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Latest News in Israel – 28th January

‘You were born during a storm and were murdered preparing for snow’

Shlomit Krigman was born in the middle of a storm and murdered almost 24 years later, preparing for a snow that never fell, her mother, Na’ama, said as she stood by her daughter’s body in Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot cemetery on Tuesday.

The young woman was fatally stabbed by two Palestinian terrorists Monday evening, just one week short of her birthday, as she walked past the local grocery store in the Beit Horon settlement, northwest of Givat Ze’ev. She was on her way to buy a warm coat for the snowstorm that was forecast to hit the region. Doctors at Shaare Zedek Medical center fought for close to 12 hours to save Shlomit’s life.

“You entered the world on a snowy day and you left this world because you feared the oncoming storm. But the snow, as if it was shying away from us, never arrived,” said Na’ama.

“We are burying you in Jerusalem, as you requested, in one of our conversations about the situation. Your smile, your soul, your zest for life, will stay with us always. Rest in peace.”

The hundreds of mourners could not fit into the cemetery’s small stone sanctuary. They huddled in the plaza outside and spilled onto the concrete road. The sea of umbrellas they held up against the cold rain made for an impromptu awning as their tears mixed with the raindrops.

Shlomit’s grandmother Ilana, who lives in Beit Horon, recalled how just that morning she and her husband ate the most normal of breakfasts with their granddaughter.

“I waited for you to return to a hot bowl of soup that you so loved,” Ilana said. Shlomit had been living with her grandparents this past year, as she worked in a national service position nearby in Jerusalem. In addition, she volunteered as a counselor for the Bnei Akiva youth group in Beit Horon. Her parents’ house was in the Jordan Valley community of Shadmot Mehola where she had grown up, which was too far to commute.

“She filled every corner of the house,” her grandmother said. During their time together she spoke often of her parents and her boyfriend, Noam.

He had suggested that she get a coat, because she lacked a proper one.

“I told her what kind of coat to get, with such detail that as she stood in the doorway I added that I might as well have offered to sew it for her,” said Ilana as she broke into tears.

“It should be one with long sleeves and a hood, so you won’t be cold. It shouldn’t be too heavy, so you can wear it every day. “Part of my heart will be buried today; we so loved you,” Ilana said.

Krigman was buried in a plot next to Dafna Meir, the mother of six who was stabbed to death in her home in Otniel by a Palestinian terrorist last week. The second victim of the Beit Horon attack, a 58-year old resident of the settlement who was moderately wounded, remained hospitalized at Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Her boyfriend, Noam, said the two met at Ariel University, where Shlomit received a bachelors of arts in industrial design.

“I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you.”

After much pursuit on his part, she agreed with what he had known all along, that the two of them were meant to be together.

“Before I met Shlomit, I did not know how to be happy or to smile,” he said. “With you, I discovered a happiness I had never known.”

Maayan, a friend of Shlomit’s, described how initially she had been optimistic that Shlomit would recover and wake up with a smile of disbelief at everyone’s concern.

Then there was the slow realization that her situation was dire.

“You fought as you slept. We tried to send you messages of encouragement – you can do it, you can recover.”

As the hours passed, Shlomit continued to deteriorate.

“I prayed so hard. It’s been years since I did that,” said Maayan.

The thoughts churned in her brain about what she could do to change her friend’s fate.

“It was clear to me that you fought because you are a fighter, and because there were so many people that you loved and for whom you only wanted things to be good,” she said.

“At 5 a.m. I still hoped that the doctor would say he had been confused and that in fact that you were alive. How could it be that we will never meet again and exchange stories of what was happening in our lives? “I am still hoping that this is a nightmare from which I will wake up tomorrow. It can’t be true. Shula, come to me this Shabbat after lunch. I won’t sleep, I promise, just come,” Maayan said.                   (Jerusalem Post)

Herzog: Better fence could have saved West Bank terror victim

The murder of Shlomit Krigman and the wounding of another woman in Beit Horon on Monday could have been prevented if Israel had a more effective security fence, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Wednesday.

Writing on his official Facebook page, Herzog asked why Israel is not separating from the Palestinian Authority in a more effective manner and why it is not building a wall.

“What good is a fence if it can be climbed over or climbed under?” he said. “We don’t need a fence for cattle, we need real separation that will prevent the entry of terrorists.”

Herzog suggested building an electric fence that would be more effective in protecting Israel’s citizens.

“Any weaker solution would be abandonment on the part of the government,” he said. “My separation plan would better protect the citizens from terror and murder.”

Krigman succumbed to her wounds on Tuesday morning after having been stabbed by two Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon on Monday.

She was laid to rest at Her Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem’s Gival Shaul on Tuesday afternoon.

Hundreds of mourners arrived to Beit Hamenuhot cemetary in the capital’s Givat Shaul to pay their respects to Krigman.

The young woman who hailed from Shadmot Mehola in the Jordan Valley was buried nearby terror victim and mother of six Dafna Meir, whom a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death in her Otniel home last week.

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 the settlement armed with knives and explosives, succeeding in stabbing two victims, he said. They threw three pipe bombs that 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.            (Jerusalem Post)

Soldier lightly hurt in hit-and-run, IDF investigating circumstances

A soldier was lightly wounded in a suspected hit-and-run near Beit Horon on Tuesday, a day after a stabbing attack in the West Bank settlement left one Israeli woman dead and another wounded.

The IDF reported their initial finding that the soldier who was wounded was standing at the checkpoint at the village of Beit Ur al-Tahta.

