+61 3 9272 5644

Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo talks to reporters in Daliyat al-Karmel on August 30, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Latest News in Israel – 1st September

Israel ‘at risk of civil war,’ says ex-Mossad chief

Israeli society is heading for civil war and the country must take steps to counter it, former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo warned Tuesday in his first public remarks since stepping down as the spy agency director in January.

“The internal threat must worry us more than the external threat,” he told a press conference in the northern Druze town of Daliyat al-Carmel.

“If a divided society goes beyond a certain point, you can end up, in extreme circumstances, with phenomena like civil war. To my regret, the distance [until we reach that point] is shrinking. I fear that we are going in that direction,” Pardo said.

There was more to unite than divide, Pardo told reporters, as he promoted an event next month to commemorate fallen soldiers from the Druze community. But, he added, some people in Israel sought the intensity that came with division, and “there are some for whom it’s comfortable to emphasize that which divides and not that which unites. I can’t put my finger on a group or a leader. It exists within all the country’s groups.”

Some wished to impose their own ways upon others, he added, and this was doomed to fail.

Asked whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was solvable, Pardo replied in the affirmative, adding that a two-state solution would ultimately be implemented.

Pardo said the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is crucial to region-wide peace in the Middle East, joining the ranks of retired security men to urge the government to seek a two-state solution.

With peace efforts with the Palestinians stalled for more than two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instead sought to cultivate alliances across the Arab world. In addition to the decades-old peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, Netanyahu frequently boasts of what he calls strong behind-the-scenes contacts with moderate Sunni countries, presumably Saudi Arabia and smaller Gulf states.

But Pardo said these ties cannot develop further without progress with the Palestinians.

“In my opinion, we won’t be able to reach any agreement with any country beyond what we have now if we don’t solve the Palestinian issue,” he said.

He noted that Netanyahu has endorsed the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. “I think he is right and I think he needs to follow that path,” Pardo said.

Although Netanyahu says he supports a two-state solution, he has given few details on where the Palestinian state would be formed. The Palestinians accuse Israel of sabotaging peace hopes by expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — captured territories where they hope to establish their state. Netanyahu has demanded the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Dozens of former Israeli commanders have urged Netanyahu to push harder to resolve the Palestinian issue, saying the continued occupation of millions of Palestinians endangers the country’s democracy.

Many have accused him of mishandling the matter, though Pardo’s vague comments stopped short of doing so.

Netanyahu’s office declined comment.

Pardo also criticized the Avigdor Liberman-led Defense Ministry for comparing last year’s nuclear deal with Iran with the Munich Agreement signed by the European powers with Nazi Germany in 1938. History did not repeat itself, he said, adding that it was wrong to compare events that had taken place at such different times.             (the Times of Israel)

UN Security Council to convene meeting on Israeli settlement building

The UN Security Council will hold a meeting on October 14 to address Israeli settlement building.

News of the upcoming meeting emerged after UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov appeared in front of the Security Council on Monday and slammed Israel for continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Mladenov said Israel’s actions go against the Quartet’s recommendations, which were published in July.

The Quartet’s report outlined what the group believes are the threats to the two-state solution and offered practical recommendations to enable an eventual return to peace negotiations.

“Its recommendations continue to be ignored, including by a surge in Israeli settlement- related announcements and continuing demolitions,” Mladenov said. “We heard that settlement construction is not an impediment to a two-state solution; that ‘a few houses’ are not a problem for peace,” he added.

“Let me ask in return: How will advancing the construction of over 1,700 housing units bring the parties closer to negotiated peace, uphold the two-state solution, create hope for the Palestinian people, or bring security to Israelis?”

The special coordinator told the council that, since July, Israel has advanced plans for more than 1,000 housing units in “settlements” in east Jerusalem and hundreds in the West Bank. Israel, he said, is examining plans for “new housing units for 100 Israelis on a portion of a military compound in Hebron that it has allocated for this purpose.”

Mladenov also pointed fingers at the Israeli government for advancing retroactive legalization of settler outposts.

“Let me be clear: No legal acrobatics can change the fact that all outposts – whether ‘legalized’ under Israeli law or not, whether located on state land, absentee land or private land – just like all settlements in Area C and East Jerusalem, remain illegal under international law,” he stated.

“It is difficult to read in these actions a genuine intention to work towards a viable two-state solution,” Mladenov added. “This appears to reinforce a policy, carried out over decades, that has enabled over half a million Israelis to settle in territory that was occupied militarily in 1967.”

