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Latest News in Israel – 15th February

Three Border Policemen injured in car-ramming attack near Ma’aleh Adumim

Two Palestinians attempted a car-ramming attack against multiple Israelis near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim Saturday afternoon, according to MDA.

The incident began when a police lookout position noticed two suspicious persons crossing the security fence and entering into a vehicle with Israeli license plates that was waiting for them on the Israeli side of the barrier.

The vehicle, which was located near the a-Zaim checkpoint, began moving towards Jerusalem, and the lookout position reported the development to Border Police jeep units, which began a pursuit.

Once the vehicle arrived at the Metzdat Adumim checkpoint, the vehicle became stuck in traffic, and at that point officers exited their vehicles and headed on foot towards the suspects’ vehicle. Once the Palestinians spotted police approaching, the suspects put their car in reverse, struck a car behind them in their attempt to escape, and tried to run over the officers.

Police officers “who were in immediate and tangible danger” opened fire at the car, which continued driving, police said. It drove over the traffic barrier and did a U-turn, driving towards a-Zaim. A second police unit blocked its path.

The suspects struck the Border Police jeep full force, and came to a stop.

Three Border Policemen, aged 21, 29, and 43, were injured in the attack and were taken to the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem in light condition.

The same hospital also received the two wounded Palestinians, and said that the teenager had a gunshot wound to his knee and that the 40-year-old had an injury to the jaw.

The incident marks the second attack against Border Police Saturday.

Earlier in the day, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl was shot and killed after attempting to stab an IDF soldier on guard duty in Hebron by the Cave of the Patriarchs, the IDF said in a statement

IDF forces on site opened fire at the assailant once she drew a knife during a security check, subsequently succumbing  to her wounds.

MDA paramedics on site attended to two victims who sustained upper body stabbing injuries.

One was a Palestinian in his thirties who, according to MDA, attempted to stop the culprit. He was evacuated to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for further treatment.

The other was a border police-officer who was injured lightly and did not require further treatment.                       (Jerusalem Post)

17-year-old Palestinian shot and killed after stabbing attempt in Hebron

A Palestinian female knife attacker attempted to stab a soldier in Hebron on Saturday, before being shot dead by security forces.

During the attack, which occurred near the Cave of the Patriarchs, the 17-year-old stabbed a Palestinian bystander, moderately wounding him in the upper body.

Magen David Adom paramedics and an IDF medical team evacuated the Palestinian man to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The IDF said there were no wounded among its soldiers in the attack.

A few hours later, in the Metzudat Adumim area, a Palestinian vehicle slammed into a Border Police jeep containing three officers, wounding them lightly near Ma’aleh Adumim. Two suspects in the car sustained gunshot wounds.

The incident began when a police lookout position noticed two suspects crossing the security fence and entering into a vehicle with Israeli license plates that was waiting for them on the Israeli side of the barrier. The suspicious vehicle, which was located near a-Zaim checkpoint, began moving toward Jerusalem, and the lookout position reported the development to Border Police jeep units, which began a pursuit.

At the Metzudat Adumim checkpoint, the suspicious vehicle became stuck in traffic, and officers exited their jeep, heading on foot toward the automobile. Once they spotted police approaching, the suspects put their car in reverse, struck a car behind them in their attempt to escape and tried to run over the officers. Police officers “who were in immediate and tangible danger” opened fire at the car, which continued driving, police said. It drove over the traffic barrier and did a U-turn, driving toward a-Zaim. A second police unit blocked its path. The suspects struck the Border Police jeep full force, and came to a stop.

Border Police officers shot at the vehicle. A 40-year-old attacker and a Palestinian teenager who were inside were wounded by the gunfire.

The injured officers were taken by MDA paramedics to the Hadassah-University Medical Center, in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, where doctors listed them as being in light condition.

The same hospital received the two wounded suspects, saying the teenager had a gunshot wound to his knee and the 40-year-old had an injury to the jaw                   (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu may meet Obama in March to ink aid deal, US envoy confirms

US President Barack Obama may sit down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next month to clinch a massive 10-year aid package, the American envoy to Israel said Thursday.

Jerusalem and Washington have been attempting to hammer out the details of the military aid deal before the current package of $3 billion annually expires in 2018.

The White House reportedly wants to wrap up the deal before Obama leaves office in 11 months, but Netanyahu has intimated he is considering holding out for a better deal with whoever wins the presidency.

“There’s a chance [Netanyahu and Obama will meet],” Ambassador Dan Shapiro told Channel 2 news Thursday night. “However, there still remains an issue of timing. We’ll see in the next few weeks how it works out.”

Netanyahu is expected to be in the US for the annual policy conference of the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby from March 20 to 22.

Shapiro said that he was “optimistic” the agreement was coming together.

“This is a complicated effort that takes into account the security needs of Israel and the budgetary limitations of the US,” he said in Hebrew.

