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Latest News in Israel – 3rd December

Two Palestinian attackers shot dead by security forces

A Palestinian teenager and a woman who attempted to stab Israelis on Tuesday were shot dead by the IDF in separate incidents in the West Bank.

Ma’moun Raed al-Khatib, 16, of the Douha suburb of Bethlehem, was shot and killed by an IDF soldier on guard at the Gush Etzion junction as he tried to stab another IDF officer with a knife.

Palestinian sources said al-Khatib was a 10th grader and had been a close friend of another Palestinian youth who was shot and critically wounded while attempting to stab a soldier last month. Al-Khatib had chosen his wounded friend’s photo as his profile picture on Facebook.

An Israeli civilian who was in the area sustained a light wound from bullet shrapnel, an IDF spokeswoman said. He was treated at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem.

A few hours later, a Palestinian woman with a knife tried to stab an IDF officer at Einav Junction in the northern West Bank and was shot and killed at the scene. There were no injuries among security personnel.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry identified the woman as Maram Ramez Hasouneh, 20, and said she was killed by IDF soldiers near Tulkarem.

Hasouneh, a university student from the Rafidiya suburb of Nablus, had previously served seven months in Israeli prison for security-related offenses. Ma’an, the Palestinian news agency, said she had done time for attempting to stab a soldier at the same checkpoint two years ago.

In a separate incident on Tuesday night, soldiers shot and wounded three other Palestinians who threw several firebombs at the Pillbox security point in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida area, an IDF spokeswoman said.

The men fled the scene and were spotted being picked up by a Red Crescent ambulance nearby, the IDF said. There were no reports of any Israeli injuries in the incident.

Earlier this week, former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, said little can be done to prevent the lonewolf Palestinian terrorism that has plagued the country the past couple of months.

Calls for a “massive military campaign” and for the IDF to “seize Judea and Samaria” are “nothing but empty words,” Amidror said. “There is no need for a massive military campaign, as Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 established the IDF’s control over Judea and Samaria, and Israeli forces are free to operate anywhere in the area,” he said.

Overnight Tuesday, IDF troops along with Border Police forces and local police units arrested 14 Palestinians in a West Bank raid.

The suspects were arrested under suspicion of terrorist involvement and for violence against the civilian population and security forces. The suspects have been transferred for questioning.         (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu acknowledges again that Israel acts periodically in Syria

A day after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel will continue to protect its interests by acting in Syria to prevent the transfer of game changing weaponry to Hezbollah.

Netanyahu, speaking in Acre at the Galilee Conference, repeated what he said two weeks ago at the Jerusalem Post conference: that Israel acts from time to time in Syria to prevent it from being turned into another terror front against Israel, as he said Iran was trying to do on the Golan Heights.

Israel also takes action, he repeated, to prevent “specifically deadly” weaponry from being passed from Syria to Lebanon.

“And after the discussion yesterday” with Putin, he said, “I say to you that we will continue to do so.”

Following that 45-minute talk with Putin on the sidelines of the climate change conference in Paris on Monday, Netanyahu told reporters that Russia’s engagement in Syria has not curtailed Israel’s freedom of action there. He also said that the coordination between the two countries to prevent any accidental confrontation will continue.

Netanyahu told the Galilee conference that this coordination was “very important,” and that it was being done “directly and in good spirits.”

Alluding to the recent Turkish downing of a Russian warplane, Netanyahu said that “I think the events of the last few days clarify how important” that coordination is to Israel.  (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli surveillance balloon guarding Paris climate summit

An Israeli-made surveillance balloon is being used by the Paris municipal police to help guard the global climate change summit currently underway in Paris.

Yavne-based RT LTA System Ltd.’s SkyStart 180 Aerostat is in the air over the French capital, providing mid-range surveillance and public security services to the police, which leased the balloon from RT and the French company Groupe SSI.

The balloon can operate continuously for up to 72 hours, and can reach an altitude of as high as 1,000 feet.

In Paris, the SkyStart 180 is utilizing the TR-Stamp surveillance payload, made by Israeli defense company Controp.

TR-Stamp is electro-optical payload that provides tactical “Over-the-Hill” reconnaissance images.

SkyStart 180 is in continual use by the IDF and Israel Police, and has been leased to several international clients.              (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli listening device explodes, injures 2 in Lebanon

An Israeli listening device exploded in the south of Lebanon injuring two people at a construction site, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV reported Tuesday.

