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Latest News in Israel – 16th November

Shooting attack leaves father and son dead near Hebron

Two Israeli civilians – a father and a son – were shot dead and another youth was wounded in a terrorist shooting outside of Otniel on Route 60 in the South Mount Hebron region on Friday afternoon.

A Palestinian gunman fired at an Israeli vehicle, killing the two civilians, before fleeing the area, the IDF Spokesman Unit said. Army units have launched a large search of the area, with troops imposing a siege on the nearby village of Yata.

The fatalities have been identified as Ya’akov Litman and his son, Natanel.

All routes in the area are closed while security forces are searching for the suspect.

“When we arrived at the scene, we saw seven people outside of a van, two of whom, a man in his 40s and an 18-year-old youth, were lying unconscious with gunshot wounds to their upper bodies,” said Noam Bar, an MDA paramedic. “They were showing no signs of life, and there was no other choice but to pronounce them dead at the scene.”

Bar said that his team administered first aid to a 16-year-old boy who was lightly wounded after being shot in one of his extremities. He was rushed to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment. Four others were treated for shock.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday reacted to the shooting attack.

“We will find these lowlife murderers and we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, just as we have done in the past,” Netanyahu said.

The premier vowed that Israel would continue to fight terrorism “wherever it strikes.”

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement, praised the “heroic” killings, though it stopped short of claiming credit for the attack.

According to Palestinian sources in Gaza, passersby are handing out candy in the streets to celebrate the shootings.      (Jerusalem Post)

‘Palestinian ambulance drove by scene without helping Israeli gunshot victims’

The distress call by a 16-year-old teen whose father and brother were murdered, presumably by a Palestinian gunman, near Hebron on Friday reveals that a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance had driven by the scene of the shooting yet did not stop to administer first aid treatment.

Channel 10’s weekly Friday evening newscast aired audio of the call, which confirmed earlier reports on social media that Palestinian paramedics did not tend to the victims of the shooting near the West Bank settlement of Otniel.

Ya’akov Litman and his son, Natanel, were pronounced dead at the scene by Magen David Adom ambulance crews after they were shot by unidentified assailants on Route 60.

“When we arrived at the scene, we saw seven people outside of a van, two of whom, a man in his 40s and an 18-year-old youth, were lying unconscious with gunshot wounds to their upper bodies,” said Noam Bar, an MDA paramedic. “They were showing no signs of life, and there was no other choice but to pronounce them dead at the scene.”

Bar said that his team administered first aid to a 16-year-old boy who was lightly wounded after being shot in one of his extremities. He was rushed to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment. Four others were treated for shock.

The IDF and Magen David Adom said they will investigate the incident further and, if the need arises, will file a formal complaint with the International Red Cross, the umbrella organization whose bylaws apply to both MDA and the Red Crescent.

An initial probe by investigators revealed that the father, Litman, was driving along Route 60 when the driver of another vehicle pulled up alongside him. Litman was shot and subsequently lost control of the vehicle, swerving to the side of the road.

His 18-year-old son then dialed emergency services before he, too, was shot dead. His younger brother, 16, who was lightly wounded in the attack after being shot in the leg, called MDA and reported the incident.

“We’re about a kilometer past Otniel,” he said. “They shot at our car.”

“There’s a Red Crescent ambulance here,” he said. “There are two wounded. At least two. We were seven in the car. One of the wounded was in the middle of calling. We have the Red Crescent here. The Red Crescent left us. I don’t know why.”

Israeli security officials told Channel 10 that it was their understanding that the Red Crescent is responsible for treating Palestinians in areas that are under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

Friday’s attack took place in an area under Israeli control, yet Red Crescent personnel are still required to administer first aid to injured civilians irrespective of their nationality.

If it becomes apparent that Red Crescent first responders deliberately fled the scene and were derelict in their duty to provide care, then the organization is at risk of international sanctions.               (Jerusalem Post)

Shin Bet arrests suspected terrorist who killed Ya’akov and Netanel Litman

A man suspected of carrying out the Friday terror attack near Otniel in the Hebron area was detained by security forces, the Shin Bet announced on Sunday morning.

Other suspects were also detained by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the IDF in the past 24 hours.

Rabbi Ya’akov Litman, 40, and his son Netanel, 18, were shot to death by Palestinian terrorists outside Otniel south of Hebron on Friday afternoon.

Five other family members – Litman’s wife, three daughters aged 5, 9, and 11, and a 16-year-old son – suffered minor wounds. The family was driving to a Shabbat pre-celebration of a fourth daughter’s wedding when the gunmen opened fire on their vehicle. All five were lightly wounded by shrapnel and the resulting crash, but were not shot.

The weapon and vehicle that were used in the attack were located in the arrest.

The suspect implicated himself to the attack during the initial Shin Bet investigation, according to the agency. Other details of the investigation were not allowed for publication.

