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Latest News in Israel – 14th October

UNESCO votes: No connection between Temple Mount and Judaism

In a 24-6 vote, UNESCO on Thursday gave its preliminary approval to a resolution that ignores Jewish ties to its most holy religious sites: the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the vote on his Facebook page stating: “The theater of the absurd continues at the UN.”

“Today UNESCO adopted its second decision this year denying the Jewish people’s connection to the Temple Mount, our holiest site for over three thousand years.”

“What’s next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?”

Some 26 nations abstained from the vote and two were absent all together.

The six countries who voted in support of Israel were: the United States, Great Britain, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia.

The United States also chastised the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for approving the resolution.

A senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that “One-sided, unhelpful resolutions have been a recurring challenge at UNESCO in recent years, and the United States has strongly opposed these resolutions at the UNESCO Executive Board.”

“We will not hesitate to use our vote at the current Board meeting to oppose these resolutions,” the senior administration official said.

The Palestinian Authority, however, welcomed the results.

The official spokesman of the Palestinian Presidency Nabil Abu Rudeinah said on Thursday evening that the continued international decisions against the occupation and its policy including that of UNESCO regarding Jerusalem and the al-Aksa Mosque form a clear message from the international community that it does not agree with the policies that protect the occupation and contribute to the creation of chaos and instability.

He added that the decision confirms the necessity of the USA to review its mistaken policies, which encourage Israel to continues its occupation of the Palestinian lands.

He stated further that this is an important message to Israel of the necessity to end the occupation and recognize the Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital with its Muslim and Christian holy sites, ending its policies that only contribute to the continuation of a negative atmosphere and climate that have been reflected upon the region and which are rejected by the international community.

In 2015, the Palestinians, who have been recognized by UNESCO as a member state since 2011, began a drive to change the language with which that international body refers to the Temple Mount area, known to Muslims the Al-Haram Al Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary).

Initially they tried and failed to have it declared a solely Muslim site. Since then, they have submitted resolutions on Jerusalem at every possible UNESCO meeting, that uses only the Muslims terms for the Temple Mount area and its adjacent wall.

UNESCO’s Executive Board passed such a resolution last April and its 21-member World Heritage Committee had been poised to do so again in July in Istanbul.

That vote was delayed until October 24-26, when the failed Turkish coup, cut the meeting short.

Since then according to language of a draft text seen by The Jerusalem Post, a sentence has been inserted into the text that mentions that Jerusalem and its Old City walls are holy to all three religions; Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

The Western Wall was mentioned twice in quotes. Otherwise it was referenced in the text by its Muslim name of the Buraq Plaza.

Thursday’s vote ws taken by UNESCO’s 58-member Programme and External Relations Commission in advance of its ratification next Monday or Tuesday, by UNESCO Executive Board, made up of the same member states.

UNESCO outgoing director-general Irina Bokova has spoken against such resolutions, but ultimately the matter lies in the hands of the member states.

In the aftermath of Thursday UNESCO vote both Israel’s Ambassador to the UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen and outgoing Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold focused on the changes in the voting roster since the Executive Board last approved such a resolution in Paris in April.

Shama-Hacohen and the Foreign Ministry had worked hard in advance of the vote to lobby member states to stand with Israel.

Gold, who resigned his position on Thursday effective immediately, said that the UNESCO vote was a “going-away present.”

Gold noted that 10 countries who voted for the resolution the last time it came before UNESCO for a vote, abstained this time around.

What that means, he said, is that more countries voted for Israel or abstained, then voted against Israel.

The 10 countries who switched their vote from last time were France, Sweden, Slovenia, Spain, Argentina, India, Sri Lanka, Togo, Guinea and Ghana.

Gold signed documents over the summer with Guinean officials formally re-establishing diplomatic ties.

He also noted the significance of India and Argentina switching their votes and not voting against israel, as they have traditionally done.

“What this indicates is that things are shifting for Israel,” Gold said. “You are not going to get a total re-definition about how states are going to vove in the UN system in a matter of a few months, but a new trend is clear, which I hope Israel can build upon in the months and years ahead.”

Gold noted that none of the European countries voted for the resolution. Asked how getting four European countries to abstain can be considered a victory, inasmuch as the resolution detaches any Jewish connection from Jerusalem, Gold said the drafters of the resolution included a sentence saying that the city is important to all three monotheistic faiths.  Those countries that abstained – rather than vote against it – could point to that wording as not erasing completely Jewish ties to the the capital.

