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Shimon Peres Israel

Latest News in Israel – 28th September

Former President Peres said fighting for life as condition worsens

Former president and prime minister Shimon Peres’s condition has significantly deteriorated over the past 24 hours, leaving the 93-year-old “fighting for his life,” according to sources and doctors who have been treating him since he suffered a serious stroke two weeks ago.

“Peres’s condition continues to be very serious and the lack of progress at this stage is a source for worry,” doctors at the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv said Tuesday, according to reports carried by several Hebrew-language media outlets.

Doctors say his breathing, kidney function and several other indexes have dropped over the past few hours, raising concerns that he could be headed for multiple organ failure, according to reports.

“The president is fighting for his life,” a source close to Peres told AFP on condition of anonymity. “His health position is very, very difficult. His doctors are worried about his health.”

His spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Peres, 93, was hospitalized at the Sheba Medical Center on September 13 after suffering a major stroke. He has been under sedation since then, with doctors reporting slight progress in his condition.

Although Peres remains sedated, his medical team decided last week to gradually reduce the respiratory support as well as the level of anesthesia being administered.

Sources close to Peres told the Walla news website that the reports Tuesday were “not good news,” and said his family was gathered around his hospital bed.

News of Peres’s stroke earlier this month sent shockwaves through the country, which feared the imminent loss of the last surviving link to its founding fathers.

Over a seven-decade career, the elder statesman of Israeli politics and one of the country’s most admired symbols has held virtually every senior political office, including two stints as prime minister and extended terms as foreign, defense and finance minister. He won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in reaching an interim peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Long a divisive personality in politics, Peres finally became one of Israel’s most popular public figures in his later years.

World leaders sent wishes of a speedy recovery to the former president, recalling his achievements and warm personality.

Peres recently underwent surgery to receive an artificial pacemaker after he was diagnosed with an abnormal heart rhythm in July following a series of minor health scares.

The implant was recommended by Peres’s doctors, including personal physician Rafi Walden, after he was diagnosed in July with atrial fibrillation.

He suffered a mild heart attack in January and underwent a cardiac angioplasty to open a blocked artery. He had been hospitalized twice after suffering chest pains.  (the Times of Israel)

Ahead of Jewish New Year, Israel’s population stands at 8.585 million

As Israel prepares to ring in the Jewish New Year, the Central Bureau of Statistics released a report on Tuesday estimating its population on the eve of Rosh Hashana at 8.585 million.

According to the annual report, there are 6.419 million Jewish residents – 74.8 percent of the total population – and the Arab Israeli population stands at 1.786 million, or 20.8% of the country’s inhabitants.

The additional 4.4%, approximately 380,000 people, are non-Arab Christians or people of other religions, as well as those with no religious affiliation categorized as “other.”

According to the report the overall population grew in 2015 by 2%, or 172,000 people, as the Jewish population grew by 1.9%, the Arab population by 2.2%, and the “other” population group increased by 3.8%.

The population in Israel is considered a young population compared to other Western countries. In 2015 28.3% of the population was under the age of 14, while 11.1% of the population was aged 65 or older.

Despite this, the aging trend of the population continues to increase as in 2016 the median age stood at 29.8, compared to 27.7 in 2000. The report further indicated that the median age for men in 2015 stood at 28.7 while the median age for women stood at 30.9.

According to the statistics there are 983 men for every 1,000 women living in Israel, an upward trend from 974 men for every 1,000 women in 1995.

The report also indicated that among the Jewish population men and women are marrying at a later age. In 2014, 62.7% of men and 45.8% of women aged 25-29 were single, compared to 54% of men and 33.3% of women who were single in 2000.

In contrast, among the Muslim population, in 2012 47.1% of men and 19.4% of women aged 25-29 were single, compared to 35.7% of men and 23.2% of women in 2000. In 2014, the report found that 50,797 couples were married, of which 73% were Jewish couples and 23% were Muslim couples – among the highest marriage rates in the OECD. In contrast, 14,430 couples divorced during this year, 79% were Jewish couples and 15% were Muslim.

In 2015, 178,723 children were born – 1.3% more than were born in 2014. Of these children 74% were born to Jewish mothers while 23% were born to Arab mothers.

