+61 3 9272 5644

Latest News in Israel – 25th January

PM: The world sees Israel as an ally, not an enemy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a busy second day at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday. In addition to his many diplomatic meetings, Netanyahu was also interviewed in the central conference room, where he expressed his concern over the recently implemented nuclear deal with Iran and called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resume peace negotiations with Israel.

Netanyahu’s first meeting was with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Sources in Netanyahu’s bureau characterized the meeting as “friendly and warm, with an excellent atmosphere.”

Israel Hayom has learned that Netanyahu and Biden discussed an increase in U.S. defense aid to Israel.

Netanyahu’s subsequent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was also summed up as “very good.” Netanyahu and Kerry discussed Syria, Iran and the Islamic State group, and addressed the Palestinian issue.

Netanyahu showed Kerry a short film featuring examples of Palestinian incitement in an attempt to demonstrate that the incitement in the Palestinian school system and media was a major motivator for terrorism.

The prime minister also met with the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and with Argentine President Mauricio Macri. Members of Netanyahu’s entourage said that the Argentinians were planning to tighten relations with Israel.

Later, speaking to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in front of an audience, Netanyahu voiced his concern about the recently implemented nuclear agreement between Iran and Western powers.

“There is no connection to the lifting of sanctions or the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to Iran’s behavior. It [Iran] can continue to send its terrorists and its covert armies and overt armies throughout the Middle East, and would have the freedom to enrich as much uranium as it wants. … I hope that I’ll be proven wrong. I hope that Iran will be seen to be a moderate country … changing its internal repression, stopping its external aggression.”

Netanyahu went on to compare Iran to a terrorist organization, saying, “I think Saudi Arabia recognizes … as do many in the Arab world that, they see Israel as an ally rather than an enemy, because of the two principal threats that threaten them. The first is Iran, and the second is [Islamic State].”

Netanyahu also called on Abbas to return to the negotiations table: “I’ve said it every place that I’ve been, and he’s refused to come. And that remains the problem. He wants to go around the negotiating process and have an international diktat at the U.N. or wherever. And that is not the way we’re going to resolve the issue. You have to sit down and negotiate. We’re willing to do it. They’re not. I hope they change their minds.”

The prime minister added that his only goal was to “ensure the future of the Jewish state. I would like to be remembered as the protector of Israel.”

Netanyahu also took part in a unique conference of CEOs and leaders in the cyber field. The conference, attended by representatives from Sony, Intel, IBM, HP and more, focused on various cyber threats and their implications.

According to the prime minister’s bureau, private investment in Israel’s cyber sector comprised some $500 million in 2015, more than twice the amount invested in 2014. As of mid-2015, Israel made up close to 20% of all private investment in the cyber sector worldwide (in second place after the U.S.).

Prime Minister’s Office Director General Eli Gruner, head of the Israel National Cyber Bureau Dr. Eviatar Matania and head of the National Economic Council Professor Avi Simhon also took part in the conference.

In yet another meeting Thursday, Netanyahu met with founder of the Chinese online retailer Alibaba, Jack Ma.

“For some time I’ve been hearing that I need to enter the Israeli market,” Ma told Netanyahu. “I hope to take advantage of that opportunity soon.”              (Israel Hayom)

Terrorist killed by own bomb during attempted attack on security forces

A Palestinian terrorist was killed by his own bomb during an attempted attack on a security outpost near Abu Dis, a town bordering Jerusalem, on Saturday.

The terrorist approached the outpost holding a bomb in his hand which, according to reports, exploded prematurely killing the terrorist.

There were no reported injuries to Israeli forces.

Earlier Saturday, a security guard fatally shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl who ran after him with a knife outside the West Bank settlement of Anatot, Judea and Samaria district police said.

The teenager, Raqqiyeh Abu Eid, was ruled dead at the scene by paramedics. The IDF handed over her body to the Palestinian Authority in Hebron on Saturday afternoon.

Police said that their initial investigation determined that just before the incident the girl was involved in a fight with her family at their home in the nearby Palestinian village of Anata. She then left the house “with the intention to die”, district police said in the statement.

They added that the girl’s father went looking for her after the fight and arrived soon after at the scene of the shooting, where he was arrested and taken for questioning. The girl’s mother, Reeda Abu Eid, said there had been no trouble before her daughter left the family home, a tent in the Palestinian village Anata.

Since the start of October, Israeli security forces have killed at least 149 Palestinians, 95 of them assailants according to authorities. Most of the others have died in violent protests. Almost daily stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians have killed 25 Israelis and a U.S. citizen.

