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Latest News in Israel – 2nd May

Two Palestinian teens attempt to stab IDF soldier at West Bank checkpoint

Two 14-year-old Palestinian girls attempted to stab an IDF soldier stationed at a military checkpoint near the Palestinian village of Beit Ur al-Tahta in the West Bank on Thursday night, the military reported.

The assailants did not succeed in stabbing any soldiers in the attempted attack.

Security forces shot and subdued one of the attackers. She was wounded in moderate-to-serious condition, according to initial reports.

The second assistant fled the scene but was later apprehended without being fired upon.

The wounded attacker was evacuated to Israel’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem while the other was transferred to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for questioning.

There were no injuries on the Israeli side.   (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinians clash with IDF forces as Jewish worshipers visit Joseph’s Tomb

A group of Palestinians in Nablus clashed overnight between Wednesday and Thursday with IDF forces securing the area for Jewish visitors to Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city.

Hundreds of worshipers arrived in more than a dozen buses to visit what is said to be the burial spot of the Jewish patriarch.

According to Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Palestinian youth near the holy site hurled stones and bottles at the Israeli security forces, who responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades.

No injuries were reported in the incident.

The visit came on the final intermediate day of Passover.

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, the site was to remain under Israeli control. The Israeli army evacuated the premises in October 2000 during the second intifada and it was burnt down by Palestinians.

Jewish worshipers, in coordination with the Israel Defense Forces, make monthly nocturnal pilgrimages to the site, which was renovated and restored. It was torched and vandalized in October 2015.         (Jerusalem Post)

IDF commander: Hezbollah preparing for war, just like in 2006

An IDF battalion commander stationed on Israel’s border with Lebanon on Wednesday said the Hezbollah terror group’s recent activity was “reminiscent of what they did before the Second Lebanon War.”

In an interview with Channel 2, Lt. Col. Eliav Elbaz described how Hezbollah was “obsessively” monitoring Israeli soldiers from across the border.

“The other side is obsessively gathering [information] about everything happening here, everything our security forces [are doing],” Elbaz said.

“Right now they’re up to their necks in the war in Syria, but we still see them walking around” and scouting the Israeli positions, he said. It’s “reminiscent of what they did before the Second Lebanon War,” he added.

The IDF officer said soldiers were training constantly and on high alert. “We are preparing for war. In the event of a war, they will have a lot more to lose,” he warned.

In the summer of 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in Lebanon that killed about 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers, and nearly 1,200 Lebanese, including several hundred Hezbollah fighters, according to the Israeli army.

Hezbollah has deployed thousands of fighters to prop up the regime in Syria’s civil war, and some analysts say that has limited its ability to carry out an attack against Israel.

Earlier this month, the IDF’s deputy chief of staff said the Lebanese group’s improving capabilities deeply concerned Israel. Major General Yair Golan said that could result in “full-scale war,” including a harsh response from the Israeli military.

“Comparing that to anything we’ve experienced before, no doubt, this is the most severe threat we’ve ever experienced before,” Golan said.

Of a possible future crisis, he said “we’re not going to see small war in Lebanon. It’s going to be decisive. It’s going to be full-scale war.”                    (The Times of Israel)

Netanyahu rejects French peace plan for ‘distancing’ Palestinians from direct talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday officially rejected a French initiative aimed at relaunching peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, saying the plan undermines the process by “distancing” the prospect of direct talks between the two sides.

However, the premier pledged that Israel is prepared to begin direct bilateral talks with the Palestinians “immediately, without preconditions.”

“Israel adheres to the position that the best way to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is direct, bilateral negotiations,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“All other political initiatives distance the Palestinians from the negotiating table,” he added.

Last Thursday, France announced that it will convene a summit on May 30 to discuss the parameters for an international peace conference to be held in the French capital in the second part of the year.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians will be invited to the summit that is due to include some 30 countries and international organizations, though the two sides will be asked to join the peace conference. The last attempt at Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in 2014.

In response to the prime minister’s rejection of the French plan, opposition lawmaker MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) accused the Netanyahu government of “inviting a political winter” that would isolate Israel from international diplomacy.

“The government is investing in diplomatic isolation and forced settlement against Israel’s will – without a future and without hope,” he said.

Later on Thursday, Saeb Erekat, who served as the Palestinian’s chief negotiator in peace talks, issued a fiery retort to Israel’s rejection of the French-proposed initiative.

“The Israeli government’s call for “bilateral negotiations” is not a call for the achievement of the two-state solution, but an attempt at legitimizing its settlement enterprise and the imposition of an Apartheid regime,” he said in a statement.

Erekat, who now serves as the PLO’s secretary-general, called on Paris and the international community to “take immediate steps in order to give peace a chance” He added that the Palestinians would continue efforts in support of the forum.

The senior Palestinian Authority official also urged world players to acknowledge the “overdue” recognition of a Palestinian state, ban products made in Israel settlements and issue overarching condemnation of Israeli policies that he charged were “systematic violations of international law and UN resolutions.”

The French initiative is one of at least two that are currently under the pen related to the decades-old conflict. Another is being spearheaded by the Palestinian Authority.

The Paris-led initiative would have the Security Council outline parameters of a two-state solution. US Democrats and Republicans alike, including Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, oppose this approach and warn that imposing solutions would prove counterproductive.

The Palestinian draft would have the Security Council state it’s opposition to Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank— a position held by each individual permanent members of the Council.

On Wednesday, PLO Ambassador to the UN in New York Riyad Mansour said the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is set to discuss providing international protection for Palestinians during an informal May 6 meeting.

