+61 3 9272 5644

Latest News in Israel – 23rd March

Netanyahu to AIPAC: Brussels attack and terror in Israel part of same assault

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed AIPAC’s annual policy conference on Tuesday, sending his condolences to the families of those killed earlier in the day in a string of terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium.

Speaking via live video feed, Netanyahu said that the chain of attacks currently being seen from Paris to San Bernadino and now in Brussels is one continuous assault that includes the daily terror attacks in Israel.

“In all these cases the terrorists have no resolvable differences,” Netanyahu said.

“What they seek is our utter destruction,” he added.

“Their basic demand is that we should disappear,” Netanyahu told the conference. “That’s not going to happen,” he vowed.

Netanyahu said that political unity and moral clarity were needed to defeat terrorism.

He thanked AIPAC for its support for Israel during last year’s debate on the Iran nuclear deal. The prime minister said that despite their differences, the unbreakable alliance between Israel and the US was not broken.

Speaking of the peace process with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said that the best formula for peace remains a negotiated solution that would bring about two states for two peoples.

He said that he was happy to have heard that the presidential candidates from both parties rejected the idea of a UN Security Council resolution forcing a solution to the conflict from the outside.

Netanyahu said that he remains prepared to begin negotiations with the Palestinians immediately, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has shot down efforts to restart talks.

He slammed Abbas for inciting violence against Israel. The prime minister showed a video in which Palestinian Authority schools and leaders’ incitement against Israel was displayed.   (Jerusalem Post)

Even more Belgian Jews to make Aliyah?

Tuesday’s terror attacks in Belgium can be expected to prod some local Jews to leave, and many of these will opt for Israel as their destination, if recent patterns hold up.

Aliyah – or Jewish immigration to Israel – from Belgium rose 25% last year, according to information recently provided by Arielle Di Porto, Director of Aliyah at the Jewish Agency. Di Porto also told the Knesset last month that 10,000 Jews made Aliyah from Western Europe last year, 8,000 of them from France.

It is generally assumed that the increase in emigration from Belgium is connected to the rise in anti-Semitism and terror attacks in Belgium, which used to be considered a very safe place for Jews.

The Jewish community in Belgium is estimated at around 42,000, of whom close to half live in Antwerp.

A November report in the British Telegraph estimated the number of Belgian Jews who move to Israel annually at 200, citing Betty Dan, a former president of Belgium’s Zionist association, who helps organize property fairs for Belgians who move to Israel. Following November’s massacre in Paris, she began receiving telephone calls from people seeking information on moving at a rate of five a day, compared to one a week previously.

“A few years ago it was the pensioners going, who wanted the Israeli sun,” said Dan, “Now it is young people with children who sell their houses and leave everything. They are scared.”

“It is a painful thing. I am a real Belgian – my country, my culture and my friends are here,” added Dan, who has been the manager of a Jewish radio station for 25 years. “My daughter never, never, never thought to leave. Now, she says of her little boy, what is his future here? We don’t feel safe.”

Idyllic years are over

In a series of interviews conducted before the multiple attacks in Paris last November, Belgian Jews told CBN News that life in Belgium was good, but “the possibility of danger was ever present.”

“The idyllic years are over. The tranquil years are definitely over,” Jewish leader and linguist Julien Klener said. “You can go to a grocery [store] and all of a sudden someone can shoot you down. You can go to a museum and the same can happen.”

“If we think it’s not secure enough to let them go outside during the day, we keep all the students here during the day,” Michael Greenberg, the head of Jewish Studies at the Jewish Tachkemoni School said. “Today you have anti-Semitism from the Left and the extreme Left; anti-Semitism that is going into a form that is called anti-Zionism and you have anti-Semitism from the Arab and Muslim communities,”

Rabbi Shimon Lasker of the Beth Chabad Synagogue in Brussels said that while he personally thinks reports of anti-Semitism have been overblown, “The Jewish community of Belgium, I’m talking about people who were born in Belgium, are starting to ask themselves, is Belgium the place for the future of their children or the future of them to continue living.”