The IDF spokesperson said that the car involved in the hit-and-run drove off in the direction of Beit Ur al-Tahta. The army was investigating the circumstances of the incident. Emergency medical workers was treating the soldier at the scene.

Military sources said that the accident was likely a hit-and-run car accident and not a deliberate terror attack.         (Jerusalem Post)

Teen Palestinian twins planned terror bombings, Shin Bet says

The Shin Bet, in cooperation with the IDF, recently arrested 18-year-old Palestinian twin sisters Diana and Nadia Hawilah, it was cleared for publication Monday.

The arrests of the sisters, residents of Shuwika near Tulkarm, followed a search of their house that revealed weapons including pipe bombs, fertilizers used for making explosives, as well as a knife and Hamas headbands.

According to the Shin Bet investigation, Diana bought the chemicals found in her home independently, used online video tutorials to learn how to build explosive devices, and intended to use them against Israelis.

Her sister, Nadia, allegedly helped to conceal the weapons at the house where they both lived.

The Shin Bet said that Diana was exposed via the internet to radical Islamic preaching encouraging women to take part in acts of terror against Israel and Jews, and this reinforced her decision to act as she did.

Indictments against the two women were issued to a military court in the West Bank in recent days. The indictment against Diana charges her with manufacturing explosives and trafficking in military equipment. Nadia’s indictment alleges that she also trafficked in military equipment.

“This investigation shows yet again the motivation that exists to commit terrorism, including those who don’t belong to terror organizations, and among them are women, as well,” the Shin Bet said in a statement announcing the arrests. “In addition, it can be seen that the internet is increasingly used to make weapons with the goal of committing terror attacks and spreading incitement.”                     (Ynet News)

Netanyahu blasts UN’s Ban: Your remarks are a tailwind for terror

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday for his remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian Israeli conflict.

Earlier in the day, Ban condemned the current wave of Palestinian terror against Israel, but added that “it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”

“The secretary-general’s remarks provide a tailwind for terror. There is no justification for terror. Those Palestinians who murder do not want to build a state, they want to destroy a state and they say this openly,” Netanyahu said.

“They want to murder Jews for being Jews and they say this openly. They do not murder for peace and they do not murder for human rights,” he added.

Netanyahu then attacked the United Nations in general.

“The United Nations long ago lost its neutrality and its moral force, and the secretary general’s remarks do not improve its standing,” Netanyahu said.

Ban, Speaking to the UN Security Council in a session on the current situation in the Middle East, Ban said that 2016 had started with “unacceptable levels of violence.”

He said, however, that security measures alone could not stop the violence. “They cannot address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians – especially young people.”

Ban called for equal justice for both Israelis and Palestinians alike who commit such crimes.

“Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process. Some have taken me to task for pointing out this indisputable truth. Yet, as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism,” he said.

The UN chief said that “Progress towards peace requires a freeze of Israel’s settlement enterprise.”

“Continued settlement activities are an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community. They rightly raise fundamental questions about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution,” he said.

He also addressed the situation in the Gaza Strip, condemning Hamas rocket fire, and warning that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains perilous.  “I continue to strongly believe that conditions in Gaza pose a severe threat to long-term peace and security in the region.”

Israel envoy at UN : Security Council is hypocritical on Israel

Speaking at the Security Council on Tuesday, Ambassador Danny Danon said the body has been hypocritical when it comes to Israel and has ignored Palestinian incitement.

“During the past four months, Israelis have been stabbed in their homes, shot at in the streets, and run over by terrorists using cars as weapons,” Danon told the forum.

“During this period of time, the Council has adopted twelve resolutions against terrorism, and condemned terrorist attacks in France, Sinai, Lebanon, Mali, Tunisia, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Somalia, and Sudan,” he continued. “Not once were the lives of Israelis murdered by terrorists recognized by this council. No condemnation, no expression of solidarity, not even a statement of concern.”

Danon spoke about the threat Israel faces from Hamas in the South but also from Hezbollah in the North, which he said “has transformed these villages into terror outposts.”

“This is the true face of Hezbollah – a brutal organization which deliberately targets Israeli civilians, and uses Lebanese civilians as human shields. This is the definition of a double war crime,” Danon stated.

“Israel has repeatedly warned this council about the threat of Hezbollah, and called for action. Let me say it clearly, once again: Hezbollah is preparing for the next round of fighting,” he said, calling members of the Security Council to take action.

“Make no mistake. Israel has the means to defend itself. We will take all necessary measures to protect our people,” he added.

The ambassador added that the link between the threat of Hamas and that of Hezbollah is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“Wherever there is terror, there is Iran,” he told the member states.

Ambassador Danon also mentioned the murder of Dafna Meir, the mother of six stabbed to death in her home in Otniel last week.  He pointed out that the 15-year-old who killed her said he had been inspired to do so by programs on Palestinian televisions.

“Sadly, when the PA leadership is not negotiating, it is inciting,” Danon stated.

He added that “the council’s decision to ignore the murder of Dafna Meir, and the other Israeli victims of terror is no simple oversight.” According to him it is the direct result of allowing cynical political considerations take priority over the lives of people.

“The challenge for this council is to chart a new course,” Danon said. “No more business as usual when it comes to terror against Israelis. The fear is the same fear; the pain is the same pain. The response must be the same response.”              (Jerusalem Post)

‘Israel’s electrical grid attacked in massive cyber attack’

As Israelis cranked up their heaters during the current cold snap, the Public Utility Authority was attacked by one of the largest cyber assaults that the country has experienced, Minister of Infrastructure, Energy and Water Yuval Steinitz said on Tuesday.

