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Latest News in Israel – 18th April

PM slams UNESCO resolution ignoring Jewish connection to Temple Mount

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly criticized a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) resolution from last week in which Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall area in Jerusalem’s Old City are wholly ignored.

The resolution refers to Israel as the “occupying power” at every mention and uses the Arabic al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif without ever calling it the Temple Mount, as it is known to Jews. The text does refer to the Western Wall Plaza but places it in quotation marks, after using the Arabic Al-Buraq Plaza.

“This is yet another absurd UN decision,” Netanyahu said Saturday. “UNESCO ignores the unique historic connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount, where the two temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years. The UN is rewriting a basic part of human history and has again proven that there is no low to which it will not stoop.”

The resolution accuses Israel of “planting Jewish fake graves in other spaces of the Muslim cemeteries” and of “the continued conversion of many Islamic and Byzantine remains into the so-called Jewish ritual baths or into Jewish prayer places.”

It also blasts recently approved plans to build an egalitarian prayer service space near Robinson’s Arch and “restriction of access” to the site during Muslim holidays.

Jews consider the complex, formerly the site of the two temples, to be Judaism’s holiest site. Muslims regard the compound — which today houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock — as the third-holiest site in Islam.

While Jewish visitors are allowed to enter the site, Jewish worship is banned under arrangements instituted by Israel when it captured the area from Jordan in the 1967 war.

The site has been the focal point of violence wracking Israel and the Palestinian territories — including dozens of Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis — over the past several months, amid claims by Palestinian leaders that Israel plans to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. Israel has vehemently denied those charges.

Other condemnations of Israel brought forth in the resolution include the Jewish state’s blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip — which came after the Palestinian terrorist organization in 2007 ousted the PA from power in the enclave — as well as Israel’s control over the Tomb of the Patriarchs compound in Hebron and the Rachel’s Tomb compound in Bethlehem.

“[UNESCO] strongly deplores the continuous Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which harmfully affects the free and sustained movement of personnel and humanitarian relief items as well as the intolerable number of casualties among Palestinian children, the attacks on schools and other educational and cultural facilities and the denial of access to education, and requests Israel, the occupying Power, to immediately ease this blockade,” the resolution states.

“[The Executive Board] reaffirms that the two concerned sites located in Al-Khalīl/Hebron and in Bethlehem are an integral part of Palestine,” the resolution continues, in refrence to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, citing “the ongoing Israeli illegal excavations, works, construction of private roads for settlers and a separation wall inside the Old City of Al-Khalīl/Hebron, that harmfully affect the integrity of the site, and the subsequent denial of freedom of movement and freedom of access to places of worship, and urges Israel, the occupying Power, to end these violations in compliance with provisions of relevant UNESCO conventions, resolutions and decisions.”

The UNESCO resolution, authorized by the executive board’s Programme and External Relations Commission, was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan.

The resolution was approved by 33 states, including France, Russia, Spain and Sweden. Seventeen countries abstained while six voted against, abstentions and six voted against, including the United States, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Ghana and Turkmenistan were altogether absent from the vote at the 58-member board.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid wrote a biting letter to UNESCO calling the decision “a disgraceful attempt to rewrite history and rewrite reality as part of a sustained political campaign against the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

“UNESCO prides itself on promoting tolerance, inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue yet it passes resolutions which erases the Jewish people from the historical narrative. This latest one-sided resolution is a stain on the United Nations,” Lapid went on.

The Yesh Atid head, who sits in the opposition, said the organization must not allow itself “to be hijacked as part of the campaign to delegitimize Israel and isolate the Jewish people.”

“As we have seen with the United Nations Human Rights Council, this campaign not only strips away the ability of UN agencies to fulfill their goals but makes them a tool of modern anti-Semitism,” he said.

Last October, UNESCO dropped a Palestinian bid to declare the Western Wall a Muslim holy site amid widespread criticism but passed a resolution condemning ongoing Israeli archaeological excavations near the Temple Mount and elsewhere in the Old City.           (The Times of Israel)

Amid Syria talks, Netanyahu declares ‘Israel will never leave the Golan Heights’

As UN-led peace talks on the future of Syria are being held in Geneva, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the Golan Heights Sunday and declared that Israel will never leave the strategic region.

