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Latest News in Israel – 13th September

PM Netanyahu on 9/11: The world must unite against terrorism

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened Sunday’s cabinet meeting with a tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks, urging the world to stand together in the face of terrorism.

“Today we mark 15 years since the terrorist attacks on 9/11,” he said.

“We remember the victims. We embrace their loved ones.

“We stand with our greatest ally, the United States of America, and with other partners in the battle against militant Islamic terrorism that spreads its fear, its dread, its murder, around the world. Our memories are long, our determination is boundless. Civilized societies must band together to defeat these forces of darkness, and I’m sure we will.”

Netanyahu also addressed the issue of incitement to terrorism online, particularly on social media sites, welcoming cooperation from social networking giant Facebook, which recently sent a delegation to Israel, to help root out incitement.

At the same time, the American Embassy in Israel, together with the Jewish National Fund and JNF-USA, held a state memorial ceremony for 9/11 victims on Sunday at the Living Memorial Plaza, on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

At the ceremony were representatives of victims’ families; U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro; Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; Deputy Diplomacy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren; and JNF-USA chairman and World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder. About 50 American police officers, some of whom were among the Sept. 11 rescue teams, laid flowers at the monument on the site, which is made from remnants of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers that fell in the attack.

At the ceremony, Shapiro took special note of the Israeli victims of 9/11 and asked: “Have we done enough to ensure that the next generation, and future generations, fully comprehend the calamity that befell us that day, the ways it changed us, and the responsibility it imposes on us?

“Israelis have repeatedly been faced with this question. They are a nation that has endured countless tragedies and more than one existential crisis, each of which shattered individual lives and stung an entire generation.

“Where Israelis have excelled, and where we continue to learn from them, is in conveying the power of memory and history forward, so that each successive generation understands the meaning and the obligations that flow from events which they cannot personally recall.”                    (Israel Hayom)

US Ambassador Shapiro: ‘Military aid package to Israel to be largest in US history’

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said that the US will be singing its largest ever aid package to Israel, and that the aid package will cover all of Israel’s security needs until 2029.

He was speaking at the opening of the 15th World Summit of International Institute for Counter Terrorism at the Herzeliya Interdisciplinary Center on Sunday.

“The next decade of American military support for Israel is spelled out in a Memorandum of Understanding our countries have been discussing in recent months. “The new agreement with Israel will guide our military assistance until 2029,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice told the American Jewish Committee a few months ago, “and will be the single largest military assistance package—with any country—in American history,” the Ambassador said in his speech.

He went on to describe that the US will continue to help Israel maintain its qualitative edge in the region by providing the Jewish state with next generation fighter jets, helping to finance anti-missile technology, and investing in tunnel detection technology.

According to the Washington Post, the White House is delaying the signing of the agreement due to a conflict with the US Senate, chief amongst them South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (R).

Graham is leading the fight in Congress to increase the amount of US aid to Israel to $3.4 billion.

Graham was quoted as saying “the Israeli prime minister told me the administration is refusing to sign the (memorandum of understanding) until I agree to change my appropriation markup back to $3.1 billion,” Graham said. “I said, ‘Tell the administration to go F themselves.’

“I’m offended that the administration would try to take over the appropriations process,” Graham said. “If they don’t like what I’m doing, they can veto the bill. We can’t have the executive branch dictating what the legislative branch will do for a decade based on an agreement we are not a party to.”              (Ynet News)

MK likens unilateral West Bank pullout to 9/11 jumpers

A few days before Americans mark the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, Likud MK Avi Dichter on Tuesday last compared any potential Israeli unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank to people jumping out of the windows of the burning World Trade Center towers on 9/11, arguing that both cases constitute certain suicide.

While acknowledging there were differences, Dichter said the often-made demand for a unilateral withdrawal is akin to the “difficult images of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, when people trapped on the upper floors of the Twin Towers jumped from the windows even though they knew that they were actually jumping to their deaths.”

Dichter, who heads the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, made the remark in response to the creation of a new movement calling for national referendum on the future of Israel’s West Bank presence. In a statement sent to reporters Tuesday, Dichter said he fully rejects any call for a unilateral evacuation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

But, said Dichter, the former head of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service, Israel is currently not about to take such a step.

“To tell you the truth, we’re very far from it. A unilateral withdrawal is, as far as we’re concerned, a suicidal leap,” he said. Israel is not in any immediate danger and the status quo will continue until a genuine opportunity arises to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians, he added.

