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Latest News in Israel – 27th January

Woman killed, another wounded in terror stabbing in West Bank settlement store

Two Palestinian terrorists stabbed two Israeli women and threw pipe bombs at a grocery store in the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon on Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, Hadassah University Medical Center released a statement to say that one of the victims of the attack, Shlomit Krigman, a 23-year old woman from Shadmot Mehola in the Jordan Valley, had died from her wounds following the attack.

The funeral for Krigman was set to take place Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Her Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem’s Gival Shaul. The funeral was scheduled to be closed to the press.

The Beit Horon community on Tuesday morning expressed its sympathies over Krigman’s death.

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Shlomit Kreigsman, 23, killed in a terror attack in Beit Horon

“Shlomit was loved and known, during her national service she served as a youth group leader for the Bnei Akiva branch in Beit Horon. Over the past year, Shlomit was living with her grandparents in the Krigman family home in the community,” the statement read.

The other victim, 58, who was moderately wounded in the stabbing remained hospitalized in the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center on Tuesday.

During the attack, cashier Mordechai Shalem used a large metal shopping cart to stop them from entering the store, saving the lives of those who were inside.

The assailants fled from the store in the direction of homes in the settlement, but within moments a security guard shot and killed them.

The commander of the Binyamin police station, Ch.- Supt. David Hayun, said the attack on the community located just off of Route 443 signified “a serious escalation.”

The two attackers infiltrated a settlement armed with knives and explosives, succeeding in stabbing two victims, he said. The three pipe bombs thrown failed to explode.

The infiltrators had jumped over the Beit Horon security fence at around 5 p.m. near the grocery store and stabbed two women.

There were children and women in the store, Shalem recalled for Channel 2.

Determined not to let them in, he immediately blocked them with a shopping cart, pushing the cart at them several times and not budging, even though they had drawn knives. The dramatic moments were caught on the store’s security camera.

“It was frightening,” he said. “Two people were standing next to me with knives.

I could see the hate and the anger. They screamed ‘Allahu akbar’ and I said, ‘dogs get out of here.’” After a couple seconds they ran away, he added.

“It was a clear miracle,” he added, not wanting to imagine what would have happened if they had entered the store.

The slain terrorists were identified as Ibrahim Yusef Allan, 23, from the village of Beit Ur al-Tahta and Hussein Abu Gosh, 17, from the Kalandiya refugee camp.

The IDF cordoned off Beit Ur al-Tahta on Monday night, allowing only humanitarian passage in and out of the community, an army spokeswoman said.

The Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria is to freeze the work permits that were issued to family members of the terrorists.

Following the attack, President Reuven Rivlin issued a statement of solidarity with the victims.

“My thoughts and prayers are with those wounded and fighting for their lives after the serious terrorist attack at Beit Horon.

These difficult times are fraught with confrontation and we will overcome. We will continue to fight against terrorism and the incitement that drives it. In the face of terrorism, we choose life.”

This was the third successful attack within a settlement in the last eight days. Last Sunday, a terrorist stabbed to death a mother of six, Dafna Meir, in her home in the Otniel settlement. A day later, a terrorist stabbed and wounded Michal Froman, who was five months pregnant, in the Tekoa settlement.

Security forces have been on heightened alert around settlements since last week, following the successive knife attacks in Otniel and Tekoa, and earlier assessments that terrorists could increasingly attempt to infiltrate communities and carry out attacks.

A according to security sources, in recent days the IDF took a number of steps to boost security in the settlements, out of a concern that copycat attackers would seek to emulate the “success” of the past week’s terrorist attacks.

Additionally, the IDF called on all civilians with gun licenses living beyond the Green Line to be armed.

In December, a military source said the army was preparing for a significant escalation in the severity of West Bank terrorism, and was preparing to encounter increased firearms attacks, as well as attempted intrusions by armed assailants into West Bank settlement.              (Jerusalem Post)

Israel strikes Hamas terror target in Gaza in response to rocket fire

The Israel Air Force struck a Hamas military compound in the center of the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Monday in retaliation for a Gazan rockets fired on the Southern region of Israel.

The rocket was fired from the Gaza strip at southern Israel on Sunday evening setting off the color red sirens in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, sending local residents fleeing for cover.

The rocket exploded in an open area, failing to cause injuries and there was no damage, the army said.

In the response a few hours later, IAF aircraft struck a Hamas military installation, the IDF Spokesperson’s Office said.

On Saturday night, Gazan terrorists fired a rocket towards Israel. The rocket landed inside Gaza in open territory. The color red siren was not sounded.

