Police swarm north Tel Aviv as hunt for shooter goes into second night
As searches for the gunman behind the fatal shooting in central Tel Aviv entered their second night Saturday, policemen deployed in force in the north of the city and concentrated their operations there, apparently believing that the killer could be hiding in the area.
Security sources said late Saturday that the suspect, Nashat Milhem, was “armed and dangerous,” and warned the public to be alert. Two extreme scenarios feared by police, the NRG news site said, was that he would attempt to take a family hostage in their home or that he would attempt a second shooting attack. The NRG report said he still had the murder weapon, a submachine gun, with him.
According to a Walla news report, security officials increasingly suspect that Milhem, who allegedly carried out the attack at Dizengoff Street’s Simta Bar that killed two and injured seven more on Friday afternoon, was also behind the murder of a taxi driver in the north of the city. Ayman Shaaban, 42, a Bedouin father of 11 and husband of three from Lod, was found dead from gunshot wounds approximately an hour after the Dizengoff shooting. (He will be buried in Lod at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.)
Security was tightened at educational institutions and municipal facilities in Tel Aviv ahead of Sunday morning’s return to weekday operations. But with the gunman still on the run, the mayor said it would be alright for parents to keep their kids at home. The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality said security forces would be deployed around schools, kindergartens and crowded areas.
Police on Saturday evening named Milhem — a 29-year-old resident of Arara, a village in Wadi Ara in northern Israel — as the suspect, having kept his identity under wraps for more than 24 hours.
According to Hebrew media reports, authorities now believe their best chance of capturing Milhem may be to wait for him to venture out of his hiding place in order to get food or attempt to find transportation. Releasing Milhem’s name and photo could help the public identify him if and when this happens, the authorities said, explaining the lifting of the gag order.
Milhem, an Israeli Arab who was jailed for five years for a 2007 attack on a soldier, is suspected of shooting and killing two people and wounding seven more in Friday’s attack in central Tel Aviv. His brother was taken into custody as an alleged accomplice.
Milhem’s father Muhammad, a volunteer police officer from Wadi Ara in northern Israel, contacted the authorities after recognizing his son in footage of the attack shown on television. He had been telephoned by relatives, saw the footage himself, and then went to the local police station. He was questioned by police on Friday evening, and computers and other items in the family home have been seized by police as part of the investigation into the attack.
The murder weapon was apparently taken from the father’s safe at home.
Muhammad Milhem told reporters Saturday that “I am an Israeli citizen, a law-abiding citizen. I heard what my son has done, and I am sorry. I did not educate him to act in that way. I went to the police and helped the security forces. I did not expect that my son would do such a thing.” He expressed his sorrow to the families of the victims, and said he hoped those who were injured would make full recoveries.
“Just as he murdered two people, he can murder more,” Muhammad said of his son. He added: “I am worried and I want to hear that he is in police hands.”
The two victims of the attack were shot dead in the Simta Bar on Dizengoff Street. One of them, Alon Bakal, was a manager there. The second, 30-year-old Shimon Ruimi from Ofakim, was one of five long-time friends who were celebrating a birthday together.
The funeral of Bakal will take place in Carmiel on Sunday at 3 p.m. Ruimi will be buried in Ofakim, also at 3 p.m.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of the shooting on Saturday evening, vowing to “dramatically increase” police enforcement in Arab towns throughout the country and to root out pockets of lawlessness and incitement in Israel’s Arab communities.
While he acknowledged and expressed satisfaction with Arab leaders’ condemnation of the killings, he said this was not enough. “We all know there is wild incitement by radical Islam in the Arab sector,” he said. “Incitement in mosques, incitement in the education system, incitement in social media…I will not accept two nations within Israel: a lawful nation for all its citizens and a (second) nation within a nation for some of its citizens, in pockets of lawlessness.
“Those times are over,” he stated. “Whoever wants to be Israeli must be fully Israeli — both in rights and in obligations. And the first and paramount obligation is to abide by the laws of the state.” (The Times of Israel)
Netanyahu: We’ll root out lawlessness, incitement among Israeli Arabs
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv Saturday evening, vowing to “dramatically increase” police enforcement in Arab towns throughout the country and to root out pockets of lawlessness and incitement in Israel’s Arab communities.
“We will dramatically increase law enforcement services in the Arab sector,” he said. “We will open new police stations, recruit more police officers, go into all the towns and demand of everyone loyalty to the laws of the state.”
