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The Jerusalem Police Operations Room. The Zionist Federation of Australia supports Israel

Latest News in Israel – 11th August

UN engineer indicted for aiding Hamas

A senior United Nations engineer in the Gaza Strip has been indicted in the Beersheba District Court for abusing his post in order to aid Hamas, including the construction of a port for use by its naval commandos.

The indictment against 38-year-old Wahid Abdullah al-Bursh of Jabalya was filed by the Southern District Attorney’s Office around two weeks ago, but was under gag order until Tuesday. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced it had arrested him on July 16.

Bursh is an employee of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which undertakes such projects as rehabilitating Gaza Strip homes damaged in warfare.

He has worked as a UNDP engineer since 2003 and was tasked with overseeing the demolition of homes and evacuating the waste.

According to the Shin Bet, Bursh was approached shortly after the 2014 Gaza war by Husseini Suleiman, a messenger for senior Hamas commander Abu Anas al-Andor, who asked him to use his position to help the terrorist organization. In April and May 2015, he allegedly helped build the naval commando port in the northern Gaza Strip.

Bursh is said to have used his authority to transfer to the site 300 tons of construction materials. He also convinced his manager at UNDP to give preference to rehabilitation projects in areas where Hamas agents were operating.

When weapons or tunnel openings were discovered in homes being worked on as part of UNDP projects, UN procedures for reporting such findings were not followed, a Shin Bet investigation found.

Bursh’s interrogation uncovered Hamas operatives embedded in other aid organizations, the Shin Bet added.

He also provided information on Hamas tunnels and weapons warehouses he encountered during his work.

“This investigation shows the manner in which Hamas takes advantage of aid resources from international organizations in Gaza, which are intended to be used as humanitarian aid for the civilian population,” the Shin Bet stated. The formal charges in the indictment against Bursh include contact with a foreign agent, providing services to an illegal organization and carrying out activities with terrorist property.

The Shin Bet announcement came after it was revealed last week that funds from the international Christian aid agency World Vision were allegedly used to aid Hamas.

World Vision has denied the claims.

In response to the revelations, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Tuesday that money contributed to human rights groups needed to be under close supervision, since these groups have been used “many times” as funnels to fund terrorist groups. She added that Israel was demanding an immediate investigation into the incident to ensure that “an organization that is meant to work toward peace and quiet does not support a murderous terrorist organization.”

Following the announcements, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to put an end to the “exploitation” of the world body by Hamas.

“This is not an isolated case, but rather a troubling trend of the systematic exploitation by Hamas terrorists of UN organizations,” Danon said in a statement. “If the UN truly wants to better the lives of the residents of Gaza, it must remove every employee working for the Hamas and sever all ties with organizations aiding terrorists.”

News of Bursh’s indictment came just a few days after Israel made public the arrest of Mohammad El Halabi, the manager of operations in the Gaza Strip for World Vision.

UN agencies such as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have provided support to World Vision in the past.

“Only by implementing strict oversight mechanisms can the UN ensure that they are not exploited by the vicious terrorists whose only aim is to murder Jews and destroy the State of Israel,” Danon said.

The ambassador’s statement said the arrest of Bursh raised “serious concerns” because he was an employee of an official UN body.

Following the announcement of Burch’s indictment, the UNDP spokesperson released a statement saying the group was “greatly concerned by the allegation” and that it had “zero tolerance for wrongdoing in all of its programs and projects.”

The UNDP explained that the rubble removal project Bursh was working on had been established to respond to the consequences of the 2014 hostilities in Gaza. It said the project had allowed it to remove more than a million tons of rubble, as well as 2,761 pieces of unexploded ordnance.

The allegations concerning Bursh, the organization said, referred to just 300 tons of rubble, or seven truckloads out of nearly 26,000.

“UNDP would like to reassure its partners, donors and stakeholders that it has robust measures in place to ensure that the rubble, which is removed and crushed, goes to its intended purpose and has been transferred to specific locations with the request and approval of the Ministry of Public Works and Housing,” the statement said. “UNDP is committed to the highest standards of transparency and accountability and, therefore, in light of this development, UNDP is conducting a thorough internal review of the processes and circumstances surrounding the allegation.”

In addition to the internal investigation, the UNDP spokesperson said the group would continue to cooperate fully with the authorities.

