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Latest News in Israel – 11th May

Masked Palestinian terrorists stab 2 elderly Jewish women in backs in Jerusalem

A peaceful morning stroll by a group of elderly Jewish women on a promenade overlooking sweeping vistas of Jerusalem quickly devolved into a bloody nightmare, when two young masked Palestinian terrorists stalked and stabbed two of the octogenarians in their backs.

At approximately 8:30 a.m., police said that five women, all in their 80s, were walking together on Armon HaNatziv’s famous Haas promenade overlooking the capital, before being abruptly attacked from behind by the suspects.

“The two terrorists stabbed them in the back multiple times, both in the upper body, and fled the scene toward the adjacent neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber,” said Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld shortly after the stabbings.

“Police and emergency units rushed to the scene and gave immediate medical assistance before transferring both women to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in moderate condition. While a forensics team searched the area, police immediately set up roadblocks in the area.”

Roughly one hour later, Rosenfeld said police tracked both suspects to Jabel Mukaber and placed them under arrest.

Shlomi Tedegi, an MDA medic described the scene of the attack: “In an area adjacent to the promenade we saw two approximately 80-year-old elderly women lying in the dirt. They were fully conscious and suffering from stab wounds, one in the extremities and her upper body and the second in her upper body.”

“We gave them first aid and evacuated them to hospital in moderate and stable condition,” he added.

Shortly after the attack, Shaare Zedek Medical Center spokeswoman Shoham Ruvio said both victims are in stable condition and expected to survive.

“They are stable and conscious,” she said.  “One is 86 years old, and was stabbed in the back three times; she is in the Intensive Care Unit. The second victim, who is 82, and was also stabbed multiple times, is in the Department for Heart Surgery. She doesn’t need surgery, but is being closely monitored due to a preexisting heart condition.”

Meanwhile, Rosenfeld said security has been heightened throughout the capital, and will continue throughout Remembrance Day and Independence Day.

“All public areas will have additional police units deployed and nothing will be left to chance as the city observes Remembrance and Independence Day,” he said.

Last October Armon Hanatziv made international headlines after two terrorists from Jabel Mukaber stormed an Egged bus and stabbed and shot to death four victims before being killed by police.

To staunch the deadly violence between the Arab and Jewish communities, police temporarily set up a concrete wall and check point around Jabel Mukaber, which was soon taken down amid protests by human rights groups.                       (Jerusalem Post)

Four pipe bombs explode in West Bank severely injuring IDF officer

An officer was in serious condition with a head wound following the blast.

An IDF unit identified a suspicious device near Hizma, which blew up and injured an IDF officer, the army said.

A search of the area revealed that four pipe bombs had exploded causing the injury to the officer. An additional five pipe bombs we found in the sweep and were deactivated by security forces.

The officer was in serious condition with a head wound following the explosion.

According to information provided by the IDF, the blast occurred when a suspicious device blew up in the area of Hizma, near Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood.

Paramedics said the officer remained conscious during treatment after the blast and was evacuated to nearby Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Dvir Adani, a volunteer medic with the ambulance unit of United Hatzalah, was among the first responders at the scene of the blast.

“When I arrived at the scene I saw a young man who was suffering from a head wound. Together with other volunteer medics we treated the injured man after which he was transferred by an emergency services ambulance to the hospital. He was fully conscious at the time of evacuation.”

A search for those responsible for placing the bombs is underway          (Jerusalem Post)

IDF chief to bereaved families: We will be there for you

This week, as Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism approaches on Wednesday, the entire nation will bow its head in solidarity with the many Israeli families who have lost loved ones in battle or in terrorist attacks.

Memorial events begun on Sunday afternoon, with the traditional Flag for the Fallen ceremony at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. In attendance at the annual ceremony were IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, Israel Prison Service Commissioner Ofra Klinger, Defense Ministry Deputy Director General and Family and Commemoration Division head Aryeh Mualem, Yad Lebanim Chairman Eli Ben Shem and IDF Widows and Orphans Organization head Nava Shoham Solan.

During the event, IDF soldiers placed small Israeli flags on each of the graves in the military section of the cemetery, and Eizenkot saluted the fallen buried there and all other fallen IDF soldiers.

