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Latest News in Israel – 26th April

Israel celebrates Passover with heavy traffic and jam-packed sites

On first day of Chol HaMoed, tens of thousands of Israelis flock to the country’s nature reserves and national parks, with some sites reaching full capacity.

Tens of thousands of people visited Israel’s nature reserves and national parks on Sunday, the first day of Chol HaMoed, with some sites reaching full capacity and closing their gates and heavy traffic felt throughout the country.

The popular Nature and Parks Authority sites were the Ein Gedi nature reserve, the Caesarea national park, the Ein Feshkha nature reserve, the Eshkol National Park and Gan HaShlosha National Park.

The popular KKL-JNF sites were the Biriya Forest and Ein Zeitim, Goren Park in the upper Galilee, the Gilboa Forests, the Ramot Menashe Biosphere Reserve, the Ben Shemen Forest, the Forest of the Martyrs, and the Haruvit Forest.

Hundreds also participated in a hike on the new scenic trail at the Naftali Mountains Forest in the Golan Heights to see the blooming flowers.

KKL-JNF foresters are offering free guided tours in the Bar’am Forest in the upper Galilee, the HaBesor Stream’s scenic trail and in areas of the western Negev.

Eight of the Kinneret’s (Sea of Galilee) beaches were closed to new visitors after reaching full capacity. Around noontime, there were close to 70,000 visitors on the lake’s shores.

Many visitors sought to escape the high temperatures at northern Israel’s different streams in the Golan Heights, the upper Galilee and the western Galilee. The Indie Park site on the Jordan River, near Yesud HaMa’ala, also closed due to overcrowdedness.

In Haifa, an estimated 10,000 people attended the 26th International Children’s Theater Festival that offered plays and street performances by 10 international groups. The festival is expected to hold some 200 different events.

Special events for teenagers are being held at the Auditorium in the Carmel, which include performances, workshops, dance parties and more. In addition, all of the museums in the city and the Carmel Zoo are free of charge.                  (Ynet News)

France to convene Mideast summit in May, without Israel or Palestinians

France will convene a summit on May 30 of some 30 countries and international organizations to discuss the parameters for an international peace conference to be held in the French capital in the second part of the year, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Thursday.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians will be invited to the summit, though they will be asked to join the peace conference.

“There is no other solution to the conflict other than a two-state solution, Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem a shared capital,” Ayrault said in Paris.

“The two sides are more divided than ever. I’m not naive, but am acting in good faith. There is no alternative.

The other option is fatalism and I refuse it,” he said.

France’s special envoy for the Middle East peace process, Pierre Vimont, completed a report earlier this month.

According to the French Embassy in Tel Aviv, the May 30 meeting will be on the basis of the 2002 Arab League’s peace plan.

The list of those to be invited to the parley was not released, though it is expected to include representatives from the US, Russia, European Union, UN, Arab League and the members of the UN Security Council. The invitations to the meeting are expected to be sent out on Friday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told reporters earlier this week that he was unclear what was in the French initiative, said the planned summit in Paris was not mentioned on Thursday during his meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, meanwhile, said at the UN that the Palestinians “welcome” the summit and “are looking forward to help.”          (Jerusalem Post)

Jordan warns Israel of ‘consequences’ over Temple Mount ‘violations’

Jordan on Sunday warned Israel against violating the status quo on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, after several hundred Jews and tourists visited the contested holy site on the first intermediate day of the Passover holiday.

The Hashemite Kingdom acts as custodian of the flashpoint religious site, which is the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest to Muslims.

Israel’s “violations against worshipers” on the holy site “are a violation of international laws and conventions” and could have “dangerous dangerous consequences,” government spokesman Muhammad Al-Momani said in a statement to the Petra state news agency.

Momani did not detail the violations, but he was likely referring to holiday measures enacted over the last several days, including allowing Jews to visit and denying Palestinian worshipers access during certian hours, as well as a beefed up police presence.

Momani “demanded Israeli occupation authorities to immediately stop such moves, deny entry to settlers and Israeli forces into the yards of the holy shrine and allow Palestinian worshipers to enter the mosque,” according to Petra.

