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Elkin Minister of environamental protection

Latest News in Israel – 21st September

From Channel  9 News

Note the country and the headline

PALESTINE

8:21am September 19, 2016

Palestinian ‘executed’ after Israeli checkpoint knife attack

By nine.com.au staff

A Palestinian man has been shot dead after stabbing an Israeli soldier at and IDF checkpoint near the Tel Rumeida.

An Israeli soldier has been wounded after a lone Palestinian attempted to knife him at a West Bank checkpoint during a wave of attacks late last week.

Security footage of the incident in Tel Rumeida, Hebron, shows the black-clad Palestinian man approach the IDF soldiers proffering his identification papers, which one of the guards reaches out to accept.

Taking advantage of the distraction, the Palestinian man produces a knife from his right hip pocket and attempts to stab the soldier in the face, sending him reeling back on his heels.

The Palestinian then slashes at another soldier on his right, but is swiftly surrounded by the rest of the troupe, who then shot him dead.

“The army executed him in cold blood,” the family of the attacker, 25-year-old Hatem Abed al-Hafiz Shaloudi, told the Jerusalem Post.

Residents nearby told the International Solidarity Movement they heard five gunshots in total – three rounds initially fired, then another two after a short pause.

The entire neighbourhood was forced into lockdown after the incident, prompting an angry response from locals trapped outside another checkpoint nearby.

They vented their frustrations by pelting the 20-odd soldiers inside with bottles and stones, and were teargassed and hit with stun grenades for their troubles.

It was the fourth such scuffle to have broken out since Eid ended, with an IDF soldier stabbed in the face on Friday, also in Tel Rumeida, and his assailant shot dead at the scene.

A Palestinian couple were also killed after they allegedly tried to ram illegal settlers at Kiryat Arba with their car, while a Jordanian national reportedly tried to stab police at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate on Friday.

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2016

Read more at http://www.9news.com.au/world/2016/09/19/08/21/palestinian-executed-after-israeli-checkpoint-knife-attack#eh6JufbCmZeezKkv.99

Palestinian attempts to stab IDF soldier near Hebron; assailant shot

A knife-wielding Palestinian on Tuesday morning attempted to stab an IDF soldier near the entrance to the Palestinian village of Bani Naim, near Hebron. According to the IDF there were no injuries to the soldiers.

The terrorist was shot and killed.

The would be attacker was reportedly related to the terrorist who killed 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel in her bedroom in Kiryat Arba in June.

The IDF sent an extra battalion to Hebron on Saturday as it prepared for renewed Palestinian violence against Israelis, in the aftermath of five terrorist attacks over the weekend in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

There has been an additional five attacks or attempted attacks since the weekend ended.                      (Jerusalem Post)

Labor guidelines a ‘concern’ for visiting Israeli minister

A senior Israeli government minister has criticised as “concerning” a new Labor publication produced for politicians who visit the only democracy in the Middle East.

Ze’ev Elkin, who met Foreign Minister Julie Bishop last week, told The Australian it was ridiculous to enforce requirements on how much time MPs spend in ­Israel and the Palestinian Territories and said anti-Israeli sentiment was the new politically correct form of anti-Semitism.

“You can see in Europe, what began as BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) activity against the state of Israel (escal­ated) and there was a terrorist ­attack on Jewish communities in France,” said Mr Elkin, the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and a ­security cabinet member.

“In this context, when we are looking in the last year at the ­increase in anti-Israeli activity in Australia — of course it’s not the mainstream of Australian society or political establishment, but it’s a concern.”

At Labor’s national conference, former NSW premier and foreign minister Bob Carr was involved in a push to stop politicians taking free trips to Israel. While the move was defeated, Labor MPs have been asked to spend equal time in the Palestinian Territories if trips are funded by Jewish organisations.

Elkin Minister of environamental protection

Israeli minister Ze’ev Elkin.

Mr Elkin, who is in Australia to discuss environmental co-operation with the NSW and federal governments, said he was worried by anti-Semitism which, in his ­experience, was usually preceded by anti-Israel sentiment.

“(I have a) deep concern for anti-Israelism that in Europe and Western society comes to be the modern politically correct anti-Semitism,” he said.

The Australian Labor Friends of Palestine group has produced a 20-page booklet for politicians and journalists visiting Israel, which it describes as “essential briefing for lucky politicians and journalists receiving an all-­expenses paid trip to the Israel of Binyamin Netanyahu”.

