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Latest News in Israel – 26th September

Netanyahu to meet Clinton, Trump Sunday

US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican White House contender Donald Trump will each meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu separately over the weekend, CNN reported Friday.

The meetings are expected to take place Sunday in New York City, but It remains unclear what will be discussed during each respective encounter.

The meetings come one day before the first of three much anticipated debates between the US presidential candidates, set to take place at Hofstra University in Hamstead, New York.

Netanyahu said earlier this week that he was open to meeting with either candidate while he attends the UN General Assembly debate in Manhattan, according to a senior Israeli official.

The official added that Netanyahu conveyed the importance of speaking to both nominees if meetings were to take place, saying it was crucial to maintain an appearance of impartiality.

The encounter with Trump was arranged through a telephone conversation between representatives for the Republican nominee and the Prime Minister’s Office shortly after a meeting with Clinton had been scheduled, a source close to proceedings told CNN.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu met with US Secretary of State John Kerry earlier Friday in New York following the premier’s speech before the United Nations’ annual General Assembly debate. The two discussed security matters concerning the Middle East and the newly signed Memorandum of Understanding which aids Israel an estimated $38 billion dollars over the next 10 years.

Kerry also noted that the US and Israel can still accomplish a number of “things” before the end of the Obama administration, while stating the need to “protect the two-state solution” during remarks before the meeting with Netanyahu.

“There are things we believe we could achieve in the next months, and there are serious concerns that we all have about the security of the region, the need for stability, the need to protect the two-state solution,” said Kerry.

Netanyahu commented that he’s looking “forward to continuing our conversation, which I have to divulge we do every other day by phone, sometimes every day.”

“But it’s always important and productive” the premier continued, “to talk directly about how we can advance peace and stability with our neighbors in the region, and that’s something I look forward to doing with you now.”

Netanyahu’s meeting with Kerry comes amidst fears in Jerusalem that US President Barack Obama may refrain from rejecting an international initiative at the UN seeking to recognize Palestinian statehood in the last months of his administration.

American politicians have mirrored this concern, with 88 US senators earlier this week submitting a bipartisan letter calling for the White House  to uphold US policy that calls for a veto of any one-sided United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a press release of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).   (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu meets with African leaders on sidelines of UN, talks Israeli innovations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with African leaders on Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss Israeli innovations in Africa and developing countries.

“Africa excites our imagination,” he told the leaders. “We would like to propose a friendship and a partnership with every one of your countries.”

After the closed meeting, the Prime Minister and Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon held an event to present the latest Israeli technological developments to heads of states from Africa and developing countries.

Dozens of ambassadors, senior UN officials and representatives from the private sector also took part in the event, during which Israeli companies presented their innovations one by one.

One of them was Energyia Global Capital, which develops affordable solar projects worldwide, with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020. The company had also launched East Africa’s first solar field in February 2015 in Rwanda.

“There are 600 million people in Africa without electricity and another couple hundred million who are powered using dirty and expensive diesel,” Energyia Global Capital CEO Yosef Abramowitz said in his presentation. “Well, a new light is shining out of Zion.”

Abramowitz chose to use the event at the UN to announce that his company is prepared to invest $2 billion in Africa for the next four years.

“We have already signed deals to deploy $250 million into commercial solar energy fields in the next 12 months,” he added. “And we would like to do more.”

Netanyahu told the audience he believes Israel can greatly contribute to Africa.

“Technology changes everything.  And technology is related to so many areas: to healthcare, agriculture, education, and so much more,” he told the forum, which also included many New York Jewish leaders We want to share our knowledge and technology with the world.”

Earlier this summer, the Prime Minister went on a historical visit to Africa, the first by a sitting Israeli Prime minister in 29 years. He visited Kenya, Ethiopian, Rwanda and Uganda, where he attended a ceremony marking 40 years since the Entebbe raid, during which his brother Yoni Netanyahu was killed.  (Jerusalem Post)

Soldiers foil stabbing at Kiryat Arba bus stop

A Palestinian teenager on Friday attempted to stab Israelis outside the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba before he was shot by Israeli security forces, the army said.

No Israelis were injured in the attack. The assailant — 14 years old according to Palestinian media — was shot and wounded. He received treatment on the scene, before being taken by military ambulance to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for further medical care, the army said.

The assailant suffered gunshot wounds to the leg and chest. He was in serious condition, unconscious and on a ventilator, according to a spokesperson for the hospital.

Soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces’ Nahal Brigade, who were guarding the area, shot the Palestinian teenager — who was not immediately identified — as he approached the bus stop from an adjacent orchard, according to initial reports.

It was not immediately clear if he intended to attack civilians or security forces; both were in the area.

