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Latest News in Israel – 16th September

Former President Peres’ Condition Still Serious, but Improving, Doctors Say

Israeli former President Shimon Peres’ condition is still serious, but it has improved, doctors said Wednesday, after the nonagenarian statesman suffered a major stroke late Tuesday.

In the early morning, doctors conducted another medical examination of the Nobel laureate, and he was briefly taken off of medication. “He woke up, opened his eyes, and understood what we told him. He followed our instructions even better than the previous test,” said Prof. Ze’ev Feldman, a member of the neurosurgical team treating Peres.

His son-in-law and personal doctor, Prof. Rafi Walden, said earlier that Peres was responsive when taken out of the induced coma for the first time overnight Tuesday.

Shimon Peres’ personal doctor and son-in-law, Prof. Rafi Walden, updates the press about the former president’s condition on Wednesday, September 14, 2016.Moti Milrod

“This indicates that his cognitive functions are working and that he is capable of comprehending words and translating them into actions. Regaining consciousness and following basic instructions are definitely an important phase and indicates an improvement,” Feldman said.

After the examination, Peres was put back into a coma to allow him to rest, though doctors say he is no longer receiving any medication.

“The recuperation process is currently a natural one [by the brain] and can take weeks or even more. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be ups and downs. Formally, he is still in serious but stable condition, with a slight improvement,” Feldman said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Peres Wednesday evening, saying that he and his wife are praying for him. “We are relieved that the situation has improved since yesterday,” Netanyahu told reported.

Peres was rushed to Tel Hashomer hospital late Tuesday day after suffering a massive stroke. His personal doctor, Prof. Walden, said he seemed responsive overnight.

“We were happy to see that when there was a short pause in the anesthetics, we realized that he’s responsive, that he’s probably attentive to what we’re saying to him. He shook our hand,” Walden said.

“All the parameters are stable – blood pressure, heart rate, blood saturation,” Waldan told reporters, adding that that gave him a “certain optimism.”

“The chances of survival are pretty good. As for the degree of neurological recovery, nobody can say at this early stage,” Walden said.

The head of the hospital said Wednesday that Peres, 93, was now in the neurosurgical intensive care unit.

Speaking to reporters outside the hospital, Dr. Itzik Kreiss said the hospital would hold a press conference in the afternoon to brief the public on Peres’ condition.

Over a seven-decade career, Peres held virtually every senior political office in Israel, including three terms as prime minister and stints as foreign and finance minister. He won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in reaching an interim peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Earlier this year, Peres was twice hospitalized for heart problems but quickly released. His office said Peres received a pacemaker last week.

Talking to reporters outside the hospital last night, Peres’ son, Chemi, said his father’s condition “wasn’t simple.” He thanked the hospital staff and said the family “will have make decisions later on.”

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone with the hospital director, who updated him on Peres’ condition. Netanyahu relayed his and the people’s wishes for a speedy recovery.

President Reuven Rivlin said: “I am following with concern the updates from the hospital, and pray together with the entire people for my friend Shimon’s recovery.”

A stroke is a medical condition in which there is an interruption of blood flow to a certain part of the brain. The causes can be a hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, which can block blood vessels, a clot, or the rupture of blood vessels in the brain which can cause intracranial bleeding.

Medical sources believe that it was a Myocardial infarction that caused an embolism, which in turn created a blood clot in Peres’ brain, causing a hemorrhage.

Peres, Israel’s elder statesman, was an architect of a 1993 interim peace deal with the Palestinians known as the Oslo Accords, for which he won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.

As a defense official in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Peres was also a founder of Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona.              (Haáretz)

Peres could begin rehab if he passes critical days ahead, expert says

If former president Shimon Peres’s condition remains stable and he passes the critical days ahead with no decline in his physical condition, he could begin rehabilitation in about a month, according to Dr. Tatiana Vander, a senior neurologist and head of the day rehabilitation unit at Herzfeld Rehabilitation Hospital in Gedera.

Vander said on Wednesday that while she is not involved in the 93-year-old former president’s case, there are some positive signs.