Many of the Palestinian assailants have been teenagers.       (Jerusalem Post)

Female terrorist shot and killed after attempted stabbing in West Bank

A security guard fatally shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl who ran after him with a knife outside the West Bank settlement of Anatot on Saturday morning, Judea and Samaria district police said.

The teenager, Raqqiyeh Abu Eid, was ruled dead at the scene by paramedics.

Video footage showed the girl chasing the guard, seconds before she was shot.

Police said that their initial investigation determined that just before the incident the girl was involved in a fight with her family at their home in the nearby Palestinian village of Anata. She then left the house “with the intention to die”, district police said in the statement.

They added that the girl’s father went looking for her after the fight and arrived soon after at the scene of the shooting, where he was arrested and taken for questioning. The girl’s mother, Reeda Abu Eid, said there had been no trouble before her daughter left the family home, a tent in the Palestinian village Anata.

“Her father works in a farm and Ruqayya used to go to him. I didn’t see her when she left so I expected she had gone to her father,” she said. “Ruqayya is a small girl, how could she stab someone?” Taha Ni’man, head of the village council of Anata, said that the Abu Eid was originally from the town of Yatta in the Hebron area.

He said that the IDF handed over her body to the Palestinian Authority in Hebron on Saturday afternoon.

Since the start of October, Israeli security forces have killed at least 149 Palestinians, 95 of them assailants according to authorities. Most of the others have died in violent protests. Almost daily stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians have killed 25 Israelis and a U.S. citizen.

Many of the Palestinian assailants have been teenagers.

Separately Hamas refuted reports in the Israeli media that it was preparing for another war with Israel.

“We are not preparing for a new war,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said during a ceremony to honor award-winning Palestinian journalists in Gaza City.

But he clarified that Hamas was prepared for war should one be imposed upon it.

Haniyeh said more attention should be focused on the “reality of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and the West Bank.” He also warned against any attempt to abort the current wave of attacks against Israelis, which began last October.

The Hamas leader called on the journalists to join the effort to “protect the intifada and its culture and grievances.”

Haniyeh condemned the continued incarceration of Hamas-affiliated journalist Mohamed Al-Qeeq, who has been on hunger strike in Israeli detention for the past two months.        (Jerusalem Post)

Herzog: France must stop promoting decisions that harm Israel

Opposition leader MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) on Friday met with French President Francois Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and blasted the EU’s resolution from this week stipulating that agreements with Israel will not be valid in Judea and Samaria.

“France must stop promoting international decisions that harm Israel,” Herzog told the two during the meeting Paris, in reference to both the EU’s decision on Judea and Samaria as well as France’s push for a UN Security Council resolution that would force Israel into an 18-month negotiation period with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“Such decisions are a prize to terrorism and to the BDS movement and they cripple the prospects of regional moves,” he added.

During the meeting, Herzog also repeated comments he made earlier this week and said that the “two-state solution” isn’t feasible at the moment.

“I’m a big fan of the vision of two states, but we have to be realistic. It cannot be realized now,” Herzog told the two French leaders.

“The hatred and incitement among the Palestinians is too big, the hostility between the two peoples and the inability of the leaders prevent [the two-state solution]. Separation and security are the necessary first steps on the way to the vision of two states,” he added.             (Arutz Sheva)

Fatah Central Committee Member Tirawi: Palestinian State on 1967 Borders Is Just a Phase

Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Al-Tirawi told the Maan News Agency that “Palestine stretches from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” and that “a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, is just a phase.” The former PA intelligence chief also said that “Hitler wasn’t corrupt” in the January 19, 2016 interview.

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “I believe that the current Palestinian Intifada has united the Palestinian people. The Intifada united the people in all geographical parts of Palestine. If you ask for my opinion on this issue, I have an ‘extremist’ view.

Interviewer: “Yes, I’d like to hear your opinion.”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “My ‘extremist’ opinion in this issue – within the limits of what may be said – is that Palestine stretches from the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea.”

Interviewer: “That is our homeland, from the river… The state can be within the PA (borders), but the homeland never changes.”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “On the contrary, a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, is just a phase, as far as I am concerned. Let me ask a question, which I often ask intellectuals and politicians, and it turns out that they had never thought about it: What did Abu Ammar

(Arafat) say when he declared in Algeria the establishment of the Palestinian state?”

Interviewer: “He said that he would establish a state on any liberated piece of land.”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: No. He said: ‘I hereby declare the establishment of the State of Palestine on our Palestinian land, with noble Jerusalem as its capital.’ That is what he said. Where is our Palestinian land? Palestine. Where is noble Jerusalem? Jerusalem. We did not say ‘East Jerusalem,’ and we did not say ‘1967 borders.'”

