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Latest News in Israel – 21st October

The Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) ceremony at the Western Wall was attended by tens of thousands of Jews who gathered on Sukkot from all over the world.

The blessing comes from Numbers 6:23-27, where Aaron and his sons are commanded to bestow the following blessing on the Jewish people: “May the L RD bless you and guard you, May the L RD make His face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you, May the L RD lift up His face unto you and give you peace.”

In light of the UNSECO resolution denying Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites of Jerusalem, stated: “In all of world history I don’t know of an ‘occupying power’ whose land is full of the relics of its ancestors. The holiness of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall for the Jewish people goes back many generations.”

“The millions of worshipers who come to pray at the Western Wall in front of the Temple Mount are the Jewish answer to UNESCO,” he added.

Stabbing attack thwarted at Tapuah Junction, terrorist killed

Security forces thwarted a terrorist attempting a stabbing attack against IDF soldiers at the Tapuah Junction in the West Bank on Wednesday.

No Israelis were  wounded in the attack. The terrorist, a 19-year-old Palestinian woman, was shot and killed by security forces.

According to police, a woman approached Border Police officers at Tapuah Junction, failing to heed their warnings to stop. She then pulled out a knife attempting to stab the officers.

The officers opened fire on the woman, killing her.

Tapuah Junction was partially closed off following the incident,

Shomron Regional Council chief Yossi Dagan said following the attack that “this additional attempt to hurt the routine of our lives, not to mention that it comes during one of our holidays, will not succeed.”

Dagan thanked security forces for their response to the attack. He said that activities for tourists in the Shomron region would continue as planned.

“The tens of thousands of day trippers who are currently at the great many tourist attractions in the Shomron are making their voices heard with their legs,” he said.               (Jerusalem Post)

Israel faces stiff fight next week over newest UNESCO vote on Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to contact many of the leaders of 21 member nations of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee Executive Board in hopes of swaying them not to support next week’s vote on a resolution that ignores Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Carmel Shama-Hacohen said that Israel faced a stiff battle before that committee because it’s composed of countries with a history of voting against Israel.

“There is a will to stop this chaos [of such resolutions] which harms everyone,” Shama-Hacohen said. But he acknowledged that the World Heritage Committee which meets in Paris from October 24 to 26 “will be a tough playing field.”

The vote is part of the bureaucratic process by which the World Heritage Committee reaffirmed the placement of Jerusalem and its Old City Walls on its list of endangered sites called “World Heritage in Danger.”

It had been set to do this in Istanbul in July, but Turkey’s failed coup forced the committee to cut its session short and to reconvene in October to finish its agenda.

At that time the text in question, referred to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Al-Haram Al-Sharif. The Western Wall plaza was placed twice in quotations marks but otherwise was spoken of as the Buraq plaza.

Since 2015, the Palestinians, have pushed to change the linguistic references to the Temple Mount to largely ignore the Judeo-Christian ties to the site and turning every resolution on Jerusalem in UNESCO into a cultural and historic battle between Judaism and Islam.

On Tuesday UNESCO’s 58-member Executive Board wrapped up its 200th session in Paris by ratifying such a text, which had been given preliminary approval the prior week in a 24-6 vote. Twenty-six countries abstained and two were absent.

Mexico, which was one of the 24 countries in favor of the resolution has since announced that it has withdrawn its support for the text and would like to be considered as one of the abstaining countries.

Brazil also spoke at the final board session and indicated that it was unlikely to support such resolutions in the future.

After the ratification Shama-Hacohen said, “We have moved forward a step-and-a-half toward dismantling the automatic majority that the Palestinians and the Arab states have against Israel.”

“Mexico has taken a full step toward abandoning support of the Palestinians, after years of voting without hesitation against Israel.”

“The best surprise of the morning,” he said, “is Brazil’s notification that while it did not change its vote this time, it will find it difficult not to do [in the future], if there is a resolution with another text that disregards the Jewish people’s connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall,” Shama-Hacohen said.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the result of Tuesday’s Executive Board ratification and dismissed Israel’s arguments that the language of the text was historically problematic.

“What we are talking about is the ownership and the sovereignty on the site which is East Jerusalem,” the PA’s deputy ambassador to UNESCO Mounir Anastas said.