A photo from the scene appeared to show the assailant wounded on the ground near some bushes several meters behind the Elias Junction.

There were unconfirmed reports of a second Palestinian suspect who was detained at the scene. An army spokesperson said the details of the incident were still being investigated.

The attempted attack took place at the same junction where, last Friday, two Palestinians rammed their car into a bus stop before security forces shot them. Three Israeli teenagers were lightly hurt as they ran to escape that attack.

The assault was the 10th such attack in under a week, with the vast majority occurring in Jerusalem and the Hebron area, where Palestinians live in close proximity to settlers and Israeli troops.

The renewed surge in attacks caught many Israelis by surprise, as the violence that marked 2015 and early 2016 appeared to have waned in recent months, and raised fears that regular attacks could return.

On Tuesday morning, a Palestinian teenager was shot and killed while attempting a stabbing attack on an IDF soldier near Bani Na’im, outside of Hebron, the army said, marking the fifth straight day of attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem. During a search at a checkpoint, the assailant “tried to stab a soldier,” but did not injure him, according to the IDF.

“The assailant was shot by the forces and killed,” the army said in a statement. The Palestinian health ministry identified him as Issa Salem Tarayrah, 16.

On Monday night, a group of IDF soldiers in Hebron arrested a Palestinian man who tried to stab one of them, the army said.

The soldiers spotted the man during a patrol in the Abu Sneina neighborhood of the city, and asked him to identify himself. He then “attempted to stab an IDF soldier,” but missed, the army said. The man was then taken into custody.

“The soldier foiled the attack and subdued the assailant without use of fire,” the IDF said in a statement.

Earlier on Monday, two Hebron residents tried to stab a group of border guards near the city’s Tomb of the Patriarchs holy site before they were shot, according to police.

Officials fear the upcoming Jewish holidays and the recently ended Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday could be behind the raised tensions.

The holiday and the month of September “are always more susceptible to spikes in violent Palestinian activities,” a military official, speaking anonymously, said last week.

“The motivation and inspiration to carry out attacks against Israelis remains strong,” the official said.

In the past year, Israel saw a wave of so-called “lone-wolf” Palestinian terror attacks, which has claimed the lives of 35 Israelis and four foreign nationals since October 2015. Over 200 Palestinians have also been killed in the past year, with the Israeli army and police saying that most of those killed were attackers or involved in clashes with security forces.  (The Times of Israel)

Dozens of Palestinians rounded up in two days of raids

The army and police arrested close to 50 Palestinians on Tuesday and Wednesday night in raids across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, many of them for rock throwing or taking part in violent demonstrations, officials said.

The Israel Police and Israel Defense Forces have stepped up arrest raids, as the West Bank and Jerusalem saw a sharp uptick in attacks and attempted attacks on Israeli security forces by Palestinians over the past week.

Over the course of two nights, police picked up 23 people in the Issawiya neighborhood of East Jerusalem and in the Shuafat refugee camp on charges ranging from taking part in a riot and throwing rocks to drug possession, police said.

In the West Bank, IDF soldiers arrested 11 suspects on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. The following night, Israeli forces picked up another 12 Palestinians, the army said.

Of the 23 arrested in the West Bank, 12 were for rock throwing and taking part in riots “against civilians and security forces,” the army said.

Five of them were arrested for allegedly belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization, while the remaining six were picked up for undisclosed reasons, according to the IDF.

In addition to the arrests, security forces seized illegal weapons, military gear and gun-manufacturing equipment.

Soldiers found a homemade submachine gun, magazines full of ammunition, a knife, components of an M-16 assault rifle and a stolen car in Jabel Juhar, just outside of Hebron, during an operation carried out on Tuesday night following an alleged stabbing attempt near the West Bank city’s Tomb of the Patriarchs pilgrimage site earlier that day.

On Wednesday night, Israeli troops found a gun and ammunition in Qarawat Bani Hassan, west of the settlement of Ariel, the army said.

A carbine conversion kit for a Glock pistol and a box of bullets that were found by police officers in East Jerusalem during a late-night raid on September 21, 2016. (Israel Police)

A carbine conversion kit for a Glock pistol and a box of bullets that were found by police officers in East Jerusalem during a late-night raid on September 21, 2016. (Israel Police)

In East Jerusalem, police confiscated billy clubs and some gun accessories — holsters, bullets, a carbine conversion kit for a glock — but officers found no actual firearms, according to police.

The past week has seen a renewed surge in attacks, after months in which the violence that marked 2015 and early 2016 appeared to have waned. From Friday to Tuesday, Palestinian assailants carried out daily attacks on Israeli security forces in Jerusalem and the Hebron area, where Palestinians live in close proximity to settlers and Israeli troops.