“We would like to see an international force to separate between us and the Israeli occupying authorities,” Mansour said.

Such a step is not feasible at this time, so it is possible for the UNSC to take a smaller step to help the Palestinians, he said.

In the interim, the Palestinians are already discussing the matter with the office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to see if there are steps that can be taken to protect the Palestinians even without a new UNSC resolution, he said.              (Jerusalem Post)

Israel denies report Germany frustrated with Netanyahu, two-state process

A senior official in Jerusalem dismissed a report on Saturday that claimed Germany was becoming increasingly frustrated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies and that Chancellor Angela Merkel said she understood why PA President Mahmoud Abbas sought the support of the UN Security Council.

“Ties between Israel and Germany are close and good, and they will continue to be,” the official told Haaretz on Saturday, adding that the statements in the report published by Der Spiegel were “most likely an internal German attempt to bash Merkel over her close relationship with Netanyahu.”

A report in Der Spiegel‘s latest edition said that Merkel’s camp was “furious” at a leak of confidential consultations between Jerusalem and Berlin in the German capital in February, which subsequently appeared in the free Israel Hayom daily, owned by staunch Netanyahu supporter Sheldon Adelson.

Furthermore, the magazine said, the leaked details of Merkel’s remarks were “twisted” to give the impression that she supported Netanyahu’s position that a two-state solution with the Palestinians was currently unfeasible, whereas the chancellor had actually said that Israeli settlement construction “makes it unlikely that a viable Palestinian state can be established in accordance with plans aimed at a two-state solution.”

(The Times of Israel reported at the time that the German government was displeased with Netanyahu for asserting that Merkel had changed her stance on a two-state solution, and that it dispatched emissaries to Jerusalem clarify Berlin’s position.)

The report also claimed that Netanyahu was having a deleterious effect on Israeli-German relations, to the extent that “many, particularly in the Berlin Foreign Ministry, have begun wondering if Germany sent the wrong signals in the past.” The magazine in particular points to a speech by Merkel in the Knesset in 2008 during which she said that Israel’s security is part of Germany’s “raison d’état.”

This shift by Berlin, Der Spiegel said, could be seen in Germany’s vote in a January 2016 resolution by the European Union on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prior to the vote, Netanyahu called German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to seek reassurance over a paragraph in the draft resolution criticizing settlement construction.

“I’m counting on you,” Netanyahu told Steinmeier, the report said. But the foreign minister voted in favor of the draft, with the wording condemning settlement expansion unchanged.

According to Der Spiegel, the Merkel government has “lost hope that the peace process can be revived so long as Netanyahu remains in office.”

Another manifestation of this view came when Merkel met with Abbas in Berlin some two weeks ago. The chancellor, the report said, “was demonstrative in her support.”

“I understand why President Abbas continually seeks out the Security Council,” Merkel said, according to the report. The magazine added that, “Even accusations from Netanyahu that EU labeling rules for products made in the settlements are akin to an anti-Jewish boycott are no longer taken seriously.”               (The Times of Israel)

Italy Uncovers Plot to Attack Israeli Embassy, Vatican

Italian police issued arrest warrants on Thursday for six people suspected of conspiring to join Islamic State, and court documents said three of them had been discussing possible attacks on the Vatican and the Israeli embassy in Rome.

Four of the suspects – a couple living near Lake Como, a 23-year-old-man and a woman, all of them Moroccans – were detained in Italy on Thursday, Milan prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli told a news conference.

The other two – a Moroccan man and his Italian wife – left Italy last year, travelled to Iraq and Syria and are still on the loose, Romanelli added.

Italy has not suffered the kind of deadly Islamist attacks that hit France and Belgium, but authorities have arrested a number of people suspected of planning assaults.

Transcripts of wire-tapped phone conversations between three of the suspects, contained in the arrest warrant and seen by Reuters, mentioned the possibility of an attack against the Vatican and the Israeli embassy in the Italian capital.

“I swear I will be the first to attack them in this Italy of crusaders, I swear I’ll attack it, in the Vatican God willing,” one of the arrested men is quoted as telling the man on the run in the transcript.

In a separate conversation with another of the suspects arrested on Thursday, the same man said he wanted to hit the Israeli embassy in Rome and had contacted an Albanian man to get a gun.

Reports in Italy said that the suspects were plotting to carry out these attacks in the coming months, and then flee to Syria.

“The new aspect here is that we are not talking about a generic indication (of an attack) but a specific person being appointed to act on Italian soil,” Romanelli said.

“Rome attracts attention because it is a destination for Christian pilgrims,” the prosecutor added.

A lawyer appointed to represent two of the suspects declined to comment, saying he was waiting for court papers.

A 22-year-old Somali asylum seeker who worked as an imam was detained in southern Italy last month on suspicion of planning an attack in Rome.              (Ha’aretz)

Israeli envoy slams Austria’s hosting of Palestinian hijacker terrorist

The Austrian government and organizations that enabled a Palestinian terrorist to hold an April talk in Vienna faced a firestorm of criticism from Israel’s ambassador and the local Jewish community.

“Allowing a convicted terrorist to present her opinions can only serve as an incentive for other terrorists,” Israel’s Ambassador to Austria, Talya Lador-Fresher, told The Jerusalem Post.

Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has been designated by the US and the EU as a terrorist organization, delivered a talk titled “Free Palestine” at the Austrian-Arab culture center (OKAZ) in mid-April.

Ahead of Khaled’s talk, Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna’s Jewish community, asked Austria’s authorities to ban the event. The Jewish community contacted the state prosecutor.

