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Latest News in Israel – 19th January

Palestinian stabbing attack thwarted against IDF soldiers in West Bank

A knife-wielding Palestinian assailant was shot and killed following an attempted stabbing attack on IDF soldiers in the West Bank, according to the IDF Tuesday.

No soldiers were wounded in the incident.

According to initial investigations, the Palestinian attacker began by throwing stones at military personnel. He then took out a knife and began charging at IDF soldiers. The soldiers responded by firing at the suspected assailant, wounding him in the upper chest and ankle.

A military doctor later pronounced the attacker dead at the scene.

The attack came less than two weeks after a Palestinian terrorist used his truck to ram into a group of IDF soldiers in Jerusalem, killing four and wounding 17.

Three female soldiers – 20-year-old Lt. Yael Yekutiel of Givatayim, 22-year-old Lt. Shir Hajaj of Ma’aleh Adumim, and 20-year-old Sec.-Lt. Shira Tzur of Haifa – and one male soldier, 20-year-old Sec.-Lt. Erez Orbach of Alon Shvut, were declared dead at the scene.   (Jerusalem Post)

Ex-IDF officer: Trump needs to help stop PA terror and martyr payments

One of first items of business Israel should raise with the new Trump administration is the need to stop Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and their families, Yossi Kuperwasser of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said on Tuesday.

“One of the things that we should ask of the Americans is to lead an effort among donors to the Palestinian Authority – and set an example itself – not to pay money to terrorists,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “This should be obvious, but it is not.”

Kuperwasser recently wrote a monograph put out by the JCPA titled “Incentivizing Terrorism, Palestinian Authority Allocations to Terrorists and their Families,” in which he follows the money from the PA to the bank accounts of terrorists in prisons, and to the families of “martyrs” – Palestinians killed carrying out terrorist attacks.

The US and other donor states to the PA have a responsibility over what is being done with the money they provide the PA, Kuperwasser said, adding they need to “prevent a situation where American money is being used for terrorism against Israel, and also against Americans who have been killed in attacks.”

According to Kuperwasser’s report, “The PA pays directly and, as of 2014, partly through the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), about 1.1 billion shekels (around $300 million) every year as salaries to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails, continuing after they are released, and to the families of dead terrorists and other Palestinians who died fighting against Zionism.”

This amounts to 7% of the Palestinian budget, and more than 20% of the annual foreign aid to the PA.

He charted a sliding pay scale for prisoners, depending on how long they are in prison, ranging from NIS 1,400 a month for those up to three years in jail, to NIS 7,000 for those in prison for 15-20 years, and NIS 12,000 for those sitting in jail for more than 30 years.

In addition, grants for released prisoners range from $1,500 to those in prison for one to three years, all the way to $25,000 for terrorists released after 30 years.

“Official legislation of the Palestinian Authority places all Palestinians [including Israeli Arabs] imprisoned in Israel for terror crimes on the PA payroll to receive a monthly salary from the PA,” he wrote. “The legislation defines ‘prisoners’ benefiting from this requirement as ‘Anyone imprisoned in the occupation’s prisons as a result of his participation in the struggle against the occupation.’” Kuperwasser put the number of Palestinian prisoners serving time for terror-related offenses at around 5,500. These payments go to members from all terrorist organizations, including Hamas, and also to those who carried out attacks after the Oslo Accords.

Moreover, he pointed out, “the salaries are guaranteed in advance to the terrorists and their families, thus making the Palestinian Authority solicitors of terrorism activities and directly responsible for them.”

Kuperwasser wrote that the payments of salaries stands “in sharp contrast to the Oslo agreements, according to which the PLO directly and the PA through the PLO have committed themselves to stop terror and to refrain from encouraging terror. It is also in stark contradiction to international conventions on counterterrorism.”

This point is particularly salient now, since US Secretary of State John Kerry, in his recent speech slamming the settlements, stressed the degree to which the Israeli government’s current policies were contrary to the Oslo Accords.

“It may seem strange,” Kuperwasser wrote, “but the international and Israeli reactions to these payments have been minimal until recently, and the aid and the payments keep flowing without significant interruption.”

Palestinian Support

Kuperwasser, formerly director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry and before that the head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, suggested a number of reasons for this.

His reasons included the following: Ignorance of Palestinian incitement and inducements to terrorism; fear that the Palestinians “will become even more radical” if the funds are cut off to the PA because of support for terrorists; and concern that denying funds to the PA because of these payments may cause an uproar among Muslims in the West and the Arab world.