Officials fear the upcoming Jewish holidays and the recently ended Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday could be behind the raised tensions.

The holiday and the month of September “are always more susceptible to spikes in violent Palestinian activities,” a military official, speaking anonymously, said Saturday. “The motivation and inspiration to carry out attacks against Israelis remains strong.”                             (the Times of Israel)

Sharon letter to Saudi king revealed as crown prince slams Israel at UN

“In light of Saudi Arabia’s central status in this region, and your Majesty’s political wisdom and foresight, we believe that your country can make an immense contribution to the success of this [peace] process,” Israel’s prime minister wrote the Saudi king in reference to the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

Amid all the current talk in Jerusalem about a unique confluence of interests between Israel and Saudi Arabia, one could think that this letter was written in recent days by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Saudi King Salman.

But one would be mistaken.

These words were written on November 27, 2005, by Ariel Sharon, and given to a Jew born in Iraq who lived abroad named Moshe Peretz who delivered them to then Saudi King Abdullah, thanks to a good relationship he developed with the king’s brother-in-law.

Peretz turned to the Prime Minister’s Office and offered his services in relaying a message to the king. On December 3, 2005, the king’s brother-in law-called Peretz and said the letter was personally delivered.

A framed copy of the letter was presented to the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Museum in Or Yehuda at a ceremony earlier this month.

The letter was written three years after the Saudi led Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, and puts to rest the popular notion that Sharon never responded to the Saudi plan. The letter was written just over three months after the Sharon-led withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and just three weeks before he was felled by his first stroke.

“As a peace-seeking nation, Israel has been known to make painful decisions and take far-reaching steps in the interest of peace,” he wrote. “We believe that our recent disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria introduced a new and historic opportunity to advance the peace process.

Sharon stated that this was a sensitive and critical period in the region, “as we struggle to preserve the momentum created by the disengagement.

“It is our hope that Saudi Arabia, under your Majesty’s strong leadership, will exert its power and influence to encourage the moderate forces in this region and advance the prospects of peace, stability and prosperity,” he wrote.

“I offer my hand in friendship and hope to have the opportunity to cooperate and work with you personally to advance our mutual goal of peace. I look forward to receiving your response.”

A response never came, and Sharon was soon incapacitated by his two stokes.

At a ceremony at the museum early in the month, Yitzhak Levanon, who served previously as Israel’s consul in Boston and ambassador in Egypt, called the letter an “important historical document,” and proof that Israel worked behind the scenes to move the peace process forward.  He also said the letter confirms that there were ties with the Saudis.

The spirit of those ties, and of reports of a growing but still discreet relationship between Jerusalem and Riyadh was in no way evident, however, when Saudi Crown Prince Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef addressed the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

Before discussing the situation in Syria, Yemen or castigating Iran, the crown prince first excoriated Israel.

“The Palestinian issue remains an ongoing challenge to the United Nations since its inception,” he stated. “Israel continues in its military occupation, terrorist practices and acts of aggression, including its siege and other serious violations of international law, without fear of retribution or accountability.”

He called for an end to “the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, along with the rest of the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Arab Golan, southern Lebanon, which should happen in accordance with the provisions of the relevant United Nations resolutions and the Arab peace initiative, which aims to achieve comprehensive and lasting peace to this conflict.”

According to bin Nayef, progress in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “seems impossible in the light of the continuation of the Israeli settlement policy, the tampering with the holy city of Jerusalem, ruining the Arab, Islamic and Christian identity of the city, and the heartless policy of repression practiced against the Palestinians people.”

Only after reading off the litany, did he mention the Syrian crisis, which has cost the lives of more than a half million people.                     (Jerusalem Post)

Pollard said that it is going to “take a miracle” to get him back home.

In an exclusive impromptu street interview with Channel 1’s Amir Bar-Shalom, after not having spoken to the media since his release, Jonathan Pollard wished a Shana Tova (Happy New Year) to all of his friends in Israel, adding that he hopes to be home in Israel very soon.

The majority of questions asked by Bar-Shalom received a reply of “no comment” as the terms of Pollard’s parole do not allow him to be interviewed by journalists for five years. He stated that he cannot speak about much of anything of substance.

While addressing his physical health, Pollard stated that his situation has greatly improved, mentioning that he was previously unable to walk due to ill health.

Pollard stated that he feels the people of Israel are behind him and that “the government [of Israel] will do whatever it wants to do.”

When asked about President Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and whether his return to Israel was mentioned, Pollard replied that he “did not know.”

Pollard was released on “mandatory” parole on November 20, 2015 after serving exactly 30 years in prison for the crime of conspiracy to commit espionage without intent to harm the United States, by delivering classified information to Israel in 1984 and 1985.