Thomas Schnöll, a spokesman for Austria’s foreign ministry, told Der Standard daily that the government did not authorize a visa for Khaled in contrast to the Netherlands. A spokesman for Austria’s interior ministry, Karl-Heinz Grundböck, said the EU open border Schengen travel system cannot be revoked. It is unclear why the Netherlands provided a visa to Khaled—a well-known hijacker of planes and a convicted terrorist.

Khaled received applause, as well as a standing ovation, for her anti-Israel tirade to a packed room of 180 people. According to Der Standard, she said she is active in an “armed revolution” to demand freedom and the “language of the occupation is far worse than our methods.” Khaled added that Israel conducts a Holocaust against the Palestinians and supporters should continue to fight Israel with the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” campaign against the Jewish state.

Khaled was part of a terrorist cell that hijacked an American TWA flight 840 in 1969. A year later, she participated in the hijacking of EL AL flight 219.

The Post uncovered that the Austrian bank Bawag provides the account to the organizers of the Khaled event—the OKAZ. The Bawag is listed on the OKAZ’s donation webpage as the method to transfer electronic funds. The secretary-general of Vienna’s 7,000 member Jewish community, Raimund Fastenbauer, told the Post that Bawag should discontinue the bank account with OKAZ.

Henriette Mußnig, a spokeswoman for Bawag, wrote the Post last week by email that “according to Austria’s bank law (bank secrecy), we are not authorized to provide information about accounts or about customers.”

She added that “We can, however, assure that we adhere to measures against the financing of terrorism and money laundering.”

In a separate email to the Vienna Journalist Samuel Laster on Thursday, who is the editor-in-chief of the popular website The Jewish, Mußnig wrote “we will examine reasons for suspicion whether a violation of the law is present and implement the corresponding measures.”

The New York City-based Cerberus Capital Management company owns 52% of Bawag. Peter Duda, a spokesman for Cerberus, declined to comment on the account. GoldenTree Asset Management—the New York City-based investment firm—has a 40% ownership stake in Bawag. Mary Beth Grover, a spokeswoman for GoldenTree, wrote the Post by email” No comment.” OKAZ—the Austrian-Arab culture center– did not respond to Post media queries.                (Jerusalem Post)

Triguboff Institute warns Israel it could lose Jewish majority; Recommends easing conversion policy

Unless the State of Israel changes its policy on converting immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ukraine to Judaism, the country could lose its Jewish majority in the coming decades, leaders of the Triguboff Institute have warned.

“One has to revert in one way or another – and I’m not going to say what exactly the form should be – to the approach that conversion is a national necessity for Israel without which Israel will not have a Jewish majority in this country in the foreseeable future,” said Efraim Halevy, the chairman of the institute and a former Mossad director.

“We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people,” added the institute’s director, Shalom Norman.

“Within 20 years, if nothing is done, we will have over one million citizens in Israel who are not registered as Jews, who are not allowed to marry in Israel properly or get buried in Israel properly. I think this is a time bomb if we don’t do anything about it.”

The Triguboff Institute, established by Australian Jewish billionaire Harry Triguboff in Jerusalem in 2011, recently launched conversion classes for dozens of prospective immigrants in Russia and Ukraine. The project, called Maslul [Hebrew for path], aims to expedite the conversion of people in the process of making aliya who are not recognized by the rabbinate as Jewish under Halacha.

“A record number of over 15,000 olim [immigrants] a year have been arriving from Russia and Ukraine alone,” said Norman. “People don’t realize that 85 percent of these new olim below the age of 40 are not halachically Jews.”

The Maslul project is done in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel and with the Nativ National Center for Identity and Conversion as well the Triguboff’s local partners, the Midrasha Zionit in Kiev and the Choral Synagogue headed by Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, in Moscow. The Chabad movement and its emissaries are, for the most part, supportive of the initiative.

The Triguboff Institute’s goal, says Norman, is to carry out most of the conversion process before the immigrants- to-be come to Israel.

Adopting the curriculum of the IDF’s Nativ program for conversion during national service, the olim are given the opportunity before their aliya to complete most of the 350 hours of study required by the Beit Din religious court in Israel.

“We are, for example, opening a new course in Dnipropetrovsk, the area which absorbs many of the Jewish refugees coming from the troubled area of the civil war in Ukraine,” he said.

“The whole idea is to use this framework of time in between the decision to make aliya and their aliya de facto to begin the conversion track while they have high adrenalin and before they encounter the issues of making a living or housing in Israel.”

Halevy conceded that the number of people who had taken been converted in the IDF via Nativ or taken conversion classes abroad before their aliya was so far minuscule, and the process needed to be widely expanded to make a difference.

“We have to admit that despite the fact that the conversion channels have been recognized, the numbers of people taking part in the conversion process launched in recent weeks are so far not significant enough to claim that we have actually dented the rabbinate’s policy today of discouraging conversion,” he said. “What we have to try to bring about is that the volume of these channels which is patently insufficient should swell in such a way that the people who are ultimately responsible for policy will feel it incumbent upon them to change their approach to conversion.”

Asked what his direct message to the powers-that-be was, Halevy said: “The message is that there is an effort here to try and bring about a friendly and inclusive policy of the conversion which was characteristic of the rabbinate in the days that followed the Holocaust in 1945, when the rabbinate realized that what was called for was not just a person-by-person approach, but a wide policy approach, which would otherwise have wrought havoc in the Jewish world and havoc for the survivors of the Holocaust.