“The reaction of the donor community and Israel reflects the success of the Palestinians in portraying themselves as victims,” he wrote. “The donors are uncomfortable making official Palestinian support of terror an issue of dispute with the PA.”

Israel, Kuperwasser continued, must clarify to the international community that in spite of its interest in the existence of the PA and its interest of promoting peace with the Palestinians, “it is not going to tolerate the ongoing Palestinian support and solicitation of terrorism.

“The easiest way to achieve this goal is to withhold from the Palestinian Authority the amount of money that it spends on these salaries/benefits, and to clarify to the donors, especially the United States, that Israel expects them to do the same,” he wrote.

Kuperwasser concluded that the PA’s “institutional and legislated payments to imprisoned terrorists and families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks reflect the ironclad formal commitment of the PA and its leadership to incentivize Palestinian society to commit acts of terror. This constitutes the major obstacle to peace and a violation of all the commitments of the Palestinians in their internationally guaranteed agreements with Israel.” (Jerusalem Post)

Israel looks to Trump to halt UN resolutions that encourage terror

Israel hopes US President-elect Donald Trump will reject biased UN resolutions and focus on resuming direct talks with the Palestinians, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the Security Council on Tuesday.

“With this new administration comes the hope that the US will return to its policy of rejecting unfair and biased Security Council resolutions and promoting direct and genuine dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians,” Danon told the council.

The 15-member UNSC was holding a dialogue on the Middle East that was open to all UN member states. The bulk of the talk focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and last month’s approval of UNSC 2334, which called for a halt to Israeli settlement activity and all Jewish building over the pre-1967 lines, calling such activity illegal.

Danon told the council that the resolution encourages Palestinians to commit acts of terrorism against Israel, such as the truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem earlier this month in which four soldiers were killed.

“This resolution declared that our presence in Jerusalem is illegal. It encouraged the Palestinians to continue to avoid negotiations and inspired the terrorist in Jerusalem,” Danon said, holding up a photo of the four victims, all of whom were soldiers in their young 20s.

“This was the result [of Resolution] 2334: Shir Hajaj, Yael Yekutiel, Erez Orbach and Shira Tzur,” Danon said. “They were murdered by a Palestinian who was led to believe that he could use terrorism and violence to remove the Jewish people from Jerusalem. He will not succeed.”

He reminded the council that Jewish history in Jerusalem includes the Old City and the Western Wall, which are beyond the pre-June 1967 line, and dates back some 3,000 years to King Solomon. The Temple was built by King Solomon on the “same Temple Mount which this council refuses to call by its historic name.”

According to Danon, members thought they were telling Israel to stop settlement activity, but they were really telling the Palestinians they could “continue to spread the lies that the Western Wall is not sacred to the Jewish people.”

He noted that, after the council vote, Fatah posted a cartoon on its Facebook page that “showed a dagger in the shape of a map of Israel colored with the Palestinian flag. Not Judea and Samaria; what some call the West Bank. All of Israel.

Under the dagger was a pool of blood, and next to it, it said, “Thank you,” and listed each council member that voted for the shameful resolution,” Danon said, adding that such resolutions only encourage the Palestinians not to return to the negotiating table.

In response to the resolution, Danon said, Israel suspended $6 million from its annual contribution to the UN.

“This amount represents the portion of the UN budget allocated to anti-Israel bodies, which represents the UN’s double standard when it comes to Israel,” Danon said. Among those bodies is the Division for Palestinian Rights, which focuses on delegitimizing Israel.

Palestinian Ambassador the UN Riyad Mansour called on the council to force Israel to comply with the settlement resolution, which he described as “pro-peace, pro-international law, pro-two-states and thus pro-Palestine and pro-Israel.

“Rather than taking a step for peace, Israel has preferred to persist with its empty rhetoric and legal acrobatics to justify its continuing illegal colonization of the Palestinian land and oppression of the Palestinian people, in flagrant contempt of the law and international community,” Mansour said.

The Palestinians have refused to hold direct talks with Israel until it halts all construction in settlements and east Jerusalem.

Israel in turn has called for talks without preconditions.

Mansour told the council that “halting settlement activities should never be seen as a concession or pre-condition; it is about fundamental respect for the law. It is time for the full implementation of Resolution 2334 and all of its provisions.

Follow-up must begin immediately and all must uphold their obligations,” Mansour said.

He added that it was the Palestinians who have said “yes” to every peace effort. The time has come for Israel to accept a twostate solution based on the 1967 borders, Mansour said.

