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Latest News in Israel – 28th June

Ending years of rancor, Israel and Turkey reboot relationship

Israel and Turkey announced Monday the terms of a deal ending years of diplomatic stalemate between the eastern Mediterranean countries and heralding the normalization of ties.

Addressing one of the most controversial aspects of the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip would remain in place following the deal but that Turkey would be able to send supplies to Gaza via the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Netanyahu made the comments in Rome, broadcast live in Israel, after Israel and Turkey agreed on the highly anticipated pact. His Turkish counterpart, Binali Yildirim, made a simultaneous announcement in Ankara.

The agreement would secure the “continuation of the maritime security blockade off the Gaza Strip coast,” Netanyahu said.

“This is a supreme security interest for us. I was not prepared to compromise on it,” he added. Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep out material that could be used for military purposes in the Strip, which is run by the terror group Hamas.

Netanyahu said Turkey under the deal was also committed to preventing plans for terrorism and the financing of terrorism against Israel from its territory.

The deal also stipulates that Turkey will be allowed to build a power station and desalination plant in Gaza.

“We are returning to full normalization with Turkey, including the return of ambassadors,” Netanyahu said in announcing the rapprochement.

The deal will allow Turkey to deliver aid to Palestinians living in Gaza, Yildirim told a press conference. “To this end, our first ship loaded with over 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid will leave for Israel’s Ashdod port on Friday.”

The deal will see the two countries exchange ambassadors “as soon as possible,” he said.

Netanyahu said Turkey would also now not act to prevent Israeli participation in international forums of which it is a member, notably including NATO.

Once tight, already frayed relations between Israel and Turkey were significantly downgraded in 2010 after Israeli commandos staged a raid on a six-ship Turkish flotilla which was trying to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Strip.

The commandos were violently attacked by those on board the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, and nine Turkish citizens, including one with American citizenship, were killed in the ensuing melee. A tenth died of his wounds years later. A number of Israeli soldiers were injured in the raid.

Under the deal Israel will pay $20 million (18.14 million euros) in compensation for the deaths caused in the commando raid, Yildirim confirmed. In return for the compensation, Turkey agreed not to take legal action against IDF soldiers involved in the incident.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, dismissed criticism by political opponents who denounced the paying of compensation to attackers of IDF soldiers as a national humiliation.

“Our vital interests are advanced by this deal,” he said. “I’m not entering a honeymoon. And I’m not presenting this agreement through rose-colored spectacles. But this agreement strengthens Israel.”

He said the deal could not have been done sooner, because “it took time” to achieve “the terms we needed.”

With the world and the region so volatile, he said, Israel needed to strengthen alliances with partners such as Greece, Cyprus, Russia, and now Turkey, “all this in full coordination” with its key ally, the United States.

Domestic opposition

In recent weeks the families of two soldiers whose bodies are believed to held by Hamas, and two Israelis thought to be in the captivity of the terrorist group, have campaigned for their return to be part of the deal. While no such guarantee was part of the agreement, Netanyahu said that Turkey has promised to help return the soldiers and captives from Gaza.

He said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had personally sent a letter pledging to do all he could on the matter.

Avraham Abera Mengistu, 29, a Jew of Ethiopian descent, has been held by Hamas for nearly two years. According to his family, he suffers from a mental illness and stumbled across the border into the coastal territory by accident in 2014.

A second Israeli man, a resident of a Bedouin community in the Negev, is also thought to be held by Hamas in Gaza. His name has not been released for publication. He, too, apparently crossed the border of his own volition, and has been described as mentally disabled.

Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul were killed in separate incidents during Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in the summer of 2014. Though neither body was recovered, the army has classified both soldiers as “killed in action” based on forensic evidence. Hamas has claimed that are holding the remains of the two.

Reacting to Netanyahu’s announcement of the deal, Goldin’s family said in a statement that it “abandons Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul and doesn’t include the return of their bodies from Hamas captivity.”

“The prime minister’s declarations were hollow. He acted contrary to his promises to us,” the family, calling the accord “a bad and problematic deal.”

Another key element of the deal is the strengthening of economic cooperation between Jerusalem and Ankara. Netanyahu said the deal would give a big boost to the Israeli economy by opening the key Turkish market to Israeli natural gas exports and by providing a gateway to the European market as well.