“We are recalling Israel that they are the occupying power there and as an occupying power they have obligations to respect and they have more than obligations even; they are tied by the international law that requests them first, not to conduct any work and second not to change the names in this site.

“Israel is trying to change, to focus the attention on a secondary problem which is the appellation and things like that, forgetting the essence of the problem, which is the occupation by Israel,” Anastas said.

UNESCO has accepted “Palestine” as a member state since 2011, although the United Nations has not done so.

Next week, the World Heritage Committee will likely accept a similar text. The nations that sit on that committee are: Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korean, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.          (Jerusalem Post)

Danon slams UN for meddling in Israeli politics      

UN Ambassador Danny Danon slammed the world body Wednesday for meddling in Israeli politics by funding the left-wing NGO B’Tselem.

In 2016, three UN agencies provided funding to B’Tselem, which Danon said is “no coincidence.”

Last week, Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of B’Tselem, participated in an informal Security Council meeting, initiated by the Palestinian delegation to the UN, in order to discuss settlements as an obstacle to peace.

“It is part of a cynical cycle in which the UN funds B’Tselem and similar organizations that have a particular political agenda, and then invites them to provide so-called ‘expert testimony,’” he said at Wednesday’s Security Council meeting on the Middle East. “This constitutes a direct interference in our democratic process by anti-Israel elements here at the UN.”

Danon then called on the council to put an end to UN funding for extremist organizations that seek to harm Israel.

Danon continued pointing a finger at the UN and its agencies, addressing the recent UNESCO resolution denying the historical connection between the Jewish people and holy sites in Jerusalem, which he called “an embarrassing stain on the pages of UN history.”

“These attempts to cut us off from our homeland and our heritage will not succeed,” he told the council.

“We will remain in our land and in our capital of Jerusalem forever.”

Danon concluded his statement by presenting a box of documents to the council, which he explained was full of UN resolutions and reports complied against Israel since October 2015.

“This is proof of the UN’s hypocrisy when it comes to Israel,” he said.

“More people have been killed in Syria in the past few months than in the entire history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet the UN passed six times as many resolutions against Israel than all other countries combined.”

The Palestinian representative to the international body, Riyad Mansour urged the forum to provide support for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, which he said “requires immediate support to enable it to overcome the debilitating funding crisis it faces, which if unresolved will have far-reaching negative consequences.”                           (Jerusalem Post)

Australia urged to protest UNESCO resolution

The Australian government has been urged to denounce a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) resolution that ignores Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and Kotel.

Although Australia is not a member of UNESCO’s board, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) wrote to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and asked her to speak out on behalf of all serious scholars in the world.

“We respectfully request that the Australian government give urgent consideration to issuing a public statement, through you, denouncing the resolution that was just passed in committee, and urging the Executive Board of UNESCO to reject it,” the ECAJ wrote prior to the resolution being passed by the executive on Wednesday morning (Australian time).

“The resolution similarly refers to the Western Wall, the last standing structure of the Second Temple, only by its Muslim name “al-Burak”, and pointedly omits its Hebrew name, Ha-Kotel, as well as its English name,” the letter said.

“These are matters that unite the entire Jewish people, regardless of our diverse political beliefs or variations of religious observance.

“They lie at the core of our history and identity as a people.

“The location of the Biblical Temples on the Temple Mount is a fact that is attested to by an abundance of documentary and physical archaeological evidence, which no serious scholar disputes.”

The ECAJ said that by erasing these facts UNESCO has become “a party to the falsification of history for crude and transparently political purposes, and has disrespected both Judaism and Christianity”.

The motion, which Hamas has claimed is a “victory” for the Palestinian people, was supported by 24 nations, including Mexico which later withdrew its support, while six voted against and 26 abstained.

The six countries which voted against the motion were Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein said UNESCO has brought disgrace upon itself by ignoring over 3000 years of the Jewish history of Jerusalem in a blatant exercise in political bullying.

“To deny Jews our history is anti-Semitism plain and simple,” Rubenstein said.

“This farcical vote will only empower extremist and recalcitrant elements and damage prospects for a peaceful outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm was equally outraged by the resolution.

“What a shameful and disappointing day, yet another stain on the United Nations which has veered so far away from the foundations upon which it was built,” Lamm said.

“Perhaps UNESCO will next pronounce the world to be flat after all.

“It is disappointing that 24 countries shamed themselves by playing along with this charade.