Interviewer: “But this is the political path.”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “Never mind. This does not mean that I will refuse to accept a state on the 1967 borders. What I say is: Didn’t the world construct Lebanon? Didn’t the world construct the post-Yugoslav countries? Don’t think that there can be a solution to the Palestinian issue by establishing a state the borders of which are limited to the West Bank and Gaza. I challenge any Palestinian to say that the map of Palestine is limited to the West Bank and Gaza.”

Interviewer: “On this we agree.”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “The map of Palestine, which is engraved in the minds of every human being, and in every book, on every street, in every city, everywhere… Who wants to distort it and replace it with another map?”

Interviewer: “Some textbooks in our Palestinian schools have removed the Red Sea from the map.”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “This is a mistake. This does not mean that I want to throw the Jews into the sea. No, I want to live together with them…”

Interviewer: “Why throw them into the sea? We’ll give them plane tickets out of here.”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “No, not that either. We want the people who are in Palestine to live in Palestine in its historical borders, and we want all the Palestinian refugees will return to their country.

“What we basically need is to strengthen (Palestinian) belonging.”

Interviewer: “Belonging to what? To the homeland? To the leader?”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “No, no. There is no such thing as belonging to a leader. There is loyalty to a leader. There is a difference between loyalty and belonging.”

Interviewer: “What’s the difference between loyalty to hearing and obeying?”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “Loyalty is another form of hearing and obeying. The Islamic movement talk about hearing and obeying, and the secularists about loyalty.”

Interviewer: “Do you agree with this?”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “Of course not. Absolutely not.”

Interviewer: “But you are a general. You should be the first to believe in hearing and obeying, discipline, and ‘shoulder, arms!’…”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “No, no. There is a difference…”

Interviewer: “Life is not a military barracks…”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “There is a difference between an officer who carries out orders, and loyalty to the leader. This leader could be corrupt…”

Interviewer: “How would we know he was corrupt?”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “Who doesn’t know his leader is corrupt?”

Interviewer: “The German people did not know that Hitler was corrupt.”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “He wasn’t corrupt.”

Interviewer: “The French people view De Gaulle as half a prophet. I’m not familiar with Churchill’s history, but the people view him as one of the most important politicians…”

Tawfiq Al-Tirawi: “Let’s be logical. Hitler wasn’t corrupt. He was reckless.”

Interviewer: “You know what, let’s take a tea break. We don’t want you to get arrested because of our show. Let’s have tea and take a break. Let’s move away from Hitler.”

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)

Security forces evacuate settlers from Hebron buildings

Border Police forces evacuated several dozen Jewish settlers from two houses in Hebron Friday morning, a day after the settlers entered the buildings, claiming they had bought them from Palestinians.

Security officials said the decision to clear them was made by the Defense Ministry and that the evacuation was completed without incident.

The military has now forbidden entry into the buildings, and guards have been posted outside to prevent anyone from going in.

Security forces had gathered in large numbers in the area, out of apparent concern that the evacuation would encounter resistance and spark Jewish rioting.

The settlers said in a statement to Channel 2 news that the decision by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to evacuate them was regrettable. They urged him to “come and see the veracity of the documents and join us in celebrating the Land of Israel.”

The settlers’ entry into the homes near the Tomb of the Patriarchs prompted Palestinian rioting on Thursday.

Settlers claimed the homes were secretly bought from the Palestinian owners, while Palestinians said they were illegally taken over.

The settlers had rushed over to the buildings, located in the al-Sahla neighborhood of the flashpoint West Bank city, and proceeded to break in using crowbars — as seen in videos from the scene. The group also brought clothing and household items into the buildings.

Once inside, they raised the Israeli flag on the roof, according to reports on Palestinian Authority TV.

Palestinian residents of Hebron attempted to storm the buildings and a clash broke out between the Jewish settlers and their Arab neighbors, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

In response, the army employed riot dispersal means, namely tear gas, to break up the conflict, a spokesperson said.

According to reports on PA TV, the properties were owned by the al-Za’atari and al-Qadfisha families.

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich applauded the settlers’ effort. “I praise the pioneering residents of Hebron on their entrance into the House of Rachel and the House of Leah,” he wrote on Twitter, using the names the settlers gave to the buildings, which invoke Jewish Biblical matriarchs.

“I call on Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to immediately approve residency in these two homes,” he wrote.

The only shared city in the West Bank, Hebron has for decades seen almost daily friction between its community of several hundred Jewish settlers and its much larger Palestinian population.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs, shared by Jews and Muslims, who both revere it as the final resting place of the Biblical Abraham and his kin, has been a particular source of tension in the city.             (The Times of Israel)

IDF demolishes two EU funded illegal Palestinian structures

The IDF demolished two illegal Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank that were funded by the European Union on the same day that in Davos Switzerland Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

“Enforcement steps were taken against two illegal constructions which were built without a permit in Rass Azria,” the Civil Administration said.