Yildirim, however, was notably cooler on the issue. Asked if if the agreement provided for Israeli gas exports to Europe, he said, “We are talking about normalization of relations. Once the normalization starts it will be up to two countries to decide to what extent they want to cooperate and on what issues.”

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu met in Rome with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who congratulated Israel and mentioned the United States’ contribution to the detente.

“I think when President Obama came to Israel, there was a famous phone call on the tarmac of the airport to Turkey, as we tried to move things forward,” Kerry said, recalling how the president urged Netanyahu to call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and apologize for the flotilla incident. Netanyahu’s apology to Erdogan was a key condition for the reconciliation deal.

“So this is coming full circle, and Mr. Prime Minister, I congratulate you. I know your team has been working long and hard at this. I think it’s a positive step, one of, I hope, the beginning of others,” Kerry said.                       (the Times of Israel)

Turkey claims diplomatic victory as deal with Israel set to be inked

A senior Turkish official said the reconciliation deal reached between Israel and Turkey which is set to be signed on Tuesday was a diplomatic victory for Ankara.

The official said, according to Israel Radio, that even as Israel stood by its refusal to lift the blockade on Gaza — one of Turkey’s conditions for a rapprochement deal and a past sticking point — Turkey did succeed in convincing Israel to allow Turkish humanitarian aid through its Ashdod port to Gaza, the completion of a much-needed hospital in the Palestinian enclave, as well as the construction of a new power station and a desalination plant for drinking water.

The deal will end years of acrimony between the two former allies following a deadly 2010 IDF raid on an aid flotilla that sought to breach Israel’s security blockade on Hamas-held Gaza — a blockade Israel imposed in June 2006 after the capture of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, tightening the restrictions a year later in an aim to prevent Hamas from importing weapons when the terror group violently overthrew Fatah.

On May 31, 2010, frayed relations between Israel and Turkey took a downturn after Israeli commandos staged a pre-dawn raid on a six-ship flotilla that was trying to breach the blockade, intercepting the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara. The soldiers were violently attacked by those on board.

Nine Turkish citizens, including one with American citizenship, were killed in the ensuing melee. A 10th died of his wounds years later. A number of Israeli soldiers were injured in the raid.

The agreement includes $20 million in Israeli compensation for Turkish victims of the incident, as well as a Turkish commitment to help free Israeli prisoners and the bodies of soldiers held in Gaza.

An Israeli official said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to a separate document instructing all relevant Turkish agencies to help resolve the issue of Israel’s missing citizens.

The families of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, both killed in the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as Avraham Abera Mengistu, who disappeared into the Strip later in 2014, had called for the government to make sure the return of their sons was included in the agreement. A fourth Israeli man is also being held in Gaza, according to officials.

Turkey has also committed to keeping Hamas from planning or carrying out activities against Israel from its country. Hamas would continue to be able to operate from Turkey for diplomatic purposes, according to Hebrew media reports.

Hamas has said it was not involved in Turkey’s decision to restore ties with Israel but claimed it was “proud” of Turkey’s official position on the Palestinian issue, according to the Turkish Daily Sabah.

The full terms of the accord were set to be unveiled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday afternoon in Rome, where he met a day earlier with US Secretary of State John Kerry. The two, according to reports, discussed the Turkish deal, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the raging Syrian civil war. Netanyahu will later Monday meet with Italian PM Matteo Renzi.

Netanyahu also called Vice President Joe Biden to thank him for encouraging the normalization talks with Turkey, according to a statement released by Biden’s office. It said Biden congratulated Netanyahu “for progress toward reconciliation with Turkey, noting the significant positive security and economic benefits for both countries and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.”

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim will hold a press conference in Ankara to discuss the deal also Monday afternoon.

The deal will be signed Tuesday by Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold and his Turkish counterpart.

Both sides have been pushing to complete the deal in recent months, with Israel in search of a potential customer for its offshore gas exports and NATO member Turkey wanting to restore its regional clout, analysts say.

The United States has also pushed for the two countries, once close regional allies and economic partners, to resolve the dispute as it seeks cooperation in the fight against extremists from the Islamic State group.                          (the Times of Israel)

Missing IDF soldier’s family: Netanyahu failing a test by signing deal with Turkey

Missing Soldiers[1]

Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.

