+61 3 9272 5644

Latest News in Israel – 4th February

3 terrorists carry out combined shooting and stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City killing one Border Policewoman and seriously wounding another

A Border Policewomen was killed and another badly wounded in a combined terror stabbing and shooting attack at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday.

Police said that three terrorists, armed with three automatic weapons, knives and two explosive devices arrived at the Damascus Gate. The terrorists aroused the suspicion of a Border Police unit in the area.

A Border Police officer asked the suspects for their identification cards. One of the terrorists provided his ID card to the officers while a second terrorist pulled out a rifle and began firing shots. Police said later that the Border Policewoman prevented a much bigger attack by identifying the suspects and asking them for identification.

Two female Border Police officers were injured by gunfire. The Border Police unit quickly responded, firing at and killing all three terrorists.

One of the wounded officers, Corporal Hadar Cohen, died of her wounds. She was 19 years old.

Cohen saved the life of her fellow Border Police officer in the midst of the attack. Screen captures of security camera footage that emerged after the attack show Hadar shooting and killing one of the terrorists as he was about to kill the other Border Police officer.

After Cohen succeeded in killing the terrorist, she collapsed, losing consciousness.

Hadar Cohen[1]

Hadar Cohen

Border Police officer Hadar Cohen, 19, was killed in a terror attack at Damascus Gate outside of Jerusalem’s Old City

Palestinian sources identified the three terrorists as Ahmed Rajeh Zakarneh, Mohamed Ahmed Kmail and Ahmed Najeh Abu Al-Rub. The sources said that the three twenty-year-old men came for the town of Qabatiya in the Jenin area, in the northern West Bank.

The three terrorists had no prior security records.   (Jerusalem Post)

Army surrounds killers’ West Bank town after Jerusalem attack

The IDF surrounded the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya Wednesday evening after three of its residents carried out a shooting and stabbing attack in Jerusalem earlier in the day that left one police officer dead and another seriously wounded.

Soldiers set up temporary checkpoints around the village and were closely inspecting those entering and leaving, an army spokesperson said.

According to reports, the army was also carrying out arrest raids in the village, apparently seeking suspected accomplices of the three terrorists.

The operation began as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned a meeting of security chiefs in Jerusalem following the attack. The meeting included Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, police commissioner Roni Alsheich, IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and a senior Shin Bet officer.

The officials decided to increase the number of troops deployed in the West Bank, further bolstering the army’s presence in the territory nearly five months into an ongoing terror wave.

Israeli security officials said Wednesday’s fatal attack at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, in which Border Police officer Hadar Cohen, 19, was killed and a second policewoman badly injured, marked “an escalation”.

The three West Bank Palestinians who stabbed and shot at the Israeli forces had somehow made their way from Qabatiya to Jerusalem, and were armed with makeshift guns, knives and pipe bombs.

They had apparently been sitting and waiting for a large group of Israeli civilians to enter or leave the Old City, and had planned to target them, when police asked for their IDs and they attacked the officers..

The three were killed by police during the attack.

All three of the attackers were members of families associated with Fatah. They were identified by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an as Ahmad Rajeh Ismail Zakarneh, Muhammad Ahmad Hilmi Kamil and Najeh Ibrahim Abu al-Rub, all hailing from Qabatiya.

One of the three terrorists had vowed in a Facebook post to carry out a shooting attack, Channel 2 reported, saying he sought to avenge the killing of another Palestinian who attempted an attack at a border crossing in the northern West Bank last November.

“As far as we can tell from the armaments, [the terrorists] planned a larger, more sophisticated attack,” Jerusalem Deputy Police Chief Avshalom Peled said. “This is an escalation from what we’ve seen thus far. The police officers prevented a combined and much larger attack.”

Israeli forces have in recent days imposed closures on the main palestinian city of Ramallah and the West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Tahta in response to attacks.

Palestinians have decried the measures as collective punishment.                 (The Times of Israel)

Beattie blasts ALP’s ‘Stalinist’ approach to Israel

Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie says the Labor Party risks becoming politically irrelevant over its “Stalinist” approach to Israel, which he argues has ­become an obsession.

Mr Beattie described a proposed ban on politicians travelling to Israel on trips funded by Jewish organisations as an “extreme view” that would not help achieve a two-state solution, which he ­supports.

“It smacks of single-minded ­obsession with Israel. This is ­becoming an obsession and I don’t think that’s healthy politically,” Mr Beattie said.

“I would have thought there were a lot of other places in the world which deserved a lot more consideration than Israel.

“Are we going to restrict travel to China ­because of their destruction of Tibet? Or Cuba because they’ve got a terrible human rights record? You could find something in nearly every country around the world.”