“UNDP stands behind the professional work of its staff and personnel, specifically in areas as complex and challenging as the rubble removal project, where the risk of endangering civilians and staff is high if strict measures and operating procedures are not adequately followed,” the spokesperson wrote.

“Mr. Al Bursh should be accorded all due legal process and has the right to a fair trial.”

Ban had not issued a separate statement at press time.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded by stating: “The Israeli accusations about UNDP’s financial leaks for the benefit of Hamas are false and baseless claims, and come on the background of an Israeli plan to intensify the suffocation and siege of the Gaza Strip by going after and pressuring international aid organizations” operating in the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas warns the Israeli occupation against continuing such a policy and calls on the international community to undertake its responsibility in confronting these Israeli practices, which will have dangerous consequences if they continue,” Zuhri added.  (Jerusalem Post)

Police uncover large weapons and ammunition cache in Shfaram

As part of a larger police effort to combat the illegal weapons trade, police uncovered a large ammunition cache in Shfaram, a mixed city of Christians, Muslims, and Druse, with a population of around 40,000 in northern Israel.

Identified in the cache were 40mm grenades meant for a M203 grenade launcher, a stun grenades, over 5,000 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, 80 cartridges, 9mm Uzi cartridges, over 600 rounds of 9mm ammunition, bulletproof vests, and combat gear.

With the help of a special forensics and explosives units and a K-9 unit the police were able to locate a trapdoor, which hid the weapons and ammunition, in an open area of Shfaram.

The police have been targeting Israel’s illegal weapons trade especially focusing on Israeli-Arab regions. In mid-July some 600 police officers arrested 63 persons in the Israeli-Arab regions of the Triangle, for illegal weapons and drug trafficking after a yearlong undercover sting operation.

At the conclusion of the operation, Insp. Gen Roni Alsheikh stated that police are seeking to improve relations with Israeli-Arab communities. “The police are in the midst of a broad initiative to enhance public trust and confidence in Arab society at all aspects of police and law enforcement,” he stated.

According to 2015 police figures, 59 percent of murders in the country take place in the Arab sector even though Arab-Israelis only make up 21% of the population. While the country’s Arab sector has long been saturated with illegal firearms, the issue of unlicensed guns reached a new level of national attention when Nashat Milhem went on a shooting spree in central Tel Aviv last January.

In March of this year, the government budgeted NIS 2 billion over the next five years towards policing in Arab communities.      (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian couple lose jobs after aiding Jewish terror victims

A Palestinian husband and wife who helped a Jewish family following a deadly terrorist attack in July are looking for work in Israel after being fired for assisting Jews.

Yochai Damari, the head of the Har Hebron Regional Council, in a Facebook post Sunday called on the Defense Ministry to procure work permits in Israel for the couple, who are medical professionals. Damari said he sent a letter to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman requesting the permits.

The post did not say where they were working or who was behind the firing.

Rabbi Miki Mark, a father of 10, was killed in the July 1 terror attack near Hebron. A car with Palestinian license plates overtook the Marks’ vehicle and opened fire with automatic weapons, causing the car to flip over.

His wife, Chava, was seriously injured and had major brain surgery on Sunday.

Immediately following the shooting, the Palestinian couple pulled the teenage children and their mother from the car and gave them emergency treatment until ambulances arrived and took them to the hospital. They continued to help the family and protect them from Palestinian passers-by who threatened them and called on the couple to stop assisting them, Damari said.

Damari said he met with the couple, who asked him for help in obtaining work in Israel.

“I am aware of the difficulties, but I think that in cases like this it is our obligation as the Jewish nation to show our thanks to people who behave as upstanding people and act in a way expected of them in situations like this,” Damari said.              (JTA)

Jerusalem may be facing ‘major’ Heroin problem

Israel’s illicit NIS 6 billion drug market includes approximately 100 tons of marijuana annually entering the country, primarily through the Egyptian border, about three tons of cocaine via Lebanon and Jordan, and up to four tons of heroin from Lebanon and Egypt.

According to the Anti-Drug Authority, addiction to narcotics in Israel transformed from a “marginal concern” in the 1980s, to ensnaring some 25,000 full-blown addicts, largely due to Western influences and greater access.

Among all addicts in the country, approximately 8,300 are presently undergoing treatment at a rehabilitation facility, although the success rates are not very high, with only one-third being fully rehabilitated.