But his parole conditions require him to be monitored by a GPS device that forces him to violate Shabbat and Jewish holidays and his computers to be monitored, which his lawyers say has prevented him from being employed.

Pollard asked the court to remove the conditions the day he was released. After a December 14 hearing, the court asked the parole commission to justify the conditions. Pollard’s lawyers called the response the commission issued March 2 “a series of disjointed observations about events that occurred 30 years ago and unsubstantiated statements of US officials.”

The commission justified the GPS monitoring by citing a letter written by New York Democratic Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Eliot Engel to Attorney- General Loretta Lynch, asking that Pollard be allowed to move to Israel.

Pollard’s lawyers responded that “the commission’s distorted reliance on the Nadler/Engel Letter is proof of how vindictive and biased this proceeding has become toward Mr. Pollard.”

They wrote that it was “grossly unfair and unconstitutionally retaliatory” to suggest that because congressmen wrote that Pollard would want to move to Israel in a lawful manner, he might unlawfully violate the terms of his release.

“Pollard has not concealed that he wishes to live in Israel,” they wrote. “He stated it expressly to the Commission on remand. But, this in no way implies that he would risk his freedom in order to do so.”             (Jerusalem Post)

New Israeli intelligence satellite ‘sending back great images’

More than a week after it was launched and ran into serious technical difficulties, the Ofek- 11 spy satellites began sending “great images” back to the ground control station, the Defense Ministry announced on Thursday evening.

Amnon Harari, head of the Space Administration in the Defense Ministry, and Ofer Doron, head of Israel Aerospace Industry’s MBT Space Division, said the satellite’s transponder and image broadcasting system began kicking in on Thursday, and that ground control officials were now seeing “operational results.”

The IAI-made satellite was launched on September 13, and ran into unspecified difficulties after going into orbit.

Harari and Doron said the images they were now receiving “are what we hoped for,” though they declined to provide further details on the overall health of the satellite.

Since the launch, engineers have been working to stabilize the satellite and its on board systems, the Defense Ministry and IAI said in a joint statement.

The teams systematically checked all of its systems from the moment of launch, and maintained continuous communication and control with it.

Ofek-11 launched from Palmahim Air Base south of Rishon Lezion near last week.

Rocket Israel

Soon after its launch, officials said, “it’s not yet clear if all on board systems are working,” adding, “There are a number of things that are worrying us.”

Ofek-11 is part of the Ofek series of satellites, and is Israel’s sixth active spy satellite.

The troubled launch came after Amos-6, an Israeli civilian communications satellite, was lost when its Falcon-9 launcher, made by SpaceX, blew up at the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida on September 1.

Two years ago, the Defense Ministry and IAI launched Ofek-10 successfully into space on board a Shavi launch vehicle.

Ofek -0 carries a SAR (Synthetic aperture radar), which has advanced day and night imaging capabilities.  (Jerusalem Post)

Fatah uses controversial Australian cartoon by Glen Le Lievre to promote antisemitic conspiracy theories

PMW cartoon leuvre

Fatah’s “Mobilization and Organization Commission” has re-publicised a controversial Australian cartoon drawn by Glen Le Lievre which originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.Fatah’s implication is that Jews are in control of acts of terrorism and violence around the world. The infamous cartoon (above) of a Jewish person with a large nose, wearing a Jewish skullcap, seated in an armchair with an emblazoned Star of David, causing violence with a remote control device, was published on that Commission’s website on Sept. 20 according to Palestinian Media Watch.

The cartoon first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2014 in the context of the contemporaneous Gaza conflict (Operation Protective Edge) and was the subject of significant controversy in Australia at the time.

Attorney-General George Brandis labelled it as “deplorable” and “overtly anti-Semitic,” and called on the Herald to “have a very good look at itself when it publishes cartoons (of) the kind we haven’t seen since Germany in the 1930s.”

The Australian reported that then-Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull personally called the Editor of the Herald to say that the cartoon “had a disturbing similarity with a long and deplorable tradition of anti-Semitic caricatures.” There were also reports of readers cancelling their subscriptions following the cartoon’s publication.

In a subsequent editorial in the Herald, the paper apologised for the cartoon, stating that “the newspaper invoked an inappropriate element of religion, rather than nationhood, and made a serious error of judgement. It was wrong to publish the cartoon in its original form. We apologise unreservedly for this lapse, and the anguish and distress that has been caused.”

It is telling that Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority – whose representatives continue to incite hatred against the Jewish people and engage in abominable libels – would now use this cartoon to promote their objectives.