(Jerusalem Post)

4 Israelis wounded, 1 Palestinian killed in West Bank vehicular attack

Four Israelis were wounded and a Palestinian was killed Saturday night in a collision between two vehicles near the Psagot settlement in the West Bank in a vehicular attack.

Security forces were not sure at first that it was a terrorist attack believing it to have been a car accident. However, following the suspicious movement of the Palestinian’s vehicle at the entrance to Psagot, West Bank district police determined that it was in fact a vehicular attack.

Three Israelis were lightly wounded and one moderately wounded in the attack. The incident was transferred to the IDF and Shin Bet for investigation.

Yisrael Ganz, deputy head of the Binyamin Regional Council and a resident of Psagot, said tonight that “the vigilance of the guards at the entrance gate most likely prevented a much more serious attack. A Palestinian terrorist armed with giant knife tried to enter the settlement with a car with yellow (Israeli) license plates. Following the inspection of the settlement’s guard he turned to the settlement’s access road and intentionally hit the car of a resident of Psagot head on. We have been the victim of terrorist attacks on a dialy basis for weeks now, in the form of stones and Molotov cocktails. We call for a restoration of deterrence and protection of Psagot immediately.”                       (Ynet News)

‘Israel must learn to live with Palestinian terrorism,’ former general says

A former top defense aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Army Radio on Friday that Israel “unfortunately will have to learn to live with a situation” in which its civilians are targeted by Palestinian gunmen on West Bank roadways.

Speaking just hours after a deadly shooting claimed the lives of an Israeli father and son in the southern West Bank, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, the former national security adviser to Netanyahu, said that any talk of “a magic solution” – be it the death penalty for terrorists or increased construction in West Bank settlements – is futile.

“There isn’t anything that we can do tomorrow morning,” Amidror said. “This isn’t like what we experienced [during the second intifada] in 2002, when we had many more deaths. In one month, we had over 100 killed, but it was clear what had to be done.”

Amidror was referring to Operation Defensive Shield, the large-scale re-occupation of Palestinian areas in the West Bank following a rash of deadly suicide bombings in a number of Israeli cities.

“There is no silver bullet, that one thing that we can do so that the problem will be solved,” Amidror told Army Radio. “I hear my colleagues in the Jewish settler leadership saying, ‘Let’s build.’ Okay, if someone believes that the right to do politically is to build, then they will think that whether there are attacks or not. But it’s an illusion to think that building will stop the attacks.”

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman as well as other figures on the Right have proposed that Israel adopt the death penalty for nationalist-motivated crimes, but the former head of research at Military Intelligence says that such a policy would be fruitless.

“The death penalty won’t deter terrorists,” Amidror said. “The State of Israel doesn’t have that one grand thing that it can do. There is no magic solution. Unfortunately, we are going to have to get used to this situation.”

“It will take time, but the other side will eventually understand that it won’t gain a thing,” he said.

Liberman blamed government policy on Friday for encouraging acts of violence like the shooting death near Hebron.

“The attack is a direct consequence of the government’s decision to pursue a policy of containment rather than a policy of vanquishing [terrorism],” Liberman said.

The former foreign minister accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon of “granting immunity” to Hamas leaders in Gaza “who praise the murder of Jews and send Palestinians to clash with IDF troops along the Gaza border fence.”

“That’s not the way to fight terrorism,” Liberman said.                                                    (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian songs encourage youth to attack Jews with ‘knives and cleavers’

Palestinian songs glorifying violent attacks against Jewish Israelis have frequently been featured on Fatah-controlled government radio, Fox News reported Friday, promoting music containing lyrics such as “We’re going down from every house with cleavers and knives,” and ‘With grenades we announce a popular war.”

Coinciding with a wave of terror that has rocked Israel over the last several weeks, leaving in its wake at least a dozen dead Israelis, songs exalting martyrdom and murder have taken over Palestinian airwaves, with the Palestinian Authority leadership doing little to stop the incitement.

“The PA and Fatah movements use all the communications infrastructures at their disposal to fuel the incitement on official PA media, on PA TV, Fatah Facebook, and on Twitter,” according to Nan Jacques Zilberdik, a senior analyst at Jerusalem-based  Palestinian Media Watch.

“They [Palestinian leaders] say that all the terrorists are really just innocent Palestinian victims who were walking by Israeli soldiers on the way to school or on the way to the mosque, then Israel shoots at them and plants knives at the scene,” Zilberdik added.

Meanwhile, music videos uploaded to Youtube displaying montages of Palestinian youths stabbing Israelis, throwing rocks and rioting in the streets accompany songs that encourages its listeners to “Stab the Zionist and say God is Great.”

Along with Palestinian radio, these anthems of incitement spread through social media, television and the black market, where street vendors sell the CDs for the equivalent of $2.50, Fox News added.                 (Jerusalem Post)

Obama Administration Supports EU Labeling of Products from Judea and Samaria

A day after the European Union voted to label Israeli products originating from Judea and Samaria, which infuriated Israelis across the political spectrum, the US administration came out in support of the EU position.

