and Pakistan) and not a single Arab country recognized this annexation.

Furthermore, article 2 of the UN charter forbids the acquisition of territory through war. Thus, Jordan’s acquisition and annexation of the territory was illegal under international law.

In 1967, Jordan again initiated war against Israel (along with two other Arab states) but Jordan was pushed out of the territory (back to Jordan’s recognized boundaries on the east bank of the Jordan river) by Israel. This re-acquisition of the territory by Israel was legal because article 51 of the U.N. charter permits a nation to defend itself from attack. It is understood that national self-defense often necessitates control of any territory from which the initial aggression was launched.

If the territory would have been recognized as within the borders of the State of Jordan by either Israel or the international community between 1949 and 1967, then it would have meant Israel’s return to the territory was an occupation, regardless of previous title. But Jordan’s annexation was not recognized by the international community, nor did the Jordan-Israel ceasefire agreement represent acquiescence to new borders by either side:

No provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.” GENERAL ARMISTICE AGREEMENT BETWEEN ISRAEL AND JORDAN – APRIL 3, 1949.

Given the fact that Israel had legal title to the territory that was recognized by the international community and Israel’s final control of the territory was a result of self-defense rather than aggression, while Jordan’s control of the territory was never recognized as legitimate by the international community, common sense shows that Israel merely won back territory that legitimately belonged to it in the first place.

This is a strong legal argument for why Israel has superior title to the territory, in a legal chain that was never legitimately broken, therefore Israel can’t be an occupier on territory that belongs to it in the first place.

This position is shared by Judge Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice, in his book on the subject “What Weight to Conquest? Aggression, Compliance, and Development” pg. 521-526.

For a fuller explanation on why Israel can’t be an occupier, see my previous article on the subject.

But, for the sake of argument, let us play devil’s advocate and assume Israel had no legal title to the territory in 1967. In that case, would Israel’s settlements be a violation of international law?

The answer is no, here is why:

The Fourth Geneva Convention provides the international law as relates to occupied territory, and is the basis of any legal argument against Israel on the subject of Israeli settlements. Therefore, in order to make the conclusion that Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law, one must be able to apply this convention to Israel’s presence in the area. And then, one must show that Israel is in violation of one of the provisions of the convention.

In order for a territory to be recognized as occupied by the Fourth Geneva Convention, a territory must have changed hands in a conflict in which one country takes control of foreign territory. In Israel’s case, the only other country that controlled the territory in question was Jordan. Yet, Jordan relinquished all claims to the territory in 1988 and recognized the territory as part of Israel in a peace treaty signed in 1994.

Thus, even if Israel’s capture of the territory in 1967 is considered an occupation, the fact that Jordan later relinquished all its claims and then recognized the territory as part of the State of Israel means any such occupation is long over.

But for argument’s sake let us play devil’s advocate and assume Israel is still an occupier to this day, as some might argue, despite the lack of an international conflict. Then, are the settlements illegal?

The answer is still no, here is why:

The convention only applies to States that are a party to the convention itself. Thus, either the occupier or the occupied must be a signatory to the convention in order for it to apply. Since the Arab residents of the West bank are not residents of a state that is bound by the Convention, and Israel is not a signatory either, therefore the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to this conflict. This position is shared by Professor Julius Stone, one of the 20th century’s leading authorities on international law, “Israel and Palestine, Assault on the Law of Nations” discourse 2, pg. 177.

This was also the position of a French Court of Appeals which stated: neither the Palestinian Authority nor Israel is a party to the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore the convention does not apply to them. For the full text in the original French, click here. For a google translated text, click here.

But let us once again play devil’s advocate and put this technical, yet decisive, issue aside. Let us imagine the Fourth Geneva Convention applies despite the fact that neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority is a party to the convention. Then, are the settlements illegal?

In that case, the answer is still no, here is why:

Those who claim the settlements are illegal point to Article 49 of the convention, which states that to be an illegal occupier the occupying power must do one of two things:

Forcibly transfer the population under occupation to outside the occupation zone, either inside the controlling country or to another country.

Transfer the population of the occupier from its own country to the occupied zone.

No one among Israel’s critics is claiming that Israel is absorbing the Arab-Palestinian population into Israel proper, nor is anyone claiming Israel is deporting entire populations from the territory to somewhere else. So the first provision does not apply.

As for the second provision, it requires a wild stretch of the imagination to describe the voluntary choice made by free acting persons to migrate to the area as “persons being deported or transferred by their government”. Especially when one considers the authoritative, and official, commentary to article 49 states that this provision was:

Intended to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain Powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territories. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race.”

There is simply no legitimate comparison between Israeli citizens’ vote, through their wallet and their feet, and the millions of Germans and others who were actively required by their own government to move from their country into newly occupied zones elsewhere.

This position is shared by various international law scholars such as Professor Eugene Rostow (former Under Secretary of State, former dean of Yale Law School, and author of Security Council Resolution 242) who wrote:

The Convention prohibits many of the inhumane practices of the Nazis and the Soviet Union during and before the Second World War – the mass transfer of people into and out of occupied territories for purposes of extermination, slave labor or colonization, for example….The Jewish settlers in the West Bank are most emphatically volunteers. They have not been “deported” or “transferred” to the area by the Government of Israel, and their movement involves none of the atrocious purposes or harmful effects on the existing population it is the goal of the Geneva Convention to prevent.” American Journal of International Law, Vol. 84, 1990, p. 719.

And Professor Julius Stone, one of the 20th century’s leading international law experts, who wrote:

Irony would…be pushed to the absurdity of claiming that Article 49(6), designed to prevent repetition of Nazi-type genocidal policies of rendering Nazi metropolitan territories judenrein, has now come to mean that…the West Bank…must be made judenrein and must be so maintained, if necessary by the use of force by the government of Israel against its own inhabitants. Common sense as well as correct historical and functional context excludes so tyrannical a reading of Article 49(6).” “Israel and Palestine, Assault on the Law of Nations” discourse 2, pg. 179-181.

But, let us play devil’s advocate, and assume the Israeli government’s allowance of its citizens to live and build within its borders is a violation of article 49. Then, are the settlements illegal under international law?

The answer is still no, here is why:

Any question of legal validity under international law should be resolved by the fact the Palestinian-Authority, under Yasser Arafat, signed the Oslo Accords with Israel. This was an internationally recognized agreement to divide jurisdiction of the territory between Israel and the newly created Palestinian Authority. Under this agreement, Israelis have full jurisdiction to live and build on the designated 60% of the territory. Therefore, any building in this territory is completely legitimate under international law through the Oslo Agreement.

So there you have it, in all the possible stages of the legal argument:

Israel can’t be an occupier because it likely has superior title to the territory in the first place. Even if it had no title to the territory, the Fourth Geneva Convention can’t apply here. And even if it could apply here, Israel would be a legal occupier rather than an illegal one, since Israel hasn’t violated the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention (making the settlements legal rather than illegal). Lastly, even if Israel’s settlements were a violation of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Oslo Accords have given both Israel and the Palestinian Authority the right to live and build in their allotted jurisdictions.