The explosion occurred in the village of Burj al-Moulok in the area of Marjayoun, located near the Lebanese-Israeli border.

According to Lebanese media reports, the incident took place at a construction site and was detonated when a bulldozer ran-over the device.

Two workers were lightly injured in the event, Al-Manar TV added.

Lebanese military forces were dispatched to the area shortly following the event, blocking traffic in the area and opened an investigation into the circumstances of the incident. Lebanese media reports added that army officials first claimed the incident was criminal in nature, but later revised their assessment and said that the Israeli device caused the explosion.

Since 2009, Lebanese security forces have arrested hundreds suspected of spying for Israel, including military personnel and officials in communications, according to Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen television.   (Jerusalem Post)

Israel Seeking to Extend Cooperation With Russia in Syria to Include Ground-Based Operations

The Israeli defense establishment has conveyed messages to Russian officials in an effort to establish coordination of ground based operations in Syria, and to bolster the aerial, naval and electromagnetic cooperation already underway, Israeli news website Walla reported on Tuesday.

The request, which was neither confirmed nor denied by defense officials — comes amid reported Israeli efforts to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syria.

According to Walla, after Russia began its military operations in Syria against anti-Assad-regime rebels and terrorist groups, Israeli officials traveled to Moscow to spell out their country’s red lines on the transfer of “game-changing weapons” to Hezbollah, and assert that there would be no compromises on the matter. Jerusalem and Moscow then established a joint mechanism to coordinate the activities of their respective air forces in Syria, to prevent accidental clashes.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed the importance of cooperation with Russia in relation to military operations within Syria. His comments were made during a meeting with Russia’s President Putin on the sidelines of the World Climate Change Conference near Paris.

Days previously, a senior Israeli defense official publicly noted that while Russian jets sometimes breach Israeli airspace, close cooperation ensures that the planes are not inadvertently targeted by the Jewish state.         (the Algemeiner)

Former US, Israeli officials spar on Iran deal aftermath

Uzi Arad, a past Israeli national security adviser, and Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel, on Tuesday reignited the countries’ debate whether progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace could have led to different results for the Iran nuclear deal.

The comments were part of an Institute of National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv on the aftermath of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Arad fired the first shot about US-Israel relations on Iran and the Palestinian issue, saying that if Israel had tried to make progress on peace with the Palestinians, it would neither have led to actual peace or have helped on the Iran issue.

The former national security adviser went through a 20-year history of US-Israel relations on the Iran issue. While he did critique both sides, Arad laid much of the blame on the Obama administration for what he said were negotiations with Iran behind Israel’s back.

Kurtzer shot back that Arad’s counterfactual history, or history of how things could have gone differently, started too late. He said Arad should have started with former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s statement to US President George H. W.

Bush in the early 1990s, in which he said that to address the Iranian threat “it was imperative to reach a resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict.”

In his critique of both sides, Arad quoted accounts of conflict and mishandling of the US-Israel relationship by US and Israeli officials Ehud Barak, Dennis Ross, Michael Oren and others.

Again, the former US ambassador countered, suggesting that US -Israel relations would be helped most if officials stopped airing their disagreements in public.

Both officials agreed that the US and Israel have valid strategic interests that differ at times.

Dr. Eli Levite of the US’s Carnegie Endowment and a former top official in Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission – who explained for Israelis the US perspective on the Iran deal – confirmed that linkage between Iran and the peace process was firmly on the mind of the Obama administration throughout Iran negotiations.                       (Jerusalem Post)

With Israeli-EU relations strained, Netanyahu looks toward Asia

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, sat kiddy-corner in armchairs at this week’s international climate summit near Paris, talking and laughing.

“We have the best of relations, and they can be made even better,” Netanyahu told Modi at the meeting.

To which Modi responded, “I am happy that often we can talk easily on telephone, we can discuss everything.”

A brief encounter between Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy envoy Federica Mogherini was far frostier. Mogherini approached Netanyahu in the hallway, and they shared little more than a handshake.

The contrast reflects an Israeli warming to the East, just as its relations with Europe have cooled amid disagreements over the peace process and Iran’s nuclear program. In recent years, trade between Israel and Asia has shot up, while Israel and Asian powers have made diplomatic overtures toward each other. And even as Israel’s strongest diplomatic ties remain with the West, there are signs of a pivot eastward.