This is the 15th year the Flag for the Fallen ceremony has been held to honor and recognize IDF soldiers who defended the country with their lives. Initially, the chief of staff would place a flag by the grave of the last soldier buried at Mount Herzl. However, this part of the ceremony was changed after a bereaved family got upset that the IDF chief did not place a flag by their son’s grave because he was not buried in the cemetery’s central area due to doubts as to whether or not he was Jewish.

Flags will be placed by the graves of each fallen soldier at all the military cemeteries and military plots across the country by Wednesday.

“This evening, flags will be placed on the graves of all fallen soldiers, along with a black ribbon, a symbol of the loss and pain bound up in the revival of our nation,” Eizenkot said on Sunday. “In the name of the entire people of Israel, IDF soldiers and youth group members will pass among the gravestones and place a flag by each name in memory of the fallen. This is our way of saluting our sons and daughters who set out on their missions, acted in accordance with the values of those missions, [values of] friendship and love of their country, and they gave their lives for that purpose — to protect the country and its people.”

Eizenkot made a commitment to those present that the military “Will continue to be there for you and to embrace you, to carry forward the memory of your loved ones, to walk in their path and to come back here year after year to reverently salute each and every one of them.

“Today, we will also remember the missing IDF soldiers and those whose burial places are unknown, and we promise that we will not rest until we return everyone to our borders.”

Mualem also spoke at the ceremony, saying he would continue in his moral duty “to safekeep the memory of your loved ones — even when the [memorial] siren is not heard, when the nation’s flags return to full mast, when the memorial candles burn out, when the days go from sacred to regular. This is our commitment, this is the path we walk.”

Also on Mount Herzl on Sunday was a flag-laying ceremony in memory of Israel’s 1,450 fallen police officers. The event was attended by Israel Police and Israel Prison Service representatives, as well as by bereaved family members.

‘Terrorism aimed at the heart’

An equally moving ceremony in memory of terror victims was held Sunday at a memorial park in Tel Aviv. The ceremony was attended by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Terror Victims Association Chairman Yehoshua Cohen and bereaved families. Dudu Bakal, the father of Alon Bakal who was murdered in January’s Tel Aviv shooting attack, spoke at the event on behalf of the bereaved families.

“My life and the lives of my family have been forever changed,” he said. “My son was murdered in a terrorist attack at the Simta pub. Because he was Jewish. His mother cries all day long. The cemetery where our treasure is buried has become the center of her life. When terrorism enters your private circle, every day is memorial day. God takes the good ones. And Alon was exactly that — the salt of the earth, he loved life, he worked hard and always gave to others.”

Huldai said that in the last year, terrorism has struck the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality three times, “took the lives of six people, and injured 20. It is specifically because of Tel Aviv-Jaffa’s centrality in this country that terrorism insists on coming back to strike it. An attack on Tel Aviv-Jaffa is an attack on the heart of Israel. A heart that terrorism tries to stop repeatedly, using knives and bullets — but without success.

‘Military service is an honor’

Each memorial day, Miriam Peretz, who lost two of her sons in their military service, shares her story. On Sunday, at a conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, the English version of the book on her life, “Miriam’s Song,” was launched. The book, released by Gefen Publishing House, was translated with the help of Orthodox Union Israel after it won the Platinum Book Prize.

“My story is the story of all of Israel,” Peretz said. “It is a story of darkness, light, hope and sadness. It was difficult, but I chose life. That is what I teach our soldiers: Service is an honor, not a duty.”

Executive Director of OU Israel Rabbi Avi Berman said, “Miriam has succeeded in convincing people to move to Israel within a few minutes. She is a constitutive character. God gave her this role, she did not choose it — but she accepted it with love for the people of Israel.”     (Israel Hayom)

For 1st time since August, Israel sees no victim deaths from terrorist attacks

April was the first month in half a year with zero fatalities among victims of terrorist attacks against Israelis.

With a total of 115 attacks, the figure for April continued a six-month downward trend in the number of incidents in Israeli-controlled areas and is the lowest monthly total recorded since July, when 103 attacks were observed, according to a report published earlier this week by the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet.