“We appreciate the shift of 10 countries in the direction of abstaining,” he said. Gold added that this is not a binding UNESCO resolution, and that UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said that since there was no consensus around the resolution, she will not implement it.

The PA’s Foreign Ministry said, “We regret that few countries succumbed to the PR bullying orchestrated by Israel, which shifted the focus from Israel’s illegal and colonial actions in occupied East Jerusalem to issues irrelevant to the content and objectives of the resolutions, which aims to put an end to Israel’s dangerous and illegal actions against holy sites in Jerusalem and Palestinian rights, including the right to worship. This is especially regrettable since those member states are well aware of the dangerous situation in Jerusalem.

“Palestine will continue to defend the rights of our people through all available legal and diplomatic avenues, including UN organizations. Our peaceful agenda will not be derailed by propaganda, nor will our tolerance and adherence to international law be altered by fallacies and cynical spin,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Netanyahu noted that clearly, the member states had not read the Bible.

“I suggest that UNESCO member visit the Arch of Titus in Rome. There you can see what the Roman brought to Rome after they destroyed and looked the Temple which stood on the Temple Mount 2,000 years ago.

“Engraved in the Arch of Titus you can see the seven-branched Menorah, which was and remains a symbol of the Jewish people and is also a symbol of today’s Jewish state,” he said.

“Soon UNESCO will say that UNESCO will say that the Emperor Titus was in the business of Zionist propaganda,” he said.

“To say that Israel has not connection to the Temple and the Western Wall is like saying that China is not connected to the Great Wall of China or the Egypt has no connection to the pyramids,” Netanyahu said.

The Prime Minister added, “I believe that historical truth is more powerful and this truth will prevail.”

A senior US administration official said the vote showed that the US, which withdrew its funding from UNESCO in 2011, in response to acceptance of Palestine as a state, must become more involved in the organization.

“The recurring highly politicized use of the UNESCO Executive Board meetings only further underscores the urgent need for the United States to restore its leadership at UNESCO, which has been considerably undercut since the United States ceased funding UNESCO in 2011.”

“We will continue to explore with Congress options for resuming payment of our dues, which will allow the United States to play a full role in this organization going forward and advance UNESCO’s work on issues like Holocaust education and countering terrorist narratives.”

The votes broke out in this way.

Those who supported the motion included Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chad, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.

Nations that abstained from the vote were: Albania, Argentina, Cameroon, Cote de’Ivoire, El Salvador, Spain, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Uganda, Paraguay, South Korea, St. Kits and Nevis, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad and Ukraine.

Absent countries included Serbia and Turkmenistan;

Those who opposed the resolution were: the US, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Germany and Estonia voted against the motion.  (Jerusalem Post)

Dore Gold after resignation: No bad blood with Netanyahu

Denying any bad blood with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold unexpectedly resigned on Thursday, citing “personal reasons” for his decision to leave his job immediately as the country’s top diplomat just 15 months after taking over the position.

Gold is the second top foreign policy official around Netanyahu to opt out of office in less than three months because of “personal reasons.” Yaakov Nagel, the acting head of the National Security Council, turned down an appointment to head the organization in August, also citing personal reasons.

Netanyahu thanked Gold, who has served at his side in various capacities for some 25 years, for his dedicated service. He quickly named veteran diplomat Yuval Rotem as Gold’s replacement.

Rotem, a former ambassador to Australia, is currently the ministry’s deputy director-general for public diplomacy. He served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff in the ministry when Netanyahu – who was then prime minister – held the foreign minister’s portfolio for 10 months in 1998.

On Thursday afternoon, just hours after announcing his resignation, Gold sat down with The Jerusalem Post in his office in the Foreign Ministry that had already been cleared of its content, save the desk, table and chairs. Gold dismissed any suggestion that his resignation had to do either with disagreements with Netanyahu, or frustration that Netanyahu’s top envoy Yitzhak Molcho, or his new deputy minister for public diplomacy Michael Oren, had cut into his responsibilities.

“I have worked with Molcho for many years and accept that he is a very skilled diplomat,” Gold said, noting that Molcho works widely in the Arab world. “I have always enjoyed my time with him.”