Mr Elkin said visiting Israel was the best way to understand the challenges faced by its citizens.

“I saw the criticism but I think it’s a part of this very concerning phenomenon of trying to criticise everything that is connected to ­Israel,” he said.

Mr Elkin also spoke of his ­recent negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Syria and revealed he had little hope for a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority in the near future. Mr Elkin, who is personally responsible for Israel’s ­relationship with Ukraine and Russia, has met Mr Putin several times in the past 18 months to ­discuss the situation in Syria.

Describing the Russian leader as an “interesting figure, very complicated and with a very good understanding the situation in the Gulf”, Mr Elkin said Israel maintained a close dialogue with Russia to ensure it could continue to be active in the airspace over Lebanon and Syria.          (the Australian)

Elkin: Israel should be part of Australian-led climate discussions

During a meeting with Australian Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg in Canberra, Elkin stressed that Israel should become a full member, rather than an observer, of the UNFCCC “Umbrella Group,” to reflect Israel’s commitment toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Due to Australia’s chairmanship role in the group, Elkin requested that Frydenberg help Israel upgrade its status as a permanent participant in the body, the Environment Ministry said on Monday.

The Umbrella Group is “a loose coalition” of non-EU developed countries that came together following the Kyoto Protocol – an international treaty adopted in 1997 that committed its parties to binding emission reduction targets. While the Umbrella Group lacks a formal membership list, its participants usually include Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the US.

In addition to discussing such matters, Elkin and Frydenberg spoke about opportunities for future cooperation between Israel and Australia in the environmental sector.

“Israel and Australia historically have cultural and economic ties,” a statement from the ministry said. “The two countries also cooperate in the international arena. In this context, the two ministers agreed that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our generation, with comprehensive environmental, economic and social impacts.”

Elkin and Frydenberg reviewed the steps that each country is taking toward significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving carbon neutrality, expressing their willingness to cooperate on relevant projects, according to the ministry. While Israel can bring to the table experience in clean-tech and water technologies, Australia has extensive experience in introducing energy-saving policies, the statement said.

Following the meeting, Frydenberg instructed his director-general to work vigorously toward promoting the signing of a bilateral agreement for cooperation, in hopes that the ministers will meet again to sign such a pact by the end of this year, the ministry added.

During the visit to Canberra, Elkin also met with various environmental bodies, in order to learn about how Australians handle some of the same challenges faced by Israel, such as coastal rehabilitation, sewage treatment and conservation, the ministry said.

Unrelated to environmental fields, Elkin also met with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, as well as members of the Israel-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group. He also attended Limmud FSU Australia, a festival which celebrates Jewish people from the “Former Soviet Union.”

Just after last week’s ministerial visit to Australia, a delegation of some 150 Australian youngsters took to the shores of Lake Kinneret

(Sea of Galilee) on Sunday, as part of international Clean Up the World Weekend.

Clean Up the World Weekend – which this year officially took place from September 16 through 18 – is a community- based event that originated in Australia in 1990. The first UN Environment Program- sponsored Clean Up the World Day occurred in 1993, and the campaign has since mobilized some 35 million volunteers from 130 countries annually.

Leading clean-up activities in Israel is Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund. Together with Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma, embassy staff, the Kinneret Municipal Association, the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Kinneret Drainage Authority, KKL-JNF guided the Australian volunteers in their cleanup effort of the lake’s Zinbari beach. The volunteers made sure to separate garbage and recyclables, picking up litter under the hot sun, according to KKL-JNF.

“The international clean-up day initiative, which started initially in Australia, has become an international tradition,” Sharma said. “One hundred years ago Australian soldiers fought right here against the Ottoman Empire to liberate the country, and now, Australian youngsters are here to safe keep and preserve it.”

The clean-up activities in Israel will continue on Thursday morning, with a ceremony hosted by KKL-JNF in Afula. Meanwhile, Sunday’s Kinneret cleanup also marked the beginning of Australia week in Israel (OZRAELI), which celebrates the diplomatic, cultural and social cooperation between the two countries.

“Our goal in the international day is to educate the young generation to be responsible and caring of the environment, to ensure a greener and cleaner environment for the current and future generation,” said KKL-JNF chairman Danny Atar. “It is not the first year that the Australian Embassy has joined the efforts, and I am thankful and appreciative of such, together we show that the environmental interest knows no boundaries.”               (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli air force shoots down unmanned Hamas aircraft

An Israeli Air Force fighter jet shot down an unmanned aircraft from the Gaza Strip early Tuesday afternoon, an army spokesman said.