The Obama administration said Thursday it doesn’t consider a new European Union (EU) rule outlawing “Made in Israel” tags on goods from Judea and Samaria as a boycott of the Jewish state, only a technical guideline for consumers.

The EU rule triggered a fierce backlash from both the Israeli government and the Opposition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the EU “should be ashamed.”

“The EU decision is hypocritical and constitutes a double standard; it singles out Israel and not the 200 other conflicts around the world,” the Israeli leader stated on Wednesday. “The EU has decided to label only Israel, and we are not prepared to accept the fact that Europe is labeling the side that is being attacked by terrorism,” he said, referring to the current wave of Palestinian terror throughout Israel.

“I harshly oppose this harmful and superfluous move. It serves only one purpose, the continuation of hate and conflict in the area. Labeling products is a violent act of extremists who want to worsen the situation here even more, and the EU is falling in the trap that they have set,” Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Union party, declared last week.

“What you see is really that some people, and here unfortunately some institutions in the European Union, are taking steps against Israel that are unparalleled in similar situations,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told journalists on Tuesday.

The EU did not taken similar action regarding products made in areas such as Chinese-controlled Tibet or Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, “so we cannot conceive it but as some disguised anti-Semitism,” Steinitz charged.

The US expressed strong support for the EU position on Thursday, clarifying its position regarding goods produced in Israeli communities beyond the pre-Six Day War borders.

“We do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “And as you know, we do not consider settlements to be part of Israel. We do not view labeling the origin of products as being from the settlements as a boycott of Israel.”

Before the EU acted, the US position was more ambiguous. Toner and other officials had stressed only that Washington opposed any boycotting of Israel, while saying the EU’s response “shouldn’t come as a surprise” given Israel’s continued construction of settlements on land the Palestinians seek for their future state.

Toner said the labeling rule only clarifies existing European regulations and wasn’t a “new measure.”

“These are technical guidelines delineating the origin of products. Consumers will then be aware of the origin of a product when purchasing it, as they are made aware for products across the globe,” he said.

While the EU is Israel’s largest trade partner, settlement products account for less than two percent of Israel’s 13 billion euro ($14 billion) exports to Europe each year. Still, the move is highly symbolic, signaling Europe’s growing discontent with Israel amid a long, diplomatic deadlock in the Mideast peace process.

“The Israeli economy is strong and will withstand this; those who will be hurt will be those Palestinians who work in Israeli factories,” Netanyahu asserted.             (United with Israel)

Paris Concert Hall May Have Been Targeted for Jewish Link

In the wake of the terror assault in Paris Friday evening, a leading French news website has suggested that the most deadly location, the Bataclan theater, may have been chosen for its known Jewish and Israel connection. More than 100 people were murdered and scores more injured after gunmen threw explosives, opened fire and subsequently executed hostages in theater as part of a coordinated assault at six different locations in Paris, killing more than 150 people. No group has claimed responsibility, though the AP cited a number of experts suggesting the sophisticated, coordinated attack was most likely conducted by Islamists.

According to the French newsmagazine Le Point, the theater has been the target of threats for years because of its frequent hosting of Jewish and Israel-focused events.

According to the report, an interrogation of a member of the “Jaish al-Islam” group in 2011 led to the suspect’s claim that “We had a planned attack against the Bataclan because the owners are Jews.”

Similarly in December 2008, as seen in the video below, a group of youths wearing kaffiyehs descended upon employees of the theater protesting a planned gala event for the Israeli Border Police.

According to the report, subsequent Israel-focused events were often accompanied by a flurry of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic hate-speech online.

The specific event targeted this evening also had a known Israel connection. The southern-California band, Eagles of Death Metal, performed in Israel this past summer despite public efforts to convince them not to, led by former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters.According to YNet, the band resisted the call vigorously, with guitarist Jesse Hughes claiming to have answered Waters “F– you.”  (The Tower)

Thousands rally in Tel Aviv in solidarity with Paris

Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square filled with thousands of Israelis standing in solidarity with France Saturday night, following the deadly terrorist attack on Paris.

The crowd waved French and Israeli flags and signs reading “Tel Aviv Stands with Paris,” in front of Tel Aviv’s City Hall, which was lit to look like a giant French flag, and bursted into an impromptu rendition of “La Marseillaise” while waiting for the speeches to begin.

“Thank you for your presence,” French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave told the crowd. “It is a vivid testimony to the fact that France is not alone in this struggle.”

Maisonnave posited that his country was struck by terrorism, whose “cruelty knows no limits,” because it is fighting terrorism and the Islamic State in particular.

“Democracies do not seek vengeance, they seek justice. The fight against radical Islam is our common struggle. Let us unite around the values of liberté, egalité and fraternité,” he said in French and English.