In total, 39 motions critical of Israel have been received by the Labor Party before its NSW conference on February 13-14 compared with 17 on all other countries and foreign policy topics, including Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Federal Labor politicians Sam Dastyari and Tony Burke are among those who support the move to ban travel to Israel if the trips have been funded by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council or the Jewish Board of Deputies.

“(This is) taking a hardline, Stalinist type of approach, which is how I see this,” Mr Beattie said.

“If we take a position which is counter-productive to a resolution of the conflict then we are in a sense becoming politically irrelevant.

“Australia has traditionally been a middle-power, well respected in the world, and therefore we should use our credibility to bring about a solution, not antagonise and take an extreme view which is counter-productive.”

Mr Beattie said Australia had played a crucial role in the formation of Israel and should continue to play that constructive role.

He was concerned about ­expanding settlements and believed there should be a two-state solution, but he said the path forward involved negotiation and dialogue.

Communications spokesman Jason Clare, who is part of the party’s pro-Palestinian group, is expected to propose a compromise motion in which MPs would be ­required to spend equal time in ­Israel and Palestinian territories.

Mr Beattie said it was important for MPs to visit Israel, noting many would be unable to afford to travel to the Middle East if the trips were not funded. “Not everyone has the resources to travel around the world,” he said.

“To suggest there’s some sort of bribery involved from a sponsored trip, what it basically says is that Labor people who accept this are so feeble-minded that they’re going to accept everything they’re told.”

Mr Beattie, who visited Israel during his time as premier but has never been on a sponsored trip to the region, said he understood there was some pressure to maintain marginal seats in western Sydney but political expediency should not dominate good policy.

His comments come after ­former national party president Warren Mundine said Labor’s move to enforce restrictions on the time spent in Israel and Palestinian territories was “verging on anti-Semitic” and he found it “sickening to watch’’.             (The Australian)

Israel Air Force embroiled in ‘war between wars’

The Israel Air Force (IAF) is engaged in a daily, covert effort to “push back the next conflict,” deputy air force chief, Brig.-Gen. Tal Kelman, told a conference in Herzliya on Tuesday.

Kelman told the 11th Ilan Ramon International Space Conference that “the IAF is busy, on a daily basis, with a highly intensive series of activities,” which he called “the war between wars,” or a series of stealth activities aimed at trying to delay the outbreak of the next war.

However, should a fullscale conflict break out, the IAF would utilize previously unseen capabilities, Kelman told the conference held by the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies.

“We have increased the lethality of the air force, to the point that we can strike thousands of targets per 24 hours, anywhere, at any time. We are building the force from the underground level to space.

“We cannot build the air force only as an answer to terrorist organizations or as a response to the arms race. Instead, we are preparing for any strategic development and any weapon that could be turned against us,” added Kelman, who heads the IAF’s staff headquarters.

The IAF has identified several emerging new challenges in its operational environment, the deputy commander said.

He mentioned “the weakening or collapse of nation-states, adding that “the fate of sates that are now stable remains uncertain in the coming years.”

Additionally, he warned, “weapons transactions worth hundreds of billions of dollars are occurring in states that surround us. They are being nourished with Eastern and Western weapons and technology, at a very advanced level.

“There is a potential here for the erosion of the IDF’s power against its enemies. Fighter jets of the most advanced kinds are being sold to countries that are in Israel’s very close circle.”

The IAF is witnessing “a transition from military-to-military conflict to conflict against terror organizations operating in a civilian area.

This is a first class military challenge,” he continued.

“Iran’s dominance is growing,” Kelman also said. “The nuclear agreement is an excellent opportunity from their perceptive to recover economically. This country supplies resources and weapons that reach the borders of the State of Israel.”

The arrival of the first two F-35 fighter jets this year will provide the IAF with fifth-generation air platform capabilities, which Kelman described as “the most advanced in the world.”

The jets’ arrival will place the IAF “in a completely new era,” he said.            (Jerusalem Post)

‘Journalists orchestrating events to make Israel look bad’

Lawmakers and an IDF representative accused journalists of orchestrating events to make Israel look bad, during a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussion Tuesday of violent incidents between security forces and the press.

“With all the importance of the press in a democratic country,” MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) began, “we cannot get confused and must always give priority to the IDF’s operational freedom of action, because they are acting to save lives.”

Yogev accused the press of behaving like an “imbalanced theater.”

MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) compared the press to a car, saying that in some cases it is helpful and brings progress, and in other cases it can be destructive.

According to Eichler, a former journalist, objective reporters should be given freedom of action, but reporters who “take a side in the conflict” should be given less access.

MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) said there is no justification for violence against journalists, but added: “We cannot ignore the fact that the press takes an active, one-sided and tendentious stance in covering the conflict, and therefore, it is part of the game.

“We know with certainty about many cases that were staged and orchestrated, so the media needs to ask itself if it is truly balanced,” Oren stated.

IDF Spokesperson’s Unit representative Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner said forces in the field sometimes have to deal with “media traps” or events that would not have happened if the press was not present.

Lerner explained that the IDF works to allow the press to act freely, while considering operational limitations, and that aim is backed by military orders and regulations.

“We make sure to be in the field to help the press and when necessary, we act to prevent violent incidents,” Lerner stated. “The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit gives instructions and simulations at all levels in the field, under the assumption that [operations] will be covered [by the press] and documented.”

Lerner admitted that there was an increase of violent incidents in recent months, but said they are exceptions that do not reflect the general situation.

He also pointed out that an officer who was violent toward the press was fired.

Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova, a former Arab affairs reporter for Russian-language media who has written for The Jerusalem Post, initiated the discussion and said, “Freedom of action for the media is a central component in a democratic state. Unfortunately, recently, it seems that some reporters are seen as the enemy or as a foreign agent acting against the State of Israel.”

She added, “Violence against the press hurts Israel’s good name in the world.”

Foreign Press Association secretary Gila Sugarman said that in the past two years there has been an increase in physical violence against journalists and their equipment.

Union of Journalists in Israel chairman Yair Tarchitsky called the phenomenon fairly common and said the violence generally comes from low-level soldiers or police officers who are not aware of the way they should treat the press.

“The general feeling is that they see journalists as an annoyance,” he said. “Security forces have to understand the job of the press in a democratic country, even if the truth is uncomfortable for the country.

Our job is to reflect reality as it is to the broader public.”

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) closed the meeting by calling the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit to review the complaints from press representatives and make sure that they are present in sensitive situations to hold a dialogue with reporters.

“IDF commanders are not trained or authorized to deal with the press; it’s not their responsibility,” Hanegbi said.

“They are focused on security and executing their operational orders. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit must send people to events with the potential for conflict, in order to avoid obstacles to reaching operation goals, on the one hand, and harm to journalists’ work, on the other.”

Hanegbi also said he will discuss the issue with Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem (Likud), whose panel is responsible for overseeing police and border police actions, to hold a similar discussion about complaints of police treatment of the press.               (Jerusalem Post)

Poll: Most Israelis want peace talks, but are skeptical

Most Israelis support negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, including a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas, but are skeptical such talks will yield any results, according to the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University’s monthly Peace Index poll, released on Tuesday.

When asked for their stance about peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, 61.8 percent said they were in favor to some degree, while 32.8% were opposed to some degree. Israeli Arabs are far more likely to support talks, with 59.6% very much in favor and 27.1% somewhat, while among Israeli Jews, 26.3% were very supportive and 30.6% somewhat.

As for a meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas, 69.8% would support such a step while 26.8% were opposed. Only 30.9% of Israelis believed Abbas’ recent comment to Israeli reporters that he has made it clear he was interesting in meeting with Netanyahu, but has never received an answer.

Despite their support for talks, most Israelis (67.7%) do not believe that negotiations will bring peace in the coming years and less than a third (29.1%) think it will ever yield such a result.

Over half of Israelis (52.4%) disagreed with maintaining the status quo with the Palestinians, while 41.5% said the conflict can be maintained for many more years without doing any harm to Israel’s security or existence.

Jewish Israelis were almost evenly split on whether or not Israel should annex all territory captured in the Six Day War, with 45.3% supporting such a move and 44.8% opposing it.

Israelis were also almost evenly split in their assessment of recent comments by US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro that Israel has a double standard for Israelis and Palestinians when it comes to law enforcement in the West Bank.

The poll showed 45.7% agreeing and 46.4% disagreeing with Shapiro’s remark.

In addition, 45.7% said such a double standard would not be justified were it to exist, while 44.9 % thought it would be justified.

Few of the Israelis polled (16.4%) thought it likely that Israel would change its policies in light of the comment; most (73.6%) thought the chances that the situation will change was low.

The vast majority of Israelis (74.2%) do not think, with varying degrees of certainty that the international community’s criticism of Israeli policies in the West Bank takes Israeli and Palestinian interests into consideration equally; only 18.4% thought otherwise. Despite that, 43.8% said Israel should take the world’s criticism seriously, but 49.6% said the opposite.