Israel is considering “an eastern option if things don’t go the right way with Europe and the United States,” Alon Liel, a former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told JTA. “In the last year and a half, there wasn’t a peace process, and in Europe there was disappointment that there wasn’t a peace process.”

Israel has long had amicable relations with Europe, ranging from defense cooperation to economics. Today, the European Union collectively is Israel’s biggest export destination, and Israel competes in European athletic and cultural competitions such as soccer tournaments and the Eurovision musical competition.

The ties are also historical. Israel was founded on the European model of a democratic nation-state. Many of Israel’s citizens are of European descent.

Recently, those ties have deteriorated. Israel almost withdrew from the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, which funds scientific research and innovation, due to a disagreement about funding projects in West Bank settlements. And it bristled at a French proposal this year to have the United Nations Security Council oversee Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

European-Israeli relations are at a low point now over recently released EU guidelines to label goods produced in Israeli settlements. Israel has lambasted the guidelines as approaching a boycott. In response, Israel’s Foreign Ministry has cut off all coordination with EU institutions on issues related to the peace process.

“We regret that the EU has chosen, for political reasons, to take such an exceptional and discriminatory step, inspired by the boycott movement,” read a Foreign Ministry statement on the labeling guidelines. “This recent step raises questions regarding the role that the EU aspires to play.”

Israeli relations with Asia, meanwhile, have been on the upswing. Israeli exports to Asian countries tripled between 2004 and 2014, totaling $16.7 billion last year — one-fifth of Israel’s total exports. Last year, Asia surpassed the United States as Israel’s second-biggest export destination behind Europe.

Meanwhile, Japan didn’t sell its cars in Israel until the 1990s in order to avoid a boycott in the Arab world. But last year, trade between Japan and Israel rose nearly 10 percent, to $1.75 billion. Israel also increased government grants for joint Israeli-Japanese research by 50 percent this year. Netanyahu also met with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe in Paris this week.

Israel and China, which established formal relations only in 1992, are working on a free-trade agreement, and Netanyahu created an Israel-China task force within his office this year. Last year, Israel had a so-called “China Week,” when a variety of Chinese government officials and business leaders visited Israel.

India’s Modi has said he plans to visit as well. Meanwhile, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee traveled to Jerusalem in October, becoming the highest-ranking Indian official ever to come to Israel.

“We are very deeply part of the West in many, many ways, but we look to the East,” Netanyahu said at the state dinner during Mukherjee’s visit. “We appreciate Europe, but we admire Asia.”

In 2013, then-Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said during a visit to China that increased trade could open an avenue for “economic diplomacy” with the world’s most populous country. As opposed to Europe, Bennett said, Chinese companies don’t let the Israeli-Arab conflict get in the way of business.

“They never once asked us about the Arabs, or the Palestinians, or the occupation, or the shmoccupation, or anything else,” he said in a video statement. “The only thing that interests them is Israeli high-tech and Israeli innovation.”

India abstained from endorsing the U.N. report on last year’s war in Gaza, which accused Israel of possible war crimes. All European countries on the U.N. Human Rights Council, meanwhile, endorsed the report.

But analysts caution that Israel should not view India and China as alternatives diplomatically to Europe and the United States. Before Modi took office last year, India had historically been pro-Palestinian, supporting Palestinian causes in the United Nations, and Asian nations have generally taken less of an interest than Europe and the United States in Israeli foreign affairs.

While the U.S. has a longstanding policy of vetoing anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N. Security Council, China typically votes against Israel. Given the size of China’s economy, analysts say a few more billion dollars in Israeli trade likely won’t mean a Chinese veto.

“Economic relations are driven by the business sector, not because the government wants to give priority,” said Oded Eran, the former director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. “We need to remember that China and India are very pragmatic, but they haven’t changed — and I doubt if they will change their vote in the U.N. because of improved economic relations.”         (JTA)

AG’s office backs Women of the Wall ahead of Hanukka lighting ceremonies

The Attorney General’s Office has written to the Supervisor of the Western Wall and the Holy Places Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and underlined the importance of including women in official state ceremonies, including the Hanukka candle lighting ceremonies which take place every night of the holiday.

The Women of the Wall prayer rights group has been conducting a concerted campaign in recent months and years to have female public officials included in the list of dignitaries who are asked to light a large Hanukkia at the Western Wall plaza.