The prime minister toured the scene of Friday’s fatal attack at the Simta Bar in Dizengoff Street where he was briefed by police officials on the events and on the state of the investigation. The suspect in the attack is an Israeli Arab, Nashat Milhem of Arara in northern Israel. He fled the scene of the shooting and remained at large Saturday evening.
Netanyahu called the attack a “heinous murder” and sent his condolences to the families of the victims. He did not refer to the attack as an act of terrorism. Security sources believe the attack was nationalistically motivated, and the alleged killer served time for attacking a soldier, but his family has insisted he is not of sound mind.
While he acknowledged and expressed satisfaction with Arab leaders’ condemnation of the killings, he said this was not enough.
“We all know there is wild incitement by radical Islam in the Arab sector,” he said. “Incitement in mosques, incitement in the education system, incitement in social media.
“I will not accept two nations within Israel: a lawful nation for all its citizens and a (second) nation within a nation for some of its citizens, in pockets of lawlessness.
“Those times are over,” he stated. “Whoever wants to be Israeli must be fully Israeli — both in rights and in obligations. And the first and paramount obligation is to abide by the laws of the state.”
He added: “I expect all of the Arab Knesset members, all of them, without exception, to condemn the murder clearly and unequivocally. Murder is murder, it must be condemned and acted against by all sides.”
Netanyahu lit a candle in memory of the victims of the attack, 26-year-old Alon Bakal and 30-year-old Shimon Ruimi. Six others were wounded in the shooting, two of whom remained in serious but stable condition on Saturday.
The prime minister added: “I view positively the growing integration into the army, the national service and all aspects of national life by the Christian community, the Druze community, the Bedouins in the north and in the Muslim community as well. I call on all Israeli citizens and particularly on Israel’s Muslim citizens to choose this path, a path of integration and coexistence and peace and not a path of incitement and hatred and radicalism.”
The prime minister also urged the public to remain “alert” as the hunt for the killer continues.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lights a memorial candle at the Simta pub on Dizengoff Street in central Tel Aviv, on January 02, 2016, a day after two people were killed in a shooting there. Next to him is Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan
Ayman Odeh, who heads the Joint (Arab) List in the Knesset, accused Netanyahu of inciting against the Arab community, and said the prime minister had done nothing in seven years to alleviate inequalities faced by Arabs in Israel. He emphasized that leaders of the Arab community had stressed that the shooting attack was “inexcusable” and “despicable.”
Leading politicians had called earlier for a crackdown on arms trafficking and illegal weapons in the country.
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni urged the government to launch a massive operation aimed at collecting firearms across the country in general, and in Arab Israeli communities in particular.
“A weapon on the loose without a permit is a dangerous weapon and is nothing but trouble,” Livni said, according to the Walla news site.
“The government must formulate a clear policy on the matter and initiate an operation to identify and collect weapons, especially when community leaders point out the danger and call for such action,” she added, in an apparent reference to Arab Israeli officials who have for years urged authorities to eliminate the presence of illegally obtained firearms within their cities and towns.
“This is not only an opportunity but a duty to do it now alongside additional actions, both on the political and the security level.”
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid said following the attack that “the shooting in Tel Aviv is a product of the fact that you can purchase illegal weapons just like you can buy nuts at the grocery store.” He added that the government must make it a priority to deal with the phenomenon and confiscate arms from Arab Israeli communities.
Meanwhile Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman told Ynet that the attack in Tel Aviv was possible due to the government’s inability to come up with an effective strategy to thwart terrorist activity. “The terror of individuals is a made-up invention; there is no single terrorist, there is well-organized terrorism,” he said.
The government’s inaction creates “a loophole and invites more terrorism,” Liberman continued. “There is a lack of comprehensive policy.”
The two victims of Friday’s shooting attack in central Tel Aviv will be laid to rest Sunday. The funeral of Alon Bakal, 26, will take place in Carmiel at 3 p.m. Thirty-year-old Shimon Ruimi will be buried in Ofakim, also at 3 p.m. (the Times of Israel)
Israelis say sense of security lost as near-daily attacks persist
After three months of near-daily shooting, stabbing and car-ramming attacks, more than half of Israelis say they have lost their sense of security on the streets, a new poll for the Walla website has found.
According to the survey, conducted under the auspices of veteran Israeli statistician Camil Fuchs, 61 percent of Israelis feel that their level of security has been harmed or very harmed since the start of the current wave of violence. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said that their sense of security had not greatly been affected, while 9% said that it had not been affected at all.