The report also found that the average age of a mother having her first child rose from 25.1 years old in 1994 to 27.6 years old in 2015. Furthermore, in 2015 the average woman in Israel has 3.09 children, compared to 3.08 children in 2014 and 3.8 children in the first half of the 1970s.

In breaking these figures down by sector, the findings indicated that Jewish women had an average of 3.13 children in 2015, compared to 3.28 children in the first half of the 1970s, while Muslim women had 3.32 children on average in 2015, compared to 8.47 children during the first half of the 1970s.

In 2015, 27,908 people made Aliya, an increase of 16% compared to 2014, and a rate of 3.3 olim for every 1,000 residents, the report found. The majority of new olim, 6,886 were from Ukraine, 6,632 from Russia, 6,628 from France and 2,451 from the United States.

The average age of a new immigrant in 2015 stood at 32.9 years old. As in previous years, there were more women making Aliya – 927 men for every 1,000 women.

The report also noted that at the end of 2015, approximately three-quarters of the Jews in Israel were Sabras – born in the country – and more than half were at least second-generation natives.

These figures indicate a drastic increase since the foundation of the state in 1948, when there were 806,000 Israelis, of whom 35% were native-born.

The report also indicated that some 34.1% of Israelis are of European-American origin, while 13.5% are from Africa and 10.1% are from Asia.

Some 40% of the total population of Israel, and roughly half of the Jewish population, live in the Center of the country, while nearly 60% of the Arab population lives in the North.

In 2015, the population in the Jerusalem district grew by some 2.3% to comprise 12.5% of the total population, 11.1% of which are Jewish and 19.1% Arab. However the highest growth rate recorded was in Judea and Samaria, standing at some 4.1%. In comparison the population of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area grew by only 1.4% to comprise 16.2% of the total population, of which 20.1% are Jewish and 1.1% Arab.      (Jerusalem Post)

Israel Deploys Drones Along Syrian Border to Monitor Jihadist Threats

Israel has purchased and is now deploying drones along its northern border to assist in monitoring and addressing various threats from Syria, where a civil war has been raging for more than five years.

According to a report on Monday in the Hebrew news site Walla, the drones can serve as a crucial tool in observing and preventing spillover from warring factions on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights and terrorist attacks against — or infiltrations into — the Jewish state.

One advantage of the unmanned aircraft is that they have cameras that can collect visual data from dozens of yards above a given area. The user-friendly drones are also capable of identifying and distinguishing between people and vehicles — something that provides effective tactical assistance to Israeli troops on the ground.

The Syrian side of the Golan Heights has become a region of virtual anarchy, the report said, with many different jihadist groups flooding the area. These include: ISIS and affiliated organizations, local militias, Hezbollah, and other Iranian-funded terrorist groups such as Islamic Jihad.

According to Walla, IDF forces regularly patrol the border, closely watching for any suspicious changes in activities or movements on the other side.

One problem the IDF has had to deal with over the past few years has been errant fire from battles in Syria between pro-Assad regime forces and rebels, as well as internal fights among the latter. Hits on Israeli territory usually stem from a lack of precision in mortar and artillery fire. The IDF has been given the order by the political echelon to respond to such incidents within less than 24 hours — and this, Walla reported, has enhanced Israel’s deterrence and reduced the scope of the spillover.

Drone Israel

One of the newly purchased drones assisting the IDF in monitoring the Syrian border.

As reported at the end of July — around the 10th anniversary of the Second War in Lebanon — assessments in the IDF are that a successful inter-Syrian diplomatic agreement could lead to fighting not only between Israel and rebel jihadis, but also with with Iran’s proxy Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite terrorist organization which supports the Assad regime.

On Saturday, Israeli minister and former IDF general Yoav Gallant said that Iran must not be allowed to remain a hegemonic power in a post-civil-war Syria.

“The greatest threat to Israel is posed not by ISIS or al-Qaeda, but rather by Iran and Hezbollah, both of which must be isolated from the Western world,” Gallant said.  (the Algemeiner)

Saudi paper calls for Abbas to accept invitation to address Knesset

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should accept Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation and address Israel’s Knesset, a Saudi newspaper argued in it’s editorial on Monday.