Regarding Oren, Gold said he knows him from Columbia University where they were both students in 1970s, and they would go over Arabic flashcards together in a fraternity. “I never felt that he was taking my thunder,” Gold said.

Gold, 62, with two children and two grandchildren, said he wanted to devote more of his time to his family. “I have a family, and have to give them time,” he said. “I have personal obligations, but I am not planning to retire to a rocking chair in Kansas.”

He said he will return to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and once again take up the position there as the think tank’s president. “I’ve learned how important that institutions like that can be if used correctly,” he said, noting that his highly publicized connection with former Saudi General Anwar Eshki of Saudi Arabia was developed when he was at the think tank, not in the foreign ministry.

Asked about the current situation in the Foreign Ministry, where morale is low because much of the organization’s authority and responsibilities have been bitten off by other ministries, Gold recalled that in 1974 – at a time when the eloquent Abba Eban was foreign minister – public diplomacy was taken from the ministry and given to a newly formed Hasbara Ministry.

“My point is that for years there have been cases where certain responsibilities have been taken away and given to others, who tried their hand at it, and then it was given back,” he said. “The best way to handle this is not to get in fights it the newspapers, but to do good work.”

“There is no replacement for the foreign ministry, and for embassies around the world, and the knowledge that is based in this building,” Gold said. “What we do need are resources. The ministry tends to be underfunded.”

Gold said that rather than “folding up the flag” in Israeli representations abroad to save money, “the country needs to open new embassies in Africa.”

He added that part of the ministry’s problem was that it was underappreciated in Israel, and for that reason ministry workers did not enjoy the same conditions as workers in the security agencies.

“When facing officials in the Finance Ministry, they often look at Foreign Ministry workers as people who go to cocktail parties and leak information,” he said. “The reputation of the ministry within the system has been weakened. I tried to associate the foreign ministry with significant activities that people can appreciate.” One example he cited was the logistics behind the recent massive funeral for Shimon Peres.

Asked whether after more than a year in the job, he felt that Israel needed a full time foreign minister, rather than a prime minister who also acts as foreign minister. Gold replied that if David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak could all act simultaneously as prime minister and defense ministers – a job that is more taxing than that of foreign minister – then there is no reason why the premier can also not be the foreign minister.

Gold did not utter a single negative word about Netanyahu during the interview. He said that when he was appointed to the job in June 2015 he was being mobilized in an “emergency call up.”

“I felt that I could make an important contribution,” he said. “I felt we accomplished a great deal while I was here.”

Gold said that he “very much” identifies with Netanyahu’s foreign policy goals, naming two of them as the top priorities: developing discreet ties with the Sunni Arab world, and prioritizing the relations with Africa.

Regarding the Arab world, Gold said there was a “window of opportunity” with the Sunni countries because of shared concerns about Iran and Jihad organizations such as Islamic State. In addition, he said, Israeli technology is held in very high regard in these states.

“The question is how can we exploit the moment to build new relationships,” he asked. While in the past the expectation was that contacts with the Arab world could not be moved forward until there was a full resolution of the Palestinians issue, now there is a realization that “there are many areas of cooperation we can develop even if we don’t reach a full final status agreement at the present time.”

While an exchange of diplomats with nations of the Arab world will still require considerable progress on the Palestinian track, “the challenge is coming up with patterns of cooperation we can develop.”

During his tenure, Gold spent a great deal of his time looking for ways to develop those areas of cooperation.

He was also key in pushing Netanyahu’s pivot toward Africa. Netanyahu, he said, has “prioritized our relations with Africa, and I embrace that goal and have worked very closely with African foreign ministers directly.”

In addition to paving the way for renewed diplomatic ties with Guinea, he also visited Chad and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with whom Israel does not have ties in order to begin a dialogue.