Aside from Muslim worshipers, a total of 1,043 people visited the site Sunday, of whom 168 were Israeli Jews and the rest foreign tourists, police said.

Of them, 13 Jewish visitors were removed from the Temple Mount compound for “disturbing the peace,” according to police, including three minors. One Palestinian was removed.

Police did not detail why they had removed the 13 people from the site, known as the Al-Aqsa compound to Muslims, but Jews are often ejected for uttering prayers at the site, which is governed by a decades-long status quo which allows Jewish visits but prohibits Jewish prayer.

The Temple Mount has been at the center of months-long tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, who fear growing Jewish presence at the site that is also home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli security officials fear extra attention to the site over the holiday could spark fresh unrest, after six months of deadly fighting seemed to die down in recent weeks.

Knesset members and ministers have been banned from entering the Temple Mount compound over Passover “for security reasons.”

Jordan has threatened to take action against Jerusalem over Temple Mount tensions in the past, including recalling diplomatic officials and downgrading ties.

A US-brokered plan to place cameras on the Temple Mount in a bid to calm tensions appeared to fall apart last week after Jordan said that Palestinians had protested the placement of recording devices.

Israel has said it still wants the cameras.

During Passover, one of three Jewish pilgrimage holidays, tens of thousands of Jews flock to the Old City, including many who visit the Temple Mount.

Amid concerns of a terror attack on the worshipers, and fearing general unrest, police bolstered security in Jerusalem for the ongoing festival of Passover this week.

Security forces continued to be on high alert Monday in Jerusalem’s Old City ahead of the Birkat Kohanim (priestly blessing) ceremony at the Western Wall, which is expected to draw thousands of Jewish worshipers.

The ceremony, which sees male descendants of the Kohanim priestly caste gather to bless crowds, involves the raising of hands in a form similar to the “Vulcan salute” which Leonard Nimoy borrowed from Judaism for his “Star Trek” role as Mr. Spock. Those conducting the blessing also cover their heads with prayer shawls.

Last year, 50,000 Jews gathered at the Western Wall for the priestly blessing.

In total, 3,500 officers will be patrolling the capital throughout the week, police said, after tensions surged last week following a bus bombing — the first in the capital in over a decade.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last week Israel would deploy reinforcements around the Temple Mount during Passover to prevent “riots.”

“As Passover approaches, all sorts of extremists will spread lies about our policy concerning the Temple Mount,” he said.

Police have said they intend to allow Jewish visits to the Temple Mount site to continue as normal during the holiday, though they won’t allow disturbances.

“We will not allow disturbances of public order or security, and we will act decisively against anyone who tries to do so,” police spokesperson Luba Samri said in a statement Sunday morning.

On Friday police detained 10 Jewish men suspected of planning to sacrifice goats on the Mount in honor of the Passover holiday.

In ancient times, Jews used to sacrifice a lamb on Passover Eve and eat it as part of the traditional Seder meal. Nearly all Jews forgo this ritual today.         (the Times of Israel)

Suspected Jewish terror cell members indicted for crimes against Palestinians

Seven Jewish-Israelis were indicted on Monday in the Lod District Court for activities relating to a Jewish terror cell whose alleged activities against Palestinians, including arson, throwing gas grenades and violent attacks, date back to 2009.

The Central District Attorney’s Office Dan Cohen and Reut Avivi filed the indictment which accused the seven of an array of violent crimes, weapons possession, membership in an illegal organization and other nationalistic crimes directed at Palestinians and their property mostly near the Gush Talmonim area near Ramallah in the West Bank.

The Justice Ministry kept the full indictment under gag order since two minors and a soldier are involved, but distributed a detailed summary of the indictment.

According to the indictment, the purpose of the campaign was to “spread fear and panic among Palestinian inhabitants in Judea and Samaria, on one hand, and on the other hand, to send a message to the security services and the public in the State of Israel.”

Many details of the case remained under gag order even as the indictment was filed, but it appeared that most of the crimes occurred in the 2009-2013 period – though several notable violent crimes occurred in 2015, and the soldier and another defendant illegally fired shots from his gun in 2016.