“In a few weeks, a month, it will be clear if he has left the immediate dangerous situation and can be rehabilitated,” said Vander, whose hospital is part of the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot.

“If he reaches this stage and the family chooses to do so, we would be happy to admit him and do all we can for him. We have much experience and many resources,” said Vander.

The fact that Peres is 93 is a drawback, she said, but because he was in good mental and physical condition before his hemorrhagic stroke is good.  “I recently treated a 94-year-old man who was sedated and respirated but underwent rehabilitation and was able to talk and even walk. He is now back in his supportive-living geriatric home,” she said.

The fact that Peres’s doctors at Sheba Medical Center decided not to perform brain surgery at this time to drain the blood could be a good sign or a bad sign.

Either the damage to the brain was in a place where surgery would cause damage, or the neurosurgeons realized that the massive bleeding, which ended on its own after midnight Wednesday, could resolve itself on its own. “I support the Sheba doctors on their decision; they are very experienced.”

Within about a month, blood in the brain could break down and be absorbed. But if there was massive bleeding, the brain automatically suffers damage, because parts of the brain lacked oxygen-rich blood.

The fact that when sedation was reduced and his son-in-law Prof. Rafi Walden asked him to grip his hand and Peres in fact did so, is very positive, said Vander. “If he has shown any sign of communication, it is a good sign.”

A rehabilitation expert should — and may already — have been called to Peres’s bedside in the neurosurgical intensive care unit at Sheba to begin assessment of his case, she added.

“The questions to be considered over the coming weeks are how much damage was suffered, how the damage will be expressed and — if he remains stable without complications — if and how he can be weaned from the respirator and rehabilitated.

Intensive rehabilitation to restore functions include preventing infections and the use of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

One can’t compare the situations of the late prime minister Ariel Sharon and Peres, even though Sharon was younger, because Sharon underwent numerous surgical interventions and never left his coma, which went on for years, she said.

Earlier in the day, Sheba director-general Prof. Yitzhak Kreiss said Peres passed the night “peacefully and his condition is still serious but stable.”

He was transferred from regular intensive care to the neurosurgical intensive care unit for treatment and followup. “We are in ongoing contact with the family in making decisions and have very good cooperation with them,” Kreiss said.

Walden thanked Sheba’s multidisciplinary medical team for their “correct decisions.” He called on all the Jewish People who “join us in prayers and hopes for his recovery.”

Dr. Yuli Treger, head of the Rehabilitation Society in the Israel Medical Association, noted that any serious stroke, which deprives parts of the brain of blood, can lead to a paralyzed arm or leg and the inability to walk, function independently or speak.

Every year, 15,000 Israelis suffer strokes. Between 30% and 50% of those who have a first stroke will have a second one during the first year, according to research, and the second one may be even more serious, he said.

“Unfortunately, there is no injection or pill that can restore the stroke victim to what he was before. He and those who rehabilitate him have to work hard to improve function. Many who survive a stroke suffer from depression and difficulty functioning on a routine basis or even leaving the house.

If the arm or leg is paralyzed, it affects the side opposite the location of the harm to the brain. Patients must carry out aerobic activity — getting the heart and lungs to function vigorously — on a daily basis. In addition to physical activity, the stroke victim must also “exercise” the mind with reading, playing with Lego, puzzles, computers or chess. Join a community center with activities for the elderly, said Treger.

Exercising, having a normal weight, not smoking, keeping diabetes in balance, bringing blood pressure to normal limits, relaxing and eating right is the best way to prevent oneself from getting a stroke in the first place.                    (Jerusalem Post)

US General: Israel is key to fighting world’s terrorism problem

“Israel is a key piece in the puzzle” to solving the world’s growing terrorism problem, US Brig. Gen. (ret.) Russell Howard said Wednesday at the IDC Herzliya Conference on Counter-Terrorism on the university’s campus.

Howard made the comment as part of a panel on learning lessons from recent major terror attacks around the world.

He expressed confidence about the US ability’s to cope with the ongoing terror threat, but serious concern that Europe was not up to the job.