The unmanned craft, believed to be controlled by Hamas, was detected flying along the Gaza coastline.

Israeli security forces tracked the aircraft’s movements, and an Israeli Air Force fighter jet shot down the craft.

“Earlier today a Hamas UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) took off from the Gaza Strip and was intercepted by an IAF aircraft just off the coast of the Gaza Strip,” a statement from the military read.

“The UAV was under IAF surveillance from the moment it took off from the Gaza Strip.”

Eyewitnesses in the area reported seeing the plane shoot the drone down.

An IDF spokesperson said the Hamas UAV never managed to penetrate Israeli airspace.

Even after Israel’s 2005 Disengagement from Gaza, the IDF still maintains control over airspace over the Strip.

“The IDF will not allow any violation of [local] airspace and will act firmly against any such attempt,” an IDF spokesman said regarding the incident.

“Hamas has been developing its drone capabilities especially in the last two years,” Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.

“Today’s event proves once more that Hamas continues to invest in tools of terror and not the needs of the people of Gaza,” he added.             (Arutz Sheva)

France planning big push for Mideast peace conference

After its failure to convince Israel to participate in a regional summit earlier this year, the French Foreign Ministry is looking to organize an international Middle East peace conference, and is prepared to offer Israel and the Palestinian Authority benefits packages if the two can conclude a final status agreement.

The move marks a notably different approach by France, which earlier this year had issued what amounted to a virtual ultimatum, threatening that if Israel and the Palestinian Authority did not reach an agreement during this year’s planned summer meeting, France would unilaterally recognize Palestinian statehood.

France’s Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, later backtracked, dropping his predecessor Laurent Fabius’ pledge to automatically recognize a Palestinian state.

Now Ayrault has replaced the stick with a carrot, pledging incentive packages to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the event an agreement is reached.

Speaking at the United Nation’s annual ministerial meeting, Ayrault pushed the planned conference, which France hopes will be held before the year is out.

“[T]his week must be a moment of political mobilization that we can reach that goal,” Ayrault said on Monday.

Ayrault hosted a meeting with leaders from the more than 20 states that attended the June summit hosted by France, discussing efforts for the proposed peace conference later this year.

France’s renewed efforts to bring together Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders and reboot negotiations stalled since 2014 comes less than two weeks after Russian officials said they had secured the agreement of both Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet for renewed final status talks – though no date was set for such a meeting,         (Arutz Sheva)

Israel waits for Obama’s UN shoe to drop

Israelis and Palestinians anxiously awaiting US President Barack Obama’s decision whether or not to take up their conflict at the UN Security Council were given few clues of his plans on Tuesday.

In his final speech as president to the UN General Assembly, Obama mentioned the stifled Middle East peace process only in passing.

“Surely, Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land,” he said.

“We all have to do better as leaders in tamping down, rather than encouraging, a notion of identity that leads us to diminish others.” That was one more remark on the conflict than last year, while Obama made no mention whatsoever of the stalled peace process.

In 2014, the president stated that Israeli-Palestinian peace was one of his top two foreign policy priorities leaving office, next to solving the international crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

Now, Palestinians hope and Israelis fear that Obama will take up their issue in a resolution at the Security Council. A resolution floated by France would set out parameters for a two-state solution and restate the council’s position on the conflict.

The Obama administration has vetoed similar language before the council in the past, but has yet to rule out supporting it this year, between the November election and the president’s departure from office in January.

His preferred candidate for president, Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, opposes such a move– as does her running mate, Tim Kaine of Virginia, who joined 87 other senators this week in calling on the White House to refrain from any UN actions.

The president’s decision to mention the conflict at all on Tuesday was a simple recognition of unfinished business. But it offered no clear indication of how he will proceed– at the UN, with a speech, or perhaps going quietly into the January night.                  (Jerusalem Post)

Poll: European Jews afraid to attend holiday services

A survey by the European Jewish Association suggests few Jews in Europe will attend synagogue for this year’s Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur holidays as security fears grow and with harassment by Muslims on the rise.

According to the study, which spanned 700 Jewish communities from England to the Ukraine, 70% of European Jews said they would not be attending synagogue during the holiday season.