“Iran, Lebanon and Qatar who all voted in favour of the motion are certainly not the countries that we in the free and democratic world are aspiring to be, but I was surprised with some of the other countries that voted for, like Mexico and Brazil which have large Roman Catholic populations and therefore took part in this subterfuge of their own religious tenets.”

Lamm also said that countries such as France, Sweden and Greece, which were among those who abstained should be ashamed.

“Jerusalem is and always has been the beating heart of the Jewish people.

“To deny Jerusalem as a part of the Jewish narrative is to suggest that the body does not need the heart in order to continue breathing.”             (Jewish News)

Archaeologists find battle site where Romans breached Jerusalem walls

Israeli archaeologists found the site of a fierce battle where the Roman army bombarded and breached the walls of Jerusalem before conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple almost 2,000 years ago, officials said Thursday.

They said that the discovery, made last winter during an excavation of a construction site for the new campus of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design outside the Old City, also finally confirmed the description of the wall that was breached provided by the historian Josephus Flavius.

During the dig, the archaeologists found the remains of a tower surrounded by scores of stones and boulders fired by Roman catapults at the Jewish forces guarding the wall, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

“This is a fascinating testimony of the intensive bombardment by the Roman army, led by Titus, on their way to conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple,” the statement said.

“The bombardment was intended to attack the sentries guarding the wall and provide cover for the Roman forces so they could approach the wall with battering rams and thereby breach the city’s defenses,” it said.

The part of the wall that was breached was known as the Third Wall. It was found in the area of modern Jerusalem known as the Russian Compound. According to accounts by Josephus, this part of the wall was designed to protect a new quarter of the city that developed outside the other two existing walls.

For much of the 20th century, scholars have been debating the route of this Third Wall and “the question concerning Jerusalem’s boundaries on the eve of the Roman onslaught,” the statement said. “It seems that the new discovery in the Russian Compound is proof of the wall’s existence in this area.”

In his “The War of the Jews,” Josephus describes the wall as follows: “… the beginning of the third wall was at the tower Hippicus, whence it reached as far as the north quarter of the city, and the tower Psephinus …It was Agrippa who encompassed the parts added to the old city with this wall, which had been all naked before.”

The Third Wall had been completed as part of preparations by the Jews for the Great Revolt against Rome that began in 66 CE and ended in 70 CE when the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed, and the rout heralded the start of nearly two thousand years of exile.

The excavation findings will be presented in a conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem later this month.

News of the discovery comes during a week in which Israel has been engaged in a fierce diplomatic spat with UNESCO, over a decision by the United Nations cultural body that Israel says ignores Jewish and Christian historical ties to Jerusalem’s holiest sites.

The resolution, passed last Thursday in the committee stage at UNESCO, referred to the Temple Mount and Western Wall only by their Muslim names and condemned Israel as “the occupying power” for various actions taken in both sites. The resolution was confirmed by UNESCO’s executive on Tuesday.              (the Times of Israel)

Palestinians: Fatah Prepares for War with Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh              The Gatestone Institute


“We have pledged to prepare an army of fighters by devoting our full abilities and energies to consolidate the option of armed struggle as the only means to liberate Palestine.” — The armed wing of Fatah, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Martyr Nidal Al-Amoudi Division.

The international community continues to perceive Fatah as the “moderate” Palestinian party with whom Israel should make peace. Yet Fatah is far from a single united bloc; many groups within the faction continue to seek the “liberation of Palestine” through armed struggle. Moreover, neither Abbas nor any of his senior Fatah loyalists have repudiated the war-set Fatah militias. Crucially, many of these Fatah militiamen continue to receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority.

These Fatah gunmen who are preparing for war with Israel are indirectly receiving their salaries from Western donors, including the US and many EU countries, who fund the Palestinian Authority.

These groups believe that they represent the real Fatah, the one that never recognized Israel’s right to exist and holds on to armed struggle as the only way to “liberate Palestine.” They are not breakaway groups. That is why they continue to operate under the name of Fatah.

Fatah is a two-faced hydra; one face tells the English-speaking international community what it wants to hear, namely, that it supports a two-state solution and seeks a peaceful settlement to the conflict with Israel, while the other tells the truth: it is committed to an armed struggle and the “liberation of Palestine,” and is even preparing for war with Israel.