The modular gray structures which were clearly marked with an EU logo housed area Beduins, that live near an unbuilt area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, known as E1.

Just last week, right wing Israeli politicians had accused the IDF of failing to enforce building laws in that area.

Atallah Mazar’a, a representative of the Jabal Al-Baba Beduin community said that four structures were destroyed.

”They (the Israeli forces) began raiding the houses without prior warning, even the owner of the house was allowed to take little things from his house, and this thing (the house demolition) scared the children, they were affected, they were shouting, and they (the Israeli forces) didn’t care for anything. They (the Israeli forces) were treating us violently, and they demolished four houses and left,” Mazar’a said.

“The houses were funded by the European Union, and they put the European flag in order to be a deterrent to the occupation,” Mazar’a said. Netanyahu has charged that the EU is attempting to create new facts on the ground by supporting illegal Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank.

EU funding of such construction as well as steps it has taken place consumer labels that say “not made in Israel” on products produced over the Green Line have created tension between Brussels and Jerusalem.

On Monday, the foreign ministers of the EU’s 28 member states called on Israel to allow the Palestinians to develop Area C of the West Bank in a statement it issued after its Foreign Affairs Council meeting. It also warned that actions against the Palestinians, such as “demolitions and confiscation — including of EU funded projects” were an obstacle to peace.

The IDF has full military and civilian control of Area C of the West Bank, where all the Israeli settlements are located. The Palestinian Authority has full civilian control of Areas A and B, where the bulk of the Palestinian population in the West Bank lives.

On Wednesday the Palestinian Minister of Local Government Hussain Al A’raj and EU Representative Ralph Tarraf signed a grant agreement that provided 2 million Euros for the development of Area C. It’s part of a 9.5 million grant program funded by the EU, Denmark, France and the United Kingdom. The money will fund the building of classrooms, water networks, roads and playgrounds.

The EU said that together with the Palestinian Ministry of Local Government it has been active in the development and planning of Area C.

“More than hundred Master Plans have been developed. To-date, only three have received an approval from the Israeli authorities,” it said.               (Jerusalem Post)

Best Israeli tennis player loses in the Australian Open

The Israeli tennis player Dudi Sela lost today (Saturday) to the Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov in the 3rd round of the Australian Open. Sela has now been dismissed from the tournament after he lost to Kuznetsov in 4 matches. The first match he lost 7:5, the second he won 6:3 and the last two he lost.

The highest ranking Israeli tennis player also finished the same competition last year in the 3rd round. Before the tournament, Sela was ranked No. 87 in the world. However, thanks to his most recent wins in the Australian Open and his good performance, his rank is expected to improve.                (Jerusalem Online)

aa

El Al celebrates first-ever all-female cockpit

An El Al flight that flew from Israel to Larnaca, Cyprus on Thursday under the UP brand seemed like any other. Only this flight was a small-but-significant historical moment for the Israeli airline: its cockpit was comprised entirely of women.

The controls were in the hands of Captain Smadar Shechter and First Officer Meirav Schwartz, who were booked on the flight together by total happenstance. Speaking with Ynet, Shechter, 44, recalled the events. “I had to switch flights, and when I arrived at the airport I suddenly saw I was booked with Meirav. That’s how we found ourselves suddenly together before takeoff. Of course, we were both very excited.”

bb

Shechter added, “It’s fun to see all the departments in El Al supporting us, that they were excited for us about this flight. They made me feel like ‘there’s no home like El Al (a reference to El Al’s commercial slogan in Hebrew. -Ed).’ People’s responses speak for themselves and it’s amazing to get such treatment, especially behind the scenes.

“Our work friends wouldn’t stop taking our photos at the control center, because it’s definitely a rare and very exciting event.” Shechter said that before takeoff, the passengers were informed of the historical flight in which they were taking part, and they happily applauded.

El Al chief pilot, Captain Ido Sharon, said that regardless of the precedent, the airline treats all pilots according to professional criteria alone. “We did not plan this flight, it just happened to come up this way. We treat female pilots just like male ones.

“Everyone here is measured only on the basis of requirement and their professional level,” he added.

El Al currently employs three female pilots, as well as a female cadet who is expected to finish her training course in the coming months.           (Ynet News)

Are There Double Standards in Israel’s Application of the Rule of Law in the Territories?

by Alan Baker     Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center

http://jcpa.org/are-there-double-standards-in-israels-application-of-the-rule-of-law/#sthash.HwPpF7Hz.dpuf

In comments to the Institute for National Security Studies International Conference on “Changing the Rules of the Game” on January 18, 2016, U.S. Ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro referred to the rule of law in the West Bank.1 He asserted that “at times there seems to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law – one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.”