Rabin Square lit to honor of France after Paris terror attack in country’s colors

Interior Minister Silvan Shalom said the people of Israel stand with France, and the attack on Paris “reminds us of what is happening here on a daily basis, unfortunately.

“We remember attacks on Toulouse, Hypercacher, Ilan Halimi. They told us it’s just attacks against Jews. We said no, terrorism is terrorism is terrorism. Yesterday it’s France, tomorrow it can happen in other countries in Europe,” he stated.

Speaking first in French, then in English and Hebrew, Shalom called on the free world “to be united and decide to combat terrorism. If we decide to do so, we will prevail.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said the terrorists attacked the French values, which became universal, of liberty, equality and brotherhood.

However, Herzog declared, “Paris will remain the city of light and of enlightenment.”

“We are here from the entire nation, if I may, standing united in expressing brotherhood with the French people…We express deep solidarity with the pain of the French people,” he added.

Former president Shimon Peres also addressed the crowd, in French and Hebrew, saying Israelis “stand shoulder to shoulder in war against barbaric terrorism that harms innocent people around the world.”

“Your war is our war. Your values are our values. They are the values of the enlightened world,” he said, thanking France for standing with Israel in its most difficult hours.

Before the politicians spoke, Israelis in the crowd made very similar statements of solidarity in the fight against terrorism.

Hadas Shlagman of Tel Aviv, a native Israeli, called herself “a citizen of the world” and said she felt like she was in Paris.

“This is a universal problem today. It’s not just us or Paris,” Shlagman said. “Radical Islam is slowly, slowly taking over Europe and who knows, maybe the whole world. This is a war, and the time has come for the world to be more aware. We Israelis are the most aware.”

Rotem Meir from Ramat Gan said he felt he “had to stand in solidarity with the French” and called on the French government to “stop being so humane…and think twice before judging others.”

Referring to the French proposal to declare a Palestinian state in the UN, Meir said: “Maybe they’ll learn force should be used against someone else, not Israel and not Jews.”

Stephane Dor of Tel Aviv, who made Aliyah from France 40 years ago, said “the war on terror is international; it is not just here in Israel.”

“I want to show solidarity and fight this insanity together, without hatred, but to find a solution. This isn’t just our war or France’s war. It’s a war against the whole free world,” she said    (Jerusalem Post)

Israel spy services helping French intelligence on Paris attack

Israeli spy services are monitoring Syria and Iraq which may have yielded intelligence on the organization of the Paris attacks, Army Radio said.

Israel said on Sunday its spy services were helping France investigate the Paris gun and bomb attacks, and Israeli media suggested that intelligence being provided drew on surveillance of militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

After Friday’s rampage, which killed at least 129 people, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered full cooperation with French and other European authorities trying to identify the perpetrators and prevent further attacks.

“The cooperation is ongoing, but in accordance with the prime minister’s directive, intelligence material relevant to what happened has been relayed, and we will also deepen the cooperation,” Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told reporters.

“This information can help the French – and not just the French, by the way – to deal with the aftermath, and not just with what happened, but also with terrorist attacks planned for the future,” Katz said. He declined to give further details.

Army Radio said electronic surveillance of Syria and Iraq – where Islamic State insurgents have conquered swathes of territory – may have yielded intelligence on the organization of the Paris attacks.

According to Channel 2, Israel had no advance warning of the Paris attacks but within hours of the assaults gave France details on some of the Islamic State militants believed to have carried them out.

Citing an unnamed senior Israeli official, Channel 2 said Israel saw a “clear operational link” between the Paris attacks, Thursday’s Beirut suicide bombings and the Oct. 31 downing of a Russian airliner in the Egyptian Sinai.

A Western diplomat said last year that Israel was providing the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State with information gleaned from international travel databases about Western citizens suspected of joining the insurgents.      (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu: Don’t blame terror attacks against Israelis on the settlements

What is at play here is the terrorists deep desire to destroy Israel, Netanyahu said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the international community not to blame Palestinian terror attacks against Israel on settlement building or its actions in the West Bank.

“Just like the French are not guilty, we are not guilty of the terrorism that has been directed at us,” Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday night.

“The terrorists are the ones who are guilty of terrorism, not ‘the territories’ and not ‘the settlements’ and not anything else,” he wrote.

What is at play here is the terrorists deep desire to destroy Israel, Netanyahu said.

This desire “sustains the conflict and drives the murderous attacks against us,” Netanyahu said.

“The terrorists that have attacked us have exactly the same murderous intention as those in Paris,” said the premier.

He drew a direct link between the six consecutive terror attacks in France on Friday night that killed at least 129 people and the Palestinian terror attack in the South Hebron Hills hours earlier in which Ya’akov Litman and his son Natanel were killed by gunmen who shot at their van, lightly wounding five other family members.

“Terror is terror, and what is behind this is radical Islam and the desire to destroy,” said Netanyahu as he urged the international community to move beyond the blame-the-victim attitude it displays toward Israel.