“The 1967 borders are the delineating line between conflict and peace. We are fast approaching a point of no return. Implementation of Resolution 2334 is the way back from the brink,” he said. “The international community must act now to revive the possibility of peace.”                  (Jerusalem Post)

Bar-Ilan University study reveals manifestations of anti-Semitism in Australian public schools

Jewish students in Australian public schools are exposed to anti-Semitic, racist bullying, according to the findings of a new study presented Monday at an international conference on anti-Semitism at Bar-Ilan University.

The two-day conference, focusing on the rising threat of anti-Semitism and the struggle to combat it, marked the 20th anniversary of the passing of Israel’s 6th President, Chaim Herzog. The gathering was organized by Bar-Ilan’s Aharon and Rachel Dahan Center for Culture, Society and Education in the Sephardic Heritage, the World Zionist Organization, and the University’s Sal Van Gelder Institute for Holocaust Research.

The manifestations of anti-Semitism in Australian public schools were discovered by Prof. Zehavit Gross, Director of the Sal Van Gelder Institute for Holocaust Research, while she was conducting an unrelated study on public schools in Sydney and Melbourne with her colleague, Prof. Suzanne Rutland, of the University of Sydney.

Professors Gross and Rutland set out to research Special Religious Education (SRE) and its effectiveness on Jewish students.  “As a researcher, I was convinced that a half hour of study per week is ineffective and meaningless,” said Prof. Gross in addressing the conference with Prof. Rutland.  Instead, Gross and Rutland found that students and parents consider SRE very successful, and they were eager to find out the secret to this success.  “To our amazement, both primary and high school Jewish students in state schools spontaneously told us that they loved to attend SRE classes because they found them to be a ‘safe place’ in the face of the anti-Semitism they were experiencing on the playground.”

Illustrating the common expressions of classical antisemitism encountered on the playground in elementary schools, they quoted one student, who said, “If you are Jewish you are teased. They call you stingy. They throw five cents at you. Or they throw money on the ground and call out ‘who is the Jew?’ Or they will say: ‘That’s a Jew nose.’ They say things about payot [sidelocks]. Or they take a pair of scissors, pretend they are cutting something and say ‘do you want another circumcision?” At the high school level this can develop into an additional layer of anti-Zionism, which is at times reinforced by teachers in the classroom.  Jewish students are perceived as Zionists and supporters of Israel, and the anti-Semitism takes on a political connotation. “They are persecuted because of Israel, because of the occupation and because of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians,” said Prof. Gross.

Professors Gross and Rutland believe that additional research needs to be conducted into the role the schoolyard has played in fostering anti-Semitism

According to the researchers, many Jewish students in government primary and high schools prefer to hide the fact that they are Jewish in order to avoid bullying.  Their parents minimize the significance of the verbal attacks and prefer to downplay them so as not to arouse attention.  Teachers and principals deny that there is a problem.  So Jewish students wind up accepting verbal bullying, which they believe they have to adjust to as normal behavior because the undercurrent of anti-Semitism on the playground is endemic and longstanding.

Increasing levels of anti-Semitism in the general community have imposed a huge security burden on the Australian Jewish community. In 2015 the government allocated funds to 54 schools at risk of attack or violence stemming from racial or religious intolerance. Seventeen were Jewish schools, which require armed guards in both Sydney and Melbourne, even though Jews constitute only 0.4% of the population.

Gross and Rutland recommended a number of steps to overcome this problem, including educating teachers to better understand cultural diversity, taking action when a problem is discovered, and educating principals and teachers on how to respond in a positive fashion to problems of racial discrimination.

Additional conference speakers discussed the phenomenon of denial or downplaying the level of anti-Semitism. In addressing the opening session of the conference, Dahan Center Director and former MK Dr. Shimon Ohayon said, “The fight against anti-Semitism must be fought across the board – from parliamentary legislation in Israel and around the world to vigorous public diplomacy programs that train our people to stand up to the virulent hatred being espoused across college campuses around the world.  Our greatest weakness lies in our inability to fight back against the massive hate machine.” Together with WZO Vice Chairman Yaakov Hagoel, Dahan led the Knesset lobby against anti-Semitism.

WZO Vice Chairman Hagoel said,”The World Zionist Organization will continue to stand firmly against acts of anti-Semitism which are increasing every year in both frequency and violence. Anti-Semitism has become routine in Diaspora Jewish communities such that Jewish identity is threatened, Jewish symbols are concealed, and fear of violent anti-Semitism is heightened.  In an era of global terror blended with deep anti-Semitism, at a time when the Internet is a free platform for spreading hatred, our commitment to combating this phenomenon alongside our brethren in the Diaspora is reinforced.  (J Wire)

Hamas, Fatah Announce Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government

Hamas and Fatah have agreed to establish a Palestinian unity government, the two factions said in a statement from Moscow, where they were holding unity talks since Sunday.