On January 1, five rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel, with two of the projectiles landing in Israeli territory. Three other rockets landed near the security fence inside the coastal Palestinian enclave.

In retaliation to the barrage, the Israel Air Force struck four Hamas targets in Gaza.            (Jerusalem Post)

20% of Western donations to PA go to terrorists’ families

The stipends paid by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists’ families amounts to some $75 million a year — about 20% of the donations funneled to the PA from Western nations and bodies, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Sunday in a meeting with foreign dignitaries in Jerusalem.

Hotovely also said that contrary to 2012 and 2013, when the Palestinian Authority exercised some transparency, in 2014 Ramallah changed its regulations, making the funds harder to track by transferring them under the guise of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) benefits.

The deputy foreign minister said she believed these benefits may now even exceed 20% of donor funds.

World Bank figures show that between 1993 and 2013 the Palestinian Authority received $21.7 billion in foreign aid.

Hotovely said further that per capita, the Palestinian Authority receives far more foreign aid than any other country in the world — roughly $800 million a year on average. Palestinians receive assistance to the tune of $170 per person, while Syrians, for example, receive an average of $106 per person.

“When I meet with European officials, I present them with data on the massive amounts of money their counties funnel to the Palestinian Authority and what the PA does with the funds,” Hotovely added.

“We demand that they [donor countries] monitor the use of the money and make sure it is not used to fund terrorism or incitement. It is time for the world to stop incitement and terrorism by truly supervising its donations [to the Palestinians],” she said.        (Israel Hayom)

IDF expands missile fortification of strategic sites

The IDF Home Front Command and government ministries have completed fortification work to secure several strategically vital sites against rocket and missile attacks, a senior IDF source said.

Work to secure dozens more sensitive infrastructure sites will commence soon, enabling them to continue to function even if hit by rockets or missiles, the military source said.

He stressed that the role of the Home Front Command is to respond defensively to enemy projectile fire, leaving the IDF’s branches to handle offensive actions.

“Each site is fortified in accordance with the threat posed to it,” the source said.

“This is about improving survivability, though there is no such thing as 100 percent protection.”

The Home Front Command is working with all Israeli defense industries in the research and development and production of reinforcement materials for sites crucial to keeping the country running in wartime and enabling the IDF to continue to focus on offensives.

It is also working with the Public Security Ministry to formulate legally binding protocols for future construction of key sites. The protocols will obligate every government ministry to create fortifications for sites under their jurisdiction.

“It is being drafted now, though many months separate us from a final draft,” he said.

The source provided a rare glimpse into the process that led to the drawing up of a priority list that determines which sites receive fortifications first.

“Israel identified which national infrastructure needs protection against rockets and missiles. This process, which is ongoing, was achieved through a dialogue among government ministries. The dialogue results in the selection of sites, such as ports, power plants and oil refineries.

The list is guided by the importance of each site to the ability of the country to continue to function during an emergency,” the source stated.

“At the top of our priorities, are those sites that enable the military effort to defeat the enemy to continue. Such sites take priority over, for example, sites that provide power to civilians,” he said.

Representatives of government ministries have been meeting at Israel’s National Emergency Management Authority offices to formulate the classified list.

Meanwhile, in the civilian housing realm, the Home Front Command has been working on creating a digital database of every home in the country, giving it a precise picture of which building has safe rooms or bomb shelters and which are near public bomb shelters.

Between 25% and 30% of all homes in the country have no protection at all against rockets and missiles, and the Command is attempting to decrease that figure.

The Command is also loading onto its websites instructions for civilians on how to hire contractors to fortify their homes using thin steel plates and plaster, in work that can be complete within three days.                 (Jerusalem Post)

Shots fired at Israeli vehicle in West Bank; no injuries

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Car hit by gunfire near Dolev settlement in the Binyamin region.

An Israeli vehicle driving near the Dolev settlement, west of Ramallah, came under fire on Sunday night.

The driver escaped without physical injury.

The IDF initially reported that shots were fired at the vehicle as it passed Haparsa Junction. Forces are searching the area for the suspect.

Magen David Adom paramedics added that the motorist suffered from shock after having fled the scene and arrived at the entrance to Dolev. The driver, in his 50, did not require medical care for wounds.            (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu fails to quell all coalition rebellion threats over Hebron homes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to quell all rebellion threats from Bayit Yehudi politicians who pledged to vote against the coalition on Monday to protest the forced eviction of Jewish families Friday from two homes in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich said he would continue to boycott Knesset votes, which could prevent the government from passing key legislation.