The study also showed that membership in Jewish organizations and local communities had dropped significantly, with 50% of Jewish communities registering a decline in the number of active members, compared with only 11% who showed an increase.

EJA General Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin noted that three-quarters of Jewish communities in Europe had reported increased security presence by local and national authorities due to elevated terror threat levels over the past year.

The overwhelming majority of community leaders, Rabbi Margolin added, said that other security precautions, including increased private security, had been undertaken over the past year.

“The challenge faced by most Jewish communities has been doubled in recent months,” said Rabbi Margolin. “On the one hand, the surge in harassment of Jewish individuals, institutions, and communities by, among others, Muslim refugees and migrants – and on the other, as a result of the refugee crisis there has been a substantial increase in activity among far-right extremist groups across the continent.”

The primary focus of the far-right lately has been on Islamic immigration, Rabbi Margolin said, but “based upon testimony by rabbis and community leaders, we have a worrisome picture signaling a significant increase in the level of nationalism and xenophobia, targeting European Jews as well.”       (Arutz Sheva)

Israel’s Likud joins European bloc of conservative parties

In what has been called a dramatic blow to international efforts to boycott Israel, a major bloc of parties in the European Parliament formally approved the Likud as a regional member over the weekend at a conference in Prague.

The Likud’s membership was approved by the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists [AECR], a conservative and euroskeptic European political party with 22 member parties and four independent members across 20 countries, including the ruling British Conservative and Turkish AK parties.

The Likud will join other regional members from outside Europe, including the American Republican Party, Australia’s Liberal Party and Canada’s Conservative Party.

“The agreement is historic, because it is the first time that an Israeli Center-Right party has been accepted as a regional partner of a European party,” the Likud’s Foreign Affairs Director Eli Hazan said. “It’s even more significant because the signing happened when Israel is fighting for its international image. There’s no doubt that this is further damage to the boycott Israel movement.”

The bond will enable the Likud to participate in AECR party meetings and actively influence decisions connected to Israel. Hazan invited all 76 AECR parliament members for a formal visit to Israel hosted by the Likud.

Hazan’s visit to London in January paved the way for the bond. He met there with Conservative Party officials, including Minister of State for Education Robert Halfon and parliament member Mark Field.

David Berens, a British Jew who is active in the Conservative party, made the connection between Hazan and the party. Hazan then formally requested membership in the AECR as part of an eight-member delegation at the European parliament in Strasbourg in March.

At the AECR conference in Prague, Hazan lectured about Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and answered questions about the party’s policies before a vote and signing ceremony took place.

The AECR was founded on October 1, 2009 and officially recognized by the European Parliament in January, 2010. It is the third-largest group in the European Parliament and the fastest growing, bringing together 75 European Parliament members.

The AECR is led by a board of directors elected by a council that represents all member parties. The AECR’s president is Czech member of the European Parliament Jan Zahradil, and its secretary-general is British MEP Daniel Hannan.

The Likud tried unsuccessfully in the past to join the European People’s Party, the largest in the European Parliament, but was turned down because the EPP preferred to sign a deal with Kadima under Tzipi Livni. Since then, EPP members have supported requiring labels on Israeli products from over the Green Line while AECR members oppose the move.

Hazan has made an effort in recent years to build relations between the Likud and Center-Right parties across Europe.

“For years I looked for an address who could send me information about Israel and explain its situation in the region so I could defend Israel,” said Fernand Kartheiser, an MEP from Luxembourg. “I finally found Eli Hazan, who is like a second Foreign Ministry for Israel.”           (Jerusalem Post)

Danny Danon: Hamas exploiting humanitarian aide groups

Following reports that Hamas infiltrated a large international aid organization operating in Gaza and redirected tens of millions of dollars – 60 percent – of the organization’s budget to its “military” wing Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon announced a new initiative hoping to battle humanitarian funds being diverted to Hamas.

According to Danon, Israeli intelligence has found a new trend in Hamas exploiting humanitarian groups.

Danon explained, “We are initiating today a diplomatic battle against the diversion of humanitarian organizations’ funding towards Hamas’s terror infrastructure.”

“We will not relent until the UN and other aid organizations begin to track and follow every dollar that enters the Gaza Strip,” he continued.

Danon stated that he also spoke with UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon asking that the UN work to implement comprehensive over sight mechanisms that would stop humanitarian aid funds from reaching the hands of terrorist organizations.

