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Latest News in Israel – 27th July

Netanyahu: Claim we were unprepared for Gaza tunnels is ‘opposite of the truth’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back on Monday against claims that his government was unprepared for the threat of cross-border tunnel raids from Gaza in the lead-up to the 2014 war, saying that they are “the opposite of the truth.”

In a defense of his handling of the tunnel threat – subject to a new State Comptroller’s Report slated to be released in the coming months – Netanyahu said that his cabinet held discussions on the issue as early as January 2013.

According to a leaked version of the report that appeared in May, Netanyahu, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and ex-IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz faced criticism over the cabinet’s alleged lack of preparations on the tunnels.

Netanyahu’s comments came amid claims by senior government ministers – including Education Minister Naftali Bennett – that the security cabinet did not learn of the tunnel threat before Operation Protective Edge two years ago. Bennett has claimed that during the two years prior to the war, the security cabinet was informed only once about the tunnel threat.

But, Netanyahu did in fact convene eight cabinet meetings, between January 2013 and the eve of Operation Protective Edge, to specifically address and tackle the issue of tunnels.

The first of the series of meetings, held on January 6, 2013, saw the prime minister call for a solution to the tunnels, and a second meeting held in October of the same year included calls by Netanyahu for the defense establishment to develop tunnel detection techniques.

On November 11, 2013, Netanyahu held a cabinet meeting in which he asked that solutions then available against tunnels be improved significantly, and on February 9, 2014, he held a lengthy cabinet meeting on developing technological counter-tunnel means. Additional meetings were held right up until June 30, 2014, shortly before the start of the conflict.

During the meetings, Netanyahu issued warnings about the threat of Hamas murder squads intruding into Israeli communities. The cabinet meetings were attended by IDF representatives, the Shin Bet, and the National Security Council.

A section of an early draft of the report being prepared by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira leaked to the media in May, containing scathing criticisms of how the cabinet was allegedly kept in the dark over the tunnel threat.

The leak prompted attacks on the report by anonymous sources, leading comptroller spokesman Shlomo Raz to call into question the objectivity of those attacking the report, since they emanated mostly from political officials whom the report criticized.

Second, he said that all criticisms in the report of war policy- making are based on unimpeachable and objective data and documentary evidence, and he invited the report’s attackers to try to rebut its arguments instead of making mere ad hominem attacks.

Third, he said the attorney- general should investigate who illegally leaked the report and what their motivations were, saying it had not been leaked from his office.    (Jerusalem Post)

PM claims that he will let go of some portfolios

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—who also serves as the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of communications, minister of regional cooperation, and minister of the economy—said on Monday, “Soon, I will unburden myself of a few portfolios, so that will facilitate further concentration on tasks that I consider important.”

The prime minister was speaking at a debate in the Knesset’s State Control Committee on the report on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) public-relations network. He was answering a question posed to him by the committee’s chairperson, MK Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid), who wondered if Netanyahu’s holding the MFA portfolio was at the cost of something else.

During the debate, the prime minister repeatedly attacked State Comptroller Avichai Mandelblit, stating that he did not accept Mandelblit’s findings as released in his report. He drew parallels between the report on the Carmel fires and the report being debated in the committee.

“I read the state comptroller’s report on the fire in the Carmel, and it was lacking two words: firefighting planes. Since then, there have been more than 500 fires. All of them were put out,” said Netanyahu, who later added, “Certain things were concluded in the Carmel report that I do not accept… I’m allowed to disagree with the state comptroller.”

Regarding the state’s public relations, Netanyahu said that the IDF Spokesperson Unit, the MFA, and the National Information Directorate (within the Prime Minister’s Office) are an “iron triangle,” but Elharrar didn’t let up and presented to the prime minister an allegation from the state comptroller’s report that there is no coordination between those agencies.

“I don’t accept that,” responded Netanyahu. “I personally saw the coordination during (Operation) Protective Edge… To the contrary. The public relations system worked wonderfully. It worked exceptionally, coordinated to the hour.”