Of the 18 victims who were wounded in terrorist attacks against Israelis in April, 16 were injured in an explosion set off on a bus in Jerusalem on April 18. Another victim was stabbed in Rosh Ha’ain on April 3 and a police officer was wounded from a firebomb hurled at him near Jerusalem that same day.

Of the 115 attacks documented, 91 involved firebombs.

Approximately 30 victims of terrorist attacks lost their lives in attacks since August and hundreds were wounded. Approximately 200 Palestinians were also killed since then, most of them while carrying out attacks or in riots.

In Israel and the West Bank, attacks began increasing in August, when 171 of them were documented, and rose sharply in September and October, with 223 and 620 attacks recorded in those months respectively. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in October called the escalation “a terror wave,” whereas many in the Israeli and Palestinian media dubbed it “the third intifada,” or “the knife intifada.”

But the overall number of attacks decreased to 326 in November, 246 in December, 169 in January, 155 in February and 123 in March.             (Jerusalem Post)

President to honor 120 soldiers on Independence Day

In traditional ceremony on Thursday, President Reuven Rivlin will award a select group of soldiers a certificate of excellence in honor of their service • Among recipients: Sgt. Noam Tobol, who saved his comrade’s life several months ago.

The 120 Israel Defense Forces soldiers who will receive a certificate of excellence at the President’s Residence on Independence Day this week were hosted by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Sunday. Edelstein, who posed for the traditional photo op with the soldiers, said: “It is a great honor to host you in the Knesset. Your presence here has a lot of meaning, because we tend to talk extensively about the need for personal example, whose ultimate manifestation is evident within the IDF. I believe in you and in your ability to view the defense of this nation as a contribution to democracy.”

Edelstein asked that the soldiers “take this spirit with you wherever you go” and handed out a special gift that was designed by disabled soldiers. He also surprised one of the soldiers, 2nd Lt. Barak Bashari, when he gave him the rank of lieutenant.

Another soldier, Sgt. Noam Tobol, who serves in the 97th Battalion of the Kfir Brigade (an infantry unit) will receive a certificate of excellence for his “camaraderie and determination.” According to the IDF, he will receive this citation because of the bravery and professionalism he displayed last year while patrolling the Palestinian village of Aboud. At one point, a terrorist stabbed his friend in the neck and tried to hit him as well, but Tobol, along with another sergeant, managed to subdue the terrorist. Turning to his wounded friend, he managed to stop the flow of blood by applying pressure on the wound with two fingers.

On Sunday, Tobol spoke with Israel Hayom about the incident. “You have no time to think about your life when something like this happens, you just act with instinct,” he said. “I am not a medic, but I knew that I had to press on his throat. This is what people expected from me as a soldier. This entire incident lasted no more than several minutes. You cannot plan for something like this. Who could possibly have the time to think about life or death matters? You just act.”

After that incident, Tobol was allowed to take weekend leave to spend some time with his family. When he arrived home, practically everyone waited for him: his parents, his five siblings, all of his nephews and nieces and other members of his extended family. They all wanted to give him a hug. “We were together and were grateful that we were all alive and healthy,” he said. “Such incidents put into focus what is really important in life, such as appreciating the good things, however simple they may be, and realizing that reality could turn on its head on a dime.”

Meanwhile, the Knesset Guard announced on Sunday that it had completed the necessary preparations for the annual torch-lighting ceremony on Independence Day eve, the main state ceremony that kicks off the celebrations nationwide. The guard has held intense drills ahead of the ceremony for the past several weeks, with special attire. The ceremony will begin with 31 members of the guard marching in honor of Edelstein. As Knesset speaker, Edelstein is tasked with delivering a special address at the event.

The person who has long been tasked with running the ceremony is Col. David Rokni, who has recently announced he would retire after this year’s celebrations. President Reuven Rivlin hosted Rokni at the President’s Residence on Sunday.                                    (Israel Hayom)

3 out of 4 of Israeli Jews say there is no occupation, survey finds

Nearly three-quarters of Israeli Jews, 71.5 percent percent, do not view Israel’s control of the West Bank as “occupation,” a monthly survey found.

Exactly the same percentage of Arabs consider it an occupation, according to the May Peace Index survey of the Israel Democracy Institute released Monday.