In May 2014, Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, a Frenchman of Algerian descent who had spent more than a year in Syria, went on a rampage at the Jewish museum in Brussels’ Sablon district. His victims included an Israeli couple and a French volunteer at the museum, who were all killed instantly. Another man, a museum employee, was left in a critical condition and died shortly afterwards.

In November of 2014, a rabbi in Antwerp was stabbed in the throat on his way to deliver a sermon.

Official Belgian figures recorded 130 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2014, a 10-year high and a 50 per cent increase over the previous year.

Some families have removed the mezuzah from their front doors to avoid attention.

Belgium’s security services and politicians have been facing intense criticism over how Brussels, and in particular the tiny commune of Molenbeek, have become an hotbed of terrorist plots.            (Arutz Sheva)

Ya’alon: If NGO Breaking the Silence used classified info abroad, it’s ‘treachery’

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has ordered an investigation to ascertain whether the Breaking The Silence NGO received classified military information, and if it made use of such data in its activities overseas.

Addressing pupils at a school in the Upper Galilee on Monday, Ya’alon affirmed the right of all citizens to express themselves, whatever their views, “unless their expressions cause tangible harm to national security.”

Ya’alon said he has known Breaking The Silence since its founding in 2004, when he was IDF chief of staff.

“When it began its activities, and I heard testimonies from anonymous soldiers of morally improper activities, from ethical and legal perspectives… I was alarmed as chief of staff. It began then with stories from Hebron,” Ya’alon recalled.

As chief of staff, Ya’alon said, he immediately asked the NGO for testimonies by named former soldiers, so they could be investigated by the Military Police. “I didn’t manage, to this very day, to receive named testimonies, which we can use to question the people behind them, and investigate their allegations to the full,” the defense minister said.

“Later, I found out that this organization goes abroad, and tells its stories there. That brought me to the conclusion that I have nothing to talk to them about. If you are concerned about the IDF’s moral image, if you are worried about our conduct, why are you going abroad? In other words, there is a political agenda here,” Ya’alon said. “From that moment on, I said: Activists from this organization will not set foot in the IDF.”

He stressed that he is not calling for a ban on the organization.

“They can continue saying what they are saying,” Ya’alon said, “So long as there is no security breach.”

A recent report on Channel 2, documenting Breaking the Silence members questioning soldiers about issues not apparently linked to ethical ones, led Ya’alon to order the investigation, he said. “When they insert all sorts of components that are actually operational secrets… If they make use of that abroad, that is very severe. If they spread that abroad, that is treason. If they only keep it to themselves, then who safeguards this material? Why do they need to know which vehicles we use, in the air or on the ground, and why do they need to receive operational techniques?” Breaking the Silence has vehemently rejected the allegations, describing them as part of a right-wing smear campaign.

Ya’alon said during his speech that it is the duty of IDF commanders to explain to soldiers that searching Palestinians at checkpoints, or entering homes of terrorist suspects at 2 a.m. to conduct searches, are deeply unpleasant, yet necessary tasks. “Otherwise, this [the terrorism threat] will blow up on us, in our cities,” he added. Ya’alon’s use of the word “treason” sparked fierce condemnations by opposition Knesset Members.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said in response that “politicians have to be careful when they use the word treason. Even against those with whom we disagree about their activities.” She added that the government is behaving irresponsibly by failing to integrate diplomatic and economic steps in the fight against terrorism.

Meretz MK Esawi Frej said, “In the best tradition of the extremist right, Defense Minister Ya’alon also incited against the members of Breaking the Silence. Israeli law permits the death sentence or a life sentence for treason, and this is the message that came from the defense minister, who rushes to call law abiding citizens ‘traitors.’” Frej added that “it is the Likud that has betrayed Israeli democracy.”    (Jerusalem Post)

PM Netanyahu meets new olim from Yemen

Watch video:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met on Monday with new olim who arrived on Sunday from Yemen in a secret mission.