The prime minister was asked to what extent he coordinated with Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan (Likud), Minister of Education Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), and Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) on Israeli public relations in the world. Netanyahu replied that cabinet meetings were dedicated to the topic: “There have been meetings with Minister Erdan and with additional ministers, and there was a meeting that touched on the entirety of the program that we’re running, and the subject also comes up regularly in cabinet meetings. Not a cabinet meeting goes by that we don’t talk about this.”                     (Ynet News)

Germany donating millions to BDS groups

A new report revealed Sunday that despite statements to the contrary, the German government has been donating millions of euros to groups promoting boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.

NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that promoted greater transparency among foreign-funded Israeli nongovernmental organizations, has found that between 2012 and 2015, Germany funneled at least 4 million euros ($4.4 million) to some 15 Israeli organizations , and 42% of donations went to groups supporting an international boycott against Israel and policies negating Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.

The report has found that the German Economic Cooperation and Development Ministry operates a Civil Peace Service (Ziviler Friedensdienst) project in Israel, but in fact, on the ground the project is headed by a different German group, KURVE Wustrow, which has partnered with two local organizations — the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace and the Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

NGO Monitor argues that the Coalition of Women for Peace actively supports the BDS movement, including heading a project titled “who profits from the occupation,” a database of potential boycott “targets.”

The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee promotes violent riots across Judea and Samaria, and its Twitter account often features posts encouraging violence, the report said.

“Organizations promoting a clear political agenda are given generous grants, to the tune of millions of euros from the German government, only to forward them to local partners. Our research indicates that despite this wide network of organizations, there is little transparency,” NGO Monitor President Professor Gerald Steinberg explained.

The German Embassy in Israel said that “Germany remains committed to the two-state solution and devising sustainable peace in the Middle East. The German government opposes any boycott of Israel, including BDS activities, as such action undermines the peace process. The German government’s funding policy seeks to support selected projects via earmarked funds. Germany will continue to invest in projects and initiatives that can promote and increase awareness to the two-state solution.”                             (Israel Hayom)

Liberman hopes to make West Bank checkpoints more ‘secure and humane’

Checkpoints in the West Bank are chaotic and must be improved, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday.

Liberman spoke during Questions Hour, in which MKs may ask him anything without informing him in advance.

MK Abdel-Hakim Haj Yahya (Joint List) asked defense minister about conditions at checkpoints, where Palestinians often complain they have to wait for hours to enter Israel. Israelis also often get stuck in traffic jams at highway checkpoints.

Liberman responded that there are not enough stations or manpower at the checkpoints.

“What’s happening at checkpoints is unreasonable, and there is no doubt it harms our security,” he stated.

The defense minister explained that the Airports Authority, Defense Ministry and Public Security Ministry all deal with checkpoints, creating a “complicated chaos.”

Liberman expressed hope that the matter will be taken care of in next year’s budget, “to improve things from every perspective – security and humanitarian.”

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) asked Liberman about the government’s recent agreement with Turkey, and the defense minister said the most important issue is how it impacts on bilateral ties with Egypt.

Egypt, he said, “is our most important and serious ally in the Middle East and among Arab states.

“I personally invested a lot of effort in building relations built on trust and cooperation,” Liberman added.

As for Turkey sending ships to Gaza, Liberman said as long as it’s humanitarian aid and Israel can supervise what enters Gaza, he has no problem with Turkish supplies being sent via Ashdod to the coastal strip.                                  (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian FM asks Arab League to help sue UK over Balfour Declaration

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki urged the Arab League to help the Palestinian Authority to sue the United Kingdom over the Balfour Declaration of 1917 on Monday.

Speaking on behalf of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, al-Maliki delivered a speech Thursday at the Arab League’s annual summit, which is being held this year in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott.

Al-Maliki apologized on behalf of Abbas, who couldn’t attend the summit due to his brother’s recent death, before urging Arab countries to “help us bring a suit against the British government over the ominous Balfour Declaration which resulted in the Nakba (catastrophe) for the Palestinian people.”

Nearly a century ago, a letter sent from British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild, a British Jewish leader, declared British support for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

Palestinians have since viewed the declaration as paving the way for the creation of the State of Israel at the expense of the land’s original inhabitants.

The declaration was made before the British had wrested control of Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, and was not made public until several years after the World War I, in 1920.

By that time, Britain had been formally granted a mandate over Palestine by the League of Nations, and was struggling with its contradictory obligations of “rewarding” Arabs for their support during the war, while also fulfilling their pledge to create a Jewish state.

