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Latest News in Israel – 17th June

Kissinger: Regional turmoil makes normalization hopeless

Regional turmoil makes it impossible to use the regional 2002 Arab Peace Plan to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger told the 2016 Herzliya conference on Wednesday night.

“A number of state are not in a position right now to undertake any regional peace initiative,” Kissinger said.

He was interviewed by Israeli journalist and author Ari Shavit, and spoke via a video hookup from the United States.

Shavit raised the idea of the 2002 Arab Peace Plan, based on the Saudi Initiative, which offered Israel normalized ties with its neighbors in exchange for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, and a solution for Palestinian refugees.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a regional process based on a revised version of that plan.

But Kissinger said such an option was not feasible given that states like Syria, Libya and Iraq were dissolving, and that because it was still unclear what the new government structures would look like, it was hard to imagine that they could be part of any such deal at present.

“If one asks oneself who are the members of such a regional agreement, it is not obvious that it can’t be achieved?” Kissinger asked.

For such an agreement to be worth the paper it is written on, he said, the regional Arab and Islamic states would have to offer Israel guarantees, and “one would have to ask oneself which countries are in a position to extend guarantees.”

Kissinger recalled that under former US president Jimmy Carter – who had brokered a peace deal between Israel and Egypt – it was believed that a state-bystate approach was best. Kissinger said that Egyptian president Anwar Sadat – who was the partner to that deal – believed that holding a regional peace conference to resolve the Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and its neighbors was risky, because any process with that many partners increases the risk that it could fall apart.

So many years later, he said, he still holds by that idea.

“I have doubts about the composition of such a conference, the procedures and its outcome,” he said.

Rather than trying to resolve everything at once, Israel should take small doable steps with its neighbors that can be built upon for a future peace deal.

Looking at a direct Israeli-Palestinian process, Kissinger said he was “not optimistic that the outcome can be negotiated this year or in the very near future.”

Kissinger ducked the question of what the counters of a final-status agreement should look like, but here too, he preferred a step-by-step approach with an interim solution rather than a final one.

He did deal with the issue of security arrangements for a two-state solution, noting that it was important that such arrangements were compatible with the Palestinians’ sense of dignity.                   (Jerusalem Post)

Ties with Sunni world growing quietly

Foreign Ministry director- general Dore Gold said at the 16th annual Herzliya Conference on Wednesday that there is a “strategic convergence” between Israel and the Sunni Arab world and that the Palestinian issue is at the bottom of priorities.

In a meeting with an unnamed Middle Eastern counterpart, Gold discovered that their talking points for their meeting were almost identical, with the Palestinian issue close to the bottom of the list of issues, he said during a panel discussing the region.

“I’m not trying to play football with the Palestinian issue, but in fact, on both papers, the Palestinian issue was not the No. 1 issue. It was pretty close to the bottom.”

That does not mean Israel should not try to get a breakthrough, “but we have to realize that isn’t any more of the currency with which you build ties in much of the Arab world, the Sunni world…20-30 years ago everyone said to solve the Palestinian issue and you will have peace with the Arab world.”

“And increasingly we are becoming convinced it is the exact opposite. It is a different order we have to create,” the top Israeli diplomat added.

We have many new opportunities, as “many countries to our east fear Iranian power,” he said.

But building these relationships needs to be done cautiously, he said, without necessarily making them public.

However, Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, called the Israeli government “the most right-wing” and poured cold water on any Israeli plans to normalize relations with the Arab world.

“Israel claims normalization with Arab countries is under way, but this is nothing but an attempt to mislead,” he asserted, going on to explain that this would not happen as long as there is no progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.

Also on the panel, Edward Luttwak, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argued that Iraq, Syria, and even Turkey would not remain the same territorial states as they once were and that their borders would be altered due to the ongoing regional violence.

Salman Shaikh, the former director of Brookings Doha Center and founder and CEO of the Shaikh Group, sought to play down the Shi’ite-Sunni dynamic of the conflict, saying that fundamentally the regional problems are political and have taken on sectarian overtones.

He asserted that Iran has the biggest influence in Syria, not Russia.

Josh Block, president and CEO of the Israel Project, noted that a Jordanian diplomat had told him that Turkey is funding Islamic State.

In a separate speech, Maj.- Gen. Herzi Halevi, head of IDF Intelligence, noted that unlike in the past when there were a few states, now there are many actors.

Regarding Iran he said, “The nuclear agreement was a great achievement for Iran, allowing them to be accepted among the world’s nations, and we believe they will honor it for the first few years.”

At the same time, continued Halevi, “Iran is investing great efforts against Israel,” including support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad.