According to the deal reached in Moscow, the Palestinian factions – including the Islamic Jihad – will join the PLO institutions and form a new Palestinian National Council. The new council will select the PLO Executive Committee, the top political and diplomatic Palestinian body.

The Palestinian factions agreed that over the next two months new members will be elected to the National Council and the sides will try to form a new government.

A Fatah senior official taking part in the talks in Moscow told Haaretz that “The conditions are ripe for a new unity government, both in the internal arena and the international one.”

The official mentioned the recent peace conference in Paris, the UN Security Council resolution criticizing the settlements and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s election as some of the reasons behind the deal. “A unity government is of strategic importance for the Palestinians,” he said.

Fatah Central Committee member Azam al-Ahmed said that the Palestinian factions had agreed to promote a unity government and would turn to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas within 48 hours in order for him to launch consultations ahead of the formation the new government.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, who took part in the talks, said that a unity government “is the most effective tool to promote the contentious issues that formed during the years of division, and it is responsible to promote the solutions, including the holding of free and democratic elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”   (Haáretz)

IDF interviews newest female fighter pilot

Lt. Shahar, who became the fourth female fighter pilot in Israeli Air Force history last week, gives an interview on the IDF’s new website; she explains that she was not a stereotypical overachiever and that piloting was her first true niche; ‘There are a lot of women who have the potential to join the piloting world, but they don’t know it.’

“I don’t feel special,” said Lt. Shahar, the fourth female fighter pilot in the history of the Israeli Air Force who completed the 173 Pilots’ Training Course last week. “Even before the course, I was a completely regular person. Not the most successful amongst my friends. I didn’t have the highest grades in high school—they were actually middling. In basketball as well I was good, but I wasn’t in the top league. I think this is the first thing I’m really good.”

The 22 year old grew up in a small village in the center of the country and learned in a computer sciences and art high school. Her first interview was published on the IDF’s new website. “I didn’t know air crews or the world of flying before the course. I came across it in 12th grade when we were first sorted for the army. That stage forced me to confront the question of what I wanted to do in the IDF and where I wanted to end up. That’s where the idea of the pilots’ course surfaced.”

When her friends began being sorted to special and elite unites, Shahar decided to go for the pilots’ course. “I understood that this was the best thing that I could do in the army, the highest that I could reach,” she explained. Due to a dislocated shoulder in basketball that she had suffered a few years previously, her medical profile, used by the IDF to determine the medical suitability of recruits for different units, was lowered.

Shahar tried to fight the decision and raise her profile, but to no avail. She ended up being assigned to serve as a simulator instructor in the IAF, and she was satisfied with that position. “Originally, I gave up on being a pilot,” she said. “I told myself that it was a great position, and I made my peace with it. I really loved and connected to it. Every spare minute I had, though, I went flying.”

Lt. Shahar, right

Lt. Shahar, right

Half a year into her enlistment, her medical profile was raised. After a conversation with a close friend, Shahar decided to apply again for the pilots’ course. “We decided together that both of us would go for it, no matter what.”

Shahar was accepted and progressed gradually. “I had concerns about what would be if I didn’t succeed and  would fail. I knew everybody believed in me and that I had to succeed,” she recounted. “From there, I continued step by step, each stage separately. I looked at what I had gone through up to that point and what I had done, but not very far forward.”

Regarding the moment when she was informed that she her application to be trained as a fighter pilot, Shahar said, “I had a huge smile. It felt like a pat on the back. I got very emotional, and I mainly wanted to run and phone home. I called my mom and my previous commander at the simulator—he really supported my going for the course, always helping me and really believing in me.”

Shahar’s accomplishment puts her in an extremely exclusive club, but she isn’t moved at all by the data on women in the pilots’ course in general and the fighter pilots’ in particular. “Being a female fighter pilot is just like being a male fighter pilot,” she insisted. “It’s doing what’s necessary of me to finish the process and later on to fly operational planes in the force.”

“I think that I’m here for a lot of reasons that are individual and not feminine, reasons that are due to who I am and not because I’m a woman,” Shahar added. “I don’t think that I represent the female sex or all the women who want to enlist in the course. In the end, I’m like the whole gang who stand with me on the parade field—and I completed the exact same path.”