Most Israelis do not support recent statements by opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) that he wants to separate Israel from as many Palestinians as possible as soon as possible, by building a wall between Jerusalem and Palestinian villages. The findings showed 41.5% agreed to some degree, while 52.3% disagreed.

More Israelis agreed to some degree (50.8%) than disagreed (43.4%) with Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s criticism of the prime minister and defense minister, that they are not fighting terrorism aggressively or effectively enough.

The Peace Index poll was conducted on January 26-28 among a representative sample of 600 Israeli adults; it has a margin of error of 4.1%.                (Jerusalem Post)

Hamas parades ‘captured Israeli tank’ – there’s just one problem

At a funeral-rally last Saturday for seven Hamas terrorists, who died when the tunnel they were working in collapsed on top of them, Gaza’s Islamist rulers proudly paraded what they claimed was a captured, rebuilt Israeli Merkava tank.

The rally was organized by the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s “military wing,” whose members were killed in the accident, and was meant to be a show of force replete with the usual threats against Israel.

At one point, Al-Qassam Brigade spokesman Abu Obeida delivered a speech from the tank’s turret, flanked by several masked gunmen.

But as Israeli PM Netanyahu’s Arabic-language spokesman pointed out, there was just one problem: the “tank” was clearly a fake.

As Ofer Gendelman noted: “tanks aren’t made of wood and don’t run on wheels.”

Well, maybe in Gaza they do:                    (Arutz Sheva)

All eyes on Haifa after damning study results leaked

The Haifa Municipality and the Health Ministry kept their distance on Monday from preliminary results of a University of Haifa study indicating that exposure of pregnant women in the Haifa area to pollution from the petrochemical industry caused their babies to be born with heads 20 to 30 percent smaller than average.

Early findings of the five-year study, which has been carried out for only one year so far, were revealed on Sunday night by Channel 2. The study, sponsored by the municipality and the Haifa-area Municipal Association, was financed by the petrochemical industries and the Israel Electric Corporation.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav objected to the “premature” revelation of the study and demanded that the Environmental Protection Ministry expand the study to other municipalities, not only his city.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said the office believes that the amount of small particulate matter in the air is serious in the Haifa Bay area, so it took responsibility and is implementing a long-term plan to reduce the pollution.

Although the statistics revealed on Sunday “only reflect a quarter of the report as a whole,” Yahav pointed a finger at Haifa-area factories and refineries for being the source of pollution in the area.

“Factories cause the pollution, and their expansion has to be stopped. I’m amazed that three days ago, the government approved a 20% increase in their activities,” he said, adding that “we stand with environmental groups in a war against factory expansion.”

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon spoke with Environmental Protection minister Avi Gabbay on Monday morning about actions to reduce air pollution in the Haifa Bay area.

“We will not spare any resources on anything connected to public health and dealing with Haifa Bay,” Kahlon asserted. Since this Knesset first convened, the two ministries have invested unprecedented amounts in rehabilitating Haifa and the bay, he said.

According to the first quarterly report of the National Program to Reduce Air Pollution last year, there has been an 11% decrease in the amount of pollution in the air from the Haifa Bay area. By 2018, the reduction is due to fall to 50% compared to pollution levels in 2014, Kahlon said.

“We have to deal with damage to the environment dating back to the British Mandate that never received an adequate response from various Israeli governments. Unlike our predecessors, we have committed ourselves to residents of Haifa and the North, and the actions we have already taken prove our direction.”

Dr. Revital Goldschmidt from the Haifa branch of student- run NGO Green Course said: “The difficult data bears witness to the reality of disrespect for human life in Haifa at the hands of both national and local authorities.” She said it is inexcusable for children in the Haifa area to have to play on balconies where the air is “saturated” with carcinogens from nearby industrial zones.

She said the report should “shake the very foundations of the Haifa municipality, and the government authorities who are responsible for the health of the public and the environment.”

She expects Gabbay to harshen the stance in his ministry against additional facilities and factory expansion, and to present a formal document to planning committees on how to reduce pollution coming from factories, as well as the use of harmful chemicals.

Amit Bracha, executive director of Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) – Israel Union for Environmental Defense, said that the statistics from the report were not surprising.

“That being said, it is not possible to wait for the study to be completed!” he said.

“Serious steps to reduce pollution must be taken now. The Environmental Protection Ministry cannot tell people about the government’s plans to reduce Haifa bay pollution while at the same time supporting plans to expand activities at refineries.

He implored the government to use “every means at its disposal” to reduce factory emissions, and even to shut down factories if that is what’s needed.

“It’s up to the government and the Health Ministry to start putting residents’ health above the financial interests of polluting companies,” he said.

The Health Ministry said it did not finance the study and was not involved in it.