He also said Israel and the US had an “excellent opportunity” to ink a military aid deal. He was responding to a question of whether the US was urging Netanyahu to sign before Obama leaves office in January 2017.

On Sunday, Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting that “perhaps we won’t succeed in reaching an agreement with this administration and will have to reach an agreement with the next administration.”

In response, an unnamed US official warned that the financial situation in the US was unlikely to improve in the next two years.

“Israel will certainly not find a president more committed to Israel’s security than is President Obama,” the official told the Haaretz daily.

Netanyahu would like to see the annual aid figure under the so-called Memorandum of Understanding bumped from $3 billion to $4 billion annually, plus hundreds of millions in Congressional aid, an Israeli official told Reuters. A Congressional source told the agency the US was offering $3.7 billion a year.

In November, when both sides first met to negotiate a new 10-year package, US congressional sources told Reuters that Israel would be asking for an annual $5 billion, starting in 2017. The sources at the time estimated that the White House and Israel would ultimately agree on a sum between $4 billion and $5 billion.

Last week, an American delegation led by Yael Lampert, the Israel point person on the White House national security council, visited Jerusalem for a third round of talks.  (The Times of Israel)

The end of Israeli air superiority over Lebanon?

The radical Islamic terror organization Hezbollah has deployed advanced air defense systems and is laying the foundation for a comprehensive anti-air network, IDF officials revealed to Walla! News on Sunday.

Defense officials noted that Israeli aircraft are now being tracked by advanced radar systems operated by the Hezbollah terror group.  The revelation signals a dramatic increase in the capabilities of the organization.

The report is unwelcome news for Israel and its Western allies who have suffered from Hezbollah attacks in the past. Apart from its long and bloody history of attacks against Israel, the Iranian proxy organization claimed responsibility for, among other things, the 1983 bombing of an American military installation which killed 241 US marines and 58 French paratroopers.

The deployment of advanced anti-air defense systems could seriously impair the ability of Israeli forces to defend its citizens from Hezbollah missile attacks.

More important, however, are the greater implications of the increasing cooperation between Russia, Syria, and Hezbollah.  With high grade Russian military equipment flowing into the region, Hezbollah’s capabilities are rapidly increasing, reducing Israel’s historic technological advantage over the fundamentalist Islamic group.

Nor is it clear how far Russia is willing to go with its support. Hezbollah recently claimed Moscow is supplying them with sophisticated weaponry, but the Kremlin itself has strenuously denied those claims to Israel.

The new weapons have also apparently boosted Hezbollah’s confidence in its ability to confront Israel.  The organization is openly displaying its new capabilities, targeting Israeli planes and letting them know they’re in Hezbollah’s sights.

“This connection between Hezbollah and Syria to Russia has completely changed the rules of the game” an Israeli defense official told Walla! News.  “Hezbollah is signaling to Israel that it’s ready for the next round.”            (Arutz Sheva)

UK to ban public bodies from boycotting Israel

The British government is to announce measures aimed at preventing local councils, unions and other public institutions from launching boycotts against the State of Israel this week.

Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock told The Times the new guidelines were important to prevent discriminatory boycotts against the Jewish state, which he said both stoked anti-Semitism and harmed the UK’s valuable trade relations with Israel.

The guidelines would enable the government itself to take action against organizations which boycott Israel, as well as empowering other bodies to take boycotters to court.

They would prevent any public body from promoting a boycott of country signed up to the World Trade Organization’s government procedural agreement, the paper reported.

Recent years have seen far-left-dominated unions and several local councils embarking on highly politicized, controversial campaigns to boycott the Jewish state – campaigns Jewish rights groups say have helped fanned anti-Israel hysteria which often spills over into acts of anti-Semitism.

Such boycotts have also been criticized by others as a waste of resources and utterly irrelevant for local bodies which don’t actually play any role in foreign policy. In most cases, such moves are launched at the initiative of extreme anti-Israel groups, who encourage activists to infiltrate otherwise apolitical organizations and table and lobby for anti-Israel boycotts.

“We need to challenge and prevent these divisive town hall boycotts,” said Hancock.

“The new guidance on procurement, combined with changes we are making to how pension pots can be invested, will help prevent damaging and counterproductive local foreign policies undermining our national security.”                     (Arutz Sheva)

IDF eliminates two terrorists in Samaria firefight

IDF forces killed two terrorists in Samaria on Sunday morning, after coming under fire while on patrol.

According to the army, IDF forces were fired upon while patrolling near the Jewish village of Hinanit, close to Jenin in northern Samaria, as they went to respond to reports of a rock-throwing attack.

When forces reached the site of the incident one of the terrorists ambushed them and opened fire. Soldiers returned fire and killed the two terrorists.

The attackers were found to have been armed with an M-16 assault rifle and a knife.