The retired general also said that Europe has a bigger problem as in 2015 it had around 5,000 European citizens fighting in Iraq and Syria, meaning it could have 5,000 battle-hardened terrorists returning back to its shores. In contrast, he put the number of US citizens fighting in the same area at a much more manageable 200.

Another panelist, Editor of the CTC Sentinel Paul Cruickshank, put the number of European-citizen-fighter who might return as high as 6,000-9,000.

Friedrich Grommes, Germany’s Head of Directorate TE, International Terrorism and International Organized Crime, described the terror threat as evolving from earlier periods.

In earlier periods, a big concern was “sleeper cells,” terrorists “planted” in a country long ago to rise through a country’s ranks, living normal-seeming lives, until they reached the right position and moment to strike.

Grommes said that currently “there are no real sleeper cells” as many terrorists move fast, hitting targets in foreign countries as soon as they have done minimal surveillance.

The German intelligence czar said this gives Western intelligence a much shorter period in which to identify and catch terrorists, which requires legislation to give them stronger means, especially in accessing private data.

He also expressed concern about the complexity of the large volume of Syrian migrants who have arrived in Germany, many of who may start out as harmless, but could be radicalized by ISIS while stuck without work during the long wait for their requests for refugee status to be recognized.

IDC Dean of the Lauder School of Government Boaz Ganor provided one positive update, noting that in the Facebook era it is finally possible to track and stop some lone wolf terrorists by tracking postings which are pro-terror groups, In contrast, prior to Facebook posts, such lone wolves went completely under the radar since they had no formal communications with other terrorists which could be spied on.

In a later panel on the dilemmas that law-abiding countries face when up against asymmetric terrorists who ignore the laws of war, former IDF international law division head Col. (res.) Daniel Reisner started with the controversial statement that, “there is no leg requirement in the laws of war for a proportionate response” to being attacked.”

Next, he asked about the demand for proportionality – “where is this coming from?” He said that some of it related to the bad public picture of so many Palestinian casualties in the 2014 Gaza war compared to a much smaller number of Israeli casualties, but also implied that there were serious legal scholars who were demanding proportional responses in overall fighting of wars who had other agendas.

Reisner’s criticism was at the forest level of general force brought to bear over the course of an entire war. All of this is separate from the set law that a specific attack which harms civilians within a war must not cause disproportionate harm compared to the military advantage the one specific attack was designed to achieve.

He said “international law doesn’t have answers” to the large and highly-relevant questions he raised.

Responding, Emory international law professor Laurie Blank disagreed, saying that “we have well-established frameworks for the use of force,” while acknowledging that often applying those rules to the current challenges of fighting non-state terror entities was not an easy task.    (Jerusalem Post)

Israel strikes Gaza terror sites in response to rocket

The Israel Air Force struck three Hamas terror infrastructure sites in the Gaza Strip in response to an earlier rocket fired at Israel, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said Thursday morning.

The northern Gaza sites reportedly belonged to the Hamas terror group.

The IDF said that they hold Hamas responsible for anything that happens in the Gaza Strip and will “do its utmost to preserve the calm in Israel’s southern cities.”

Late on Wednesday night, a mortar shell landed in Israel in an open field in the Eshkol Regional Council, near the security fence with Gaza.

The mortar firing did not prompt a red alert siren and there were no reports of damage or injury from the incident.

This latest rocket comes one day after firings along the country’s northern border. On Tuesday,  three mortar shells fired from Syria slammed into the Golan Heights, ramping up tensions on the northern border hours after IAF jets struck Syrian artillery guns and were targeted by two surface-to-air missiles fired at them from Syria in the predawn hours of Tuesday.

The Israeli jets had struck in southern Syria in response to earlier cross-border stray fire into Israel, in line with a policy of retaliating to each case, whether stray or deliberate.   (Jerusalem Post)

Amos Oz: Those who deny Israel’s right to exist are antisemites

Famed author and Israel Prize laureate Amos Oz said calling for the destruction of Israel is antisemitic and spoke out against the BDS movement on Tuesday night.

