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Latest News in Israel – 21st January

Israeli Minister Holds Secret Meeting in United Arab Emirates Over Iran Threat

Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Steinitz, Netanyahu’s point man on the Iran nuclear program, made the visit under “heavy security” to “share concerns” with Arab Gulf leaders and other Sunni Arab states.

The secret meeting coincided with an energy conference in Abu Dhabi that also included Iranian officials.

In a sign of warming ties between Israel and the Arab Gulf states, Israel in November announced plans to open a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi as part of the United Nations International Renewable Energy Agency          (United with Israel)

29 killed, 289 injured in terror wave since September

The Magen David Adom service says that 29 people have been killed and 289 injured in attacks since the terror wave began.

The summary begins with the September death of Alexander Levlovitz, whose car was pelted with stones, resulting in a fatal car accident.

Among those injured, 25 are seriously injured, 8 are moderately-to-seriously injured, 11 are lightly-to-moderately injured, and 202 are lightly injured. More than 105 people have been treated for shock.

The emergency service says it provided medical treatment for 89 rock-throwing attacks, 79 stabbings, 21 car-ramming attacks, and 13 shooting attacks.        (The Times of Israel)

Terror Prince: Hezbollah leader’s son led terror cell in West Bank, says Shin Bet

Security forces announced on Wednesday the foiling of a terrorist suicide bombing and shooting cell based in Tulkarm in the West Bank that was under the command of Hezbollah, and which was set up by the son of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

A total of five Palestinians are in custody on suspicion of joining the Hezbollah terrorist cell, and they were close to launching attacks, according to the Shin Bet.

The Shin Bet intelligence agency said its investigation found that Juad Nasrallah, the son of Hezbollah chairman Hassan Nasrallah, used online social media networks to recruit Mahmoud Za’alul, a Palestinian resident of Tulkarm, who in turn received instructions on how to recruit other members into the cell.

Za’alul, aged 32, acting under Hezbollah instructions received from his handler, a man named only as ‘Fadi,’ set up an email account through which he received instructions on how to recruit other members of the cell, gather field intelligence, and select targets.

The cell was instructed to use secret communications equipment to receive instructions on how to carry out suicide bombings, assemble bomb vests, gather intelligence, and set up training camps, the Shin Bet said.

Additionally, members of the cell were ordered to gather intelligence on security forces operating in the area. Members of the cell allegedly asked Hezbollah for assistance in getting weapons and funds to carry out attacks.

“Hezbollah sent 5,000 dollars from abroad to advance the terrorist plot,” the Shin Bet said.

Two members of the cell, Muhammad Masarwa and Ahmed Abu El-Az, purchased a firearm from Za’alul, and were arrested before being able to proceed with a shooting attack on the IDF, the Shin Bet added.

Za’alul, the alleged field commander of the cell, spent time in an Israeli prison between 2001 and 2005 for past security offenses, while another member of the cell, Rabah Lavadi, aged 28, of Tulkarm, also spent 2008 to 2011 behind bars, as well as 2002 and 2007, for security offenses.

Three other Tulkarm residents, all aged 20, have no previous security convictions.

“This is another attempt by Hezbollah to carry out an attack Israel, which has been thwarted by the Shin Bet and the IDF,” security forces said.

They added that Hezbollah’s Unit 133, which is responsible for overseeing terrorism against Israel, has in recent years attempted to set up terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank, without success. The latest investigation uncovered “a must unusual incident in which a terror cell, orchestrated by Hezbollah, was ready to act,” the Shin Bet said.

“Hezbollah is trying to ride the terror wave that is striking Israel, and is working intensively to whip up winds in the area by contributing to the growing incitement, and by exploiting the Palestinian population, luring youths to carry out attacks under its instructions, and with its funds,” it added.

Hezbollah “is carrying out remote recruitment and activation of terror cells, while using the Internet covertly in order to carry out terrorist activities from abroad, keeping a low profile as it does so,” the Shin Bet said.

The five suspects have been indicted at the Judea Military Court, and charged with membership in an illegal organization, contact with the enemy, bringing in enemy funds into the area, conspiracy to cause deliberate death, trafficking in combat equipment, conspiring to shoot at people, and disrupting the course of legal proceedings.                       (Jerusalem Post)

Police arrest Palestinian teen in Jerusalem armed with large knife

An 18-year-old male Palestinian from east Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood was arrested by police late Monday for walking the streets of the Arab community armed with a seven-inch knife in his hand.

Despite media reports that the teen attempted to stab the officers with the blade and then flee the scene, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Tuesday that he was arrested without incident.

“The resident was walking on one of the main streets in the Shuafat area with a large knife while undercover police officers were patrolling the area,” said Rosenfeld.