Some 300 members of the Palestinian Fatah faction, headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, have begun receiving “military training” in the Gaza Strip in preparation for war with Israel.

The armed wing of Fatah, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – The Martyr Nidal Al-Amoudi Division, announced that its members have been enrolled in a new military academy for training “fighters” in the Gaza Strip. The academy, inaugurated recently in the Gaza Strip, would train the “fighters” on various fighting methods “in the context of a program for preparing for any future battle” with the “Zionist enemy.”

The Nidal Academy was named for Nidal Al-Amoudi, a top Fatah militant killed by the Israel Defense Forces on January 13, 2008, after he carried out a series of armed attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers during the Second Intifada. “The academy has been named after the commander Nidal Al-Amoudi (Abu Hussein) to fulfill his dream of qualifying the fighters militarily, morally, religiously and revolutionarily,” explained a statement released by the Fatah armed group. Noting that some 300 “fighters” have already joined the academy, the group said that they have begun undergoing training in various methods of warfare.

“We have pledged to prepare an army of fighters by devoting our full abilities and energies to consolidate the option of armed struggle as the only means to liberate Palestine,” the group declared.

The Martyr Nidal Al-Amoudi Division is one of several Fatah-affiliated militias that continue to operate in the Gaza Strip despite Hamas’s violent takeover of the area in the summer of 2007. These groups pose no threat to the Hamas regime, which is why they are allowed to operate freely in different parts of the Gaza Strip. The groups’ explicit policy is to prepare for war with Israel and launch terror attacks against Israelis. Hamas, however, which expelled their leaders from the Gaza Strip and continues to persecute dozens of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip, is not on their hit list.

The Fatah-affiliated militia inauguration of its own “military” academy in the Gaza Strip is a novel move. In recent years, Fatah armed groups have posted videos of their men undergoing military training orchards and fields, far from the watchful eyes of their rivals in Hamas. Now it seems that Hamas has nothing to fear from the Fatah militants, as Israel is the sole target.

Thus instead of training their men to retake the Gaza Strip and liberate it from the oppressive regime of Hamas, the Fatah “fighters” are busy preparing for war with Israel or fighting among themselves. Indeed, it appears that the Fatah armed groups are actually competing with Hamas for the title of “Most Prepared to Destroy Israel.” Like Hamas, they wish to win the hearts and minds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by showing that they too support the “armed struggle” against Israel and seek to “liberate Palestine.”

Fortunately for Hamas, the Fatah militias are rather preoccupied with internecine struggles. This leaves precious little time to think about ways of improving their people’s lives.

Today, at least five other Fatah armed groups function in the Gaza Strip: The Abu Rish Brigades, the Jihad Jibril Brigades, the Abdel Qader Husseini Brigades, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Fatah Sukkur (Hawks). Some of these groups have in the past claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Israel. And there is not much harmony or love between these Fatah groups, whose members regard each other as rivals and political foes rather than comrades and colleagues.

Sources in the Gaza Strip point out that many of the members of these groups are former Palestinian Authority policemen who lost their jobs after the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. As such, many of them remain on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority, despite the fact that they are more than willing to lambast Mahmoud Abbas and his policies. In other words, these Fatah gunmen who are preparing for war with Israel are indirectly receiving their salaries from Western donors, including the US and many EU countries, who fund the Palestinian Authority.

The Martyr Nidal Al-Amoudi Division recently launched a scathing attack on Abbas for attending the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. Masked members of the group posted a video on social media in which they strongly condemned Abbas for attending the funeral, saying they are opposed to any form of “normalization” with Israel. They demanded that Abbas apologize to the Palestinians and Fatah, adding that the “armed struggle was the only way to “liberate Palestine.”

More recently, the same group “welcomed” the shooting attack that was carried out in Jerusalem by Musbah Abu Sbeih and in which two Israelis were killed — a 60-year-old grandmother and a 29-year-old police officer. “This heroic operation is a clear message that the armed struggle is a deeply-rooted doctrine among Palestinians,” the group stated. “The operation is a natural response to the crimes of the occupation.”