“This process should be adopted concerning large communities, like the Jews of the former Soviet Union who were divorced from contact with the Jewish world for over 70 years in order, to bring them back into the fold.”

Asked if the process was becoming any easier, Norman said: “We are concerned about the nature of Israeli society in the 50 years to come. It’s not become easier to convert Jews from the former Soviet Union from a halachic point of view, but it’s become easier vis-à-vis legislation that has opened up new opportunities to create a free market in this respect.

“Very much like Tzohar ‘opened the market’ with the registration for marriages, the latest ruling of the Supreme Court has opened new horizons allowing people to be able to choose who they are being converted by.

In this respect, the power of the extremists in the halachic arena is getting weaker, and that is a good sign for the future.”           (Jerusalem Post)

Ex-London mayor: My Hitler-backed-Zionism comments echoed Netanyahu

Ken Livingstone, the veteran Labor Party official who earned himself a suspension and widespread condemnation for insisting that Adolf Hitler was a Zionist, invoked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial statements about the Holocaust in his defense on Saturday.

The former mayor of London told a British radio network that his suspension from Labor was the handiwork of political operatives loyal to former party head and prime minister Tony Blair.

When pressed to retract his comments, Livingstone repeatedly refused.

He told LBC on Saturday that while he was sorry if his statements hurt Jews, he was simply making a “statement of fact” that was buttressed by Netanyahu.

“I never regret saying something that is true,” he said. “How can I have hurt and offended the Jewish community when the prime minister of Israel said exactly the same thing?”

Last year, Netanyahu ignited controversy when he told a World Zionist Congress gathering in Jerusalem that Hitler initially had no intention of massacring European Jewry but was only persuaded to do so by the Palestinian leader at the time, the mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini.

In his speech, the premier claimed that Hitler’s original intentions were solely to expel the Jews.

According to Netanyahu, the Fuhrer changed his mind at the insistence of the mufti, who argued that the expulsion of the Jews would result in their arrival en masse to Palestine, which at the time was under British Mandatory rule.

Netanyahu made the claim as part of an effort to illustrate the Palestinian propensity to use the holy places in Jerusalem as pretexts for committing acts of violence against Jews.

“My grandfather came to this land in 1920 and he landed in Jaffa, and very shortly after he landed he went to the immigration office in Jaffa,” Netanyahu told delegates on Tuesday. “And a few months later it was burned down by marauders. These attackers, Arab attackers, murdered several Jews, including our celebrated writer [Yosef Haim] Brenner.”

“And this attack and other attacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution,” the premier said. “He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ he asked. He said, ‘Burn them’.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Israelis celebrate the Mimouna: ‘A holiday that unites all’

The Moroccan tradition for the day after Passover has become popular among all ethnic groups in Israeli society; the Jews of Northern Africa open their doors to all, serving sweet pastries.

As Passover comes to an end, hundreds of thousands of Israelis held the traditional Moroccan end-of-Passover Mimouna celebrations on Saturday night.

“We’ve had a peaceful and joyful holiday, thanks to the IDF soldiers and the Shin Bet who kept us safe, and thanks to the government led by the Likud party,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a Mimouna celebration at the Dahan family home in Yavne. “After Passover, it’s time to enjoy the wonders of the mufleta (a Moroccan pastry – ed.).”

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara enjoy a mufleta in Yavne

Attorney Meir Dahan from Yavne, who opened his door to the prime minister, said ahead of the celebrations that he “hopes over 2,000 people come. We’ve invited people of all ethnic groups and all nationalities – Druze and Arabs, and even from the LGBT community. Everyone will be here.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein were also invited to Dahan’s home.

Culture Minister Miri Regev attended Mimouna celebrations in Ashkelon. “I’m glad that the Moroccan ethic group was able to turn the Mimouna into a national holiday in which we open our homes to the entire nation of Israel. The abundance and the hospitality of this holiday lead to unity and joy among the people of Israel,” she said.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan expressed hope that the Mimouna will also end without any unusual incident. He thanked the thousands of police officers on behalf of Israelis celebrating across the country, “for their amazing work throughout the holiday and even now, during the Mimouna, they are out on the streets of Israel protecting us.”

Former president Shimon Peres attended Mimouna celebrations in Tel Aviv, hosted by the Malka family. “The Mimouna is a holiday that unites the entire nation of Israel and all ethnic groups. We deserve to be happy, eat mufletas and sing loudly,” he said.

What is the Mimouna?

The Mimouna celebrations on the day after Passover originated in Jewish communities in North Africa, primarily in Morocco. The name comes from Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef, the father of the Rambam, who passed away on the day after Passover. Another derivation says the name came from the Hebrew word “emuna” (which means faith), indicating the belief in both the past Jewish redemption from the Egyptians and the future Messianic redemption in the month of Nisan, in which Passover falls. A third derivation says the name comes from the Arab word for “wealth” or “good luck.”

The Halacha origins of the Mimouna’s customs are vague, and there are several beliefs concerning them. Since the Mimouna is celebrated after the final day of Passover, the day in which, according to tradition, the Red Sea was split in half, some view the celebrations and the customs attached to them as relating to that biblical event.

Others believe that since the Mimouna celebration begin with a dough-kneading ceremony, the Mimouna actually serves as a bridge between the days of the Passover holiday to the regular days to follow – after almost ten days without bread.

According to yet another belief, the sweets served at the Mimouna symbolize abundance and blessings. On this holiday, the family doesn’t gather around its own table, but rather opens its door to guests, serves sweets and welcomes all who come. The fish placed in a bowl of water and the bracelets worn are also popular signs in Arab nations for abundance and good fortunes.            (Ynet News)

Because good fortunes and abundance are at the center of the Mimouna celebrations, some believe the custom originated in a pagan celebration: A song of praise to the goddess of good fortune.