No IDF soldiers were injured in the incident.

In a statement released shortly after the incident, the IDF said: “The force responded to the shooting and fired towards the attackers, resulting in their deaths.”

The Palestinian Authority health ministry named those killed as Nihad Waked and Fuad  , both 15 years old.

It follows two terrorist attacks over Shabbat in which several people were injured.

In the first, an Arab woman stabbed and lightly injured an Israeli soldier, and moderately wounded a Palestinian man who tried to stop her, in an attack in Hevron. She was shot dead by soldiers.

Later, an Arab terrorist injured four Border Police officers in a car ramming attack near Maalei Adumim. Other officers responded by opening fire on the car, injuring three Arab occupants.                (Arutz Sheva)

Stabbing attack thwarted outside Jerusalem

Border Police officers thwarted a stabbing attack at the Mizmoriya checkpoint between Tekoa and Har Homa, south of Jerusalem, early Sunday afternoon.

During a routine vehicle inspection a police officer manning the checkpoint noted a suspicious Arab man running at the checkpoint, and quickly reported it to Border Police.

When the officers noticed the suspect was running with a knife in his hand, one of them opened fire, fatally wounding him before he was able to injure anyone.

The terrorist was later identified as Naim Safi, a 17-year-old resident of an Arab village near Bethlehem.

The incident came less than two hours after terrorists opened fire on an IDF patrol in northern Samaria.

Soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker and an apparent accomplice, who were armed with an M-16 assault rifle and a knife. They had apparently lured the patrol by staging a rock-throwing attack just prior to the ambush.              (Arutz Sheva)

Minister’s comments lead to Egypt cancelling Netanyahu meeting

Egypt has cancelled a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Cairo, Arab media reported Sunday.

The announcement comes after Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said earlier this month that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered the flooding of several Hamas tunnels linking Egypt to the Gaza Strip, to a certain extent, “due to Israel’s request.”

The minister affirmed that security cooperation between Israel and Egypt is “better than ever,” and asserted that “flooding is a good solution” for the challenge of tackling Hamas’ intricate tunnel system used for smuggling purposes.

According to Saudi-Arabian based Internet news site Eleph, Amos Gilad, a senior adviser to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, was nearly at the end of making final arrangements for an encounter between the two leaders before the meeting was called off.

The security establishment was furious with the Energy Minister at the time when he made the comments, concerned with Egypt’s reaction to the public revelations. Their fears were confirmed after Egyptian media reported that the Sisi government took exception to the statements.

Defense and security cooperation is one of the most sensitive issues concerning both countries, and Egypt is extremely reluctant to disclose publicly their relationship with Israel out of concern that opposition forces will stoke populist anger by painting Sisi as a “collaborator” with Israel.

Security cooperation with Israel is highly unpopular among the Egyptian public.

Sisi, however, needs little prodding from Israel to destroy the Hamas tunnels linking Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula, viewing the Gaza-based terrorist organization as a dangerous security threat.

In the eyes of the Egyptian government, Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, poses a threat to national security in much the same manner as the latter.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed and its leadership thrown in prison since Sisi came into power in 2014.

Furthermore, the Egyptian government routinely accuses Hamas of being in communication with terrorist elements in the Sinai, including Islamic State’s affiliate in the peninsula.        (Jerusalem Post)

UN rights expert accuses Israel of excessive force against Palestinians

The UN human rights investigator for Gaza and the West Bank called on Israel on Thursday to investigate what he called excessive force used by Israeli security forces against Palestinians and to prosecute perpetrators.

Makarim Wibisono, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, also challenged Israeli authorities to charge or release all Palestinian prisoners being held under lengthy administrative detention, including children.

“The upsurge in violence is a grim reminder of the unsustainable human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the volatile environment it engenders,” he said in a final report to the Human Rights Council.

Israel, backed by its ally the United States, accuses the Geneva-based forum of bias against it.

Twenty-seven Israelis and a US citizen have been killed since October in near-daily Palestinian attacks that have included stabbings, shootings and car-rammings. Israeli forces, for their part, have killed at least 157 Palestinians, 101 of them assailants, according to Israeli authorities.

The spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to give an immediate response, saying he was looking into Wibisono’s remarks.

Wibisono announced his resignation from the independent post last month, effective March 31, accusing Israel of reneging on its pledge to grant him access to Gaza and the West Bank.

Wibisino said any individual violence was unacceptable.

He said the upsurge came against a backdrop of “illegal” Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, construction of a wall, and Israel’s blockade of Gaza that amounted to a “stranglehold” and “collective punishment.”

Israel must address these issues to uphold international law and ensure protection for Palestinians, he said.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed east Jerusalem, declaring it part of its eternal, indivisible capital, a move never recognized internationally.