Last Wednesday, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced that over the month of April it had broken up a Jewish terrorist cell, including one IDF soldier and two minors, that carried out a series of seven attacks on Palestinians in the Gush Telmonim area.

Some of the defendants were named as Pinhas Shandorfi, 22 of Kiryat Arba, Itamar Ben Aharon, 20 of Jerusalem, Shneor Dana, 28 of Maaleh Efrayim, and Michael Kaplan, 20 of Beit Shemesh, with the names of the soldier, 19, and the two minors, 16 and 17, still under gag order.

“The intelligence we gathered around these attacks pointed to the existence of a Jewish terrorist organization in Nahliel, in western Binyamin,” the Shin Bet stated. It added that, following a “lengthy intelligence effort, the Shin Bet exposed the organization.”

The investigation began at the start of April, involving teams from the Shin Bet and the nationalist crimes division of the Judea and Samaria district police.

Suspects who were taken into custody confessed to carrying out widespread terrorist activities, which included throwing a gas grenade into an inhabited Palestinian home, throwing Molotov cocktails into an uninhabited Palestinian home, throwing rocks at Palestinian vehicles, attacking Arabs, arson, and vandalizing Palestinian vehicles, the Shin Bet added.

Suspects were led to the scenes of their crimes and reenacted them for investigators, security forces said.

The Shin Bet described the organization as “extreme and violent, which systematically harmed Palestinians and their property, with full knowledge that human lives could be harmed, even after the result of the [fatal] arson attack on a home in Duma [in which Palestinian parents and their baby were murdered last year].” The Duma attack acted as an “inspiration,” the Shin Bet said.

According to the indictment, the minors, the soldier, Kaplan and Ben Aharon were behind an attack on a 71-year-old Palestinian farmer with sticks and tear gas last summer. Shandorfi  and some other defendants were accused of a separate attack against another Palestinian near Nahaliel.

The two minors specifically were behind the firebombing of a home in the village of Mazra Kabaliya on the night of November 20 at night, when family members were asleep inside, and the spray-painting of the words “death to Arabs” and “Jews wake up” on their walls.

“The firebomb miraculously bounced off the wall of the home, averting a major disaster,” the Shin Bet said. A second firebomb hit a plastic table near the entrance to the house causing it to be scorched, but not harming any of the inhabitants, said the indictment. Afterward they fled the area.

On December 22 at around 1:30 a.m., the two minors allegedly threw IDF gas grenades at night at a home in the village of Bitilu, to “avenge” the arrests of suspects for the Duma arson attack. The two carefully cleaned off their fingerprints from the grenades before tossing them.

In that attack, “the father of the family woke up from the noise and felt difficulty breathing, as well as stinging eyes.

He immediately evacuated his wife and baby son from the home. His quick response and awareness prevented serious harm to the baby,” the Shin Bet said.

Several Palestinian cars were torched in recent years by the minors, the soldier, Shandorfi and Kaplan, and the minors, Shandorfi and the soldier carried out rock throwing attacks on Palestinian cars using Dana’s car.

The Gush Telmonim cell joins the “rebellion” movement that was active in recent years, the Shin Bet said. Both acted out of an “extremist ideology and a readiness to harm Palestinians, to the point of murdering them.”

Intelligence shows a link between the Nahliel cell and members of the Samaria hilltop youth far-right activists, who are members of the “rebellion” movement, the Shin Bet added.

Some members of the cell received administrative banning orders before the investigation began. The Shin Bet said it had prevented severe acts of violence as part of a wider effort to thwart Jewish terrorism over the past year.             (Jerusalem Post)

Israel denies reports Russian forces fired at IAF jets

Israeli diplomatic and security sources over the weekend rejected reports that Russian forces in Syria had fired at least twice on Israeli military aircraft. According to a senior security official, the report, which appeared in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday, was “simply not true.”

“No force fired at any Israeli jets,” the official said.

Another official in the political echelon reinforced the sentiment, saying Saturday that no incident of this kind had occurred. The official reiterated remarks made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday, suggesting that there had been in fact friction between Israeli and Russian forces in Syria, but that it was resolved during Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow.