“We must not interpret the fact that [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas is not ready to promote a political process as a situation requiring Israel to act unilaterally against its own interests just to please any government, however sympathetic to Israel it may be.”

Dichter said he had opposed a full withdrawal from the West Bank even back in 2005, when he headed the Shin Bet, since an Israeli military presence in the area is “essential” to the country’s security.

Dichter began his political career in Kadima, the centrist party founded by late prime minister Ariel Sharon in order to carry out the 2005 Gaza Disengagement, during which also four settlements in the northern West Bank were evacuated.

The new campaign, “Decision at 50,” was launched earlier this week by dovish organizations such as Peace Now and Blue White Future, alongside former security officials, ex-politicians, artists and activists.

Decision at 50 uses the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, in which Israel captured Gaza and the West Bank, to call for a referendum on whether Israel should remain in the territories or evacuate. Among its founders is Ami Ayalon, who headed the Shin Bet between 1996 and 2000 and who has been behind various peace efforts over the years.

“After 50 years of indecision by Israeli governments, it is time to bring the decision to the Israeli public and let the people decide on their own fate: a bi-national state or two states, 50 more years of military rule or a diplomatic resolution,” the initiative’s backers said.

In his statement to reporters, Dichter warned against the notion that everything but a rapid, unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank threatens the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

“With every diplomatic move, we need to examine what we gain from it, whether we are strengthening the State of Israel and bringing more security to its residents,” Dichter said. If necessary, Israel would decide to control the territories for another 20 years, he added.

“Time is not necessarily against us,” he suggested, referring to the upheavals brought by the Arab Spring.

Speaking to reporters at a briefing organized by The Israel Project Monday, Dichter also commented on a future Palestinian leadership struggle, calling for Israelis to prepare for a Hamas attempt to gain control of the Palestinian Authority.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas is 81, and while much attention is paid to potential successors from within his own Fatah party, Dichter said that Hamas is quietly planning to seize power of the PA by fielding its own presidential candidate. Hamas stands ready to replace Abbas whenever an opportunity arises, be it through elections or a bloody coup, Dichter said.

“They are getting ready. They are building their candidate. And who is going to be their candidate? There is only one name: Khaled Mashaal,” he said, referring to the terror group’s exiled political leader. Mashaal has “some kind of legitimacy in the world — in some European countries, let alone Russia and the Arab world.”

In his speeches in English, Mashaal hints that he is ready to accept a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, Dichter said. But in Arabic, he makes plain that he seeks a Greater Palestine and demands the return of Palestinians to Jaffa, Lod, Acre, Safed and other cities in Israel.

Another reason Mashaal is hoping to become the next president of the PA is because he is from Silwad, a city north of Ramallah, Dichter said. Hamas knows that two thirds of Palestinians live in the West Bank (with one third residing in Gaza), and “they understand that the next president should come from the majority.”

Mashaal thus has two advantages in the race to replace Abbas as Palestinian leader, Dichter argued: He’s already the official leader of Hamas with some international standing and he is from the West Bank. “I recommend some focus on this option. I think that it’s one of the most relevant options in front of me,” he said.             (the Times of Israel)

6th victim found at Tel Aviv collapse site; rescue efforts end

Rescue efforts at the site of the collapsed parking facility in Tel Aviv came to an end Saturday, with the finding of the body of the sixth and last victim at the site.

The six men were killed and 23 others were wounded when a four-story parking facility under construction in the north Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Hahayal collapsed on Monday.

The six-day long rescue effort included hundreds of Homefront Command soldiers, assisted by the military’s Oketz canine unit, and numerous police and emergency services personnel.

Three of the victims were named as Oleg Yakubov, 60, from Tel Aviv; Dennis Diatzniko, 28, a foreign worker from Ukraine; and Ihad Ajhaj, 34, a Palestinian from the town of Bayt Rima, next to Ramallah. The names of the other three construction workers killed in the incident have yet to be released.

The cause of the collapse is still unknown. Initial findings suggest an innate engineering failure rather than negligent execution of the building plans was the cause of the disaster, but the possibility of negligence has yet to be ruled out.

Investigations by the police and by the Labor and Welfare Ministry are continuing. Sources familiar with the issue told Israel Hayom that both probes are likely to take months.

The Homefront Command held a small memorial ceremony at the site Saturday.

Col. (res.) David Mizrahi, who commanded the rescue efforts, said soldiers and emergency services “worked tirelessly for over 150 hours to find the victims [whether injured or killed]. This was a complex operation, involving multiple organizations. We met our objective — we retrieved everyone. I believe this incident demonstrates our readiness for extreme scenarios.”