The first test could be a bill that would put restrictions on non-profit organizations that receive most of their funding from foreign governments – ironically legislation that was sponsored by Smotrich himself.

Netanyahu said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting that the Hebron Jewish families would be allowed back into the two buildings, once the purchases are confirmed.

“The government supports settlements at all times, especially during these days when they are under terrorist attack and are standing steadfast and with courage against the terrorism,” he said.

Smotrich said, “I welcome Netanyahu’s decision to enable the residents of the home to return, but I won’t vote with coalition until they are back in the home that they legally purchased.”

Coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi said Smotrich’s threats would not lead to changing the agenda of the Knesset at all on Monday.

“Such threats to the coalition are unacceptable, especially in a narrow government,” Hanegbi said. “Threatening to topple the coalition cannot be accepted within the rules of the game. MKs who harm the coalition will be punished, as happened in the past, but I don’t want to act like I run a kindergarten.”

Itzik Ashkenazi, political adviser to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, tweeted that Netanyahu should replace Bayit Yehudi in the coalition with Labor. But Labor head Isaac Herzog said that was not a possibility.

At the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu promised to update ministers on the progress toward authorization of the two Hebron homes.

He also held a meeting of the coalition heads to calm down the voices within his own party and those of the Bayit Yehudi that had threatened to withhold necessary votes on legislative matters until such authorizations were issued.

It was agreed that better lines of communication on land issues in Judea and Samaria would be opened between Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and two members of the Bayit Yehudi party, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and Deputy Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

A spokesman for Ariel said he believed that what happened in that meeting was an agreement to finally advance a settlement committee to deal with land issues, such as had been agreed upon in the coalition agreement between Bayit Yehudi and the Likud last spring.

The committee was supposed to examine ways to reform land authorizations in Judea and Samaria on the basis of the Levy report, which had examined legal options for doing so, including the creation of a civilian land court.

Aids to Ya’alon and sources close to Netanyahu said no promises had been made with regard to any committee.

Right-wing politicians had threatened to rebel against their own coalition after Ya’alon on Friday forcibly evicted some 20 Jewish families and dozens of activists from the two adjacent structures located near the Cave of the Patriarchs.

The Hebron families said they had purchased the property from its Palestinian landowners and had the paperwork to prove it, but Ya’alon’s said they lacked authorization from the diplomatic and security echelons. In addition, Ya’alon need to authenticate the sale, a move that could happen only after the document were examined.

Shlomo Levinger said that Ya’alon had the power to sign now and then examine the document. But aides to Ya’alon dismissed that claim and said the legal approval could only follow an investigation.

Netanyahu told the cabinet, “We are a nation of laws and must respect the law.”

Netanyahu said that the moment the purchases are confirmed, the families will be allowed back into the homes, “as we have done in similar cases in the past.”

The process of checking the legality of the purchases has begun, he said, “and we will do it as quickly as possible. If it is not completed in a week, I will make sure that a short interim report will be presented to the cabinet.”

Ya’alon faced criticism in a Likud ministerial meeting Sunday from Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who said he was being tougher on Jewish settlers than Arab building code violators, and from Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who recalled that Ya’alon protested similar polices when they were carried out by then-defense minister Ehud Barak.

“I have no common language with MKs who say to violate the law,” Ya’alon said. “We cannot have anarchy.”

Ariel responded that he can have common language with everyone and that the coalition deal requires the formation of a ministerial committee on settlements so decisions will not be made by just one minister.               (Jerusalem Post)

Abbas: Any who relinquish Jerusalem as Palestinian capital is a ‘traitor’

Anyone who gives up Jerusalem is a traitor and there will be no Palestinian state without the city as its capital, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said.

He also reiterated his opposition to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

Abbas was speaking during a meeting with Palestinian journalists in his office on Saturday night. It came 48 hours after he held a similar meeting with a group of Israeli journalists.

He said the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders was “inevitable,” adding that the Palestinians would remain steadfast on their lands despite the challenges.

The Palestinian Authority leader said Palestinian diplomatic efforts were continuing to convene an international peace conference. He said the Arab countries supported the efforts.

He said the Palestinian leadership would go to the UN Security Council in a bid to halt construction in the settlements.

Abbas noted that the move would be coordinated with Arab foreign ministers.

“We won’t agree to continue implementing the signed agreements with Israel if it continues to ignore these agreements,” he said. “Also, we won’t accept any temporary agreements that do not comply with our legitimate rights.”

Abbas said he remains committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 liners with east Jerusalem as its capital. “Anyone who accepts a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital is a traitor,” he added.