“The officers responded quickly by approaching the suspect to question him and ensure no attack could take place. They confiscated the knife, and placed him under arrest.”

“It remains unclear why he was armed, and an investigation has been opened.”

The suspect was subsequently arraigned at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

Meanwhile, Rosenfeld said police remain on heightened alert throughout the capital, with an emphasis on the Old City, public areas, and volatile Arab neighborhoods.        (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu in Otniel: Boundless Palestinian hatred caused by incitement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the town of Otniel, south of Hebron, on Tuesday morning and slammed the Palestinian Authority for the incitement that propelled a 15-year-old boy to murder a 38-year-old mother of six there.

“Whoever wants to see the truth about the roots of the conflict between us and the Palestinians should come to Otniel and see here a wonderful family that only wants coexistence and peace,” he said, after paying a shiva (mourning period) call to the family of Dafna Meir, murdered on Sunday by the 15-year-old terrorist arrested earlier in the day.

“They should see the young people, inflamed by incitement, who come to murder women here, a mother of six, and in Tekoa, a pregnant woman; they come to murder them and say, ‘We will destroy you all, in Tel Aviv and Jaffa as well,’” the prime minister continued.

On one side there is “humanity and a desire for coexistence, and on the other side boundless hatred,” he added. “That hatred has an address: it is the incitement of the Palestinian Authority and other actors, such as the Islamic Movement and Hamas. The time has come for the international community to stop its hypocrisy and to call the child by its name.”

Netanyahu, accompanied on his visit by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, said the root of the conflict is the Palestinian refusal to “recognize the right to the Jews to have a state in any borders – here, in Tel Aviv, anywhere,” he said. He said this “truth” must be told to the world, and that in the end “the truth will win out.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday night: “We are against killings and bloodshed of any person regardless of his or her religion, ethnicity or race.”

Abbas told a group of Christians in Bethlehem that he was “keen to prevent the spilling of one drop of blood from any human being.”

He added that the Palestinians were “suffering from daily killings and slaughter.”

Referring to the current wave of terrorism, Abbas said that the Palestinian “resistance would remain peaceful and we will remain steadfast and patient on our land.”       (Jerusalem Post)

Herzog calls for completing security fence around settlement blocs

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Left, announced a surprising new diplomatic plan Tuesday that calls for completing the security fence around settlement blocs in the West Bank.

Herzog’s plan strays far from the policies of US President Barack Obama’s administration and European countries, which have made a point of repeatedly delegitimizing any construction over Israel’s pre-1967 borders, and are opposed construction of the barrier over the Green Line. Speaking at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, Herzog said he had not given up hope for a two-state solution, but that Israel should not wait for such a solution to be possible in order to take action.

“I want an agreement with the Palestinians but it is not currently possible to reach a deal due to extremists on both sides,” Herzog said. “I want to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as fast as possible. Let’s build a large fence between us.”

Herzog said completing the fence around settlement blocs would protect them and send a message to the Palestinians that they will remain part of Israel. He said he envisions the settlement blocs absorbing settlers from isolated communities that would be evacuated.

“The situation will be clear to everyone,” he said. “We are settling here, you are settling there. Live your lives, improve your economy, deal with employment. Placing the blocs under Israeli sovereignty will be part of a final agreement.”

Herzog called for leaving Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem outside the fence and encouraging the Palestinians to build and develop land on their side of the barrier.

Confirming for the first time that he had sought the formation of a national unity government, Herzog said he had checked the possibility of working together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on separating from the Palestinians, but that the prime minister was afraid to take serious action.

“Israel needs to separate from Netanyahu in order to separate from the Palestinians,” he said.

Herzog’s speech concluded a day full of attacks on Netanyahu at the conference.

The day began with a warning fromd Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), who is a member of the security cabinet, that his own government lacked strategic thinking.

Channel 10 later quoted Bennett calling Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon a failure in private conversations.

Netanyahu’s associates said Bennett’s comments were “worthy of laughter” and that he was just pandering to his right-wing extremist constituency. Herzog called upon Bennett to resign.

Former minister Gideon Sa’ar also attacked Netanyahu in his address to the conference, never mentioning him by name. He called for diplomatic steps, using a regional track.

“Passivity and being reactive has not served Israel on the diplomatic or security fronts,” he said. “Israel must be active and initiating. When we don’t initiate, we get dragged, absorb blows and don’t achieve anything.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told the conference that Israel’s international situation was the worst it has been in the country’s history. Israel’s worsening image harms its national security, he warned.           (Jerusalem Post)

State unable to extradite Australian educator wanted for sex abuse

For more than a year, the State Attorney’s Office has been trying without success to extradite an ultra-Orthodox woman who is wanted in Australia on 74 counts of sexual assault against Jewish girls who were her students in a Melbourne school.