Speaking to Kirsty Wark of BBC’s Newsnight program, Oz said, “I can tell you exactly where I draw the line. If people call Israel nasty, I to some degree agree. If people call Israel the devil incarnate, I think they are obsessed – they are mad. But this is still legitimate.

“But if they carry on saying that therefore there should be no Israel, that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism, because none of them ever said after Hitler that Germany should cease to exist, or after Stalin that there should be no Russia,” he said.

“Saying that Israel should cease to exist, or should not have come into being, this is crossing the line,” he said.

When asked about his position regarding the BDS movement, Oz replied that he thinks the boycott is “hurting the wrong people.”

“The idea that all Israelis are villains is a childish idea. Israel is the most deeply divided, argumentative society. You’ll never find two Israelis who agree with one another – it’s hard to find even one who agrees with himself or herself,” he said.

“Boycott is the wrong way, because it hardens the Israeli resistance, and it deepens the Israeli paranoia that the whole world is against us, always has been against us, they don’t even discriminate between one Israeli and the next, they boycott all of us and whatever they do they are going to hate us, so let’s be bad guys for a change,” he told the BBC host.

Oz said that while the boycott was very effective in the case of South Africa, it does not apply to Israel.

“You have to be very stupid to think the prescription – the medicine that worked very well against cholera – will also kill the plague,” he said. “This is a kind of laziness, mental laziness. South Africa was bad.

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is bad, in a totally different way. You need a different prescription.”

Oz was on the show to discuss his new book Judas, whose role in history was a “traitor.”

The author said that over time Judas’s story had become the “Chernobyl of Western antisemitism for 2,000 years.

More people paid with their blood for this bloody story than for any other story ever told. Pogroms, inquisitions, persecutions and the Holocaust, because in the populist mind all of us [Jews] are Judas,” he said.

Oz also called out the double standards and “hypocrisy” when it comes to Israel by many on the Left.

“There are many, many people in this country [UK] and the whole of Europe who have a very soft spot for the Third World, saying ‘Well those people have suffered a lot, you have to understand it is only natural they are violent,” he said. “When it comes to the Jews they often say: ‘Well they have suffered so much. How can they be violent after such an experience?’” Oz said he believes no one should try to be “100% pro-Israel or 100% pro-Palestine,” but said people should try to “grasp the complexity and the ambivalence of the clash between right and right and sometimes between wrong and wrong.”   (Jerusalem Post)

U.S.-Israel Security Aid Agreement Prevents Congress from Giving Israel More Money in 2017 and 2018

As part of a 10-year U.S.-Israel security aid agreement, the Israeli government has signed a letter promising to give back any additional money that Congress appropriates, effectively preventing Congress from giving Israel any more money than President Obama wants it to have.

The White House will sign today a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Israel that would increase U.S.-Israel security aid from $3.1 billion a year to $3.3 billion, starting in 2018. The deal would also include, for the first time, $500 million of annual missile defense funding, bringing the annual total to $3.8 billion. But Congress, in its appropriations bill, has been planning to give Israel $3.4 billion, plus $600 million for missile defense, in 2017.

The Obama administration had been holding off on signing the deal until Congress reduced its funding to meet Obama’s proposed levels, but Congress refused to do so. So the administration pressed Israel to promise not to lobby for additional money. Israel agreed, but that wasn’t enough.

In an unprecedented arrangement, the White House and the Israeli government have found a way to prevent Congress from increasing U.S. aid for 2017 and 2018. The Israeli government has signed a letter promising to return any money given by Congress above the MOU levels for those two years.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that manages the foreign affairs budget, told me he was informed of the unusual arrangement by the Israelis and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

“As part of this deal, Israel has signed a letter to this administration saying they will not accept the money above the MOU amount and they would return it,” Graham said. “I said, ‘I think y’all have lost your mind. You’ve been trying to get a foreign government to help you take over the appropriations process.’ ”

Administration sources confirmed to me that the arrangement exists and said that the Israeli government had “volunteered” to give back any money above the deal’s limits. Graham said the Israelis told him they wrote the letter promising to return any extra funds.

“You know the White House pressured them into writing that letter,” Graham said. “It is a level of antagonism against Israel that I can’t understand.”