He also traveled to South Africa, and in addition met that country’s’ foreign ministry last month in the UN in an attempt to lessen Pretoria’s opposition to the inroads Israel is making into Africa. (Jerusalem Post)

After over a decade of dreaming, tourist ferry connects Haifa, Acre

The ferry was packed with eager attendees on Monday as Tourism Minister Yariv Levin along with Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav and Acre Mayor Shimon Lankri inaugurated the 200-passenger boat which will ferry tourists between the coastal cities of Haifa and Acre.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Levin said the ferry line is part of an ongoing effort to put Haifa and Acre on the Israeli tourism map. “Haifa and Acre have a lot to offer to tourists and a lot of potential, this cruise line between Haifa and Acre will enable the tourists to travel and to see the views between the city and the feeling of being in the silence of the sea,” he said, “I do believe that this is the first step in an ongoing effort in Haifa and Acre in order to expand the infrastructure to make sure that the tourists that come here will enjoy an excellent experience during all times of the year.”

The ferry, which will cater mostly to tourists, costs NIS 30 for a one-way ticket and NIS 55 for a round trip; the trip takes around 45 minutes.

While the ship itself is not new and is run by Acre Queen Cruises, the Tourism Ministry dedicated NIS 11 million toward upgrading the Haifa and Acre ports in order to operate the line. According to Tourism Ministry estimates, the cruise ship will attract thousands of tourists to Haifa, Acre and Israel in general.

The cruise line will depart from Acre at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and from the Haifa Port at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. seven days a week beginning on Succot (there is an extra sailing during the Succot holiday at 1 p.m.).

The project, which has been talked about for over a decade was halted and postponed due bureaucracy and disinterest.

However, according to Levin the cruise line was made a priority.

ferry israel haifa, acre

“Many people said ‘you won’t succeed, it’s impossible, many people tried for 20 years,’ but when you work hard and when there is good will from all the partners you can do a lot of things and I think that the outcome today is something brilliant.”

Levin later tried his hand a captaining the inaugural ferry ride to Acre, which took the cruise ship 10-minutes offcourse.

“Make a hard-right so you don’t steer us to Egypt!” one passenger remarked.

Yahav praised the cooperation between Acre, Haifa, and the Tourism Ministry at the ceremony on Monday but also displayed some competitiveness saying that Haifa is the most beautiful city in Israel. “Anyone who doesn’t believe this can leave,” he joked.

Lankri said he did not want to enter in to the beauty competition, but that Acre, “can really be picked for the title of gorgeous.” Lankri continued praising his city as a model of cooperation: “It is possible to make tourism in the periphery and also to protect and maintain the tourists, and also to do this together with the original residents and the entrepreneurs in Acre,” he said.

Both cities looked beautiful from the ferry ship with views of the Carmel Mountains in the background. Passengers who leave from Haifa arrive in the Acre Old City where they are greeted by narrow alleyways and the city’s active fisherman’s port.

“This took time, there were a lot of people and more than 10 years of bureaucracy,” said Edward Khoury, 38, owner of Acre Queen Cruises, “but here is the line, it works and I think it will be very successful.”            (Jerusalem Post)

Meet the IDF’s ‘Beduin battalion’

The jeep stops on a chalk-like dusty road, at an embankment that overlooks a dry riverbed. In front of us, to the northwest and spanning the gully, are two rows of metal fences. To their left, on a small hillock, is a concrete watchtower, a “pillbox,” as it’s called, harking back to World War II British Army nomenclature. A U-shaped concrete wall protects its base so that men entering and leaving are not exposed to gunfire.

The commander doesn’t want to stay long. He points to the houses a few kilometers away. “That’s Gaza.”

We’re right on the border. The IDF officer and his medic hand me a camouflaged flak jacket for safety.

The commander gestures in the other direction to show off Israeli fields. The agriculture belongs to border communities that unit 585, the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion, guards. Then Maj. Nader Eyada orders his men back into the vehicles to continue driving along the border with Gaza.

It’s 27 Celsius at 6 on a Monday morning. The soft colors of the rising sun give the landscape a fresh, calm feel. Israel’s desert patrol, made up mostly of Beduin officers and men, has a long day ahead.

Founded almost 30 years ago, the battalion is unique in that it is a mostly volunteer unit of Beduin soldiers. For much of its existence it has been based along the border with Gaza, playing a key role in preventing terrorists from infiltrating Israel.

One of the unit’s bases is at Kissufim, next to the kibbutz and the Gaza border crossing. During the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, Israelis left the Strip through this crossing. Over the years many mortar shells have hit here. Throughout the day and night, desert recon patrols leave from here.

The unit uses MDT David jeeps, Humvees and lumbering “Ze’ev” trucks, a traveling medevac, during its patrols. There are also specially trained Beduin trackers who accompany its operations along the border fence.