Israel spirited 19 Jews out of war-torn Yemen in a “covert operation” to rescue some of the last remnants of one of the world’s most ancient Jewish communities, officials said Monday, according to AFP.

The operation transporting them to Israel almost brings to an end the presence of the Jewish community in Yemen, which once numbered around 60,000 people and dates back some 2,000 years.

Only 50 or so Jews now remain and have chosen to stay in the war-ravaged Arabian Peninsula country, according to the Jewish Agency, responsible for immigration to Israel. Most of them – around 40 – live in a protected compound adjacent to the US embassy in Sanaa.

“Nineteen individuals arrived in Israel in recent days, including 14 from the town of Raydah and a family of five from Sanaa,” the agency said in a statement.

“The group from Raydah included the community’s rabbi, who brought a Torah scroll believed to be between 500 and 600 years old.”

Rabbi Salman Dahari, red-eyed and looking exhausted after his travels, told reporters the scroll had been passed down in his family.

Prime Minister Netanyahu viewed the scroll with some of the new olim. The Prime Minister and one of the children read from the Torah scroll together.

“Welcome to Jerusalem, to the Land of Israel. I am very excited to see you here. It is moving that you know to read from the Torah. This is the basis. For many years we have thought about bringing you and with G-d’s help it is over,” Netanyahu said

The olim thanked the Prime Minister warmly and blessed him for bringing them to Israel.                      (Arutz Sheva)

Dubai security chief: Independent Palestinian state would be another failed Arab state

The Head of General Security for the Dubai Emirate, Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, has stated that Palestinians should abandon their aspiration for an independent state and merge with Israeli Jews in a united, bi-national state instead.

In a series of remarks published on his Twitter account Monday afternoon, Tamim attempted to garner support for his idea, claiming that a Palestinian state led by Arabs would join the list of failed states in the Arab world.

According to Tamim, the dream of such a state will never come true, since “Israel will only recognize Palestine if Palestinians become part of it.”

Tamim controversially stated: “I suggest relinquishing the idea of a Palestinian state and being satisfied with an Israeli state that would include both Israelis and Palestinians and join the Arab League.”

“Today, the Jews are heading the world’s economy, without the Jews you Arabs would not have known how to deposit your money in the bank,” Tamim continued.

In light of what he described as Arab incompetence in running a state and the distinguished economic talents of Jews, Tamim claimed that a joint Jewish-Palestinian state will only prosper under Israeli leadership.

However, according to his thesis, this bi-national state would ultimately become an Arab state, where Jews will be a minority, as Jewish citizens in the Arab world are.

“Seventy years after the bi-national state would be established, the Arab minority would become the majority and rule the state, just like it happened in South Africa,” Tamim tweeted.

In another tweet that spurred controversy, the Dubai security chief wrote: “We should not treat Jews as our enemies. We should treat them as cousins with whom we have a controversy over land inheritance. ”

In order to test the feasibility of his idea, Tamim asked his Twitter followers if they think Palestinians and Jews can live together in an Israeli-ruled state. Not surprisingly, 57 percent of the followers answered that “‘Jews have no place in our country.”                     (Jerusalem Post)

MK calls for ‘global war on terror’ in forum of lawmakers from 150 countries

A global war against terrorism must be declared, MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said at an assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Lusaka, Zambia Monday.

Shai offered his condolences to the Turkish delegation following Saturday’s terrorist attack in Istanbul, and they offered the same in return, saying they hope Israel-Turkey relations will be normalized again.

Addressing lawmakers from 150 countries, Shai listed the names of the three Israelis killed in the Istanbul bombing.

“There is no safe place on earth. New York, London, Paris, Madrid, every capital, every city…is under terrorist threat,” he said. “Until when will we wait, and for what?”

Shai said the time has come for a war on terrorism, and called on the assembly to declare “no more terror.”