On the Palestinian front, he said action by Israeli security forces has led to a drop in the number of terrorist attacks since last October.              (Jerusalem Post)

Ya’alon declares he’s running for PM

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon took advantage of his speech at the Herzliya Conference Thursday afternoon to criticize Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and announce that he intends to replace him.

“The leadership should stop scaring the citizens and give the feeling that we are on the verge of a second Holocaust,” he said. “There is no existential danger to Israel, including the Iranian threat.”

He declared: “I intend to run for the Israeli leadership in the coming elections. In the last few months, the gaps in outlooks between me and the prime minister have become apparent to me.”

Ya’alon, who resigned less than a  month ago, claimed that “thousands of Israeli citizens, and certainly Likud members” have contacted him since his recent resignation and convinced him that “the state of Israel requires a change of direction and new hope.”

“There is hope, today, in the sane majority, for responsible national leadership. The state of Israel and the citizens of Israel deserve responsible national leadership,” he added.

“It is unbearable that the leadership of Israel in 2016 busies itself with the inflammation of passions, scare tactics and incitement, between Jews and Arabs, right and left, in order to last in power for another month or year,” Ya’alon accused. “Responsible leadership has the job of connecting between parts of society.”

Likud responded to Ya’alon’s speech by saying: “It is entertaining to see how quickly Ya’alon has done an about face. It was just a few months ago that he said: ‘Iran is an existential threat to Israel,’ and today at the Herzliya Conference, upon turning into a politician, he said that there is no existential threat to Israel. Apparently, what one sees from there, one does not see from here.”            (Arutz Sheva)

Arab Israeli Appointed Dean of Hebrew University Law Faculty

The first-ever Arab Israeli has been appointed as the dean of the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the institution announced.

Prof. Michael (Mousa) Karayanni, from a Christian Greek Orthodox family in Kafr Yasif in the Galilee, was unanimously voted to the position by the faculty last Wednesday, to replace the outgoing dean, Prof. Yuval Shani, who has held the post for the past four years.

Karayanni, 52 — a married father-of-three who resides in the joint Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom/Wahat el-Salam between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv — has held the faculty’s Bruce W. Wayne Chair in International Law since 2010.

An expert in civil law, private international law and issues of law and multiculturalism, Karayanni will assume his new post on October 1 this year, making him the faculty’s 22nd dean.

Karayanni was educated at Bar-Ilan University, George Washington University, the Hebrew University and the University of Pennsylvania. He served as academic director of the Minerva Center for Human Rights (2004-2006); vice-dean of the Faculty of Law (2006-2008); and director of the Harry and Michael Sacher Institute for Legislative Research and Comparative Law (2008 – 2012).

He has a long list of grants and awards, among them the Allan Bronfman Prize for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation in the Humanities and Law (2000), the Zeltenr Award for Young Scholars (2002) and the Rector’s Prize (2011).

He has held visiting-scholar positions at the University of Melbourne, Stanford, Yale, Princeton and the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg.

His most recent book, Conflicts in a Conflict: A Conflict of Laws Study on Israel and the Palestinian Territories, was published by Oxford University Press in 2014.  (the Algemeiner)

Knesset passes sweeping anti-terror reforms into law

The Knesset on Wednesday passed a series of sweeping anti-terror reforms that for the first time enshrine into law penalties for terror attacks.

The far-reaching bill passed with 57 lawmakers in favor and 16 opposed.

The legislation, lauded by backers for enabling Israel to effectively confront terrorism but lambasted by opponents as a setback for civil rights, puts an end to years of deliberation — including 30 Knesset committee meetings stretching over three different governments. It merges two private member bills and three government-sponsored bills and will replace all previous anti-terror laws and regulations, including those from the pre-state British Mandate era.

The legislation defines terrorism as an action or threat committed out of a “political, religious, nationalistic or ideological” motive, which is designed to sow fear or apply pressure on the government or international organizations. The definition requires there to be “serious harm” to people, the public safety and health, property, religious sites — including graves — infrastructure, the economy, or the environment.

The law does not differentiate between Jews and Palestinians or soldiers and civilians.

The law also outlines procedures to designate terror groups as such, seize their assets, and detention laws for terror suspects.

In terms of sentencing, the general rule outlined in the legislation is that terrorists will receive double the jail time as perpetrators of those crimes without a terror motive, but no more than 25 years. But it also details specific sentences for various terrorism offenses.

Terrorists who carry out a mass casualty attack will receive life sentences. Those who use chemical or radioactive weapons or target “sensitive sites” will similarly get life sentences.