“The data have not yet been presented to professionals in the Health Ministry; when they are, we will study the data and express our position.”

Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman said later that the findings presented on TV were ‘worrisome, if they are correct.”

He added that he scheduled a meeting between professionals of his ministry and their counterparts at the Environmental Protection Ministry to discuss the details.

“It is clear that if the data are as publicized, we will together have to take immediate action,” Litzman said.

According to the TV report, the neighborhoods most affected by the pollution, because they are tangential to the petrochemical facilities and downwind from them are Kiryat Haim, Kiryat Bialik, the southeast part of Kiryat Tivon and the Carmel ridge on the side that faces the industrial area. In previous studies, the prevalence of lymphoma and lung cancer there has been found to be five times that of the national average.

But various health researchers disagreed on whether the supposed smaller circumference of heads of babies born in the polluted areas was significant or not.

The Channel 2 report claimed that the researchers working on the study had demanded to take soil samples from the area to test for possibly carcinogenic materials, but that the Haifa-area Municipal Association, which was among those paying for the research, refused.

Rambam Medical Center, Haifa’s largest hospital, said it was not aware of babies being born with smaller-than-average heads.

MK Dov Henin (Hadash), who chairs the Knesset’s social-environmental lobby, said that “the difficult data exposing disease in infants joins the information that is already well known to us about the scope of cancer and lung disease in the Haifa area.”

Haifa[1] (1)

He called on the government to implement recommendations made in a report submitted during the previous Knesset, when Henin headed the subcommittee concerning planning and the environment in the Haifa bay. It detailed ways to cut emissions, stop the expansion of refineries, and called for the creation of a separate port solely for fuel.

MK Aymen Odeh (Joint List), who lives in Haifa, said that the report “showed once again that the government abandoned the public’s health for the sake of the special interests of the wealthy,” saying that the government gave up on the lives and health of Haifa residents, as well as the nearby villages.

“It is up to us to stand together, all of us residents, and prevent the advancement of these dangerous projects.

We won’t give up on our health and the health of our children.”                      (Jerusalem Post)

Cotton On’s Typo puts Palestine in for Israel on globe

Typo[1]

Cotton On’s globe without Israel.

Retail giant Cotton On has been forced to bow to an outcry from Jewish community groups and pulled globes that replace Israel with Palestine from sale in its 60 Typo homeware and stationery stores across the country.

But in a move that has failed to calm the anger, the items have remained in shops as part of ­in-store displays.

B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League chair Dvir Abramovitch said their continued presence “delegitimises” Israel.

“Sadly, it is becoming all too routine to find items that ­expunge Israel off the map or replace it with the yet-to-be-­established state of Palestine,” Dr Abramovitch told The Australian.

“Such hostile acts of geographical distortion and disinformation visualise the offensive message that Israel is an illegitimate entity that is not a member of the family of nations.

“This is part of an internat­ional campaign to delegitimise and demonise Israel.”

While welcoming the decision to remove the globes from stores, Dr Abramovitch attacked Cotton On’s initial response that the items were “accurate for commercial purposes” as “hurtful”.

“Educational materials such as globes must maintain the highest standards of truth and must contain information that is not infected with political bigotry,” he said.

“Young people in Australia deserve to have access to articles that contain accurate facts and details rather than to objects which provide credibility to a malicious and damaging narrative in which Israel does not exist.”

Dr Abramovitch said he was “glad” that Cotton On “were sensitive to the Anti-Defamation Commission’s and the community’s grave concerns” but called on the company to remove all the offending items from its Typo stores.

Cotton On had not res­ponded to a request for comment at deadline yesterday.        (The Australian)

‘Israel’s space program lagging behind, as Iran’s surges forward’

Inadequate investment and research in Israel’s civilian space program will have a harmful knock-on impact on military space industries, experts warned during a conference in Herzliya on Tuesday.

Speaking at the 11th Ilan Ramon International Space Conference, held by the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, Brig.- Gen. (res.) Abraham Assael, CEO of the institute, also described how the lifting of sanctions on Iran will speed up Tehran’s space program and missile development.

“After over a decade in which the Fisher Institute watched and examined the Israeli space industry, we can today say that without an innovative and dynamic civilian space industry, and without significant investment in research and development on the national and academic, as well as industrial levels, there is no future for sustainable space industry in the State of Israel,” said Assael, a former air force base and squadron commander.

Driven by need, Israel has in the past led space technology advances, particularly in the areas of small satellites and their launchers, he noted.

“Today, we are moving forward in very measured steps while other space industries, like the Iranian space industry, are developing at a spedup rate,” Assael said.