The English-language Saudi Gazette said that Netanyahu’s invitation, issued during his speech to the UN General Assembly last week, was reminiscent of former prime minister Menachem Begin’s invitation to former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, which eventually led to the 1978 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

“For all its shortcomings, Camp David demonstrated that negotiations with Israel were possible and that progress could be made through sustained efforts at communication and cooperation,” the Gazette argued.

While conceding the Palestinian contention that Netanyahu’s decision may have been “designed to mask what they described as Israel’s intransigence on moving forward with the Mideast peace process,” the paper’s editorial board said that Sadat’s address was preceded by similarly grim prospects.

“The Palestinians should note that at the time, Egypt and Israel were mortal enemies, having fought three wars.”

The editorial came amid signs that the Saudi media is softening its reporting on Israel, a development that has been linked to under the table contacts between the two countries.  (Jerusalem Post)

‘Axing Hamas from EU terror list would be lowest point for European Jews since Holocaust’

One of the largest Jewish umbrella organizations in Europe has condemned the EU’s top court for moving toward the removal of Hamas from the bloc’s terrorism blacklist.

European Jewish Congress (EJC) on Monday berated last week’s recommendation by a top legal advisor for the European Court of Justice in favor of taking Hamas off of the EU’s terror list, and effectively unfreezing the Palestinian movement’s currently sanctioned assets.

“If Hamas is indeed removed from the terror watch list, then this will be the lowest and most worrying point for European Jewry in 70 years,” stated EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor in reference to the period since the Holocaust.

On Thursday, European Court of Justice advocate-general Eleanor Sharpston argued that the placement of Hamas, along with the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers, on the EU blacklist had been decided without sufficient, independent evidence.

“Hamas has murdered countless people and ensure millions more live in misery, and their means to kill many more could be given to them on a silver platter because someone in Europe feels there is not enough evidence to define them as a terrorist organization,” Kantor charged in light of Sharpston’s opinion.

“One only has to open up their proudly written charter to read that they seek bloodshed and terror and even aspire to the genocide of Jewish people worldwide,” Kantor added, calling for the issue to be rectified.

In a statement release Monday, he pointed at European bureaucrats as potentially “providing the ammunition both on this continent and elsewhere,” while asserting that Jews continue to serve as target in Europe.

Israel also protested the potential removal of Hamas from the EU terror list, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon saying: “This is only a (legal) opinion which is not binding on the court and is part of the European judicial process.”

“We are convinced that the European Union will do all that is required in order to keep Hamas, an active terrorist group, on the European terror list.”

While Sharpston’s advice is not binding, judges’ rulings are typically closely aligned with the recommendations of the advocates-general.

The United States has also urged the maintenance of sanctions on Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and has fought and attacked Israel for three decades.

The ECJ has said that its justices have begun deliberations on the case and there was no set date for a ruling.               (Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s Leviathan gas field signs export deal with Jordan

The U.S. and Israeli partners of the Leviathan natural gas field announced on Monday they have agreed to sell a 10 billion U.S. dollar worth of gas to Jordan.

The deal is the first to be signed by Leviathan, a gigantic natural gas reservoir located off Israel’s northern shore.

The partners “will supply a gross quantity of approximately 1.6 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas from the Leviathan field, or 300 million cubic feet per day, over a 15-year term,” Texas-based Noble Energy, Leviathan’s main control holder, said in a statement.

“Gross contract revenues are estimated to be approximately 10 billion dollars,” the statement read.

Leviathan is a 622 billion cubic meter gas reservoir that was found off Israel’s Mediterranean coast in 2010.

Gas production at the site is expected to begin in four years.

In Tamar, a nearby smaller gas field, gas production kicked off in March 2013.

In December 2015, after years of political infighting, the government signed a long-awaited agreement allowing Noble and Israel-based Delek Group to develop the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields while forcing them to sell two minor fields.               (Xinhua News Agency)

Chief rabbis divided on recognition of US conversions

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau has expressed opposition to an evolving policy of the Chief Rabbinate not to automatically recognize conversions performed in the US that have formal recognition from the Beth Din of America.

Lau’s position is in direct opposition to that of his counterpart, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who appears to be responsible for the new policy of not granting automatic recognition to such conversions.