Asked about the political echelon’s response to the wave of terror attacks, 71% said that the government was not dealing with the attacks in a satisfactory manner, while just 19% said that the government was handling the situation well.
Regarding Jewish terrorism, 58% said that they saw no difference between Jewish and Palestinian extremism, and that both should be dealt with using the same measures; one-third of respondents said they should be dealt with differently.
Israel is on the verge of indicting a Jewish terror suspect for the July firebombing of a Palestinian home in the West Bank, which killed three members of one family.
The poll questioned 610 Israelis — 501 Jews and 109 Arabs. The margin of error was not provided.
At least 25 Israelis have been killed since the start of the current wave of violence, mostly in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks. More than 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, most while carrying out attacks or attempted attacks, and others during violent clashes with security forces.
The most recent attack took place on Friday afternoon, as two people were killed and seven others wounded when an assailant opened fire on a busy street in central Tel Aviv, spraying bullets into packed bars with his automatic rifle. The attacker was identified as an Arab from northern Israel. (the Times of Israel)
2 suspected Jewish extremists indicted for Duma killings
Prosecutors filed indictments Sunday against two Jewish suspects, 21-year old Amiram Ben-Uliel of Jerusalem and an unnamed minor, in a July terror attack that killed three members of a Palestinian family.
On July 31, a firebomb attack on the home of the Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma led to the immediate death of toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha. Parents Riham and Saad succumbed to their wounds in the hospital within weeks of the attack. Five-year-old Ahmed, Ali’s brother, remains hospitalized in Israel and faces a long rehabilitation.
The indictments mark a key breakthrough in the case, which shocked Israelis and led to unprecedented measures against Jewish terror suspects, including a cabinet vote to extend to Israeli citizens counter-terrorism practices such as detention without trial.
A court-imposed gag order that has been in place for months was lifted Sunday, allowing for the first time the publication of the chief suspect’s name.
Ben-Uliel is charged with murder in the Duma attack. The minor — who cannot be named under rules protecting minors suspected of criminal acts — faces charges of accessory to the murder.
According to investigators, Ben-Uliel, who is married with a baby girl, admitted to carrying out the Duma firebombing, and said he did it to avenge the killing of Malachy Rosenfeld by a Palestinian terrorist in June.
His parents said he was innocent, and his wife said he had been tortured and that the entire case was “lies.”
The minor, identified only as Aleph Aleph, confessed to helping to plan the firebombing, security officials said.
The Israel Police on Sunday released a statement revealing that the suspects not only confessed to the firebombing, among other “nationalistic” crimes, but that Ben Uliel reenacted the attack for investigators. Sources quoted on Israel TV Sunday night said he revealed details of the attack during the re-enactment that only the perpetrator could have known.
Citing the investment of “considerable resources and cooperation between various law enforcement agencies in Israel,” the statement said that several suspects were also being investigated for attempting to obstruct the investigation.
Five other suspected Jewish terrorists were charged Sunday over six other attacks against Arab persons or property.
Yinon Reuveni, Hanoch Ganiram and three unnamed minors were indicted for an arson attack against Jerusalem’s Dormition Abbey, the burning of a Palestinian taxi in the West Bank village of Yasuf, setting fire to a grain silo in the West Bank village of Akraba, two instances of tire-slashing in the Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa, and an assault on a Palestinian shepherd near the West Bank settlement of Kochav Hashahar.
The indictments of all five suspects were filed in the Lod District Court Sunday.
During the investigation, twenty-three other suspected extremists were implicated in attacks and acts of vandalism against Palestinians and could be indicted in the future, the Shin Bet said.
Prosecutors sought to remand the suspects for the duration of the investigation. The defendants’ attorneys said the court should release them to house arrest, saying close oversight of the security services would ensure they could not pose a danger to the public. Some of the suspects have been released to house arrest.
An attorney for several of the suspects, Itamar Ben Gvir, himself a well-known extremist activist, said the suspects’ confessions were obtained through illegal torture.
“The indictment is not the end of the story, but the opening of a Pandora’s box for the Shin Bet… My clients are innocent. My client only confessed because he was broken in the Shin Bet interrogation,” which Ben Gvir insisted included “severe abuse.”
The Shin Bet has stridently rejected criticism of its methods, saying in recent weeks that its interrogations were conducted with the full approval and oversight of the attorney general and High Court of Justice, as well as political leaders. The suspects faced “moderate physical pressure” legal in such terror investigations, the agency said, but were never subjected to the beatings, sexual assaults and other extreme measures alleged by Ben Gvir and other supporters.