The woman, Malka Leifer, allegedly assaulted the girls while she was principal of the Adass Israel School in Melbourne, Australia, until 2008.

Leifer today lives in Bnei Brak, a largely ultra-Orthodox city in central Israel where she is under house arrest. She fled Australia to Israel, allegedly with the help of school employees, on the night she got wind of the allegations against her in 2008.

The school psychologist told Leifer that she was facing arrest, and on the same day the school staff bought plane tickets for her and her family, according to evidence presented at a civil trial in Australia last year.

Most of Leifer’s alleged victims were 14-15 years old at the time of the assaults.

The Australian extradition request has been heard by Judge Amnon Cohen at the Jerusalem District Court, but thus far there have been no hearings in Leifer’s case due to psychotic episodes she says she suffered before every single appearance in court, Israel Radio reported.

Her lawyers have asked the court to reject the extradition request due to her mental state. Mental health professionals, including the Jerusalem district psychiatrist, have confirmed that Leifer’s panic attacks in court were genuine and said the process of a court hearing puts her under extreme pressure, the report said.

Some of the girls allegedly assaulted by Leifer are willing to testify against her and are awaiting her extradition in Australia. She is accused of sexual assault against minors, conducting penetrative acts of a sexual nature against minors and rape, according to Australian law.

Manny Waks — a recent immigrant to Israel from Australia who has championed for victims of sexual abuse in ultra-Orthodox communities since revealing that he had been molested by Chabad educators as a child — told Israel Radio that a third sister of the two alleged victims died recently in London, allegedly as a result of threats and intimidation.

Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, head of the Israel National Council for the Child, said some of the victims contacted the organization he heads in Israel. The “frustration and anger” felt by the victims over the fact that Israeli authorities have been unsuccessful in their efforts bringing Leifer to justice is “intolerable,” he said.

Kadman said his organization has been relaying to the State Attorney’s Office every bit of information he received from the Australian victims.

“I don’t think Israel should become an asylum for sex offenders and this is certainly not the way to receive [Jewish] immigration,” he said.

“We see again and again that this story of sexual assaults against minors in religious institutions is not solely a trademark of the Catholic Church,” Kadman said, adding that several such cases have already been exposed in Jewish educational institutions.

He said that if Leifer’s psychotic episodes were triggered by the pressure of appearing in court, the judge should come to her house and complete the extradition procedure.

But a statement from the court said that, “according to professionals’ medical opinions, a hearing cannot be held in the presence of Malka Leifer, and attempts to hold a hearing in her home are also impossible. No [tranquilizing] pill can help [calm her down] before a court hearing.”            (The Times of Israel)

Push to ban Israel lobby trips for NSW Labor officials

Divisions within the ALP over Middle East policy are set to flare at next month’s NSW conference over a push to ban Labor MPs, officials and Young Labor members from accepting subsidised trips to Israel.

The proposal has been put forward by the group Labor Friends of Palestine.

The motion states that while Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “continues settlements, refuses a Palestinian state [and] brutally mistreats Arab residents of the West Bank”, that no ALP officer, MP or Young Labor member “accept a paid trip from the Israel Lobby”.

“To do so in the circumstances is an insult to the Australian community who support our party,” it says.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and similar groups regularly organise subsidised trips for journalists and politicians to Israel where they undertake guided tours.

The push is in response to a perception of an increase in approaches to Labor MPs and officials to take the trips following the passage of resolutions at recent ALP conferences.

At the 2014 NSW conference, former foreign minister Bob Carr – a patron of Labor Friends of Palestine – successfully moved a motion calling on a Labor government to move towards recognition of a Palestinian state “if there is no progress to a two-state solution”.

Last year’s national conference passed a similar motion put by Right faction powerbroker and shadow finance minister Tony Burke.

In September last year, Queensland Labor went further, passing a motion calling for a future Labor government to “immediately” recognise a Palestinian state.

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has directed that state MPs must spend equal time in the Palestinian areas if they accept assisted travel to Israel, but this does not apply to party officials, many of whom have taken the trips in recent years, or Young Labor.

The NSW Right faction is deeply divided on the issue, with the strong views of influential powerbrokers of Lebanese heritage clashing with those supportive of Israel.

Upper house Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane said he supports the push to ban the trips, but believed extending the Foley directive to officials and Young Labor is “a more feasible and balanced approach”.

Mr Moselmane said the Israel trips are aimed at “indoctrination”.

“If they want to have party members travel to Israel, then they should also be taken to Palestine, to the West Bank, where it’s safe and possible to do so,” he said.

Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said all tours include visits to the West Bank and participants are briefed by “top-level Palestinian officials”.