“They need between one and three doses of drugs a day, usually heroin,” the authority said.

And although the numbers pale in comparison to other Westernized countries – such as the United States, where a recent study by the Office of National Drug Control Policy states there are 1.5 million “chronic heroin users” – heroin has nonetheless found its way into Jerusalem.

While there are no statistics indicating the precise number of heroin addicts in Israel, Elad Borovsky, a clinical social worker who has headed Talpiot’s Jerusalem Methadone Center for six years, says that addiction to the powerful drug has become a “major problem” in the capital.

“If a person is already using drugs and experiences heavy trauma or depression, 60-70 percent will eventually use heroin to deal with the problem,” said Borovsky on Monday.

“Methadone is the end of the chain of treatment for substance- abuse issues, especially for heroin addicts who failed to wean from the drug.”

Borovsky said roughly 350 patients visit his clinic daily to receive carefully administered doses of the drug, as well as Suboxone, to meet with social workers for group therapy, as well as physicians overseeing their treatment.

Roughly 70% of patients are Jewish, and 30% are Arab residents of the capital, he said, adding that 80% are men and 20% are women.

“The average age for men at the clinic is 45 to 50, and the average for women is 30 to 35,” he said, adding that the clinic is operated by the Association of Public Health, while the Health Ministry helps subsidize treatment costs.

The common denominator among the patients, Borovsky said, is that all of them began using drugs or alcohol at early ages.

“By age eight or nine, they began smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, then at between ages 13 to 15 they started to use hash and marijuana, and most of them started heroin by age 18 or 19,” he said.

While Borovsky is careful to note that the majority of young recreational users of marijuana, hash or alcohol will not move onto heroin, he said that all addicts at the clinic started with those substances.

“There is a depressive reaction for some people… and they need something stronger to contain it, and lots of them had a story where they began using heroin and became quite ill,” he said. “And when they saw a physician, they were told that they were going through withdrawal.”

“There’s sweating, yawning, nausea, diarrhea, and aches all over the body – especially in the joints,” he said. “It creates physical trauma that they describe it as something that is unbearable.”

Moreover, Borovsky said that withdrawal can result in complications, including heart disease and diabetes.

“Once you start taking heroin, you have to use it approximately every four hours, and increase the dose as their tolerance to the drug increases,” he said.

Methadone, he continued, has proven most effective in replacing heroin, thus allowing physicians to administer increasingly lower doses until the symptoms are contained.

“Neurologically, methadone grabs the same receptors, so according to the brain, it is the same thing as heroin, but it has three main advantages,” Borovsky said.

“The first advantage is that the dose is stable… usually averaging between 80 mg. to 100 mg. a day. The second is that it is supposed to stay in your body between 24 to 36 hours, so the person doesn’t need to think all the time about where they’re going to get their next dose.”

The third advantage, he continued, is that patients can take it orally, in liquid form.

“The great thing about not injecting is that it helps them avoid contracting diseases through needles,” he explained.

Asked about the prevalence of heroin in Jerusalem, Borovsky said the market itself has improved considerably over the past 30 years, when a greater supply infiltrated the country through Lebanon and Egypt.

However, despite greater security checks at borders, which have largely prevented most heroin drug mules from entering Israel, Borovsky said that new synthetic drugs and legally- prescribed opiates are creating great risk of eventual heroin addiction.

“Things today have changed,” he said.

“There is much less heroin on the market now, but there are a lot of synthetic versions and opiates – including Percocet – that are prescribed by family doctors which are like pure heroin. Some of them contain codeine, some of them contain morphine, but the functioning is the same as heroin.”

Indeed, Borovsky said that legally-prescribed pain-relief drugs have ensnared an unwitting new population of addicts, who move on to heroin after the doctors cut them off.

“This is a new phenomenon, where normative people who are successful for some reason get injured in an accident, and become addicted to the morphine,” he said. “Our patients are heroin users who once used opiates.”

To ensure compliance with their treatment, Borovsky said the Health Ministry enforces strict codes of conduct, including ceasing to use all drugs except for methadone and suboxone.

“The methadone doesn’t make patients feel high, it stabilizes them,” he explained. “So once they come here, they need to give up all other drugs.”

However, he noted that roughly 20% to 30% of patients continue to use cocaine, synthetic drugs or opiates during treatment.