Regrettably, there would appear to be a lack of understanding – whether by Ambassador Shapiro himself or by those senior State Department and White House officials who instruct him – as to the legal situation prevalent in the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria.

Indeed, there exist two legal frameworks.

The one applied by Israel’s Civil Administration vis-à-vis the Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria is based on the international norms regarding the administration of territory occupied or administered following armed conflict and pending a peace agreement.  These norms, set out in the 1907 Hague Rules and 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, enable an administering power, in administering a hostile local population, to impose various limitations on the basic freedoms that exist in any ordinary civil legal system. All this pending a permanent peace arrangement regarding the fate of the territory.

The second legal framework covers the Israeli residents of towns, villages and other forms of settlement within the territory, who, not being part of the local Palestinian population, are subject on an ad-personam basis to Israeli law.  As such, they are not covered by those limitations that apply solely vis-à-vis the local population of the territory.

Unlike the insinuations in Ambassador Shapiro’s statement, this dual set of legal frameworks is not based on any double standards, but on a clear division of legal authorities dictated by both international humanitarian law and Israeli law.

Both these legal systems, whether that administered by the Civil Administration or that governing Israeli residents in the area, require strict adherence to the rule of law and the concomitant rules of natural justice. Any and every crime has to be investigated and the perpetrator brought to trial in the appropriate court of law.

Criminal procedures for investigating crimes are in the hands of the appropriate police and security authorities and are dependent on the available sources of evidence, witnesses and the like. As such, each case can only be dealt with based on its own particular circumstances. Sweeping generalizations, such as those uttered by the U.S. ambassador, are out of place.

All instances, without exception, have to be dealt with in the proper manner and with the appropriate alacrity as the specific facts of each case enable.

Therefore, the insinuations by Ambassador Shapiro regarding “unchecked vigilantism and double standards” should be rejected outright as an unjustified intrusion into Israel’s legal and investigative procedures.

Beware of Hezbollah, prepare for Hamas

http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/0,2506,L-4756065,00.html

The real story of the current wave is the reawakening of Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank to carry out attacks within the Green Line. The group feels that it has reached a sufficient level of preparedness to get through another war with Israel.

by Alex Fishman           Ynet News

Institutionalized terrorism – namely shooting, bombs, car bombs and suicide attacks backed by terrorist organizations and supported by regimes such as Iran – is returning to the West Bank and from there to within the Green Line. This is the true face of the wave of terror that is now being organized behind the scenes which threatens to take the place of the spontaneous and popular wave of lone murderers, the knife-wielders and vehicular attackers.

Senior defense officials have been closely following the decision Hamas’s military leadership in Gaza took in recent months to resume attacks in the West Bank and mainly inside the Green Line, even at the price of total confrontation with Israel.

According to the same sources, Hamas, a year and a half after Operation Protective Edge, feels that it has reached a sufficient level of preparedness to get through another war against the IDF. For Israel, this is a strategic warning: in the coming year it is likely to find itself in another war in the Gaza Strip.

Hezbollah, as of now, is a marginal factor in terms of institutionalized terror infrastructure in the West Bank. The discovery of the Hezbollah terrorist cell in Tulkarm is indicative of the terrorist organization’s efforts to get back into the picture regarding the Palestinian conflict, just as it did during the second intifada when approximately 70 percent of Fatah cells operating against Israel did so under the auspices of Nasrallah. For him, the Palestinian front is the primary one from which he can operate against Israel without igniting the northern border. But the depth of his penetration on the ground is still far from his capabilities.

The real story here is Hamas. A few weeks ago the Shin Bet revealed Hamas’s organization in the West Bank, which included explosives laboratories and the preparation of a suicide bomber to carry out an attack in Jerusalem. Hamas’ military wing in Gaza, which commanded the cell, operated under the assumption that Israel cannot show restraint in the wake of a major attack in the heart of the capital. It believes that Israel would act aggressively in the West Bank – including damaging the Palestinian Authority – and simultaneously carry out widespread reprisals in Gaza.

The warning signs have been clear to Israel for several months now: Israel believes that Hamas is allowing itself to carry out large-scale attacks in the West Bank as it has completed basic preparation for delivering a surprise attack which it failed to do just before Operation Protective Edge. It is not impossible that it will penetrate into Israel, simultaneously and via a number of points – from the air, sea and tunnels – accompanied by a mortar fire and a massive blitz of rockets to cause the maximum amount of deaths.