The ceremony takes place in the men’s section of the plaza and only men are invited to participate.

The letter to Rabinowitz comes after WoW and the Center for Women’s Justice wrote to the Attorney General’s Office pointing out that a government report on the exclusion of women in the public sphere published in 2013 prohibits the exclusion of women from state ceremonies.

In the response sent to Rabinowitz on Sunday entitled “preventing the exclusion of women from the state candle lighting ceremony for Hanukka”, Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber asked to see the list of dignitaries invited to this year’s ceremonies, and pointed out several commitments made by the state to prevent discrimination against women in the public sphere.

Zilber pointed to the 2013 document on the exclusion of women from the public sphere, drawn up by a working group of the Justice Ministry, which asserted that separation between men and women in the public domain represents illegitimate discrimination against women due to their being women.

The deputy attorney general added that the document states specifically that “public authorities are prohibited from any separation between men and women even if done following requests from a sector of the public with an interest in the matter.”

Continued Zilber, “In light of this… we request to confirm what should be obvious that you are working towards the integration and participation of women in the state candle lighting ceremonies which will be staged at the Western Wall this coming Hanukka.”

She added that it would be “a great help if we would be able to receive the list of those participating in the ceremonies.”

WoW chairman Anat Hoffman praised the step taken by the Attorney General’s Office, and expressed hope that, given Zilber’s emphasis on the prohibition against gender separation by public institutions, Rabinowitz would find an appropriate solution.

She said that the organization would be happy if as a result the state ceremony were to moved from the men’s section of the Western Wall plaza to the upper section of the area behind the men and women’s sections and with female public officials participating.

Hoffman also insisted that according to Jewish law women are obligated to light Hanukka candles, and that men can even fulfill their obligation to light by asking their wives to light the candles on their behalf.

“When the president of the Supreme Court was Asher Grunis he was invited to light the candles. Would it be acceptable for the president of the Supreme Court, Justice Miriam Naor, was not invited because she is a woman?” asked Hoffman.

“Women of the Wall and all our activists, men and women in Israel and abroad, are becoming the match that ignites this cause. Matches are lit by friction, and nothing else works in this lighting ceremony if there is no match.”                (Jerusalem Post)

Despite Guarantees Watchdog Says UNRWA Teachers Continue Glorifying Murder of ‘Jewish Apes and Pigs’ on Facebook

Despite warnings and dismissals, UN employees have continued to encourage Palestinian knife attacks against Jews, according to a new report released by Geneva-based UN Watch on Monday.

This is the latest among a string of similar reports issued by the watchdog organization this year, revealing the ongoing practice of incitement to violence on the social media pages of educators employed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The Facebook posts and Twitter feeds in question are filled with antisemitic memes and pro-Palestinian terrorism cartoons – all lauding the murder of Jews, some using terms like “Jewish apes and pigs.”

The purpose of monitoring this behavior, according to UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, is twofold: to call UNRWA to task for not firing any employee who engages in it; and to draw attention from UNRWA’s largest donors – the United States and the European Union – to where their annual $1 billion is going.

Previous UN Watch exposure elicited guarantees by UNRWA that it would not support such “neutrality violations” of its mandate, and promises to “take appropriate action, including disciplinary action, where violations by UNRWA staff members are established.”

Nevertheless, though complaints to the relief organization often lead to the removal of particular posts or pages, new ones keep cropping up.

“UNRWA’s reported temporary suspensions of offenders are clearly not working,” said Neuer in a statement. “Giving a slap on the wrist sends the message that it’s business as usual. Instead, those who incite to racism or murder should be fired, under a zero tolerance policy.”

Monday’s report, which UN Watch submitted to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNRWA chief Pierre Krähenbühl, EU foreign affairs commissioner Federica Mogherini and US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, focuses on 10 new cases of blatant antisemitism on the Facebook pages of UNRWA teachers.

These include an UNRWA English teacher saying it’s important to know that “the Zionists and the Jews are sons of monkeys and pigs,” and another teacher posting photo of a Palestinian ripping through an Israeli flag with a blood-soaked knife.