Understandings reached in 2008 between the Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbinical Council of America stated that an Orthodox conversion performed in America and given formal approval by a rabbinical judge from the Beth Din of America would be recognized as valid in Israel by the Chief Rabbinate.

However, this agreement has been unraveling in recent years, as numerous cases have occurred in which conversion approvals from the Beth Din of America and its most senior judge, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, have been rejected.

It is the rabbinate’s Department of Marriage and Conversion, run by Rabbi Itamar Tubul, which has been directly responsible for these rejections.

The department is under the authority of Yosef in his position as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, and sources in the Chief Rabbinate have indicated that he is responsible for instructing Tubul to adopt this new approach.

On Monday, an aide to Lau wrote a letter to Tubul, obtained by The Jerusalem Post, in which he stated that Lau had asked him to clarify to Tubul “once again” that “approvals issued by the Beth Din of America and signed by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz should be recognized, and that they should be relied upon for the purposes of approving [conversion] certificates which are received from the US.”

Yosef’s office declined to answer an inquiry made by the Post as to whether the chief rabbi considers the understandings of 2008 as still operative.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for the Chief Rabbinate said that every case requiring conversion verification from the US “is examined on an individual basis,” and that “there are no all-inclusive approvals or rejections,” indicating that the Chief Rabbinate, under Yosef’s direction, no longer considers the 2008 agreement to be binding.

Lau and Yosef have had a high-profile quarrel for several months over various issues.

The ITIM religious services advisory group, which has represented many of the converts requiring recognition by the Chief Rabbinate, welcomed Lau’s comments to Tubul, but was critical of the fight between the two chief rabbis.

“The internal bickering in the rabbinate is taking place while converts are suffering. This is un-halachic and inhuman,” said ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber.

“We call upon the Chief Rabbinate to immediately disband the department and issue a statement that all conversions done under the auspices of rabbis from halachic institutions will be automatically recognized. This is what was always accepted in traditional Jewish society and this should be today’s standard.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Israel holds key to peace, if only the leftists would listen

by Rowan Dean,                       The Daily Telegraph

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/israel-holds-key-to-peace-if-only-the-leftists-would-listen/news-story/bd1495e1ec10908253e9ee95230e946f

Cue wild applause. Last week in New York, at the United Nations, a certain recently re-elected Prime Minister gave the speech of his life, and in doing so transformed himself from everyday politician to global statesman.

His speech was full of optimism, as he spoke of his “innovation” agenda, of his belief that freedom will always overcome fear, and that hope will ­always overcome hatred.

He boasted that these are exciting times and that he is proud to be the Prime Minister of one of the most tolerant, multicultural, diverse nations on the planet.

In front of the assembled delegates of the UN, where the world’s worst despots regularly congregate, the PM proudly pointed out that in his country gays hang out in bars and ­coffee shops, rather than swinging by the neck from cranes or being flung off rooftops.

That in his multicultural nation Christians, Muslims, Jews and other denominations live and work with mutual respect side-by-side, rather than in racial or religious hostility.

That in his country women are not only free to do as they please but lead political parties, head major corporations, run universities, even fly fighter jets, rather than being discriminated against as second-class citizens.

This speech was the making of the Prime Minister and it was a joy to listen to.

I wish I could say it was Malcolm Turnbull’s speech, but it wasn’t. This was the speech by Benjamin Netanyahu, elected last year (for the fourth time) as Prime Minister of Israel — the Middle East’s only democracy.

The speech ran for 40 minutes, but every second was riveting. Why?

Firstly, Netanyahu declared his “war” with the United Nations is over. This despite the fact the UN has been (and still is) one of the most virulently anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli organisations on earth.

As Netanyahu pointed out, last year the UN General Assembly passed 20 resolutions against Israel, but (hilariously) only three against the rest of the world combined.

“As women are being systematically raped, murdered, sold into slavery, which is the only country that the UN’s Commission on Women chose to condemn this year?” he asked. “Yep, you guessed it — Israel.” On top of which, “UNESCO just denied the 4000-year connection between the Jewish people and its holiest site, the Temple Mount. That’s just as absurd as denying the connection between the Great Wall of China and China.”

The “moral force” that the original UN once was has become a “moral farce”, he joked. But — and this is important — Netanyahu believes the days of demonising Israel at the UN are ending.