GOC Homefront Command Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick commended the troops and sent the victims’ families his condolences.

The collapsed parking facility was designed to hold 600 vehicles and had been scheduled to open to the public in October. It is still unknown whether the Tel Aviv Municipality plans to demand that Danya Cebus, the company constructing the facility, resume the project.               (Israel Hayom)

IDF seizes bomb-making material in overnight raids

More than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of bomb-making materials were seized early Monday during an Israel Defense Forces raid in the village of Wadi al-Far’a near Nablus, the IDF spokesperson said on Monday.

Israeli media reported that the soldiers also found about 2 litres (half a gallon) of improvised explosive material at the site.

In a separate raid near Hebron, “four home-made bombs were also found,” the military said on Twitter. The bombs were subsequently handed over to experts at the Defense Ministry for further examination.

Meanwhile, the IDF said four Palestinians were arrested in Judea and Samaria overnight. They are believed to be involved in terrorist activity and riots.                (Israel Hayom)

Dore Gold: Archaeology is best defense of Jewish connection to Jerusalem

Archeologist are scientifically proving the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem, defending the State of Israel in a way that no one but the IDF can, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said Thursday night. Opening the City of David’s 17th Annual Archeological Conference, Gold addressed “the international attempt to disengage Jerusalem from Jewish history.”

Gold specifically focused on a UNESCO resolution adopted in April, which ignored Judaism’s ties to its holiest site, the Temple Mount. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all consider the Temple Mount to be a holy site, but the UNESCO resolution referred to the area solely as al-Aksa Mosque/ al-Haram al- Sharif, except for two references to the Western Wall plaza that were put in parentheses.

The text also referred to the plaza as al-Buraq Plaza, named for the Prophet Muhammad’s horse, which sparked an outroar at what Jerusalem slammed as an attempt by the UN to rewrite history.

Gold charged that UNESCO fails to live up to its acronym, which stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, accusing it instead of promoting the distortion of history.

He said Israel must understand why this is happening, and what it can do about it.

He suggested that political fire against Jerusalem is such a central part of the Palestinians’ propaganda campaign, because they are precisely aware of the strong historical connection of the Jewish people to the land.

“One cannot ignore the original document of the British Mandate, which is binding in the eyes of international law. In that document…

recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine… Therefore it is so important for those who want to throw mud at us, and delegitimize us, to try to disconnect this historical connection,” he concluded.

Gold also referred to British documentation of a Jewish majority in Jerusalem in 1863, and cited US jurist Stephen Schwebel’s finding after the Six Day War that Israel had “better title” in Jerusalem than other claimants.

He concluded that, in the face of the accumulated evidence of the affinity of Jewish people to Jerusalem, “anyone who wants to make life more difficult for Israel in the international arena, who wishes to negate our rights, to promote an agenda of delegitimization, must direct all their efforts on Jerusalem.”

The conference was held just two days after archeologists announced that they had reconstructed floor tiles from Jerusalem’s Second Temple courtyard. “Our affinity to Jerusalem is a certain historical truth – not just a narrative,” Gold stressed.

Gold lauded the work of the archeologists and said Israel must continue to present its truth to the world. “Tonight we do this, and we will continue to do this next year,” he asserted, pointing out that 2017 will mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration.              (Jerusalem Post)

Rower wins bronze in first Israeli medal at 2016 Paralympics

Rower Moran Samuel has become the first Israeli to win a medal in the current Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, coming in third in the 1,000-meter female single sculls race final with a time of 5:17.46 minutes.

Samuel won the bronze medal in a close finish against Lily Wong from China, who crossed the finish line in 5:16.65 minutes and won the silver medal. The gold medal went to Rachel Morris from the United Kingdom, who crossed the finish line after 5:13.69 minutes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Samuel to congratulate her, saying that her medal is “an extraordinary achievement. We are proud of you. You and your friends in the delegation represent the Israeli spirit, and you are truly a heroine.”

President Reuven Rivlin also praised Samuel, saying, “When there is ability, there is nothing that can stand in the way of will. You brought us great honor and represented the State of Israel in the best manner possible. Congratulations, you are a champion!”

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev also praised the athlete, and said Samuel is “a role model, the pride of women and Israeli sports.”

Samuel, who is paralyzed from the waist down, was initially disappointed at winning the bronze, as she has in the past won gold in a race of the same distance. Soon afterward, however, her mood changed.