After World War II, British forces withdrew from Palestine, leaving it in the hands of the newly created United Nations, which favored partition, particularly as evidence slowly emerged of the vast scale of the Holocaust in Europe.

The decision led to the 1948 war between Arab nations, including Palestinians, and Jewish immigrants, ultimately resulting in the creation of the state of Israel and the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes inside its borders, an event known as the Nakba among Palestinians.

In February, the Palestine Liberation Organization said in a statement that Great Britain bore “the primary responsibility” for “historical injustice in Palestine.”      (Maan News)

IDF razes 15 illegal Arab homes in east Jerusalem and West Bank

Four illegally constructed Arab homes were razed on Tuesday by the IDF in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya, and 11 in the nearby village of Kalandiya in Area C of the West Bank.

The head of the Kalandiya Village Council, Muhammad al-Jouri, told Palestinian media that clashes erupted with soldiers, adding that stun grenades and tear gas canisters were utilized to disperse the rioting.

The four home demolitions in Isawiya were carried out without incident. It remains unclear whom the Jerusalem homes belonged to, or how many people were displaced.

The demolitions come amid heightened tensions in the capital, following more than 10 months of sporadic terrorist attacks that some have deemed a third intifada.

Since the beginning of 2016, the Jerusalem Municipality claims that 32 illegally built structures in east Jerusalem have been demolished, while 41 have been razed in the western portion of the capital.

Meanwhile, the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem contends that 72 Arab homes were demolished in east Jerusalem, while 113 non-residential structures were torn down by the government.

The vast majority of the demolitions have been carried out because they were built without building permits issued by the municipality, which Arab residents claim are nearly impossible to procure.

Peace Now spokesman Eyal Raz said the demolitions will only inflame an already precarious situation.

“We’re talking about neighborhoods already suffering from lack of basic services from the government and municipality, and to go to those areas and focus on home demolitions is [not wise policy],” Raz said by phone on Tuesday.

“We know that over the last 49 years, the government has provided 65,000 plans for homes for Jewish Israelis in east Jerusalem, and at the same about 700 units have been built for Palestinians. Of course, this is unjust.”

Emphasizing that most Arab neighborhoods already have compromised infrastructure, Raz said that demolishing homes “is the last thing the government should do at the moment.”

However, according to the Jerusalem Municipality, there have been more demolitions in the western than the eastern portion of the capital over the past three years, with the overall citywide percentage of demolitions decreasing in east Jerusalem since last year.

“Contrary to the claims raised, demolitions in the eastern part of the city as a percentage of citywide zoning enforcement have decreased compared to previous years,” the municipality said.

Moreover, on Tuesday the municipality denied Palestinian and leftwing claims that any preference is shown toward Jewish residents in obtaining building permits.

“The municipality does not discriminate based on race, religion, or gender,” it said in a statement.

“The only criteria by which building plans are approved are proof-of-ownership and compliance with the city’s master plan.”            (Jerusalem Post)

Israel, Cyprus to Boost Regional Cooperation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Jerusalem on Sunday where the two leaders discussed a wide array of regional concerns such as terrorism and energy interests.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, during their meeting Netanyahu and Anastasiades spoke about the need for regional stability, including countering extremism and terrorism. Additionally, the two leaders discussed emergency response cooperation and the utilization of the Aphrodite and Ishai offshore gas fields.

“Cyprus and Israel are two small democracies in the eastern Mediterranean. We also share common challenges, and also common opportunities: in security cooperation, in gas, in emergency cooperation, commerce, tourism — many, many fields,” Netanyahu said in a press conference following the meeting.

In his remarks, Anastasiades praised his strong working relationship with Netanyahu, saying he was “looking forward” to discussions in “how to enhance our bilateral relations in the fields of energy, security, economy and trade, to exchange views on the regional developments, to brief [Netanyahu] on the negotiations about the Cyprus problem, and of course to prepare for the next trilateral meeting later this year with our Greek colleague here in Jerusalem, in order to continue the work which we started in Nicosia last January.”                    (the Algemeiner)

Health Ministry working to stop children car deaths

The Knesset Special Committee for the Rights of the Child convened for an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss how to prevent parents and caregivers from forgetting children in a car.