“The lifting of sanctions following the Iran nuclear agreement will cause its space program development to speed up. This will act as a legitimate engine driving Iranian technology in a range of fields and serving as a fertile ground for the development of matching military capabilities like the research and development of long-range missiles,” he cautioned.

Ofer Doron, head of Israel Aerospace Industries’ MBT Space Division, issued his own stark warning, saying Israel’s civilian satellite program is shrouded in uncertainty.

“Israel has no space policy, and we are moving backwards,” Doron told the conference.

He warned of inadequate educational and academic research to support Israel’s space agency, which could harm future technology and satellite development.

“In most of these areas, there is no significant activity occurring in the State of Israel, and I can only be jealous of foreign space agencies around the world. A multi-year budget is required with a significant scope.

We need mechanisms that allow us to take advantage of the budget,” Doron said.

“Even the low budget of the Israel Space Agency cannot be implemented. We need to leverage the great achievements of military space programs toward civilian applications so that budgets can have double uses. Without civilian licenses, which are the norm in the world, this simply will not work.”

The Israel Space Agency’s current annual budget stands at $15 million, matching the size of the Mexican, Swiss and South African programs.

“If we make it five times bigger, we will be like Pakistan. We are behind Iran, Spain and Argentina and significantly behind European space agencies,” Doron said.          (Jerusalem Post)

Labor’s anti-Israel obsession

Editorial from The Australian

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/editorials/labors-antiisrael-obsession/news-story/e50448114b3875f5aba19d93d203cf6d

As a former national president of the ALP, Warren Mundine is correct to suggest it is NSW Labor that will suffer from its anti-Israel escapade. Israel is the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East; it can look after itself. But, as Mr Mundine says, NSW Labor risks becoming a fringe party. With the ALP’s state conference 10 days away, its obsessional turn is marked by no less than 39 resolutions on the Israel-Palestinian issue compared with only 17 resolutions on other topics in international affairs.

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley decided last year that if his MPs took trips sponsored by Israel they should spend equal time in Palestinian territories. The real agenda is to ban Israel-sponsored trips altogether. The pro-Palestinian MPs within the party know very well that key sites within the occupied territories are no-go areas on security grounds; the equal time rule cannot work in practice.

A key proponent of the anti-Israel push is former foreign minister Bob Carr, who directs a China relations institute at a Sydney university. He might reflect on which country — Israel or China — is open and transparent, and which country is execution happy.

As Mr Mundine put it: “Name another country that the Labor Party bans people from going to? There are none. What is the difference with this country? The only difference is that they are Jewish”. And Michael Forshaw, who chairs the ALP’s international affairs policy committee, makes the telling point that “for years people from the Left travelled to Moscow or Cuba … nobody ever tried to stop them through the party.’’

The factors now at work within NSW Labor are Green-Left-style activism and base pandering to the Muslim vote in western Sydney. Why attempt to penalise Israel because it has the wit and means to tell its side of the story? It is quite open in its advocacy and the elites who undertake these trips are used to making up their own minds. The tragedy is that Palestinian leaders have squandered many opportunities to achieve a peaceful settlement of their dispute with the Israelis.

Hamas: The “Merchants of War” Who Seek to Destroy Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh             The Gatestone Institute

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7352/hamas-tunnels-war

In the words of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the tunnels are being dug not only to “defend the Gaza Strip, but to serve as a launching pad to reach all of Palestine.” As one can see from any map of Palestine, “all of Palestine” does not mean living in peace alongside Israel; it means supplanting Israel.

To its credit, Hamas has been refreshingly transparent about its ambition, the elimination of Israel. Hamas wants the Palestinians to continue living in misery and bitterness. It is fertile soil for jihad recruitment.

A Palestinian Authority-Hamas unity government would mean tunnels not only along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, but also from the West Bank into Israel.

Forever looming, of course, is the illusion that Abbas will be able to persuade Hamas to abandon its aim to destroy Israel.

The myth that Hamas uses tunnels to smuggle food and other necessities to the “besieged” Gaza Strip has been buried under the rubble of the tunnel that collapsed last week east of Gaza City.

The incident, in which seven members of Hamas’s armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam, were killed when the tunnel they were working in collapsed, provides further proof that the Islamist movement has stayed true to its charter, which calls for the total destruction of Israel.

The Hamas men who were killed in the tunnel collapse belonged to the movement’s elite “Tunnel Unit.” According to Ezaddin Al-Qassam, the men were busy repairing one of the tunnels (damaged during the 2014 war with Israel) when it collapsed due to severe weather conditions.

Contrary to popular belief, the tunnel was not being renovated to allow Palestinians to smuggle basic goods from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. This was one of many tunnels that Hamas has dug over the past few years to infiltrate Israel and carry out terror attacks.