The family of Lt. Hadar Goldin, the IDF soldier killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza whose body was never returned, came out against a pending reconciliation deal with Turkey that does not include the return of their son’s remains.

“We view gravely the pending agreement between Israel and Turkey, which is the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and the state that serves as Hamas’s patron,” the family said in a statement on Saturday evening.

The announcement was released after the family of St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, who like Goldin was killed in Gaza and not returned to his family for burial in Israel, said that it would raise a protest tent outside of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on Sunday.

“The agreement does not include the return of our sons, Hadar and Oron, to Israel, contrary to stated promises from the prime minister made over the last two years,” the Goldins’ statement added.

“As we understand it, by signing the agreement the prime minister will have failed the first meaningful test after Operation Protective Edge, and will grant a prize to Hamas for kidnapping Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul,” the family charged.

“The time has come for Israel to be the one who sets the price for Hamas on kidnapping and holding soldiers, and not as we have gotten used to over the last 30 years – to pay heavy prices to our enemies.”

St.-Sgt. Shaul’s parents, Zahava and Herzl, told reporters Saturday that the purpose of the protest tent they plan to put up outside the Prime Minister’s Residence is to pressure cabinet ministers from signing any Israeli-Turkish agreement without a condition that Hamas return the bodies of Israeli soldiers in Gaza, as Turkey has diplomatic relations with Hamas.

“It is unfathomable that we give the Turks achievements and answer their demands while our children are still being held in Gaza.” Oron’s parents said.

The security cabinet is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to approve a rapprochement agreement with Turkey that is expected to be finalized on Sunday.

Earlier this week, the family of Avraham “Abera” Mengistu, who has been held in Gaza since 2014, also came out against the deal with Turkey.

The Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday responded to the criticism from the families, saying “Israel is constantly working, through open and secret channels, to bring back home the two IDF soldiers and two Israeli citizens being held in Gaza,” in reference to Goldin, Shaul, Mengistu and a Beduin citizen whose name has not been released.

“Israel will not cease these activities until the mission is accomplished,” the statement added.                 (Jerusalem Post)

Israelis push back against Turkey normalization deal

More than half of the Israelis are against a deal to restore ties with Turkey, a poll released Monday found, as politicians and families of slain soldiers repudiated the agreement announced earlier in the day.

Out of 600 respondents in the survey conducted Monday morning, 33 percent voiced support for the Turkey deal, 56% were opposed and 11% were undecided, according to Channel 10, which commissioned the poll.

There was significantly greater support for the deal among the 100 Arab Israelis surveyed — 72% supported it, compared to just 24% of the 500 Jews polled. Jewish Israelis were overwhelmingly opposed, with 65% saying they did not support the deal.

The survey results came as a number of politicians and public figures came out against the terms of the long-sought deal, which will see ties between Jerusalem and Ankara normalized after six years of bitter recriminations.

As part of the agreement, Israel will pay $20 million as compensation for a 2010 military raid on the Mavi Marmara Gaza blockade-busting ship, which led to the deaths of 10 Turkish activists.

Not included, though, was the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza as well as two citizens being held captive there, leading to anger among family members that the government had abandoned their sons.

The TV channel reported that two unnamed security cabinet ministers have instructed the families of two Israeli soldiers whose remains are held in the Gaza Strip to appeal to the High Court of Justice against the deal.

The families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin were opposed to the rapprochement, arguing that Israel should have urged Turkey to pressure Hamas to release the bodies, as well as two other Israeli captives said held by the terror group, as part of the negotiations.

On Sunday, the families set up a protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, with dozens rallying against the agreement.

The deal must still gain the approval of the top-level security cabinet, which will meet Wednesday to discuss the agreement.

Already Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman reportedly said he would oppose the deal, though he said he would not wage a public campaign to derail the deal.

Another minister, who was not named in press accounts, reportedly also criticized the deal.

“It’s a contemptible move that the prime minister is bringing before the cabinet as a fait accompli,” the minister was quoted by Israeli news site Ynet as saying. “He’s turned us into a rubber stamp.”

Israeli opposition politicians have criticized the deal, while ministers have largely been silent.

The Goldin and Shaul families will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday, Channel 10 reported.