The 80-year-old reiterated his readiness to resume peace talks with Israel once there is a cessation of settlement construction and more Palestinian prisoners are released from Israeli prisons. “We don’t want negotiations for the sake of negotiations,” he said. Abbas cautioned once again against turning the conflict into a religious one.

“Despite what Israel is doing, we continue to extend our hand for making peace,” Abbas told the journalists. “We reject any and all forms of extremism.”

Abbas voiced support for the “peaceful, popular uprising,” which, he stressed, should remain peaceful “to prevent the occupation from cold-bloodedly killing our children.”

Abbas defended security coordination between Israel and the PA security forces. He said the Palestinian security forces’ mission was to maintain security. Anyone who acts against security would be arrested, he said.

“The security forces want to protect the Palestinians,” the PA president said. “These forces are operating on my orders and I won’t allow anyone to drag me to a battle that I don’t want.”     (Jerusalem Post)

Lapid: US helped Iran fund its next war against Israel

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid endorsed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position on the danger of implementing the Iranian nuclear deal Monday at a briefing to the foreign press in the capital organized by the Jerusalem Press Club.

Although he called for “rebuilding relations with the US,” Lapid did not hold back criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration’s decision to support rescinding sanctions on Iran, which will allow huge sums of money to flow to the regime.

“Secretary of State [John] Kerry said himself last week that some of the sanctions relief will go to funding terrorism,” Lapid told reporters. “For us, this is not theoretical. This money will translate itself to rockets aimed at our children. The next conflict in the North or South of Israel is just a matter of time.”

Lapid said there were currently around 1,000 people digging terrorist tunnels in the Gaza Strip, some of them under the border and into Israel.

“The provocations, the breaches of international law, the preparations – are already happening every day by Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, both with Iranian backing,” Lapid said. “When the next round of fighting breaks out, the analysis and the reporting shouldn’t start with the first Israeli strike, but with what’s happening on the ground right now.”

Lapid said he backs separation from the Palestinians and supports the creation of a Palestinian state through an agreement and not unilateral steps. Scolding the international community, he said “international pressure will not move us towards such agreement.”

Reiterating his intention to run for prime minister, Lapid said he expected the next election to be between him and Netanyahu. In recent weeks, Lapid has tried to distance himself from the Left and to define the Israeli Center.

In an interview with the right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon over the weekend, Lapid said it was clear the Left would not be in power for the next 30 years.

“I come from a home with the legacy of the nationalist camp,” he said, noting that his father, former minister Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, was a follower of former prime minister Menachem Begin. “I am enthusiastically in favor of annexing the Golan. My principle says maximum Jews on maximum land with maximum security and with minimum Palestinians.”

In the interview, Lapid apologized for calling Netanyahu “disconnected” during the last election campaign.

“I sinned in my personal discourse,” he said. “I sinned and erred with all those personal attacks. That is not what we need. We need to unite and be less divisive, and I’ll start that change with me, not by blaming but by taking responsibility.”

He also said he regretted telling Shas leader Arye Deri that he needed to be rehabilitated and promised to speak differently to the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) from now on.

“I believe it is necessary to change the tones,” he said. “I don’t need to attack the prime minister in order to become prime minister or the haredim in order to tell them that I think it is in their best interests for their children to learn math and English.”

In an effort to reach out to English-speaking voters, Lapid addressed them over the weekend on the Yesh Atid Facebook page. He congratulated the party’s English-speaking supporters for reaching 10,000 likes.

“We want you to know that Yesh Atid is your home inside this home of ours here in Israel,” he said. “We are welcoming you and hugging you and we want to draft you in order improve this place we love so much.”    (Jerusalem Post)

Poll: Israeli Arabs could support government more if treated better

A slight majority of Arab Israelis said they would participate in national service if they felt the services they received were comparable to those received by poor Israeli Jews, a new Statnet research institute poll found.

The poll was commissioned by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) and included a representative sample of 500 low-income Israeli Arabs. The survey had a margin of error of five percent.

“The survey shows Israel should be caring more for its Arab citizens and investing in them the same way it does with its most vulnerable Jewish citizens, not only for moral reasons but also to counter the threat of political extremism and to promote patriotism. If we don’t invest in Israel’s Arab citizens, Islamic State will,” said the Fellowship’s founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

“We found a direct correlation between Israeli Arabs’ feelings of being treated equally to Jews and their sense of belonging to society and even their willingness to serve,” added Eckstein. “If we can change the numbers, we can avoid Israeli Arabs becoming a strategic threat.”