Israeli Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel accompanied Netanyahu on his trip to Moscow. Netanyahu remarked over the weekend that “Putin suggested that the Air Force commander and my military secretary meet with the Russian defense minister and a number of Russian generals.” According to Netanyahu, the meeting was held while Netanyahu himself met with Putin.

“In the meeting, we made it clear that the Israeli Air Force must retain complete freedom, and that has been achieved,” Netanyahu said. “From the start, we wanted to avoid friction. That is why I flew to Moscow some six months ago, the moment Russian forces entered the field [in Syria]. It was important to coordinate.”

“This kind of coordination requires maintenance by leaders,” Netanyahu added. “Bringing the Air Force commander was crucial to this extremely important coordination.”

According to the top security official, two incidents did occur that could have been interpreted as being out of the ordinary. The first, which happened just over a week ago, involved a Russian aircraft that was scrambled toward an Israeli aircraft flying along the Syrian shore. But the Russian jet did not approach the Israeli one, did not lock its sights and never got within 25 miles of it. The Israeli security establishment explained that the Russian jet never posed any kind of threat to the Israeli aircraft and did not interfere in its mission.

The other incident, which occurred many months ago, involved several Israeli aircraft that were carrying out a mission in a specific area. An SA-5 anti-aircraft missile was fired into the area shortly after the Israeli jets exited it, but security officials surmised that it was an errant Syrian missile that may not have been tied to the Israeli presence at all.

According to the official, Israel’s coordination with the Russians is good. “When we want, we strike where needed, and they do not complain,” he said. “Each side understands the needs of the other side.”

While the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit declined to make an official comment on the issue, Russian officials also denied the Yedioth Ahronoth report over the weekend. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Israeli reports were “inaccurate” and that no such incident was discussed between the two leaders in their meeting on Thursday. “I don’t want to comment on the media in Israel,” he said, “but in this instance, the reports are not based on reality.”          (Israel Hayom)

Report: Police won’t recommend indicting Herzog

Around a week after Opposition head MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) was questioned under warning by police in a criminal investigation, police intend to recommend to close the case against him according to reports Sunday.

Herzog is suspected of receiving illegal donations, not reporting the donations and submitting falsified declarations during the Labor party primaries in 2013, in which he took over the party leadership from MK Shelly Yechimovich.

The investigation has not been completed yet and the prosecution has yet to discuss the findings, but Channel 2 reports that the current estimation is that the evidence against Herzog is not enough to form a basis for recommending an indictment against him.

Most of the investigation and the gathering of testimony has finished, but solid and clear evidence against Herzog has yet to be gathered. It is possible that the police will need to gather more evidence to fill in more details.

Regardless of the police recommendation, the decision on an indictment will be made by the prosecutor and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. The prosecutor’s decision is estimated to come several weeks from now.

Suspicions against Herzog have centered around the director of a nursing company who allegedly donated tens of thousands of shekels outside of the official budget of Herzog’s campaign in order to harm Yechimovich’s campaign.

Herzog has insisted his innocence during the investigation.            (Arutz Sheva)

Israeli firm develops visual intel system that can track multiple rocket launch sites

State-owned defense corporation Rafael has developed a command and control system that can monitor multiple areas for rocket launch activities.

The system, known as the ImiLite Center, is in use in the IDF. It allows ground controllers to monitor dozens of zones in hostile territory, while integrating intelligence data from other sources.

An aircraft equipped with an advanced visual intelligence pod can fly more than 50 km. away from its target areas, and send back data to ground controllers, whose screens divide into multiple tracking zones, a senior source from Rafael said recently, describing the system.

The technology would enable the IDF to preemptively strike areas used by terrorists to fire on the home front in any future conflict.

ImiLite also fuses data from other sources, such as cameras and SAR (radar) sensors that are on spy satellites in space, and drone cameras, the Rafael executive added.

“All of the data is organized in a very precise manner,” he said, adding that a “powerful search engine” allows instant access to relevant intelligence by users.

Multi-sensor intelligence deciphering stations serve “all levels” of IDF command, the source said, from general staff to command chiefs and downwards.