“It is time that the world will wake up and unite in order to defeat terrorism,” the prime minister said. “It is time that countries throughout the world condemn the terrorism against us, just as they condemn terrorism anywhere else.”

He similarly called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn Friday’s terror attack against the Litman family, such as he spoke up on Saturday against the killings in France.

It was his second statement of the day on the matter. During a Jerusalem press conference several hours earlier, Netanyahu said, “You can’t fight terrorism selectively.”

“You can’t say these are the good terrorists and these are the bad terrorists. All terrorists are bad.”                                    (Jerusalem Post)

Indyk: Israel offered Palestinians portions of Area C in West Bank and a building freeze

During the 2013-2014 negotiations Israeli officials were willing to hand portions of Area C of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority and freeze settlement building, Martin Indyk said on Thursday in Tel Aviv.

He served as the US special envoy to the nine months of Israeli-Palestinian talks that ended in failure in April 2014.

“In the last night of the negotiations that I was involved in, the Israeli negotiators came with an offer of tens of thousand of dunams of C Area, that they were prepared to give over to the Palestinian Authority’s control to build what they would want to on them without the permit regime and so on,” Indyk said on Thursday.

“And that came in the context of a settlement freeze,” Indyk told the audience at the Israel Conference on Peace, sponsored by the newspaper Haaretz.

“Why can’t that be done now?” he asked.

He later confirmed the quote  but would not expand upon it.

When Indyk quit his post as special envoy in July 2014 to return to the Brookings Institution in Washington, he cited lack of trust between Israelis and Palestinians as one of the critical reasons the talks, brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, had failed.

In Tel Aviv on Thursday, Indyk said he still felt that “Israelis and Palestinians lacked the trust necessary between them for progress to occur.”

It is still important, however, to push forward to resolve the conflict, Indyk said. “The alternative to not trying is what we face today; a kind of hopelessness that leads nowhere,” he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could be a partner for peace tomorrow if Israel froze settlement building, Indyk said.

“I can tell you from personal experience they [settlements] are the problem,” Indyk said.

He warned that without such a freeze on Jewish building in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli military and civil control, the option for a two-state solution could disappear.

Areas A and B, which amount to 40% of the West Bank, are under the Palestinian Authority’s civil control. But the PA wants control over Area C, where all the Israeli settlements are located, and east Jerusalem, which it views as the capital of its future state.

Without those areas it fears that it would not have enough territory for a viable state.

Indyk and many in the international community agree with that assessment.

“The creeping [Israeli] annexation which is continuing apace every day will make it impossible for any part of that 60% [Area C of the West Bank] to go back to the Palestinians, and therefore there will not be a two-state solution, if something is not done,” Indyk said.

“You can press your government to do that,” he urged the packed auditorium of hundreds of listeners.

Indyk made his plea at a time when Israel is under pressure from the United States and the international community to take steps to preserve the option of a two-state solution, particularly given the absence of a new peace initiative. Last week US officials said they did not believe a final status agreement for the creation of two states could be achieved during the 14 months left in the Obama administration.

They added that even the renewal of talks was unlikely.

Current and former diplomats at the conference in Tel Aviv said they believed talks could be renewed if Israel took steps to improve economic life for the Palestinians, allowed the PA to develop portions of Area C and froze settlement building.

Tony Blair, the former envoy for the Middle East Quartet, was less focused on the issue of settlements and preferred to think instead of ways Israel could empower the Palestinian Authority, particularly economically in exchange for Abbas’s return to the negotiating table.

Such steps could include telecommunications, movement and access, containerization and Palestinian development of Area C.

“There are a series of things that could make a difference to people’s lives on the ground, and improve the Palestinian economy and also have significance politically,” he said.

But any effort to revive peace talks must also include the reunification of Fatah and Hamas and the support of Arab countries in the region, Blair said.

When he was in Washington this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he has not given up hope for a two-state solution. He spent three hours with Kerry discussing ways to advance the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu has persistently called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. The Palestinians have refused to do so unless Israel halts all settlement construction in the West Bank and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has rejected that request and insisted that the heart of the problem is the Palestinian refusal to recognize that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. Netanyahu has similarly ignored a call by the Zionist Union party to freeze building in isolated settlements, so as to ensure that construction can continue in the blocs that Israel hopes to retain in any final state agreement with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu has noted that upon taking office in 2009, he instituted a 10-month moratorium on new settler construction in the West Bank, which did not lead to renewed negotiations. At the conference in Tel Aviv United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said continued settlement building was the stumbling bloc both to the peace process and the two-state solution. He also called on Israel to recognize Palestine as a state.

“If you accept the right of the State of Israel to exist, how can you deny the right of the state of Palestine to exist,” Mladenov said.

“There is a wrong and a right two-state solution,” he said. “The right two-state solution is the state of Israel and Palestine. The wrong two-state solution, is the state of Israel and the settler state in the West Bank,” Mladenov said.