“Yesterday we identified one of the largest cyber attacks that we have experienced,” Steinitz said at the CyberTech 2016 conference at the Tel Aviv Trade Fair and Convention Center.

Steinitz said that attack was dealt with by his ministry and the National Cyber Bureau and that it was under control.

The incident occurred during two consecutive days of record-breaking winter electricity consumption, with the Israel Electric Corporation reporting a demand of 12,610 megawatts on Tuesday evening as temperatures dipped to below-freezing levels.

“I can tell you that the virus was identified and software was activated to neutralize it,” Steinitz said.

“This is a fresh example of what we need to be prepared to face at any time,” he added.

Hundreds of international delegations were attending the CyberTech 2016 Conference.

The third annual event drew state leaders, representatives of leading multinational and Israeli corporations and startups, investors and entrepreneurs in the field of cyber security.

A US delegation led by Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a large Japanese representation, a group of Canadian banking executives and a delegation organized by the International Monetary Fund from developing countries were among those expected to attend what is referred to as the largest exhibition of cyber technologies outside the United States.          (Jerusalem Post)

With Hezbollah to the left, Syria to the right, and snow all over, IDF takes no chances

In one of the IDF’s most strategically sensitive points on the northern front, a who’s who of Israel’s enemies are in some instances just a few hundred meters away. A look to the right offers a view of a Syrian army outpost, the last Golan Heights foothold controlled by President Bashar Assad’s forces near the ridge of Mt. Hermon.

A glance to the left enables one to see the areas held by anti-Assad rebels who have yet to abandon their dream of one day taking over the Syrian side of the Golan.

In the middle, there are the Druse villages that begin on the Israeli side, with Majdal Shams, and continuing through to the northern Golan Heights.

Turning south, on a clear day, it is possible to notice the last position held by UN peacekeepers along Israel’s northern border with Syria. Not far from there is the Hezbollah.

Yes, the most significant threat facing Israel today sits just a few meters from the soldiers of the Armored Brigade’s 605th engineering battalion.

The only thing that the Syrians, UN peacekeepers, the rebels, the Druse, the Lebanese from Hezbollah, and IDF fighters have in common these days is the white stuff that has blanketed the entire area.

“The weather definitely creates enhanced operational challenges,” said Capt. Raz Alaluf, the commander of the battalion’s Doleb Company. “We, of course, have made the necessary logistical preparations as well as preparations on the operational level. We are ready for any contingency. Obviously, due to the inclement weather, we are sending more combat soldiers to the field both to conduct more patrols as well as for lookouts.”

Capt. Alaluf said that while heavy snow accumulation does significantly decrease the chances of an attempt by armed terrorists to sneak over the border, the specter of rocket or missile fire – including anti-tank missiles – or the planting of bombs still exists.

“We are certainly on higher alert for fear of [those who will seek to] take advantage of the stormy weather, particularly in order to plant bombs,” said the officer. “Taking in the view here is quite the experience, but we cannot delude ourselves. The Syrian front is deceptive.”

“On the one hand, it’s not our business [what goes on in Syria]. On the other hand, we have been fired upon from there in the past. So I’ve postponed having fun in the snow with my girlfriend to another time.”

From another IDF lookout post, this one facing the breathtaking, snow-capped mountains of eastern Lebanon, soldiers from the same battalion man their positions. This is one of the few points throughout Israel where a battalion guards a front while under the direct command of an operational brigade.

The battalion’s challenges are three-fold – protect the front, brave the rough weather conditions, and provide security for one of the busiest wintertime tourist attractions in the country. The ski slope on Mt. Hermon may be completely quiet one day, yet attract 10,000 visitors the next.

“This is a front with its own unique set of circumstances as far as the enemy is concerned,” said a senior officer in the Northern Command. “Every other day it seems there’s a new [terrorist] organization popping up on the other side of the border, which compels us to conduct different types of training, have constant situational assessments, and be on alert 24-7.”

“To compound things, we have the most significant factor, which is Hezbollah,” the officer said. “It’s no secret that in recent weeks we are on higher alert despite the fact that it appears Hezbollah has finished escalating the situation. We are always prepared and we believe that if something happens, we will have advance warning. For the moment, Hezbollah is knee-deep in the mud in Syria, and it doesn’t appear to be eager to confront us.”


Skiing on Mt Hermon

“The weather changes the way in which we defend,” said Capt. Yakir Lahan, an officer in the 605th Battalion’s Operations Branch. “We can’t conduct operations that are prolonged because of the storms, so we are helped by the Alpine Unit. They are our source for knowledge in terms of how to deal with the extreme weather we have seen here. They know to reach places that we can’t get to.”

“Our challenge is, among other things, to provide security for a huge tourist site which includes ski slopes that we don’t always see, particularly those at the higher altitudes. So we are fanned out at the ends of these ski trails in case of any scenario that might unfold.”                 (Jerusalem Post)

Israel believes Russia’s intervention decreases chance of Israel-Hezbollah conflict

Russia’s intervention in Syria and close interaction with Hezbollah may actually decrease the likelihood of an Israel – Hezbollah conflict erupting in the near future, assessments in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) say.

Dialogue between Russia and Hezbollah could form an opportunity to reign in Hezbollah responses to reported Israeli air strikes on weapons trafficking runs in Syria, for example.

The assessments are part of a broader look within the IDF at Israel’s strategic environment.

Russia and the US are moving together regarding Syria, despite being in competition with one another.

In Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks the survival of a pro-Moscow regime, and also has an economic interest. Moscow also seeks to keep the Islamic State away from its 20 million Russian-Muslim citizens.