“Netanyahu cares for Gaza and not for our soldiers,” said Zahava Shaul, the mother of slain IDF soldier Oron Shaul earlier Monday. “Netanyahu has not kept his promises. It’s important that Netanyahu know that all of Israel is on our side, and every Jewish mother should know: tomorrow this could be you.

“This is not how you negotiate,” she added.

The family of Hadar Goldin, who was also killed in the 2014 Gaza war, condemned the “bad and problematic” deal, which they said “ignores the pain of the families and the fate of Israel’s heroes,” according to the Walla news website.

“The prime minister’s statements are hollow,” the Goldin family charged. They urged Israeli ministers to vote against the “bad” deal and ensure that the agreement hinges on Hamas’s return of the slain soldiers’ bodies.

A senior Israeli official on Sunday said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had written a letter committing Turkey to work toward their release as part of the deal.

According to the Channel 10 poll, 72% of Israelis thought the return of the bodies should have been included in the deal.

Jerusalem and Ankara announced Monday the terms of the deal, ending years of diplomatic stalemate between the eastern Mediterranean countries and heralding the normalization of ties.

Criticizing Netanyahu for agreeing to compensate the families of Turks killed in the Mavi Marmara incident and not bringing home Israelis held captive in Gaza, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Monday the deal was “important,” but hedged his praise by saying Ankara “is the ally of Hamas.

“As in the [Gilad] Shalit incident and in Operation Protective Edge, Netanyahu is weak against Hamas because over the years he’s given in to the political threats of [Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor] Liberman and has been dragged along unnecessarily at the expense of Israeli citizens’ security interests,” he added.

Other politicians also criticized the deal, though some said they would reluctantly accept it to reestablish ties with Turkey, once Israel’s closest regional ally.

Already frayed relations between Israel and Turkey were significantly downgraded in 2010 after Israeli commandos staged a raid on a six-ship Turkish flotilla that was trying to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Strip.

The commandos were violently attacked by those on board the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, and nine Turkish citizens, including one with American citizenship, were killed in the ensuing melee. A 10th citizen died of his wounds years later. A number of Israeli soldiers were injured in the raid.

Under the deal, Israel will pay $20 million in compensation for the deaths caused in the commando raid, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed. In return for the compensation, Turkey agreed not to take legal action against Israel Defense Forces soldiers involved in the incident.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, dismissed criticism by political opponents who decried the paying of compensation to attackers of IDF soldiers as a national humiliation.

“Our vital interests are advanced by this deal,” he said. “This isn’t the start of a honeymoon. And I’m not presenting this agreement through rose-colored glasses. But this agreement strengthens Israel.”                  (the Times of Israel)

Netanyahu to Kerry: Turkey deal to have ‘immense’ impact on Israeli economy

An agreement to normalize ties with Turkey after six years will have a positive impact on Israel’s economy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

Speaking after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome, Netanyahu said the agreement, announced by Israeli and Turkish officials on Sunday, was “an important step”.

“It has also immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I use that word advisedly,” he told reporters together with Kerry. Israeli officials have raised the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals once ties with Turkey were mended.

Kerry welcomed the agreement, saying, “We are obviously pleased in the administration. This is a step we wanted to see happen.”

Israel and Turkey on Sunday reached agreement to end a rift over the Israeli navy’s killing of 10 Turkish pro-Palestinian activists who tried to breach the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2010. A formal announcement of the deal is expected later on Monday.

Meanwhile in Israel, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz defended the expected detente between Jerusalem and Ankara.

Steinitz told Army Radio that from a moral standpoint Israel should pay compensation to the families of the 10 activists who were killed in an Israeli raid of the Turkish Mavi Marmara flotilla that breached Gaza’s naval blockade in 2010.

He asserted that the monetary compensation of $21 million to the victims’ families is worth the price when considering keeping the IDF soldiers involved in the incident from international criminal prosecution.

“It is feared that warrants for their [the IDF soldiers] arrest will be issued, in order to end the saga and protect the soldiers sent to thwart the flotilla, we must pay the amount to remove the threat,” he told Army Radio, adding that such a move “is not pleasant but it is a moral obligation.”

According to Steinitz, the compensation amount was set three years ago, however what hindered a deal from materializing was Turkey’s refusal to drop its demand that Israel lift its blockade on Gaza.

On Sunday, MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) said that the expected signing of the reconciliation deal implies that Israel admits to “murdering” the  activists on the Mavi Marmara flotilla.