Netanyahu’s words in support of a two-state solution must be backed up by significant policy changes that give the Palestinians hope, he said.

An international architecture must also be set up so that other countries in the region can support the resolution of the conflict, he added.

The frozen little dove of peace must be thawed, he said. Let’s “make sure that when its unfrozen, it’s not dead,” Mladenov said.              (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu faces possible arrest in Spain over Marmara affair

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and seven other former and current government officials are at risk of arrest if they step foot on Spanish soil over the Marmara affair after a judge drew up warrants earlier this week, Spanish media reported Friday.

Other officials in the case include former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman; current and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and Ehud Barak, respectively; former interior minister Eli Yishai; former minister of intelligence Dan Meridor; minster without portfolio Benny Begin; and former head of the Navy Eliezer Marom.

Together with Netanyahu, and excluding Morom, the officials make up the so called ‘Forum of Seven,” an ad-hoc committee of ministers that made key decisions on security issues.

In response to the judge’s order, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said: “We consider it to be a provocation. We are working with the Spanish authorities to get it cancelled. We hope it will be over soon.”

In the 2010 incident, a group of human rights activists and a smaller group of IHH activists (which the quasi-government Turkey Commission Report identified as affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood) boarded several ships to try to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel commandeered and stopped most of the ships without incident, yet when Israel Navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, IHH activists attacked them, leading to some commandos being wounded and, eventually, 10 deaths on the IHH side.

Turkey and many others in the international community accused Israel of war crimes, but it was cleared by the Turkel Commission and the UN-sponsored Palmer Report, which validated some of Israel’s narrative of fighting in self-defense or said there was not sufficient evidence to pursue Israel for war crimes, even as the Palmer Report said some of the IDF’s force was excessive.             (Jerusalem Post)

Israel and Palestine: Too many barriers still prevent a two-state solution


by Sharyn Mittelman                    The Age

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with United States President Barack Obama on November 9 following a year of tension between the two leaders, particularly over Netanyahu’s vocal criticism of the Iran nuclear deal. Differences over Iran were largely put aside as the meeting focused on Israel’s security needs and how it will stabilise relations with the Palestinians. Instead of bickering, the leaders emphasised their countries’ shared interests.

Netanyahu reiterated his support for a two-state solution. “I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace … I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarised Palestinian state that recognises the Jewish state.”

After the meeting, however, the White House said it was unlikely that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would be achieved, or peace talks renewed, in the remaining 14 months of Obama’s term.

Obama is not the first US president to contemplate making Israeli-Palestinian peace as their legacy, only to end up putting it in the too-hard basket. Most famously, Bill Clinton invested significantly in two-state negotiations, only to have PLO chairman Yasser Arafat reject generous offers to create a Palestinian state, first by then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak at Camp David and then a subsequent US proposal.

The Obama administration has had to recognise that trying to prevent a slide into intensified Israeli-Palestinian violence appears to be more important at the minute than to pursue an unlikely peace breakthrough.

The Palestinian leadership has repeatedly rejected calls to resume peace talks halted last year, and over the past month Israel has experienced a wave of Palestinian terror attacks that have killed 12 Israelis. Israelis have been stabbed and shot on buses, in shopping centres, and as they walk in their neighbourhoods, and run down at public transport stops by Palestinian drivers, in hundreds of such attacks. About 72 Palestinians have also been killed, including 43 reported assailants, and others killed in violent clashes with Israel’s Defence Forces.

This recent wave of terror attacks must be seen in the context of rampant Palestinian incitement, particularly with regard to conspiracy theories being circulated about Israeli intentions regarding Jerusalem’s Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa mosque compound. Palestinian discontent with their own leadership is also clearly part of the explanation.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to condemn the stabbing attacks on Israeli civilians and made public statements fuelling the incitement concerning the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa mosque. In September he said, “Every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure, every martyr will reach paradise, and every injured person will be rewarded by God.” He added, “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is ours … They have no right to desecrate the mosque with their dirty feet.”

Israel has repeatedly said it will not change the Temple Mount status quo – which allows only Muslims to pray at the holy site, while non-Muslims may visit at restricted times – and reached a US-mediated agreement with Jordan two weeks ago to safeguard those arrangements.

Meanwhile, according to a September public opinion poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, 57 per cent of Palestinians surveyed support a return to an armed intifada, a sharp rise from a couple of months previously. Yet, according to the same poll, only 28 per cent believe the most serious problem confronting Palestinian society today is the continuation of occupation and settlement activities, while 26 per cent say it is poverty and unemployment; and 24 per cent say it is the spread of corruption. Meanwhile, 65 per cent of Palestinians surveyed demanded Abbas resign.