“UNRWA’s strategy of impunity, denial and deflection only enables more incitement and violence,” said Neuer. “It’s time to put an end to the pattern and practice of UNRWA school principals, teachers and staff members posting antisemitic and terror-inciting images, a recurring theme that suggests a pathology of racism and violence within UNRWA, one that must be rooted out — and not buried, as UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness has attempted to do by calling for boycotts of newspapers or of NGOs that dare to report these incidents of hate.”        (the Algemeiner)

Judge tosses Holocaust denier’s defamation case against newspaper

An Australian Holocaust denier’s defamation lawsuit against a local newspaper was dismissed on Monday, amidst judicial accusations that he had engaged in “a cynical misuse” of the courts system in order to air his controversial views.

The suit, brought by Dr. Fredrick Toben, sought damages from The Australian over a 2013 article which described him as a “Holocaust denier.” The German- born historian and founder of the Adelaide Institute had previously been jailed in Germany for Holocaust denial in the late 1990s. He has also railed against – what he calls – “Holocaust racketeers… corpse peddlers and the Shoah business merchants.”

He recently wrote on his website, “The Zionist lobby in this country is malicious, implacable, mendacious and dangerous” and has caused him a “great deal of lost sleep.”

“What’s more, once the expression ‘anti-Semite’ hits the air, or heaven forefend, the sacred formula ‘six million’ is uttered, then I know from bitter experience that there is not one manager or editor in the country who will defend an underling. We are thrown to the jackals.”

Justice Lucy McCallum, of the New South Wales Supreme Court, who ruled on the case, said: “On the strength of his own writings, it is difficult to conclude otherwise than that Dr. Toben has a clear agenda to create a public forum for disputation of the history of the Holocaust and for the expression of anti-Semitic views.”

According to McCallum, Toben has not sufficiently proved that he sought to repudiate charges of the anti-Semitism in the article in question but, rather, that he sought to use a trial as a method of garnering publicity for his ideas.

“The defendants have established to my satisfaction that Dr. Toben seeks by these proceedings to manipulate the process of the court to create a forum in which to assert the very views by the attribution with which he claims to have been defamed,” she further asserted.

Earlier this month, an 87-year-old German grandmother was sentenced to a 10-month prison term for Holocaust denial for stating that it had not been sufficiently proven that Auschwitz was a death camp.            (Jerusalem Post)

Ex-Cambridge Jewish Professor boycotts 13-year-old Israeli girl over Palestinian issue

A 13-year-old Israeli student from a kibbutz in northern Israel was turned down by a Jewish former professor at the United Kingdom’s Cambridge University after reaching out for help on a school assignment.

Shachar Rabinovitz, a horse enthusiast, sent out an e-mail to Dr. Marsha Levine, the Cambridge educated professor and researcher who is an expert on the history of the domestication of horses, asking for assistance on an assignment relevant to Levine’s field.

Rabinovitz led her e-mail with, “I’m from Israel,” before explaining the nature of her queries.

“I’m doing an assessment for school about horses, and it will be great if you can answer a few questions that I will ask,” wrote the girl.

Yet instead of receiving answers to her questions, Rabinovitz was faced with criticism over the plight of Palestinians in Israel.

“I’ll answer your questions when there is peace and justice for Palestinians in Palestine,” the former professor wrote.

Levine explained that she is a member of the organization Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

“You might be a child, but if you are old enough to write to me, you are old enough to learn about Israeli history and how it has impacted on the lives of Palestinian people,” Levine told the girl.

Rather than provide Rabinovitz with information on horses, the ex-Cambridge professor provided the girl with a link to the pro-Palestinian organization’s website, urging the girl to educate herself on the history of the Palestinian people.

Levine later told The Telegraph that if a school student from a different country had got in touch with her to ask about horses, she would have responded differently.

“Kids have questions, I usually answer their questions,” she said. “But I have agreed to BDS, and I do want to see justice for Palestine,” she told the UK daily.

“In Israel the majority of Israelis support the policies of the government which abuses the rights of Palestinians, so the fact is I don’t want to help Israelis, and if you don’t start with children where do you start?,” she said.

“And she is not that young anyway, her English is pretty good. If people don’t stand up for justice, the world is going to come to an end.”    (Jerusalem Post)

Ending longstanding taboo, IDF pushes for HIV carriers to enlist

In light of recent medical developments, Israeli teenagers infected with HIV may soon be drafted into the army along with their peers, a top IDF medical officer said on Tuesday.

Under the proposed change, HIV carriers will no longer be immediately disqualified from army service, as they are today, though they will not be eligible for combat positions.