Meanwhile, the Syrian war rages on, and more than one percent – 300,000 Syrians – of the country’s population has been killed in the conflict. Over 10 million people have been displaced.

Hezbollah, which is deeply involved in Syria, has lost 1300 fighters and another 10,000 of its members have been injured. Hezbollah also faces economic problems due to delays in the transfer of around 100 million dollars a year from Iran, which is 10% of the annual billion dollar Hezbollah budget from Tehran.

At least some of that hold up, according to military assessments, is due to a refusal by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to approve all IRGC budgets for Hezbollah. Rouhani seeks some of that money for domestic spending.

Despite its costly intervention in Syria, Hezbollah continues to prioritize the deployment of its fighters to south Lebanon, to one of the 240 Shi’ite villages that have been turned into rocket and military posts to target Israel with in any potential conflict.

The IDF believes that the chances of Hezbollah initiating a war with Israel are low. But tactical border clashes could result in the lighting of a match, which could in turn ignite a larger fire. Hezbollah, for its part, is prepared to take risks to back up its own ‘red lines’ against Israel.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s patron, Iran, is approaching a key junction next month, the military believes, when elections for its parliament and Assembly of Experts will put to the test US President Barack Obama’s theory that Iran will change by the time the nuclear deal expires in 10 to 15 years.

There is no question among the mililtary analysts that the West could have gotten a better deal with Iran over its nuclear program, since the Iranian regime is anxious over its future stability, and economy.

Nevertheless, according to the assessments, Iran has scaled back its nuclear program to some degree without any conflict, and the IDF views this as a tangible achievement.

As elections in February loom, an unprecedented number of candidates in Iran – 12,000 – have put their name forward, and of those, 40% were approved by the authorities. But out of those, a mere 30 are from Rouhani’s reformist camp, leading to open protests by the Iranian president.

These events could result in domestic Iranian instability if the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei does not intervene.

While Iran is about to enjoy the fruits of sanctions relief, it will still take several years for the Islamic Republic to rebuild its economy, industries, and infrastructure, and during that time, Iran’s destructive regional influence will continue, the IDF holds.

Iran is seeking to infiltrate the West Bank, and it encourages Hamas to attack Israel, content for Sunni blood, rather than Shi’ite, to be spilled in the war on Israel. Most importantly, Iran continues to build up Hezbollah’s monstrous offensive capabilities.

According to military projections, while no major hybrid terrorist-regime foe on Israel’s border is looking to initiate a war at this time, the chances of a tactical incident in 2016 inadvertently turning into a bigger conflict remains significant.

The military expects Israel to be challenged by security incidents along its borders with Gaza, Sinai, and Syria, even though Hamas, Hezbollah and even Islamic State-affiliated forces remain highly deterred by Israel at this time, perceiving it as a powerful and unpredictable state.

Regionally, the IDF has identified four nation-states that will remain intact in a Middle East:where the state model is collapsing all around: Israel, Turkey, Iran, and Egypt. All other states face varying degrees of dangers of semi or full collapse.

Across the region, a growing gulf separates leaderships and their public, whether in Jordan, Tunisia, or the Palestinian Authority.

In the West Bank, lone attackers continue to launch a series of knife and car ramming attacks on Israels, and the attacks are devoid of any involvement by terror organizations or states.

The attackers are acting on the same idea, to target Jews and Israel.

However, according to assessments, the situation has not reached the level of an intifada, since the Tanzim armed militia has not sent its gunmen out to carry out mass shootings, and there have not been incidents of large-scale rioting.

This is, in no small part, due to the dependence of more than 100,000 Palestinians on Israeli for their livelihood, the military holds, viewing economic restraining factors as key in preventing a further deterioration.

Looking ahead at the day after PA President Mahmoud Abbas leaves power, it is more likely that a group, rather than one leader, will try to take over, say projections.

The IDF’s central concern is that Hamas does not rise to power in the West Bank.

In Hamas’s home turf of Gaza, the military wing continues to be in conflict with the political wing.

A new, proactive Saudi Arabia is competing with Iran for influence over Hamas.

Hamas’s military wing is loyal to Iran, which funds it with tens of millions of dollars per year, and passes on military doctrines, but Hamas’s political wing, headed by Khaled Mashaal, would like to shift towards Saudi Arabia.

As the region continues to undergo dramatic, fast-paced changes, the IDF itself is also changing.

It has placed a new emphasis on moving into social media to gather intelligence.

Additionally, more technological officers have been recruited, to give the IDF the capability to gather intelligence and fulfill its key function, which is to describe the enemy, and tell decision makers the story of the Middle East.

In an effort to keep skilled technological officers on board, the military may offer them the chance to work in the private sector and come back for further service in the future.   (Jerusalem Post)

Australian Ambassador ‘signs his hand’ for Holocaust Survivors

Aviv Lenitzolei Hashoah (Spring for Holocaust Survivors), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Holocaust survivors in Israel realize their rights, has launched a new campaign calling on the international community to leave a virtual hand imprint in honor of Holocaust survivors.

The campaign, “Give a hand to Holocaust Survivors,” aims to increase awareness of the plight of survivors and was launched ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day which is observed annually on January 27th.

As part of the initiative, the organization launched a “virtual wall of hands” and hopes to reach some 200,000 signatures of hands – one for each Holocaust survivor living in Israel – before Yom Hashoa on May 5th, 2016.

The project has already received wide support from leading Israeli figures including Knesset members, ambassadors, mayors, and local celebrities who have all left their imprint on the virtual wall.