“This ensures the integrity of the program and gives Australian delegations an opportunity to see for themselves the reality on the ground,” he said.    (Sydney Morning Herald)

Top diplomat: Israel has contacts with almost every Arab state

Israel can communicate today with “almost every Arab state,” as long as it then does not make it to the front page of the daily newspapers, Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold said Tuesday.

Gold’s comments to the Institute of Security Studies’ (INSS) annual conference in Tel Aviv came a day after reports that National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz was in Abu Dhabi for talks with Emirati officials this week.

Gold himself was in Abu Dhabi in November, paving the way for the opening of an Israeli office accredited to the International Renewable Energy Agency located there.

“We have a lack of agreement with different countries in the world,” Gold said. “It is no secret that we have problems in Europe. But there are many countries open to Israel today, and those who say we are isolated do not know what they are talking about.”

The main change, and Gold called it a “dramatic change,” is “the willingness in the Arab world for ties with Israel under the table.” Gold said he travels to various capitals in the Arab world as part of his job, though he did not disclose which.

What is important in this communication, he said, “is the feeling that perhaps – with a lot of work – we can create a consensus on the components needed for regional stability and a regional order. “

He said there is no need to agree on details of where every last border will run in the Middle East. But, he added, “there needs to be an agreement on the rules of the game, on who is inside the tent of the countries contributing to regional stability, and who are those outside the tent working to undermine regional stability.”

“We are entering a period of a lack of world order, especially in the Middle East,” Gold said. “To prepare infrastructure for a basis of understanding, for regional security arrangements and – in the end – for peace, we have to ensure the rules of the game in the world system, and in the regional system.”                  (Jerusalem Post)

‘US doesn’t view EU product labeling as boycott against Israel’

The US does not oppose the European Union’s decision to label products as coming from Jewish West Bank settlements, the State Department said Tuesday.

“We do not view labeling the origin of products as being from the settlements a boycott of Israel. We also do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing.

Kirby was also asked about the timing of US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro’s harsh criticism against Israel on Monday.

In the aftermath of two terror attacks in as many days, Shapiro attacked Israel’s policy towards the settlements and claimed that “too much vigilantism goes unchecked.”

He also expressed concern of Israel’s settlement policy, and the fact that “there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law (in the West Bank): one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.”

Kirby defended Shapiro’s statements, saying the ambassador was simply reiterating long-standing US policies regarding Israel’s settlement construction.

“Our long-standing position on settlements is clear. We view Israeli settlements activity as illegitimate and counterproductive to the cause of peace. We remain deeply concerned about Israel’s current policy on settlements including construction, planning, and retroactive legalizations,” he said.

“The US government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements because the administrations from both parties have long recognized that settlement activity beyond the 1967 lines and efforts to change the facts on the ground undermine prospects for a two-state solution,” Kirby added.

He also insisted that “it would be wrong to conclude that (Shapiro) would’ve chosen this moment necessarily to tweak noses,” arguing Shapiro’s speech at the security conference was scheduled long in advance, and his remarks were prepared in advance.

Kirby stressed the US was concerned with violence on both sides. “We obviously have strongly condemned terrorist attacks perpetrated by Palestinians, including the attacks over the weekend. We also remain deeply concerned – and we’ve not been bashful about this and neither was (Shapiro) about Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank,” he said.

“It’s because we value the relationship with Israel so much that we feel it’s important to continue to have an honest, candid, forthright discussion about our concerns,” Kirby continued. “That he said these things in a speech shouldn’t be misconstrued as us not saying them in private to Israeli leaders as well – and have, other many, many months.”  (Ynet News)

Putin calls on European Jews to take refuge in Russia

Western European Jews fleeing from anti-Semitism are welcome to take refuge in the Russian Federation, which is “ready to accept them,” President Vladimir Putin told a visiting delegation of Jewish community leaders on Tuesday.

In an exchange with Dr. Moshe Vyacheslav Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, in the Kremlin, Putin reacted to reports of stark increases in anti-Semitic violence by stating that Jews “should come here, to Russia.”

“They left the Soviet Union; now they should come back,” he said.

In response, Kantor called Putin’s proposal a “a fundamentally new idea” that he planned on raising for discussion among European Jewish leaders at the EJC’s upcoming General Assembly, adding that he hoped that they would support it.

Kantor also came out in favor of Russia’s involvement in Syria, where it supports dictator Bashar Assad, stating that the congress “decisively supports the actions of the Russian Federation against Islamic State.”

“Why are Jews running from a Europe that was recently safe? They are fleeing, as you rightly said, not only because of terrorist attacks against our communities in Toulouse, Brussels, Paris, Copenhagen, and now Marseille, but because of their fear to simply appear in the streets of European cities,” Kantor said, citing research that indicated that anti-Semitic violence surged 40 percent worldwide in 2014.