Zoabi, who herself was on the flotilla, also said that the decision to pay $20 million to the families of the killed showed that the Tirkil commission, which investigated the incident was a “sham. She added that “the blockade on Gaza must end.”

“The blockade kills. It is murder and must be stopped and those responsible for the blockade must be prosecuted in the [ICC] Hague,” she said.

She decried the deal as not addressing the blockade and therefore urged for more flotillas to Gaza in the near future.        (Jerusalem Post)

Sharansky to French Jews mulling aliya: Do it!

French Jews contemplating aliya should take the initiative, and the Israeli government should provide them with the benefits once afforded Soviet immigrants, according to Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.

“I believe many French Jews are planning to leave,” Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors gathering in Paris from Sunday to Tuesday.

“My message is that we are here to help you, we are here to support you, but you need to take the initiative! It’s a mutual effort.”

Sharansky noted that according to a survey conducted last year by Étude IFOP, more than 40 percent of France’s estimated half a million Jews are considering immigration to Israel.

“Last year we saw an increase in French aliya to 8,000, but there is a slowdown now. The reasons why people have decided to leave are still there, and in fact, we have 9,000 new aliya files opened recently,” he said. “We have increased our operation in France, and we can process 15,000 olim a year. That’s not a problem. The problem is to provide solutions to those who are looking for apartments and jobs.”

In this regard, Sharansky urged the Israeli government to reinstate its program of benefits and incentives offered to Soviet Jews.

“We believe that the government must restore projects for olim that existed for immigrants from the Soviet Union,” Sharansky said. “At that time, there were special mortgages, special rights, and special incentives to go to places in the periphery such as Hadera and Sderot.”

Sharansky said he was looking forward to the Board of Governors meeting, which would be attended by 218 board members, Jewish leaders from France and around the world, two Israeli cabinet ministers – Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver and Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant – and the French minister of state for relations with parliament, Jean-Marie Le Guen.

“We decided eight months ago that our Board of Governors meeting will be in Paris, in solidarity with French Jews and as a result of all that is happening in Europe, with a rise in anti-Semitism,” he said. “It will be the biggest meeting of Jewish leaders in Paris, maybe ever, at least in the history that I know.”

He later issued a statement saying: “This gathering of hundreds of Jewish leaders from around the world is the single greatest expression of the Jewish people’s solidarity with French Jewry.”

He added: “The Jewish Agency will continue to assist any French Jew who wishes to make his or her home in Israel while simultaneously doing everything in our power to ensure that Jewish life in France grows even stronger and more secure.”

Daniel Ben-Haim, director of the agency’s delegation in France, said that he is concerned about the general situation in France.

“France itself is undergoing a kind of economic and identity crisis; there are many discussions on national identity, both in the country and Europe, about the place of Islam and the Judeo-Christian tradition,” he told the Post in an interview from Paris.

“For over a month, there have been many anti-government demonstrations and strikes.

Jews as citizens of the state are both influenced by these factors and in addition, they have been affected by a steady rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic attacks over the past decade.”

Since the murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris 10 years ago, and the anti-Semitic attacks in Toulouse six years later and at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in the capital last year, Ben-Haim said there has been “a prevalent feeling of instability and insecurity” among French Jews.

Since November 2015, a wave of fatal terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere in Europe has enhanced this feeling, he added.

“There is a general sense of fear that definitely affects the daily life of all French citizens, especially Jews,” he said.

Ben-Haim praised the French government and security forces for taking swift and strong action to combat terrorism, but voiced uncertainty about the future of French Jewry.

“The government has made clear to the country’s Jews that it wants them to feel safe and to stay,” he said.

“French security forces have been posted outside every Jewish institution, and there are many such institutions.

There is a great motivation to fight terrorism, but I’m not sure they have all the right tools. For example, even though France has been in what is termed ‘an emergency situation’ since 2015, which allows the security forces much more freedom, the question is what happens when this ends?” He said although most Jews feel uncomfortable about the security situation and anti-Semitism, they were not quite ready to leave yet.

“Especially now, during the Euro soccer competition, when there are many visitors and games in different places, there is an awareness of the possibility of renewed terrorism and its potential to disrupt our lives,” he said.