Dave Sharma, the Australian Ambassador to Israel was one of the signatories on the virtual wall.

“Australia has absorbed some 35,000 Holocaust survivors, more than any other country except Israel, and of the 120,000 Jews currently living in Australia over half are descendants of Holocaust survivors,” he said.

“After I came to Israel as an ambassador I found that one-quarter of the survivors in Israel suffer from poverty, and that many of the survivors are not aware of their rights and all the benefits to which they are entitled by law. The Aviv for Holocaust Survivors nonprofit organization works to assist survivors in the realization of their rights, and for me it is only natural to add my support to a cause so important: that each survivor will receive all the rights and benefits to which he is entitled,” he said.

Aviva Silberman, founder and director of Aviv Lenitzolei Hashoah Spring for Holocaust Survivors said that nearly half of Holocaust survivors in Israel are still unaware of their rights.

Dave Sharma[1]

Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma with his palm painted yellow to sign the virtual wall

“The majority of Holocaust survivors are unaware of the full range of rights and benefits to which they are legally entitled from Israel and abroad. For about half of the survivors, implementing these rights could lead to an additional one-time or yearly addition and often will significantly improve their quality of life,” she said.

According to Silberman in 2015, the organization helped some 12,500 Holocaust survivors realize their rights. To date the organization has helped some 50,000 survivors realize rights and receive benefits totaling some NIS 200 million.

“These are life-changing sums for Holocaust survivors that deal with a difficult economic reality. It is our job to make sure no survivor is left behind,” she added.

The Welfare and Social Services Ministry announced ahead of the international day that it will allocate NIS 50 million in 2016 for numerous programs and initiatives benefiting Holocaust survivors.

According to the Welfare Ministry today there are some 220,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, including survivors from Romania, Morocco, Algeria, and Iraq which the government recently named as Holocaust survivors. Their average age is 85 years old.

“The State of Israel is committed to providing Holocaust survivors a life of dignity and well-being. Under the current budget, I have instructed the professionals in my office to increase the investment in welfare and development services that will allow this population to age with dignity, in the community familiar to them and in their natural surroundings,” Welfare and Social Services Minister Haim Katz said ahead of the day.

According to Katz, in 2016 the ministry will establish and enhance a number of programs aimed at improving the quality of life for survivors, among which the ministry will establish 57 new clubs for survivors which will offer transportation to and from their homes, warm meals, social activities, courses, lectures, and trips.       (Jerusalem Post)

Former president Peres released from hospital after suffering irregular heartbeat

Israel’s ninth president Shimon Peres was discharged from the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer on Tuesday after spending two nights there under observation following tests that showed on Sunday that he had an irregular heartbeat.

Doctors pronounced Peres fit and well, particularly for a man of his age.

It was the second hospital stay for 92-year-old veteran politician this month.

According to the doctor treating Peres at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, the decision to release home the former president was made after a series of health scans resulted clear.

On Sunday evening, emergency responders arrived to Peres’ home and found that he had suffered from mild arrhythmia.

Peres was then taken to the hospital, where on Monday doctors advised him to remain in the care for an extra day.

In view of the fact that it was his second hospitalization within a period of ten days, doctors insisted that Peres remain hospitalized a second night so that they could continue to monitor his progress.

On January 14, the same hospital released the senior statesman in stable condition after he had suffered a mild heart attack.   (Jerusalem Post)

‘Higher-ups’ responsible for harsh parole, says Pollard wife

Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard’s parole conditions are harsher than those who committed violent crimes, because of “orders from higher up,” his wife Esther told Jewish leaders in New York on Monday.

Jonathan and Esther Pollard briefed some 45 Jewish notables at a meeting organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The first meeting since Pollard was paroled from prison after serving 30 years of a life sentence on November 20, it was intended to allow him to thank them for years of lobbying on his behalf.

Due to advice from his lawyers, Pollard spoke for only 10 minutes and avoided controversial subjects. They warned him that his parole board could return him to prison at any given point to complete the remaining 15 years of his life sentence, which was 45 years at the time of his sentencing.

Esther Pollard spoke for most of the meeting about the limitations imposed on him in his parole conditions.

Because his access to computers is limited, he has a strict curfew and must wear a GPS monitoring device, Pollard was not permitted to accept a job offer and remains out of work.

When leaders offered the Pollards assistance at the meeting, they turned them down. But a source said money was being collected privately to enable the couple to get by.

The Jewish leaders were told that Pollard’s parole officer said such parole conditions were given to only three people out of thousands of former inmates, the others being a pedophile and a murderer.

The conditions were imposed even though he was a model prisoner and there was no danger of him committing a crime.

“Esther said when she asked the parole people why there were such restrictions they said these are orders from higher up,” said a Jewish notable who participated in the meeting.

A new confidential document, a letter that was hand-delivered to US President Barack Obama by President Reuven Rivlin, was revealed during her speech and used to flesh out the current situation.

New York Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler spoke at the event and called the parole restrictions excessive. He said he would continue efforts to try to ease them. A New York judge is expected to rule soon on whether the conditions will be eased.

Many participants described Jonathan Pollard as being “articulate and warm” to the audience.

The Pollards said at the event that they have no interest in writing a book or maintaining a high-profile public life.

“We want to live a quiet life without fanfare in Israel,” Esther Pollard said.                 (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli ‘spy vulture’ captured in south Lebanon

Citizens from the town of Bint Jbeil in south Lebanon were surprised to discover on Tuesday morning a vulture carrying what they claimed was Israeli spy equipment, Lebanese media reported.