“There are a lot of women who have the potential to join the piloting world, but they don’t know it,” she shared. “Any woman can do this. I don’t think that you need to fulfill a certain typecast to finish the course. You don’t need to understand planes from the age of 13, and you don’t need to be a genius in class. You need to try, to come with an open mind, and not to write off the option before it’s even made possible.”  (Ynet News)

The Two-State Solution: A Greater Threat to Palestinians than to Israel

By Prof. Hillel Frisch                       BESA      Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Most observers, when debating the pros and cons of a two-state solution, focus exclusively on its potential impact on Israel and its Jewish citizens. Much less attention is paid to the solution’s potential impact on the Palestinians. Leftists, right-wingers, conservatives and liberals all tend to assume that two states would naturally be in the Palestinians’ interest. Think again.

As was apparent at the recent Paris conference, the world refuses to acknowledge that the two-state solution has already failed the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), established in 1994, came to rule over all of Gaza in the summer of 2005 after the complete Israeli withdrawal and destruction of Israeli settlements. The PA also had exclusive control over the major cities in Judea and Samaria/the West Bank and their environs, comprising some 95 percent of these territories’ population.

However, that unified Palestinian entity, which was supposed to be the Palestinian side of the two-state equation, proved extremely short-lived.

Within two years of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas took over Gaza completely. In the summer of 2007, after several rounds of fighting that began soon after Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006, the Islamist group established its own exclusive government in Gaza.

Thus, the Palestinians partitioned themselves into two bodies: an autocratic entity headed by Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, and a Hamas theocracy in Gaza. Almost unnoticed, the two-state solution had given way to a three-state solution.

European states – like France, for example, which convened the Paris conference – will no doubt clam that that was all in the past, and the past can always be corrected.

It is certainly true that the Palestinians are always allowed by the international community to have yet another chance. But a two-state solution is simply no longer feasible.

A relatively bloodless civil war has been raging between the two entities day in and day out since their bloody 2007 confrontation, offering a constant illustration of why there cannot be a single Palestinian state. If the two sides were to attempt to reunite, that war would become very bloody indeed. The Palestinians themselves realize this, which explains the succession of failed attempts to bring the sides together.

As separate entities, the two sides make do by utterly subduing the opposing group. The cost of this suppression has been relatively low so far: several deaths of tortured political prisoners in Hamas and PA prisons, a few extrajudicial killings, and the occasional closing down of professional or charitable organizations linked to the opponent. The PA, the economic clout of which is financed by the international community, has blocked projects like the creation of a new Israeli electric grid line into Gaza and the creation of a modern port that would considerably improve Gazans’ standard of living.

Ironically, Hamas supports the new Israeli grid line, even it means greater dependence on the Israeli enemy it has vowed to destroy. For Hamas, waging civil war with the PA over electricity (in addition to many other areas) is more important than increasing its own dependence on the enemy.

For Abbas’s PA, the three-state solution, or, more precisely, the current status quo, is even more essential for its security. The Hamas network of sympathizers, activists, and terrorists in the PA is huge – far greater than the threat Abbas’s Fatah organization poses to the Hamas government in Gaza.

The presence of Hamas in the PA is so substantial that the PA is able to contain it only with significant help from the IDF. For the PA, civil war might lead to the same outcome in Ramallah that it experienced in Gaza in 2007.

Even worse, Hamas as an organization has proven adept at maintaining unity.This is not true of Abbas’s PA and Fatah, its ruling party and militia, which have excelled in their divisiveness. This problem is made only graver by Abbas’s refusal to appoint a deputy and potential successor. In this state of affairs, civil war could give way to several more unresolved and bloody Palestinian partitions.

There is an Israeli angle to Palestinian partition and civil war. Israel’s clear historical right to settle the Land of Israel has been flagrantly challenged, partially on the basis that it would undermine the two-state solution. The argument goes that it would turn the future Palestinian state into a discontinuous state geographically – a Swiss-cheese configuration that is assumed to be inherently dysfunctional. The international community forgets that it was the Palestinians themselves who initiated the process of discontinuity, and they are likely to make it worse as the fight over Abbas’s successor intensifies.

At the end of the day, there are only two available options: 1) A Swiss cheese configuration that remains bloodless due to Israeli state expansion through settlement, which keeps the Palestinian opposing sides at bay; or 2) a prolonged and bloody Palestinian civil war between two or more Palestinian entities.

The Zionist movement, and later the State of Israel, have been waiting a hundred years for the Palestinians to be both sufficiently flexible to live side by side with the Jewish state and sufficiently unified to remain intact as a state. In the face of Palestinian failure to do either, Israel has every right to pursue its legitimate rights in settling Judea and Samaria.

This should include annexation of area C, the blocs around Jerusalem and in Samaria where almost no Palestinians live, or anywhere else Israel sees fit.