The survey found that 67% of low-income Israeli Arabs feel discriminated against and 71% feel that low-income Israeli Jews receive more state aid than they do.

Interestingly, 54% said the government and Arab MKs do not care about their interests.

Also, 47% of those who felt they were being treated equally to poor Israeli Jews feel strongly connected to Israel. Similarly, while only 38% of Israeli Arabs who feel they lack equal rights in Israel say they would perform national service, 58% of those who feel they are treated equally would do voluntary service.

Yousef Makladeh, CEO of Statnet.co.il said on Sunday that the poll “was very emotional for his workers and they had to stop some interviews in the middle because it was too hard to continue.”

For example, he said that one poor Arab handicapped man began to cry on the phone that he lacks money and lives on only 1,500 NIS from the government. An old lady, who has 10 children who do not support her, began crying in the interview and said she can hardly make it to the store. The Statnet interviewer tried to comfort her.

Makledeh said the results also found that more than 100,000 Arabs say they do not have the ability to buy medicine, clothing, or food.            (Jerusalem Post)

Birthright, Masa participants to get six month visas to stay in Israel after program ends

The goal of endearing the State of Israel to young Jews from the Diaspora just got a little bit easier, following the approval this week by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of new regulations allowing Birthright and Masa participants to work and stay in Israel for six months after their trip ends without having to prove their Jewish status.

When signing up to join Birthright trips and Masa programs, participants, in most cases, are not required to provide documentary evidence of their Jewish identity. Until now, if they wanted to extend their visas for a significantly longer period, as a sizeable number of participants do, the Interior Ministry would ask for documentary proof that they are indeed Jewish – such as a letter from a community rabbi, the marriage certificate of their parents or similar documents.

Many participants on such programs are not affiliated with a Jewish community and find it hard to prove their Jewish status and provide such documentation. This often caused undue difficulties for these visitors and exposed them to inconvenient bureaucracy at ministry branches in a process that was feared could make them feel as if the State of Israel was rejecting their Jewish identity, precisely following a tour that is designed to strengthen their affiliation.

In December, MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), who has been working on this issue for some time, proposed legislation to overcome the problem. A vote on his bill was postponed and the government promised to deal with the issue administratively instead.

This week, Deri approved the new regulations which automatically grant participants in “identity programs” like Birthright and Masa a six month residence and work visa without having to prove their eligibility for the right of return.

The ITIM religious services organization which has helped participants in such programs try to overcome their bureaucratic difficulties and which has lobbied for a change in the regulations welcomed the decisions. “We are gratified that the new Interior Minister took it upon himself to enable Jewish identity program participants to further their experience of Judaism and Zionism in Israel and we are pleased about the partnership we forged with MK Nachman Shai to make this happen,” said ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber.

“When ITIM was first approached by participants in these programs seeking to stay in Israel, we were shocked that the Ministry of Interior was blocking the way from young Jews to build upon their Jewish identity program experiences. “The “breathing room” that the new protocols provide will enable those students and young people who wish to stay in Israel and perhaps emigrate, to make their way through the Israeli bureaucracy without feeling threatened.”

“The situation until now was ridiculous,” said Shai.

“We want that these youth stay here, to be impressed by the State of Israel and hopefully decide to live here,” said Shai. “The change in the regulations means they will be able to stay and work without needing a visa and I’m happy that this has finally been achieved.                 (Jerusalem Post)

Report: 61% rise in London anti-Semitism; most French Jews considering emigrating

In preparation for International Holocaust Memorial Day, which takes place on Wednesday, January 27, Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett presented the government of Israel with a report detailing a 2015 overview of anti-Semitism in the world. According to the report, the past year saw a record number of Jews emigrating away from Western European countries. The BDS movement is gaining strength in Europe, and is promoting the boycott of Jewish events and representatives, not just of Israel.

According to the report, 57 percent of French Jews are considering a move to another country. Seventy-five percent of Jewish students in US colleges have experienced, or were witnesses to, anti-Semitism. 2015 saw a 61 percent rise in anti-Semitic crime in London, and the years 2014 and 2015 were record years for anti-Semitism in Britain.

According to the statistics over 40 percent of EU citizens hold anti-Semitic views of some sort. They agree with the idea that Israel is conducting a war of annihalation on the Palestinians, or the idea that Israel is behaving like the Nazis did. EU leadership and its member states have reportedly been ignoring this for over a decade.