“I have my son, Arad [meaning bronze in Hebrew], at home, and now I also have a bronze medal,” she said happily. “I think I began very well. The conditions weren’t to my advantage; I am injured. This is no excuse, but my hand was so worn out I couldn’t use it. At the end of the day, it’s a great pleasure, and to my family at home, I love you!”

Samuel said her performance was compromised because of a strong wind that hit her in the last 250 meters.

“I had hoped for a race with no wind, but you can’t ask for that type of thing in rowing. The end result makes me happy, because you can also finish with no medals at all,” she said.

Samuel, who stood at the podium with her partner, Limor, and their son in tow, said an Olympic medal is a “very sweet” thing.

“I wanted to play the national anthem for everyone at home,” she said. “I gave all that I could, I gave it my all on the water but there were those who were better than me. That stung my heart, but I’m happy. We came a long way, and it’s fun to finish with a medal.”

Samuel also thanked the 100 Israelis who came to support her. “I felt them pushing me forward,” she said.

The Samuel family celebrated with relatives, friends and neighbors, who were all excited by Samuel’s accomplishment.

“Congratulations are coming from all around,” said Samuel’s sister, Meirav. “A bronze medal is a huge achievement for her, for the delegation, and for the country. We are proud of her, and when she comes back to the country we will celebrate with her.”

Samuel began her sports career as a basketball player, representing the Israeli national team and the northern Israeli city of Karmiel in Europe. She fulfilled her military service as an outstanding athlete. After suffering a spinal stroke in 2006, Samuel became paralyzed from the waist down. She wanted to continue playing basketball on a wheelchair, but it became her secondary sport after she began rowing.

Samuel represented Israel in the Paralympics in London four years ago, where she finished in fifth place. In 2014, she finished second in the World Rowing Championships, and in 2015 she won the gold in both the World Rowing Cup and the World Rowing Championships.                                      (Israel Hayom)

About Russia, not peace

by Herb Keinon   The Jerusalem Post


The toughest part of negotiations, said US Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly in 2013, paraphrasing former British prime minister Tony Blair, is the launch.

The reason for this, he said as he labored to start negotiations that year, “is because both sides want to understand what the parameters are, how you will negotiate and what you negotiate about. And once you get to that, then you can begin to dig in and get to the hard work.”

If that is the case, then the announcement by the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have agreed“in principle” to talks in Moscow ought to be cause for celebration.

If the hardest part is the launch, and the Russians announced that a launch is on the way, then the rest should be just filling in the details, right? Wrong, obviously. Because if there is one thing 25 years of negotiations has taught, it is that both Blair and Kerry were mistaken. The hardest part is not starting the negotiations, but rather conducting and concluding them. Because what has emerged inside the negotiating room, time and time again, is that the gap between the most Israel is willing to give, and the least the Palestinians are willing to accept, is cavernous.

The aphorism that “everyone knows what a solution will look like” has, likewise, proven wrong repeatedly. The sides have very different conceptions of what a solution will look like. Where will the borders run? What is to be done in Jerusalem? Will Israel retain security control inside a Palestinian state? What will happen to refugee claims? Will the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people? It is hard to believe that shifting the meeting ground from Washington to Moscow is going to significantly change any of that. No one ever said that the air in Moscow makes one wise, or more willing to compromise.

Yet the Russian Foreign Ministry announcement is significant, if not because it is the harbinger of an accord just lurking right around the corner – as Kerry wanted everyone to believe back in 2013 – but rather because of what it says about Russia’s emerging power and influence in the region.

This is not the first time the Russians have proposed Moscow as a venue of talks. They did it a number of times in 2008, soon after the Annapolis Conference held by then-US president George W. Bush. But back then, everyone politely nodded, gave the Russians a gentle pat on the head, and moved on. The Americans were fully engaged in the region, and had no interest in letting the Russians elbow in on a process they were leading.

That was then. Quite a lot has changed in the Middle East in the intervening eight years, including the stature of Russia and the US. The star of the former is on the rise, while that of the latter is waning.

With Russia significantly engaged militarily right on Israel’s doorstep in Syria, and with close coordination between the two militaries critical to prevent any accidental engagement between the two air forces, Moscow’s request this time is harder – if not impossible – for Jerusalem to ignore.

It’s not a matter, as some have posited, of an Israeli bellyfull of tension with the Obama administration, foolishly looking to hedge its bets by looking to forge closer relations with Russia at America’s expense.