“For the country’s Jews, however, there is still a large gap between the desire to make aliya and actually doing it.

The Jewish Agency and the government of Israel are both working on bridging this gap by working on the whole issue of absorption.

We need to provide realistic solutions for housing, jobs and education in Israel.”

Ben-Haim predicted that there would be a new wave of aliya in the not-too-distant future.

“I don’t feel we’ve reached the peak, and we have to look at the bigger picture. In 2017, we will have presidential elections here. Like those in the US, they will be a defining moment for the nation and the Jewish community.

“There will be a new president, but more important than his or her identity will be whether he or she will contribute to stability and what the role of the extreme Right will be. All these things – including the economic slowdown, the political instability, the security situation, and the rise of anti-Semitism, could all contribute to an upsurge in aliya.”

Participants at the three day Board of Governors meeting will learn about Jewish Agency activities in Paris, interact with French Jewish youth, receive a security briefing from the Jewish communal security service, and learn about the most pressing issues facing the community. The event will draw to a close with the European finals of the 2016 International Bible Competition for Adults, hosted jointly by the Jewish Agency, the Israeli government and the World Zionist Organization, the agency said in a statement.                  (Jerusalem Post)

IDF: Hamas planning 100-man tunnel attack

The most serious scenario that the IDF is currently preparing for on the southern front is a multi-pronged “surprise attack by about 100 Hamas men coming out of several terror tunnels simultaneously,” said a military source Sunday.

“We are preparing for this all the time and putting our greatest efforts into it,” he added.

The source said that Hamas has three regiments facing Israel in Gaza. One in the northern part of the coastal strip, another in the central refugee camps and the third in Rafiah (Rafah), on the Egyptian border.

“These regiments are organized and operate as military organizations,” he said. “They have a methodology of war, they have a well-organized control and command structure and they are preparing all the time for a surprise attack like the one in Operation Protective Edge, only bigger.”

Hamas’s central ambition is to take the fighting into Israeli territory, the source explained. Once it is able to do this, it will – but this will not happen soon, he predicted.          (Arutz Sheva)

Israeli satellite to help secure Rio Olympics

An Israeli high-resolution imaging satellite will strengthen security during the Olympics and Paralympic Games taking place in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

The announcement was made last week by Brazilian Defense Minister Raul Jungmann, who said the Eros-B satellite will allow very detailed inspections of the city during the sporting events in August and September, the G1 news portal reported Friday.

“This is an Israeli satellite at a low Earth orbit altitude capable of capturing high-resolution images of up to 50 centimeters [about 1 1/2 feet] in an area of 450 kilometers [some 31 miles], thus enabling the identification of objects, people, cars and goods,” Jungmann explained to the local media.

He added that the Eros-B satellite will be used on an experimental basis for six months as a security complement and, in the future, will support in border surveillance.

“Brazil has no need to worry because we have been in touch with the world’s best intelligence agencies and we will bring unique innovations to the Games,” Jungmann said. “We’ll have an international intelligence center to host 100 nations and their own intelligence centers, which is unprecedented.”

Another Israeli company, LiveU, will provide its cellular-based live video transmission technology to allow broadcasters to beam images from Brazil around the world in real time, with little latency and superb picture quality, the Times of Israel reported last month.

The Israeli app Moovit will guide tourists and local residents to the fastest and safest routes to and between competition venues at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, JTA reported in May. Moovit will provide real-time information in 35 languages on the fastest public transportation routes to local residents and visitors.

A fourth Israeli company will have a key role in the Games. International Security and Defense Systems, or ISDS, will provide services from consulting to security supply systems.  (the Times of Israel)

5 Months After Surviving Palestinian Stabbing Attack, Israeli Woman Gives Birth to Healthy Baby Girl

Five months after surviving a Palestinian stabbing attack, a 30-year-old Israeli woman gave birth to her fifth daughter on Saturday, the Hebrew news site Walla reported on Sunday.

Michal Froman, a resident of the Judean community of Tekoa – is the daughter-in-law of the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, famous for his efforts at Jewish-Arab peaceful coexistence.

Her husband, Shibi, posted a message on Facebook on Saturday night about the baby and the significance of her entering the world under such circumstances.