Spy Vulture[1]

According to the reports, the vulture, which arrived in Lebanon from Tel Aviv, according to a tag on its leg band, was immediately captured in order to prevent it from attacking Bint Jbeil’s citizens.

After the town’s security staff assured that the vulture was not carrying any dangerous equipment, they released it.

Lebanese media reported that the incident did not mark the first time that Israeli ‘spy vultures’ have infiltrated Lebanon. Three months ago, a similar “Israeli vulture” was captured in the village of Kfar Kila, also in south Lebanon.

Israel’s neighbors have previously accused the Jewish state of employing the use of spy animals on multiple occasions.

In fact, veteran ornithologist Prof. Yossi Leshem said after the capture of an eagle accused of spying for Israel in 2013, he feared that the increasing phenomenon of capturing such “spy” animals was harming the country’s wildlife preservation.    (Jerusalem Post)

Stop the incitement, stop the killing

Relentless Palestinian extremism has now even managed to persuade the center-left opposition that Israeli readiness for compromise is insufficient. What’s needed is a unified effort to stop the Palestinians filling their people’s heads with murderous hostility

by David Horovitz         The Times of israel


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has taken to giving press conferences to Israeli journalists of late. A picture of wounded innocence and goodwill, he has been using the opportunities to berate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for refusing to meet and talk peace with him, highlighting his forces’ ongoing security cooperation with Israel in the territories, and trying to wriggle out of his own personal role in fostering the vicious incitement against Israel that lies at the root of this ongoing Palestinian terror wave.

About to turn 81, Abbas may not be in politics that much longer, and there are plenty of Israelis who argue that we are missing an opportunity to make progress with him when it is clear that any successor is likely to be still more impossible to deal with.

His successor may indeed well be worse, but Abbas is impossible. His duplicitous terrorism-fostering predecessor Yasser Arafat assured the Palestinians that they had no reason or need to compromise with the Jews because we were colonial invaders, an unrooted and temporary presence that his people’s stubbornness and terrorism would eventually see off. Abbas chose not to counter that narrative, not to acknowledge to his people the Jews’ history of sovereignty in the Holy Land, and more recently intensified the strategic campaign of misrepresentation ­ telling Palestinians that the Jews have no business at the Temple Mount.

Meanwhile, the Fatah hierarchy he heads has been openly encouraging attacks on Israelis, and the Hamas terror group with which he seeks to partner in government is again plotting suicide bombings, developing more sophisticated rockets, and digging tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border ahead of its next planned war.

Abbas may well be deploying his forces to keep a lid on clashes in the West Bank, but he’s presiding over an ongoing, strategic demonizing of Israel and Israelis ­ via his education system, political and spiritual leadership and mainstream and social media ­ that positively guarantees Palestinian violence and terrorism. So effective is this process that, nowadays, when a young Palestinian has a row at home, feels depressed, or wants to make a name for him or herself, the default response is to grab a knife and go kill the nearest vulnerable Jew.

And so, last week, we buried Dafna Meir.

And today, we buried Shlomit Krigman.

Israel paid for Abbas’s last ostensible readiness for peace talks, in 2013-14, with the release of dozens of killers and other Palestinian terrorists from our jails. Prior to that, in 2008, Abbas spurned Ehud Olmert’s extraordinary readiness to give him everything he purportedly sought: We were gone from Gaza, and Olmert offered to leave the West Bank ­ with one-for-one land swaps ­ and to divide Jerusalem, including relinquishing sovereignty in the Old City. If that wasn’t good enough for Abbas, then obviously nothing we can offer will be.

While the United States and much of the international community refuse to internalize this, the simple, bleak fact is that everything Arafat, Abbas and Hamas have done since the collapse of the Bill Clinton-hosted Camp David 2000 attempt at forging a deal has persuaded Israelis that they dare not relinquish territory to the Palestinians, despite the imperative to separate in order to maintain a Jewish, democratic Israel.

Arafat returned from the United States and fostered the Second Intifada’s onslaught of suicide bombings ­ attacks throughout Israel that murderously demonstrated that it was not merely the territories that the Palestinians sought. That it’s not just the settlements, it’s all of Israel that is rejected.

In the years after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the rocket fire intensified, the Palestinians gave Hamas a parliamentary majority in elections, and Hamas ousted Abbas’s forces from the Strip in hours ­ underlining to Israelis the dangers of leaving adjacent territory, and the ease with which Islamist forces could seize power in any vacuum. The latest Israel-Hamas conflict, in 2014, only re-emphasized the danger: If a single rocket fired by Hamas that got through the Iron Dome defenses and landed a mile from Ben-Gurion Airport could send two-thirds of foreign airlines fleeing from Israel, including all the American carriers, how could Israel possibly entertain the idea of leaving the West Bank? Hamas would be running the show within days, and our entire country would be paralyzed and isolated.

The irony, of course, is that if the Palestinians had been capable of hiding their hatred for just a short period after we left Gaza, if they had managed to pretend for even a brief time that their hearts were set on peaceful coexistence, we probably would have withdrawn unilaterally from much of the West Bank as well.

Instead, Palestinian words and deeds have persuaded mainstream Israelis ­ those who don’t want to rule the Palestinians, don’t want to expand settlements in areas we do not envisage retaining under any permanent accord, don’t want to have to live by the sword forever ­ that no partnership is viable at present. They’ve even managed to kill off the optimism of the leader of the Israeli opposition, Isaac Herzog, who sadly concluded last week that a two-state solution is simply unrealistic: He “yearns” for it, said Herzog in a radio interview. But it’s “not possible” right now.