Asked “Which of the following two things is more important to you: That a peace agreement be reached with the Palestinians or that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people?,” some 48 percent of the Jews polled said Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people was more important. Some 27 percent said the peace agreement was more important, while 16 percent said the two goals are equally important.

Fifty-two percent of respondents answered that it was more important to have a Jewish majority in the State of Israel than sovereignty over all of the historical land of Israel, with 22 percent responding that sovereignty is more important, according to the survey.

On the U.S. presidential candidates, 62 percent of the Jewish respondents agreed that Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, will be “committed to safeguarding Israel’s security.” They were mostly split on this question about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner: “To what extent do you trust her that, if elected U.S. president, she will block any attempt to attack or isolate Israel?” Some 48 percent answered positively and 45 percent negatively, making it a statistical dead heat with the 4.1 percent margin of error.

However, the survey also found that 40 percent of Jewish respondents think it will be better for Israel if Clinton is elected, while 31 percent preferred Trump. Some 17.5 percent did not answer the question.

Asked “To what extent do you fear that you or one of the people important to you will be harmed in the current wave of terror attacks?,” 64 percent of Jewish respondents said they greatly or moderately fear it, a 5 percent decline from last month, when the same question was posited. Some 50 percent of Jewish respondents agreed that the current terror wave is in a downward trend, with 46 percent disagreeing.

The survey polled 600 Arab and Jewish Israelis 18 and older on May 2 and 3.              (JTA)

Report: ISIS planning to attack Israel from Sinai

The Israeli military is concerned that the Islamic State group is planning a large-scale attack against Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported on Sunday, citing an IDF officer.

Sinai has become an Islamic State stronghold in recent years. According to the Bild report, there could be hundreds of Islamic State operatives currently training in Sinai and awaiting an order to strike Israel.

The IDF officer quoted in the article said that while it was not clear what form a future Islamic State attack against Israel would take, it could include the use of tanks and artillery by the terrorist group         (Israel Hayom)

PM, finance minister agree on two-year budget

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon agreed Sunday to pass a two-year state budget for 2017 and 2018. The decision, which cleared the impasse over the issue, was made possible after Netanyahu convened a meeting Sunday with Kahlon and Finance Ministry officials. Bank of Israel Governor Dr. Karnit Flug was also present in the meeting, and according to one Israel Hayom source, most participants supported the move.

As part of the decision, Kahlon will have the authority to introduce budget cuts to make sure Israel meets its deficit target for that period.

Two-year state budgets have been the norm since 2009; in some cases, this was a consequence of election years that required special arrangements. Finance Ministry Accountant General Michal Abadi-Boiangiu, who supports the idea of a two-year budget, said, “Israel would be able to deal with the budget.” Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry will meet in the coming days to work out a mechanism for drafting the relevant provisions of the budget bill.

While voicing some reservations, the Bank of Israel voiced support for the idea as well. The bank published a statement Sunday saying that “a two-year budget is liable to make it difficult for the government to respond to unexpected changes in conditions, but the risks can be reduced by allocation of a larger internal reserve, greater flexibility in the budget and strict use of the numerator [a special mathematical formula to monitor expenditures]. The most important thing in building the budget, certainly when it has a longer term horizon, is that the budget focuses now on the long-term challenges. It is important that the two-year budget allocate resources at a scope that is appropriate for achieving the government’s goals, including support of growth drivers, and physical and human capital infrastructures.

“The longer the budget’s horizon, the more important it is that it focuses on dealing with the state’s long term challenges. If the government and the Knesset choose to adopt a two-year budget, it is very important to avoid the problems we have seen in the past with such a budget, particularly an accumulation of budgetary commitments that over time become harder to include. This problem can be overcome by strict use of the numerator, which has begun to operate and will help ensure that the government only commits to long-term expenditures for which there are sources, within the framework of the fiscal aggregates that were defined.”                         (Israel Hayom)

Reebok releases new sneaker design in honor of Israel’s 68th Independence Day

The Reebok shoe company released a new sneaker design on Monday in honor of Israel’s 68th Independence Day celebrations.

The special edition sneaker is blue and white and has “Israel 68” engraved on it’s heel.

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Moshe Sinai, the CEO of Reebok Israel, explained that these sneakers were to be a one-time celebratory release as a collector’s item in Israel and the world.