The leader of a terror group that carries out a lethal attack will receive a life sentence with 25 years mandated for a non-deadly attack. Members holding administrative positions in the terror organization will receive 10 years in prison.

Membership in a terror group that carries out an attack will also carry prison time: recruiters get seven years, and accomplices five years, unless they can prove they didn’t know they were working for a terror group. The law doesn’t differentiate between accomplices paid or unpaid, and says if they were suspicious but didn’t investigate whether they were working for a terror group, they will be liable for prosecution.

Publicly identifying with a terror group, including publicizing praise, waving the terror group’s flag, or singing its anthem can carry a three-year sentence, the legislation says.

The law will now specify that for life sentences, there will be no requests for presidential pardons for 15 years and the parole board will recommend the culprits remain jailed for 40 years.

The legislation also allows the courts to hear testimony without the defendants present under some circumstances, and permits it to accept some intelligence information as testimony.

Joint (Arab) List MKs slammed the reforms, saying that they undermine basic human rights.

The terror law is “draconian, expands the authority of the security forces and occupation authorities, in order to undermine the right to oppose the crimes of the occupation,” MKs Ahmad Tibi and Osama Sa’adi said in a joint statement. “The law does not define what terror is and represents a stain on the State of Israel’s horrifying law books. Indeed, this is a dark day for the Knesset.”

MK Hanin Zoabi also railed against the “bad” and “immoral law.” The law “itself is an act of terror,” said Zoabi. “Terror against the freedom of speech, against the freedom of assembly, and terror against civilian freedoms.”

The prime minister’s National Security Council pushed the bill’s first reading in the Knesset in September of last year in light of the firebombing attack in the West Bank village of Duma, allegedly committed by Jewish extremists, in which a Palestinian baby and his parents were killed.

Thirty-three Israelis and four non-Israelis have been killed in a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October, during which around 200 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.     (The Times of Israel)

Israel plans to build concrete wall along Gaza above and below ground

Israel’s defense establishment plans to build a concrete wall that goes tens of yards underground as well as above ground along the Gaza Strip border.

The plan, revealed on Thursday on the front page of the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, will cost an estimated $568 million, less than previously estimated, according to the report.

A wall that stretches underground is believed necessary to combat the proliferation of attack tunnels running under the border between Gaza and Israel.

The existence of the plan to build a wall was cleared for publication in the newspaper by the military censor, Ynet reported.

On Wednesday, a senior Defense Ministry official cautioned during a news conference that Israel cannot indefinitely continue a war of attrition and that the next conflict with Hamas in Gaza will be the last. It is not known how this is related to the report of the security wall,

“We have no desire to rule over Gaza, and as long as there is no alternative government there, we have no business being there,” said the senior official, who cannot be named. “But on the other hand we cannot conduct a constant war of attrition. Therefore the next conflict has to be the last conflict in terms of Hamas ruling the Strip. We are not looking for an adventure, but a confrontation with Hamas is inevitable. It is an ongoing and growing threat and we need to be prepared for it. ”              (Jerusalem Post)

PM determined to lock in US military aid, ‘but not at any price’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to conclude the negotiations over US military aid to Israel with the Obama administration — but “not at any price,” a senior Israeli defense official said Wednesday.

“Plain and simple — we want to finish it with the current administration — but not at any price,” acting National Security Adviser Yaakov Nagel told diplomatic correspondents.

While he declined to provide details of the ongoing negotiations with the White House — which he has been heading since 2013 — Nagel said that “we are close to the conclusion. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to sign soon.

“We are in the middle of negotiations to reach the best possible deal for the State of Israel. We are close to the end of the process, but I don’t want to determine whether it will be another week or another month,” he continued.

Nagel’s comments came amid a controversy over US military aid, and in particular assistance for Israel’s missile defense system, after the White House on Tuesday said it opposed a move by the House of Representatives to increase funding for Israeli missile defense procurement by an additional $455 million above the administration’s budget request for the 2017 fiscal year.

“I don’t see the White House statement yesterday as a signal that the administration wants to cut funding” for Israeli missile defense, said Nagel, who works closely with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu earlier on Wednesday dismissed widespread “panic” over what he called inaccurate reports implying the US government was refusing to increase financial aid for Israeli missile defense.

Due to “multiple misleading reports,” the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday issued a statement insisting that “there is no cut in US aid.” Rather, there is an “internal debate” between Congress and the White House over the size of the annual increase for the American missile defense program, which would impact on the amount earmarked for Israel.

Netanyahu is seeking to anchor the additional aid to Israel as a part of his ongoing negotiations over the extension of a US-Israel memorandum of understanding, which regulates US military aid to Israel, the PMO’s statement noted.