There is currently of course no ongoing war in Gaza – the context of the cartoon today is to send the conspiratorial message that Jews are collectively responsible for terrorism and violence everywhere. Palestinian Media Watch shows an additional recent cartoon from another Fatah website which illustrates the antisemitic conspiracy theory that Fatah is trying to spread, blaming a hook-nosed Jew for causing Shi’ite-Sunni enmity.

Indeed, Palestinian Media Watch has collected numerous other examples of implications by Fatah or PA affiliated outlets that Israel or the Jews are really the ones responsible for acts of Islamist terrorism.

It goes without saying that the spread of such antisemitic conspiracy theories by the ruling party of the PA is hardly conducive to achieving Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, and bodes very poorly for hopes for a negotiated two-state resolution any time soon.

Further, this incident shows the egregious nature of the original cartoon. The fact that it is now being used to promote antisemitic conspiracy theories by a radical group just goes to reinforce that the Sydney Morning Herald was quite correct to conclude, “It was wrong to publish the cartoon in its original form” and to apologise.  (Fresh AIR)

Life during Wartime shows terror can’t beat a fighting democracy

by Bret Stephens          The Australian/The Wall Street Journal


Long after I returned to the US after living in Jerusalem, I kept thinking about soft targets. The peak-hour commuter train that took me from Westchester to Grand Central station in New York. The snaking queue outside the security checkpoint at La Guardia Airport. The theatre crowds near Times Square.

All of these places were vulnerable and most of them undefended. Why, I wondered, weren’t they being attacked?

This was in late 2004, when Jack Bauer was an American hero and memories of 9/11 were vivid. Yet friends who were nervous about boarding a flight seemed nonchalant about much more plausible threats. Maybe they expected the next attack would be on the same grand scale of 9/11. Maybe they thought the perpetrators would be super-villains in the mould of Osama bin Laden, not fried-chicken vendors such as Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the suspected  23rd Street bomber.

Life in Israel had taught me differently. Between January 2002, when I moved to the country, and October 2004, when I left, there were 85 suicide bombings, which took the lives of 543 Israelis. Palestinian gun attacks claimed hundreds of additional victims.

In a small country it meant that almost everyone knew one of those victims, or knew someone who knew someone.

To this day, the bombings are landmarks in my life. March 2002: Cafe Moment, just down the street from my apartment, where my future wife had arranged to meet a friend who cancelled at the last minute. Eleven dead.

September 2003: Cafe Hillel, another neighbourhood hangout, where seven people were murdered, including 20-year-old Nava Applebaum and her father, David, on the eve of her wedding.

January 2004: Bus No 19 on Gaza Street, which I witnessed close up before the ambulances arrived. Another 11 dead and 13 seriously injured, including Jerusalem Post reporter Erik Schechter.

Living in those circumstances had a strange dichotomous quality. Things were absolutely fine until they absolutely weren’t.

Memories of bombings mix with other memories: jogs around the walls of the old city, weekend outings to the beach, the daily grind of editing a newspaper. The sense of normality was achieved through an effort of will and a touch of fatalism. Past a certain point, fearing for your safety becomes exhausting. You give it up.

But it wasn’t just psychological adjustment that made life liveable. Israelis recoiled after each bombing, mourned every victim, then picked themselves up. Cafe Moment reopened weeks after it was destroyed.

The army and police could not provide constant security, so every restaurant and supermarket hired an armed guard, every mall and hotel set up metal detectors, and people went out.

More than a few attacks were stopped by lone Israeli civilians who prevented massacres through the expedient of a handgun.

As for the Israeli government, after much hesitation it did what governments are supposed to do: it fought.

In April 2002, then prime minister Ariel Sharon sent Israeli tanks into Jenin, Bethlehem and every other nest of Palestinian terror. He trapped Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in his little palace in Ramallah. He ordered the killing of Hamas’s leaders in Gaza.

All this was done in the teeth of overwhelming international condemnation and the tut-tutting of experts who insisted only a “political solution” could break the “cycle of violence.”

Instead, the Israeli military broke that cycle by building a wall and crippling the Palestinians’ capacity to perpetrate violence.

In 2002, there were 47 bombings. In 2007, the number had come down to one.

What’s the lesson here for Americans? This past week’s terrorist attacks hold at least two. One is that there is a benefit for a society that allows competent and responsible adults to carry guns, like the off-duty police officer who shot the knife-wielding jihadist in St Cloud, Minnesota.

Another is that there is an equal benefit in the surveillance methods that allowed police in New York and New Jersey to swiftly identify and arrest Rahimi before his bombing spree took any lives.

These are lessons the political Left in the US don’t want to hear, lest they unsettle established convictions that weapons can only cause violence, not stop it, and that security is the antithesis of, not a precondition to, civil liberty. But hear them they will.