A recent study in France indicated that forty 43% of that nation’s Jews were interested in emigrating.

Kantor complained both of “an explosive growth in nationalism, xenophobia and racism, with radical Right movements sprouting up like mushrooms” as well as “Islamic fundamentalism and extremism” in Europe.

“The continent has not outlived the age-old disease: during times of socioeconomic crisis, it is struck again by the virus of anti-Semitism. That is why the Jews who carry the ‘genetic’ memory of the horrors of the 1930s are leaving Europe,” he said.

Several days before the meeting Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of deputies of British Jews, told the Jewish News website that he understood that Putin had called for the meeting.

“Our meeting was strikingly friendly,” Arkush subsequently said. “As someone with a background of activism in the campaign for Soviet Jewry I see the encounter as a clear sign of warming relations and trust between Russia and the Jewish people and Israel.  I do not believe it will be the last such meeting.”

Putin’s comments were generally well received, with the World Israel Beytenu Movement calling Putin’s words an example of “his positive approach toward the Jewish Community in Russia and the Jewish State” and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia calling Putin’s invitation part of a “Jew friendly position.”

Ukrainian Jews were less well disposed toward Putin’s call, however, with Eduard Dolinsky, who directs the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, telling The Jerusalem Post that “It’s like a call from Egyptian king for Jews to come back.”

Putin’s administration has consistently accused the Ukrainian state of anti-Semitism since pro-Russian President Victor Yanukovich was toppled in a popular revolution two years ago, leading to intense anger toward the Kremlin by many Ukrainian Jews who believe that they have been made into propaganda pawns in the ensuing conflict.

Noting that the meeting with Putin took place only weeks before Kantor is slated to run for reelection as head of the EJC, Dolinsky stated that he believed that the goal of the meeting was two-fold, “to show EJC members that he has support of Putin and show Putin that he controls European Jewish organization.”

“I think this trip and Kantor remarks about the Congress supporting Russia operation in Syria will cause a deep disagreement inside of EJC and European Jewish organizations.”              (Jerusalem Post)

As Hezbollah rocket arsenal grows, Israel creates new battalions

The IDF Home Front Command’s Galilee District has received two new search and rescue battalions, which have been converted from their original role as response units to unconventional (biological, chemical, and atomic) incidents.

The move is a reflection of the decrease of the chemical threat to northern Israel, due to the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons program, and the simultaneous increase in the threat posed by Hezbollah’s ever-growing conventional rocket and missile arsenal in neighboring Lebanon.

The Galilee District is responsible for civil defenses in Israeli communities situated within kilometers of the Lebanese border, and operates directly under IDF Northern Command.

Col. Ron Lotaty, Commander of the Gaililee District, told The Jerusalem Post in recent days that “growing threats from the north” are behind the move.

“We converted these two battalions and deployed them to civilian defense, to counter any threat to the home front. In Lebanon, we see Hezbollah advertising its will to ”conquer’ the Galilee [through cross-border raids], and we see its projectile capabilities. We take this seriously. Hezbollah is gaining operational experience in Syria.

We are preparing for all threats with our eyes open. We have to adapt ourselves to reality. As a result, we took this step,” Lotaty said.

Describing Hezbollah as “an Iranian arm,” Lotaty said the search and rescue battalions will deploy near cities and towns, and provide rapid responses to civilians in built up areas in case conflict breaks out.

“We will have this available and professional force that can contain incidents. They rescue civilians and save lives in a very short time period. Civilians who see them deployed near cities wil have an added sense of security,” Lotaly said, describing a policy of “making sure orange is visible to the public,” in reference to the orange color of Home Front Command unit berets.

The battalions will “retain their knowledge and training, and their abiity to deal with unconventional attacks,” Lotaty added.

Col. Eran Makov, Commander of Northern District in the Home Front Command, said the decrease of the chemical threat to Israeli civilians forms a central feature of the IDF’s risk assessments.

“There is a need to strengthen search and rescue units in the northern district, as part of a longer process. We will convert more battalions in this way,” he added.

The move was agreed upon by the IDF’s Military Intelligence and Planning Directorate, Makov said. “Every civilian council has its own specific security scenario, and we build up our force accordingly,” he said.

A search and rescue battalion is slightly smaller than a standard infantry battalion.

The last preparatory training program was held for the new battalions at the end of December.                    (Jerusalem Post)

Government approves NIS 55 million program for Ethiopian integration

The Ministerial Committee on the Integration of Israeli Citizens of Ethiopian Descent into Israeli Society authorized a NIS 55 million dedicated multi-year program on Monday aimed at facilitating the integration of Ethiopians into Israeli society.