Some 5,680 Palestinians were detained by Israel as of the end of October 2015, including hundreds of minors, Wibisono said, citing figures from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Regarding those under administrative detention, he said: “Hundreds of Palestinians being held, now including children, often under secret evidence, and for up to six-month terms that can be renewed indefinitely, is not consistent with international human rights standards.”

“The government of Israel should promptly charge or release all administrative detainees.”                      (Jerusalem Post)

Former prime minister Olmert to go to prison on Monday

Ehud Olmert will be the country’s first former prime minister to go to prison when he begins serving out two sentences totaling 19-months at Lod’s Ma’asiyahu Prison on Monday.

Olmert was sentenced in 2014 to six years in prison on two separate charges of taking bribes in the early 2000s, as mayor of Jerusalem, in connection with the construction of Jerusalem’s massive Holyland residential complex. But in December, the Supreme Court reduced his sentence to 18 months in prison and exonerated him on one of the charges.

Last week, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court tacked another month behind bars on to Olmert’s prison sentence, after the former prime minister pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in various cases against him.

The plea deal represented the first admission of wrongdoing by the former prime minister and Jerusalem mayor, who has consistently maintained his innocence throughout eight years of legal proceedings in various graft cases.

Olmert admitted to trying to persuade his former secretary Shula Zaken not to testify against him in the Holyland case and a second affair involving cash infusions from US businessman Morris Talansky, and of trying to buy her silence. Zaken has already served out her prison sentence for her part in the Holyland affair.

In secret recordings made by Zaken, Olmert can be heard saying: “If I am not acquitted, no one will be acquitted.” The recordings also reveal he offered to pick up her legal bill.

The plea deal represented a last-ditch effort by Olmert’s legal team to avoid further jail time after sentences were handed down in the Holyland and Talansky affairs. His eight-month sentence in the Talansky affair is still up for debate in the Supreme Court.

According to reports, Olmert’s attorney is working to reach an agreement with the state prosecution that would see the Talansky sentence withdrawn, or at least that it run concurrently with the 18-month prison term in the Holyland affair.

As an ex-premier, privy to the state’s top secrets, the Prisons Service determined that Olmert cannot be allowed to come into contact with convicted members of organized crime groups and those who have committed national security crimes. Last year, the IPS created “Ward 10,” a separate prison area that does not require contact with other inmates, and has vetted Olmert’s potential cellmates to ensure they do not pose a security threat to him.

Also serving time in Ward 10 is former president Moshe Katsav, who is five years in to a seven-year term for rape, sexual assault and harassment of a number of female employees while tourism minister and president.              (The Times of Israel)

Ya’alon meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon met with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Friday on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, Germany.

The Defense Ministry said the two discussed “the bilateral ties between Jordan and Israel, the latest development in the Middle East, and the possibility of advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The official Jordanian state news agency confirmed the meeting, but provided no further details.

The fact Ya’alon’s meeting with King Abdullah was made public is very unusual. While coordination meetings between security and government officials on both sides of the Jordan River have been ongoing, the existence of these meetings was kept secret from the media out of concern the publication of these meetings will serve as ammunition for opposition in the kingdom to the security ties with Israel.

Defense officials declined to comment about the contents of the meeting, but dubbed it as “very important.”

The Jordanian king and the defense minister were discussing regional issues in light of the situation in Syria.

Recently, concerns have been raised in public in Israel, expressed also in IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s speech last month at the INSS Conference, that ISIS might launch terror attacks against Israeli or Jordanian targets in the southern Syrian Golan Heights in the wake of the losses the extremist organization has suffered.                (Ynet News)

NSW Labor compromise struck on Israel trips

The NSW Labor Party conference has defused a divisive debate over sponsored trips to Israel by encouraging party members to spend “substantial” time in the Palestinian territories.

However, the compromise puts party officials’ trips at odds with NSW Labor leader Luke Foley’s position that Labor members of parliament should spend equal time in Palestinian territories if they accept a trip to Israel.

This has been criticised by pro-Israeli party members as a de facto ban on such trips, as there are practical difficulties in visiting or staying in the West Bank, and grave security issues in visiting Gaza.

The conference agenda feat­ured numerous motions criticising Israel, calling on Labor to immediately recognise Palestine, and even attempting to ban sponsored trips to Israel. The federal electorate council of Matt Thistlethwaite’s seat of Kingsford Smith said: “A token visit to Ramallah, added to a trip paid for by pro-Israel organisa­tions, should not be regarde­d as adequate.”

Other motions wanted a Labor government to implement a boycott of products from Israel or Israel­’s West Bank settlements.

All these motions were headed off by the party’s international relation­s policy committee, which crafted a resolution supporting a compromise policy carried at the last national ALP conference.

This called on Labor to consider, in partnership with like-minded coun­tries, recognising Palestine if there was no progress on a two-state solution. The compromise headed off a split within the right wing between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli MPs and brought the NSW party into line with the federal party.