Israel receives millions of intelligence bits every hour, the source said.

Visual Intel System[1]

Visual Intel System

“In the past, it would take months to decipher this. We have shortened the process down to seconds, through an automated process, and through advanced algorithms, which sift through the intelligence automatically,” he said.

ImiLite can serve “a thousand end users,” the source said, and as it does so, it “learns, in real time” about how to adapt its intelligence-processing techniques.

This enables the system to remain flexible, and keep up with an enemy that frequently changes its methods of operating.

On its official website, Rafael described ImiLite as a system “designed to receive, process, and display video and imagery form multiple sensors, in a unified and streamlined process.”

Its capabilities include processing and displaying “video, imagery, targets, threats, mission status, force locations, signal intelligence detection, and others,” Rafael said.

Automated image processing algorithms and motion detectors are central aspects of the system, enabling it to “disseminate operational data, tactical mission reports, targets, and threats to other forces.”     (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli humanitarian charity sets up field hospital in quake-torn Ecuador

The Israeli humanitarian aid charity IsraAid set up a field hospital in a village in Ecuador in the wake of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed 654 and injured thousands.

The field hospital was set up in the coastal village of Canoa, where 98 percent of the buildings were destroyed in the initial April 16 earthquake that hit Ecuador’s Pacific coast. A 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck four days later, on Wednesday.

The American Jewish Committee is collaborating with IsraAid to provide the emergency assistance.

The mission includes veteran aid workers, a medical workers, and a psychosocial team, IsraAid said. The team will provide food and relief supplies; emergency medical assistance; and child friendly spaces and psychosocial support to the survivors of the temblor, with an emphasis on women and children. The field hospital began operating on Saturday evening, according to the Times of Israel.

More than 25,000 people currently are living in shelters and there have been more than 700 aftershocks in the affected areas. The country reportedly has suffered up to $3 billion in damage and reconstruction could take years.            (JTA)

3,700-year-old Egyptian scarab seal found by Israeli birdwatcher

The seal, found near the Tel Dor archeological site near Mount Carmel, belonged to a senior Egyptian official of the Thirteenth Pharaonic dynasty dating as far back as the 18th century BCE.

An Israeli amateur birdwatcher accidentally discovered an ancient scarab seal belonging to a senior Egyptian official of the Thirteenth Pharaonic dynasty dating as far back as the 18th century BCE, researchers at Haifa University announced on Sunday.

Alexander Ternopolsky was birdwatching near the Tel Dor archaeological site on Israel’s Carmel Coast, where an ongoing excavation of the ancient port city of Dor is taking place, when he happened upon the incredible find. Ternopolsky immediately handed it over to the archeological team working at the site.

According to Haifa University, the coastal city of Dor at the foot of Mt. Carmel was a key port city for thousands of years. Until the Romans built Caesarea, Dor was the most important commercial center in area and a trading base for spices, resin, and other commodities that were highly valued by the ancient Egyptians. The city was even mentioned in several ancient Egyptian documents dating back 3500 years.

Scarab seal[1]

A preliminary study concluded that the stone scarab is engraved with the name of its owner as well as his position. The description of the scarab owner’s position includes such phrases such as “overseer of the treasury,” “bearer of the seal,” and more, but the owner’s name has not yet been deciphered.

“The scarab must have belonged to a very senior figure in the kingdom, probably the viceroy responsible for the royal treasury,” explains Prof. Ayelet Gilboa from the Department of Archeology at Haifa University, who is heading the excavations at Tel Dor together with Prof. Ilan Sharon from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The excavators suggest several theories explaining how the scarab might have reached Tel Dor. The first is that either a representative of the viceroy or the viceroy himself may have come to Dor.

Another option is that the scarab arrived at Dor at a much later stage, perhaps even during the Roman period, when there was demand for such Egyptian “antiques.”

“Since the scarab rolled down from the mound and was not found in its archeological context, we will probably never really know when and how it got here and where it has been,” said Prof. Gilboa.           (Ynet News)

Palestinians: When in Doubt, Try Intimidation

by Khaled Abu Toameh                The Gatestone Institute

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7894/palestinians-intimidation

The Palestinians argue that security cameras on the Temple Mount would be used by Israel to identify and arrest Muslim worshippers who protest against visits by Jews. What they seem to have forgotten is that these “protesters” regularly harass Jewish groups and individuals touring the Temple Mount.