The program, submitted by the Economy Ministry, will be spread over four years and aims primarily to better integrate 3,600 people of Ethiopian origin into the job market.

“The program approved today by the ministerial committee is the result of a long process that included cooperation between various units within and outside the Ministry, fruitful consultation with people of Ethiopian descent, and an analysis of the current situation in the economy,” said Michal Fink, Senior Director for Strategy and Policy Planning at the Economy Ministry.

The government initiative aims to focus on increasing employment rates, finding high-quality jobs, increasing salaries, developing and advancing human capital and increasing the number of business enterprises for Ethiopians.

“While the participation rate [in the workforce] for those of Ethiopian origin is similar to that of the general population, their unemployment rate is higher (8.8% as against 5.9% in the general population), and the gaps in salary are significant: there is a 40% gap as compared to the general population, irrespective of education,” he explained.

Among other elements, the program includes guidance for better employment, providing vouchers for vocational training, the launch of a dedicated enterprise fund, an incentives program for employers to employ those of Ethiopian origin at high salaries, and a track for job placement for academics.

The Economy Ministry committee was created following Government Resolution 1300 in February 2014, which obligated the government ministries to recommend a new policy for advancing the best possible integration of those of Ethiopian origin in Israeli society, as well as Resolution 324 from July 2015, which authorized the acceptance of the program’s cornerstones.

The Prime Minister’s Office will coordinate the ministerial programs, while a joint committee of a representative of the Economy Ministry and representatives of the Ethiopian community will be established to implement the program.

As part of the initiative, an inter-ministerial program jointly operated by the Senior Deputy Director-General and Head of Employment, the Israel Small and Medium Businesses Agency, the Investment Center and the Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities was also established.

“I believe that our professional work in cooperation with the community representatives will lead to the advancement of those of Ethiopian origin and the achievement of significant targets in their integration in high-quality positions in the job market,” added Fink.                  (Jerusalem Post)

Slovenia’s biggest supermarket chain takes Israeli products off shelves

Mercator, Slovenia’s largest supermarket chain, has removed Israeli products from its shelves – including pomelos, dates and avocados, following pressure from the BDS movement.

The Slovenian government holds shares in the chain. The Slovenian ambassador to Israel was this week summoned for a discussion at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where senior ministry officials explained the seriousness with which Israel views the affair.

Israel’s Ambassador to Slovenia, Shmuel Meirom, is expected to arrive in the country soon in order to raise the issue with Slovenia’s Foreign Ministry, as well as with Mercator’s management.

In 2014, the chain attempted to boycott Israeli “JAFFA”-branded grapefruits, again following pressure from BDS activists.

Following intensive efforts by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Israel supporters in Slovenia, the chain renewed its marketing of Israeli-branded products, an initiative that now seems to have failed.

Last November, the KaDeWe department store in Berlin – the second biggest in Europe – reversed its decision to boycott products from the settlements and the Golan Heights, saying that products labeled as such would return to the shelves.

In August, Luxembourg’s biggest supermarket chain, Cactus, decided to stop selling Israeli fruits and vegetables until they could have confirmation that the produce did not come from the West Bank.

The chain’s management had succumbed to pressure from activists with a pro-Palestinian organization that had held noisy demonstrations in their stores.            (Ynet News)

 When Palestinians kill

by Andrew Friedman                Jewish Journal


My current foray into Israel-Palestinian coexistence efforts began a year-and-a-half ago, in the summer of 2014, when a group of Israelis and Palestinians in Gush Etzion marked a joint day of fasting on the 17th of Tamuz, which fell that year during Ramadan. At the height of Operation Protective Edge, a month after the abduction and murder of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Sha’ar and Naftali Fraenkel, and two weeks after the revenge killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, groups of Jews and Arabs cropped up around Israel with a simple but powerful message: Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.

It isn’t that I’d never tried to get to know Palestinians before. I tried to bridge the Israel-Palestinian divide almost immediately after making aliya in 1994. In contrast to many Orthodox Jews, and especially to many Orthodox Israelis, I’d been an early supporter of the Oslo process and was hopeful that the political process would create the conditions to make real interpersonal relationships possible. But my efforts had consistently dissipated – I quickly discovered that “dialogue” in this part of the world consisted of Palestinians blaming Israel for every ill known to man, and left-wing Israelis agreeing with them.

In that atmosphere, and especially in light of the Palestinian explosion of September 2000, I shared the view of most Israelis:  Israel’s peace overtures had been met with little more than Palestinian terror, and Israel was left with little choice but to construct the West Bank security fence and to wait for Palestinians to get sick of living behind it. As Golda Meir said, when they decided they loved their children more than they hated us, they’d come around to make the sort of peace that didn’t include blowing up Israeli buses.