Other states’ conferences have endorsed more pro-Palestinian resolutions. Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten has declined to endorse Mr Foley’s policy, saying he would not direct his MPs’ travel.

The final version passed by the NSW conference said that “in additio­n to” the travel arrangements in place for NSW state MPs, it “encourages all party members visiting the region for the purpose of understanding the conflict to spend substantial time in both Israel­ and Palestine”.

The compromise means, theor­etically, that there will be different stand­ards for sponsored trips to Israel­ for NSW MPs, federal MPs, and party officials and members.    (The Australian)

Australian Connections in Israel

Former IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz, is off to Australia toward the end of this month to be the keynote speaker at United Israel Appeal events in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

Gantz will be crisscrossing the southern continent, speaking first in Sydney on February 28 and 29, and March 1 and 2, then flying to Perth for the West Australian Campaign launch and completing his mission at Melbourne’s gala campaign launch on March 7.

The Australian Jewish community is extremely hospitable, and Gantz is going to be so pampered that he won’t know what hit him.

The annual Australian Film Festival, which opened this week at Cinematheques in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, also attracted past and present Israeli diplomats.

Yuval Rotem, a former and highly popular and effective Israel ambassador to Australia, showed up at the Tel Aviv opening, and Meron Reuven, the chief of protocol at the Foreign Ministry, brought his soldier daughter to the Jerusalem opening.

The Tel Aviv audience of some 450 people received a bonus with a live performance by hilarious Australian comedian Jeremie Bracka, whose rib-tickling film on an Israeli emissary to Australia was shown in Israel last year at a reunion of Australian Habonim. The marvelous film The Dressmaker opened the festival in all three locations and was screened to full houses, indicating the esteem in which Australian films are held in Israel.

At the Jerusalem opening, Ben Rhee, who is the political and economics secretary at the Australian Embassy and is also responsible for cultural affairs, said that Sharma had asked that this year’s festival veer away from the Australian outback, which has featured so prominently in previous Australian film festivals. However, this is the setting for some of the best Australian films, including The Dressmaker, which was listed as one of the 10 best films made in Australia in 2015. But it is not the stereotyped outback, and both the acting and the story line make for superb entertainment.

The US can have a secretary of state who was not born in America, though not a president who is not native-born. The Israel Region of the Rabbinical Council of America is much more lax in this regard. Not only does it not require that its president be born in America, but he doesn’t even have to be an American citizen, so long as he is a properly qualified Orthodox rabbi.

This may explain how Australian-born Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple, who is the emeritus chief rabbi of the Sydney Great Synagogue and now lives in Jerusalem, was elected president of the Israel Region-Rabbinical Council of America, succeeding Rabbis Aaron Borow and Jay Karzen, who have served for seven years.

Not only is Apple not American by birth or citizenship, but he has never served as the spiritual leader of an American congregation. His first rabbinical posts were in the London congregations of Bayswater and Hampstead, and he was offered the spiritual leadership of the Sydney Great Synagogue in the early 1970s.

Still, he’s not the first Australian to do well in another environment. Some other examples are Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador designate to the UK; and Daniel Lew, former honorary consul of Papua New Guinea in Israel.

Apple will be installed at a Melaveh Malka event on Saturday evening at the home of Rabbi Emanuel and Rena Quint by Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive director of the National RCA. Other rabbis participating in the program include Jeff Bienenfeld, Reuven Tradburks, Elan Adler and Aaron Adler.

Not all whistle-blowers achieve fame and international recognition. One of the exceptions is Australian ex-pat Manny Waks, who has raised the issue of pedophilia and child abuse in general in Orthodox Jewish communities and has given extensive interviews and lectures on the subject in several countries.

One such case involves an Israeli, Malka Leifer, who was the principal of the Adass Israel School in Melbourne, Australia, where she allegedly abused three sisters and other girls in her care. She is facing charges in Australia for 47 indecent act offenses, 13 offenses of indecent assault of a minor, 11 rape charges and three additional charges. After one of the sisters made her allegations public, Leifer fled the country and returned to Israel in March, 2008, before an official complaint could be filed.

She now lives in Emmanuel. The official complaint was filed in 2011 and the Australian authorities are seeking Leifer’s extradition to face trial.

Waks has urged all those who support the extradition to show up at the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday, February 21, at 9:30 a.m. Waks founded Tzedek, an advocacy group for victims’ rights, which has succeeded in generating several convictions.    (Greer Fay Cashman in the Jerusalem Post)

Obama, the UN and the New Israel Fund: Partners in Weakening Israel

by Ronn Torossian          The Algemeiner

http://www.algemeiner.com/2016/02/08/obama-the-un-and-the-new-israel-fund-partners-in-destroying-israel/

Dan Shapiro, the United States Ambassador to Israel, recently criticized Israel’s settlements and its West Bank policy, saying, “Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities; too much vigilantism goes unchecked; and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.”