While Mahmoud Abbas claimed he was in favor of the plan to install the security cameras, his Islamic clerics and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials continued to incite against the plan

The straw that broke the Jordanian back was a leaflet that was distributed at the Temple Mount during Friday prayers two weeks ago. The leaflet urged Muslims to smash any cameras installed at the holy site.

In one blow, Palestinians have managed to undermine Jordan’s historic role as “custodian” of the holy sites in Jerusalem and humiliate King Abdullah, who was the mastermind of the camera plan.

Succumbing to Palestinian intimidation, Jordan has dropped its plan to install surveillance cameras at the Haram Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), or Temple Mount.

The cancellation of the plan is seen as a severe blow not only to Jordan, but also to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who, in October 2015, brokered the agreement to install the cameras at the site.

Kerry announced then that Jordan and Israel had agreed to round-the-clock video surveillance, with the goal of reducing tensions at the Temple Mount.

Since then, however, the Palestinians, who have unleashed a wave of violent attacks on Israel in a purported response to Israeli “provocations” at the Temple Mount, have been campaigning against the plan to install the security cameras there. This week, it turned out that this campaign of intimidation was not in vain.

The Palestinians argue that the cameras would be used by Israel to identify and arrest Muslim worshippers who protest against visits by Jews to the Temple Mount. What they seem to have forgotten is that these “protesters” regularly harass Jewish groups and individuals touring the Temple Mount. The “protesters” are known as murabitoun (the Steadfast) and their main mission is to stop Jews from touring the Temple Mount. Some are affiliated with the Palestinian Authority (PA), while others are on the payroll of the Islamic Movement in Israel.

How Kerry will respond to this spit in the face remains to be seen. Not a sound was heard from him throughout the months of the Palestinian campaign to scuttle the plan.

With the U.S. deafeningly quiet on the subject, the Jordanians were left alone to deal with the Palestinian intimidation.

As the Palestinian threats intensified, Jordan’s King Abdullah dispatched his foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, to an urgent meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

At the meeting, Abbas did his old bait-and-switch trick. Claiming that he was in favor of the plan to install the security cameras at the Temple Mount, his Islamic clerics and Palestinian Authority officials continued to incite against the plan.

Abbas’s foreign minister, Riad Malki, denounced the plan as a “new trap.” He warned that Israel would use the cameras to arrest Palestinians under the pretext of “incitement.”

Malki is here referring to the male and female Muslim worshippers whose mission is to harass and intimidate Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount. Thus, the PA foreign minister wishes to maintain the right to threaten Jews at the Temple Mont without being documented or caught on camera.

Palestinian Arab young men with masks, inside Al-Aqsa Mosque (some wearing shoes), stockpile rocks to use for throwing at Jews who visit the Temple Mount, September 27, 2015.

The Islamic Movement in Israel, headed by Sheikh Raed Salah, joined the chorus of critics by issuing its own threats to thwart the camera plan.

The straw that broke the Jordanian back was a leaflet that was distributed at the Temple Mount during Friday prayers two weeks ago. The leaflet urged Muslims to smash any cameras installed at the holy site. Who was behind the leaflet remains unclear, but sources in East Jerusalem blamed Palestinian activists and members of the Islamic Movement in Israel. The latest threat came as Jordan announced that the cameras would be installed at the site in the coming days.

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour made no bones about the decision to drop the plan: it was, he stated, a direct response to Palestinian “opposition” and “reservations.” He also noted that Israel had agreed to the installation of the cameras.

“At the beginning, Israel tried to hinder the project through various means,” Ensour said. “But we were able to overcome that.” He said that Jordan was nevertheless “surprised” by the reaction of the Palestinians to the cameras initiative.

Jordan has made clear that it was the Palestinians, and not Israel, who foiled the installation of more than 50 surveillance cameras at the Temple Mount as a stop towards easing tensions there.