That parting shot at Israel

The White House contrived with the Palestinians over the U.N. rebuke

by Wesley Pruden                The Washington Times


According to well-established sources in Egyptian Intelligence Services, a Palestinian Authority (PA) delegation met in Washington D.C. with officials from the outgoing Obama administration for secret talks. Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice were present.

The report reveals U.S.-Palestinian coordination leading to the U.N. Security Council vote on Resolution 2334. It states that the sides “agreed to cooperate” in drafting a resolution on the settlements and that the U.S. representative in the Security Council was “empowered” to coordinate with the Palestinian U.N. representative on the resolution. The report added that Mr. Kerry and Ms. Rice had fulsomely praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ policies and harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that he “aims to destroy the two-state solution.” Mr. Kerry vehemently denies there was any coordination in drafting the resolution.

The evidence, including the minutes of the meetings, suggests Mr. Kerry was probably lying when he issued his denials. Moreover, the Jan. 15 Paris Conference was delayed to accommodate Mr. Kerry’s schedule. Ms. Rice rejected an offer to consult with the incoming administration, arguing Republican President-elect Donald Trump would completely oppose the resolution. Ms. Rice stressed, as well, the danger posed by a Trump administration, which could take a position different from government’s since 1967. She advised Mr. Abbas to avoid any steps that would trigger a Trump administration response.

When Ms. Rice asked what the Palestinian response would be if the U.S. Embassy was moved to Jerusalem, Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat said, “We will directly and immediately join 16 international organizations in withdrawing the PLO’s recognition of Israel and hold it fully responsible for the PA’s collapse.” The Palestinian side demanded that the 1987 law designating the PLO a terrorist organization be rescinded. After all, on the basis of the U.N. proposition, Palestinians are merely trying to acquire the territory that is rightfully theirs.

These meetings were mutual admiration forums, since Mr. Kerry and Ms. Rice expressed esteem for Mr. Abbas’ courage and he, in turn, commended President Obama, Mr. Kerry and Ms. Rice. Mr. Abbas was praised as a man of peace and “a uniquely strategic and courageous leader in the Middle East.” At no point did Mr. Kerry note that Mr. Abbas’ four-year term as president ended eight years ago, nor did he point out the extent to which Mr. Abbas fomented terror attacks and referred to ethnic cleansing in the region. Such realistic talk would have damaged the newly formed American-Palestinian detente.

Finally the report stated, “John Kerry and Susan Rice asked that the meetings be classified ‘Top Secret’ and that what went on in them not be leaked, in light of the sensitivity of the transition between the two U.S. administrations.” The PA also requested that its financial aid remain intact and that assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency be increased.

What these revelations indicate is that the U.S. abstention on the U.N. proposal to restore the 1967 borders, condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and set the stage for a “two-state solution” was a smoke screen. The United States made its deal with Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, and was clearly on board when the U.N. vote was taken. An abstention was a cowardly gesture to create the illusion the Obama administration was still in the Israeli camp. But that, too, was a lie. Israeli interests were intentionally abandoned. In fact, as a result of the Security Council vote, Israel became a “pariah state,” a condition willfully organized by the Obama administration.

In an effort to justify the Obama administration’s position, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Israel was constructing “tens of thousands” of new settlements in the West Bank — a point used to defend the Obama U.N. proposal. However, a subsequent investigation of the claim indicated it was not true. Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer called Mr. Rhodes an “expert at fiction.”

The total number of settlements and outposts is 228, and no new settlements have been built in recent years. In fact, the total territory occupied by Israelis in the West Bank is 2 percent. Mr. Rhodes attempted to rationalize his stance by saying he meant “settlers and individual units.” But even these figures in the aggregate do not add up to “tens of thousands.”

Mr. Rhodes, who has an advanced degree in fiction writing from New York University, has applied his background to the cause of Obama policymaking. However, fantasy and policy make for a very undesirable blend. No matter how hard Mr. Rhodes attempts to justify the Obama-Kerry position, a lie remains a lie, and all the verbal conjuring tricks will not make it true.

Serving faithfully: US religious girls in the Israeli army

by  Itamar   Eichner             Ynet News


Every year, hundreds of young Jewish American women choose to leave the Orthodox homes they grew up in and make aliyah in order to defend the State of Israel. ‘It’s a great mitzvah and an honor to serve in the IDF as a religious soldier,’ one explains; ‘I wanted to be part of the huge power defending Israel,’ says another.

Israeli rabbis, with the help of some retired generals, have been busy recently opposing the enlistment of women to combat roles, and perhaps even women’s enlistment in general. But while they discuss modesty issues inside tanks, hundreds of young religious women are quietly leaving the Orthodox homes they grew up in and immigrating to Israel in order to serve in the IDF.