Borovsky said the best preventative measures and treatment involves a comprehensive approach, addressing not just the psychological underpinning of addiction, but education, particularly among youth.                (Jerusalem Post)

More security cameras to be added in Jerusalem flash points

Following the success of the Mabet 2000 security camera system in the Old City of Jerusalem – which takes live feeds from cameras all over the Old City and feeds them into a central video bank – the Jerusalem Police have decided to widen the scope of the program over the rest of the city of Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Police will be able to continuously watch over the entire city, and quickly dispatch police forces to any area in the event of a disturbance. Eventually, street light cameras and cameras on the Jerusalem Light Rail will be incorporated into the central situation room.

The system of cameras in the old city has helped security forces during security breaches, investigations, and in the search for terrorists. They have also helped in solving criminal cases.

Over 400 cameras are operating at all times in the old city, helping to find terrorists who carried out stabbing attacks during the recent wave of terror. The cameras have been able to follow terrorists as they flee deep into the old city, helping direct security forces to where the terrorist was hiding.

The police commander in charge of the Old City, Commander Doron Turgeman, said that “we are approaching 95% coverage – there’s nothing like it anywhere else. It’s something every police commander dreams of.”

The situation room is full of dozens of screens with live feeds from the cameras, showing everything that happens in the Old City in real time. “All of our forces are in the field, and all of them receive the same situation reports in real time. We know how to stop an attack before it happens,” the Turgeman said.

The Jerusalem Police Operations Room. The Zionist Federation of Australia supports Israel

The Jerusalem Police Operations Room

An additional 193 cameras will be positioned around the city, and will record 24/7. The live feeds will be sent to a central operations room at the Jerusalem Police Department Headquarters, and the people monitoring the feeds will be able to get a general picture of what’s happening in their areas of responsibility. There will also be several cameras which will be able to read license plate numbers by the end of the year.

The additional cameras being set up will include cameras on the Jerusalem Light Rail, and the flashpoint neighborhoods of Silwan, Wadi Joz, Isawiya, as well as throughout west Jerusalem.

Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan talked about the initiative during the launch of a pilot project to equip Israeli Police Forces with body cameras. He said that all of the cameras – both in Jerusalem and on the bodies of police officers – is part of an overarching technological vision for the police.   (Ynet News)

Rare Roman period frescoes discovered at Zippori excavations

A team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has discovered hundreds of fragments belonging to frescoes from the Roman period, in the Zippori National Park. The fragments, which contain figurative images, floral patterns and geometric motifs, shed light on Zippori (Sepphoris), which was an important urban center for the Jews of the Galilee during the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The discovery was made this summer in the excavations at Zippori, in memory of Ursula Johanna and Fritz Werner Blumenthal of Perth, Western Australia. The excavations are directed by Prof. Zeev Weiss, the Eleazar L. Sukenik Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology.

The frescoes decorated a monumental building that was erected in the early second century CE north of the decumanus, a colonnaded street that cut across the city from east to west and continued to the foot of the Acropolis. The building, whose function is not clear at this stage of excavation, spread over a wide area, and the nature of the artifacts discovered indicate that it was an important public building. In the center of the building was a stone-paved courtyard and side portico decorated with stucco. West and north of the courtyard, several underground vaults were discovered. Some of these were used as water cisterns and were of high quality construction. The monumental building was built on the slope and the vaults were designed to allow the construction of the superstructure located on the level of the decumanus.

The monumental building was dismantled in the third century CE for reasons that are unclear, and was replaced by another public building, larger than its predecessor, parts of which were uncovered during this season. The monumental building’s walls were dismantled in antiquity and its building materials — stone and plaster, some colorful — were buried under the floors of a newly established Roman building on the same location. Hundreds of plaster fragments discovered during this excavation season were concentrated in one area, and it seems that they belong to one or several rooms from the previous building.

The patterns on the plaster fragments are varied and are decorated in many colors. Among them are geometric patterns (guilloche) and brightly colored wall panels. Other fragments contain floral motifs (light shaded paintings on red backgrounds or various colors on a white background).

Particularly important are the pieces which depict figures — the head of a lion, a horned animal (perhaps a bull?), a bird, a tiger’s hindquarters and more — usually on a black background. At least one fragment contains a depiction of a man bearing a club. Research on these pieces is in its early stages but it is already clear that at least one room in the building was decorated with figurative images, possibly depicting exotic animals and birds in various positions.