Eastern Europe hasn’t fared much better. Jews in Russia and Ukraine are presented as being of dubious loyalty by the media, and authorities are not making efforts to fights anti-Semitism. The memorial site at Babi Yar in Kiev has been desecrated six times during the past year, with no real response from authorities.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response that “this is a very important and meaningful report. Anti-Semitism still exists and is becoming more and more vicious. I call on the international community to act in opposition to anti-Semitism and harshly condemn any anti-Semitic act.

“It’s unacceptable that 70 years after the Holocaust we still see anti-Semitism in full swing. With past events in mind, we need to assure that this disaster will not be repeated, and that is precisely the responsibility of the European Union and UN, who are staying silent in the face of these worrisome statistics.” The prime minister instructed everyone involved to strengthen Israel’s PR and education in opposition of anti-Semitism.                 (Ynet News)

22,000 illegal African migrants repatriated from Israel in recent years

Israel has repatriated some 22,000 illegal African migrants over the last number of years, the cabinet was told Sunday during a discussion on updating the migrant bill.

Israel has been working to repatriate migrants to either their home countries, or third countries, for years, and this is the first time that a firm number has been given.  Government officials consistently refuse to say which third parties have agreed to accept the repatriated migrants, though various news reports have mentioned Uganda and Rwanda.

Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo was in Israel last week, her second visit to the country in two years.  Senior officials have said that the ties with Rwanda are now the closest ties Israel has with any African country.  In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

At the cabinet meet Netanyahu praised former interior minister Silvan Shalom for the work he did on the repatriation issue.  Shalom stepped down last month amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Netanyahu said that Shalom deserved praise for work he did on the migrant issue, saying that he “moved it forward a great deal and did good and important work.”

The government on Sunday amended the “anti-infiltration law” to reflected the High Court of Justice ruling from last year that migrants could only be held at the Holot detention facility for 12 months, and not 20 months as originally allowed for under the law.

Israel reportedly is paying $3,500 to migrants willing to voluntarily leave the country.

As of last March the number of illegal African migrants in the country was listed by the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority at some 42,000, though the actual number is believed to be considerably higher.  Most of them are from Eritrea and Sudan.            (Jerusalem Post)

Snow Falls in Jerusalem as Cold Snap Continues for Second Day

The stormy weather continued on Monday across Israel, with snow falling in Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and Mount Hermon.

Route 443 was shut down Monday evening, as snow piles up on the key Jerusalem-area road.

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On Mount Hermon, some 50 centimeters of snow have accumulated at the lower station of the ski slope cable car. The site was, however, still closed to visitors. Plows were working to clear the routes in the Golan Heights. In the villages of Majdal Shams, Buq’ata and Masadeh only all-terrain vehicles could navigate the snow-blocked roads.

School activities in the Golan and the upper Galilee were operating as usual. School day in the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council (near Jerusalem) and Gush Etzion in the West Bank, as well as in Kiryat Arab, will end earlier at 1 P.M. In Majdal, schools were closed due to the celebration of Prophet al-Khader’s Day.

Highway 90 was closed down in the Dead Sea area due to flooding.

The storm is expected to subside later on Monday, but the temperature will remain low in the coming days, with rain falling mainly in the center and south. Snow will continue to pile up on the northern mountains and around Jerusalem.

The maximum temperature in Jerusalem on Monday was 3 degrees Celsius, 11 in Tel Aviv and Haifa, 5 in Katzrin, 3 in Sefad, 9 in Be’er Sheva and 6 degrees in Mitzpe Ramon.

The Jerusalem municipality has been preparing in recent days for snowfall. The Jerusalem Police said they were working with the municipality, the rescue service, the Israel Electric Corporation and the army, and would beef up its forces in the capital if necessary. Drivers who get stuck in snow are instructed by police to call 100 and wait near their cars.

Citipass, the company that operates Jerusalem’s light rail, called on drivers not to abandon their cars on the rail tracks, as has happened in the past. The company said the rail was operable in accumulations of up to five centimeters of snow, but that service would stop if the snow was heavier than that.        (Ha’aretz)

Land for peace in the Middle East?

by  Yoram Ettinger,          Israel Hayom/ The Ettinger Report

http://bit.ly/23iVVaI

US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro believes in “Land for Peace” and echoes the US Administration pressure on Israel to retreat to the pre-1967 ceasefire lines: an 8-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean, towered over by the mountain ridges of Judea & Samaria. Thus, the US Administration – unlike the US public and Congress – ignores the centrality of Judea & Samaria in Jewish history, religion, culture and nationalism, and provides another victory to wishful-thinking over the 1,400-year-old reality of inherent Mideast/Arab violence, unpredictability, tyranny, doublespeak and hate-education.