Graham pointed out that Congress regularly increases foreign aid above the levels in MOUs when dealing with other countries. For example, Congress increased foreign aid to Jordan above its $1 billion annual allotment last year in light of that country’s refugee crisis.

A senior Obama administration official told me that keeping the levels of aid equal to the MOU was important because a critical component of the MOU is that it provides predictability for planning purposes.

“In this context, changes to funding levels under the MOU in either direction are a threat to the integrity of the MOU, impeding planning and undermining confidence in future appropriations,” the official said.

The official pointed to a July 25 statement issued by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that said “it is not in Israel’s interest for there to be any changes to the fixed annual MOU levels” and pledging that Israel is not seeking additional funding.

“Israel understands that, once the precedent of changes to MOU levels is established, it would create uncertainty that is undesirable for both sides,” the official said. “Ultimately, the United States fully agrees with Israel on the need to respect the integrity of the MOU and avoid changing the appropriation level in any given year. It is for this reason that we also oppose any appropriation greater or less than those specified in the MOU.”

But even former Obama administration officials have stated that it’s actually standard for Congress to retain its right to appropriate foreign aid at levels it alone determines. Tamara Cofman Wittes, a Brookings Institution scholar and former Middle East official in the Obama administration, tweeted this week that Congress still has the right to appropriate whatever it wants.

Wittes pointed out that the last U.S.-Israel MOU made clear that the agreement was “subject to the appropriation and availability of funds for these purposes,” meaning that Congress still played a role.

Graham is planning to take his fight over what he sees as an executive power grab to the Senate floor. He is going to propose a new and additional $1.5 billion supplemental aid bill for Israel next year, and he predicts Republicans and Democrats will support it.

Why Israel would agree to both not seek and not accept any additional funding from Congress is unclear. What is clear is that the White House has effectively taken Congress out of the Israel aid game for at least two years. If Israel’s security needs go up between now and then, it will have to look outside the United States for help.

The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a statement Wednesday reaffirming Congress’s right to appropriate security aid to Israel at its own discretion, regardless of the levels in the MOU.

“Congress was not consulted during the negotiation of the MOU,” said Ryan’s press secretary AshLee Strong. “We will continue to appropriate the funds that we determine are necessary to meet the needs of our shared security interests in the Middle East.”   (The Washington Post)

Archeologists find 1st-century gold coin with Nero’s image in Jerusalem

A rare, well-preserved gold coin struck in 56-57 CE, bearing the image of Roman Emperor Nero, was found by archeologists from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte during a recent excavation on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, just outside the Old City, it was announced Wednesday.

Described as an “emperor, theater actor, poet,” Nero, a flamboyant ruler who took the throne at age 17, was perhaps best known for killing his mother, who married his great uncle Claudius.

He was also notable for persecuting Christians, before taking his own life during a Roman revolt.

The last of the Julio-Claudian line, Nero was emperor for 14 years (54-68 CE). He had a reputation for being a tyrant, and some believed he was responsible for the devastating fire of 64 CE that resulted in the burning of much of Rome.

“The coin is exceptional because this is the first time that a coin of this kind has turned up in Jerusalem in a scientific dig,” said Dr. Shimon Gibson, who co-directed the excavation with Dr. James Tabor and Dr. Rafael Lewis.

“Coins of this type are usually found only in private collections, where we don’t have clear evidence as to place of origin.”

The gold coin (aureus) bears the bareheaded portrait of the young Nero as Caesar. The lettering around the edge of the coin reads: “NERO CAESAR AVG IMP.” On the reverse of the coin is a depiction of an oak wreath containing the letters “EX S C,” with the surrounding inscription “PONTIF MAX TR P III.”

“Importantly, these inscriptions help to work out the date when the coin was struck as 56/57 AD,” said Gibson, noting that its identification was made by historian and numismatist Dr. David Jacobson in London.

Nero Israel

The gold coin bearing the image of Roman Emperor Nero discovered on Mount Zion

According to Gibson, the coin dates back to a little more than a decade before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. It was found in ancient rubble outside the ruins of the first-century Jewish villas the team excavated.