The “Two State Solution”: Irony and Truth

by Louis René Beres                 The Gatestone Institute


“The establishment of such a [Palestinian] state means the inflow of combat-ready Palestinian forces into Judea and Samaria … In time of war, the frontiers of the Palestinian state will constitute an excellent staging point for mobile forces to mount attacks on infrastructure installations vital for Israel’s existence…” — Shimon Peres, Nobel Laureate and Former Prime Minister of Israel, in 1978.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in 1964; three years before there were any “occupied territories.” Exactly what, then was the PLO planning to “liberate”?

Both Fatah and Hamas have always considered, and still consider, Israel as simply part of “Palestine.” On their current official maps, all of Israel is identified as “Occupied Palestine.”

“You understand that we plan to eliminate the State of Israel, and establish a purely Palestinian state. … I have no use for Jews; they are and remain, Jews.” — PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, January 30, 1996 (2.5 years after signing the Oslo Peace Accords).

In view of these repeatedly intolerant Arab views on Israel’s existence, international law should not expect Palestinian compliance with any agreements, including those concerning use of armed force — even if these agreements were to include explicit U.S. security guarantees to Israel.

There is no lack of irony in the endless discussions of Israel and a Palestinian state.

One oddly neglected example is the complete turnaround of former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres. Recognized today as perhaps the proudest Israeli champion of a “Two State Solution” — sometimes also referred to as a “Road Map to Peace in the Middle East” — Peres had originally considered Palestinian sovereignty to be an intolerable existential threat to Israel. More precisely, in his book, Tomorrow is Now (1978), Mr. Peres unambiguously warned:

“The establishment of such a (Palestinian) state means the inflow of combat-ready Palestinian forces into Judea and Samaria this force, together with the local youth, will double itself in a short time. It will not be short of weapons or other military equipment, and in a short space of time, an infrastructure for waging war will be set up in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. … In time of war, the frontiers of the Palestinian state will constitute an excellent staging point for mobile forces to mount attacks on infrastructure installations vital for Israel’s existence…”

Now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in apparent agreement with this original position of Peres on Palestine, is nonetheless willing to go along with some form or another of a Palestinian state, but only so long as its prospective leaders should first agree to “demilitarization.” Netanyahu, the “hawk,” is now in agreement with the early, original warning of Peres, the “dove.” Peres’s assessment has been Netanyahu’s firm quid pro quo.

For Israel, as Mr. Netanyahu understands, legal mistakes and misunderstandings could quickly give rise to potentially irreversible harms. With reference to the particular matter of “Palestine,” the underlying hazards are complex, longstanding, and possibly global. These hazards would also only be exacerbated by any newly mandated (by the U.S., Russia, and/or United Nations) Israeli return of the Golan Heights to Syria. Then, armed militants could once again start shooting down at the farmers below, laboring on the Israeli plain.

History can help us better to understand the real outcome of any “Two-State Solution.” From the beginnings of the state system, in 1648, following the Thirty Years’ War, and the Peace of Westphalia, states have routinely negotiated treaties to provide security. To the extent that they have been executed in good faith, these agreements are fashioned and tested according to international law. Often, of course, disputes arise when signatories have determined that continued compliance is no longer in their presumed national interest.

For Israel, its 1979 Peace Treaty with Egypt remains fundamental and important. Still, any oscillating regime change or Islamist ascendancy in Cairo could easily signal an abrogation of this agreement. These same risks of deliberate nullification could apply to an openly secular Egyptian government, should its leaders (today, this would mean President el-Sisi) decide, for absolutely any reason, that the historic treaty with Israel should now be terminated.

Any post-Sisi regime that would extend some governing authority to the Muslim Brotherhood, to its proxies, or to its jihadist successors (such as ISIS), could produce a sudden Egyptian abrogation. Although the cessation of treaty obligations by the Egyptian side would almost certainly represent a serious violation of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the governing “treaty on treaties,” there is little if anything that Israel or the so-called “international community” could do in response. In the still-insightful words of seventeenth-century English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes: “Covenants, without the sword, are but words….” (Leviathan).

Back to Palestine. As recently as last Friday, Palestinian Authority (PA) television, not Hamas, threatened the Jews, not just Israelis, with genocide:

PA TV Preacher: “Allah, punish Your enemies, the enemies of religion, count their numbers and kill them to the last one, and bring them a black day. Allah, punish the wicked Jews, and those among the atheists who help them. Allah, we ask that You bestow upon us respect and honor by enabling us to repel them, and we ask You to save us from their evil.” [Official PA TV, April 22, 2016]

That is just part of a wider security problem. Under law, Israel has a “peremptory” (irrefutable, not open to challenge or appeal) right to remain “alive.” It was, therefore, entirely proper for Mr. Netanyahu to have previously opposed a Palestinian state in any form. After all, both Fatah and Hamas have always considered, and still consider, Israel as simply part of “Palestine.” On their current official maps, all of Israel — not just West Bank, Judea and Samaria — is prominently identified as “Occupied Palestine.” As for Jerusalem, an April 15, 2016, UNESCO resolution was expressly dismissive of “so-called” Jewish sites, including the Western Wall.

Palestine, while not yet a fully sovereign state, is still a “nonmember observer state” of the United Nations. In that more limited capacity, “Palestine” had already been admitted into UNESCO, and, unsurprisingly, joined enthusiastically in the April 15, 2016 resolution calling into question all “Jewish sites.”