The Independence Day sneaker features the Reebok “Pump” technology that allows the sneaker to form to the foot of its wearer. A push button releases compressed air into the shoe increasing the hold it has on the wearer’s foot, allowing the shoe to maintain the person’s natural step.

The shoe will be sold on Independence Day in an auction to take place on the Reebok Facebook page. All proceeds from the sale of the shoe will be donated to the organization Crossfit Without Borders which helps people with mental disabilities integrate into the Crossfit community.            (Jerusalem Post)

Miri Regev proposal would require state-funded culture centers to fly Israeli flag

As Israel prepares to celebrate Independence Day, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev instructed the director- general of her ministry to draft a proposal requiring all state-funded institutions to fly the national flag.

The proposal would include sports centers, soccer stadiums, cultural institutions and theaters built with state funds in both Jewish and Arab municipalities.

“The State of Israel’s 68th Independence Day and Memorial Day requires us to uphold the values of the state and its symbols,” she said.

“It is unfathomable that flying the flag in cultural institutions and in sports arenas that were built by the state be left to the discretion of one person or the other,” she said.

“The institutions Israel builds should wave the flag with pride.”

Regev’s initiative follows her recent controversial “Loyalty in Culture” bill, which would give the culture minister the authority to withhold state monies from cultural institutions that incite to racism, violence or terrorism or support armed conflict against Israel.

The bill, which received backing from Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, caused public backlash from both opposition MKs and Israeli artists who asserted that Regev is attempting to act as a censor – a claim she denied.

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen blasted the proposal.

“Minister Regev continues to display provocative nationalism and incitement against Arab citizens,” said the Hadash MK, noting that it follows her “cultural loyalty” bill, which is an attempt “to force Jewish majority symbols on the Arab public.”

“What does this add to culture? What values does it promote? Does it promote coexistence and understanding between Jews and Arabs, or does it deepen tensions and alienation? “In a real democracy the state does not impose national symbols on the minority,” he continued.

“Regev’s populism hurts culture, democracy and the delicate relationship between the two nations,” he concluded.                (Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s push for productive solutions

by Colin Rubenstein                The Herald Sun

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/israels-push-for-productive-solutions/news-story/c3fcae551ad0c9050b7425a4c9464c55

THE Lebanese branch of the anti-Israel boycott movement has demanded that country’s government ban the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because, in the movie, Wonder Woman is played by the Israeli actor Gal Gadot.

Worldwide, the film has box office takings of over $1.2 billion. Many people ­ including in Lebanon, where the film is already screening ­ simply want to be entertained and don’t care what nationality an actor in the film might be.

It is significant because anti-Israel campaigners and their supporters like to claim that Israel is becoming increasingly isolated internationally. Yet as millions of cinemagoers worldwide show, the reality is somewhat different.

Developing ties in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and especially Asia ­ the world’s new economic centre of gravity ­ show that if anything, Israel’s international reputation and credibility are reaching new heights.

An often-cited claim of Israel’s supposed isolation was the European Union guideline of November 2015 for member countries to label products produced in Israeli settlements separately from those produced in pre-1967 Israel.

However, the EU made the guidelines voluntary.

EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faarborg-Andersen, while critical of settlements, has stressed that the policy “has nothing to do with BDS [the anti-Israel Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement]” and that “the BDS phenomenon is a rather marginal one. At this point in time it has had very little effect on Israel.”

Another example was the call by 71 politically driven British doctors in January for the Israeli Medical Association to be expelled from the World Medical Association. But mid-April saw 350 leading British and Israeli medical researchers unite for the third annual BIRAX conference, in Oxford, to tackle some of the world’s most debilitating diseases.

Britain’s 250-plus attendees represented 33 institutions across the UK.

It’s hard to see many of them agreeing to end all co-operation with their Israeli counterparts ­ particularly given some of the world-leading medical research taking place in Israel right now ­ as pro-boycott activists demand.

Meanwhile, Israel’s trade ties have been improving worldwide, with special interest in Israeli technology and innovation policies ­ including here in Australia.

In addition, China and India are both rapidly becoming important markets and economic partners for Israel.

Israel was visited in April by Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong and a 60-member delegation.