A grassroots approach

So, how, then, to break out of this awful new reality ­ of more Palestinian generations strategically brainwashed to hate, and a bleeding Israel unable to advance its own interest in a safe separation to guarantee the maintenance of our Jewish democracy?

Self-evidently, there will no accord with Mahmoud Abbas. But one thing that Abbas has been saying at his recent press conferences is worth picking up on. Previous peace efforts created a joint mechanism intended to combat incitement on both sides, and Abbas has pronounced himself ready to revive that mechanism. Israel should take him up on that right away.

Netanyahu has rightly focused on incitement as a root cause of the current terror wave. We all have an interest in utilizing any and every tool that just might help alleviate some of the hostility.

It was lousy politics of Herzog to publicly give up for now on the two-state solution. If peace is not on the horizon, after all, why would Israelis elect a leader who is now acknowledging that his whole prior strategy was misguided? But Herzog’s sad and sober conclusion underlines that there can and will be no quick fixes.

What’s needed, what has always been needed, to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is a grassroots approach to peacemaking. An approach focused on education. An approach under which international resources and leverage are utilized to rewrite educational curricula, to marginalize extremist political and spiritual leaders, to promote moderation and peaceful interaction.

The Arafat-Abbas-Hamas strategy of hostility to Israel achieves the precise opposite of what the Palestinians purport to seek ­ independent statehood. It has now even managed to persuade the center-left opposition, the peacemaking Labor Party, that Israeli readiness for compromise is insufficient.

Perhaps the international community ­ so insistently led by US President Barack Obama in seeking to persuade Israelis that they can afford to take risks for peace when the bloody evidence all around them shows the contrary ­ will learn Herzog’s lesson.

Perhaps it will move to adopt the grassroots approach.

Perhaps it will use its immense leverage to gradually help create a climate in which it is not the most natural thing in the world for teenage Palestinians to set out with knives and kill Israeli mothers of six and 23-year-old industrial design graduates.

Palestinians: Is Abbas Losing Control?

by Khaled Abu Toameh                  The Gatestone Institute


If Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas loses control of his Fatah faction, who gets to comfort him? Could it be his erstwhile rivals in Hamas?

Abbas seems firm in his refusal to pave the way for the emergence of a new leadership in the West Bank. A split within Fatah in the West Bank seems the inevitable result. Gaza’s Fatah leaders are furious with Abbas. The deepening divisions among Fatah could drive Fatah cadres in the Gaza Strip into the open arms of Hamas.

“The talk about Fatah-Hamas reconciliation is nothing but a smokescreen to conceal the growing discontent with President Abbas’s autocratic rule.” — Palestinian official.

Fatah is Israel’s purported “peace partner” — the faction spearheading efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state. Decision-makers in the U.S. and Europe might wish to keep abreast of the solvency of Abbas’s Fatah faction when they consider the wisdom of the two-state solution.

If Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas loses control of his Fatah faction, who gets to comfort him? Could it be his erstwhile rivals in Hamas?

Abbas has been facing increasing criticism in the past weeks from senior Fatah officials in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It seems that they have tired of his autocratic-style rule. Some of them, including Jibril Rajoub and Tawfik Tirawi, have even come out in public against the PA president, demanding that he share power enough at least to appoint a deputy president.

Fatah seems to be in even worse shape in the Gaza Strip. Fatah leaders and activists there have accused Abbas of “marginalizing” the faction, and are making unmistakable break-away noises.

At a meeting of Fatah cadres in the Gaza Strip last week, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership were castigated for turning their backs on the faction there.

Fatah’s top representative in the Strip, Zakariya Al-Agha, said that the faction’s leaders, including Abbas, do not want to see Fatah (in the Gaza Strip) reorganize itself and “pick up the pieces.”

Another senior Fatah official in Gaza, Abdel Rahman Hamad, took advantage of the meeting to announce that, “Some were trying to turn Fatah in the Gaza Strip into a “weary and spiritless body.”

Fatah leaders in Gaza are furious with Abbas. They have a substantial list of grievances. First, Abbas has not paid the salaries of thousands of their members there, including policemen and security officers who have been sitting at home since Hamas seized control over the Strip in 2007.

Moreover, they point an accusing finger at Abbas’s failure to include any Fatah members from Gaza in a recent decree to appoint 130 Palestinians as senior officials within the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas’s failure to hold general elections for the Fatah faction is a further issue of contention. It is roundly suspected that the PA president is deliberately delaying the vote in order to prevent his rivals in the faction from winning key positions.

Amal Hamad, a resident of the Gaza Strip and member of the Fatah Central Committee, joined the chorus of Abbas detractors, declaring, “We wish to tell our (Fatah) brothers in the West Bank that we are an integral part of you. We are an original part of this homeland. It’s time to end the state of silence and put matters on their right track.”

Hamad’s remarks are the strongest yet to be directed against Abbas and the Fatah leadership in the West Bank. Palestinian political analysts read in Hamad’s words a signal that Fatah might well be facing the threat of splintering, one group in the West Bank and another in the Gaza Strip.

The deepening divisions among Fatah could also drive the Fatah cadres in the Gaza Strip into the open arms of Hamas. Hints to this effect have been dropped in recent weeks by Fatah officials in Gaza. They have noted that they do not rule out the possibility of joining forces with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip as a way of protesting their continued “marginalization” by Abbas.

And then there is always Qatar. As the crisis in Fatah intensifies, reports have surfaced of a fresh Qatari effort to achieve “national reconciliation” between Fatah and Hamas. According to the reports, the two parties are scheduled to hold “secret talks” in Doha in the coming days in yet another bid to form a Palestinian national unity government.