In keeping with the theme of the assembly, connecting young people to democracy, the Zionist Union MK, 69, talked about young people taking to the streets around the world demanding government address the issues important to them, from the Tunisia and Egypt to Greece and Spain, as well as Israel, and said democracy is the best way to turn those demonstrations into political action.

“In undemocratic regimes, by using their political power, established parties make it hard for the young to voice their concerns, which at times may result in the radicalization of the young. A stark example, sad and evil as it may be, is the fact that Daesh [the Islamic State] generates a great attraction for many young people in the Arab world,” he stated.

In democracies, however, young people become part of the process, Shai said, pointing to young new MKs and mayors in Israel and citing new parties formed in Greece, Spain and Italy which defeated older ones.

“In government or in parliamentary opposition, politically active young people in democratic countries can better affect policy, as well as realize the constraints and limitations of policy. Thus, democracy is the best method for alleviating inter-generational conflicts,” he added.

Shai also spoke about the strengths of Israeli democracy, saying it has not wavered despite wars and terrorism, and that the next generation is being educated towards democratic values.

MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), 32, the other member of the Knesset delegation, was the youngest lawmaker at the assembly, and submitted candidacy to become a member of the IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians.

Haskel and Shai also took part in a meeting of the IPU’s Committee on Middle East Questions, which the latter characterized as “tense and unpleasant.”

Palestinian MP Azzam Al-Ahmed claimed Israel targets women and children, bringing last year’s firebombing of a Palestinian home in Duma as an example.

Shai pointed out that Israel arrested suspects and is continuing its investigation of the attack, and said: “I hope the Palestinian Authority will make the same efforts towards Palestinians who commit crimes against us.”

The Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians reviewed a complaint from MK Haneen Zoabi about her and her Joint List colleagues Jamal Zahalka and Bassel Ghattas being suspended from all Knesset activity except voting.

Shai responded that the MKs have full freedom of speech, but that the Knesset Ethics Committee penalized them for showing they identify with murderers of Israelis, by standing in a moment of silence for Palestinian “martyrs,” in this case terrorists who killed Israelis in recent months.

The Joint List MKs have defended their actions by saying all meetings with Palestinians start with a moment of silence for all “martyrs” in general.

The IPU also decided to hold a conference on water in the Middle East in Jordan in July, and invited Israel to participate. Shai offered Israel’s expertise on water, technology and energy.   (Jerusalem Post)

Mossad said to ask US to help retrieve spy’s remains from Syria

Former Mossad director Meir Dagan, who died last week, reportedly sought assistance from the United States as late as 2011 to help bring the body of Israeli spy Eli Cohen home for burial.

Nadia Cohen, the widow of the agent, who was executed by the Syrian government nearly 51 years ago, told Israel Radio on Monday that Dagan had been in contact with the Americans several years ago, including after the Syrian civil war broke out, in several attempts to retrieve Cohen’s remains.

Dagan, a retired major general in the IDF, passed away on Thursday at the age of 71 after a battle with cancer, and was buried Sunday with military honors in a ceremony attended by the nation’s leaders and the rank and file of the intelligence agency he led from 2002 to 2011.

During his tenure, the Mossad reportedly carried out a number of decisive and dramatic operations abroad, including the assassinations of top Hamas and Hezbollah operatives in Dubai and Damascus respectively, according to foreign media reports.

Mossad agent Cohen was put on trial and executed by the Syrian government for espionage on May 18, 1965, after he successfully infiltrated the Syrian government under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabet for four years. The intelligence conveyed to Israel during that period was credited by then-prime minister Levi Eshkol with greatly assisting Israel’s victory during the Six Day War.

Cohen unsuccessfully made several appeals to the Syrian government to release his remains. In 2008, a former bureau chief of late Syrian leader Hafez Assad claimed that no one knew where Cohen was buried.

“The grave was changed after a day or two,” Monjer Motsley said. “We were scared that Israel would send forces to take away the body.