In the past two months, five children have died after being forgotten in a car in the intense summer heat. Committee chairwoman MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu) opened the discussion by reading their names.

According to the NGO Beterem – Safe Kids Israel, since 2008 there have been 400 incidents involving 449 children in which parents or caregivers forgot or left their kids in a car. Of these, 23 were fatal.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) said at the opening of the discussion that his office would take responsibility to enlist the cooperation of the relevant ministries to find solutions to combat the phenomenon.

“The things that have happened have caused an awakening.

It is possible to prevent it, and we need to reach a solution,” Litzman said.

“The Health Ministry will coordinate the issue. Within a week we will hold an additional meeting. We will convene all the relevant ministries in the coming days,” he said.

Litzman called on all the relevant ministries to mobilize towards reaching a solution.

MKs Karin ElHarar and Uri Malkeb said that to date no ministry has taken responsibility for addressing the phenomenon despite the availability of numerous solutions – ranging from dozens of technical devices that alert parents when children are left in the car to proposed legislation.

The discussion focused on a proposal submitted by MK Shasha-Biton, which was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, that would require educators to call the parents of young children who do not arrive at their day care center or school within an hour after the program begins, and inquire as to their whereabouts.

The debate escalated when Lily Pokmonsky, head of the caregivers department at the Education Ministry, voiced her opposition to the bill, stating that it would place the onus of responsibility on the caregivers and lead to criminal liability.

“Once this becomes a law, it becomes a requirement. And the moment that she [teacher] does not do it, she will be charged criminally. You cannot harm 18,000 caregivers,” she said.

MK Shasha-Biton disputed that the bill would not constitute criminal liability or involve sanctions.

“How did a process of saving children turn into a scary propaganda that will put caregivers in jail? We did not aim for this. We are losing too many children, and we cannot remain apathetic,” she said.

“At no point did we talk about criminal liability or punishment, or taking away the responsibility from parents,” she said. “Because I know that educators work from the soul, I ask them to take part in the effort.”

Shasha-Biton said she would be willing to discuss additional options that were not legislation to enlist the support of the caregivers.

Head of Beterem Orly Silvinger described this year’s hot months as a “lethal summer.”

She called for a multi-tiered approach to preventing hot car deaths. “If one layer fails, there should be another to protect the children,” she said.

Silvinger added that one of the best tools at her organization’s disposal was to raise public awareness of the issue, and launch a campaign as soon as possible “unless we want to end the summer with more child deaths.”

Shasha-Biton concluded the discussion and said that in a week’s time all the relevant ministries would convene to finalize solutions to address the phenomenon.    (Jerusalem Post)

Knesset approves law to bar non-Orthodox from ritual baths

The Knesset on Monday passed into law a bill that permits regional religious authorities to turn away individuals from using the state-run ritual baths.

The bill was approved in its second and third readings in the plenum after a lengthy debate, with 41 lawmakers in favor and 35 opposed.

Proposed by United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, the legislation seeks to circumvent the Supreme Court’s February 12 ruling that Israel’s non-Orthodox Jewish communities may use state ritual baths for their conversion ceremonies.

“This is the first time that a mikveh, a place of purity, has become a place of exclusion,” said Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie on Monday. The lawmaker said the legislation sends a message to Diaspora Jewry that the State of Israel doesn’t “count you in. Not at the Western Wall, or in marriage, or in conversions, at the mikvehs too — you have no place in the State of Israel.”

“This law is not Jewish, not legal, not democratic,” she added.

Likud MK Yehuda Glick held a 30-second moment of silence in the plenum over the legislation, which he said was “divisive.”

The Jewish Agency, which has agreed to build up to four ritual baths for use by Israel’s Conservative and Reform communities as part of a compromise, decried the Knesset decision.

“This bill, which offers no solution to the non-Orthodox denominations, circumvents the rulings of the High Court of Justice. It is unfortunate that the bill passed before such a solution was ensured,” Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said in a statement.

Glick said a Jewish Agency representative “told me that they don’t plan to build a single mikveh.” But a spokesman for the agency said “we will be prepared to play our part in any compromise reached by the parties, assuming the budgetary question is resolved.”