Israel’s Channel 10 said Sunday night that Ben-Uliel was subjected to several hours of “physical pressure,” approved by the attorney general, at a crucial point of the investigation.
Other criticism on Sunday, including from the far right, focused on the suspects themselves.
While noting that the Duma case is “unique,” Jewish Home lawmaker Moti Yogev insisted the suspects indicted Sunday hold “a twisted worldview according to which the murder of children will destabilize and destroy the state and bring about redemption. This is a view that does not come from the Torah, a view that has abandoned faith, the nation and the state.”
Yogev defended the Shin Bet, saying that “the pain of the interrogations flows from the perpetrators themselves, who sadly have thrown off all legal, parental or rabbinic authority. This case has only pain and sadness. Sadness for the murdered Dawabsha family; sadness for the parents of the perpetrators, who did not raise their sons to this, felt the pain of their interrogations and lost any hope for their future; and sadness and pain for our religious-Zionist community, which didn’t know how to lead these sons of ours [toward a better outcome],” Yogev said in a statement.
Following the Duma attack, authorities launched a massive arrest operation against radical right-wing activists. According to a list maintained by a group of supporters on Facebook, almost 100 alleged far-right Jewish extremists are currently either being questioned by the Shin Bet security service, facing legal action, in jail, or subject to IDF orders restricting their access to the West Bank.
Israeli security chiefs and politicians have warned that dozens of far-right Orthodox extremists — allegedly behind a series of hate crimes including the murder of the Dawabsha family — are seeking to destroy the State of Israel and replace it with a religious monarchy. (The Times of Israel)
Israel strikes Hamas terror targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire
The Israel Air Force struck four Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Saturday in retaliation for two Gazan rockets fired on the Sderot area.
The rockets, which were fired by a Salafi- jihadist group, according to security assessments in Israel, set off warning sirens throughout the Sderot area, sending local residents fleeing for cover. They exploded in an open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. There were no injuries.
In the response a few hours later, IAF aircraft struck two Hamas military installations and two terrorist infrastructure sites, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said.
On December 17, terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket at southern Israel, triggering warning sirens around Miflasim, which is close to the border with northern Gaza. The rocket exploded in an open area and did not cause any injuries.
Three days earlier, the IAF struck two Hamas terrorist sites, hitting targets in central and northern Gaza, following a Gazan rocket attack on Southern Israel.
Sporadic rocket launches out of Gaza in recent months have been claimed by a small ISIS-affiliated group calling itself the Omar Hadid Brigades, named after a key figure who helped Abu Musab al-Zarqawi set up and run al-Qaida in Iraq nearly a decade ago. (Jerusalem Post)
Knife-wielding Palestinian attempts to stab passerby in Jerusalem neighborhood
Police on Sunday launched an investigation into an aborted stabbing attack in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the incident may have been motivated by nationalism.
Israeli media reported that Magen David Adom paramedics who rushed to the scene did not find any stab victims there.
According to police, a Palestinian approached a bus stop on Barazani Street. When he noticed a man standing nearby, the Palestinian allegedly drew a sharp object and attempted to stab the individual.
Police said that the object failed to penetrate the flesh of the intended victim. Immediately afterward, the alleged assailant fled the scene.
Security forces launched a manhunt shortly after initial distress calls and apprehended a suspect who fits the description given by eyewitnesses.
Armon Hanatziv has been the site of previous terror attacks. Police have beefed up their presence there due to its proximity to nearby Palestinian areas, including Jebl Mukaker. (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas Accelerating Its Tunnel-Digging Operations Toward Israeli Border Towns
Hamas has accelerated its tunnel-building operations near the Gaza border towards Israeli towns and villages, Israeli military officials said according to Walla news.
Less than two years after Israel delivered Hamas’ tunnel infrastructure a serious blow during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 Hamas’s fighters have stepped up the pace of their excavations.
Israel believes Hamas wanted to use the tunnels burrowed into Israeli territory to stage a terrorist attack against an Israeli border community near Gaza, perhaps even taking over a whole kibbutz or town.
Military officials said however that Hamas had suspended digging operations beyond the border fence, fearing Israeli technology meant to detect such activity, according to the report. Earlier this year, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Israel was deploying a state-of-the art tunnel detection system along the Gaza border.