“It is difficult to find Cohen’s bones,” he added. “Assad promised to return Cohen’s bones, but when he asked about it security officials told him: ‘Sir, we don’t know where the grave is,’ so he couldn’t promise.”

At the 50th anniversary of his death in May 2015, then-Mossad director Tamir Pardo said Israel has “an obligation” to bring the body of Cohen to Israel from Syria for burial.

“Eli’s legacy, ‘Our Man in Damascus,’ will last forever. It remains our obligation to bring Eli home, to bury him in Israel,” Pardo said at the event, referencing the title of a book about the legendary spy.

Addressing that memorial, Nadia Cohen also appealed to the Israeli government to retrieve her husband’s body from Syrian soil and “bring him home.

“Do not forget where Eli lies. He is not with us,” she said. “I ask, on this special occasion, that you do all you can to bring him home, to the country for which he fought, and paid for with his life.”             (The Times of Israel)

Government grant to bring thousands of Jewish women on educational trips to Israel

The government has committed to provide millions of dollars in funding to bring underprivileged women from communities around the world on educational trips to Israel, representatives of the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs stated Monday.

The Ministry seems to be upgrading its already existing partnership with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) -an organization which runs and promotes Momentum, a nine day tour targeting Jewish mothers as a means of spreading Jewish and Zionist identity- with a twelve and a half million Dollar pact, the two groups announced during AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington.

The new venture will see the already heavily subsidized program expanded to bring in a further 5600 women, including those from “Jewish communities facing increased threats of anti-Semitism and economic hardship, including Argentina, Cuba, the former Soviet Union, France, the U.S., and Canada,” they said.

“This historic agreement allows us to continue to build a global movement united in the mission of empowering women to change the world through Jewish values,” JWRP founder Lori Palatnik said in a statement.

“Our philosophy from the beginning has always been: inspire a woman, you inspire a family. Inspire enough families, you can change a community. Inspire enough communities, you can change the world. This partnership is key to making this a reality.”

Over the past seven years the JWRP says it has brought more than 7300 women to Israel.

According to Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennet, the “revolutionary project demonstrates the commitment of the Israeli government to the Diaspora.”

The partnership between the two groups began in 2013.

JWRP is only one of several organizations bringing Jews to Israel, including the better known Birthright, which targets students, Honeymoon Israel, which brings newlyweds, and March of the Living, which brings students to visit death camps in Poland before making their way to the Jewish state.                      (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli universities take six of top 100 global rankings

Israeli universities ranked six times in the top 100 of the 2016 QS World University Rankings by Subject. The ranking was a decrease from 11 in 2015.

The rankings compared the world’s top universities in 42 areas of study, making it the largest-ever ranking of its kind.

This year’s QS ranking included six of Israel’s leading universities – the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Bar-Ilan University.

According to the report, HU was the country’s most featured top-100 university, ranking three times in the 51-100 category – for agriculture and forestry, and history, and in QS’s inaugural anthropology rankings.

HU was also featured in 24 of the 42 subject tables, including ranking 20 times in the top 200 category of those subjects.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology ranked twice in the top 100, once for computer science and information systems, and once for mathematics.

It additionally ranked in 12 different subjects.

Tel Aviv University ranked in the top 100 for archeology, and ranked in 18 different subject tables including 15 times in the top 200.

The Weizmann Institute of Science placed in the top 100 for biological sciences, and was ranked in a total of five different subject areas.

The six universities were ranked 64 times between them – up from 60 in 2015 – ranking Israel more times than all of its Middle Eastern counterparts combined.

Egypt ranked 11 times, and once in the top 100. Iran was featured once in the top 300, and Turkey was ranked 34 times. Saudi Arabian universities were ranked 33 times, though one university, the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) ranked in the top 50 for engineering – mineral and mining.

While Israeli universities captured a number of slots, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology continued to dominate the subjects ranking list, leading in 24 subjects between them, and taking 12 leading positions.