What has Abbas achieved in his 10 years as President for the Palestinian people? He claims to support a two-state outcome, and yet has twice walked away from peace negotiations with Israel – first from former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008 of a Palestinian state on about 97 per cent of the West Bank and east Jerusalem plus Gaza and land swaps. Then in 2014, the Palestinian Authority decided to discontinue negotiations with Israel and instead join a unity deal with the rejectionist and Islamist Hamas – despite agreement from Israel’s Netanyahu government to accept parameters for peace “in the zone of agreement”, according to US mediators.

Even if Abbas decided to sign a peace deal, he is now 80 years old and considered too weak and unpopular to be able to implement such an agreement. In the absence of reliable Palestinian leadership – which remains divided between Hamas in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, some commentators suggest Israel should unilaterally withdraw to the pre-1967 lines.

However, Israel tried this in Gaza in 2005 and it has resulted in thousands of unprovoked rocket attacks on Israel, leading to bloody conflicts with Hamas in 2009, 2012 and 2014. Given this experience – the much greater danger to Israel from similar attacks emanating from the West Bank, and the reality that Islamic extremists such as Islamic State are taking advantage of any power vacuum across the region – Israel needs a stable, reliable partner to even contemplate a withdrawal from the West Bank.

Yet polls show a majority of Israelis continue to support a two-state resolution in exchange for peace.

Since that dream currently appears distant, the US is right to refocus on encouraging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to look to interim arrangements that will bring this two-state goal closer.

Sharyn Mittelman is a senior policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

Whatever Jordanian preachers of hate say, nothing in Islam justifies the stabbing of innocent Jews

By LU’AYY MINWER AL-RIMAWI                         The Jerusalem Post


“There is neither pride nor courage in stabbing unsuspecting Jews, only cowardice and venom.”

No fair-minded person should refute the need for even-handedness when viewing recent events that have turned the streets of Jerusalem into indiscriminate killing zones.

Yet lack of such even-handedness is precisely what has characterized the debate in Arab countries. For glorifying the callous murder of Jews and extolling them not only exposes how disparate the two sides are, but also the lack of courage and objectivity which characterizes the Arab world. This is especially true as there are not enough words to sufficiently condemn those who have perpetrated the latest spate of heinous stabbings of innocent Jews on the streets of Jerusalem and elsewhere.

For there is neither pride nor courage in stabbing unsuspecting Jews, only cowardice and venom.

Indeed, how can anyone with an iota of decency justify the murderous stabbings of innocent Jews and characterize the criminality of its perpetrators as “martyrdom”? Yet the Arabic media (official and private) was awash with articles and opinions extolling the virtues of such attacks, with no consideration given to the plight of innocent victims – only because they happened to be Jews.

Courage dictates that we unequivocally state: Regardless of whatever political, religious and irredentist grievances Arabs and Jews may have against each other, nothing justifies this callous dehumanization of Jewish victims whose only crime was that they happened to be waiting at a bus stop or engaging in some other mundane activity.

For their part, Jordanian Islamic preachers of hate who, for decades, have unashamedly deployed anti-Semitic language, dehumanizing Jews, lost their moral compass long before they lost their humanity.

Indeed, because of this venomous demagogy wrapped in pseudo-righteousness, Islam has become today akin to a satanic cult of hatred, spewing violent ideologies that justify Islamic State, al-Qaida and countless Islamic terrorist entities – with the silent Islamic majority engulfed in hypocrisy, corruption and supine complacency.

For, thanks to Islamic preachers of hate, who have moulded Islam in their own vengeful images, the word “Islam” today has, rightly or wrongly, come to symbolize a conglomeration of inner feuding and violent extremes. The images of the internecine conflict between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Syria and Iraq, with barbaric beheadings and brutal practices, are a reminder of such inner feuding and violent extremes.

Regrettably, radical Muslims today have forgotten about Koranic verses ordering Muslims to “Call to the path of God through wisdom, gracious and good advice” [Al-Nhl: 125], and “Do not betray your trust knowingly” [Al-Anfal: 27]. Modern-day Muslim radicals have even become conspicuously oblivious to the exhortations of the first-ever Islamic caliph, Abu Bakr (573-634 AD), who told Muslim soldiers in 634 AD: “Do not betray, do not be disproportionate, do not be treacherous nor perfidious, do not disfigure the dead, do not kill small children, nor old people, nor women, do not destroy palm trees nor burn them, do not cut a fruitful tree, nor slaughter a sheep, cow or camel unless for food. When you come across worshipers in their monasteries and temples let them be and leave them alone, etc.”

Indeed, in contrast to today’s Muslim radicals justifying the callous murder of innocent Jews, one only needs to look at the respect in which the highest echelons of early Muslim leadership held the Jews, at a time when Christians persecuted Jews and banished them from Jerusalem – even taking the unprecedented step of guaranteeing Jewish presence in Jerusalem. For, under caliph Omar bin al-Khattab (583-644 AD) Jews were allowed to stay in Jerusalem, contrary to the stipulations of the Christian religious authorities (represented by Bishop Sofronius) who had handed the Holy City to the Muslims.