Gafni himself rejected the criticism of the new law, saying Monday: “Reform Jews in the US don’t have a single mikveh. All of a sudden they need a mikveh here? This law aims to prevent the Reforms from getting this legitimization through the back door.”

Earlier this month, coalition members were insistent on removing a clause in the original bill which would have also forced all women using the ritual baths to do so according to the standards of Orthodox Jewish law.

“It’s important to clarify that all reference to the methods of women’s immersion was removed [from the law] as we demanded from the start,” wrote Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria on Twitter.   (the Times of Israel)

Byzantine-era mosaic to be restored in Jewish Quarter’s Cardo section

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, several government agencies have joined forces to restore a Byzantine-era mosaic in the Cardo section of the Old City’s Jewish Quarter, and add nine new colorful mosaics.

The beautification project was recently initiated by the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter and the Tourism Ministry, with aid from Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, the Jerusalem Foundation, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Pini Refael, manager of the company’s education and tour guide department, Jerusalem’s Cardo dates back to the 6th century CE, and is depicted on the Madaba Map, part of a floor mosaic discovered in 1884 in a Byzantine church in Madaba, Jordan.

To mark the capital’s half-century milestone, Refael said it was decided to focus on the Jewish Quarter’s rich historic culture and art. Apart from the replica of the Madaba Map, he said the nine other mosaics will illustrate the stories of people who lived and worked there during Byzantine times.

“We’re talking about fruit and vegetable shops, pottery shops, and animal shops,” Refael said.

The additional mosaics, he noted, were painted by Israeli artist David Harel and built by Eilon Mosaics, a company based in Kibbutz Eilon, in the North.

The Cardo stretches north to south, from Damascus Gate to David Street.

The southern section continues from there along the length of the western side of the Jewish Quarter, where the mosaics will appear between Chabad Street and Hayehudim Street.

“The idea of the project, which came from the head of my company and the Tourism Ministry, is to celebrate the reunification by renewing the Jewish Quarter and providing visitors with a new experience there,” he said on Monday, following a press conference announcing the initiative.

Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter’s Madaba Map replica.

“The Madaba Map describes the holy places in the area of Israel for the Christians, from Lebanon down to Egypt. It’s one of the most important maps, which describes Israel from the second half of the 6th century, and takes us back to the Byzantine period, when the Holy Sepulchre and other significant churches were built for the Christians.”

The original map mosaic, he said, was made following excavations in the Jewish Quarter after the 1967 war. In the southern section of the Cardo, buildings from later periods were removed, revealing the Byzantine Cardo level.

Some of the columns have since been restored, and today the public can walk through the Cardo as residents of Jerusalem during the 6th century CE once did.

Noting its presently austere appearance, Refael said the new mosaics will add fresh life to the celebrated corridor.

“It’s very gray, cold, and boring now, so we decided to do something else by adding more colors,” he explained, adding that each mosaic will be approximately 4 meters high and 4m wide. The project began one month ago and Refael said it will take about a year to complete.         (the Jerusalem Post)

How can Israeli air defense systems counter the drone threat?

by  Eliezer Marom                   The Jerusalem post

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/How-can-Israeli-air-defense-systems-counter-the-drone-threat-462109

This week’s infiltration of a Syrian drone into Israeli airspace, and the failure to intercept it with Patriot missiles, seemingly exposed the limitations of Israel’s air defense systems against the threat of such a small and slow unmanned aerial vehicle that could potentially attack targets within the country.

The unmanned aerial vehicle threat is not new, but rather it has existed for many years, operated by various terrorist groups who seek to take advantage of the airspace to penetrate into Israel and carry out terrorist activities.

In 1987, a terrorist from Ahmed Jebreel’s group penetrated from Lebanon with an air glider, attacked a vehicle and tent encampment of the IDF’s Nahal Infantry Brigade and killed six soldiers. The air defense system was not designed to deal with a threat of this kind.

During the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah attempted to penetrate Israeli air space with Iranian-made Ababil drones, which were eventually shot down by Israel Air Force jets. Another Hezbollah drone was shot down in 2013 off the Haifa coast, where the terrorist organization was likely testing Israel’s air defenses. Hamas also has the ability to fly unmanned aerial vehicles into Israel and even tried during Operation Protective Edge to deploy a drone to Tel Aviv.