Not long ago, Israel had a reliable friend at the United Nations: the United States. But recent years have seen the most hostile American administration towards Israel, and Israel’s battles have become more solitary than they once were.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has referred to Jewish towns and cities in Judea and Samaria as “provocative acts,” and doubts Israel’s commitment to peace. “As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism,” he said, essentially blaming Israel for the months-long spate of stabbings, car-rammings and shooting of pregnant women, children and the elderly citizens of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Ban’s words would inspire terrorists, and this has already happened, with Palestinians using the secretary general’s words as the justification for new attacks.

The United Nations opposing Israel is not surprising. What is surprising is that the United States has joined the bandwagon. US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power recently said that America “strongly opposes” settlement activity, and that settlements are “fundamentally incompatible with the two-state solution and [raise] legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions.”

Here’s a story you haven’t heard.

One day after Shapiro’s comments, Tawfiq Al-Tirawi of Fatah’s Central Committee told the Maan News Agency that a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, was “just a phase” of an ongoing struggle. He said that Palestine “stretches from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea,” and he challenged, “any Palestinian to say that the map of Palestine is limited to the West Bank and Gaza.”

Both Shapiro’s and Power’s comments ignore the basic issue that the Palestinian Arabs are not interested in peace. Likewise, the New Israel Fund (NIF), an extremist left-wing organization, also blames Israel for all the region’s problems.

The NIF has established itself as a funder of many groups that engage in anti-Israel activities. Whether it is Adalah promoting lawfare against Israel, B’Tselem promoting Israel as an apartheid state, HaMoked providing flawed and erroneous data toward the damaging and now debunked Goldstone report, or Breaking the Silence issuing edited testimonies from soldiers, NIF’s money and support is at the center of it.

NIF boycotts settlements of Israel, and their words paved the way for Obama’s July 2015 Trade Promotion Authority legislation exception that singles out settlement products for unfair treatment.

NIF’s supporters are American Jews who believe that these methods of delegitmizing Israel and its people are helpful. President Obama’s surprise video-appearance at the NIF conference last month in New York is indicative of the weight the group can pull.

The harm being done to Israel doesn’t seem to matter to NIF funders. The truth falls on deaf ears, and the damage they have done for years is having the impact they so desperately want.

In an election year, when he is trying to secure his legacy and his successor, it may be risky for the President to completely abandon Israel at the United Nations. But he, and the NIF, have done more than enough damage already.

Australian TV oversimplifies Israel’s NGO challenge

A January 29 segment, aired on ABC Australia’s 7:30 show, is a prime example of how, too many times, stories about the Arab-Israeli conflict are oversimplified.

by Aaron Kalman                JWire

http://www.jwire.com.au/59946-2/

Rather than serious debate on issues, networks bolster left and right wing extremists, apparently preferring colorful mudslinging over substantial, fact-base debates of core democratic values. In this case, the issues of accountability and transparency of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were pushed aside when political activists were given screen time to recycle their recycled slogans.

For decades political non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel have received tens of millions of dollars from the European Union and foreign governments, who use civil society to influence Israel’s policies. This has created significant opposition, and a legislative proposal launched by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked placed this issue in the center of Israel’s public debate. And this debate has engaged not only Israelis, but also diplomats and world media, including Australia’s public channel.

The issues are complex, reflecting the fact that foreign NGO funding poses a major challenge for Israel. The unprecedented scale of outside interference through massive grants to political NGOs is unique, and the question magnified because the funds are used to influence the policies of a democratically elected government.In 2012-2014, for example, 27 highly political Israeli NGOs received a total of NIS 261 million – AUD 93 million– in grants and donations. Sixty-five percent of this (AUD 61 million) came from governments, through direct and indirect funding mechanisms. Twenty of these NGOs received over 50% of their funding from governments, and a handful can thank foreign governments for more than 90% of their budget.

In Europe, where most of this money originates, NGOs are viewed as important vehicles for exercising the normative or “soft power” that officials have defined as the central dimension of their foreign policy. However, in many cases, when Israel is involved, these NGOs go far beyond human rights and other legitimate agendas. Instead, they promote demonisation of Israel or anti-peace BDS campaigns officially rejected by the donor countries. Rather than representing “civil society,” these organisations are waging a political war, abusing terms like “war crimes” and “apartheid” under the façade of human rights.

This is the background to Shaked’s bill, but it is completely missing from ABC’s segment. The report, attempting to portray “both sides,” interviewed activists from two of the fringe NGOs: Breaking the Silence on the left and Im Tirzu on the right. They do not reflect Israel’s mainstream, which repudiates both. This failure to provide context could easily mislead viewers into concluding that the only alternatives are the two extreme groups that were given the stage.