Indeed, one even gets the sense of pride and optimism which some Jewish quarters was displayed that the Holy City had fallen to their “cousins,” the sons of Ishmael. Such optimism was not misplaced: The new Muslim rulers of the Holy City not only consented to Jewish presence in Jerusalem, but even allocated certain areas of the Holy City to the Jews to practice their religion.

This is something which Simon Dubnow particularly confirmed in The History of the Jews: Vol. 2: From the Roman Empire to the Early Medieval Period (Barnes & Co, 1968), where it is stated that: “When the Christians headed by bishop Sofronius, had surrendered to Omar, they stipulated that the ban on the Jews inhabiting the city be retained … But the preserved Jewish traditions tell us that, when instead of the might of Edom that of Ishmael came into being, the Jews had access to Jerusalem once again … The Arabs did not observe it [the clause banning Jews from Jerusalem] after the capitulation … According to tradition the Arabs yielded to the Jews a place on the Mount of Olives for prayer meetings and festival days.” (pp.326–327).

As to the high respect which early Muslims had for Christians and their holy places, it was clear from the conduct of caliph Omar when he received the keys of Jerusalem in 637 AD. For he adamantly insisted to pray in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre instead of praying inside it for fear that it would set a precedent and that as a result the church would be converted into a mosque by future Muslim generations.

Indeed, as I personally reject this regression into murdering Jews because they are Jews within this disturbing hype of Arab media incitement, I call for the narrative of relations between Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere to be punctuated by humility, mutual respect and non-propagandistic incriminations. Needless to say, it’s a duty dictated by decency to confront the virulent ideology of hate and bigotry.

The writer is Jordanian Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program (2013-2014), program leader of the MA program in Islamic financial and business law at BPP University (London) and international director (Middle East) for the Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime, Jesus College, Cambridge University. He is the author of Raising Capital on Arab Equity Markets: Legal and Juridical Aspects of Arab Securities Regulation (Kluwer Law International, 2012).

How a year of war and terror changed Arab Israelis’ views


Survey shows Israel’s Arab population is feeling increasingly alienated from the Jewish state — but that doesn’t mean they want out

by Ben Sales     The Times of Israel

In April 2014, nearly 60 percent of Israel’s 1.7 million Arab citizens said they felt “part of the state and its problems.” The 11 months that followed saw the nationalistically motivated murders of four teenagers — three Jewish and one Arab — a two-month war in the Gaza Strip, a wave of terror in Jerusalem and a tense election campaign.

By March 2015, the month of the election, only 28 percent of Arab-Israelis felt part of the country and its problems.

That’s the starkest of several indications of Arab-Israeli alienation from the state in the latest Israel Democracy Index, a comprehensive annual survey of Israeli attitudes conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute think tank and presented Tuesday.

Notably, the tumultuousness of that year — which included 1,500 Arab Israelis arrested during protests, a string of riots and terror attacks in eastern Jerusalem and one hardline party pushing a plan that would put Arab population centers outside Israel’s borders — did not discernibly sour Jewish Israelis on their country. If anything, the opposite was in evidence.

In 2014, 69 percent of Jews felt good about their personal situation. In 2015, it was 76 percent. In both years, 42 percent of Jews said Israel was doing well. Last year, only a third of Jews said the government was handling the country’s problems well. This year, 36 percent said they trusted the government. Last year, 78 percent felt part of the state and its problems, as opposed to 88 percent in 2015.

But along with the scant 28 percent of Arab-Israelis that felt a sense of belonging in Israel in 2015, only 28 percent characterized the country’s situation as good, as opposed to 54 percent last year. Last year, 45 percent said there was a high level of tension between Jews and Arabs. This year: 67 percent.

In 2014, a majority of Arabs trusted then-President Shimon Peres, a champion of the two-state solution. This year, only 39 percent support President Reuven Rivlin — an opponent of Palestinian statehood — despite his efforts to reach out to and integrate Arabs-Israelis. The share of Arabs who trust the army dropped from nearly half to 36 percent.

Israeli Arabs’ pessimism extended to everyday life. In 2014, 57 percent of Arab-Israelis said they were discriminated against as a group. This year, that number jumped to 86 percent. Last year, 46 percent of Arab said they belonged to the “weak” half of Israeli society. This year, it was 66 percent.

Still, Arab-Israelis seem relatively happy with their personal lives. Nearly two-thirds said their lives were good this year, as opposed to just half last year. And this year, 83 percent of Israeli Arabs said they would stay in Israel even if they could gain citizenship in a Western country.

Just because they’re unhappy with the country, in other words, doesn’t mean they want to leave.

Interesting article from Daniel Pipes on the Paris Massacre and how he thinks European Leaders will react and not always in concert with their constituents

(Does not directly relate to Israel other than trying to explain the mindset of European Leaders)


This information is compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman, Board Member of the Zionist Council of NSW