Hamas makes no secret of the goal of its renovations. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar readily admits that the tunnels are being rebuilt to target Israel.

Indeed, clarity seems to be the name of the game with Hamas. Senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayeh explained that his organization would continue to dig tunnels for use in future confrontations with Israel. “We have enough mujahideen [jihad warriors] to replace their brothers who were martyred [in the tunnel collapse],” he said during the funeral of the seven Hamas members.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh went a step further: the tunnels were not only designed to launch terror attacks against Israelis, but to “liberate all of Palestine.” In the words of Haniyeh, the tunnels are being dug not only to “defend the Gaza Strip, but to serve as a launching pad to reach all of Palestine.” As one can see from any map of Palestine, “all of Palestine” does not mean living in peace alongside Israel; it means supplanting Israel.

For Haniyeh, the tunnels are a “strategic weapon” in Hamas’s jihad to destroy Israel. Hamas’s military wing dug the tunnels around the Gaza Strip “to defend our people and liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem,” the Hamas leader stated.

Hamas, it is argued, has changed it colors. It is now ready, the theory goes, to reject its own charter and accept a two-state solution.

So much for a Hamas change of heart.

To its credit, Hamas has been refreshingly transparent about its ambition, the elimination of Israel. Yet Hamas has few ambitions for those now clasped in its grip. Nearly a decade after its violent seizure of Gaza, the movement and its leaders have offered the 1.9 million Palestinians stranded there precious little but destruction and death.

Oh, and tunnels. Hamas has tunnels — two types. The tunnels running under the border with Egypt are designed as conduits for weapons. The tunnels running under the border with Israel are reserved for Israel’s destruction.

Hamas’s Palestinian political rivals have pointed out in the past few days that the tunnels have turned the leaders of the Islamist movement into “merchants of war.” These “merchants,” according to the Palestinians, have long been using the smuggling tunnels to increase their personal wealth at the expense of dozens of underpaid workers who work as diggers around the clock.

As Al-Hayeh has made evident, Hamas is prepared to sacrifice as many Palestinians as it takes to advance its deadly goals. Between 2006 and 2011, 188 Palestinians were killed while working in Hamas’s tunnels throughout the Gaza Strip, according to figures released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Moreover, child-labor legislation seems not to have made many inroads in Hamas-run Gaza. Children under the age of 18 constitute at least 10% of the dead in the tunnel-digging industry.

And while the economy of Gaza is in tatters, Hamas has invested millions of dollars into its tunnel-building projects.

Unemployment in the Gaza Strip during the year 2015 topped 40%, while more than 65% of the population live under the poverty line. More than half of its population is now almost entirely dependent on aid from different relief and humanitarian organizations. Economic experts predict a gloomier scenario for the Gaza Strip during 2016.

Despite its claims to the contrary, however, the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In fact, Hamas wants the Palestinians to continue living in misery and bitterness. It is fertile soil for jihad recruitment.

The collapse of the tunnel last week and renewed Hamas threats to pursue the fight against Israel coincide with reports that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to resume his efforts to achieve “national reconciliation” and “unity” with the Islamist movement.

According to the reports, representatives of the two sides are scheduled to meet in Qatar next week in yet another bid to end their dispute and pave the way for a new Palestinian unity government and elections.

Forever looming, of course, is the illusion that Abbas will be able to persuade Hamas to abandon its aim to destroy Israel.

Hamas will never exchange its attack tunnels for PA cabinet portfolios. Abbas recently announced an interest in resuming peace talks with Israel. His interest, however, has been for some time taken up by reaching out to Hamas. A PA-Hamas unity government would mean tunnels not only along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, but also from the West Bank into Israel.

It was not only seven men, then, who were buried beneath the rubble of the collapsed attack tunnel last week. Along with them was buried the persistent but utterly naïve hope that Hamas will somehow transform itself into a “peace partner” for Israel, the Palestinian Authority or even the Palestinian people.

For Israeli-Palestinian interaction, a new venue: the Arab doctor’s office

By Joshua Mitnick,                Christian Science Monitor

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2016/0201/For-Israeli-Palestinian-interaction-a-new-venue-the-Arab-doctor-s-office

At the height of a recent wave of stabbing attacks in Jerusalem and Israeli towns, frightened Israeli Jews pressured municipalities to keep Arab construction laborers away from building sites and cleaning women away from schools.

But no one protested against the thousands of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel who work every day as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists in Jewish cities, helping patients at especially vulnerable moments.