Hamas has also developed a suitable ideology that would include an opening attack that would pummel and shock Israel and serve as a kind of Palestinian revenge for Israel’s opening attack of Operation Pillar of Defense which killed dozens of police in Gaza.

It seems that at least part of the process of rebuilding the Gaza Strip has been completed: booby-trapped tunnels penetrating inside the Green Line have apparently been newly dug, including, if past experience is any indication, several openings for each tunnel. In addition, their special forces (“hanuchba”) and divers continue their intensive training, their UAV strength was rebuilt and their rocket arsenal has been partially restocked.

The cell that planned an attack in Jerusalem was indeed captured – but is not the only one. The commander of the PA’s security services, General Faraj, told American media that his men arrested about 300 Hamas members recently.

At the beginning of the current terror wave, four months ago, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hamas headquarters in Istanbul urged Palestinians to commit violent attacks and praised the stabbers and car rammers. Hamas, at the time, encouraged the wave of terror – but had not yet crossed the line by activating cells that it set up in the West Bank out of fear of Israeli retaliation.

Hamas’s strategy was to try to destabilize Abbas’s regime by creating unrest in the Palestinian street. On the other hand, Israel believed that Hamas was busy strengthening itself, was in financial distress due to the loss of support from Iran and had received a serious blow from the Egyptians who wiped out a large part of their smuggling tunnels. In addition, it still believed that Hamas still didn’t have the ability nor the interest to risk a confrontation with the IDF.

Israel changed this estimation when it became clear that Hamas was instructing its people in the West Bank to once again carry out terrorist attacks inside the Green Line. And indeed, the cells were reawakened and several explosives laboratories were discovered. Simultaneously, money began to pour into those cells, messengers came from and went to the West Bank, and today it is clear that Hamas – led by Mohammed Deif – is changing direction and raising the stakes against Israel.

All the president’s arguments: An afternoon with Abbas

The PA leader came well-prepared to his meeting this week with Israeli reporters. Some of his points may well have been right. But were they all smart?

By Avi Issacharoff               The Times of Israel

http://www.timesofisrael.com/all-the-presidents-arguments-an-afternoon-with-abbas/

On Thursday afternoon, immediately after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had met with a group of us Israeli journalists at his Ramallah headquarters, one of his close aides buttonholed me for a few words in private, out of earshot of his colleagues. “What is it that you don’t understand?” he asked me, bitterly, passionately. “If he (Abbas) ‘goes,’ you won’t find anybody moderate like him. Does (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu not realize what we’re doing — that we’re preventing attacks on Israelis every day, that the absence of hope among the youth is drawing them into the daily violence? Netanyahu should sit down and talk with him. It’s just terrible.”

Netanyahu, however, is in no hurry to meet with Abbas, and the Israeli government is reluctant to internalize what is going on in the West Bank, and with the Palestinian public.

With more and more Palestinian voices opposing a two-state solution, and backing a single bi-national state, somebody on the Israeli side might have been expected to wake up, initiate, push. Why hasn’t that happened? It doesn’t take a genius to answer that.

Abbas himself said contacts to arrange a summit, which might have helped calm the day-to-day reality, were halted when the Israeli side got cold feet. Netanyahu’s office firmly denies this, but it’s not hard to imagine what would have happened to the prime minister in the current domestic political environment were he to have met with Abbas at a time like this. As it is, Netanyahu is constantly forced to face down attacks from hardliners within his coalition. A summit with Abbas would not have boosted its chances of survival. As for substantive negotiations, forget it.

Abbas’s meeting with the Israeli press was one of his more impressive appearances of recent years. He was at ease, sharp, confident (not always the case) and good-humored. He’ll turn 81 in March, as one of my colleagues helpfully reminded him, but seems healthy. Indeed, the key message he wanted to deliver to the Israeli public and leadership was that he’s not going anywhere. Yes, a succession battle is raging outside among senior Fatah figures. And yes, most Palestinians want him to resign. But, he indicated firmly, he was staying put, and wasn’t done yet.

Specifically, assuming that there is no unexpected resumption of negotiations, Abbas’s plans for the coming months, he indicated, are as follows:

  1. Convening some kind of international conference on the Palestinians, which will cause no little embarrassment to Israel.
  2. Seeking to steer a resolution branding settlements as illegal through the UN Security Council.
  3. Appealing to relevant UN bodies for international protection for the Palestinians.

Abbas did not go into all the specifics of these moves. But it may well be that a special committee of the Arab League, involving Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Palestine, will decide how and when to go to the Security Council.