“The mission is to protect communities and Israel,” says Maj.

Eyada, a 10-year veteran of the unit.

“The enemy is always changing, like any threat. They are always learning.”

As we drive out, navigating fields and dirt roads going in all directions, Eyada and his soldiers take pride in seeing the agriculture in bloom. “We are here to protect the communities and let the farmers work their fields in peace,” says Eyada, who comes from the Beduin town of Beit Zarzir, on the outskirts of the Jezreel Valley. A rising star in the army, he has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Haifa and has served since the disengagement.

“We have a very strong unit from various communities,” Eyada says.

“It comes from the fact that it’s a volunteer service. I never met such people. We have Beduin, Christians, Muslims, Druse and Circassians.”

Some of the volunteers come to the army with very low levels of reading comprehension and Hebrew. Because they come from Arabic-speaking, mostly Beduin, communities that tend to be poorer, they receive a worse education than many native Hebrew-speaking recruits.

“The IDF works within the unit to take soldiers from level zero so they can do it all and are now commanders,” Eyada notes. Because of the high level of motivation and the skills the army has imparted, many choose to stay on after volunteering for their initial three years.

The IDF is seeking to expand the opportunities for the battalion members. Recently they completed three months of service in Samaria, holding an area near Jenin. The idea is to employ what they learned from decades around Gaza to other areas that require similar expertise in patrolling and tracking infiltrators.

Driving near the border, the major pulls the jeep up to a pretty field festooned with rows of green plants. There are two tall trees providing shade for a bench. It’s time for some Beduin coffee.

One of the soldiers, short and round-faced with gleaming sunglasses, smiles. He points out at the rows of crops growing. “Bananas.”

The saplings have a while to mature. Muhammad Shibli, the banana expert, has been in the IDF for seven years. He’s the main medic in the unit and commands other medics.

“I was born in Shibli [a Beduin village in the Galilee whose name he bears]. I wanted to protect Israel from terrorism and threats, wherever they come from. We live with Jews, there is no such thing as difference, we are one nation living together and we want to live in peace.”

He notes that rockets fired from Lebanon, Syria or Gaza don’t distinguish among people and communities.

All are threatened equally, so all should defend against threats.

Beduin Battalion

Shibli is an example of one of many who benefited from the ability to combine military service with the opportunities it provides professionally as well. He received a matriculation certificate and a bachelor’s degree during his years on patrol. “When I came I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I chose to stay.”

Many men in the unit join at age 18, but others opt to volunteer up to age 26. Some men, and the battalion is all men, have started families. The major mentions one man who has a wife and four children back home. Those with home life often commute back to the North, where most of the recruits are drawn from, every two weeks.

Hussein Fawaze, a big, jovial man who looks a bit like a cross between Vin Diesel and The Rock, has served with these men for 12 years. His friends call him “Boaz.” He was born in Ailaboun in the Galilee, a pastoral farming community that used to be mostly Catholic Arabs, but which is almost half Muslim Beduin today.

“I wanted to go to the army. I think we need to contribute to the IDF,” he says. It’s an historical bond for Fawaze, dating back to the 1948 war when some Beduin tribes allied themselves with Israel during the War of Independence. Fawaze joined during the second intifada, but he says it didn’t take away from his decision.

“I came from a family that contributes to the country… I felt a part of Israel and we have responsibility. We must be part of it just like my [army] friends from Tel Aviv. After 12 years I don’t regret one second that I came to this unit.”

The army is a key to Israeli society, he asserts. “This is like holding a card that says we’re part of this country. When I tell someone I did three years in the army, the whole story changes, if I didn’t go to the army it would be different. I think it’s the responsibility of every Beduin.”

The men say they don’t have trouble getting recruits. The IDF does not release exact numbers for the unit or for the overall number of Beduin and other Muslim and Christian volunteers in the army.

Circassians and Druse men, as well as Jewish Israelis, must have compulsory military service.

There are also confusing numbers relating to the number of Beduin in Israel. When Beduin are discussed, it is usually in relation to the 200,000 Beduin residing in the Negev. However, most of the Beduin in the desert recon unit are from the North, from communities like Shibli, that have been living in villages often indistinguishable from Jewish and Arab ones since the 1950s.