Yet, no reaction from Kerry.

In one blow, Palestinians have managed to undermine Jordan’s historic role as “custodian” of the holy sites in Jerusalem and humiliate King Abdullah, who was the mastermind of the camera plan. They managed to do so largely thanks to the failure of the U.S. Administration to follow up on the implementation of the Kerry-brokered agreement.

We are seeing an old movie. Once again, the Palestinians have strong-armed their way to disaster. Their incessant intimidation fails to achieve a truly worthy goal: a better life under a non-dictatorial regime.

Once again, the Palestinians have prevailed — and in their win, they lose yet again.

Mideast Policy Expert: Despite Significant Gains in Relationship With Russia, Israel Must Be Wary of Putin’s True Motivations

by Lea Speyer                The Algemeiner

https://www.algemeiner.com/2016/04/22/mideast-policy-expert-despite-significant-gains-in-relationship-with-russia-israel-must-be-weary-of-putins-true-motivations/

The relationship between Israel and Russia has been strengthened to unprecedented levels under Russia’s current president but recent actions by Moscow in the Middle East should have Israel on alert, an international Middle East policy expert asserted in a recent op-ed published by a prominent American think tank.

Anna Borshchevskaya, an Ira Weiner Fellow at The Washington Institute, wrote that since March 2000, when President Vladimir Putin assumed office, “the two countries have significantly improved ties on a number of fronts,” including tourism, communications, defense, trade, technology and innovation. The Russian community in Israel is made up of “over a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, which bolsters Russia’s ties to Israel,” Borshchevskaya wrote, adding, “Russian is the third most popular language in Israel after Hebrew and English.”

Despite all these improvements, Borshchevskaya believes “complexities remain” in the relationship between the two countries. Specifically, Russia’s support of Iran’s nuclear program and its arms trade with Syria — “arms that could fall into the possession of Hezbollah,” as Borshchevskaya notes — pose significant challenges to the relationship. Additionally, Putin has “denied that Gaza-based Hamas is a terrorist organization” and met with the terror group’s leaders in Moscow in March 2006 after extending a personal invitation.

“Putin wants to be seen as a key player throughout the Middle East, and Israel matters in the region. Putin’s regional policy, however, is primarily driven by zero-sum anti-Westernism to position Russia as a counterweight to the West in the region and, more broadly, to divide and weaken Western institutions,” Borshchevskaya wrote. “Israel, unlike Russia, is a pro-Western democracy. Moscow’s growing aggression in the former Soviet Union, especially in Ukraine, and increasing influence in the Middle East in the context of Western retreat from the region, complicates Russia-Israeli relations.”

Putin’s actions in the Middle East, which run counter to his support of Israel, should serve as a warning about the Russian leader’s true regional intentions, according to the analysis. “Ultimately, Putin cares more about politics than anything else — sticking a finger in the eye of the West and, more broadly, weakening the West.”

Borshchevskaya believes Israel and Russia will continue to cooperate with one another but Putin’s growing influence in the Middle East “raises questions for Israel and suggests it has to walk a fine line in an increasingly complicated and unstable region.”

Anti-Zionism Is Indeed a Form of Anti-Semitism – Andres Spokoiny (Ha’aretz)

Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. It holds that Jews, like any other people, have the right to national self-determination.

Denying that right to Jews, and only to Jews, can’t be called anything other than anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism isn’t directed at any other national movement but that of the Jews.

Most anti-Zionists wholeheartedly embrace other national movements, or at least fail to condemn the existence of any nation state other than Israel. Most notably, anti-Zionists often champion Palestinian national aspirations, but the stark double standard seems to escape them.

Zionism restored freedom and dignity to a people oppressed for two millennia. Zionism is profoundly liberal and democratic.

It was rooted in Jewish humanistic principles and in progressive ideas of 19th century national democrats like the Italian Giuseppe Massini, who understood that true democracy and freedom can only take place in the context of a sovereign national state.

The Zionist movement’s creation of the modern State of Israel was, and is, a triumph for human rights.

The writer is President and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network.

Thousand attend Priestly Blessing for Passover at Western Wall