Following the briefing, Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour told media he believes it is the duty of the Security Council to act when it comes to settlements. According to him, simply reiterating the official position of the council is “meaningless.”

Mansour announced that a Security Council meeting on the issue would be held on October 14 under the informal UN mechanism known as the “Arria-formula.” The meeting, he said, will focus on practical steps to be taken against Israel’s settlement building.

Under this format, all of the Security Council’s 15 member states are not required to attend, but they are still expected to.

In reaction, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Israel “will not apologize for building in our eternal capital of Jerusalem.”

“A Security Council meeting won’t change the situation on the ground. Only [when the other side] lets go of terrorism and demonstrates real intentions to go back to the negotiating table can we promote a true solution in our region.”                                                            (Jerusalem Post)

Police chief: ‘It is proven that migrants are more involved in crime’

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich elicited audible gasps among a gathering of lawyers Tuesday when he said it was “natural” for law enforcement officials to be more suspicious of Ethiopians and other migrants than the general population.

“All over the world, it is proven that migrants are more involved in crime than others.

Younger people are more involved in crime than others.

When the two things go together, a particular group is more involved in crime,” he said at the Israel Bar Association Conference at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv. Alsheich was responding to a member of the audience who asked why there is more police violence against Ethiopian-Israelis.

“This also goes for Arabs… and also in east Jerusalem,” Alsheich continued. “When a policeman meets a suspect [of Ethiopian descent or other groups with higher crime rates], naturally he is more suspicious than with others.

We know this. We have started to deal with this.”

The police chief said, however, that the Ethiopian community’s faith in the police is at a high, despite some public battles. This, he said, is because the issue is being addressed by reducing “over-policing” and dropping low-grade cases in which Ethiopians were arrested because of friction with police but no other criminal suspicion.

Also, he said, the Ethiopian communities’ leaders are working hand in hand with police to reduce friction.

The umbrella organization of Ethiopian immigrants in Israel called upon Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to fire Alsheich due to his remarks.

“A man like this cannot command such an important body,” the organization said.

Opposition MKs also sharply criticized Alsheich for his statements about minorities.

“Not only is the commissioner not dealing with police violence toward the Ethiopian community, he is actually encouraging it,” said Zionist Union faction head Merav Michaeli. “Young Ethiopian immigrants are not ‘migrants.’ They are Israeli in every way, and statements like Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich elicited audible gasps among a gathering of lawyers Tuesday when he said it was “natural” for law enforcement officials to be more suspicious of Ethiopians and other migrants than the general population.

“All over the world, it is proven that migrants are more involved in crime than others.

Younger people are more involved in crime than others.

When the two things go together, a particular group is more involved in crime,” he said at the Israel Bar Association Conference at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv. Alsheich was responding to a member of the audience who asked why there is more police violence against Ethiopian-Israelis.

“This also goes for Arabs… and also in east Jerusalem,” Alsheich continued. “When a policeman meets a suspect [of Ethiopian descent or other groups with higher crime rates], naturally he is more suspicious than with others.

We know this. We have started to deal with this.”

The police chief said, however, that the Ethiopian community’s faith in the police is at a high, despite some public battles. This, he said, is because the issue is being addressed by reducing “over-policing” and dropping low-grade cases in which Ethiopians were arrested because of friction with police but no other criminal suspicion.

Also, he said, the Ethiopian communities’ leaders are working hand in hand with police to reduce friction.

The umbrella organization of Ethiopian immigrants in Israel called upon Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to fire Alsheich due to his remarks.

“A man like this cannot command such an important body,” the organization said.

Opposition MKs also sharply criticized Alsheich for his statements about minorities.

“Not only is the commissioner not dealing with police violence toward the Ethiopian community, he is actually encouraging it,” said Zionist Union faction head Merav Michaeli. “Young Ethiopian immigrants are not ‘migrants.’ They are Israeli in every way.                                          (Jerusalem Post)

IDF’s new system to allow firing without exiting the APC

The IDF Ground Forces’ Technological Brigade have begun installing in recent months the “Drakonit” computerized firing network in “Achzarit” APCs, which are used in regular and reserve infantry brigades, and on the Combat Engineering Corps’s older “Puma” armored vehicles.

The Drakonit, manufactured by Elbit, allows the operation of a heavy machine gun on the roof of armored vehicles directly from the fighter’s box without the soldier needing to extend their body outside and thus endanger themselves.