It began in 2009 with the enlistment of 62 young women from religious homes abroad, and reached its peak in 2016 with 322 observant female soldiers who made aliyah in order to enlist, and there are many more on the way. According to figures compiled by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, 1,732 religious girls have immigrated to Israel and joined the army since 2009, and the number of women recruits is recording a sharp rise every year.

For Israeli youth, conscription is compulsory, and is sometimes even considered a burdensome duty. For these girls, the enlistment is a dream come true, as 17-year-old Nava Chameides of The Bronx, New York, explains: “I heard about the IDF at school, in summer camp and in my congregation. I met soldiers, I read the news and I watched videos about the army, but it all seemed far away until my first visit to Israel.

“I chose military service over national service because of my first experience in Israel,” she recalls. “It was in the summer of 2014, during Operation Protective Edge. During my stay in Israel that year, I felt constantly protected, as IDF soldiers were defending me. That was when I knew that I wanted to do my share to guarantee that the people living in Israel would be safe.”

This affinity to Israel is even more surprising when it comes to 20-year-old Ora (Angelic) Jin, who first stumbled upon Judaism when she was a teenager. “My parents were born in Haiti and moved to the United State when we were young. My parents got divorced when I was a teen and my mother felt she didn’t belong to the church. She did feel she belonged to the synagogue, and started drawing closer to Judaism. We converted in an Orthodox court when I was 14. Today I observe Shabbat and keep kosher and walk around with a skirt. The idea of making aliyah was born when I went to a Zionist seminar.”

While Jin did a year of national service, that isn’t stopping her from planning her IDF enlistment. “I want to serve in the IDF. National service is not enough. I think the army is the best way to contribute and acclimatize. It rewards you and it’s a fulfillment of a personal target of mine. I want to serve as a soldier teacher. My parents didn’t want me to go to combat service, and I didn’t want to worry them.”

Do your background and look give you a hard time in Israel?

“Slightly, because people ask questions to make sure that I’m Jewish. People look at me like ‘why are you doing this?’ But I think they see my determination and are convinced that it’s the strongest proof of my Zionism. I’m also thinking about meeting an Israeli guy here and starting a family. As a soldier, I will maintain a religious lifestyle. My rabbi was very happy when I informed him I was going to enlist.”

Jin, Chameides and hundreds of other young girls immigrate to Israel every year with the help of the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization, in cooperation with the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, the Jewish Agency, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA, and serve as part of the Lone Soldiers Program of Nefesh B’Nefesh and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) in the US and Panama.

“We put an emphasis on following and detecting new trends among the immigrants and adjusting our services accordingly,” says Nefesh B’Nefesh Executive Vice President Zev Gershinsky. “In recent years, we have detected a rise in the number of religious girls wishing to make aliyah in order to join the army or do national service. We appreciate these girls for their decision to immigrate and make a contribution to the state, and we welcome the opportunity to support them and help them during their service and after their release, in order to improve their integration into Israeli society.”

‘My friends thought I was joking

“I was riding the bus, on my way home, on my first Memorial Day in the army,” recalls 21-year-old Deena Felsenthal of Los Angeles, California, who served as a weapon instructor in the Kfir Brigade. “The moment the siren began, the driver stopped in the middle of the highway and got out of the bus to stand for the moment of silence. I stood in the middle of the road next to the driver and next to other random people, and I felt like they were all part of my family. It was a kind of connection I can’t explain in words.

“It was so surreal wearing the same green uniform worn by so many soldiers who fell in our land’s defense. I thought to myself, ‘My soldiers are just like those soldiers,’ and then it hit me that I was training soldiers who defend this country.”

Why did you decide to enlist?

“I wanted to be part of the huge power defending Israel, even if it’s just as a small screw in a huge machine. I felt that I was qualified to serve in the IDF and that I had no personal or religious reason not to enlist. The IDF is not the same army of the 1950s. There are plenty of opportunities for women to make a difference in the army, in a safe and respectable environment.

“The IDF welcomed religious soldiers. I will even go as far as saying that they want to draft religious soldiers. You have prayer times, the food is kosher and they promote respect for each person’s religious beliefs. Life in Israel entails living with Jews of all types and denominations, and with non-Jews as well. I believe that religious women can both gain and contribute a lot to Israel’s extensive community by serving in the IDF.”

This feeling is shared by 21-year-old Hannah Defore of Los Angeles, who served as a fighter in the Home Front Command. “My unit specializes in urban warfare, chemical warfare and rescue. In other words, we serve as combat soldiers in conflict areas, and at a time of war we are busy rescuing and defending our people.”