“The time has come for the international community to recognize reality,” Netanyahu said at the opening of a special cabinet meeting held for the first time ever on the Golan Heights. “First, that whatever will be on the other side of the border, the border will not change.

“And secondly,” Netanyahu added, “the time has come after 40 years for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain forever under Israeli sovereignty.”

Israel took the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Day War, and in 1981 extended Israeli law to the region, thereby de facto annexing it.

“I decided to hold this meeting on the Golan Heights to send a clear message,” he said. “The Golan Heights will always stay in Israeli hands, Israel will never leave the Golan Heights.”

Netanyahu said that the Golan was an integral part of Israel during antiquity, a fact borne out by the archeological remnants of dozens of synagogues there. And, he added, the Golan – which he said now has some 50,000 residents – is an integral part of Israel during the modern era.

“For the 19 years that the Golan was under Syrian occupation , it served as a place for bunkers, barbed wires, mines, and aggression – it was used for war,” he said. “ In the 49 years that the Golan is under Israeli control it was used for agriculture, tourism, economic initiatives, building — it was used for peace.”

Netanyahu said that he spoke on Saturday night with US Secretary of State John Kerry, and said that he doubted that Syria would ever return to what it was.

“It has persecuted minorities, like the Christians, Druze, and Kurds, who are fighting justifiably for their future and their security. And on the other side there are terrorist forces – led by Islamic State, Iran, Hezbollah, and others who want to impose extreme Islam on Syria and the region, and from there to continue to impose it thought the world.”

Netanyahu said he told Kerry that Israel would not oppose a diplomatic agreement in Syria, “On the condition that it does not come at the cost of Israeli security.” That means, he added, that at the end of the day Iranian, Hezbollah and Islamic State forces be kicked out of Syria.        (Jerusalem Post)

Anti-Israel campaign calls on Jordanians to refuse working in Israeli hotels

Anti-Israel activists in Jordan have launched a campaign against Jordanians’ employment in Israeli hotels, amid the clamor of senior Israeli officials for recruiting additional Jordanian employees to work in hotels in the southern city of Eilat.

In an interview with the London-based Arab-daily al-Arabi al-Jadeed Saturday, the head of the committee against normalization with Israel, Manaf Majali, said that the committee will start a broad campaign to convince Jordanians not to “work in the occupying entity.”

According to Majali, the number of foreign workers has considerably decreased, which has forced Israel to search for a cheap alternative in Jordan.

Majali said that the committee will identify the Jordanian companies that assign Jordanians to work in Israel, in order to organize demonstrations against them, expose them to the public and urge people to boycott them.

He also demanded the government provide work opportunities, to reduce to the 14% unemployment rate and prevent Jordanians from crossing the border to Israel to gain decent earnings.

Mohammad al-Khatib, a spokesman for Jordan’s Ministry of Labor, denied the existence of any formal agreements between the Ministry and its Israeli counterpart regarding the employment of Jordanians in Israel.

On Thursday, Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin stated that the hotels in Eilat face a labor shortage, adding that Israel plans to hire 1500 Jordanian workers to solve that shortage, in both Eilat and Tel Aviv.                (Jerusalem Post)

 Ax-wielding terrorist killed near Bethlehem

A Palestinian terrorist armed with an ax attacked soldiers at an IDF post at Al-Aroub south of Bethlehem on Wednesday afternoon.

The soldier’s helmet deflected the blow and the attacker was shot dead by fellow soldiers before he could strike again. All the soldiers were unharmed.

Elsewhere yesterday, security forces thwarted a terrorist attack in Jerusalem when they arrested two Palestinian boys in the Old City. Around 1 p.m. border policemen patrolling the Muslim quarter identified two 12-year-old boys behaving suspiciously, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

“Police units immediately approached them carefully and cautiously, and proceeded to question them,” said Rosenfeld. “During a search, officers found one of the boys concealed a meat cleaver and kitchen knife in his jacket, and the other boy had a large kitchen knife hidden in his jacket.”

Both youths were disarmed and arrested, he said. Under questioning, they confessed to planning to carry out a terrorist attack against Jews in the Old City.

“They remain in custody and will be arraigned at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court,” said Rosenfeld.

The ax incident was the first Palestinian attack on security forces in several days. The last terrorist attack in the capital took place on March 9.

Rosenfeld said police have made security assessments in view of the tens of thousands of visitors expected to converge in the capital for Passover next week.