In early August a senior Shin Bet source explained that The World Vision organization, which operates in 100 countries and employs 46,000 people, fell victim to a complex Hamas takeover scheme.

The Shin Bet sourced added that Hamas’s armed wing stole $7.2 million a year from the budget, which was supposed to pay for food, humanitarian assistance, and aid programs for disabled children, and channeled the funds to buy weapons, build attack tunnels, and to other preparations for war with Israel.

Money stolen from World Vision was also used to build a military base in Gaza, and to pay the salaries of Izzadin Kassam Brigade “military” wing members.

Hamas used the millions to purchase what items needed to build and maintain its military facilities and tunnels, such as metal, fences, covers for greenhouses, and pipes, according to the investigation.

World Vision was unaware of the fact that it was being exploited to channel funds toward war, the Shin Bet source stressed.

Danon had also personally contacted international organization that operate in Gaza, demanding that they work to insure that Hamas doesn’t exploit their attempts to help Palestinian civilians.

“The UN and other international organizations must put an immediate end to the exploitation of their funds and resources by Hamas,” stated Ambassador Danon.

“The international community cannot continued to believe that it is funding greenhouses, while its money is really going towards digging tunnels and purchasing weapons,” he added.

Danon’s remarks came as just as the Palestinian Authority’s annual donor conference convened with  the UN General Assembly.

“Israel welcomes the contributions of the donor countries and places great importance on these efforts,” Danon stated.                (Jerusalem Post)

88 senators press Obama to uphold US policy to veto one-sided UN resolutions

Eighty-eight US senators submitted a bipartisan letter Monday calling for President Barack Obama to uphold US policy that calls for a veto of any one-sided United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a press release of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The letter, initiated by Senators Kristen Gillibrant (D-NY) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) quotes Obama’s speech to the General Assembly in 2011, in which he said, “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations.”

The international community should “avoid taking action that would harm the prospects for meaningful progress,” the letter warns, noting, “Even well-intentioned initiatives at the United Nations risk locking the parties into positions that will make it more difficult to return to the negotiating table and make the compromises necessary for peace. The United States remains an indispensable trusted mediator between the parties, and we must continue to insist that neither we nor any other outside substitute for the parties to the conflict.”

The letter also emphasizes the senators’ hope for a two-state solution, saying, “The only way to resolve the conflicts between the two is through direct negotiations that lead to a sustainable two-state solution with a future sate of Palestine living in peace and security with Israel. This outcome would provide Israel with greater security and strengthen regional stability. We remain optimistic that, under the right circumstances, Israelis and Palestinians can successfully resume productive negotiations toward this goal.”

The letter comes ahead of a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama. The two are scheduled to meet on Wednesday in New York. Both men will be in the city to address the UN General Assembly. Obama is scheduled to address the gathering on Tuesday, and Netanyahu is set to address the assembly on Thursday.

This will be the first meeting between the two leaders since last November, and is expected to be the last face-to-face meeting between the two before Obama leaves office in January           (Jerusalem Post)

Lapid calls for two-term limit for Prime Ministers

Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid called on Sunday night for a two-term limit for prime ministers and said that if elected to serve in the position he would pass legislation to this effect.

Lapid was speaking at a Yesh Atid event for party activists in Rishon Lezion where he set out a seven-point plan to revitalize the country which he said is being slowed down and hampered by a dysfunctional political system.

Among his other proposals was a regional summit with neighboring Arab countries to promote the rehabilitation of Gaza in return for the territory’s disarmament; a “divorce” from the Palestinians via the means of a demilitarized Palestinian state; and the investment of royalties from Israel’s off-shore gas fields into science and education.

Speaking at the event, Lapid struck an overtly optimistic and patriotic tone, describing the IDF as the “best and most moral army in the world,” an “exciting economy,” and a “cultural and societal wealth” in terms of human resources.

Lapid decried, however, a political system which he said does not deal with national problems at hand, citing the combustible ammonia tank in Haifa and the recent transportation debacle as examples.

In particular, he criticized what he described as a lack of a vision for the future of the state which he said was absent due to “a government that is busy only with itself,” calling out in particular the prime minister as well as other ministers and MKs who “deal with political games instead of security, education, health and the economy.”

Although Lapid did not spell out comprehensive electoral reform as a remedy to political paralysis, he proposed a system whereby an elected government would get to serve out a full four-year term and in which the first law he would pass would be limiting a prime minister to two terms in office.