“For the months since the stabbing, I have been wondering whether the baby would be born a [far-Right extremist] hilltop youth or an extreme leftist,” he wrote. “In the end, she emerged on Shabbat and she is merely a lump of sweetness. Simple and relaxed sweetness. It seems that it will take a lot of time to persuade her that there are conflicts in the world, other than gas, of course. In the meantime, she and I share complete admiration for her mother, who again is surprising us with yet another example of heroism and greatness and being able to see beauty in the midst of difficulty, and goodness in times of crisis. Thank God for everything.”

Shibi Froman told Walla about the impetus for his post. “We always joked that [the baby] had experienced the [Arab-Israeli] conflict in utero, and thought it interesting to consider how she was going to fare in the world outside.”

This is in keeping with how Michal herself responded in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack, which left her – at the time 18 weeks pregnant — in moderate condition from wounds sustained to her upper body.

“The [Arab] ambulance driver who drove me had more human compassion than many of the Jews I know,” she said at the time. “I call on Arabs like him to join hands and do something together to change things… I know this is hard, and it may take many years to achieve, but together we will emerge victorious; the faster we get this done, the better things are for everyone… [I feel] a great urge to give back and to implement the lessons I learned from this ordeal — namely, to make life stronger and to give to others.”

Froman, was attacked on January 18 by a 17-year-old Palestinian in the clothing store where she was employed. The terrorist fled, ignoring orders by security forces to stop. He was then shot and wounded by a civilian, and taken to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, while Froman was evacuated to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where it was determined that her unborn baby had not been harmed.                    (the Algemeiner)

The winner from the Israel-Turkey détente – Hamas

By  Ariel Ben Solomon               The Jerusalem Post


Israel apparently has agreed to the presence of Hamas in Turkey as long as it does not involve itself directly in terrorist attacks against Israel, but limits itself to political and other supposedly nonviolent activity.

However, the sanction of the presence and “political” activity of Hamas in a country with diplomatic ties with Israel undermines years of Israeli public relations against the terrorist group, which sought to identify Hamas with other Sunni groups such as al-Qaida and Islamic State.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu equated Islamic State to Hamas in a speech to the UN in September 2014, saying some countries “evidently don’t understand that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.”

“ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control,” he said, going on to note that both groups call for the creation of a caliphate with global ambitions.

But, if Hamas is Islamic State, why is Israel sanctioning its activity, even though not directly terrorism related, in a country with which it wants to normalize relations? Turkish media reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Istanbul on Friday to discuss the negotiations with Israel.

Would Israel or any other Western country allow the leader of a friendly state with which it has diplomatic relations meet with Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and allow the organization to operate within its territory? Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told The Jerusalem Post the upcoming deal is “a win for the status quo as nothing really changes.”

Besides Hamas not being able to carry out military activity from Turkish soil, everything else stays the same: Hamas maintains its Turkish headquarters; Turkey continues assisting Hamas-ruled Gaza; and Israel facilitates this.

Israel does gain the removal and blockage of lawsuits against its soldiers in return for a multi-million dollar settlement for families of Turks killed or injured on the Mavi Marmara flotilla, but other than that “it is a victory for Erdogan.”

Furthermore, Israel and some analysts have taken great pains to point out that terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah cannot be separated into political and military entities since they feed off and support one another as part of the same organization.

When the EU decided to ban Hezbollah’s military wing but not its political one in 2013, Israeli supporters criticized it for not going far enough.

Netanyahu said at the time that he hoped the decision would lead to real steps in Europe against the group, and stated that, in Israel’s view, Hezbollah was one indivisible organization.

Hence, allowing Hamas to continue to function anywhere undermines Israel’s security.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the same organization that was behind the Mavi Marmara flotilla that sought to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010, objects to any rapprochement with Israel, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Selin Nasi, a columnist for the Hurriyet Daily News and the Turkish- Jewish weekly Salom, told the Post that if the report of the upcoming deal is true and Turkey agreed to the easing of the blockade but not lifting it, then “it could have a political cost with his conservative political constituency here in Turkey.”

After opposing Israel so strongly in the past, Erdogan is in an uncomfortable situation. But because of the wars raging in Syria, Iraq, and the domestic Kurdish insurgency, as well as its terrible relations with Russia and many of its Middle Eastern neighbors, he felt something had to give.

Schanzer pointed out that from Israel’s perspective, the government would like to have normalized ties with Muslim countries in general.