“Not only will the security assistance for missile defense not be cut, it will be increased,” it said.

On Wednesday morning, the Israeli opposition was quick to blame Netanyahu’s well-publicized spats with US President Barack Obama for the White House’s position on additional funding for missile defense assistance.

“American aid is essential for protecting our citizens, and now, because of the prime minister’s ego games, we’re losing a critical part of it,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) wrote on his Facebook page. His party colleague Tzipi Livni said the dispute underlined how Netanyahu had harmed Israel’s relationship with the US administration.

MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) called on Jerusalem not to wait for the upcoming US elections, but to sign an agreement over military aid with the current administration in order to avoid taking any risks.

The prime minister flatly rejected these statements. “Attempts to turn the dialogue with the US into a domestic Israeli political tool are inappropriate, and all expressions of panic are unwarranted,” his office said in its statement.                      (the Times of Israel)

Palestinian Authority TV: Galilee is ‘Palestine’

During a special Ramadan program for children on The Best Home television show, callers on the show were asked trivia questions and awarded prizes.

While the holiday quiz appeared innocuous at first, some of the questions clearly had a political agenda, furthering the goal of delegitimizing the State of Israel and encouraging young Arabs to claim the entirety of “Palestine”.

The Palestinian Media Watch noted, for example, that one of the quiz questions claimed several Israeli locations as being “Palestinian”.

The show’s host asked callers to identify the “highest mountain in Palestine”, giving them the options of Mount Meron in the Galilee, the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, or Mount Ebal in Samaria.

While Mount Ebal is under Palestinian Authority control and the Mount of Olives, though a part of Israel, has been demanded by Arabs seeking an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders, Mount Meron is well within the Green Line.

Nevertheless Meron was included, and was the winning answer for the question.

The Talmudic scholar Shimon Bar Yochai is buried on Mount Meron, and the area is a popular pilgrimage site, hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year on Lag BaOmer. (Arutz Sheva)

Palestinians: Anarchy Returns to the West Bank

by Khaled Abu Toameh                           The Gatestone Institute


Hostility towards the Palestinian Authority (PA) seems to have reached unprecedented heights among refugee camp residents.

A chat with young Palestinians in any refugee camp in the West Bank will reveal a driving sense of betrayal. In these camps, the PA seems as much the enemy as Israel. They speak of the PA as a corrupt and incompetent body that is managed by “mafia leaders.” Many camp activists believe it is only a matter of time before Palestinians launch an intifada against the PA.

Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank, is surrounded by a number of refugee camps that are effectively controlled by dozens of Fatah gangs that have long been terrorizing the city’s wealthy clans and leading figures.

Hamas, of course, is cheering on the sidelines as it watches the PA-controlled territories going to hell.

Palestinians fear that their communities may be facing a return to anarchy and falatan amni, or “security chaos.”

Recent incidents are yet another sign of the Palestinian Authority’s failure to enforce law and order, especially in refugee camps such as Balata (near Nablus) Qalandya (near Ramallah) and the Jenin refugee camp.

Moreover, these incidents are an indication of mounting tensions among rival camps inside Fatah and between the refugees and the Palestinians living in the big cities surrounding the camps.

These camps, which are hotbeds for gunmen and terror groups, have long been off-limits to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces. Tens of thousands of Palestinians live in these three major refugee camps in the West Bank. Although the refugee camps there located in areas controlled by the PA, the Palestinian security forces do their best to steer clear of them. Attempts by Palestinian security forces to arrest camp residents wanted for various crimes have often resulted in armed confrontations.

Disgruntled members of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction are mostly responsible for the anarchy and “security chaos.” Many of the Fatah members once belonged to Fatah’s armed wing, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which was officially dismantled several years ago under pressure from Israel and the international community, specifically the Americans and Europeans, the biggest funders of the Palestinian Authority.

These men regularly accuse the PA leadership of turning its back on them and ignoring their demand for jobs and money. A quick chat with young Palestinians, including Fatah members, in any refugee camp in the West Bank will reveal a driving sense of betrayal. And no, they are not afraid of speaking out against President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority in front of any stranger. In these camps, the PA seems as much the enemy as Israel. They speak of the PA as a corrupt and incompetent body that is managed by “mafia leaders.” Others see the Palestinian Authority is a pawn in the hands of Israel and the US. More importantly, many of the camp activists believe that it is only a matter of time before Palestinians launch an intifada against the PA.

Make no mistake: these individuals have no love for Israel. Not a single one is prepared to relinquish the “right of return” to Israel, even if and when a Palestinian state is established supposedly within the pre-1967 lines. And many are fully in favor of an “armed struggle” against Israel.