The back of a tiger with its tail curling dating from the early Second Century CE. The Zionist Federation of Australia supports Israel

A fresco of the back of a tiger with its tail curling, dating from the Second Century.

The population of Zippori prior to the Great Revolt against the Romans was not very large, and archaeological finds dating to this period are particularly notable for the absence of figurative images – both humans and animals. The construction of the Roman city of Zippori after the Great Revolt, in the late first century and the second century CE, is indicative of a change in the attitude of Galilean Jews toward Rome and its culture. The city gained the status of a polis thanks to its loyalty to Rome during the Great Revolt, and constructed monumental public buildings, as befit a polis, that stood out in the urban landscape. This building boom also included the monumental building discovered north of the decumanus whose walls were decorated with frescoes, and whose remains were discovered during this season.

The new finds in Zippori contribute significantly to the research of Roman art in Israel. To date, excavators uncovered the walls of several public and private buildings from Roman Zippori (second and third centuries CE) which were decorated with colorful frescoes in geometric and floral patterns. This season’s finds are the first, only and earliest evidence of figurative images in wall paintings at the site. The finds date to the beginning of the second century CE. Parallels to these finds are virtually unknown at other Israeli sites of the same period. Some panels bearing depictions of figures were discovered a few years ago in Herod’s palace at Herodium, and according to Josephus (Life of Josephus 65-69) the walls of the palace of Herod Antipas in Tiberias were also decorated with wall paintings depicting animals; but beyond that, no murals with depictions of figures, dating to the first century and the beginning of the second century CE, have been discove red to date in the region.

The discovery in Zippori is unique and provides new information regarding murals in Roman Palestine. Zippori is well known for its unique mosaics. The newly discovered frescos are now added to the city’s rich material culture. While the earliest mosaics discovered at the site date to around 200 CE, the ancient frescoes precede them by about a hundred years and are thus of great importance.

These finds raise questions relating to their socio-historic background. Who initiated the construction of the monumental building that was discovered north of the decumanus? Who is responsible for choosing the patterns that adorn the walls, and for whom were they intended?

The various finds uncovered throughout the site indicate that Zippori, the Jewish capital of the Galilee, was home to many Jewish inhabitants throughout the Roman period, but the city also had a significant pagan community for which the temple was built to the south of the decumanus, opposite the monumental building, parts of which were discovered this season. It is difficult to determine who was responsible for the construction and decoration of this monumental building, at this stage of excavation. However the new finds clearly reflect the multi-cultural climate that characterizes Zippori in the years following the Great Revolt, in the late first century and the second century CE.           (MFA)

A covenant of shadows:   Israel and Sunni Arabs: A Marriage of Convenience

The growing ties between Israel and the region’s Sunni Arab states are a result of a divided Middle East where Islamic State poses the greatest threat • But a peace deal with the Palestinians is a prerequisite to forge formal diplomatic ties.

by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror              Israel Hayom


Many of the world’s nations are looking on in surprise and admiration at the ever-strengthening ties between Israel and the more important Sunni Arab countries in the region — the open relationship with Egypt and Jordan, with which Israel maintains official diplomatic relations, but also the informal relationships with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.

This shift appears to be fueled by three main factors: First, these Sunni countries fear Iran’s growing power over a Shiite bloc, which threatens the security as well as the unity of the Sunni states. There is an ancient religious conflict between the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority, but the minority enjoys the advantage of a singular leadership that is willing to do anything to change the status of the Shiites in the Middle East. This leadership, which sits in Tehran, is spearheading orchestrated and focused efforts to liberate the Shiites in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and defend the Shiites in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The objective is to create an uninterrupted distribution of Shiites from Tehran through Baghdad to Beirut.

Meanwhile, Iran is trying to undermine the Sunni dominance on the Arab side of the Gulf between the Saudi Peninsula and Iran: Saudi Arabia, with its Shiite minority, in the oil-rich region; Bahrain, which underwent a Shiite coup attempt; and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is fighting with the Sunni majority against the Iranian-backed Houthi minority.