This first-ever visit to Israel by a Singaporean government head is part of a larger trend ­ including improving ties with Japan and Vietnam, and ongoing relations with Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines and other regional players ­ and growing contacts in Indonesia.

Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

In its own region, Israel is also enjoying closer relations with many of its neighbours, albeit quietly. Much of this has been brought about by the realisation that they face common enemies and threats from Iran and its allies, the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot, Hamas.

The opening of an Israeli energy office is planned in Abu Dhabi. Further, the recent agreement by Egypt to return two islands in the Straits of Tiran to Saudi Arabia entailed, significantly, security understandings between Israel and the Saudis.

Common interests have led to a situation, where “many regional players realise that Israel is not the problem, but the solution. Israel’s dialogue with the large, important Sunni countries remains mainly under the radar, but it deepens all the time and it bears fruit,” Israeli journalist Ben Caspit writes.

Moreover, Israel is succeeding in efforts to build relations in Africa, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta paying a state visit in February, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set to visit Kenya and Uganda in July.

Israel is reportedly offering counter-terror assistance to at least 10 African nations, and is also helping many solve their water and agriculture problems.

Meanwhile, the blatantly discriminatory elements of the boycott program are facing new legal limitations in the US, UK and Canada, and court findings against them in France.

The campaign to isolate Israel is pernicious, based on falsehoods and appallingly hypocritical double standards, and is wholly counter-productive to the cause of peace.

Boycott movement founder Omar Barghouti ­ who is oddly studying at Tel Aviv University, an institution he calls on others to boycott ­ has made no attempt to hide the fact that the movement’s final goal is nothing less than the end of the state of Israel itself.

Iran’s Plans to Control a Palestinian State

by Khaled Abu Toameh             The Gatestone Institute

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/8007/iran-palestinian-state

The Iran nuclear deal, marking its first anniversary, does not appear to have had a calming effect on the Middle East.

Iran funnels money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad because they share its desire to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic empire. The Iranian leaders want to see Hamas killing Jews every day, with no break. Ironically, Hamas has become too “moderate” for the Iranian leadership because it is not doing enough to drive Jews out of the region.

More Palestinian terror group leaders may soon perform the “pilgrimage” to their masters in Tehran. If this keeps up, the Iranians themselves will puppeteer any Palestinian state that is created in the region.

The Iran nuclear deal, marking its first anniversary, does not appear to have had a calming effect on the Middle East. The Iranians seem to be deepening their intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general and in internal Palestinian affairs in particular.

This intervention is an extension of Iran’s ongoing efforts to expand its influence in Arab and Islamic countries, including Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon and some Gulf states. The nuclear deal between Tehran and the world powers has not stopped the Iranians from proceeding with their global plan to export their “Islamic Revolution.” On the contrary, the general sense among Arabs and Muslims is that in the wake of the nuclear deal, Iran has accelerated its efforts to spread its influence.

Iran’s direct and indirect presence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon has garnered some international attention, yet its actions in the Palestinian arena are still ignored by the world.

That Iran provides financial and military aid to Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad has never been a secret. In fact, both the Iranians and the Palestinian radical groups have been boasting about their relations.

Iran funnels money to these groups because they share its desire to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic empire. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas and Islamic Jihad agreed to play the role of Tehran’s proxies and enablers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran used to funnel money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad because they share its desire to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic empire. Relations between Iran and Hamas foundered a few years back, when Hamas leaders refused to support the Iranian-backed Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad. Pictured above: Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (left) confers with Iranian “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei, in 2010. (Image source: Office of the Supreme Leader)

But puppets must remain puppets. Iran gets nasty when its dummies do not play according to its rules. This is precisely what happened with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Relations between Iran and Hamas foundered a few years back over the crisis in Syria. Defying their masters in Tehran, Hamas leaders refused to declare support for the Iranian-backed Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad. Things between Iran and Hamas have been pretty bad ever since.

First, the Assad government closed down Hamas offices in Damascus. Second, Assad expelled the Hamas leadership from Syria. Third, Iran suspended financial and military aid to Hamas, further aggravating the financial crisis that the Gaza-based Islamist movement had already been facing.