These are not unprecedentedly dramatic steps. The Security Council has passed resolutions on the settlements in the past. Calls for international protection have previously been heard. International conferences have been convened. These moves, rather, are designed to demonstrate that the PA is still active and functioning, Abbas indicated, and also that it is not supporting violence and bloodshed. Netanyahu is adamant that the PA hierarchy, and Abbas himself, bear responsibility for inciting the Palestinian public to terror attacks against Israelis. And at our meeting, Abbas maintained his refusal to explicitly condemn the relentless attacks of the past four months. But he stressed that he opposes bloodshed, and he called for all Palestinians to confine their struggle to non-extreme means — “popular resistance,” he called it.

Abbas came well-prepared for the Israeli reporters’ critiques. “They say that I incite (against Israel)? Okay then,” he said, and proposed the convening of the long defunct joint Israeli-Palestinian-American committee on incitement. He did not deny that there is incitement, but proposed an ostensibly simple mechanism to deal with it: “Let the American representative (on the committee) decide what to do about incitement. And let them show me where exactly I incite.”

When he was asked why he refuses Netanyahu’s call to resume peace talks without preconditions, he responded by presenting the Palestinians’ terms, while refusing to define them as “preconditions.” These were, rather, “agreements that must be honored.” He demanded a freeze on settlement-building while talks are held, and the release of the fourth and final group of 36 prisoners (out of 104) who were due to go free under the failed John Kerry-led 2013-14 peace talks. Abbas claimed that Israel agreed to do so in a telephone call between Kerry and Netanyahu held in his Ramallah office. (Having released the first three groups of Palestinian security prisoners, Israel baulked at freeing the final group, including Israeli Arab citizens, and said it had never agreed to release Israeli Arabs. This was at a time when Abbas was refusing to commit to extending the negotiations.)

Whatever the merits of Abbas’s arguments, Netanyahu knows full well that were he to freeze settlement-building (as he did for 10 months in 2009-2010, despite which Abbas stayed away from the talks until the freeze was nearly over), or to release the prisoners, his current coalition would fall apart. He does have plenty of options for a unity government, but doesn’t want to go down that route right now.

Asked about the succession battle, Abbas said that the Fatah and PLO leaderships would handle it. The presidency of the PA, he said, was a matter for general elections. “That’s what will happen if I resign or die,” he said. He didn’t elaborate. And it wasn’t clear if he was indicating a certain division of powers — the selection of a successor to head Fatah and the PLO, and the election of a different candidate as PA chief. No clear answer was forthcoming. Nor did he relate to the possibility that jailed Fatah Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti might submit his candidacy to head the PA if elections were held.

He also said that the PA was not going to collapse, and that it was maintaining its security cooperation with Israel, and would continue to do so.

There were several areas in which Abbas was less than persuasive. One of them concerned his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He noted repeatedly that “Israel did not require Egypt and Jordan to recognize it as a Jewish state” and he reiterated that “Israel can go to the UN and define itself however it wishes to.” Indeed, Israel did not make that demand of Egypt and Jordan, where the sensitivities on that issue are far less acute. But were Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, it is unlikely that the ground around him would start to shake, and he would quash the right-wing assertion that he and the rest of the Palestinians ultimately seek to establish a single Palestinian state, from the river to the sea. (Ironically, of course, the current situation, including Israel’s inaction, are advancing the movement toward a single bi-national state.)

He was also asked why he had accused the Jews of desecrating the Al-Aqsa mosque with their presence. He claimed to have been referring only to those who go to the compound to stir up trouble.

And he was asked why the PA provides financial support to the families of terrorists who die killing Israelis or who are imprisoned for carrying out attacks. He answered that when the PA caught and executed a spy for Israel, it continued to provide financial support for his family. His wife and children had committed no crime, Abbas reasoned.

As with some of his other arguments, Abbas may have been right. But smart? That’s a whole other question.

The slippery slope to escalating Palestinian violence

by Yossi Melman     The Jerusalem Post

The IDF and Shin Bet fear that without negotiations with the PA, violence could escalate out of control.

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/INTELLIGENCE-FILE-On-a-slippery-slope-442388

There are commentators who rushed to draw broad conclusions about the nature of the current wave of Palestinian terrorism after two Palestinian teenagers infiltrated the defense lines of two Jewish settlements in the southern part of the West Bank, not far from the city of Hebron this week.

One woman was stabbed to death, and in the second case a pregnant woman was wounded. One terrorist was captured after two days, and the other was shot on the spot by a Tekoa resident.

Indeed, settlements were infiltrated for the first time in the latest wave of Palestinian terrorism, which can be called the “third intifada.” To that, one can add the exposure this week of a terrorist cell in the West Bank recruited and sponsored by Juad Nasrallah, the son of Hezbollah’s secretary-general.

But essentially there is nothing in these events to indicate that Palestinian terrorism is changing its direction or its nature, or that it is rapidly escalating.