The Sunni-Shiite conflict also has a nationalist aspect. It is impossible to ignore the fact that Iran is focusing its efforts exclusively on Arab countries. This nationalist struggle also manifests itself in inter-Shiite disputes, especially in Iraq, where the city of Najaf was once considered the most important Shiite city, but has since been replaced by the Iranian city of Qom.

Keeping the momentum

The second factor fueling the Sunni countries’ concerns is the threat of extreme Salafism led by the Islamic State group. The group’s Arabic acronym, Daesh, stands for “the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” but today, the organization is active in Sinai and in Libya as well, and it has active chapters in Africa and in Europe, as the recent wave of terrorist attacks may indicate. Therefore, the simple name “Islamic State” may be more apt.

The expansion of the group’s activities poses a threat to the Sunni states, because they represent an enemy of the highest order. In Egypt, the threat is even more pronounced thanks to IS deployment in parts of Sinai and its collaboration with Hamas, the Palestinian chapter of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood — the mortal enemies of the current Egyptian leadership. In Jordan and in Saudi Arabia, Islamic State threatens the regime from within, because in both countries there is extensive sympathy for the group among various sectors in the population. Even if the coalition of nations currently working to combat IS manages to dramatically diminish the areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, the ideology propagated by the group will still pose a very palpable threat to the Sunni states. Moreover, the coalition is currently having trouble maintaining its momentum against IS, following a string of important victories.

The third factor stems from the general sense that the U.S. has abandoned its allies in their time of need, intending to scale back its involvement in the region. In Egypt, this feeling is founded on America’s having abandoned deposed President Hosni Mubarak and having appeared to support the Muslim Brotherhood. In Saudi Arabia and in the Persian Gulf, the frustration stems from the fact that they view the landmark agreement between the West and Iran, spearheaded by the U.S., as an American capitulation. The countries in the region have been very disappointed with the U.S.’s conduct toward Mubarak on the one hand, and toward Syrian President Bashar Assad, who continues to massacre Sunnis uninhibited, on the other. They realize that not only is the U.S. no longer on their side in the fight against Iran, the U.S. expects them to make concessions to Iran. It is clear to the Sunni states, which once viewed the U.S. as a superpower whose mere existence was enough to stop any threat they faced, that things have profoundly changed. Even if the U.S. is still a superpower, it has lost the will to use its power in the Middle East. Furthermore, when it does exercise its power, like in leading the anti-IS coalition, action is taken sparingly and extremely cautiously. And now, the U.S. is compromising with its adversaries, as indicated by the weak American response to Russia’s increasing involvement in Syria.

The key to enhanced relations

These countries are looking for someone to help them at this time of need. Israel is the only country in the area whose stability is not in question. It is a strong country, both economically and militarily, and it has the ability and willingness to defend its essential interests. This is the foundation for the blossoming relationships between Israel and these Sunni countries — classic status-quo countries in an ever-shifting region looking for an anchor to stabilize themselves. Israel can serve as this anchor. It is a marriage of convenience, not of love, but it is one of increasing importance.

Cooperation is key to truly enhancing these relationships, as I was told by a Saudi prince who shared a stage with me at a conference in Washington recently.

“The combination of Israeli money and Arab talent can have a positive impact on any region,” he said jokingly. But behind this line there was a great truth. Israel can provide these countries with precisely what they lack: security, technology and enormous improvements in the areas of water, agriculture and health.

However, a serious collaboration — a public, unhindered cooperation — between Israel and these Arab states requires a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Not because this issue is dear to the hearts of the Sunni leaders, but because without it, these leaders would lose the support of the street, which is imperative if the relationship is to go public. But, sadly, the Palestinians are in no rush to advance a peace agreement and their relations with Israel; on the contrary, realizing that they are the key to enhancing Israel’s ties with the nations of the region only makes them think more highly of themselves and prompts them to ratchet up their demands.

The only way to overcome this hurdle is to change the order of the steps: First build a relationship that will serve as an inclusive umbrella for Israelis and Sunni Arabs, and then lead the Palestinians into it to engage in peace negotiations.

Unlike in the past, at present the enhancement of relations is no less important to the Sunnis than it is to the Israelis. But the Palestinian obstacle is in the way. It is not clear whether the Arab nations will be able to overcome this obstacle, despite their clear interest. Israel needs to think about ways it can help them overcome it, seeing that this could be a historical opportunity and it would be a shame to squander it.