Back to 2014: Six months before Gil-Ad, Naftali and Eyal were murdered, I’d interviewed Ali Abu Awwad, for a story about Palestinian non-violence. I’d walked away from our two-hour interview deeply inspired and hopeful; now, the sight of Palestinians praying together with Israelis for the boys’ safe return filled me again with hope. Once again, I began spending time with co-existence activists, this time in Gush Etzion, and allowed myself once again to hope that Jews and Palestinians were not doomed by some outside power to be enemies forever.

Since then, I’ve met terrific people and made important friendships with both Israelis and Palestinians who believe that a different future is possible. Ali and I have become close friends, and his generous spirit and deep understanding have allowed me to open up to Palestinian emotions in a way that years of reporting from the Palestinian arena have not. Sami Awad, founder of the Bethlehem-based Holy Land Trust, has challenged me to consider new lenses for Zionism (sorry, Sami, I know this was not your intention!) and models for co-existence. Abdallah (a pseudonym for a senior Fatah activist that I’ve become friendly with but does not want to become known for ‘normalizing’ with Judea and Samaria Israelis) has asked serious, probing questions about the nature of Judaism, Zionism and the Jewish relationship to the Land of Israel.There are many more, too many to name here, but all have opened windows into Palestinian society and forced me to connect with a deep sense of empathy within myself, even as I have not become sympathetic to traditional Palestinian arguments about the ongoing conflict with Israel.

And yet, despite the presence of many inspiring individual Palestinians, the realisation that there really is no Palestinian society with which Israel can make peace has been devastating. Whereas Palestinian Israelis work and shop freely in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Netanaya, my visits to Bethlehem and Hebron must be shrouded in secrecy, by removing my kipa and bearing in mind at all times not to lapse into Hebrew. Palestinians insist there is a sharp imbalance of power between Palestine and Israel, and here they are correct: When Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians in cold blood in 1994, Israeli society was rocked to the core by the horrible thought that such a depraved terrorist could emanate from our midst. Same for the killers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in 2004, and the Dawabshe family last summer.

Palestinian society has no such reticence about killers that emerge from their families. Poll after poll confirm one of Israel’s greatest fears: That Palestinian society as whole remains deeply supportive of murdering Israeli civilians. In December, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research indicated that two-thirds of Palestinians support knife attacks against Israelis, a sharp rise from a 2011 polls that said one-third of Palestinians said they approved of the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar. The simple fact is that our society is defined by the revulsion and deep sense of soul searching that has followed each incident. Theirs, simply, is not.

That realisation (or, more correctly, that re-realisation) is a thousand times more painful this time around, specifically because I know so many Palestinians with deep moral convictions and close relationships with Israelis. But too many individuals and peace organizations – including Israeli-Palestinian organizations that I am active in – have remained silent. Last summer, we Israeli settlers prayed for the Dawabshe family, but the response by the Palestinian peace community to the murders of Dafna Meir, Yaakov Don, Eitam and Na’ama Henkin and more than two dozen more innocent Israelis has been silence. I’m not sure where to go with all this.

And so we continue. Ultimately, there is little choice but to forge ahead, if only in the hope, however forlorn, that our Israeli commitment to justice and peace for all residents of our tortured, holy land, will one day create the necessary conditions for Ali, Sami, Abdullah and so many others to sound their brave voices, and that one day their messages of peace and reconciliation will penetrate the values of their society.


Andrew Friedman is a member of Shorashim/Judur, a grass-roots movement of local Israelis and Palestinians creating relationships and friendships in Judea and Samaria, as well as of the Interfaith Encounter Forum

Is it because we’re Jewish?

by Marc Goldberg                  The Times of Israel Blogs


I have to confess to feeling an element of surprise at the amount of outrage surrounding the murder of Dafna Meir. I am not outraged. I am not surprised.

I am torn.

Torn between giving up entirely and admitting that this truly is our lot in life and arguing that it is all about the occupation. Torn between arguing that it doesn’t matter where we live, it doesn’t matter whether a house is built over an imaginary line in the sand and arguing precisely the opposite.

Dafna was a carer. You don’t need to have known her to see that. It stands out to anyone who reads the shortest obituary of her. A mother of four and foster mother to two more and a nurse to boot. This was a woman who died defending her children and who lived to help others.

Her only crime was being a Jew.

So no I’m not outraged. I’m not even surprised. Dafna was by no means the first of our number to fall and she won’t be the last. The day after her murder a pregnant woman was wounded in an attack nearby. Her crime? Who knows? Wrong place at the wrong time? The wrong address?