The above-mentioned cases are just new variants, additional manifestations of the same phenomenon. It began four months ago and so far has claimed the lives of 29 Israelis and 152 Palestinians. Nearly 350 Israelis and more than 1,000 Palestinian have been wounded.

It is difficult to characterize the nature of the current wave, since it changes all the time with new or additional elements. So far its perpetrators have come from all walks of Palestinian life, though most of them were young. Most of them were single, but some were married with families. Most were male, but there have also been female terrorists. Some came from poor families, but others from middle-class and well-off ones. Some decided to resort to terrorism because members of their families were killed or jailed by Israeli security forces.

The terrorists cannot be geographically defined.

They originated from all over the West Bank and east Jerusalem, though 30 percent of the participants were from the Hebron area, which is known to be Hamas turf, or deeply religious.

Their motives are also a mixed bag. Some were inspired by incitement on social media. Some were influenced by religious sermons promising them to be martyrs in heaven. Some were motivated by pure hatred of Jews and Israelis. Others wanted to avenge the death of their family members. In some cases, the decision to become a terrorist was out of desperation over their poverty or even as defiance against parental authority.

Their weapons of choice were not very selective. They used knives, cars, stones, firebombs and, in a few rare cases, firearms – in short, any tool that can kill, wound or cause bodily harm.

Israel is powerless in confronting this kind Palestinian terrorism. This helplessness was echoed in what Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said this week, when he addressed the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies. He recalled the second intifada, which occurred a decade ago when he was commander of the IDF division in charge of the West Bank.

“What helped us then was a preventive anti-iterrorist concept, based on intelligence superiority.”

In other words, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) managed then to penetrate terrorist cells, recruit among them agents, and bug and intercept their phone and computer conversations, emails and chats, even if they were encrypted.

Thus, important information and intelligence was gleaned, which led to the disruption of terrorists’ plans and the arrest of culprits. This was possible because although the second intifada was a popular rebellion, it was initiated and organized by the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat, by the PLO-Fatah groups and by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israeli security forces and the IDF had intelligence and military addresses against which to strike back.

Today’s terrorist acts are mainly carried out by individuals who make the decision to commit them. They are neither initiated nor structured nor organized.

True, Hamas is trying hard to jump on the terrorism wagon and hijack it to advance its agenda – to inflict casualties on Israel and the settlers in the West Bank; to spread terrorism from the West Bank to Israel; and to provoke the Israeli security forces to turn against the PA, its arch-rival, and thus weaken it. And all this while maintaining peace with Israel in Gaza.

Since the last war in Gaza in the summer of 2014, Hamas has not fired a single rocket against Israel. All the rockets from Gaza – two dozen – were fired by anti-Hamas Salafist and jihadist groups. While Hamas continues to rearm and regroup by manufacturing more accurate, longer-range, rockets and to build tunnels leading to Israel, thus preparing for the next round, at the moment it has no interest in confronting Israel in Gaza.

So far, Hamas has failed in its attempts to escalate the violent situation with ambitious plans to again use suicide bombers.

Hamas’s failure is due to several reasons. First, because of the efficiency of the Shin Bet and the IDF. Second, because the PA led by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) continues to instruct its security services to cooperate with the Shin Bet in the struggle against Hamas.

Third and most important, it is because the PA now, unlike in the time of Arafat, does not wish to join the terrorism and violent struggle. It doesn’t shed tears when Israelis are killed, and the media under its control have been praising the terrorists (though, in the last month, much less vociferously), but it stops short of ordering its own personnel to take part.

Because of all these developments, it is impossible for the security services to have early warnings and disrupt terrorists’ plans. Even the omnipotent Shin Bet cannot read the minds of the Palestinian individuals who decide, sometime in a matter of hours, sometimes in a split second, to attack Israelis.

This harsh reality is also an outgrowth of what the government is doing or, to be more precise, not doing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government doesn’t wish to negotiate with the PA; it is ready to do under its own preconditions while continuing to build more settlements and confiscate Palestinian land – 150 hectares this week in the Jordan Valley. Instead of trying to move with good faith to the negotiating table, all the government does is “maintenance” – maintain the conflict with the hope and self-delusion that it will somehow miraculously succeed in bring security.

The truth, however, is completely different. The situation is fragile and slippery. The Palestinian terrorism will not stay forever on a low flame. Sooner or later it will escalate and get out of control, either by more Palestinians joining the circle of terrorism or by Hamas taking it over.

This is of great concern to the IDF and Shin Bet, whose chiefs beg the government in closed-door sessions not to stand still. But so far their advice has fallen on deaf ears in Jerusalem.

This is what happens when a Chazzan joins a Mexican Mariachi Band