Islamic Jihad got it next. Iranian mullahs woke up one morning to realize that Islamic Jihad leaders have been a bit unfaithful. Some of the Islamic Jihad leaders were caught flirting with Iran’s Sunni rivals in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Even worse, the Iranians discovered that Islamic Jihad was still working closely with their erstwhile allies in the Gaza Strip, Hamas.

Iran had had high hopes for Islamic Jihad replacing Hamas as Tehran’s darling, and major proxy in the Palestinian arena. But here were Islamic Jihad leaders and activists working with their cohorts in Hamas, in apparent disregard of Papa Iran.

The mullahs did not lose much time. Outraged by Islamic Jihad’s apparent disloyalty, Iran launched its own terror group inside the Gaza Strip: Al-Sabireen (The Patient Ones). This group, which currently consists of several hundred disgruntled ex-Hamas and ex-Islamic Jihad members, was meant to replace Islamic Jihad the same way Islamic Jihad was supposed to replace Hamas in the Gaza Strip — in accordance with Iran’s scheme.

Lo and behold: it is hard to get things right with Iran. Al-Sabireen has also failed to please its masters in Tehran and is not “delivering.” Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip say that Iran has realized that the investment in Al-Sabireen has not been worthwhile because the group has not been able to do anything “dramatic” in the past two years. By “dramatic,” the sources mean that Al-Sabireen has neither emerged as a serious challenger to Islamic Jihad or Hamas, and has not succeeded in killing enough Israelis.

So Iran has gone running back to its former bedfellow, Islamic Jihad.

For now, Iran is not prepared fully to bring Hamas back under its wings. Hamas, for the Iranians, is a “treacherous” movement, thanks to its periodic temporary ceasefires with Israel. The Iranian leaders want to see Hamas killing Jews every day, with no break. Ironically, Hamas has become too “moderate” for the Iranian leadership because it is not doing enough to drive Jews out of the region.

That leaves Iran with the Islamic Jihad.

In a surprise move, the Iranians this week hosted Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah and senior officials from his organization, in a renewed bid to revive Islamic Jihad’s role as the major puppet of Tehran in the Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad officials said that the visit has resulted in the resumption of Iranian financial aid to their cash-strapped organization. As a result of the rift between Islamic Jihad and Iran, the Iranians are said to have cut off nearly 90% of their financial aid to the Palestinian terror organization.

Some Palestinians, such as political analyst Hamadeh Fara’neh, see the rapprochement between Iran and Islamic Jihad as a response to the warming of relations between Hamas and Turkey. The Iranians, he argues, are unhappy with recent reports that suggested that Turkey was acting as a mediator between Hamas and Israel.

Other Palestinians believe that Iran’s real goal is to unite Islamic Jihad and Al-Sabireen so that they would become a real and realistic alternative to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Whatever Iran’s intentions may be, one thing is clear: The Iranians are taking advantage of the nuclear deal to move forward with their efforts to increase their influence over some Arab and Islamic countries. Iran is also showing that it remains very keen on playing a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — one that emboldens radical groups that are bent on the destruction of Israel and that share the same values as the Islamic State terror group.

Iran’s latest courtship of Islamic Jihad is yet another attempt by the mullahs to deepen their infiltration of the Palestinian arena by supporting and arming any terror group that strives to smash Israel. For now, it seems that Hamas’s scheme is working, largely thanks to the apathy of the international community, where many believe that Iran has been declawed by the nuclear deal.

But more Palestinian terror group leaders may soon perform the “pilgrimage” to their masters in Tehran. If this keeps up, the Iranians themselves will puppeteer any Palestinian state that is created in the region. Their ultimate task, after all, is to use this state as a launching pad to destroy Israel. And the Iranians are prepared to fund and arm any Palestinian group that is willing to help achieve this goal.

Current round of Gaza hostilities likely over, but powder keg could blow any minute

By Yossi Melman            The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Analysis-Current-round-of-Gaza-hostilities-likely-over-but-powder-keg-could-blow-any-minute-453515

A tense quiet fell on the Israel-Gaza border on Saturday. The Palestinians did not fire any mortar shells and the IDF did not respond with tank fire, canons or air strikes, as had happened over the last week.