Dr. Yosef Ben-David of the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies wrote in 1999 that there were around 50,000 Beduin in the Galilee. Since 1948, more than 110 Beduin have died defending Israel.

Because of disputes with the state over land, recruitment among Beduin in the South appears to be low.

More than 50,000 Beduin in the Negev live in unrecognized communities.

The men in the unit said they heard about groups that encourage southern Beduin not to serve. “There are extremist groups that come into the Beduin communities and say don’t go,” says Fawaze.

A Facebook page of the IDF in May 2014 claimed that “about 450 Beduin volunteer to serve in the IDF each year.” According to Fawaze, the number of volunteers fluctuates.

“It’s not dramatic [change], we always have people who want to go.” He wonders why more don’t volunteer. “If I am a citizen why wouldn’t I go? If I want electricity or a paved street, if I go to the army, it’s my right to demand that, so people know if they go they also receive.”

In the last decades there has also been an increase in the number of Christian and Muslim volunteers from non-Beduin communities.

The army provides extra financial support during the last six months of the three-year service they sign up for. Most combat soldiers receive only NIS 1,600 a month, which is difficult for men who want to support families or who might otherwise need to learn a skill or trade.

With the army cutting back on the number of men staying on as professional soldiers, the men in the battalion say that the experience still provides security in post-army life. Some join the police or the Prisons Service or other security services afterward. “We have many who went on to other units in the army; to officers courses. Beduin have a tradition of military service,” says Fawaze.

The men feel that there are many slanders in the foreign media about Israel and the army. “It’s lies you hear abroad. We are defending against threats, no other country can defend as well as we do and no other country in the world does what we do,” says Shibli.

“I helped Sudanese [refugees], and what people say is lies. We don’t hurt innocent people. “Muslims should be proud to be part of this army.” They also think there is a false perception about rising levels of racism in Israel. “In every place there is racism, but we don’t feel it here. It’s not something that personally bothers me,” according to Fawaze.

There’s a family-like atmosphere here, sipping coffee under the quiet blue sky. Roee Hezi, an American who was drafted in 2015 after making aliya, seems to be one of the few Jews in the unit. “My parents are Israeli. When I came the army said they needed more combat medics and eventually I came here. What’s unique here is that everyone volunteers to go, so there is high motivation.”

I wondered if his lack of Arabic was a problem when the men go back to barracks. Hezi says it isn’t an issue.

Shibli, who constantly wants to remind me that I should come back during another season when we will see bananas, avocado and melons growing, says the real special thing for the men is that they feel like they have an “Israel in miniature” in the unit. “You won’t find anywhere in the world like this,” adds Fawaze. “Moshe defends Hussein who defends Yusuf who defends Roee. We defend the communities and it’s a miracle and all of us from diverse communities serve together with no difference.”             (Jerusalem Post)

The Jewish Historical Connection to Jerusalem (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

UNESCO is expected to vote Thursday to approve a resolution that disregards Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount and casts doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall.

For more than 3,000 years, Jerusalem has played a central and sustaining role in the history of the Jewish people – politically, spiritually and culturally. Recent UNESCO resolutions ignore the historical connection between the Jewish people and their ancient capital.

A few examples of archeological findings that illustrate this link are:

An inscription from the 9th century BCE referring to the House of David

A royal seal bearing the inscription of King Hezekiah (8th century BCE)

Clay seal impressions of officials of King Zedekiah (6th century BCE)

The Arch of Titus in Rome (built 82 CE), depicting vessels from the Second Temple being carried into Rome

These archeological findings (documented in this report) discredit those who deny the ancient Jewish presence in Jerusalem. They present irrefutable evidence of historical truth.

Today, with historical heritage sites in this region being systematically destroyed by jihadist forces, it is Israel that defends religious freedom for the three monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – against the tide of intolerance sweeping the Middle East.

Symposium | Israel’s core security requirements in permanent-status negotiations

by Michael Herzog                 Fathom Journal


As an official involved in most of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over the last 23 years, Michael Herzog is an expert on Israeli security concerns and interests. In this article he gives his views on the Center for New American Security (CNAS) report and Israel’s security concerns in final status discussions. He argues that even though each of Israel’s security requests look solvable when taken in isolation, it is difficult to overcome their accumulating effect on limiting Palestinian sovereignty and he thus recommends deeper involvement by Egypt and Jordan in security arrangements and designing a broader regional security architecture.