“We are continuing security measures, and deploying police units in and around the Old City in order to prevent further terrorist attacks,” he said.

Since the wave of attacks began in October, terrorists have killed 30 Israelis and two US citizens, while security forces have shot dead approximately 190 Palestinian assailants.  (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu set to meet Putin this week in Moscow

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this week to discuss pertinent issues in key ares of bilateral relations, as well as pressing issues regarding the region.

The Prime Minister’s Office said on Friday that both parties will discuss current issues in key areas of bilateral relations. Additionally, the two are set to discuss pressing issues on the regional and global agendas, like the Palestinians and the conflict in Syria, among others.

This is the second meeting between the two leaders in recent months, as part of security cooperation surrounding the civil war in Syria, particularly in regards to flight arrangements of the air forces of the two countries. However, this is the first meeting between the two since the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, a move that surprised Israel.

The meeting comes against the backdrop of reports that Iran began to accept shipments of the S-300 missile system from Russia, following the agreement signed between the two countries after signing the nuclear deal in July.

Last month, Putin met with President Reuven Rivlin at the Kremlin, shortly after the announcement in Moscow of the withdrawal of forces in Syria. Israeli political sources said at the time that Israel had not fully understood what was behind Putin’s latest move to remove his forces from Syria. Sources said one of the goals of the meeting is to understand what Putin plans on doing and how he wants to move forward in Syria.

In his talks with Putin, Rivlin voiced his concern over ISIS and the fear of modern Russian weapons being leaked to Hezbollah.

The duo also discussed the ongoing process towards a free trade agreement between Israel and the Euro-Asian Union, which would make Israel the first Western country to sign the agreement. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in bilateral foreign trade between the two countries, and Russia is considered to be among the ten largest trade partners of Israel.   (Jerusalem Post)

 ‘Our intelligence on Hamas has improved significantly,’ senior security source says

The IDF’s intelligence on Hamas’s military wing in Gaza has increased greatly over the past two years, and the Southern Command’s war preparations have been enhanced as a result, a senior military source said on Thursday.

The Southern Command is carefully monitoring Hamas’s 25 regional battalions and has prepared detailed files on each one as part of preparations for ground forces that could, in the event of a future escalation, be sent in to Gaza to land “painful strikes” on Hamas, according to the source.

“We did not have this level of knowledge in Operation Protective Edge [in 2014],” the source said. “Our brigade, battalion, and company commanders are assigned regions, and will know many things that will assist them in destroying their targets,” the high-ranking officer added.

Their orders will be to kill or capture as many Hamas operatives as they encounter and destroy infrastructure. “In every location, missions will be very clear. The brigade commanders will need to reach areas marked by blue arrows on a map… They will destroy weapons production centers as well,” he said.

The Southern Command has spent the past year and a half making intensive preparations for potential future conflicts.

Plans include spreading out a “stronger defense” of southern communities, and a better layout of staging areas, that were targeted by Hamas in the previous conflict.

Preparations also include holding roundtables between the Southern Command and General Staff military entities like Military Intelligence, the air force, navy, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Military Prosecution.

All IDF battalion commanders have, in recent weeks, completed courses dedicated exclusively to the topic of “how to defeat Hamas, and fighting in populated areas,” the source said. “Last week, we drilled moving hundreds of military trailers, and the rapid build-up of forces. We are preparing the Southern Command’s readiness for war,” he added.

On the other side of the border, Hamas’s military wing is busy with its own preparations, using the current quiet to build up its own offensive capabilities.

This includes an intensified training for Hamas’s elite Nuhba forces, which make up a quarter of Hamas’s 20,000-strong armed members, and who are trained to launch cross-border raids into Israel.

The Nuhba Force has increased its size and scope of activities, as well as its training, the source said. “They are paying much more attention to training, capabilities and weapons,” he said. Hamas is also building up its naval commando unit, the source said.

Additionally, Hamas has begun assembling a drone unit.

Hamas’s rocket strategy is aimed at flooding the South with short-range rockets and mortars, while keeping central cities under a continuous “routine of sirens” by firing a stream of mid-range rockets. Hamas is trying to emulate Hezbollah’s rocket upgrades, and to achieve accuracy and lethality, but it is struggling to progress in this area, according to the source.

The military wing is practicing ways to try and “overcome Iron Dome,” the source added.