“Though the US and UK remain dominant, our most inclusive rankings yet show that excellence can be found in an ever-increasing number of places. Nations like Austria, South Africa, Finland, Brazil, China and Sweden can be found in the top 10 of our tables. Our new top 100 for performing arts acknowledges academic excellence in 27 different countries, while our top 100 for mineral engineering recognizes it in 26,” said Ben Scowter, head of the QS Intelligence Unit.

The rankings were formulated using the expert opinion of 76,798 academics and 44,426 employers, alongside the analysis of 28.5 million research papers and over 113 million citations sourced from the Scopus/Elsevier bibliometric database.                                          (Jerusalem Post)

Muslim Girls Enlisting in Israeli Army

Still think Israel is a racist, apartheid state? You wouldn’t know it to listen to these young Muslim and Christian Arab girls, who are joining the Israeli army in ever greater numbers.

Young Muslim girls are joining the fight, on Israel’s side! These courageous young women have a unique and important story to tell, and together with a growing number of Christian Arab girls, they are breaking new ground joining ranks with the Israeli army.

When Private ‘A’, one of the Muslim girls now serving in the IDF decided to enlist, her parents refused to support her. She had to leave home and received support from the army as a lone soldier.

“I need to support myself,” she says, “and it’s really difficult, even with the help I get from the army. It is rare for a Muslim girl to join the army, because our families will not accept it. Even so, I would still recommend others to enlist. It is a great, life-changing experience.”

Private ‘G’, a devout Muslim, grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. She decided to enlist after she saw all of her neighbors going to serve.

“The army is an important part of everyone’s life in my neighborhood,” she explained. “I wanted to serve just like everyone else. I want to give something back to Israel, my country.”

She added that her mother has been very supportive and sends her regular letters for moral support. “Mom said that she would have enlisted also if it had been possible when she was my age.”

According to Private ‘G’, recent tensions in Israel caused by young Muslims running through the streets attacking Israeli soldiers with knives does not influence her commitment to serve in the army.

“I am so angry, just like the other soldiers, with these attacks. I am angry that anyone would try to harm these soldiers who are supporting me,” she said.

Private ‘S’ also grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. “My whole life I went to school with Jewish girls, so I wanted to finish high school, and enlist in the army, just like my friends,” she noted.

“I have never been ashamed of my [Muslim] faith, not even in the army. I wanted to enlist because it is my duty to serve and protect my country,” she added. “I want to serve in a way that makes a significant contribution.”

According to Private ‘S’, the army allows her to practice her religious traditions during her army service. “They allow my to go home during the Muslim Ramadan fast, once a week to be with my family,” she explained. “Some may think it is strange, but at home we actually celebrate some of the Jewish holidays like Purim.”

Muslim Girls[1]

Corporal ‘M’ is a Christian Arab serving in a sensitive operational unit. “One day I saw a group of girl soldiers walking by carrying machine guns. I asked them about their army service, and it sounded really interesting. I didn’t even know where one would go to sign up, so they told me what I needed to do to enlist,” she recounted.

“After I enlisted,” continued the corporal, “I was walking around the [Arab] neighborhood where I live in uniform. When people saw me they deleted me from their Facebook and erased my number from their telephone. It was very hard, but a few friends still supported me, and I have made a lot of new friends in the army,” she shared.

All the young Muslim and Christian soldiers say that other girls are asking them about enlisting too. “I tell them that I feel like I am doing something important for my country,” said Corporal ‘M’. “And when I explain to the Jewish soldiers why I decided to enlist, they all show real respect for the decision that I made.”  (Israel Today)

More Palestinian Empty Threats:  This Time on Security Coordination

by Khaled Abu Toameh           The Gatestone Institute


For Abbas, security coordination with Israel is indeed “sacred”: it keeps him in power and stops Hamas from taking over the West Bank.

Abbas cannot tell his people that security coordination with Israel is keeping him on the throne. That is a topic for Israeli ears only.