The penetration of UAVs into Israel is liable to be particularly lethal if the vehicle can carry explosives or weapons and attack targets in Israel while evading dense land defenses, air defenses and the missile defense system.

Recently a new aerial threat has emerged: multirotor drones, or quadcopters. They are cheap, easy to operate, and the largest models can carry a load, which could potentially be explosives. Such quadcopters greatly concern the civilian aerial authority, which fears the security implications, and they should also make Air Force officials lose sleep, mainly those in the Air Defense Command.

The aerial threat posed by drones and quadcopters is a great challenge for the Air Defense Command. Israel is well-prepared today for the threat of planes and ballistic missiles. These are clear and well-defined threats that have been prepared for with an effective identification system and an effective interception system, which includes air defense missiles and jets. Patriot missiles are not intended to deal with the threat of drones and quadcopters. They perform like fighter jets and air-to-air missiles.

Today there are Israeli-made systems for identifying and intercepting aerial threats that are able to act effectively against the drone and quadcopter threat. One of these is the Barak 8 system, which was developed by India and Israel, and is set to be used by the Israeli Navy in the future. It contains advanced identification and interception components which have been sold internationally for use as defense systems to be deployed on land.

First of all, as an immediate answer, the naval defense systems should be combined with the Air Defense Command, so that they operate under a singular, central command when needed. It should include the Barak 8 once it is operational. In the future, it’s deployment on land should be considered.

The threat of unmanned aerial vehicles has become serious. They are liable to penetrate the existent defense systems and require renewed preparations. The introduction of quadcopters, and their easy operation, adds a new and significant dimension to the threat. Israel’s air defense command must make the necessary adjustments in order to provide a better answer to this threat.

Abusing the term ‘fascism’ in relation to Israel

by Isi Leibler    The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Candidly-Speaking-Abusing-the-term-fascism-in-relation-to-Israel-462348

It is now a worldwide phenomenon that left-wingers and increasing numbers of liberals chant the mantra that Israel is led by extremists and becoming transformed into a full-fledged fascist state. Unfortunately, such unadulterated nonsense is expressed daily and is highlighted in Haaretz, illustrating the primitive measures even Jewish opponents of our government are willing to take in order to demonize the Jewish state.

Their defamation includes accusations of war crimes and deliberate killing of children, applying apartheid to the Arab Israeli minority, suppressing freedom of expression, maintaining an occupation and denying Palestinian statehood. In a nutshell – a fascist regime.

Joseph Goebbels demonstrated that if one constantly repeats a lie, people begin to accept the lie as truth.

My objective, without suggesting that we are perfect, is to briefly identify and rebut such lies and demonstrate that there is no country in the world that surpasses the level of democracy by which Israel is governed.

In addition, the extraordinary success of Israel’s democratic system is all the more impressive because it was achieved despite facing major obstacles.

From its inception, Israel has been surrounded by states committed to its destruction. These neighbor states are notorious for denying basic human rights to their own citizens and in most cases are Islamic dictatorships. Over the past five years, the region has reverted to the Dark Ages with hundreds of thousands being killed and millions displaced in intra-Arab conflicts. In this context, Israel represents an oasis of stability and peace.

Israel has been obliged to allot a greater proportion of its budget for defense than any other nation.

It is situated on the global front lines combating terrorism and must be in permanent readiness to face wars from its fanatical adversaries who remain committed to terminating Jewish sovereignty.

Israel is a young country that was created as a haven for Jews living under oppression or discrimination.

The bulk of its founding population were survivors of the Holocaust, Jews escaping persecution from Arab countries, Russian Jews and others fleeing oppression. They range from sophisticated Russian scientists to Ethiopian farmers. Yet this motley amalgam of Jews from all corners of the world became integrated into an extraordinary nation and nurtured an exemplary democratic state.

The current government is accused of being fascist and blamed for the failed peace process. The fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered concessions far beyond the red lines prime minister Yitzhak Rabin vowed he would never cross, and has offered to negotiate without preconditions, has been repeatedly ignored.

The majority of Europeans believe that Israel is a fascist state carrying out ghoulish genocidal policies against the Palestinians and even make obscene analogies between Israel’s self-defense and Nazi behavior. That is a true extension of medieval blood libels.