Meanwhile, Hamas continues to try to ignite violence in the West Bank, and has been “deeply disappointed” by the relative calm there, the source said. “Hamas is willing to take risks to orchestrate big attacks in Judea and Samaria, even at the cost of deteriorating the situation in Gaza. It sees this as a strategic opportunity,” the source said.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, the military wing is gradually growing in power at the expense of the political wing. Figures like Muhammad Deif, who leads the military wing, Yihye Sinwar, who was released in the Gilad Shalit exchange (and who served 22 years in prison for killing Palestinians who cooperated with Israel), and Marwan Issa, are taking power away from Hamas’s political wing, as well as from overseas leader Khaled Mashaal.

“Since being released, Sinwar has been a dominant person in Hamas. He runs things, alongside Deif and Issa,” the source said. Hamas’s military wing is in charge of police appointments, a task that once belonged to the political wing.

Meanwhile, Hamas has created commanders whose only task is to oversee weapons production, a task once held by territorial brigade commanders.

Hamas remains in a state of distress and economic crisis, unable to pay members in time, and failing to smuggle many weapons from Sinai.

Nevertheless, it maintains good relations with the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province group, transferring it funds, and caring for its injured, as well as trying to smuggle weapons through the group. Hamas’s goal is to set up a new base of attack against Israel from Sinai, as well as from Lebanon and Syria, according to IDF assessments.

The military wing still sees Iran as its principal patron and source of funding and training, while the political wing is pulling the Gaza regime in the opposite direction, toward Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni powers.

Egypt, for its part, continues to exhibit great hostility to Hamas, viewing it as a branch of its domestic foe, the Muslim Brotherhood, and making demands of Hamas that it cannot meet, such as turning in member suspected of assisting Sinai Province.             (Jerusalem Post)

With return of islands, minister identifies unprecedented Saudi commitment to Israel

National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz on Saturday highlighted the positive diplomatic significance for Israel following the transfer last of two islands in the Red Sea from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

The islands of Tiran and Sanafir, located at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, will be formally demarcated as being in Saudi waters under a treaty announced last week by Cairo, which has had de facto control over them since 1950.

In 1967, Egypt blocked the strait of Tiran, a move that prompted Israel to launch the Six Day War. In its later peace deal with Israel, Cairo promised to respect freedom of shipping in Aqaba and Eilat, a commitment that Saudi Arabia says it will uphold when it takes over the islands.

Steinitz, at a cultural event in Holon, said he saw in a positive light the Saudi declaration regarding Israel’s continued freedom of movement in the shipping lane.

“In a way, this is the first time that there has been an official and international Saudi commitment towards Israel, from which can be deduced a kind of indirect Saudi legitimization of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty,” Steinitz said.

Riyadh, in its declaration following the transfer, maintained a frosty posture to Israel.

“There will be no direct relationship between the kingdom and Israel due to the return of these islands,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Egypt’s CBC television on Sunday.

But in an apparent allusion to Egyptian-Israeli relations, he added: “There is an agreement and commitments that Egypt accepted related to these islands, and the kingdom is committed to these.”

Eilat is Israel’s only port in the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.                       (Jerusalem Post)

Family of Israeli terror victim to visit UN, show ‘truth about Palestinian terror’

The widower and daughter of Israeli terror victim Dafna Meir are set to appear before the United Nations to “show the world the truth about Palestinian terror,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said in a statement on Sunday.

Natan and Renana Meir were invited, in a joint effort by Danon and the non-profit One Family, to share their personal account of loss to terror with the international community and strike a chord of similarity between Palestinian terrorism in Israel and terror attacks inspired by Islam-extremism worldwide.

“It is time for the UN to condemn Palestinian incitement and make clear that there is no difference between terror attacks in France and Belgium than terrorism against Israelis.  Do Israeli lives matter less?” Danon said in the statement.

Dafna Meir was murdered in January by a 15-year-old Palestinian who stormed the entrance of her home in Otniel. She was able to fight back the terrorist, saving the lives of her three children who were home and witnesses to their mother’s murder.

Investigations into the incident and the motives behind it brought to light the influence of hateful Palestinian propaganda on the violent undertakings of its youth; The terrorist admitted to having murdered Meir after watching a series of videos and hate-filled content on Palestinian TV and social media channels.

Danon called to “put an end to the incitement emanating from the Palestinian Authority,” ahead of the Meir’s visit.