On the contrary, it’s a pragmatic realization that Moscow has filled a vacuum left by the US in the region, and is a player here to an extent not seen since before the 1973 Yom Kippur War. As such, unlike in 2008, when Moscow calls, Jerusalem can’t just ignore it.

The same is true of the Palestinians.

While Abbas would probably certainly prefer a diplomatic process led by the French rather than by the Russians – making the assumption, not an unrealistic one – that the French would lean harder on Israel than Moscow would, he too cannot dismiss Putin’s call.

First of all, Russia has for so long backed the Palestinian cause, that they cannot now just be ignored. And, secondly, because Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi – an important backer for Abbas – has come out in support of the notion, a sign of the emerging Russian-Egyptian alliance that swiftly followed a deterioration in US-Egypt ties.

While peace may not emerge from a meeting in Moscow between Abbas and Netanyahu, having the two leaders meet in one of the Kremlin’s gilded rooms will show the degree to which Russia’s influence in the Mideast has skyrocketed over the last eight years.

Israel’s Rights in the Territories under International Law

by Alan Baker                   Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs


Israel Is Not an “Occupier”

International law defines “occupation” as one power occupying the lands of a foreign sovereign. In Israel’s case, Israel is not occupying any foreign sovereign’s land; Israel entered the area known as the West Bank in 1967 and took over the authority to administer the land from Jordan, which was never considered to be a sovereign in the area.

In actual fact, Israel and the Jewish people have got claims to the area that go far back into history. Anybody who reads the Bible can appreciate the fact that there is a very solid historic legal basis to the claim of Israel with respect to the territories and therefore Israel considers the territories not to be occupied, not to be Palestinian, but as in dispute.

We appreciate that the Palestinians also have claims with respect to the territory. Israel considers that its claims are far better based and better documented than any other claims, but Israel is committed to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians in order to find a permanent settlement to the issue.

The Jordanians, who occupied the territory after the 1948 war, annexed it, but this annexation was never really recognized or acknowledged by the international community. At a later stage the king of Jordan voluntarily gave up any Jordanian sovereignty or claim to the territories to the Palestinian people. So the Jordanians came and went, and the issue remains an issue between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

“Palestinian Territories” Is Not a Legal Term

The international community’s constant referral to the “Palestinian territories” is a complete fallacy and has absolutely no legal or political basis. There has never been a Palestinian state, as such, and therefore the territories never belonged to any Palestinian entity. There’s no international agreement, there’s no contract, there’s no treaty, and there’s no binding international resolution that determines that the territories belong to the Palestinians.

In actual fact, even the Palestinians themselves, in the Oslo agreement that they signed with Israel, acknowledge the fact that the ultimate permanent status of the territory is to be determined by negotiations. Therefore, even the Palestinians accept the fact that this is not Palestinian territory, its disputed territory whose status is yet to be settled.

If the local population owns land, then the administrative power isn’t allowed to take the land or use it. But if the land is not private, the administering power can use the land and enjoy the fruits of the land until sovereignty has been finally determined. So Israel justifiably can use land which is not private land, which is public land, for establishing settlements as long as these settlements don’t take away the private rights of the local population. Therefore, in our opinion, the settlements are not illegitimate.

The Settlements Are Not Illegitimate

There’s one other point, the issue of settlements is a negotiating issue. The Palestinians have agreed with the Israelis that the issue of settlements is one of the issues on the permanent status negotiating table. Therefore, anybody who comes along and claims that Israel’s settlements are illegitimate – whether it’s the EU, whether it’s individual governments, whether it is the secretary of state of the United States, who said so specifically, or the spokesman of the State Department – they’re prejudging a negotiating issue, which is clearly incompatible with any negotiating principle.

These are issues that have to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians. Therefore, nobody can claim that the settlements are illegitimate or that they’re illegal, as such. They have to be negotiated between the parties.

There’’s No Such Thing as 1967 Borders

There’s no such thing as 1967 borders. A border is a line between two sovereign entities. In 1967, there was a ceasefire line that had existed since the 1948-1949 war between the Arab states and Israel and after Israel declared its independence. The Jordanians insisted on inserting in the Armistice Agreement of 1949 a provision which says that the armistice demarcation line is not the final border. Final borders can only be determined in peace negotiations between the parties. So “1967 borders” is a non-existent term and anybody using this term – again, including the U.S. administration and the EU – are simply being misled.

PM Netanyahu:  Jewish communities in Judea Samaria no obstacle to peace

(and upsets the Americans)