The relatively small number — maybe a few dozen per year — of teenagers living with HIV in Israel would be able to serve in administrative roles or in other positions where the risk of injury is low, Col. Dr. Moshe Pinkert told reporters on Tuesday, marking World AIDS Day.

Though this change will impact relatively few people, the message that it sends is more important, Pinkert said. “The number is less important than the principle.”

By not only allowing, but requiring people with HIV to serve in the army, it will “remove some of the stigma surrounding the disease” and better integrate those people into Israeli society, Pinkert said.

“We’re making them like everyone else,” he added. “There’s no connection between the disease and their intellectual capabilities or their creative abilities.”

Though other countries, including the United States, allow soldiers to continue serving in the army even if they contract HIV during their service, most treat HIV infection as immediate grounds to disqualify a candidate for recruitment.

Israeli officials often proudly tout the army’s policy of inclusion, which they say has been ahead of the international curve on assigning women and gays to combat positions, and utilizing soldiers with autism, Down’s Syndrome and other handicaps.

But until now, soldiers with HIV and other serious diseases have been kept from serving unless they fight to override a low medical profile score and volunteer for the army.

There are approximately 10 soldiers currently serving who opted to volunteer for the IDF when their status as HIV carriers initially prevented their conscription, according to Pinkert, head of the army’s medical services department.

As doctors have become better equipped to handle the human immunodeficiency virus, the threat to the carrier’s health and the potential to infect others is “almost non-existent,” Pinkert said.

Those improvements in the medical community’s ability to treat HIV carriers prompted the army’s Medical Corps to reevaluate its position on the virus. Finding no legitimate medical obstacle for a person living with HIV to serve in the army, the corps has decided to recommend the change to the army’s chief medical officer, Brig. Gen. Dr. Dudu Dagan.

Dagan will need final approval from the Health Ministry before the proposal can be adopted, but Pinkert said he did not foresee any complications of pushback against the decision on the horizon.

“I don’t anticipate it will even take several months,” Pinkert said.         (The Times of Israel)

Not the darling of the ball, but also not the ugly duckling

by Herb Keinon   The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Analysis-Not-the-darling-of-the-ball-but-also-not-the-ugly-duckling-436010

Nearly 150 leaders from around the world descended on Paris on Monday to take part in the climate change conference there, and also to show support for France following last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130.

Most of the leaders wanted to sit down with Hollande, the host of the conference and a leader whose stature inside France has risen steadily since the attacks. Hollande had to pick and choose. Though he could shake hands with many, he could only sit down for an extended tete-a-tete with a few.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of those whose request for a meeting was granted, and this comes despite very significant policy differences between Jerusalem and Paris regarding the Palestinian conflict. It was done, as one diplomat in France said, because France has very good reason to cooperate with Israel now on counter-terrorism issues.

This says much about Israel’s standing in the world.

As does a conversation Netanyahu had in Paris with another European leader, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who was just in Israel last week and met with Netanyahu.

They also are scheduled to meet again in Athens and the Nicosia next month, so they really didn’t have to reconnect again in Paris.

But they did.

What’s interesting about Tsipras is that, just a few months ago, the far-left Syriza party that he heads was extremely critical of Israel.

But now, as prime minister, he seemingly can’t get enough face time with Netanyahu.

This, too, is not because he sees eye-to-eye with Netanyahu on a solution to the Palestinian conflict, but rather because for economic issues – working together on energy matters, as well as tapping into Israel’s technology pool – it is very much in Greece’s interest to deal closely with the Jewish state.

Netanyahu told reporters in Paris on Monday that many countries of the world realize that achieving a comprehensive deal between Israel and the Palestinians at this time is an illusion. And, although many of those countries would like to see Israel adopt different policies toward the Palestinians, they do not want to mortgage their relationship with Israel to this one issue because Israel has what to offer them: from experience, advice and intelligence on fighting terrorism to technological solutions for a wide array of the 21st century’s most pressing problems.

Netanyahu’s meetings with a long list of leaders in Paris came a single day after he issued a directive to suspend cooperation with European Union institutions on matters dealing with the non-existent peace process pending a reassessment of Israel’s ties with the EU, due to its decision to label settlement products.

As a result of this directive, Israel’s ties with the EU would be curtailed, but not its ties with individual European states. Netanyahu was making a distinction between what he refers to as the EU bureaucracy in Brussels that he believes takes a one-sided approach to the conflict, and the governments in places like Berlin, London, Athens, Warsaw and Prague.