He explained: “Back home, your governments are rapidly changing their attitudes towards Israel.

“More and more nations in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America see Israel as a potent partner — a partner in fighting the terrorism of today, a partner in developing the technology of ­tomorrow.”

From a country that started out in the 1950s growing oranges for a living Israel is now (take note, Malcolm) genuinely an “innovation nation”.

It is one of the world’s leaders in all sorts of technologies — including ­recycling waste water, combating climate change, irrigating deserts, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

But the PM was only warming up. “I’m going to surprise you even more. You see, the biggest change in attitudes towards Israel is taking place … in the Arab world.”

And this was the crux of his speech. Thanks to the horrors of IS, the muddle-headedness and weakness of Obama and the sinister nuclear schemings of Iran, it’s dawning on many Muslim countries that Israel is NOT their enemy, but rather, is potentially a crucial friend and ally.

What’s more, as fanatical Muslims kill innocent people randomly in the streets of New York, Europe and even Sydney, more and more sane people are realising that most of the Arab violence and hostility towards Israel in the past was actually fomented by Islamic extremists. When it comes to terrorism, we’re all Israelis now.

Of course, for our own latte-sipping lefties and Greenies, hatred of Israel is an irrational, sick badge of honour, so Netanyahu’s speech will be dismissed by them with their usual sneering intolerance. Yet Netanyahu went to great lengths to explain his desire for peace with the Palestinians, offering, yet again, to sit down with President Abbas and draw up a plan for two states. But that, of course, is the problem. Many of the Palestinian leaders (as I know, having asked the question in person at the PLO headquarters in Ramallah) are only interested in two states if BOTH states are Muslim and there’s “only a handful of Jews” in the place called Israel. Despite the bloody-mindedness of the Palestinians and the anti-Semitism of the Left, Israel’s future is looking bright. We should all applaud that.

Abbas to Arab Leaders: Go to Hell!

by Khaled Abu Toameh                                     The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9023/abbas-arab-states

  • Abbas and Fatah leaders in Ramallah claim that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (the “Arab Quartet”) are using and promoting Abbas’s rival, Mohamed Dahlan, in order to facilitate their mission of rapprochement with Israel.
  • Many Palestinians were surprised to see veteran Palestinian official Ahmed Qurei, a former Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister and one of the architects of the Oslo Accord, come out in favor of the Arab plan, which basically envisions ousting Abbas from power.
  • This, and not Israeli policy, is Abbas’s true nightmare. After all, he knows that without Israel’s presence in the West Bank, his regime would have long fallen into the hands of Hamas or even his political rivals in Fatah.
  • The “Arab Quartet” plan shows that some Arab countries are indeed fed up with Abbas’s failure to lead his people towards a better life. These states, which have long been politically and financially supportive of the Palestinians, have had enough of Abbas’s efforts to secure unending power — at the direct cost of the well-being of his people.

In his speech last week before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas trotted out his usual charges against Israel, citing “collective punishment,” “house demolitions,” “extrajudicial executions” and “ethnic cleansing.” However, Abbas’s thoughts seem to be elsewhere these days. He is facing a new challenge from unexpected parties, namely several Arab countries that have come together to demand that he reform his ruling Fatah faction and pave the way for the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership.

Yet this was not included in the UN speech. Indeed, why would Abbas share with world leaders that his Arab brothers are pressuring him to introduce major reforms in Fatah and end a decade-long power struggle with Hamas that has resulted in the creation of two separate Palestinian entities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Abbas, his aides admit, is today more worried about the “Arab meddling” in the internal affairs of the Palestinians than he is about “collective punishment” or “settlement activities.” In fact, he is so worried that he recently lashed out at those Arab countries that have launched an initiative to “re-arrange the Palestinian home from within” and bring about changes in the Palestinian political scene.

The Arab countries behind the initiative — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates — are being referred to by many Palestinians as the “Arab Quartet.”

In an unprecedented critique of these countries, Abbas recently declared:

“The decision is ours and we are the only ones who make decisions. No one has authority over us. No one can dictate to us what to do. I don’t care about the discomfort of Washington or Moscow or other capitals. I don’t want to hear about these capitals. I don’t want the money of these capitals. Let’s free ourselves from the ‘influence’ of these capitals.”