Senior Fatah officials have dismissed these reports as simply the most recent in a long line of attempts by Abbas to divert attention from the crisis he’s facing in his own backyard (Fatah).

“Each time we hear about increased tensions in Fatah and criticism of President Abbas, we suddenly receive reports about renewed efforts to achieve reconciliation with Hamas,” one official said. “The talk about Fatah-Hamas reconciliation is nothing but a smokescreen to conceal the growing discontent with President Abbas’s autocratic rule.”

Hamas aside, Qatar’s reconciliation ventures could be put to good use by Abbas: perhaps it would be willing to host a sulha (reconciliation) meeting to end the internal strife plaguing Fatah, the predominant power in the PA. Fatah’s festering dissension points to a Palestinian political scene that could be headed toward complete chaos — especially in the West Bank.

Abbas seems firm in his refusal to pave the way for the emergence of a new leadership in the West Bank. A split within Fatah in the West Bank seems the inevitable result. Palestinians may see several Fatah officials officially break away from the faction and create their own leaderships — turning the West Bank into so many cantons ruled by rival Fatah leaders. Of course, under such conditions, the Palestinian Authority would hardly hold its own as a central power in the West Bank.

As for the Gaza Strip, Fatah discontent is likely to escalate in the wake of Abbas’s continued policy of “marginalizing” the Fatah members there. Having already lost the Strip to Hamas, Abbas may soon lose his loyalists there. In the end, Gaza could see the emergence of a Fatah leadership that does not report at all to its sister in the West Bank.

Fatah is Israel’s purported “peace partner” — the faction that is spearheading efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state. Yet one wonders if Palestinians will live long enough to see their leaders lead them towards a state — or even a better life.

Decision-makers in the U.S. and Europe might wish to keep abreast of the solvency of Abbas’s Fatah faction when they consider the wisdom of the two-state solution.

Why is Israel so cautious on the Islamic State? A recent war game explains why.

By David Ignatius                    The Washington Post


Let’s say Islamic State fighters attack an Israeli military patrol along the Syrian border. They try unsuccessfully to kidnap an Israeli soldier, and they kill four others. A Jordanian border post is hit, too, and the Islamic State proclaims it has control of Daraa province in southern Syria.

How do Israel and other key players respond? In a war game played here last week, they retaliated, but cautiously. The players representing Israel and Jordan wanted to avoid a pitched battle against the terrorists — they looked to the United States for leadership.

This simulation exercise was run by Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) as part of its annual conference. The outcome illustrated the paradoxical reality of the conflict against the Islamic State: Israel and Jordan act with caution and restraint, hoping to avoid being drawn deeper into the chaotic Syrian war, even as the United States escalates its involvement.

“We all believe that keeping Israel out of the conflict is important,” said Brig. Gen. Assaf Orion, a retired officer who served as head of the Israel Defense Forces’ planning staff. He led the Israeli team in the simulation. In the war game, Israel retaliated for the killing of its soldiers but avoided major military operations.

Jordan, too, wanted to avoid escalation. The players representing Jordan didn’t want to send their own troops into Syria. They worried about refugees and terrorist sleeper cells inside Jordan. They hoped that the combined military power of Russia and the Syrian regime could suppress the conflict and evict the Islamic State from its foothold in southern Syria. They looked for U.S. leadership but weren’t sure it was dependable.

Which left the United States. Gen. John Allen, the retired Marine who until recently coordinated the U.S.-led coalition’s strategy against the Islamic State, played the American hand. The United States viewed Israeli and Jordanian security as a vital national interest, he said, and would send its warplanes to retaliate for any attacks on its allies. U.S. military involvement, in the simulation and in reality, is increasing — partly by default of others.

If you don’t like this simulated version of the war, you may like real life even less. There’s growing consensus that the Islamic State poses a severe threat to regional and even international order; one senior former Israeli official described the conflict with the caliphate as “World War III.” But most players still want to hold America’s coat while the United States does the bulk of the fighting.

A visit to Israeli military headquarters here confirmed that the war game was an accurate reflection of how Israeli military leaders see the conflict. Rather than attacking Islamic State forces along its northern and eastern borders, Israel pursues a policy of deterrence, containment and even quiet liaison, said a senior Israeli military official. He noted that if Israel wanted to mount an all-out ground attack on Islamic State forces in southern Syria and the Sinai Peninsula, it could wipe them out in three or four hours. “But what would happen the day after?” asked this Israeli military official. “Right now, we think it will be worse. So we try to deter them.”

The Israelis don’t want to disturb a hornet’s nest in taking on the Islamic State. Is a similarly measured option available to the United States? Most Israeli officials say no. They argue that the United States is a superpower, and that if it wants to maintain leadership in the region, it must lead the fight to roll back the Islamic State.

The theme of the INSS conference was that the rules of the game are changing in the Middle East. States are fragmenting; a self-proclaimed caliphate has taken deep roots in Syria and Iraq and now has a presence in many more countries around the world; a rising, still-revolutionary Iran is using proxy forces to destabilize nearly every Arab state; the old order embodied by the secular dynasties of the Mubaraks, Assads and Gadd afis is shattered.

Israelis disagree among themselves about nearly every political topic, but on the strategic picture, there is basic agreement: As the state system splinters in the Middle East, the instability in this region will be chronic, and it will persist for many years. Escaping this conflict will be impossible. So think carefully how you want to fight a war in what the senior Israeli military official called “the center of a centrifuge.”

Just another day on Tel Aviv’s beaches during the Israeli summer last year