Following attacks in Brussels and Paris, the UN’s Security Council issued 12 condemnations of terrorism – yet none addressed the ongoing wave of Palestinian terror in Israel which has brought about the death of 34 Israelis since September.

The Meirs were accompanied to New York by One Family, a non-profit which provides support for those who have been bereaved or injured in terrorist attacks

“The impact of terrorism can only be understood through the stories of the victims themselves,” Chantal Belzberg, Executive Vice-Chairman of One Family, said in a statement.

The non-profit, along with Danon, hopes that the Meir’s perspective of terror will help the international community understand what is happening in the State of Israel.

“By bringing them to New York we hope to bring this unique vision to the world and ultimately defeat terrorism,” Ms. Belzberg said.

The Meirs called on the international community for help ahead of their visit, noting the difficulty “to express in words the deep pain and unbearable longing…sense of loss [which] breaks our heart and our soul.”

“With broken hearts we ask the international community for help.  We hear those who say that terror is a result of frustration, and we ask – is there anything more frustrating than what we have endured?”                   (Jerusalem Post)

‘Jonathan Pollard still holds top-secret information’

In a document submitted to a New York court and the parole commission handling the case of freed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper wrote that Pollard continues to hold “sensitive and confidential information classified as top secret” that could harm American national security, Channel 10 reported on Friday.

Pollard, 61, was released in November after serving 30 years in U.S. federal prison, but he continues to be under strict parole conditions, including GPS monitoring of his movements with an electronic ankle bracelet and unrestricted access to his computers and those of his employers.

Pollard’s lawyers are currently appealing against the strict parole conditions.

According to the Channel 10 report, Clapper wrote that the sensitive nature of the information held by Pollard justifies the parole conditions imposed on him.  (Israel Hayom)

Palestinians: We Will Not Accept a Jewish Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh                The Gatestone Institute

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7849/palestinians-accept-jewish-israel

The obsession with settlements is certain to divert attention from core issues, such as Palestinian recognition of a Jewish Israel. Many Palestinians continue to regard Israel as one big settlement that needs to be removed from the Middle East.

Even those who say they have accepted the two-state solution are not prepared to recognize any Jewish link to or history in the land.

In the view of Al-Husseini, Palestinians refuse to acknowledge a Jewish state because they believe this would grant legitimacy to “Jews’ rights to the land of Palestine” and undermine the Palestinian demand for the “right of return” for millions of refugees into Israel.

Israeli Arab leaders are betraying their constituencies by privileging the perceived interests of Palestinian Arabs, while Palestinian Arab leaders are betraying their constituencies by denying any link between Jews and the land. This stance makes peace a non-starter.

Israel as a Jewish state remains anathema to the Palestinian community. This is a top-down attitude, communicated on a constant basis by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is based on the argument that such a move would mean giving up the “right of return” for millions of “refugees” into Israel. This refusal is also based on the continued denial of any historic Jewish connection to the land.

In recent weeks, the PA president has once again reiterated his strong opposition to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is one of the main obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Settlement construction complaints are nothing more than a Palestinian Authority smokescreen.

There is much talk these days about the Palestinian Authority’s intention to ask the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution condemning Israel for construction in the settlements. It is not yet clear whether the PA will carry out its threat. What is clear, however, is that this obsession with the settlements is certain to divert attention from core issues, such as Palestinian recognition of a Jewish Israel. Many Palestinians continue to regard Israel as one big settlement that needs to be removed from the Middle East.

Why, in fact, do the Palestinians refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state?

Abbas has consistently failed to state his reasons for his total rejection of Israel as a Jewish state. In January 2014, the PA president declared:

“The Palestinians won’t recognize the Jewishness of the State of Israel and won’t accept it. The Israelis say that if we don’t recognize the Jewishness of Israel there would be no solution. And we say that we won’t recognize or accept the Jewishness of Israel and we have many reasons for this rejection.”

On another occasion that same year, Abbas stated: “No one can force us to recognize Israel as Jewish state. If they [Israel] want, they can go to the UN and ask to change their name to whatever they want — even if they want to be called The Jewish Zionist State.” Again, Abbas failed to explain the vehement Palestinian opposition to this demand.

The Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has shed some light on the matter. “We have already recognized Israel’s existence on the 1948 borders of Occupied Palestine,” Erekat explained. He added that he made it clear to former Israeli Foreign Minister Tipi Livni during a meeting in Munich that the Palestinians “won’t change their history and religion and culture by recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.”