Dual cameras for day and night are affixed to the outside of the Drakonit system, as well as a small radar that detects suspicious movements in the field and allows the force inside the APC to lock on and shoot at a target.

In addition, the Drakonit is outfitted with a system that allows marking and maximum precision for targeting. The target is identified at high resolution with the cameras at a nearly full radius of the APC, and its firepower is efficient up to a distance of 1,500 meters.                        (Ynet News)

7,000-year-old pits found in northern Israel suggest sophisticated ancient irrigation

Seven thousand years ago, in Northern Israel’s Tel Beit She’an Valley, ancient residents ate wheat, barley, buckwheat, lentils and peas.

They also raised herds of goats, sheep, cattle and pigs, which were eaten mainly during festive events.

Now, following recent excavations west of the Jordanian border, archeologists from the University of Haifa announced they have found hundreds of olive pits, requiring a reevaluation of prehistoric irrigation techniques in the area.

On Tuesday, researchers from the university’s Zinman Institute of Archeology, working in conjunction with researchers from universities around the world, said the pits were likely the result of artificial irrigation.

“The existence of an ancient agricultural system that relies on artificial irrigation will require a significant change in how we perceive their agricultural sophistication,” said Haifa University’s Prof. Daniel Rosenberg, who runs the research project with Dr. Florian Klimsh, of the German Archaeological Institute.

According to Rosenberg and Klimsh, the prehistoric communities located on the Jordanian border, near Kibbutz Tirat Zvi, were the basis for the establishment of ancient cities and cultures of the Near East.

Although considered “the cradle of civilization,” the researchers say little remains known about the region.

In their study, the archeologists combined researchers from a variety of disciplines to focus on finding botanical evidence to determine the specific conditions prevailing in the Jordan Valley during that time to understand the economy, diet, agricultural practices and social organization.

While the exploitation of olives during this period is well documented, Rosenberg said the large amount of seeds found during the excavation raises a number of questions requiring a rethinking of ancient irrigation methods, and about ancient trade relations involving olives and olive oil.

Based on botanical and animal bone evidence collected in the area over the past four years, the researchers said they were partially able to reconstruct the diet and economy of the ancient inhabitants of the Jordan Valley.

Indeed, Rosenberg and Klimsh found that “back-up” plant species were grown to accommodate the long maturation cycles occurring during different seasons, based on the possibility of a weak harvest.

“For example, the maturation of wheat and barley is different from that of olives, lentils and peas, which were found in the site, and have different nutritional contributions,” said Rosenberg.

Meanwhile, thousands of animal bones found in the area testify to the care of herds of goats, sheep, pigs, and various cattle, he added.

Ultimately, the archeologists hope their research will contribute to the ongoing preservation of area plants by understanding irrigation techniques used thousands of years ago.

“This provides a rare glimpse into the lifestyles of the ancient inhabitants of the Jordan Valley and the heritage of the region in general, and allows us to not just visit their homes, but also their dishes and pots,” said Rosenberg.                              (Jerusalem Post)

Leadership

by Ron Weiser

Leadership comes in various forms.

Just over a week ago saw the Zionist Federation of Australia’s 10th Biennial Jewish Educators’ Conference. Hundreds of participants gathered for a unique event in the Jewish world.

Back in 1997 when it was conceived and then first held in 1998 there was no such conference anywhere in the world covering the wide gamut of Jewish education, which had been initiated and run by a Zionist roof body.

And so it has continued. And there is still nothing like it anywhere else.

Aside from the excellence of the conference itself, each and every one of the overseas contingent remarked upon this unique fact.

This is a tribute to the Zionist nature of our community and the leadership of the Zionist Federation.

Keynote speaker was Rabbi Dov Lipman who was a member of Yesh Atid in the last Knesset and is currently in charge of public diplomacy at the World Zionist Organisation.

Rav Lipman, aside from being one of the most personable and erudite guests, demonstrated a leadership style that began as a grass roots activist and focused on an inclusive approach to largely deal with Israel’s internal issues.

His various appearances took me last shabbat to a number of different shuls and I was struck this week by a fellow congregant complaining about the Israeli political system and the instability he claimed it produces.

This is a common refrain but seems rather odd coming from anyone in Australia, where strange as it may sound, we live with much more parliamentary instability than in Israel.

I have written about it before but it’s worth refreshing our memory on this as we have seen yet another election in Australia.