The accusations of racism and apartheid are bizarre. There are social and economic gaps between Jews and Arabs that require improvement. But Israeli Arabs enjoy freedom of expression, elect their own Knesset members and Arab judges even preside in the Supreme Court. Indeed, visiting an Israeli hospital, shopping mall or park provides a case study in integration.

Another ludicrous lie is that fascist forces are rapidly destroying freedom of expression. Much of this emanates from delusional far-left elements and is highlighted in Haaretz, which is probably the most effective source of anti-Israeli propaganda for our global adversaries. When the culture minister said she would no longer provide public funds for “cultural” activities that principally vilify Israel, she was accused of fascism. When the education minister refused to include in the school curriculum a controversial novel containing praise for Hamas that would offend many Israelis that too was labeled fascism. The education minister was also accused of fascism for denying entry into schools to Breaking the Silence, an organization that promotes global campaigns besmirching the IDF with anonymous accusations of war crimes.

The Supreme Court generates both pride and anger. Pride because it is a powerful instrument challenging abuse but also anger because it is undoubtedly the most interventionist High Court in any democracy. It is frequently accused of excessively blocking legislative processes. It would certainly not qualify for inclusion in a fascist state.

There is unbridled freedom of expression. When institutions such as universities, funded by taxpayers and Zionist philanthropists, are used as platforms to undermine the legitimacy of the state, many sober Israelis have called for tougher legislation related to subversion and treason. Could one visualize any other government under siege that would tolerate outbursts such as those of MK Haneen Zoabi identifying with those seeking Israel’s destruction? Imagine how Winston Churchill would have reacted if a British politician publicly defended the Nazis. Yet Israel is accused of restricting freedom of expression.

It is alleged that Israel’s settlement policies breach international law and are thus also condemned as manifestations of fascist ideology. Yet aside from Jerusalem, these settlements consist of less than three percent of territories previously occupied by Jordan. Today, the only place in the civilized world where a Jew is considered a criminal for building or extending a home is in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem – which our adversaries insist must be Judenrein irrespective of what is ultimately determined in relation to the disputed territories. We are told that a Jew building a second bedroom in a legitimately purchased apartment in a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem is a war criminal and represents an obstacle to peace.

The latest objection relates to the recent legislation requiring transparency for funds directed toward Israeli nongovernmental organizations by foreign governments. These NGOs played a prominent role in disseminating lies about Israel, seeking to depict it as a fascist state, accusing it of war crimes, apartheid, genocide, and some even promoting the boycott movement. These so-called human rights organizations have provided huge sums of money and maintain a massive network to promote their agenda of demonization and delegitimization of Israel. It is unprecedented that purported friendly foreign governments pour huge sums into NGOs seeking to besmirch and overthrow our democratically elected government.

The government is responding by obliging any NGO receiving the bulk of its funds from foreign governments to provide disclosure. This represents a symbolic gesture and the howls of denying freedom of speech (which is not involved) and renewed accusations of fascism are hollow. The greatest chutzpah was the reaction of American and European lawmakers condemning Israel for such a move.

It would be inconceivable for any of these governments to stand by and fail to react if their neighbors were pouring in funds to local NGOs to demonize and vilify them.

To sum up, despite the overwhelming challenges, Israel remains one of the liveliest democracies in the world.

Little can be done to change the behavior of our enemies. The anti-Semitic Islamists, the delusional Left and conventional anti-Semites will continue to pursue, through the hostile media and the Internet, the perennial accusation that Jews – or today, the Jewish state – are the source of all evil.

What is disconcerting is that with US President Barack Obama’s encouragement, much of this propaganda is beginning to penetrate American liberal circles, including some people who were deeply supportive of Israel. This already includes the left wing of the Democratic Party, and there are ominous signals that bipartisanship in the US may not survive the onslaught.

It thus essential to constantly speak out and refute the lies and communicate with open-minded liberals, especially young people, to prevent them from being drawn into the left-wing anti-Israeli maelstrom where they can be brainwashed into believing the lies about Israelis becoming fascists.

That will not be achieved by remaining silent or obsessively maintaining a bipartisan relationship by accepting the lowest common denominator.

PM Netanyahu’s Video Message to the Arab Citizens of Israel