In the strict Islamic view, and not merely in narrowly jihadi or Islamist perspectives, Israel is described as the individual Jew writ large. The Jewish State, in this doctrinal view, must be despised and uprooted on account of the allegedly innate and irremediable “evil” that purportedly lurks within each and every individual Jew. This insidiously murderous viewpoint is a far cry from the more fashionable idea that Israel is somehow despised in the region “only” for legitimate political reasons, that it is supposedly an “occupier.” In reality, the Israeli is routinely despised in the Islamic world because its people do not submit to Islam. This alleged Jewish infirmity can never hope to be “healed.”

A current Egyptian textbook of “Arab Islamic History,” used widely in teacher training colleges, expresses these basic and crudely determinative sentiments:

“The Jews are always the same, every time and everywhere. They will not live save in darkness. They contrive their evils clandestinely. They fight only when they are hidden; because they are cowards. … The Prophet enlightened us about the right way to treat them, and succeeded finally in crushing the plots they had planned. We today must follow this way, and purify Palestine from their filth.”

In an earlier article in Al-Ahram by Dr. Lutfi Abd al-Azim, the famous commentator urged, with complete seriousness:

“The first thing that we have to make clear is that no distinction must be made between the Jew and the Israeli….The Jew is a Jew, through the millennia … in spurning all moral values, devouring the living, and drinking his blood for the sake of a few coins. The Jew, the Merchant of Venice, does not differ from the killer of Deir Yasin or the killer of the camps. They are equal examples of human degradation. Let us therefore put aside such distinctions, and talk only about Jews.”

Writing also on the “Zionist Problem,” Dr. Yaha al-Rakhawi remarked openly in Al-Ahram

“We are all once again face to face with the Jewish Problem, not just the Zionist Problem; and we must reassess all those studies which make a distinction between “The Jew” and “The Israeli.” And we must redefine the meaning of the word “Jew” so that we do not imagine that we are speaking of a divinely revealed religion, or a minority persecuted by mankind … we cannot help but see before us the figure of the great man Hitler, may God have mercy on him, who was the wisest of those who confronted this problem … and who out of compassion for humanity tried to exterminate every Jew, but despaired of curing this cancerous growth on the body of mankind.”

Finally, consider what Israel’s original Oslo Accords “peace partner,” Yasser Arafat, said on January 30, 1996, while addressing forty Arab diplomats at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. Speaking under the title, “The Impending Total Collapse of Israel,” Arafat remarked unapologetically, and without any hesitation:

“We Palestinians will take over everything; including all of Jerusalem. … All the rich Jews who will get compensation will travel to America. … We of the PLO will now concentrate all our efforts on splitting Israel psychologically into two camps. Within five years, we will have six to seven million Arabs living in the West Bank, and in Jerusalem. … You understand that we plan to eliminate the State of Israel, and establish a purely Palestinian state. … I have no use for Jews; they are and remain, Jews.”

In view of these repeatedly intolerant Arab views on Israel’s existence, international law should not expect Palestinian compliance with any pre-state agreements, including those concerning use of armed force. This is true even if these agreements were to include certain explicit U.S. security guarantees to Israel. Also, authentic treaties can be binding only upon states, therefore any inherently non-treaty agreement between a pre-state “Palestine” and Israel could quickly prove to be of little or no real standing or effectiveness.

What if the government of a new Palestinian state were somehow willing to consider itself bound by the pre-state, non-treaty agreement? Even in these very improbable circumstances, the functioning Palestinian government could still have ample pretext, and opportunity, to lawfully terminate the agreement. Palestine, for example, could withdraw from the “treaty” because of what it would regard as a “material breach” — a purported violation by Israel that had allegedly undermined the “object or purpose” of the agreement. It could also point toward what international law calls Rebus sic stantibus (“fundamental change of circumstances”).

Here, if Palestine might decide to declare itself vulnerable to previously unforeseen dangers — perhaps even not from Israel but from other Arab armies or their sub-state proxies — it could lawfully end its previous commitment to remain demilitarized.

There is another factor that explains why Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conditioned hope for Palestinian demilitarization remains misconceived, and why Prime Minister Peres’s earlier pessimism remains well-founded. After declaring independence, a new Palestinian government, one possibly displaying the same openly genocidal sentiments, could point to particular pre-independence “errors of fact,” or “duress,” as appropriate grounds to terminate the agreement. Significantly, the usual grounds that may be invoked under domestic law to invalidate contracts can apply equally under international law, both to actual treaties, and to less authoritative agreements.

Any treaty or treaty-like agreement is void if, at the time of entry, it is in conflict with a “peremptory” rule of international law, a rule accepted by the community of states as one from which no deviation is permitted. Because the right of sovereign states to maintain military forces for self-defense is always such a rule, “Palestine” could be well within its lawful rights to abrogate any agreement that had, before its independence, compelled demilitarization.

In short, Benjamin Netanyahu should take no comfort from any legal promises of Palestinian demilitarization. Should the government of a future Palestinian state choose to invite foreign armies or terrorists on to its territory, possibly after the original government had been overthrown by more militantly jihadist or other Islamic forces, it could do so not only without practical difficulties, but also without necessarily violating pertinent international rules.

The core danger to Israel of any presumed Palestinian demilitarization is always far more practical than legal. The “Road Map” to “Palestine” still favored by U.S. President Barack Obama and most European leaders, stems from a persistent misunderstanding of Palestinian history, and, simultaneously, of the long legal history of Jewish life and title to disputed areas in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Jerusalem. At a minimum, President Obama and, even more importantly, his successor, should finally recognize that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in 1964; three years before there were any “occupied territories.” Exactly what, then was the PLO planning to “liberate”? This is a primary question that still cries out for a reasonable response.