Since Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009 when the EU froze a full upgrade of its relations with Israel, Brussels has indeed made clear that the Palestinian issue is placing limits on the depth and breadth of its overall relationship with Israel.

However, individual European countries, who have particular economic and security concerns, have not necessarily done so. This is why, even though relations with Brussels may sour, relations with key European governments remain strong – not necessarily because of any affection for Netanyahu or his policies, but simply because of the centrality of the Middle East right now, and how Israel can help them. And this was something on clear display in Paris.

A distorted perception of Israel’s position in the world can be had by paying overmuch attention to decisions by organizations like the American Anthropological Association to boycott Israel, and to listening to the rhetoric of Israel’s own opposition politicians claiming that the government’s policies are effectively isolating country. Anthropology professors are not generally the bellwether of US public opinion, and warning of Israel’s isolation is the default mode of opposition parties trying to unseat the government.

The opposition fell deep into this trap during the last elections when it went into overdrive in describing an Israel on the verge of near-total collapse. For months, they painted the picture of an utterly miserable reality, thinking that in this way they could win votes. But the picture they painted did not match the reality most people lived, and they lost.

That same dynamic is at play today. Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni is overstating things when she says, as she did on Monday, that Netanyahu’s decision to suspend the peace process contact with the EU was adding “another brick in the wall of Israel’s isolation.”

The slew of meetings and conversations Netanyahu held in Paris – with the leaders of Russia, the US, India, Japan, Germany, France, Australia, Poland, Lithuania, Mongolia and others – is not the trappings of an isolated country around which the world is erecting a wall.

Neither is the fact that the United Arab Emirates has agreed to let Israel open a mission to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) located in Abu Dhabi an indication of that type of isolation. Though that office will not be a bilateral mission to the UAE, the very fact that an Israeli office will be located in that Persian Gulf state is not void of significance.

What is telling is that IRENA has been in Abu Dhabi since 2009, but only now will Israel be opening a mission. Why now? Perhaps because in the intervening six years the interests of the two countries – due to the threat from Shi’a Iran on one hand, and Sunni extremists on the others – have begun to converge.

All this is more proof of the old adage that nations act on interests.

With an earthquake sweeping through the Middle East and countries all over the world trying to figure out how to deal with the aftershocks, and with economies around the world more and more driven by technology – which Israel is very good at – more and more of these countries want to deal with Israel, even if they disagree with certain aspects of the current government’s policies.

Israel may not be the darling of the world’s ball, but – as was on full display in Paris – isolated it is not.

Unexpected miracle in the Holy Land

Israel has found a way to create an essential resource

By Clifford D. May                                   The Washington Times

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/dec/1/clifford-may-water-in-israel/

Thirty years ago, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian politician and diplomat who would go on to become United Nations secretary-general in 1992, warned of Middle Eastern wars to come. His prediction was correct, but he was wrong about the cause. What should have worried him was the rise of extremist movements within the Islamic world. What worried him instead was water.

This was an issue to which he and other global authority figures would frequently return. Their solution? Ten years ago, in an interview with the BBC, Mr. Boutros-Ghali “urged the international community to ensure a fair division of water between nations.”

Fortunately, there were those who saw it differently. They agreed that without clean and abundant water, poor people would stay poor and growing nations would stop growing. But they did not believe that the answer was to empower transnational bureaucrats to divide up a scarce resource according to their notion of fairness. The alternative: make the resource less scarce. Make it plentiful.

Impossible, you say? There’s only so much water to go around? This is a demand-side problem, so there can’t be a supply-side solution? Among those not buying such conventional thinking were innovative Israeli policymakers, scientists and engineers. The results of their dissident efforts are now plain to see. Go anywhere in Israel — most of which is a desert and the rest of which is semi-arid — and turn any faucet: Pure water, safe to drink, will flow.

It’s a miracle — right up there with turning water into wine. The most complete explanation for how that miracle has been achieved and what it could mean for the world is the subject of a new book, Seth Siegel’s “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World.”

He recounts how Israeli leaders, since the earliest days of the modern Jewish state, have made water a top priority, second only to defending their people from those sworn to drive them into the sea. That led to innovations, some well-known, such as using drip irrigation to make deserts bloom using relatively tiny quantities of water; some mundane but necessary such as conservation, extensive sewage treatment and recycling. And in recent years, enormous strides have come about thanks to the development of cost-effective methods to turn seawater — the same seawater in which Israelis’ enemies have hoped to drown them — into fresh water.