Make no mistake. These groups believe that they represent the real Fatah, the one that never recognized Israel’s right to exist and holds on to armed struggle as the only way to “liberate Palestine.” They are not breakaway groups. That is why they continue to operate under the name of Fatah. In their view, they are following the principles of their former leader, Yasser Arafat, who launched Fatah as a “national liberation movement” and never truly abandoned the option of an armed struggle against Israel. It is Abbas and his colleagues in Fatah, they say, who have deviated from Fatah’s doctrine and true goals.

The power play among Fatah militias in the Gaza Strip reflects the wider division among Fatah’s political leaders. According to Palestinian sources, Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip have truly become disassociated from the faction’s leadership in the West Bank. Abbas’s aides blame exiled Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan for the schism, claiming that he provides dissenting Fatah officials with money, in an attempt to undermine the Palestinian president, who is also head of Fatah. Abbas recently summoned Fatah leaders from the Gaza Strip to an emergency meeting in Ramallah to discuss Dahlan’s growing influence in the Gaza Strip and the rifts in Fatah. The move came after thousands of Fatah members who are loyal to Dahlan staged a large demonstration in the Gaza Strip against Abbas. During the protest, they burned and trampled on pictures of Abbas.

Such developments in Fatah are notable for a specific reason: by and large, the international community continues to perceive Fatah as the “moderate” Palestinian party with whom Israel should make peace. Yet Fatah is far from a single united bloc; many groups within the faction, in their own words, continue to seek the “liberation of Palestine” through armed struggle. Moreover, neither Abbas nor any of his senior Fatah loyalists in the West Bank have repudiated the war-set Fatah militias. Crucially, many of these Fatah militiamen continue to receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority.

Fatah is, in fact, a two-faced hydra; one face tells the English-speaking international community what it wants to hear, namely, that it supports a two-state solution and seeks a peaceful settlement to the conflict with Israel, while the other tells the truth: it is committed to an armed struggle and the “liberation of Palestine” and is even preparing for war with Israel. Worth noting as well is that some of these Fatah militias also continue to operate in some parts of those territories controlled by Abbas’s security forces in the West Bank. And like their cohorts in the Gaza Strip, they too receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas has lost the Gaza Strip not only to Hamas, but also to his own erstwhile Fatah supporters, who are marching in a totally different direction from the Fatah leadership in the West Bank. The dispute between Fatah and Hamas, which has effectively split the Palestinians into two entities, one in the West Bank and the other in the Gaza Strip, is one reason Palestinians are farther than ever from achieving an independent Palestinian state. The infighting in Fatah and the gulf separating its leaders is another. Abbas’s claim to sole Fatah leadership is hardly credible to even the most credulous of Abbas backers: thousands of his “fighters” are preparing for war with Israel.

Strength and unity will overcome our adversaries

by Isi Leibler            The Jerusalem Post


The abysmal failure of most governments to display even a pretense of morality when formulating resolutions relating to international affairs was again highlighted by the latest outrageous resolution relating to Jerusalem endorsed by UNESCO.

The promotion of this travesty by the Arab states merely highlights their manifestly false narrative denying Jewish continuity with Jerusalem. But it was the purportedly civilized countries, including the majority of European countries, many of whom claim to be friends of Israel, whose abstentions provided an aura of legitimacy to this obscene resolution.

Such shameful behavior only serves to reemphasize that these countries are solely motivated by short-term realpolitik, which induces their groveling to the Muslims even if this requires forfeiting morality and blatantly endorsing historical lies. Every European country should have opposed this deplorable resolution.

The UNESCO abomination should be viewed as a component of the concerted global effort designed to exploit Israel’s “intransigence” to impose indefensible borders, a demand to which no Israeli government could accede.

More significantly, despite the recent consummation of the multi-billion dollar defense agreement, the US administration uses any pretext to condemn Israel, employing unprecedentedly harsh language, which starkly contrasts with the deference it conveys to the Iranian terrorist state. It has protested far more vigorously against Israeli home construction in the “settlements” (including entirely Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem) than against the butchering of thousands in the regional civil conflicts.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton explicitly promised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that she would maintain the US veto and resolutely oppose any efforts by the United Nations to impose a solution, agreeing that negotiations could only be implemented directly between Israelis and Palestinians.

But there is genuine concern that, despite her electoral promises, after the elections, President Barack Obama in his remaining two months in office may seek to impose a settlement on Israel, which he has always sought. He could do this through support of a “binding” UN Security Council resolution or merely not employ a US veto against such a resolution.

Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, expressed his contempt for the UN using the dismissive nonsense phrase “Um, shmum” (perhaps best translated “UN, shmu-N”). Netanyahu also noted that “the UN, begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce.”

Nevertheless, we need to gird ourselves over the next few months for an intense hostile diplomatic campaign, including efforts to impose sanctions on us.

In these circumstances, we should have confidence in our strength. As Ben-Gurion stated: “Our future does not depend on what the goyim say, but rather on what the Jews will do.” Israel has never been in as strong a position as it is today and even many of the countries that castigate us have developed important covert economic and defense relationships with us. In addition, despite the Obama antagonism and an emerging hostile Democratic sector, public opinion in the US remains extremely positive toward Israel.

But displaying our strength can only be effective if we show a united front on these issues. This is a time for our political representatives to recognize that we face a concerted global effort to undermine us and suspend the personal and parochial backbiting that typifies our dysfunctional political system.

But that requires facing difficult and unpalatable truths.

Netanyahu is far from perfect and many Israelis harbor a strong animus toward him and point out that he is even unpopular in his own party. There are those who snidely remark that his closest supporters resemble moths attracted to a flame and subsequently burn out or are unceremoniously dismissed. There is a strong feeling that after such a long term in office, it is time for a change. And apart from Israel Hayom, the Israeli media has consistently vilified him more fiercely than any previous leader.

However, the reality is that currently there is no suitable political leader remotely capable of replacing him in his crucial diplomatic activity.

Indeed, despite his faults, history will record Netanyahu as being an outstanding diplomat who has successfully walked a tightrope with a hostile American administration – refusing to concede on critical security issues but retaining sufficient flexibility to avoid a total rift.

He has covertly achieved an unprecedented level of cooperation with the moderate Sunni states, especially Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. He has quietly developed relations with countries such as China, India and African and Latin American countries.

He has created a unique and delicate relationship with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, an unprecedented state of affairs which nobody could have anticipated. He is blessed with a golden tongue and has the gift of being able to articulate the case for Israel to the world in a way no other leader could match.

Whatever his political status may be a year hence, by any objective criteria, Netanyahu is the leader Israel needs during the coming months. And if our politicians have any semblance of commitment to the national interest, they should support his foreign policy, which the vast majority of Israelis would endorse.

That includes denying further unilateral territorial concessions, which would undermine our security, and no annexation of territories, which would oblige us to incorporate another three million or so Arabs, transforming us into another Lebanon. Despite the despicable behavior of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah, we should support Netanyahu’s offer to negotiate without preconditions. But endorsing a Palestinian state under the current conditions would be suicidal.

The mainstream opposition groups in office have a national obligation to publicly support such a policy.

In this environment, holding Netanyahu responsible for the failure to progress the peace process with the duplicitous Abbas, or blaming him for the disastrous relationship with Obama, provides ammunition for our enemies and confuses and destabilizes our friends and allies.

Netanyahu is aware of the importance of unity under these circumstances and has sought to widen his narrow coalition. But regrettably, most of Israel’s politicians ignore the national interest, minimize the crisis we face and continue indulging in their petty political intrigues

The Labor Party is in shambles, with party leader Isaac Herzog unable to control the substantial number of delusional leftist MKs who have betrayed the tradition of Labor Zionism and adopted a post-Zionist approach – which would have horrified the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has emerged in recent months as the most impressive opposition leader. He has moved to the center and, aside from routine personal attacks on the prime minister, espouses policies that are basically indistinguishable from those of the government. He has aspirations to assume leadership of the nation and has gained considerable support from the electorate. But impressive interviews and speeches are a far cry from the heavy burden of decision-making and leadership.

If Lapid can rise above the political morass and emerge as the first opposition leader to support Netanyahu’s efforts, he would convey the message to the world that Israel is united in its determination to resist all efforts to undermine its security. This could have a major impact on the incoming US president and may revert the diplomatic tide flowing against Israel. Should Lapid act as a statesman and promote the national interest, he would display qualities that would appeal to most Israelis, who are nauseated by the shenanigans of their elected representatives and, in so doing, would also advance his own objective of becoming a future prime minister.

Today Israel is stronger than ever and if we display unity, we can and will overcome all the challenges we face.