A Palestinian state, any Palestinian state, would represent a mortal danger to Israel. This danger could not be relieved, even by the stipulated requirements of Israel’s current prime minister, or by any pre-independence Palestinian commitments to “demilitarize.”

Ironically, if by chance, a new state of Palestine would actually choose to abide by such pre-state commitments, it could then become more susceptible to a takeover by a jihadist organization such as ISIS.

In a staggeringly complicated region, filled with ironies, there are legal truths that should assist Israeli leaders to choose a more promising remedy to war and terror than an illusory “Two-State Solution.” Shimon Peres’s early warnings about “Palestine” were on-the-mark and should be heeded today.

Louis René Beres is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue University.

Why is it never the terrorist’s fault?

by Judith Bergman      Israel Hayom


A disturbingly clear pattern has emerged in the wake of the increase in terrorism around the world, especially in the West. Whenever there is a terrorist attack, the parents, friends and families of the perpetrators are always in “deep shock.” They cannot fathom from where their terrorist offspring, who had always been so “normal and good,” got their inspiration. The parents have absolutely “no idea” what could possibly have prompted the attacks.

It is conspicuous — and pathetic — how uniform these parents of Muslim radicals are in their frantic denial of knowledge and responsibility for raising monsters that go out and commit such atrocities. But the politically correct mainstream international press never probes deeper and lets the parents off the hook easily. After all, the international mainstream media pushes and encourages the very victimhood narratives that the parents’ denials and feigned “shock” feed into in order to escape further scrutiny. It is astounding that no one in the media seriously questions these uniform denials.

Among all these stories of feigned shock and surprise, that of the parents of the Hamas terrorist who bombed the Jerusalem bus recently (wounding 20 people and killing himself) takes the prize. Not only do the parents insist they had “no idea” their son had been involved with the Hamas, they feel no remorse for his actions and astoundingly blame Israel and the Jews for his actions: “You Jews have to understand something: Abed al-Hamid did not come from a poor family; he came from an affluent one. He had his own car. A family with property and money … a cultured household — with manners, respect, education — which opposes violence. You Israelis have to ask yourselves what causes a boy like ours to want to do such a thing. And I am telling you: Israel is responsible. Israel caused this generation to act this way. This generation has no future. No work. You pressure them and hurt them and create a hopeless situation for them. You are turning the young generation into what it is. The next generation, the young children, will be even more dangerous.”

So while their terrorist son had everything he could wish for in material wealth and came from a “cultured household,” he still had “no future” because of the Jews. What else is new?

But perhaps his parents were not so innocent. As his mother says, in what is difficult to characterize as anything other than a defense of her son’s actions, “It was an act of self-defense. As an enlightened person, I would find it hard to do something like [blowing up a bus]. Perhaps I would have done things differently, maybe through writing. But everyone has his own way of [taking part in] resistance.”

Her son was merely taking part in the “resistance” in his “own way.” Perhaps his mother’s “peaceful” idealization of the “resistance” (against what exactly? This is never clarified — the “resistance” according to Abbas and Hamas is very simply the resistance against the existence of every last Jew on Israeli soil) gave her son an idea or two.

The hatred emanating from the words of these affluent, “cultured” parents and their unremorseful threats against Israeli society of a future, even more dangerous, generation, speak for themselves.

However, they are right about their son’s generation. It is indeed dangerous, because it is steeped in unmitigated hatred, not only at home but at every turn it takes: in kindergarten, in school, on TV, in the mosques and on the streets — in all these places, this generation is taught that killing Jews is a good thing. As their son watched one terrorist after another celebrated as a martyr of Allah, having streets and squares named after them and their families richly rewarded by the PA, this son of “cultured” parents drew the logical conclusions of what he had been taught to worship and revere all his life, and went out and killed Jews. Who — least of all his parents — could possibly be surprised about that?

Ironically, the parents inadvertently made a big propaganda mistake by emphasizing that the terrorist had come from a financially comfortable, “cultured” household — putting to rest, finally, the idea that terrorists become terrorists out of grievances, for lack of jobs, poverty and so on.

The answer to the question of what causes “a boy like ours to want to do such a thing” is not difficult: It is unadulterated hatred of the Jews, as taught to and inculcated in children all over the Muslim world, along with the accompanying refusal to accept a Jewish state in Israel. It is about the Islamic injunction to perform jihad against infidels and the ethics stemming from that injunction. When Arabs massacred Jews in the Hebron pogrom in 1929 there was no “occupation” to “resist.” There were just Jews to hate. Nothing has changed, apart from the rhetoric.

In Israel, Iraqi Jews Reflect on Baghdad Heritage

By James Glanz and Irit Pazner Garshowitz                The New York Times


During a boisterous Passover Seder with her extended family, Sabiha Ziluf, 75, paused and said softly that she could still see the Baghdad streets of her childhood. “I would love to visit Bab al-Sharji,” she said, referring to an old neighborhood near where her aunt lived.

Ms. Ziluf, whose first name translates roughly to “morning” in Arabic, is one of countless Iraqi Jews in Israel taking fresh interest in a heritage once considered unseemly, even shameful. Facebook pages with tens of thousands of followers debate the fine points of Iraqi Jewish dialect, music and cuisine. A Babylonian heritage center near Tel Aviv has drawn daily crowds of more than 1,300 people during Passover, and its number of yearly visitors has increased by more than 50 percent since 2011.