If Israel would have caved under US pressure to retreat from the Golan Heights – a site of Jewish battles against the Roman Empire – ISIS and other terrorists would be there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, traumatizing northern Israel and beyond.

Israel’s former, dovish, Foreign Minister, Abba Eban stated (Der Spiegel, Nov. 5, 1969): “The map will never be the same as on June 4, 1967… [which is] for us something of a memory of Auschwitz….”

Mideast peace agreements are as durable as are Arab regimes, policies and accords, which have been – since the 7th century – the globe’s most shifty, intolerant, violent, volatile and treacherous, as currently reflected by the Arab Tsunami (gullibly known as the Arab Spring). The latter yielded abrupt power and ideological shifts in Egypt and Tunisia, transformed Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen into chaotic terror platforms, and lethally threatens all moderate Arab regimes. A regime change in Jordan would transform Israel’s most peaceful – to the most threatening – border.

Pressuring Israel to accept “Land for Peace” assumes that an Israeli withdrawal from Judea & Samaria would convince Arabs to accord the “infidel” Jew that which Muslim “believers” have denied one another for 1,400 years: peaceful coexistence and systematic compliance with agreements.

“Land for Peace” urges Israel to concede land in return for peace, while not allowing Israel to retrieve land after if/when peace is violated in the violent, non-compliant Mideast.

“Land for Peace” enhances security when the parties display long term adherence to agreements, which is a Mideast rarity. However, it undermines the security of the land-conceding party, once agreements are violated. For example, the 1993 (Oslo Accord) and 2005 (uprooting all Jews from Gaza) “Land for Peace” agreements were summarily violated, intensifying terrorism dramatically.

“Land for Peace” would usher the Arab Tsunami into Judea & Samaria, which towers over 80% of Israel’s population and infrastructure, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s only international airport. It also overlooks the Jordan Valley, Israel’s longest border.

The width of pre-1967 Israel (8-15 miles) is equal to the length of DFW Airport in Texas, the distance between JFK and La Guardia Airports, Wall Street and Columbia University, the Kennedy Center and RFK Stadium, less than the distance between downtown London and Heathrow Airport. The area of Israel (0.2% of the Arab World) is smaller than the gunnery range at Nellis Air Force Base, NV. While pressuring Israel to retreat to an 8-15 mile “straight jacket”, the US declared a 15 mile radius area in Bosnia, as a “killing zone,” in order to ensure the safety of its soldiers.

Israel’s vulnerable dimensions, in the endemically unstable, unreliable, violent Mideast, provide Israel with a minimal margin of error, requiring a uniquely high threshold of security in the face of reality-driven worst case scenarios.

Former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the late General Earl Wheeler told President Lyndon Johnson: “The minimum requirements for Israel’s defense include most of the West Bank, the whole of Gaza and the Golan Heights.”   100 retired US Generals and Admirals cautioned Israel against withdrawing from Judea & Samaria, stating that is would be impossible to demilitarize the area effectively. The late Admiral Bud Nance :” The eastern mountain ridge of the West Bank is one of the world’s best tank barriers…. The western mountain ridge constitutes a dream platform of invasion to Israel’s narrow [8-15 miles] coastal plain. Control of the West Bank provides Israel the time [50 hours] to mobilize reservists [75% of Israel’s military], which are critical to Israel’s survival during a surprise Arab attack.” Most reservists reside in the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv-Haifa area, which is dominated by the Judea & Samaria mountain ridge.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, ground barriers are critical in the era of sophisticated missiles. According to the US Army Institute of Land Warfare: “Land force [is] the cornerstone of deterrence…. Ground units can both destroy and occupy…. During the Afghan campaign of 2002, precision air strikes were critical, but they neither annihilated opposition nor finished the enemy….” General (ret.) Al Gray, former Commandant, US Marine Corps: “Military success requires more than a few hundred missiles. To defeat Israel would require the Arabs to deploy armor, infantry and artillery into Israel and destroy the IDF on the ground.”

In 1973, the Sinai, the Golan and Judea & Samaria were the cushion, which enabled Israel to overcome technological, intelligence and operational fallibility, sparing Israel from oblivion.  Military high tech today will be low tech tomorrow, but high ground always remains high ground.  Moreover, any technology can be jammed, but one cannot jam the mountainous topography of Judea & Samaria.