In the program, without any critical perspective, Breaking the Silence was portrayed as a “human rights” organisation concerned with democracy and improving Israel. In reality, this NGO is run by 10 activists with a $1million budget from Europe, who do many of their activities outside of Israel, falsely portraying the Israeli army as criminal. Their events in churches, universities and national parliaments featured unconfirmed “anonymous testimony” alleging systematic immorality by soldiers. These activities resulted in criticism from Israeli media and politicians from the right, center and left, and added fuel to the debate on foreign funding for NGOs.

At one point, a Breaking the Silence activist tells the camera that Shaked’s bill will silence Israel’s civil society. Yet, there are some 40,000 registered Israeli NGOs – many politically active – but only a few dozen receive foreign government funding. In other words, the legislation would affect less than 1% of the country’s NGOs. Despite these facts, Breaking the Silence’s hyperbole remained unchallenged.

Also Im Tirzu, the right-wing group interviewed by ABC, fails to provide the audience with a mainstream perspective. For months, Im Tirzu has accused groups funded  by foreign governments, and influential individuals supporting these organizations, of being “moles” and undermining Israel on behalf of those foreign states. Im Tirzu’s campaign video was so aggressive that Israel’s Deputy Attorney-General opened an investigation into whether this NGO was inciting to violence. He decided not to prosecute the group, but stressed that the campaign  was “ugly and very problematic and that it would have been better if it had not been posted.”

Again, this context was missing from the report. Many Israelis support stronger transparency requirements, while others stricter NGO regulations. This does not prevent them from openly disagreeing with Im Tirzu and its message. However, as core issues were ignored the controversial campaign became the only reason ABC mentioned for supporting such measures.

Regardless of the outcome of this legislation, Israel is dealing with serious questions regarding transparency, accountability and foreign meddling in its domestic affairs through NGOs, and civil debate is needed. There are alternative solutions to legislation. For instance, NGO Monitor has proposed funding guidelines to European and Israeli senior officials, encouraging them to formulate mutually acceptable rules – but this, too, was ignored.

Israel’s legislate, courts, and other democratic frameworks will have to find solutions. Whatever the result, ABC’s program did a disservice to viewers. Featuring two extreme NGOs might be good for ratings, but it is simplistic and does little to inform viewers of the real issues.

Aaron Kalman is the foreign media coordinator at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute, and the former Hineini Shaliach in Sydney, Australia

Why Netanyahu can’t finish West Bank security barrier

by Tovah   Lazaroff                The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Analysis-Why-Netanyahu-cant-finish-West-Bank-security-barrier-444788

Construction of the West Bank security barrier has been mostly frozen for nine years, even though some 36 percent has yet to be completed.

Nor is it likely to be finished in the near future, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise last week to wrap a security fence around the entire State of Israel.

“We are also preparing a plan to close the breaches in the security fence in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said.

At issue is not a “hole” or “breach” in a fence initially designed in 2002, at the height of the second intifada to halt Palestinian suicide bombers, but rather more than 250 km. of a 790-km. route that has yet to be built around three main settlement blocs – Gush Etzion, Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim, including E1.

During the last 14 years, Israel has remained orally committed to its right to safeguard its citizens with a barrier. Pragmatically on the ground, however, its work on the route has advanced just 47 km. since 2007, according to United Nations data.

Prior to September 2015, it was easy to forget about the barrier, particularly given the larger threats of a nuclear Iran and missiles from Israel’s northern and southern borders.

Most people actually thought it had been finished long ago. The IDF had taken it off its priority list, but wanted to preserve the option to build it if necessary, a security source once told The Jerusalem Post.

The almost daily Palestinian attacks in the last five months, causing the deaths of some 30 people and wounding 346, has reminded people of the reason the barrier was initially created. Wasn’t the barrier designed to halt a Palestinian with a knife, gun or bomb, who wants to kill Israelis? In the past few weeks, opposition leader Isaac Herzog has said that in light of this new reality, Netanyahu must finish the barrier.

“Some of the tragedies that have been inflicted in recent months have come because there were no barriers along the way,” Herzog said Wednesday at the Jerusalem Press Club.

“None of us like barriers and no one likes fences, but at the end we need to preserve the lives of people here against cruel terrorism,” he said. “If you want to prevent the immediate danger, the immediate risk, deal with Palestinian terrorism.”

In picking up the call for the resumption of construction of the barrier, Herzog has wisely zeroed in on one of Netanyahu’s clear weak points. Finishing the barrier is one of the obvious antidotes to the wave of terrorism, but it is also the one thing that Netanyahu, who has billed himself as “Mr. Security,” cannot do.

Shlomo Vaknin, who heads security for the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, said the sections of the barrier that could be built, have been already been constructed.