Only a couple of weeks ago a man opened fire in the middle of Tel Aviv. What was the crime of the dead and wounded? Wrong address? Wrong religion? Wrong place at the wrong time?

No I am not outraged. I am not even surprised. I am torn.

This doesn’t strike me as being another Intifada, but rather the new normal. I don’t believe (as the government suggests) that the PA in some way is responsible for this. It is just an outpouring of the hatred felt by the average Palestinian for the average Israeli. A hatred in evidence since before there was a state of Israel. And so I am torn, is it because of Israel that Jews are being murdered in such a fashion or is Israel the result of Jews being murdered in such a fashion?

Before there was a state of Israel Jews were murdered in the same way as they are now. Only then it was with impunity. In the Pale of Settlement, in the ghettos of Europe, in the Middle East. We didn’t have an army or an air force, we didn’t have sophisticated submarines or wily spies. We didn’t have a flag with a Star of David held high.

Even as I write these words Jewish warriors are out in the night searching for the killer of Dafna, searching for justice in a world devoid of it. They’ll be going house to house, the Shin Bet will be calling in their informants, the checkpoints will be that much more thorough. We will find him and he will be taken. Dead or alive.

But it won’t change a thing.

We’re Jews and this how we live. Whether you’re in a hypercacher in Paris, a pub in Tel Aviv, a Chabad House in Mumbai or a settlement in the West Bank someone out there wants to kill you. And if they want your death more than they want their own life they may well succeed.

Today in 1943, the first uprising against the Nazis in occupied Europe was under way. It wasn’t mounted by any of the millions of Russian Prisoners of War, it wasn’t mounted by any of the British backed resistance forces. It was being undertaken by brutalised, battered, starving young Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Militarily speaking their gains were minimal. They were defeated as soon as the Nazis brought up sufficient forces. But that’s not the point. The point is, that while there were trained military men sitting in camps and cities around Europe doing nothing it was a bunch of starving, traumatised Jews who were the ones to show the way forward. It was our resolve and fighting spirit that was the first light to shine in a world of darkness.

And now we are a free people living in our own land. Our enemies can kill some of us, but they cannot destroy us. They can cause us pain, but they cannot beat us.

Dafna is dead and there will never be another person like her. But no, I am not outraged. I am not even surprised. I am stoic, I am a Jew. My determination has not wavered, my Zionism is intact. as is my commitment to my people.

Dafna is dead and there will never be another quite like her. But those who kill her and glory in her death are making a terrible mistake.

I look at my wife and daughter and wonder if perhaps it will be them one day, whether they are in a kosher deli in London or a pub in Tel Aviv or perhaps it will be them mourning me. But then I remember something else. I remember that I am a part of a great people, a member of the people of Israel, the chosen people. I am a Jew. As well as having enemies, I have brothers and sisters all around the world who would give anything to help me. I remember that my ancestors have risen up to destroy tyrants, it was my people who offered the world everything it holds dear, from relativity to the messiah.

And I am no longer torn.

Our enemies think that because we bicker and argue we are weak. But I know that it is because we can bicker and argue and still love one another that we are strong.

And I am no longer torn. I am proud.

Proud of Dafna and the life she lived. Proud to be a Jew. Proud of our accomplishments and of the country we have created. Dafna is dead but the Jewish people lives and will continue to live and thrive. We will honor her by doing so.

May her memory be a blessing.

The BDS Boycott of Israel – Editorial (Washington Times)

Palestinian organizations, with help from naive academics in the U.S. and Britain, are trying to wound Israel with the “BDS movement” – demanding boycotts, divestment of investments in corporations considered not sufficiently sympathetic to the Palestinians, and sanctions of various kinds against the Jewish state. So far it’s mostly noise and hot air.

The Palestinians want Israel to end its “occupation” of lands claimed by the Arabs, dismantle the wall that prevents terrorists to enter Israel, and enable Palestinians to return to the land they lost when the Arabs lost the wars they imposed on Israel.

Do the boycotters propose refusing to use medical technology because it was engineered by an Israeli? The list of the latest vaccines, therapeutics and medical treatments invented and produced in Israel is a long one, and anyone who needs them would find it difficult to find a substitute.

The BDS movement Web site instructs supporters to concentrate on fresh produce, grown by farmers who first made the desert bloom. But such produce constitutes only about 3.6% of Israel’s exports, and most of it goes to Russia, where consumers are more interested in eating Israeli tomatoes and potatoes than in supping on Palestinian propaganda.

“The BDS movement has not had and will never have any significant economic effect on Israel’s overall economy,” Adrienne Yaron of the Jerusalem Post writes, “because Israel’s economy is grounded in products and services that effectively cannot be boycotted.”