While Palestinian leaders have been rather reluctant to elaborate on the reasons behind their rejectionism, other Palestinians have been more generous about the issue.

One of these is Palestinian political scientist Dr. Saniyeh Al-Husseini, who recently published an article titled, “Why Palestinians Refuse to Accept the Jewishness of the State of Israel.” The article was reprinted by the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, WAFA — a definite sign that the Palestinian leadership endorses her views.

In her article, Al-Husseini points out that the U.S. supports the Israeli condition, which she described as a “crippling demand.”

The article warns that “accepting the Jewishness of Israel means relinquishing all the Palestinian rights to the Palestinian lands, including the lands that were occupied in 1967.” According to Al-Husseini, there are two main reasons that Palestinians are opposed to this demand. The first has to do with the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to their former villages and homes inside Israel; the second is related to the status of Israel’s Arab citizens.

Referring to the first of these, Al-Husseini writes:

“Palestinian acceptance of the Israeli narrative would deny any Palestinian right on the land of Palestine and give justification to Israel’s wars against the Palestinians. Palestinian recognition of the Jewishness of Israel means accepting the Israeli narrative regarding the Jews’ right to the land of Palestine and exempts Israel from bearing responsibility for the moral and legal consequences of all its crimes against the Palestinians.”

In the view of Al-Husseini, then, Palestinians refuse to acknowledge a Jewish state because they believe that this would grant legitimacy to “Jews’ rights to the land of Palestine” and undermine the Palestinian demand for the “right of return” for millions of refugees into Israel.

Let us take a moment to clarify this: the Palestinian Authority wants a Palestinian state next to Israel while at the same time flooding Israel with millions of refugees. That, of course, is something to which no Israeli government could ever agree. Even more crucial is the Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish right to the land. Such denial is a longstanding pillar of the official Palestinian narrative. Even those who say they have accepted the two-state solution are not prepared to recognize any Jewish link to or history in the land.

The second reason, that which concerns the Arab citizens of Israel, is similarly telling. According to Al-Husseini, Israel’s ultimate goal, as “betrayed” by this demand, is to rid itself of its Arab citizens.

There is indeed a betrayal going on, but it is not being perpetrated by Israel. First, by reprinting Al-Husseini’s article, the PA has “betrayed” the fact that it has appointed itself custodian of the Arab citizens of Israel.

As Israel is a democracy — unlike the dictatorial Palestinian regimes — Israel’s Arab citizens have their own leaders and representatives in Israel’s Knesset. The last thing they need is for the Palestinian Authority or Hamas or any other Palestinian faction to meddle in their internal affairs.

But the betrayal continues. The Arab citizens of Israel are represented by leaders, including some Knesset members, who are so preoccupied with the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that they have forgotten who their real constituents are.

Just consider MK Zouheir Bahloul, who spends valuable time re-defining the word “terrorist.” Bahloul, a member of the Labor Party, seems to be enjoying the public outcry he created recently when he declared that a Palestinian who tried to stab IDF soldiers in Hebron last month is not a terrorist.

It is as if Bahloul and the other Arab Knesset members have solved all the problems of the Arab community inside Israel and all that is left is to make sure that no one calls a Palestinian stabber a terrorist. Needless to say, this issue does not top the agenda of the Arab citizens of Israel.

The betrayal thus runs wide and deep. Israeli Arab leaders are betraying their constituencies by privileging the perceived interests of Palestinian Arabs, while Palestinian Arab leaders are betraying their constituencies by continuing to deny any link between Jews and the land. This is a stance that makes peace a non-starter in the Middle East. When the international community is presented with settlement complaints and the like, it might wish to ponder these small but critical points.

Israel’s president is known as a voice of reason, but can he unite the country?

By Ruth Eglash                 The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israels-president-is-known-as-a-voice-of-reason-but-can-he-unite-the-country/2016/04/08/f83c03fa-fccf-11e5-813a-90ab563f0dde_story.html

When a Jewish lawmaker tweeted that his wife did not want to share a hospital room with an Arab woman after giving birth, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin responded: “When we come to the hospital to give birth, we don’t come as a Jew or an Arab, we come as a human being.”