“They started with what was easy and they stopped when it got difficult. Now they are stuck,” said Vaknin, who explained that the issues were both international pressure and domestic politics.

The barrier drew international and Palestinian ire from the moment it was first designed as a 364-km. project hugging the Green Line and encircling Jerusalem with some minor portions of the West Bank.

No one argued with Israel’s right to build a barrier on the pre-1967 lines, but the moment it crossed over, the international community and the Palestinians accused Israel of grabbing PA land and unilaterally creating an Israeli border in the West Bank.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice at The Hague issued an advisory opinion that declared the barrier over the Green Line illegal. Over time, the barrier’s concrete slabs, otherwise known as the “wall,” have come to symbolize some of the worst evils of the “occupation” for Palestinians and Israel’s opponents.

Initially, former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert were able to defy the international community and more than doubled the route after a 2006-cabinet vote that firmly encompassed the blocs.

Olmert’s drive to move forward with the project shifted after the IDF deprioritized the barrier in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War, diverting funding to other security needs. The US-led Annapolis peace process also made it difficult to continue.

Israel has continued to work on minor sections of the barrier since by shoring up existing parts of the route rather than pushing forward to place the barrier around the blocs.

In 2014, the Defense Ministry told the Post it was working on completing 525 km. of the barrier, not including Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel. It has refused in the last three months to tell how many kilometers of the route have been completed to date.

After Netanyahu entered office in 2009, Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli predicted to the Post that international outrage over the barrier, particularly from the US, would ground construction to a halt when it came to the issue of placing the barrier around the blocs.

Arieli, is a security expert on the West Bank who has monitored the barrier since its inception. When contacted last week by the Post, he said nothing has changed in the last seven years and that construction of the barrier around the blocs remains untenable. The barrier is still frozen, with some 500 km. completed, he said.

In 2016, the international hostility against the barrier has only grown, with the EU labeling settlement products and the US stating unequivocally that Israeli settlement activity is unacceptable, including retroactive authorizations, infrastructure and planning activity.

As an example of just how complicated it would be to finish the barrier, one need look no further than the Ma’aleh Adumim loop.

That route places E1 inside the barrier. The E1 area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement is one of the most diplomatically contentious pieces of real estate in Judea and Samaria.

Israel wants to build 3,500 housing units on the mostly barren hilltops of E1, but the Palestinians have argued that construction would harm the viability of their future state and make it impossible for them to have continuous development in that area.

The US has successfully pressured every Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin not to freeze E1. Today, nothing, except for a police station, has been built there. That same pressure would extend to the barrier. Placing it around E1 would be akin to constructing apartments on its hilltops.

If Netanyahu were to resume that work, he would risk isolating Israel even further on the international stage, just as the Palestinians are pushing for a United Nations Security Council resolution against the settlements.

Should he look to shorten the route so as to exclude E1, he would need cabinet approval to amend the route but such a vote would destroy his coalition given its widespread support for building there; government ministers would believe that placing E1 outside the barrier would jeopardize its placement within Israel’s final borders.

Arieli said he believes the IDF would take a stab at restarting the Gush Etzion route and possibly a stretch around the built up area of Ma’aleh Adumim, but would not finish it. In October, the IDF did begin some limited work on the barrier in the Bethlehem area of Gush Etzion.

An Israeli official said that when Netanyahu speaks of building a fence, he is prioritizing Israel’s “outer” borders such as Jordan and the Golan. When it comes to the Judea and Samaria barrier, he will be looking first at Jerusalem.

Vaknin said finishing the route would cause turmoil internationally and domestically because there is so little agreement on what constitutes the blocs and many on the Right, including settler leaders, oppose it all together.

Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Perl has always opposed the barrier. The wave of terrorism has not changed his opinion, particularly given that the planned route excludes settlements such as Tekoa and Nokdim and cuts off a portion of Efrat.

“Missiles can fly over a fence and tunnels can be dug underneath it. So why does it help?” he asked.

In contrast, Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel would love to see the barrier constructed, but he said he is having difficulty obtaining funding for even minor security needs.

“I can’t get pennies and you think the Defense Ministry is now going to invest in a multibillion shekel project?” he asked.

In calling for completing the barrier, Herzog, however, never has to worry about funding or details.

At the press club on Wednesday, Herzog was annoyed when queried by the Post as to the specifics of the route he would want to draw around the blocs.

“No one knows what the current route is. There is a whole political turmoil about the route. We are seeing lots of routes and lots of ideas, but it has to be completed and we call on the government to make sure it is completed.”

As opposition leader, Herzog need only point out the problem – he doesn’t actually have to solve it, thus making it a perfect vehicle by which to attack Netanyahu. The more he hammers away, the more the barrier will likely become an albatross around Netanyahu’s neck.

The Next Time Someone Tries to Convince You That Israel is an Evil Country, Show Them This Video