Although he did not mention the four Arab countries by name, it was clear that Abbas was referring to the “Arab Quartet” when he was talking about “capitals” and their influence and money. Abbas’s message: “How dare any Arab country tell me what to do, no matter how wealthy and influential it may be.” Abbas sees the demand by these Arab countries for new Palestinian leadership, unity and reforms in Fatah as “unacceptable meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians.”

So what exactly is it in the new Arab initiative that has so enraged Abbas, to the point that he is prepared to place at risk his relations with four of the Arab world’s preeminent states?

According to reports in Arab media outlets, the “Arab Quartet” has drafted a plan to “activate the Palestinian portfolio” by ending the dispute between Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas. The plan also calls for ending the schism within Fatah by allowing some of its expelled leaders, including Mohamed Dahlan, to return to the faction. The overall aim of the plan is to unite the West Bank and Gaza Strip under one authority and end the state of political anarchy in the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The “Arab Quartet” has even formed a committee to oversee the implementation of any “reconciliation” agreements reached between Fatah and Hamas and Abbas and his adversaries in Fatah. According to the plan, if such an agreement is not reached, the Arab League will intervene to “enforce reconciliation” between the rival Palestinian parties.

Abbas’s main concern is not a “reconciliation” with Hamas. In fact, he has repeatedly expressed his readiness to form a unity government with Hamas and end the dispute with the Islamist movement. In recent weeks, there has even been renewed talk of Fatah-Hamas talks in Qatar to achieve “unity” and “reconciliation” between the two rival parties. Rather, it is the attempt to coerce Abbas into reconciling with Dahlan that is really getting to the PA president. In the view of a source close to Abbas, he (Abbas) would rather make peace with Hamas than “swallow the cup of poison” of patching things up with Dahlan.

Abbas harbors a very particular dislike for Dahlan. Until five years ago, Dahlan was a senior Fatah official who had long been closely associated with Abbas. Once, Abbas and Dahlan, a former security commander in the Gaza Strip, formed an alliance against Yasser Arafat, the former president of the PA. But the honeymoon between Abbas and Dahlan came to an end a few tears ago after the Abbas and his lieutenants in Ramallah began suspecting that Dahlan has ambitions to replace or succeed Abbas. At the request of Abbas, Dahlan was expelled from Fatah and accused of murder, financial corruption and conspiring to overthrow Abbas’s regime. From his exile in the United Arab Emirates, Dahlan has since been waging a campaign against the 81-year-old Abbas, accusing him and his two wealthy sons of running the PA as if it were their private fiefdom.

Such is Abbas’s contempt for Dahlan that last week he reportedly instructed the PA authorities to ban Dahlan’s wife, Jalilah, from entering the Gaza Strip. Jalilah runs and funds a number of charities in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Her activities are seen by Abbas as an attempt to build power bases for her husband and pave the way for his return to the political scene. Abbas’s decision to ban her from entering the Gaza Strip came following reports that she and her husband were planning to organize and fund a collective wedding for dozens of impoverished Palestinian couples. The funding, of course, comes from the United Arab Emirates, whose rulers have been providing the Dahlan couple with shelter and money for several years.

When Abbas says that he “does not want the money” of certain Arab capitals, then, he is referring to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. He strongly suspects that these two wealthy countries are investing funds in Dahlan as part of a scheme to replace him and pave the way for the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership. For Abbas, who has refused to name a deputy or promote a potential successor, this is a very serious threat to his autocratic rule and a “conspiracy” by outside parties against him and his Palestinian Authority leadership.

Abbas and Fatah leaders in Ramallah are convinced that the “Arab Quartet” members are actually planning to pave the way for promoting “normalization” between the Arab world and Israel — all at the expense of the Palestinians. They claim that the four Arab countries are using and promoting Dahlan in order to facilitate their mission of rapprochement with Israel. These countries have reached the conclusion that as long as Abbas and the current PA leadership are around, it would be very difficult to initiate any form of “normalization” or peace treaties between Arab countries and Israel. The PA leadership’s position has always been that peace between the Arab countries and Israel should come only after, and not before, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

According to Palestinian political analyst Mustafa Ibrahim:

“The plan of the Arab Quartet prepares for the transitional post-Abbas era and negotiations for peace between Arab countries and Israel. The plan is designed to serve the interests of Arab regimes more than ending divisions among the Palestinians. The goal is to eliminate the Palestinian cause and find an alternative to President Abbas.”