Masters of disaster, IDF field hospital may be recognized as world’s best

by  Judah Ari Gross               The Times of Israel


Israel’s military field hospital, regularly dispatched to disaster zones to provide humanitarian relief — and to win the Jewish state some rare international brownie points — may soon be awarded the World Health Organization’s highest ranking, which would make it the first in the world to be so recognized.

In 2013, the United Nation’s WHO created a set of criteria to classify foreign medical teams in sudden onset disasters, on a scale from one to three. No country has yet to receive the top mark and “only a handful in the world could even think of” doing so, according to the lead author of the classification system, Dr. Ian Norton.

Last month, a WHO delegation visited Israel to assess the IDF Medical Corps’ field hospital, a sprawling 26-tent structure, during a large-scale exercise in northern Israel to determine if Israel would indeed be the first to score a “Type 3,” Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Ofer Merin, commander of the field hospital, told The Times of Israel.

The field hospital is “not just some medics and doctors spread out in the field,” but is a “national treasure” that has the capabilities of an advanced, permanent hospital, but can be set up almost anywhere in under 12 hours, Merin said.

Israeli disaster relief delegations — some of them led by Merin — have been some of the first and largest to arrive at the scenes of natural disasters. Teams from the IDF Medical Corps and Home Front Command provided rescue and medical services after an earthquake in Turkey in 1999, an earthquake in Haiti in 2010, a typhoon in The Philippines in 2013 and, most recently, an earthquake in Nepal in 2015.

A Type 3 classification would cement Israel’s position as a world leader in emergency medicine and prove to both friends and foes that the Jewish state knows how to handle catastrophes.

The classification could also allow Jerusalem to continue to be among the first in line to respond to disasters in the future, a position its diplomats and other politicians relish, but one which has drawn accusations of “rubble-washing” — or using its disaster relief effort to boost its international standing.

Helping other countries in need is “the most effective kind of diplomacy,” then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman said in 2015, after Israel sent a team to Nepal. “In crafting a country’s image, nothing is more effective than providing aid.”

However, diplomats insist the drive is mostly altruistic.

“If we’re sending aid to Haiti, the Philippines and Nepal, we’re obviously not looking to reap great diplomatic benefits from these countries, which I might be allowed to describe as not superpowers,” said a former senior diplomat in 2015, responding to a question about Liberman’s comment.

Following his visit to Israel, Norton, who was part of the WHO delegation, backed up Merin’s boast, applauding both the field hospital itself and the immersive exercise being conducted inside it at the time.

“We saw a part, just six of the 26 tents, but even just those six tents were impressive,” Norton said over the phone from the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

The final decision regarding Israel’s qualification will be taken next month, but according to Norton, it appears Israel stands a good chance of receiving Type 3 status.

“I am very confident that Israel will do a good job and get through this process,” Norton said, citing Israel’s vast experience in international disaster relief efforts.

“But the official peer review will happen on November 8 and 9, so the announcement will only come then. Hopefully, you’ll see then Israel being able to declare itself a ‘quality assured’ or ‘classified’ team and wear a ‘classified’ badge on their shoulder,” he said.

Merin, who in civilian life serves as the director of the trauma center in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, was wary of counting his chickens before they hatched.

“I’d say that we’re in the process of being recognized by the WHO, but not that we’re accredited this way or that until we actually get it,” Merin told The Time of Israel.

The process to get recognition can take from three months to a full year, and demands considerable effort from the team being inspected, which accounts for Merin’s trepidation towards any premature celebration.

“I’ve personally put hundreds of hours into this process,” Merin said.

Type 1, Type 2, Type 3

For many years there was no internationally recognized system of categorizing emergency response teams — which could operate independently, which needed assistance from the local government in order to function, what services could they offer, etc. — information that can be crucial in a disaster situation.

Rescue workers need to know where they can take patients. When deciding which teams can come in as part of the relief effort, local governments need to know which foreign field hospitals are entirely self-sufficient and which require resources like fuel, oxygen and medications that are often scarce after a disaster.

“They cannot be a burden on the affected country. In the past, teams arrived with no equipment, and local authorities had to look after them; we found that inappropriate,” Norton said.

A specialist in emergency medicine and former head of his native Australia’s emergence response team, Norton joined the WHO in 2013. That same year, he and a team of other experts developed the WHO’s classification system, which puts foreign medical teams into three groups: Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3.