So what are the threats to end security cooperation about? Money. Here is Abbas’s take-home to the world: “Send more money or we will cut off security cooperation with Israel.”

Halting security coordination with Israel would spell both his end and that of the PA in the West Bank. The international community is simply hearing a new version of the old bid for yet more political concessions and yet more cash.

The Palestinian Authority’s endless threats to suspend security coordination with Israel are a carefully crafted bluff designed to extort more funds from Western donors, scare the Israeli public and provide a cover for its refusal to talk peace with Israel.

Many Palestinians say these threats are also intended for “internal consumption” — namely to appease Hamas and other radical factions and to refute charges that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is betraying its people by “collaborating” with Israel.

Hamas has conditioned “reconciliation” with President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank on Fatah ending all forms of security coordination with Israel. Hamas clams that the security coordination is directed mostly against its members and supporters in the West Bank.

Over the past several years, PA security forces have rounded up hundreds of Hamas men in an attempt to prevent the Islamist movement from establishing bases of power in the West Bank.

Hardly a week has passed during the past few months in which a senior Palestinian Authority official does not threaten to cut off security ties with Israel. Some officials in Ramallah have even claimed that the PA has already taken a decision to suspend not only security coordination with Israel, but also political and economic relations as well.

PA officials are saying that their threats, which until now have been so much dust in the wind, will be realized next month.

“April is going to be the turning point,” declared Jamal Muheissen, member of the Fatah Central Committee. “This is a month that will witness changes with regards to several issues that can no longer be delayed or marginalized. April will witness the complete and public suspension of security coordination [with Israel]. This will be the first step taken by the Palestinian leadership.”

This sounds curiously familiar: nearly a year has passed since leaders from the Palestinian Authority and Fatah first announced their decision to halt all forms of security coordination between the PA and Israel.

Meeting in Ramallah last month, the leaders once again reaffirmed their decision. This time, it is allegedly Israel’s “failure to honor all signed agreements with the Palestinians” that prompts them to suspend security coordination.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was reportedly informed of this intention earlier this month while visiting Ramallah.

But Biden is not the only Western leader to be privy to this threat. Palestinian sources say that foreign dignitaries and leaders who visit Ramallah have become accustomed to hearing Abbas and other Palestinian leaders announce their “intention” to suspend all relations with Israel, including security coordination.

Moreover, the PA recently leaked to the Palestinian media that it has officially notified Israel of its decision to “limit” all relations with it. According to the unconfirmed report, President Mahmoud Abbas dispatched three senior officials — General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, Preventive Security Chief Ziad Hab Al-Reeh and PA Minister for Civilian Affairs, Hussein Al-Sheikh — to a meeting with Israeli officials to brief them about the reported decision.

The Palestinian street, however, takes a different view of these threats. The reports, they say, call to mind President Abbas’s incessant threats to resign.

These Palestinians consider the threats a smokescreen to conceal the continued security coordination with Israel which, they say, seems even to have increased in recent months. They say that President Abbas can probably fool Western leaders with these threats, but not his people, who have become used to hearing empty threats from their leaders.

A senior Fatah official in Ramallah summed up the Palestinian Authority’s dilemma: “We are facing a complicated crisis. If we carry out the threat [to suspend security coordination with Israel], we will suffer; similarly, if we don’t we will suffer.”

The situation, however, is not all about money: it is also about power. President Abbas and his security chiefs know perfectly well that the security coordination benefits them first and foremost. They are well aware that without Israel’s help, Hamas would spread in the West Bank like a cancer, ultimately overthrowing the PA and replacing it with another Islamist regime like the one in the Gaza Strip.

It is helpful to remember Abbas’s moment of lucidity, when in 2014, in front of a visiting Israeli group, he declared that security coordination with Israel was “sacred.” He added: “We will continue with it even if we differ on political matters.”