The eclipse of al-Qa’ida by Islamic State means the terrorist threat is evolving from elaborately planned spectaculars such as 9/11 or the 2004 Madrid train bombings to hastily improvised and executed blood orgies of the sort we saw this year in Nice and Orlando.

As attacks become more frequent and closer to everyday life, public tolerance for liberal pieties will wane. Not least among the casualties of the Palestinian intifada was the Israeli Left.

Living in Israel in those crowded years taught me that free people aren’t so easily cowed by terror, and that jihadists are no match for a determined democracy.

But it also taught me that democracies rarely muster their full reserves of determination until they’ve been bloodied one time too many.

In stark contrast to Abbas, Netanyahu radiates optimism at UN

by Herb  Keinon    The Jerusalem Post


This time there were no props – like a cartoon of a bomb – and no gimmicks, such as a 45-second pause to ram home a point, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

Instead, there was a long, 40-minute speech that broke little new ground, but radiated – in stark contrast to the speech given by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas just a few minutes before him – a sense of optimism.

Israel has a great future at the UN, he said very counterintuitively at the start of his speech. After repeating the litany of Israel’s complaints about the UN – saying that the body that began as a “moral force” had turned into a “moral farce” – he turned the tables and said that this is changing, as more and more countries are realizing that Israel is not their foe, but their friend.

“Lay down your arms,” he told the delegates. Citing inroads Israel has made in relations with African, Asian, Latin American and even Arab countries, he said that in the near future the delegates will get calls from their leaders with a short message: “The war against Israel at the UN has ended.”

It was a somewhat different Netanyahu than what the world has come to expect. Yes, there was the defiant Netanyahu, telling the world body that even with all the talk about UN resolutions on the Middle East, it will never, ever be able to impose a solution on Israel that it doesn’t want.

And it was a Netanyahu repeating what he has said numerous times in the past: that the core of the conflict is not the settlements, but the Jews’ right to exist anywhere in their historical homeland.

But it was also a Netanyahu who admitted that it was Jewish terrorists who carried out the attack in Duma that led to the deaths of three members of the Dawabsha family last year.

This stood in stark contrast to Abbas, who in his angry litany of charges against Israel – including in one instance of shameless historical revisionism implying that the Jews were the ones who refused the Partition Plan in 1947 – never gave even a smattering of a hint that perhaps Palestinian terrorism might have something to do with the current diplomatic impasse.

It was also a Netanyahu who showed a sense of humor, saying that if Abbas wanted to sue the British for the Balfour Declaration – and the Palestinian leader did on Thursday again excoriate the British for that century-old document – then he should also sue Cyrus the Great for letting the Jews come back to Israel to rebuild the Temple, and even organize a class action suit against Abraham for buying a parcel of land in Hebron.

And, finally, it wasn’t the doom and gloom Netanyahu the world has come to expect, warning of impending disaster.

Instead, it was a Netanyahu who peppered his speech with the words, “I am filled with hope,” and even cloaked himself in the optimistic mantle of Shimon Peres, whom he referenced.

Toward the of his speech Netanyahu asserted his belief that, “in the years ahead Israel will forge a lasting peace with all our neighbors.”

The only thing missing was any inkling of exactly how – as prime minister – he plans to help bring that about.

Why Abbas Won’t Accept Bibi’s Offer

by Jonathan S. Tobin                   Commentary Magazine


During his address to the United Nations General Assembly that seemed largely a challenge to the organization’s legitimacy—he described its organs as s a “moral farce,” a “disgrace,” a “joke” and a “circus”—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slipped in a clever invitation. He asked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come to Jerusalem to address the Israeli people at the Knesset. Abbas’s answer to the offer so far has been silence. But since he has repeatedly rejected every past invitation for a one-on-one meeting with the Israeli in recent years—just as he has repeatedly rejected Israeli offers of peace and statehood—there is little likelihood that the answer will be different this time.

If Abbas were serious about peace, going to Jerusalem in that manner would completely change the dynamic of both the stalled peace process and Israeli public opinion about the conflict no matter what the Palestinian said in his remarks. The spectacle of Abbas at the Knesset would undermine the arguments of the majority of Israelis who agree with the prime minister that the Palestinians don’t want peace. It would create what would likely be intolerable pressure on Netanyahu to give in to more of the PA’s demands on territory and other issues. If the generous terms of peace previously offered by Israel were really inadequate, such a stunt is the best and perhaps the only way for the Palestinians to do better.

So rather than just toss this aside as a meaningless gesture, as Netanyahu’s critics are doing, it’s worth asking why Abbas won’t even consider doing something that is so obviously in the interests of his people? The answer is painfully obvious. He can’t do it because his objective isn’t really a two-state solution that would end the conflict forever.