“The coin probably came from one of the rich 2,000-yearold Jewish dwellings which the UNC Charlotte team have been uncovering at the site,” he said. “These belonged to the priestly and aristocratic quarter, located in the Upper City of Jerusalem. Finds include the well-preserved rooms of a very large mansion, a Jewish ritual pool (mikve) and a bathroom, both with their ceilings intact.”

Gibson said the team believes the large houses may have belonged to wealthy members of the priestly caste.

“This mansion and others like it were utterly destroyed by Titus and the Roman legions, when Jerusalem was razed to the ground,” he said. “It is likely – owing to the intrinsic value of the gold coin – [that] it was hidden away ahead of the destruction of the city, and was missed by the marauding and looting Roman soldiers.”

The image of Nero is significant in that it shows the presence of the Roman occupation and provides a clear date for the occupation of the residences, he said.

While there is no historical evidence that Nero ever visited Jerusalem, Tabor said the coin is dated “to the same year of Saint Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, which resulted in his arrest (on the charge of taking Gentiles into the Temple) and incarceration in Caesarea.”

“It’s a valuable piece of personal property, and wouldn’t have been cast away like rubbish or casually dropped,” he said. “It’s conceivable that it ended up outside these structures in the chaos that happened as this area was destroyed.”

Gibson said the summer dig, which recently concluded and uncovered other significant finds, will resume next year.   (Jerusalem Post)

The Oslo Disaster: Executive Summary

by Efraim Karsh              The Middle East Forum

http://www.meforum.org/blog/2016/09/karsh-oslo-disaster

Viewed from a 23-year vantage point, the Oslo “peace process” between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) stands as one of the worst-ever calamities to have hit Israelis and Palestinians.

For Israel, it has been the starkest strategic blunder in the country’s history – establishing an ineradicable terror entity on Israel’s doorstep, deepening its internal cleavages, destabilizing its political system, and weakening its international standing.

For West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, it has brought about subjugation to corrupt and repressive PLO and Hamas regimes – regimes that have reversed the hesitant advent of civil society in these territories, shattered their socioeconomic wellbeing, and made the prospects for peace and reconciliation with Israel ever more remote.

This abject failure is a direct result of the Palestinian leadership’s perception of the process as a pathway not to a two-state solution — meaning Israel alongside a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza — but to the subversion of the State of Israel; not to nation-building and state creation, but to the formation of a repressive terror entity that would perpetuate conflict with Israel while keeping its hapless constituents in constant and bewildered awe as its leaders line their pockets from the proceeds of this misery.

So long as things on the Palestinian side are permitted, or even encouraged, to remain as they are, there will be no progress whatsoever toward peace. There will be no advancement towards peace in the framework of a French-initiated international conference, nor even in bilateral talks (were the Palestinians to be somehow coerced to return to the negotiating table).

Just as the creation of free and democratic societies in Germany and Japan after World War II necessitated a comprehensive sociopolitical and educational transformation, so it will only be when Palestinian society undergoes a real “spring” that the century-long conflict between Arabs and Jews can at long last be resolved and a semi-functioning Palestinian state come into being. This requires sweeping the corrupt and oppressive PLO and Hamas rulers from power, eliminating endemic violence from political and social life, and teaching the virtues of coexistence with Israeli neighbors.

Sadly, the possibility of a Palestinian spring, which seemed to be in the offing in 1993 when the PLO hovered on the verge of extinction and West Bank and Gaza leadership appeared eager to strike a historic deal within the framework of the Washington peace negotiations, has been destroyed for the foreseeable future by the Oslo “peace process.”

End US aid to Palestinian terrorists

by Dan Coats          The Jerusalem Post

To provide US taxpayer money to Abbas and his government so that they can treat terrorists as heroes or glorious martyrs is morally unacceptable

http://www.jpost.com/printarticle.aspx?id=467652

For the past 18 years, the Palestinian Authority has honored Palestinian terrorists serving criminal sentences in Israeli prisons and rewarded the families of those “martyred” by their own violent acts.

This comes as no surprise to Israelis, who have both suffered the attacks of terrorists for decades and watched as the terrorists themselves were honored with official salaries or buried as patriotic heroes.