A bill proposing a two-term limit was introduced to the Knesset by Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli during the summer Knesset session, and Lapid said that such a law would be the first piece of legislation he would pass as prime minister.

In addition, the Yesh Atid leader once again touted legislation to prohibit anyone convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude from holding state office, as well as legally banning the institution of minister-without- portfolio.

With regard to the conflict with the Palestinians, Lapid repeated Yesh Atid’s commitment to a two-state solution, but underlined the importance of any Palestinian state being demilitarized: “strict protection of security arrangements, freedom of action for the IDF in every place.” He also called for the retention by Israel of settlement blocks, a rejection of a “right of return” for Palestinians, and the indivisibility of Jerusalem.

“Israel is an unmanaged body today… The old politics that sits in government doesn’t want to run it and cannot run it, because it is dealing with cronyism and political games,” concluded Lapid.

“The time has come that we face up to this without blinking. We are here because we are willing and able to lead and direct the State of Israel.”

Yesh Atid has been buoyed in recent weeks by several favorable polls, with a Channel 1 poll by the Geocartography Institute published last week giving Yesh Atid 27 seats and Likud at 23, while a Channel 2 poll conducted by Midgam and published on September 6 putting Yesh Atid at 24 seats and the Likud at 22.

At the same time, support for Zionist Union has collapsed, with the party down to 11 seats and 13 seats respectively in the Geocartography and Midgam polls.

A Panels poll for the Knesset Channel broadcast on September 12 asked people why they thought Yesh Atid is surging in the polls, with 62% of respondents saying the reason is a protest vote against Netanyahu.                (Jerusalem Post)

Divisive issues continue to strain Israel-Diaspora relations

by  Jeremy Sharon          The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Mikvaot-rabbis-and-conversions-467882

The failure to implement the agreement approved by the cabinet on January 31 this year for creating a government- recognized pluralistic prayer area at the Western Wall has generated anger among leaders of Diaspora Jewry, and elicited consternation from Diaspora communities.

But this issue, although the most prominent, is by no means the only factor currently straining Israel- Diaspora relations.

The recent Knesset approval of a law barring the Reform and Masorti movements from using public mikvaot (ritual baths) for conversions; the continuous rejections by the Chief Rabbinate and the religious establishment of the credentials of Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora; and the ongoing invective that is uttered by haredi ministers, MKs and public officials have all led to significant tensions between Israel’s political leadership and that of North American Jewry.

The passage of the mikve law was perhaps the most serious incident of all in recent months.

The Reform and Masorti movements began their efforts in 2007 to overturn the refusal of some local religious councils to allow them the use of their public mikvaot for conversion ceremonies, when they sought permission from the Beersheba Religious Council for such a ceremony.

When this request was refused, the progressive movements filed a petition in the Beersheba District Court against the policy, and when that was rejected, filed an appeal in the Supreme Court in 2010.

The Supreme Court held hearings on the issue, and for years sought to broker an agreement whereby the state would provide alternative mikvaot for non-Orthodox conversion ceremonies, all of which were rejected by the religious establishment.

In February, the court finally ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, declaring the rejection policy illegal and discriminatory and ordering the state to allow progressive Jewish conversion ceremonies to be performed in public mikvaot.

Yet less than six months later, the government circumvented this ruling by passing legislation at the behest of haredi parties United Torah Judaism and Shas that de facto bans such ceremonies in public mikvaot.

Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements have argued that this legislation constitutes the first time the State of Israel has actively legislated against their practice of Judaism, and described the law as “a stain” on Israel’s statute book and on its claim to the be the nation-state of all Jews.

No less problematic are the strained relations with the institutions of Modern Orthodoxy. For years, the credentials of North American Orthodox rabbis to perform conversions and attest to Jewish status have been undermined by an attitude of skepticism and distrust by the Chief Rabbinate and the religious establishment in Israel.

In dozens of cases every year, Orthodox conversions conducted in the US are questioned and in some cases rejected by the Chief Rabbinate and rabbinical courts, as are letters of Jewish status written by Orthodox rabbis for marriage registration purposes.

This issue exploded this year when the Petah Tikva Rabbinical Court, and then later the Supreme Rabbinical Court, refused to recognize the validity of a conversion performed by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, a prominent and respected Orthodox religious leader in the US.