Going to the Knesset wouldn’t just revive echoes of Anwar Sadat’s dramatic 1977 gesture that led to peace between Israel and Egypt. More than anything either he or his predecessor Yasir Arafat has done, it would signal that the century-long Palestinian war on Zionism is over. Speaking there would mean that the Palestinians are acknowledging the legitimacy of the Jewish state and that the only obstacles to peace are details about borders and guarantees against future violence.

But Abbas won’t do that because that isn’t what he is after. As his own speech illustrated, Abbas’s view of the conflict is still fatally mired in a miasma of historical grievances and religious hate. Abbas used the UN GA rostrum to demand Britain apologize for the Balfour Declaration that set in motion international recognition for the right to the Jewish homeland. Just as bad, he recycled the lies he and his official media have been circulating about Israel’s intentions to harm the Temple Mount mosques that have served as the principle source of incitement to terrorism during the current “stabbing intifada.”

While he said that the PA’s implicit recognition of Israel in the 1993 Oslo Accords remained “in force,” he made it clear that it was conditional in nature and could be rescinded if the Israelis didn’t bow to all of his demands. The Palestinians have flouted their Oslo commitments over the last 23 years. More to the point, the entire focus of his current campaign at the UN is to abandon the bilateral negotiations to which the accords committed the PA in favor of unilateral steps that don’t so much sidestep peace as discard it altogether.

Abbas at the Knesset won’t happen because the political culture of the Palestinians is still rooted in the same rejection of Balfour that helped forge their sense of national identity in the last century. It’s easy for American liberals to condemn Netanyahu as insincere, but if Abbas were truly searching for a path to peace and independence for his people, the smartest thing he could do would be to say yes to the prime minister’s invitation. The fact that we all know he’d never even consider doing it tells us all we need to know about Palestinian intentions.

Ambassador from Down Under shows over-the-top enthusiasm

Dave Sharma: I like the passion with which life is lived here.

by Greer Fay Cashman        The Jerusalem Post


Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma

Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma

When his term concludes in June, it’s going to be hard for Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma and his family to leave Israel.

Sharma, who was appointed in June 2013 at age 37 as Australia’s youngest-ever ambassador, recently conveyed those sentiments to The Jerusalem Post.

Australian ambassadors usually spend only three years abroad, but Sharma received a one-year extension. He can’t stretch it more than that.

“Only political appointees can go beyond four years,” he said with a smile.

Sharma previously held various senior positions in government. He served as assistant secretary for Africa in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; legal adviser to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer; at the Australian Embassy in Washington, and at the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea as the senior civilian attached to the Australian-led peace monitoring force in Bougainville.

Israel was his first ambassadorial posting. After Papua New Guinea, he had no apprehensions about Israel, despite negative media images.

“I had a firm sense that the picture you saw in the media was not exactly accurate.” One common theme emphasized in Australian media reports on Israel is security. “But there’s much more happening than security,” says Sharma. “It’s not as overwhelming as you would think from watching the media.”

He arrived with his wife, Rachel Lord, a human rights lawyer, and their three small daughters, then aged three months to nine years. Sharma and his wife instantly felt at home. This was aided by being preceded by another first-time envoy, British Ambassador Matthew Gould and his wife, Celia, whom they had known in Washington. The Goulds invited the Sharmas to dinner at a Tel Aviv restaurant. The Sharmas didn’t want to leave their baby at home, but worried whether they could bring her to a restaurant where her crying might disturb other diners. They were instantly reassured when they arrived and saw a row of baby carriages.

Sharma thinks Israel is a wonderful place to raise children “because people put children in the center of life. It’s normal to have children at all events.

In other countries children are seen and not heard, or not seen and not heard. We take our kids everywhere – even to funerals. There’s nothing from which they’re excluded.”

Through his children, Sharma learned to appreciate Jewish holidays. He and his wife even built a succa last year, because the girls wanted one.

They eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashana and doughnuts on Hanukka, which Sharma refers to in Hebrew as sufganiyot.

Continuing in this trend, the girls taught their parents Purim songs and games.

In interviews before leaving Australia, Sharma said that in addition to promoting Australia, he wanted to give Australians a better understanding of Israel.

He’s been doing that almost from day one, hosting and addressing numerous Australian business, academic, political, sporting and various Jewish delegations at the Australian residence in Herzliya Pituah, or by joining such delegations on tours or for dinners at hotels in which were staying.

Sharma genuinely believes that Israel is a unique place and he has no problem in enthusiastically conveying his impressions.