Should the Sinai concession to Egypt apply to Judea & Samaria? The Sinai borders the Negev, which is topographically similar to the Sinai, sparsely populated, a platform for much of Israel’s military.  In contrast, Judea & Samaria borders topographically inferior, densely populated and most vulnerable coastal plain.  50 hours are required to violate Sinai’s demilitarization (22,000 sq mi), only 10 hours in Judea & Samaria (2,200 sq mi). The Sinai concession was a calculated risk; a Judea & Samaria concession would be a lethal gamble. The geographic depth of Judea & Samaria, the Golan Heights and the Sinai enabled Israel to survive the 1973 surprise Arab offensive.

“Land for Peace” is actually “Land for Appease,” rewarding serial Arab aggressors and punishing the intended Israeli victim. It fuels belligerence, undermines stability and the pursuit of peace, demolishing Israel’s posture of deterrence, which is an irreplaceable life insurance policy in the most violent region in the world, which has never tolerated “infidel” entities, especially those which succumb to pressure.

Critics are now bashing Israel’s pro-democracy efforts

by   Anat Berko                               The New York Post

http://nypost.com/2016/01/24/critics-are-now-bashing-israels-pro-democracy-efforts/

If you believe Israel’s relentless critics in the media and now in the State Department, Israeli democracy is on death’s door.

The irony is, this accusation comes in response to Israel’s efforts to actually preserve and strengthen democracy from the forces that seek to weaken it.

The fuss is about Israel’s proposed law requiring transparency from political organizations in our country funded by foreign governments.

My country can’t ignore the protests, especially since US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has publicly joined them, after voicing his objections to Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s justice minister and the force behind this proposal. Shaked has also been defending the policy to European governments, which provide the lion’s share of funds to these groups.

Shapiro thinks this law would erode democracy in Israel. He’s not alone in this hyperbole: Major American newspapers have published editorials on it, even making the absurd comparison between Israel and Putin’s Russia.

So let’s set the record straight, for Ambassador Shapiro and the American public. Here are the facts about the proposed law:

It doesn’t prohibit any activity whatsoever. Even entities funded entirely by foreign governments will still be free to do and say whatever they want in Israel.

But — and this is crucial — the groups that claim to be nongovernmental but are actually instruments of foreign governments will be acknowledged as such.

The bill does one thing and one thing only: When more than half of an entity’s funding comes from foreign governments, it must disclose that fact and the amount of funding from those governments. That’s it.

It’s similar to several statutes in the United States. Both the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and more recent laws adopted by Congress impose special disclosure requirements on individuals and organizations funded by foreign governments. There’s a simple reason for such requirements. Without them, organizations held out as NGOs — that is supposed to mean nongovernmental organizations — operate as stealth diplomats funded by foreign governments without saying so.

This lets them do what diplomats do — press other countries for actions and policies they favor — without any of the consequences, trade-offs and publicity that proper diplomacy entails. In the intelligence world, entities that do these things are called “agents of influence.” Every country tries to identify such groups.

That’s the purpose of the extensive US regulation for such entities, starting with FARA enacted back in 1938, and continuing with an array of other laws and regulations put in place since then.

About $66 million flows into these groups from European governments. The European Union itself, Norway and Germany are the largest such donors.

Additionally, Israel’s proposed law is, in fact, milder than existing US law in important ways:

In the United States, these are criminal statutes — punishable by up to five years in jail. Israel’s law has no criminal component.

US law determines who are “agents” of foreign “principals” using a complicated and vague legal test that leaves room for uncertainty, further threatening to chill political speech. Israel’s test is simple: If a majority of an entity’s money comes from foreign governments, they’re covered. If not, they’re not.

American law imposes quite burdensome record-keeping requirements, including the duty to record every single person an agent meets with professionally. Israel’s record-keeping duties will be far lighter.

Strikingly, many of the entities covered by the Israeli law are required to agree to EU-enforced political positions to be eligible for EU funding. This means the European Union is directly controlling the political positions taken by organizations working to influence the Israeli political process.

American protest about Israel’s proposed rules is particularly odd given that it comes just as Congress is implementing virtually identical disclosure rules for people testifying before it.

Of course, the protests about this law aren’t coming from Congress. They’re coming from the Obama administration, which just so happens to agree politically with all of the European-funded groups that are trying to push Israel’s policies in a particular direction. No wonder the European Union and President Obama are unhappy about transparency.

Adding to the hypocrisy: The European Union has recently decided to label Israeli products that come from Judea and Samaria so consumers can make informed decisions about the political implications of the origin of those products.

If such disclosure is important for choosing products in the grocery store, it’s hard to see why it wouldn’t be much more important for those trying to influence another country’s political process.

Dr. Anat Berko is a member of the Israeli Knesset and a Lt. Col. (Res.) in the Israel Defense Forces.

Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market

Traveling exhibition – open a virtual door to Israel