This analysis reflects the views of Abbas and his veteran Palestinian Authority leaders in Ramallah, who continue to be extremely wary of any talk about succession in the PA leadership.

Interestingly, the “Arab Quartet” initiative for now seems to have divided Palestinian officials, with some welcoming it, and others rejecting it.

Criticizing Abbas and the Fatah leadership for coming out against the plan, Hassan Asfour, a senior Fatah official and former PA minister of state, urged Abbas to reconsider his “impractical, irrational and hasty” decision to dismiss the initiative of the four Arab countries. Asfour pointed out that Abbas’s recent criticism of these countries was “harmful” and “unjustified.” Abbas’s close aides have retorted by claiming that Asfour was a political ally of Dahlan and therefore has a clear agenda.

Many Palestinians were surprised to see veteran Palestinian official Ahmed Qurei, a former PA prime minister and one of the architects of the Oslo Accord, come out in favor of the “Arab Quartet” plan, which basically envisions ousting Abbas from power. Abbas’s close advisors claim that Qurei has joined Dahlan in his effort to bring about regime change in Ramallah.

Dahlan, for his part, has launched his own initiative by calling for an “expanded” gathering of Palestinian factions in Cairo, to discuss ways of bringing about real change in the Palestinian political arena. Thus, Dahlan has moved from behind-the-scenes activities to topple Abbas to public moves. And in this he enjoys the political and financial backing of at least four important Arab countries that would also like to see an end to the Abbas era. This is the first time that a senior Palestinian official has openly challenged the PA leadership with the support of Arab countries. It is predicted that at least 600 people will attend the Dahlan-sponsored conference in the Egyptian capital. The PA leadership is now threatening to retaliate against anyone who attends the conference by cutting off their salaries. This will only deepen the crisis in Abbas’s Fatah and yield yet more infighting.

Abbas undoubtedly had these thoughts in mind when he addressed the UN General Assembly — the new Arab “conspiracy” to replace him with Dahlan, or someone else. This, and not Israeli policy, is Abbas’s true nightmare. After all, he knows that without Israel’s presence in the West Bank, his regime would have long fallen into the hands of Hamas or even his political rivals in Fatah.

The “Arab Quartet” plan shows that some Arab countries are indeed fed up with Abbas’s failure to lead his people towards a better life. These states, which have long been politically and financially supportive of the Palestinians, have had enough of Abbas’s efforts to secure unending power — at the direct cost of the well-being of his people. It will not take long before we see whether these Arab countries, now mocked by Abbas, will succeed in ridding the Palestinians of leaders who lead them toward nothing but ruin.

Cracking the Israeli-Palestinian Security Challenge – Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog (Huffington Post)

Twenty years after Israel and the Palestinians launched the Oslo process, there are real gaps between the parties on all core issues.

Israel considers security to be paramount because although the country is militarily strong, it is highly vulnerable due to its lack of strategic depth, limited resources and location in a hostile environment.

The 1967 lines, which the Palestinians see as a baseline for an agreement, leave Israel with a dangerously narrow waist along its coastal plain – less than 15 km. at its thinnest point – and overlooked by the West Bank’s commanding hills.

Israel is highly concerned about potential dramatic changes in the strategic regional landscape, which have happened more than once, especially in recent years. Israel therefore seeks solid arrangements which will compensate for the required compromise in a two-state solution and enable it to protect its critical national security if things go wrong.

Israel seeks territorial adjustments to the 1967 lines to establish more secure, defensible boundaries, primarily by incorporating the major settlement blocs in order to modestly beef up the country’s depth. Israel wishes to create additional strategic depth through the demilitarization of a Palestinian state.

Moreover, Israel seeks to establish a special security regime along the Jordan River. Such a regime would verify demilitarization, serve as a deterrent factor and tripwire against military threats, provide early warning, and deal with daily threats of terrorism. This position is informed by deep Israeli concerns about long-term stability in Jordan as well as hostile state, state-sponsored or jihadi threats from the east.

The writer, a former chief of staff to Israel’s minister of defense, is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.