“I am greeted with a lot of respect,” says Dr. Mahmoud Abo Salwook, an endocrinologist from the Arab village of Kafr Qassem who treats diabetes patients in the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak. He has worked for nine years in clinics in Jewish neighborhoods.

Anti-Arab remarks from Jewish patients are rare, Dr. Abo Salwook says. “It’s an exception. They usually come from people who are uneducated and closed-minded,” he says. “I get a lot of nice feedback ­– I hear what patients tell the secretaries.”

Abo Salwook’s career path illustrates a growing trend among Israel’s Arab citizens and an employment shift that’s been under way for the past decade in clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies in Jewish communities throughout Israel.

While Arab citizens most frequently come into contact with Jewish Israelis as blue-collar builders, drivers, or waiters in Middle Eastern restaurants, they have streamed in recent years into Israel’s health-care professions.

Even as the Israeli Arab minority confronts increased animosity from Israel’s right-wing government and heightened tensions from the recent violence, the upsurge in the medical professions highlights how a more ambitious Arab middle class is seeking to integrate. At the same time it’s spurring a new kind of Arab-Jewish interaction, albeit one that often goes unnoticed.

When Abo Salwook first left home for medical school nearly 20 years ago, he was one of the only students from Kafr Qassem to pursue medicine. Now, thousands of other young people from the village and across the Israeli Arab community are following suit.

“It opened a door to others,” says Abo Salwook. “We see that in the last decade, there’s an upsurge in the number of [Arab] doctors. The numbers are only rising.”

According to a 2011 tally by the Government’s civil service commissioner’s office, 12.5 percent of Israel’s doctors in the public health system are Arab, as are 11.3 percent of nurses. A 2015 study by Tel Aviv University indicated that Arabs account for 35 percent of all pharmacists.

While the figures indicate that Arab doctors and nurses are still under-represented relative to their portion of Israel’s overall population – 20 percent – it’s a higher rate than their overall representation in Israel’s public sector, where percentages are normally in the single digits.

Arab Israelis are attracted to medicine for some of the usual reasons: the potential for employment is strong and it’s a profession with prestige.

“It conveys a status. And it’s very important socially,” not only to Arab students but to their families, says Hawazin Younis, a doctoral student in anthropology at Haifa University who studies the career paths of Arab professional women.

The upsurge highlights a growing thirst among Arab citizens to pursue higher education as a means toward socio-economic advancement and integration. A rise in teachers’ performance in Arab schools has resulted in more graduates with the skills to pursue medical professions.

The road is not easy. Thousands of Arab doctors whose applications to Israeli medical schools are rejected choose to go to Eastern Europe to study medicine.

“Even families who are relatively poor are willing to pay money for their kids to get a higher education,” says Abo Salwook.

The upsurge also reflects a human resources shortage in Israel’s medical services fields. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Israel has half the nurses per capita as in the European Union. It is also struggling with a shortage of doctors because Jewish doctors are leaving the socialized health system for more lucrative work in private medicine, clinics abroad, or in high tech.

The Israeli health system also attracts Palestinian citizens because of the centrality of the medical oath, which requires professionals to treat patients without bias – and has become part of general culture of public health services, according to a 2011 report by the Abraham Fund Initiative, a nongovernmental organization that promotes Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel.

“It speaks to the humanity of people, even though it requires a lot of investment,” says Abo Salwook. Even though his ultra-Orthodox patients and Palestinian Israelis seem worlds apart, Abo Salwook says, he sees a common denominator. Both are religious, traditional communities that are socially and economically marginalized relative to Israel’s mainstream.

“I came up from the bottom too. I understand these people; they aren’t a lot different from Muslims. We are also believers,” he says. “I can help with how to deal with the disease spiritually.”

Dr. Mushira Abo Dia, a Hadassah Hospital obstetrician from the town of Lod in central Israel, treats women at a clinic in another religiously observant Jewish town, Beit Shemesh, and agrees that conservative values are a common ground. Both religious Jews and Muslim communities grapple with traditionalist attitudes toward contraception and sexual intercourse.

Working in Beit Shemesh has exposed Dr. Abo Dia to the intricacies of Jewish law on sexual relations and menstruation with which most secular Israeli Jews are not familiar. “I understand a lot of things in the Jewish religion, something that you only understand if you live in Jewish [religious] society,” she says.

Will the progress spur a shift in attitudes? Abo Dia says she has no idea if the interaction in the examining room will change political attitudes. But Abo Salwook, the endocrinologist, says he sees an additional mission beyond caring for his patients.

“I look at myself as an ambassador of my community, so when people leave, they’ll say, ‘Wow, they’re not like what I thought. We can live together.’ ”