One of the reasons for Saturday’s quiet were the messages that each side sent to the other publicly and through third parties, such as Egypt, in which they said that they have no interest in increasing tensions, and certainly no intention to go to war. Hamas’s prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, expressly stated this in his weekly sermon on Friday.

An additional reason for the quiet is the fact that the IDF finished its work on the recently uncovered Gaza tunnel in the 100 meters adjacent to the border fence inside the Gaza Strip and left the area.

According to the understandings reached between Israel and Hamas through Egyptian mediation after summer 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, the IDF is allowed to operate in this area in certain instances, in which suspicions arise that the other side intends to act against Israel.

The recent escalation came amid increased activity by the IDF, which operated heavy engineering equipment and new technological means to locate tunnels. This activity led to the uncovering of two attack tunnels leading into Israel from southern Gaza within the last month. One tunnel was dug prior to Operation Protective Edge, but was fortified afterward. Hamas quietly witnessed its uncovering. However, when the IDF announced the discovery of the second tunnel last week, Hamas responded with mortar fire. The organization wanted to signal to Israel that it would not accept IDF activity to uncover tunnels within the thin strip of land near the border fence within Gaza. Thus, Hamas attempted to set new red lines between the sides.

Hamas’s fire was measured, as were the IDF’s reprisals. However, the defense establishment believes that Hamas understood that the IDF will not be deterred from actions to uncover tunnels in the narrow strip adjacent to the border fence within Gaza if it has cause to do so.

The defense establishment has emphasized this fact. If, through intel or new technological advancements, there are signs of additional tunnels, the IDF will not hesitate to once again enter the same area. The IDF understands that Hamas must not be allowed to dictate new rules which spell out the formula: “We will dig into Israeli territory, but you can’t act to thwart or uncover our efforts.”

Therefore, it seems that this round of hostilities is over. However, the central problem has not been solved. Hamas understands that it is losing a strategic asset, its tunnels, after its other strategic asset, the rocket fire into Israel’s homefront that it displayed during Operation Protective Edge, failed to achieve its goals and did not fulfill the organization’s expectations that it would lead to mass casualties.

Hamas will continue to dig tunnels, but it is a weakened organization. The group without a political “sponsor” will continue to be isolated. This is all happening on the background of an economic crisis for 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who are living in a state of poverty. Eventually, sooner or later, the powder keg of this economic crisis will blow up in Israel’s face.

The cabinet will soon discuss the establishment of a port in order to eliminate what Hamas defines as a “blockade.” At least four ministers support the idea – Israel Katz, Naftali Bennett, Yoav Galant and Avi Gabbay – and there are likely more. The IDF chief of staff, the head of Military Intelligence, the head of the the Civil Administration and the head of the Shin Bet are prepared to accept the idea, as long as there is a strict inspection regime in order to ensure that weapons and materials that can be used to increase Hamas’s military strength are not smuggled into the Strip through the port.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are ignoring this opinion, just as they are ignoring the security echelon’s recommendations to initiate a diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

An Open Letter to Israel’s Widows and Orphans on Memorial Day – Nava Shoham-Solan (Jerusalem Post)

This year, as every year, many Israeli citizens will attend heart-rending ceremonies at the country’s cemeteries to honor their loved ones who departed too soon while defending the Zionist dream, the Jewish state.

The citizens of Israel unite on this day behind the screen of sadness, while in the background are the many stories, perhaps too many, of the fallen heroes who gave their lives for their homeland and endangered themselves for all our sakes.

We don’t have a real need for such a day because we live the loss every day, every hour, at every important crossroads in our lives. Yet Memorial Day is important. We receive a warm hug from all the other citizens and from the state. We feel that we are not alone in our pain.

We know that thanks to our loved ones this country exists, and thanks to them most of us can sleep well and without fear. We know that they sacrificed themselves exactly for these goals, in order to ensure our future in our small land.

We want to live quietly, to allow our children to live in the Promised Land and raise new generations who will continue in our path. We ask to live in peace with our neighbors. This is our country. We don’t have another one.

May we never know bloody wars anymore, may we live peaceful lives, and may the family of bereavement no longer continue to grow.

The author is chairwoman of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization.

A dazzling street art journey through Zionism

Stop-motion graffiti journeys from the birth of modern Zionism to the establishment of the state of Israel and beyond.