When fierce public protests broke out after army prosecutors said they wanted to try an Israeli soldier taped shooting dead a disarmed Palestinian assailant, Rivlin urged people: “Trust in the military’s ability to investigate, and attentively and swiftly draw operational and individual lessons wherever needed.”

But Rivlin’s calm voice of reason seems to be a lonely one these days.

Nearly two years into his seven-year term as president, Rivlin often finds himself smoothing over rifts that erupt between conflicting sectors of Israel’s fractious society. Often, the divisions are further inflamed by politically incorrect or downright racist comments by lawmakers or religious leaders from one group or another.

“Those who say they do not want to live together need to understand that we are destined to be together,” Rivlin said this week at an event in Nazareth, a mainly Arab city, showcasing Collective Impact, a rare Jewish-Arab employment initiative.

“I know these are far from easy days in which to bring about change,” he told the program’s directors, chief executives of some of the largest Jewish and Arab-run firms in Israel. “This year, there is a sense that relations between Jews and Arabs have reached a new low, the depth of which constantly surprises us.”

Despite this, Rivlin urged perseverance: “We must not give up. The spirit of our cooperation will prevail.”

These might seem like hollow words amid a decades-old bloody conflict and especially following more than six months of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and harsh Israeli countermeasures. Some 29 Israelis have been killed in the violence and more than 180 Palestinians, more than half carrying out attacks, since Oct. 1.

Sometimes responses by Israeli-Arab lawmakers only serve to distance Arab citizens of Israel — who make up roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population of 8.5 million — from the Jewish public.

And comments like those of Israel’s chief Sephardi rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, that non-Jews should be forbidden from living in Israel or that it is commanded for Jews to kill “terrorists” who come at them with knives, alienate the Arab community.

“The Arabs are my enemies and that’s why I don’t enjoy being next to them,” Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich tweeted in response to a report on Jewish-Arab segregation in Israeli hospitals. “It’s natural that my wife would not want to lie down in a bed next to a woman who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby twenty years from now.”

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center on Israel’s Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze and other communities found that there was little social interaction among the groups.

Another study by the Israel Democracy Institute found that most Jews, 66 percent, agree with the chief rabbi’s statements about killing terrorists carrying knives.

In a defining speech in the summer, the president talked of a “new Israeli order.” He noted that demographics were changing and that no one group — not even the Jews — was now a clear majority.

“Israeli society is comprised of four principal tribes growing closer in size,” he said.

It’s a reality that Israel must deal with, the president said.

“Rivlin has been trying to offer a counterweight to extremist views,” said Amotz Asa-El, a commentator on Israeli society. “He is a supporter of the settlements and in some ways even more right wing than [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, but in terms of liberal values, he is a disciple of Jabotinsky.”

Asa-El was referring to revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky and an often overlooked part of his doctrine: equal rights for all. Most right-wing leaders, including Netanyahu, point to Jabotinsky’s views that Jewish claims to the land of Israel supersede those of the Arabs and that the state can only be secured through power and not by persuasion.

“Rivlin has made himself very popular in all sectors by lending an ear to anyone who feels they are the minority and that they are being discriminated against or mistreated,” Asa-El said. “He does this efficiently and in addition he is affable and outgoing.”

And although, as president, he does not wield great amounts of political power, he can impact society in a moral way.

“The burden is on the Jewish majority in Israel to prove that the definition of their country as Jewish and democratic is not a contradiction,” Rivlin said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Jews must make the Arabs feel part of society, he said. “The relationship between the Jews and Arabs is necessary to help build a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“If the Palestinians see the Arabs here are living in harmonious coexistence with the Jews, then they might realize it’s not too bad,” Rivlin said.

“We are willing to help him build a bridge of peace with the wider Arab world,” Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam said. The two met following Rivlin’s meeting with the business leaders.

“I wish we had a few other leaders like the president. Then we would have sorted out the problems here many years ago,” Salam said.

Dvir Rozen and Israel’s Technion Tell the Passover Story in a New High-Tech Way

Breakdancing has become popular in Israel over the last few years.  Dvir Rozen has been a major influence on this pop culture phenomenon, by directing the Israel Breakdancing Association, and starting his own company, Street Art Productions.

This year he is collaborating with the hi-tech engineers at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology to act out the complete story of Passover by breakdancing to a light show that brings to life everything from the experience of slavery in Egypt through the ten plagues to crossing the Red Sea.