“Australians are liked around the world, but particularly in Israel,” he says, alluding to Australian troops who were stationed and fought here in the First and Second World Wars, and to Australia’s important role in the 1947 United Nations resolution for the partition of Palestine.

There is warmth from the Israeli government, he said.

“And the level of access is quite high because Israel is such an open society.” He doubts that he would have the same level of access anywhere else in the world. “I could have gone to a country more traditionally important to Australia’s interests, but I wouldn’t have had the same level of access,” he said with remarkable candor.

It’s possible that part of the access is due to Sharma’s friendly, easy-going personality and the fact that unlike some of his colleagues, he makes himself easily accessible.

He has also thrown himself wholeheartedly into the Israeli life-style. A keen athlete, he either runs or cycles from his residence to his office in Tel Aviv. In fact, on the day of this interview, he wheeled his bike along one of the embassy’s corridors. He’s also a keen swimmer and tennis player, and regularly plays tennis at the Dan Accadia Hotel, which is near his residence.

He has worked as a volunteer in a Tel Aviv soup kitchen, and has helped clean beachfront areas on Clean-Up the World Day, an Australian initiative that has gone global.

He also visited the Save a Child’s Heart Department at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, donated blood at Hadassah in Jerusalem, and is believed to be first head of a foreign diplomatic mission in Israel to visit the Ziv Medical Center in Safed to observe at close quarters the humane and humanitarian treatment accorded to Syrian victims of the civil war, who were brought across the border for care. He continues to maintain contact with all three medical centers and was even treated at Hadassah after falling off his bike while riding in the Jerusalem Hills.

Before embarking on a diplomatic career, Sharma envisaged himself as a physician.

He began by studying natural sciences, then switched to law and then to medicine. But after a year of medical studies, he became a civil servant and his ambitions changed course.

A strong believer in one-onone outreach, Sharma doesn’t have a receiving line at receptions at the residence. He and his wife, Rachel, simply mingle among the guests, chatting to as many people as they can, and introducing some of their guests to each other.

This casual Australian attitude also comes to the fore at more formal occasions, such as the annual ANZAC Day memorial ceremony in Jerusalem in April, or the commemoration of the Battle of Beersheba in October.

Australia is among those embassies that do not hold national day receptions, but on Australia Day on January 26, Sharma joins Australian expatriates in a Tel Aviv bar where they can all clink beer glasses together.

The closest thing to Australia Day will take place Monday at the Peres Center for Peace at the launch of the Ozreal brand, which is aimed at capturing the best of the Australia-Israel partnership.

Although a strong effort was made for purely Australian fare, apparently Australian cuisine is something that has not caught on in Israel, especially among kosher caterers, but there will be a number of items familiar to the Australian palate.

Very much a people person, Sharma loves to collect personal stories from people he meets – Jews, Muslims Christians – and there’s nothing stereotypical about any of them.

“You don’t stereotype people in Israel,” he said.

He and his family like to travel all over the country with guide book in hand to connect biblically and historically with wherever they happen to be.

Their favorite spots are in the Galilee, particularly Megiddo and Beit She’an.

The Galilee topography hasn’t changed much, said Sharma, “so you get a sense and feel of history.”

He admits to being more of a history than cultural buff, but nonetheless, found the prestigious Rubinstein piano competition totally fascinating when he witnessed the intensity and passion of young pianists as they played.

On an everyday basis, Sharma is very taken with the Israeli “zest and zeal for life” and the manner in which Israelis ride high and low emotions, embracing both, celebrating joys and mourning sadness with almost equal fervor.

But he also noticed that there is a lot of anxiety because of the existential threat, and the speed with which things change in Israel and prompt changes in people’s attitudes.

“I like the passion with which life is lived here.”

He also admires Israel’s hi-tech achievements and “the massive dreams” that people in the hi-tech community turn into realities.

“People dream big and think ambitiously and are open to all possibilities.”

Australia, like Israel, is a hi-tech innovation and startup nation, and this is part of reason that traffic between the two countries has increased dramatically, Sharma said.

What does he regret most about leaving Israel? He won’t be here to see the fruits of his efforts on next year’s centennial of the Battle of Beersheba, which was essentially won by Australian and New Zealand Light Horse troops. He’s seriously thinking of coming back as a tourist for the occasion.

For the time being, he’s not contemplating another overseas posting. For one thing, he thinks that it’s important to go home and get the feel of what’s happening there, and for another, his wife put her own career on hold so that he could pursue his.

“When we go home, it will be Rachel’s time,” he said.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu Addresses the UN General Assembly

“Lay down your arms – the war against Israel at the United nations has ended.”

In case you couldn’t open the link on Friday with PM Netanyahu meeting with PM Turnbull here it is, in a more friendly format