The document detailing the requirements for these classifications is some 91 pages long, but in short, the types are in ascending order by number of patients that can be treated and level of difficulty of the procedures that are offered.

A Type 1 medical team can offer first aid and other immediate emergency care on an outpatient basis, meaning the victims do not remain in the hospital for extended periods of time; a Type 2 has at least 20 beds for inpatients and can perform 7-15 surgeries per day; and a Type 3 has twice as many inpatient beds, an intensive care unit and can perform 15-30 surgeries per day, as well as provide a host of other services, including rehabilitation.

Israel’s field hospital blows past some of these requirements: A Type 3 field hospital needs 40 inpatient beds, Israel’s has 86. A Type 3 needs two operating rooms, Israel’s has four.

However, some aspects of the classification are not simply an issue of which specialists are on staff or the amount of oxygen the facility can produce per minute, Norton said.

Operating procedures for everything from how medical workers get vaccinated to how medications are stored to how equipment gets shipped overseas also need to be written out and formalized.

Those written procedures then need to be reviewed by three foreign government teams in order for Israel to be “fully classified,” Norton said.

“We also ask them to comply with the principles of being an emergency medical team, which means they will behave ethically in the field, that they will treat anybody no matter race, color or creed and that they will take part in the combined and coordinated effort to do the best for people affected by the disaster,” he said.

To ensure that the IDF team will follow those principles, Norton said, “we look at how they teach the teams, but we also ask the director-general and the chief surgeon to sign on behalf of the organization that they will do their best to comply.”

But to a certain extent, the WHO approval is just a “rubber stamp” on an established fact, he said. For instance, throughout our conversation, Norton referred to Israel’s field hospital as a Type 3, despite it not yet formally receiving the title.

‘Preferential access’

Israel is the sixth foreign medical team to be reviewed by the WHO thus far. Teams from Russia, China and Japan have already been reviewed, and an Australian team is undergoing the process alongside Israel.

Some 75 teams, of various sizes, from around the world have requested the process and another 125 may follow suit in the future, Norton said.

However, most of these are of Type 1 and Type 2 classifications.

“We don’t actually have any other Type 3’s that are in the process of being verified,” Norton said.

Only a pan-European collaboration and a Chinese team stand to receive one in the foreseeable future, he added.

Israel masters of disaster WHO type 3 category

Israeli soldiers establish a field hospital together with the Nepalese army, in Nepal, following the deadly earthquake. on April 29, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson)

If Israel gets its certification, in addition to being the only Type 3 team in the world, it would also be the only one with a “military component” that has been recognized by the WHO.

“So really there are two firsts, as it were, for Israel,” Norton said.

In addition to a fancy feather in the IDF’s cap, the Type 3 classification would have some real world ramifications.

If Israel receives the designation, it would get “preferential access to disasters in the future,” Norton said.

The concept of “preferred access” to natural disasters may sound strange, until you consider situations like the one in Haiti in 2010, where groups arrived with medical personnel that were not properly trained and supplied, and ended up becoming more of a drag on the local government than a boon to the relief effort, Norton said.

As such, some countries are considering declaring that only recognized and vetted teams will be allowed to join their relief efforts in order to prevent such issues from repeating themselves, Norton said.

To Merin, however, that unpreparedness is not just an issue in a foreign disaster site, but represents a greater threat is that emergency response teams wouldn’t be ready if a catastrophe were to strike inside Israel.

“I’ve seen dozens of field hospitals from various countries. There is something unique in our abilities, to get there fast and to be independent. And in our worldview, that’s essential,” he said.


An Israeli doctor treats the wound of an earthquake-affected Nepalese boy, whose arm was amputated in the nearby army hospital and shifted for further treatment to the newly opened Israeli field hospital for earthquake victims in Kathmandu, Nepal,

A Type 3 designation would therefore not only be proof that Israel is capable of helping other countries in an emergency, but that it can also help itself in the event of one.

In this video, Prime Minister Netanyahu accepts the four species used during the Jewish festival of Sukkot 5776 and inscribes a letter in a Torah scroll.

During the holiday of Sukkot, Jewish people are commanded to take the four species (the palm branch, myrtle branch, willow branch and etrog citron) among other special commandments

It is also a commandment for all Jews to take part in the writing of a Torah scroll, which PM Netanyahu is seen doing here.