Among those viewing the center’s reconstructions of the shops and crooked alleys of Baghdad’s old Jewish quarter were swarms of children, generations removed from those who experienced Babylon’s allure firsthand. “They are heroes,” Liel Ovadya, 13, said of the Jews of Baghdad, who included his grandmother Oshrat Berko, who immigrated to Israel at 15. As of 2014, there were 227,900 Jews of Iraqi descent living in Israel, according to government data.

Families with ties to Iraq are among several communities of Israelis from Arabic and North African countries newly embracing their origins after struggling to be accepted by the Ashkenazi Jews of Europe, who founded Israel and for decades dominated its political, military and academic elites. The resurgent interest comes as the number of Jews in Iraq has dwindled to nearly none, and as the Islamic State and other hostile groups are sowing chaos in the streets, shrines and graveyards where Jews lived, died and celebrated their faith for nearly three millenniums.

In recent interviews, many Israelis pointed to two unlikely cultural icons — Dudu Tassa, a 39-year-old rock star, and Eli Amir, a 78-year-old novelist — as forces that have accelerated Iraqi Jews’ efforts to preserve their past before it vanishes forever.

“The Dove Flyer,” a novel by Mr. Amir, and the 2014 film based on it, culminate in the 1951 Israeli airlift that brought nearly 110,000 Jews to Israel from Iraq with little more than the clothes on their backs. Arriving shortly after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the newcomers largely suppressed their culture, Mr. Amir said in an interview, because “their language was the enemy language and their music was the music of the enemy.”


“This was a kind of a terrible wound that each and every one of us tried to handle differently,” Mr. Amir said. His work, he said, was meant “to put my visiting card on the table of every Ashkenazi to let them know we didn’t come from the desert and caves and trees — that we came from a civilized country.”

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Mr. Tassa, who was born in Tel Aviv, began an artistic journey that fused rock and traditional Arab music after discovering that his grandfather Daoud al-Kuwaiti had been one of the most important composers in the Arab world. A 2011 film chronicling that journey had a catchy title: “Iraq ’n’ Roll.”

Iraq’s Jewish history dates about 4,000 years to the birth of the biblical patriarch Abraham in Ur, where there is a shrine and archaeological digs. Long after Abraham left for what was then called Canaan, generations of Jews were sent to exile in Babylon, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now Iraq.

An Ottoman census in 1917 counted 80,000 Jews in Baghdad out of 202,000 residents, a community that Nissim Rejwan, the author of “The Jews of Iraq: 3,000 Years of History and Culture,” described as “perhaps the wealthiest, and certainly the best educated” in that era.

Ali Adeeb, who once worked for The New York Times in Baghdad and who now teaches at New York University, said that in the first half of the 20th century, Jews were not only major forces in Iraq’s financial institutions, but also produced the nation’s most renowned historian, most famous singer and most influential composers — including Mr. Tassa’s grandfather and great-uncle.

Iraqi Jews had always been the targets of sporadic attacks. But the danger soared with the rise of the Nazis’ influence in the 1930s as well as unhappiness around the Arab world with Zionism’s push for a Jewish state. A pogrom in June 1941, the Farhud, killed nearly 200 Jews in Baghdad.

A traditional Passover table setting at the heritage center. The center has drawn daily crowds of more than 1,300 people during Passover. Credit Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

“This is the point where they realized there is no future in Iraq,” said Lily Shor, a guide and events manager at the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Or Yehuda, outside Tel Aviv.

Still, as Mr. Amir describes in his work, there was disagreement among Jews on whether to take the airlift to Israel in 1951; thousands remained behind. For those who left, a new challenge awaited, said Dina Zvi Riklis, 66, a Tel Aviv filmmaker: starting over with nothing as a Mizrahi — the Israeli term for Jews from the Middle East and North Africa — in a young country dominated by Ashkenazis from Eastern Europe.

“I told my mother not to speak to me in Arabic,” Ms. Riklis said. “I denied that I came from Iraq.” She recalls her father being ridiculed by Israelis who called his traditional Arabic dishdasha, or a full-length garment, “pajamas.”

Many more Jews, including Ms. Shor, 59, slipped out of Iraq by the 1970s. In 2008, The New York Times reported that fewer than 10  Jews remained in Baghdad. Emad Levy, 51, who came to Israel in 2010 after a threat to his life, said he knew of just five Jews in the city. “They are well,” he said, protected by Muslim friends but dealing with endless violence and an absence of any civic activity.

With Jewish life all but extinguished in Baghdad, Ronit Azouri, the general manager of the heritage center, said the institution was “the only place you can see what it was like for Jews in Iraq.”

One of the center’s exhibits shows the Iraqi version of charoset, a staple of the Passover Seder plate, using date honey and nuts, and a Haggadah, the text guide to the Seder itself, in Iraqi Jewish dialect — largely drawn from Arabic but written in Hebrew letters.

Professor Smooha, who came to Israel on the airlift when he was 9, said some rapprochement between Iraqi Jews and their heritage had been occurring for more than a decade. But he said he saw new changes: In December, Israel began offering a stipend of about $950 a year, as well as assistance with prescription medication, to those who were affected by the Farhud (along with those from Algeria and Morocco who suffered under the Vichy government).

As for Mr. Tassa, he said that in merging his grandfather’s work with his own, he was forced to confront not only technical challenges but also his very identity. At concerts, he said, he has been “surprised to see three generations of audience,” adding, “The grandparents, the parents and the children all related to the show.”