The incident gained widespread publicity, including in the international press, since Lookstein had converted the daughter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Ivanka Trump’s Jewishness was theoretically called into question by the rulings of the rabbinical courts.

Such decisions occur on a monthly basis. In one similar incident last year, a conversion that was certified by a rabbinical court presided over by the head of the Beth Din of America, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, was rejected by the Chief Rabbinate’s department for matrimony and conversions.

Activists have decried the Chief Rabbinate’s approach as “a witchhunt” and have accused the body and the religious establishment in general of making Orthodox Diaspora Jews feel unwelcome by calling into question their religious identity and denigrating their religious leadership.

No less damaging to Israel’s relationship with its brethren abroad is the repeated, hostile and frequently offensive rhetoric spoken by senior government and state officials about the progressive Jewish denominations.

Soon after the present government was formed, Religious Services Minister David Azoulay of Shas said he did not consider Reform Jews to be Jewish.

Worse was to come. Following the approval by the cabinet of the Western Wall agreement in January, haredi MKs and ministers unleashed a torrent of vituperation and vitriol against Reform and Conservative Jewry.

Senior UTJ MK and Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni described progressive Jews as “a group of clowns who stick a knife in the holy Torah,” while chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, together with the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, said that progressive Jewish denominations were dedicated to “uprooting the Torah of the Jewish people from its essence and from its uniqueness.”

Following the ruling of the Supreme Court banning discrimination at public mikvaot, Health Minister and UTJ chairman Ya’acov Litzman belittled non-Orthodox religious practice by saying that there was no difference between mikvaot and jacuzzis for Reform and Conservative Jews, calling progressive Jewish practice “counterfeit Judaism.”

Diaspora leaders have said on numerous occasions that such inflammatory rhetoric, alongside the ongoing efforts of the haredi parties to thwart more diverse expressions of Jewish life in the Jewish state, is having a negative effect on Jewish communities in North America, particularly Reform and Conservative ones.

When the language used by opponents of religious pluralism is so bitter, and when all efforts to obtain greater religious rights and freedoms for groups close to the hearts of Diaspora Jews are so roundly rejected, it seems inevitable that the relationship between the State of Israel and its coreligionists around the world will be put under ever greater strain.

Israeli National Security Strategy – Moshe Yaalon (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

In the Arab world over the past five years, artificially constructed states such as Syria, Iraq, and Libya are breaking apart and creating dangerous power vacuums. These broken states are unlikely to put themselves back together again and will probably be reconstituted into ethnically homogenous cantons or loose confederations. Israel does not wish to intervene in these internal Arab conflicts.

Israel’s biggest threat comes from Iran. Although the nuclear deal lengthened Tehran’s timetable for building a bomb, the Iranians will retain some of their nuclear infrastructure, and thus the capacity to build a weapon in the next ten to fifteen years. They also continue to make regular conventional weapons deliveries to terrorist groups throughout the Middle East, including Hizbullah, radical Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthis in Yemen.

Iran has helped establish terrorist infrastructure on five continents – a fact that belies its portrayal as moderate under the leadership of President Hassan Rouhani. Some see Tehran as part of the solution to the regional conflicts because of its willingness to fight the Islamic State. Yet its opposition to that Sunni jihadist group should not be viewed as anything more than a ploy to remove an ideological rival and gain a greater foothold in the region.

The Sunni Arab camp comprises Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, and others. Israel shares several common adversaries with this camp. The U.S. should join Israel in publicly aligning with the Sunni Arab camp. These states are not asking the U.S. to deploy ground troops to the region – they just want Washington to be more engaged by supporting partners on the ground with airstrikes and intelligence and making their alliances known more openly.

While the Palestinian question still occupies a good deal of attention, it is not solvable at this time. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the core of the conflict does not stem from the disputed territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war, but from the fact that the Palestinians are not willing to accept the presence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. As long as they are unwilling to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, there is no value in making territorial concessions. This line of reasoning also dispels the idea that unilateral Israeli withdrawals would create the political momentum for a peace plan.

Israel should focus on improving economics, infrastructure, law enforcement, and governance in the Palestinian Authority. Ultimately, the Palestinians will also have to make sweeping changes to their education system, stop demonizing Jews, and concede that Israel has a right to at least some of the land. In other words, they cannot advance the cause of peace while also claiming that Tel Aviv is a settlement. These broad changes to Palestinian society are a prerequisite to real negotiations.

 

Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon is a former Israeli defense minister and IDF chief of staff.