Among the key breakthroughs: “reverse osmosis,” in particular the development of a “membrane that had nano-sized holes that were large enough to allow pure water to pass through but small enough to block particles of salt and other dissolved minerals.”

Ilan Cohen, a former top aide to two Israeli prime ministers, sees this as a historic paradigm shift: “Today, we are in a period like the dawn of agriculture,” he told Mr. Siegel. “Prehistoric man had to go where the food was. Now, agriculture is an industry. Until recently we had to go where the water was. But, no longer.”

In a more rational world, Israel would be able to use its hydro-alchemy to resurrect the moribund peace process. From 1948 to 1967, the West Bank was ruled by Jordan. Then Jordan joined other Arab countries in a war intended to wipe Israel off the map. Israel prevailed and one consequence was Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. At that point, Mr. Siegel notes, “only four of the West Bank’s 708 cities and towns had running water.” Today, 96 percent of the West Bank’s growing population has “clean, safe water delivered to their homes” — and more than half of that water comes “from Israel’s own system.”

As for Gaza, which Egypt lost to Israel in the same war, it has been ruled by Hamas since 2007. According to Mr. Seigel, Gaza is now “only a few years from a water crisis of unimaginable scope.”

Among the reasons: overdependence on and overpumping of a shallow aquifer into which seawater is seeping; thousands of poorly constructed and illegal urban wells that allow contaminants to percolate into that aquifer; environmentally harmful agricultural practices that consume 65 percent of the enclave’s water; and lack of sewage treatment. “Every day, about 24 million gallons of sewage are either stored in growing pools of human waste or dumped untreated into the Mediterranean Sea.”

Israel does provide water to Gaza, though not as much as the growing population requires. It could provide more — as well as modern sewage treatment facilities and desalination plants utilizing Israeli technology. Were that to happen, Gaza’s economy — and the standard of living of the average Gazan — would be transformed. But Hamas opposes any “normalization” with Israel, preferring to devote its energies to making missiles and terrorist tunnels in pursuit of its avowed goal: Israel’s extermination.

Blood, they say, is thicker than water. Too many Palestinians prioritize spilling the former — in recent days using kitchen knives — over manufacturing the latter. In other thirsty parts of the Islamic world, is there a chance that Israel, which has never been able to successfully trade “land for peace,” could now trade “water for peace”? Hope springs eternal.

For Israel: ISIS Is Bad, But the Iranian Axis Is the Graver Threat – Brig. Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog (Fathom-BICOM)

Syria has become the epicenter of global jihad, emitting waves of terrorism and refugees far beyond the Middle East. What started as a civilian protest five years ago has turned into a bitter sectarian and proxy battle-ground, drawing in thousands of young Muslims – Sunnis and Shiites – as well as external forces competing to shape the end-game.

Israelis naturally share Western concerns over the Islamic State (ISIS), and its capacity to project both terrorism and its ideological message around the region and the world. ISIS represents not only a radical anti-Western ideology but is also virulently and explicitly anti-Semitic.

ISIS already has affiliates operating along Israel’s borders with Egypt and Syria and it poses a direct threat to key Western ally Jordan, with which Israel shares its longest border.

At this point ISIS is not focused on Israel. From an Israeli perspective, the gravest strategic threat still comes from the Iranian-led axis. Iran is a regional power deeply hostile to Israel, harboring hegemonic and nuclear ambitions and commanding the region’s most heavily armed sub-state actor, Hizbullah, with over 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel.

Iran also supports terror groups in Gaza, seeks to establish terror infrastructure in the West Bank, supports Hizbullah’s international terror network and activities, and launches continuous cyber-attacks against Israel.

For Israel, there is the challenge of hostile actors positioning themselves in the Golan Heights along Israel’s border with Syria and turning it into an active front with established military infrastructure and cross-border attacks. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and some ISIS-affiliated elements such as the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade are already there, though currently focused on fighting Assad’s forces and their allies.

The writer is a former chief of staff to Israel’s minister of defense.

Benjamin Netanyahu & Malcolm Turnbull, meeting on the sidelines of the Paris Climate Conference on Tuesday

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Funny Israel Commercial (from 2007)

This information is compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman, Board Member of the Zionist Council of NSW