The core Israeli-Palestinian negotiation issues have been traditionally divided into ‘narrative issues’ – those topics such as Jerusalem, refugees and mutual recognition which touch on the core identity of each party and which are extremely difficult to reconcile; and more ‘practical issues’ such as territory and security. But while some people believe these practical issues are more easily resolved, they are very complicated and we have yet to come to an agreement on them even 20 years on from beginning negotiations.

Security is considered by Israel to be paramount because although the country is militarily strong, it is still vulnerable due to its lack of strategic depth, limited resources and location in a hostile environment. Israel’s history is fraught with armed conflicts forced on it by hostile neighbours. In the Palestinian case, security is all the more sensitive because the territory under discussion (the West Bank) is small, condensed and topographically superior to Israel-proper. The 1967 lines (the product of a 1949 temporary armistice agreement), which are the Palestinian baseline for an agreement, would leave Israel with a dangerously narrow waist along its coastal plain – about nine miles at the thinnest point – and overlooked by the West Bank’s commanding hills. This narrow strip contains Israel’s major cities (including its capital), about 80 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, 70 per cent of its population, as well as its main infrastructure and sole international airport.

Israel’s threat perception envisages potential threats emanating from a future Palestinian state, regional challenges, as well as combined threats between the two. It relates to the potential merger of hostile intents with dangerous military, terror and other capabilities. It also takes into account the potential dramatic changes in the strategic landscape surrounding Israel, which have happened more than once, especially in recent years. No analyst accurately predicted the eruption of the 2011 Arab Spring or the emergence of ISIS, and certainly no one knows what the situation will be in 20 to 30 years. This is no reason to not seek a deal – perhaps the contrary – but it is reason enough to carefully craft security arrangements.

Israel therefore seeks solid security arrangements which will prevent the necessary compromises to the Palestinians in a permanent two-state solution from ultimately undermining Israel’s security rather than enhancing it. Yet this stance clashes with the Palestinian desire for independence, sovereignty and dignity. There is an inbuilt tension between their needs and Israel’s, which is difficult to reconcile.


In order to address Israel’s threat perception, the country developed a comprehensive security concept for the permanent-status negotiations and solution. In all sets of permanent-status negotiations (the Camp David Summit and subsequent talks in 2000, the Annapolis Process in 2008, meetings in 2010 towards the end of Israel’s 10 month settlement freeze, and the ‘Kerry Talks’ of 2013-14) Israel presented a fairly consistent concept of its required essential security arrangements, although some of the emphasis and details varied from one government to another.

Israel’s security concept is based on the following three complementary pillars:

Territorial adjustments to the 1967 lines so as to establish more secure, defensible boundaries. The main adjustment would include incorporating into Israel the major settlement blocs along the 1967 lines, modestly beefing up its depth, as part of territorial swaps.

Creating ‘conditional strategic depth’ (a term coined by Israel’s military planners). This means partial compensation for Israel’s lack of physical strategic depth through a series of non-territorial security arrangements. The first and most dominant of these arrangements is the demilitarisation of a Palestinian state.

Establishing a special security regime in the Jordan Valley, along the eastern perimeter of the Palestinian state, as an essential part of the above-mentioned ‘conditional strategic depth’. Since the days of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, the Jordan Valley has been considered by Israel to be the country’s eastern security (though not necessarily political) border. For this special security regime Israel has been seeking to include, among others, an effective Israeli military deployment for an agreed period of time.

The concept of a demilitarised Palestinian state was initially agreed upon in negotiations in 2000 and later enshrined in the Clinton (under the term non-militarisation), yet the two sides never agreed on what it actually entailed. The Palestinians agreed to forego a regular army with tanks and planes as well as military alliances with other regular militaries, but there are many capabilities that fall in the grey area between a strong internal security force and a regular army that remained unresolved.