But it is a surprise to American officials.

Even after two decades of PA support for terrorism, the Obama administration continues to ignore it or even make excuses for these payments.

A recent State Department publication dismissed the payments as “an effort to reintegrate [released prisoners] into society and prevent recruitment by hostile political factions.” Even in the unlikely event leaders at the US State Department actually believe this, they would have to explain why these “social welfare” payments increase dramatically with the severity of the crime for which the terrorist is convicted.

Where else in the world does a prisoner receive benefits that actually increase with the level of violence committed? For the many Americans who have only recently become familiar with this heinous practice, the shock is even greater that American taxpayer dollars have been used to make these payments to terrorists. As a US senator and a custodian of our citizens’ resources, I find this practice reprehensible.

Since 1998 when this terrorist payments program reportedly first began, the United States has contributed more than $4.6 billion (in constant dollars) to the PA . The great majority of this amount has been in straight budgetary support to the PA , enabling it to meet its budgetary commitments.

That includes payments to terrorists and the families of “martyrs.”

It is difficult from the outside to determine how much has been spent rewarding terrorists over that period, although the budget number for the payments program in recent years has been about $128m. annually. Also, the 2014 PA budget included a separate line item for the “Institution for the Care of Martyrs’ Families” that totaled $155m. Together, these amounts would be 86 percent of the $327.6m. requested this year by the Obama administration for bilateral assistance to the PA .

For the past two years, I have been working with my Senate colleagues to reduce the amount of aid to the PA by the amount that is paid out to terrorists and their families.

When legislation first took effect with that purpose, PA President Mahmoud Abbas tried to avoid such consequences by transferring the program to the PLO .

To put an end to that shell game too, this year we are amending the annual appropriations act accordingly. Our hope is that, by restricting our voluntary assistance to the PA and applying this budgetary pressure, it will end this immoral program of rewarding and encouraging terrorists.

I do understand that some are reluctant to impose more pressure on a financially weak and dependent PA , believing that it would deprive President Abbas of what little remains of his authority and status as a negotiating partner, thus making a negotiated settlement even less likely. Even some Israeli officials have tried to avoid steps that could weaken the PA ’s stability as a West Bank security provider.

But such cold calculations of cause and effect can only follow a firm stand on moral principle. The Palestinian Authority does not deserve immunity just because of its fragility. These payments provide rewards and motivations for brutal terrorists, plain and simple.

To provide US taxpayer money to Abbas and his government so that they can treat terrorists as heroes or glorious martyrs is morally unacceptable. To tolerate such an outrage because of concern for Abbas’s political future or preserving the PA ’s security role amounts to self-imposed extortion.

If the PA’s fragile financial condition requires US assistance, then it is their policy – not ours – that needs to change.

The author is a US senator (R-Indiana), and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Palestinian Hostility to the Presence of Jews Must Be Addressed – Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)

In the State Department’s view, a two-state solution means a Palestinian state that would be only for Arabs alongside an Israel in which an Arab minority enjoys full legal rights. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said in 2013, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.”

Given the drumbeat of incitement to hatred of Jews and Israelis in Palestinian media and in their schools, it is hard to argue that Jews wouldn’t be at risk in a Palestinian state. The primary reason Israel withdrew every settler when it evacuated Gaza in 2005 is the certainty that Jews whose lives would depend on the mercy of the Palestinians would be as good as dead.

Indeed, deprived of the opportunity to attack individual Jews after the Israelis withdrew from Gaza, Palestinian mobs vented their rage on the abandoned buildings the Jews left behind, including the greenhouses that had been purchased by well-meaning philanthropists for use by the Arab population.

In any other conflict, we would label the Palestinian demand for the removal of Jewish communities (or those of any other group) with the same words used by Netanyahu: ethnic cleansing. But when it comes to Jews living in their ancient homeland, the rules are different, and bigotry is not only accepted but also supported.

Until Palestinian hostility to the presence of Jews is addressed by both the U.S. and the international community rather than ignored, the peace everyone claims to be seeking will never happen.