Weren’t there moments when you felt the service didn’t match your lifestyle?

“I totally loved my service and I am so proud of myself for being a ‘religious girl’ every moment I was in uniform. There is nothing like walking around the city wearing a skirt with the rifle hanging on my shoulder,” she says enthusiastically. “It’s the best feeling, and I wouldn’t replace it with anything. I just hope that the number of religious girls who choose to enlist will keep growing, like it should. It really is a fantastic experience.”

But not everything went smoothly. “My parents and the people around me were surprised at first,” Defore admits. “My friends thought that I was joking. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who would leave everything behind and join the army. At first, there were many negative reactions. I think that many women, even religious girls, dream of being soldiers. We are often told that the army is not our place, and we simply give up on that dream. I often receive messages from religious girls who tell me that they would like to enlist and ask for my advice.”

So there is no problem being a religious woman in the army?

“Every time someone comes to me and argues that the IDF is not a place for religious girls, I avoid disagreeing. The IDF made many changes in a short period of time, but there is always room for improvement. It’s a great mitzvah (good deed) to serve in the IDF. I see is as a great honor to have served as a religious soldier. It’s totally possible.

“Besides,” she adds, “because I participated in a seminary till the day I enlisted, I received wide religious support throughout my service. There were definitely moments when it was harder for me to be religious, but I had an amazing support system. I plan to open my own seminary one day as a home for girls who want to enlist.”

Felsenthal is even more determined and says the military environment had no effect on her religiousness level. “If anything, it made me feel more connected to Judaism. I felt that people really respected me as ‘the religious girl’ in the base. People asked me questions about Judaism, and for some it was the first time they had discussed it with a religious woman. I liked being friends with people who I would not have met earlier and learning about Israeli culture through the glasses of secular and traditional Jews.

Deena Felsenthal

Deena Felsenthal.

“Clearly, sitting alone in a dark room and performing Havdalah on my own while everyone around me listens to music and talks on the phone is not an ideal way to spend Shabbat, but knowing that I am welcoming the Shabbat dressed in green uniform, in a base filled with soldiers who are observing such a great mitzvah, turned the Shabbats in the base into my most meaningful Shabbats.

Twenty-year-old Eliora Korenblit of New York has an answer to those who may argue that the IDF is not the place for religious girls: “Most rabbis who speak against girls going to the army have never experienced what it’s like, so they basically can’t provide you with the best answers. I think that in life you always do things with people who may not share your values, but that shouldn’t affect you or the way you choose to live your life. Religion is a key power in my life, and that will never change because of the environment I am in or the people I am with.”

Operational Shabbat

Twenty-year-old Maya Neiman of New York is actually concerned by how the non-religious environment will affect her, but that did not make her give up on military service. “At the end of the day, it depends on me. If I am sufficiently strong in my beliefs, the army won’t destroy me,” she says. “If I am destroyed, God forbid, that only thing that will destroy is that I allowed something to destroy me.

“I have spoken to many girls who serve in the army, and one thing that one of them stressed to me stood out: It’s true that it’s a non-religious environment, but who says you won’t be in a non-religious environment somewhere else? A college in America, a job. Eventually, you will face the challenge, so it’s your choice where you want to face that challenge.”

Twenty-two-year-old Abigail Balas of New York, who served as a fighter and commander in the Artillery Corps, provides quite a calming answer to all these fears, precisely because her service as a commander and fighter challenged her lifestyle as a religious woman.

“My job in the army was a 24/7 operational job. Work didn’t stop on Shabbat. There is no option of observing Shabbat one hundred percent in the position I served in, but it never challenged my religiousness or made me consider to stop being religious.”

Did your  IDF service affect your religiousness?

“It strengthened me even more, but I feel you have to be stronger. It’s not for everyone. I didn’t wear a skirt. At the reception base, they told me to hurry up and ‘grab a pair of pants.’ It was complicated, but I’m a fighter, and if I fight so a girl is allowed to wear pants. I have a fighter’s certificate, and people would think I was weird if I walked around with a skirt and a weapon.”

Things were much easier for 18-year-old Maya Burjak of Boca Raton, Florida. She has an older sister who has already immigrated, and besides, she expects life in Israel to make a few things simpler in some aspects.

“I have been thinking about immigrating to Israel since I was nine. The number of female religious soldiers is growing, the stigma against religious women in the army is decreasing, and we live in a liberal world. The biggest dream is to serve in the IDF and start a family, and it’s easier to meet a Jewish boy in Israel.”