“But there is no way to have true normalized relations with Erdogan’s government. It is virtually impossible to imagine, given that Turkey remains an Islamist-ruled state with close ties to Hamas and other anti-Israel organizations.”

Perhaps the deal can be best described as an agreement “to stop publicly fighting, while quietly continuing to disagree on virtually everything.”

How dare Europe applaud a blood-libeler?

By  Ruthie Blum                  The Jerusalem Post


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas lies about Israel not only as a matter of course but also as a matter of policy. It was no surprise, then, when he stood up at the European Parliament on Thursday and regurgitated a claim made this week that rabbinical figures in the Jewish state had urged the government to poison Palestinian wells.

Abbas knew that this classically anti-Semitic blood libel was as false as a similar one, spread last week, saying that Israel forced Palestinians from a certain village to flee by drying up their water supply during Ramadan. In fact, a pipe had burst, and it was immediately repaired. But not – as media watchdog HonestReporting pointed out – before the “water apartheid” lie, first “reported” by Al Jazeera, was picked up by The Independent, the International Business Times, Radio New Zealand and The Times of London.

In keeping with the tradition of his predecessor, the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, Abbas encourages the invention of all kinds of blood libels, which he then states as fact, both to his own people and to the international community. Each libel is more ludicrous than the previous one, and they would be funny if they weren’t reminiscent of Nazi propaganda and didn’t serve the same purpose: to foster the kind of Jew-loathing that enables genocide.

But annihilating Israel and the Jews is not the real reason that Abbas perpetuates utterly insane accusations against the only democracy in the Middle East. More immediate personal concerns preoccupy the PA leader, who knows his days are numbered, literally and figuratively, if he does not remain relevant at home and abroad. Indeed, Abbas constantly faces the possibility of being ousted by members of his own faction, Fatah, and by Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules Gaza. He manages to survive by enlisting financial and political support from the United States, Europe and the United Nations.

Viewed – baselessly – as a moderate who constitutes the best hope for reaching a peace deal with Israel, he continues to be received by world leaders and to keep the cash flowing into his coffers. That hardly any of it goes to building institutions in the PA or to rehabilitating Gaza appears to be of little concern to those holding the position that Abbas is more of a victim than a perpetrator.

What his apologists fail to see, however, is that if, by some miracle, the two-state solution were to be realized by its fantasists, Abbas would instantly be thrown into the dumpster of history in every respect. The only thing unclear about “the day after” is whether his corpse or his irrelevance will come first.

In other words, Abbas has nothing to gain and everything to lose in any peace deal with Israel. He knows better than anyone that his status as a leader on the world stage depends precisely on the absence of Palestinian statehood. Yes, it is this that drives his every move and all his lies. Key among these lies are the two fictions he reiterates from every podium, including the one he occupied in Brussels on Thursday. One is that Middle East stability rests on resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The other is that Israel, being responsible for the predicament in the first place, bears the burden of repairing the damage.

It therefore infuriates him every time the Israeli government urges him to come to the negotiating table, leading him to spin any overture from Jerusalem to his own advantage. His latest such act was to snub President Reuven Rivlin’s invitation to meet in the European capital.

None of this is the least bit new. In fact, at this point, it is so obvious as to be boring. In any case, most Israelis are too busy trying to avoid being stabbed, shot or hit with firebombs to listen to Abbas’ blather. Our blood is actually being spilled.

We don’t need libels or lip service to highlight that reality.

But why does anyone else still treat Abbas as a man of integrity and stature? How could hundreds of EU Parliament members applaud his vile speech, when faced with the truth about Islamist terrorism? Where do they get off believing a single word he says? By now, what any sane representative of a free country should grasp is that it is not Palestinian wells being poisoned, but rather the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people.

A Taste of Some of Israel’s Finest Wineries

From Biblical times to the present, the Land of Israel has been home to some of the region’s finest vineyards and wineries

From relatively modest beginnings in the late 19th century, when the first modern winery was established by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, wine production (and consumption) in Israel has burgeoned over recent decades.

There are currently over three hundred wineries, large and small, operating in and around Israel’s five main wine-growing regions.  Each has a unique story; each delivers superb taste.

Check out some of Israel’s finest wineries, from the hills of Jerusalem to the plains of Judea. (MFA)