But hostility towards the Palestinian Authority seems to have reached unprecedented heights among refugee camp residents. The feeling is that the PA leadership has done virtually nothing to improve their living conditions and that the real money is going to big cities such as Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem and Hebron.

“The Palestinian Authority is controlled by thieves who do not care about us,” complained Hassan Abu Ayyash, a young man who describes himself as a “Fatah activist” from the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah.

“They are getting hundreds of millions of dollars from the international community and distributing them among themselves and their sons. Look at all the big buildings and fancy restaurants and bars in Ramallah. Where do they get all the money to purchase expensive cars?”

The camp residents are not even afraid to vent their anger against senior representatives of the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier this week, unidentified gunmen intercepted the car of the Palestinian Authority Minister for Social Welfare, Ibrahim Al Shaer, as it was making its way from Ramallah to Jerusalem. When the car reached the Qalandya refugee camp, on the Ramallah-Jerusalem highway, the gunmen stopped it and forced the driver out. The gunmen, who are believed to be members of Fatah, fled with the car. Hours later, the PA security forces managed to recover the minister’s stolen vehicle. Palestinians described the carjacking as a severe blow to the Palestinian Authority’s “prestige.”

In an incident that reflects similar sentiments, unidentified gunmen opened fire at a Palestinian Authority police station in the village of Al Yamoun in the northern West Bank. Again, the suspects are believed to be disgruntled Fatah activists. Residents of Jenin said that the shooting reflected the growing state of “security chaos” in the area and the weakness of the PA in tackling the problem. The attack was the second of its kind against the same police station in recent months.

In April of this year, a fierce gun battle erupted between Palestinian Authority security officers and members of the Jaradat clan in the refugee camp of Jenin. The clash started during an attempt to arrest a clan member. Two people were wounded.

Last month, masked gunmen from one of the refugee camps stole a Palestinian police car in broad daylight from the center of Ramallah. The stolen car was returned to the police hours later, but no one was arrested because that would have stirred more trouble for the Palestinian Authority and resulted in a violent confrontation with the camp residents.

Nablus, the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, exemplifies the growing West Bank anarchy. The city is surrounded by a number of refugee camps that are effectively controlled by dozens of Fatah gangs that have long been terrorizing the city’s wealthy clans and leading figures.

But there are also instances where it seems that rival Fatah leaders hire the unruly gunmen from the refugee camps to settle scores among themselves. Earlier this month, for example, gunmen opened fire at the home of Ghassan Shaka’a, the former mayor of Nablus and a senior PLO and Fatah official. No one was hurt in the attack, which was apparently only aimed at sending Shaka’a a warning message.

Shaka’a later announced that the attack on his home was in the framework of “internal rivalries” among the top brass of the Fatah leadership. He said he believed that the attack was aimed at dissuading him from running again for mayor of Nablus. Expressing his deep frustration with the lawlessness in his city, Shaka’a said that the “security situation in the (Hamas-controlled) Gaza Strip was better than that in the West Bank.” His last remark is seen as being a direct criticism of the Palestinian Authority for failing to rein in the gunmen from the refugee camps.

According to some of Mahmoud Abbas’s top aides, the scenes of lawlessness are far from spontaneous. Rather, they say, they are being orchestrated by ousted Fatah operative Mohamed Dahlan, who is based in the United Arab Emirates. The aides claim that Dahlan has been funding many Fatah gangs in the West Bank refugee camps, as part of an effort to buy loyalty and establish bases of power for himself.

Dahlan, they argue, is eager to succeed President Abbas. Thus he has been working hard to undermine the Palestinian Authority and sow anarchy and dissent in the West Bank. He wants to show that Abbas is losing control and that only a “powerful” figure such as Dahlan would be able to restore law and order. Dahlan, for his part, has strongly denied the allegations.

The return of anarchy to the streets of West Bank cities and refugee camps is a bad omen for President Abbas and his regime. It’s also a natural result of the failure of the Palestinian Authority over the past two decades to offer the residents of the refugee camps any realistic hope for a better life.

The PA, like most Arab countries, has spent years upon years lying to the camp residents, telling them that they should remain in their misery because one day they will return to their families’ former homes inside Israel. Adding to this extraordinarily extended effort of deceit, the Palestinian Authority has marginalized the refugee camp residents, cutting them out of any process of state-building. It appears that the residents have had enough. Abbas’s talk of establishing an independent Palestinian state is hard to reconcile with the “security chaos” in the territories under his control. Hamas, of course, is cheering on the sidelines as it watches the PA-controlled territories going to hell.