For a change, Abbas was being honest. And he is right. For Abbas, security coordination is indeed “sacred”: it is keeping him in power and stopping Hamas from taking over the West Bank. Hence the security coordination — in Abbas’s words — is very important for the Palestinian Authority – perhaps more than thwarting Hamas terror attacks against Israel.

Abbas has a problem. He cannot tell his people that security coordination with Israel is what is keeping him on the throne. The sacredness of security coordination is a topic for Israeli ears only.

So what are the threats about? Money.

Here is Abbas’s take-home to the world: “Send more money or we will cut off security cooperation with Israel.” And now there is a little added value, messaged mostly to the U.S. and EU: Convene an international conference for “solving” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or we will cut off security cooperation with Israel.

Whatever else he is, Abbas is not suicidal. Halting security coordination with Israel would spell both his end and the end of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. What the international community is hearing, then, is nothing more than a new version of the old bid for yet more political concessions and yet more cash.

Clinton shows AIPAC supporters she knows what troubles them about Obama

By Herb Keinon                          The Jerusalem Post


It is very tempting to dismiss US presidential candidates’ speeches to the annual AIPAC convention during an electoral year as meaningless words designed to please the audience.

After all, didn’t Democratic candidate Barack Obama tell the AIPAC crowd on June 4, 2008, during the heat of that year’s presidential campaign: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

Didn’t candidate Obama say regarding negotiations he envisioned at the time with Iran that “We will present a clear choice. If you abandon your dangerous nuclear program, support for terror and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives — including the lifting of sanctions and political and economic integration with the international community. If you refuse, we will ratchet up the pressure.”

Yet, neither of those principles were exactly guiding lights for the Obama administration’s policies over the last seven years. On Jerusalem, the president criticizes every new building project in any Jewish neighborhood beyond the Green Line, and regarding Iran, negotiations with Tehran were conducted completely divorced from that country’s support of terrorism and continued threats against Israel.

So, the first instinct is to take candidate Hillary Clinton’s strongly pro-Israel speech to AIPAC on Monday with a healthy dose of “Let’s wait and see.”

But, at the same time, there were some significant components in that speech.

First and foremost was that she delivered such a pro-Israel address at all.

Of the five candidates still in the presidential hunt, only Clinton’s Democratic rival for the nomination, Bernie Sanders, opted not to speak to the fervently pro-Israel crowd. And his no-show is extremely telling.

His strongest support comes from the progressive flank of the party – one that polls consistently show is growing more distant from Israel.

As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin suggested in an article on Sunday: “It should hardly be considered surprising that Sanders would choose to avoid an appearance that could only alienate some of his most ardent followers.”

Clinton deserves credit, therefore, for willing to give a strongly pro-Israel speech to AIPAC, even though it is probably not music to the ears of a not insignificant sector of her party.

Then, there is the speech itself and what it says of the type of policy toward Israel one could expect under a Clinton presidency.

Clinton did two things in her speech. One was to distance herself from Donald Trump, and the other was as to let the audience know that she knows what bothers them about Obama – and that she would do things differently.

This is why she stressed in the speech, to applause, that: “One of the first things I’ll do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House.”

This is why she stressed in the speech, to the applause of an audience that remembers Obama’s comment about a need for some daylight between Israel and the US, that “we will never allow Israel’s adversaries to think a wedge can be driven between us.”

And this is why she stressed, to applause, that, as president: “I would vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution, including by the UN Security Council.”

This line was particularly significant given media reports earlier this month that the Obama administration was considering one last stab at Israeli-Palestinian peace, perhaps using the UNSC as a vehicle to change the paradigms, much to Israel’s chagrin.

Regarding Trump, Clinton slammed him by saying the US needs “steady hands” at its helm, “not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable. Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.”

While the policies toward Israel of a president Hillary Clinton, who did serve four years as Obama’s secretary of state, would probably not be that dramatically different from Obama’s, she wanted her audience on Monday to believe that her tone would be significantly more pleasing to their ears.