Israel has had the same continuous Prime Minister for over 7 years, has no single person parties or independents, the smallest party in the Knesset has 5 seats and there is no clear or visible challenger for the prime ministership in sight.

It seems ridiculous but in Australia, over the same period, we have had 5 different Prime Ministers (one twice) and an instability in either or both the leadership and the Senate. Nothing of which seems to have changed much in the most recent election.

Once people are reminded of this, they move on to “well here it doesn’t matter nearly as much”, or something similar to that. And then to the problem as they see it, that Prime Minister Netanyahu can’t take actions he would like to because of the electoral system.

Although Israel’s electoral system can do with quite some improvement, this is somewhat of a cop out.

Whether Netanyahu does or does not do something is really more a matter of his own leadership judgement call and style.

Whilst the coalition process leads to some constraints, the real issue is that Netanyahu himself is less decisive than some others might be, or some think him to be.

Now that is not necessarily a bad trait in a leader when rash action may lead to consequences not properly thought out. On the other hand being too hesitant in taking initiatives may also have negative consequences.

In any case, my point is that Israel’s political system should not be the primary target for people who think Israel is constrained from doing one thing or another.

Since the election in March last year Netanyahu has been holding a number of ministerial portfolios for himself in the hope of enticing Herzog and Labour into government.

The mere fact that he has been able to do so over the objections of others about his ability to devote the proper time and effort to these important portfolios, that is to simply govern effectively, shows the authority that the Prime Minister actually does have.

Moreover he does so over the objections of his own party and coalition members who jealously seek these ministerships

This puts the lie to the claim that he can’t make decisions because of his coalition in those times when he is actually willing to exercise his authority.

Netanyahu has now decided that the chances of Herzog joining the government are extremely low and he has finally given out all but one of the additional portfolios he had retained.

He still remains both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman sees himself as a future successor to Netanyahu. Whether the electorate agrees with him or not is another matter.

But what Lieberman has identified as Netanyahu’s achilles heel, is his well recognised history of preferring a cautious approach over an activist one.

So Lieberman sees his comparative advantage in putting his own leadership style forward by being the can do/will do “Mr Decisive”.

Now some will see this as a good thing and others, not so much.

Clearly Israeli policy has changed and Lieberman has done it, at least for the moment.

Here are but two examples.

Lieberman has announced a reward and punishment process vis a vis West Bank villages.

One West Bank village from which no terrorists have come has been waiting 3 years for IDF permission to build a soccer field. A single visit by Lieberman since he became Defence Minister less than 3 months ago, permission granted.

When it comes to Gaza, the norm has been – a rocket comes over from Gaza and as long as it causes no deaths or injuries, Israel fires a rocket back into an empty field or on an empty building.

On August 21st a rocket was fired from Gaza into Sderot. This was by the way the 14th rocket fired at Israel from Gaza in 2016 and the first since Lieberman settled into the Defence Ministry.

The response from Israel was dramatically different this time. Utilising the airforce, drones and tanks Israel struck 50 targets in Gaza.

There is indeed a new policy under Lieberman.

Now many will applaud Israel finally taking a greater defensive and deterrent stance.

Others will ask us to wait and see how this changes the enemy’s appetite to test Israel again.

Lieberman’s fate and popularity in Israel remains in many ways, in Hamas’ hands.

In the United States there is another leadership race going on.

I have no idea who will be better for Israel, Clinton or Trump.

What I do know is that as we all understand, the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama was not always the best it could be. Neither would nominate the other for any awards and each has got under the skin of the other time and time again. One could not describe their personal chemistry as friendly or trusting.

And yet what is actually happening is that Netanyahu is pushing forward to negotiate the next 10 year US aid package to Israel with President Obama. I repeat, with President Obama.

Preferring to do so rather than waiting on the uncertainty of negotiating with either a future President Clinton or Trump.

That should tell us something as to how Netanyahu judges Israel’s chances with the potential new leaders when it comes to one of the most important decisions that will affect Israel well into the future.

Many challenges lie ahead, identifying the appropriate leadership for the circumstances is the key.

The Truth About the Temple Mount

The truth is a scarce commodity in the Middle East. The Watchman takes apart the anti-Israel lies one after another in this riveting special feature. Perhaps the greatest lies are reserved for Israel’s Holiest Spot – the Temple Mount – the location where both Israeli Temples stood for nearly 1,000 years!