In addition to demilitarisation, Israel sought operational control over a future Palestinian airspace (since there will only be one air force – Israel’s – and it’s only possible for one party to make real-time decisions about incoming potential threats in the very limited given time and air space), as well as some strategic early warning posts in a Palestinian state (initially agreed but never finalised) and the option to send troops into Palestinian territory during real emergencies in order to pre-empt emerging military threats from the east. Israel also raised concerns over a potential scenario of extreme Islamist forces (e.g. Hamas) taking over the Palestinian state and turning it into a hostile entity, thus triggering Israeli intervention within the State of Palestine. All of these and other required security arrangements (such on the electromagnetic spectrum) remain unresolved between the parties.

The question of Israel’s right of re-entry to a Palestinian state in case of emerging real threats, terror or military proved to be a major sticking point. Israel has sought to clarify, before the agreement is signed and possibly within the agreement, that it will not gamble with its vital national security. In case of a serious threat and given its narrow margins of security, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) may intervene without waiting for the threat to reach or enter Israeli territory. The Palestinians would naturally not commit to such stipulations for fear of pre-legitimising Israeli incursions into their state. With the help of the US the parties discussed the definitions of emergency but never came to agreement.


One of the most contentious issues in previous negotiations was Israel’s demand to deploy limited Israeli forces along the Jordan River as part of a special security regime. Such a regime would verify demilitarisation, serve as a deterrent factor, tripwire against military threats, provide early warning, and deal with daily threats of infiltration or terrorism. Israel’s position is informed by deep concerns about long-term stability in Jordan (which is a paramount Israeli strategic interest) as well as hostile state, state-sponsored or jihadi forces from the east, potentially threatening Israel through Jordan. But while Israel views its security in a permanent-status agreement also in a regional context, the Palestinians perceive the security dimension in strict bilateral terms and demand full withdrawal of Israeli troops from a future Palestinian state. The parties fiercely debate this question, including the possible time frame for such a deployment and its terms.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to a five year period of Israeli forces in this area, to be subsequently replaced by US or NATO forces. In contrast, Israel wanted long-term deployment measured in decades. (Ehud Barak, Israel’s prime minister in 2000 and defence minister in 2008 spoke about a transitional period of ‘a generation’.) In order to overcome this difficulty, during the 2013-14 Kerry-led talks the parties considered the option of defining specific criteria which would trigger an Israeli withdrawal when met (or a continued Israeli presence if they are not). Yet the criteria and identity of the adjudicators were not resolved.

The Americans made several important technological–operational suggestions, which would integrate into one effective border system electronic barriers, sensors, intelligence collection and exchanges, and forces on the ground. Such a system would make it hard to cross the border without being identified and stopped. However, Israel was no less focused on the strategic dimension. Even an operationally perfect border system cannot address a scenario in which Hamas takes over the State of Palestine or if Jordan is destabilised by jihadists.

Whatever the agreed time period and exact terms of Israel’s deployment in this area, Israel has always insisted that as long as its forces are there, they ought to have a defined and independent zone or strip of operational responsibility (notwithstanding Palestinian civilian responsibilities in this area) for them to be effective. Israel has agreed that its forces deployed along the Palestinian side of the Jordan River will operate within a special security regime on both sides of the Jordan basin that would include Jordanian troops on the eastern (Jordanian) side of the River and international and Palestinian security forces patrolling an area slightly further to the west of Israel’s forces. But Israel does not believe in mixed Israeli-international forces because it does not trust international forces (based on a long history with such forces along its borders), and does not want to end up arguing over whether to track down a specific terrorist crossing the border and ultimately have its own freedom of operational action limited. Israel is also very unenthusiastic about US forces as it would like to avert possible tensions on the ground with its closest ally.

It is hard to imagine that the parties (and the US) can agree on deciding the issue through specific strategic and operational criteria. They will probably have to agree on a period of time, long enough to allow for a proper transition – or find another ‘outside the box’ solution. In any case, Israel’s threat perception will ultimately dictate its future decision on withdrawal in real time. For example, if ISIS-minded jihadists take over Jordan then Israel will be loath to leave the Jordan Valley regardless of the time frame originally defined by the agreement.


As can be seen from this analysis, the security component of a permanent-status agreement is very complicated. When each security component is considered in isolation one can find a precedent for Israel’s requirement and it looks solvable. However, their accumulating effect in terms of limiting Palestinian sovereignty is not easy to overcome in negotiations. It requires thinking outside the box, deeper involvement by Egypt and Jordan in security arrangements in Gaza and the West Bank respectively, and perhaps a broader regional security architecture.