Hamas has also stepped up its domestic rocket manufacturing, the officials said, despite the Israeli naval and air blockade and Egyptian operations to destroy the smuggling tunnel network between the Sinai peninsula and Rafah, on the Gazan border. Hamas and other militant groups possess rockets with ranges that can reach nearly all Israeli cities.
According to Israeli news website 0404, Hamas test-fired three rockets on Wednesday over the Mediterranean Sea.
Sources in the group told Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar that one of its cells, in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis, was organizing suicide attacks “deep in Israel,” according to Israel Radio also on Wednesday. Israeli intelligence uncovered the cell after a member of the group apparently tried to solicit fake documents from a Palestinian Authority employee.
In addition to the perpetual conflict with Israel, Hamas faces challenges domestically and abroad. A Hamas leader was reportedly recently expelled this month from Turkey, one of the group’s main backers, after the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said Jerusalem and Ankara were working to resume full relations. Reflecting vagueness over the details of the Israeli-Turkish rapprochement, some Hamas officials have rejected rumors that Turkey was seeking unrestricted access to and control of the Gaza Strip while other have expressed concern that Turkey would give up its preconditions for easing the Israeli blockade on Gaza to save face.
Hamas also faces domestic challenges by other radical groups, including some terrorist cells affiliated with ISIS. Some of these terrorist outfits possess rockets and they have fired them at Israel, often prompting an Israeli military response directed at Hamas, which Israel holds responsible for all rocket fire emanating from Gazan territory. (the Algemeiner )
Israel’s population nearly 8.5m at end of 2015
The country’s population has grown by 2% over the past year.
At the end of 2015, the population of Israel has reached 8,462,000, the Central Bureau of statistics reports. Over the past year, the country’s population has grown by 2%.
The Jewish population has reached 6.335 million (74.9%), the Arab population 1.757 million (20.7%), while 370,000 (4.4%) are defined as others. The population should surpass 10 million by 2025.
Over the past year, 176,700 babies were born, and 28,000 new immigrants came to the country. 25% of the new immigrants came from France, 24% from Ukraine, 23% from Russia and 9% from the US. (Globes)
IDF Reservists Call Comrade From Breaking the Silence ‘a Liar’
A group of Israel Defense Forces reservists who served in the army with Avner Gvaryahu, a leading member of whistle-blowing group Breaking the Silence, released a video in which they “tell the truth” about what really went on in their unit, the Israeli news website 0404 reportedon Wednesday, and posted the clip on its Facebook page.
“I was there every night during the period he [Gvaryahu] talks about,” says one former member of Gvaryahu’s staff, at the opening of the video. Nothing happened “the way he describes,” he said.
Another former soldier bemoans the harm done to Israel when Gvaryahu goes around the world recounting stories about the IDF, without giving the full picture of what the soldiers are up against, and how they often “endanger their lives” precisely in the sincere effort to prevent harming innocent people.
A third says that even the argument about how “moral” the Israeli army is — or is not — should take place at home, not abroad.
A fourth says that Gvaryahu’s stories are false, and this causes him to question the rest of the “evidence” provided by Breaking the Silence.
Breaking the Silence is a foreign-funded Israeli NGO founded by reservist soldiers and officers in the IDF, who have been highlighting purported abuses on the part of their comrades-in-arms against the Palestinian population in the West Bank.
The group has become the focus of a major controversy, particularly of late, with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon banning it from IDF events and Education Minister Naftali Bennett barring it from schools.
In addition, the Zionist youth organization Im Tirtzu recently produced a clip calling members of Breaking the Silence “moles” who receive money from the European Union, Palestinian NGOs and other sources to paint the IDF in a negative light, thereby abetting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS).
Breaking the Silence has said it opposes BDS, and accuses its opponents of trying to curtail its freedom of expression.
Sharansky blasts Breaking the Silence as a ‘BDS organization’
Jewish Agency chairman and former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky said Tuesday that the anti-occupation organization Breaking the Silence is collaborating with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
Addressing the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, Sharansky said that the group, which collects testimonies about human rights violations from combat soldiers who have served in the occupied territories, “is not a human rights organization but a BDS organization.”
Breaking the Silence, which has been at the center of a public storm in recent weeks, has repeatedly expressed its opposition to BDS and denied any connections to the movement.
Sharansky, a former “Prisoner of Zion” who spent nine years in a Soviet jail, was particularly critical of the organization for taking its grievances abroad.
“We must have had more respect for the authorities in the Soviet Union because whenever we had complaints about human rights violations there, we would publish them abroad, but at the same time, we would make the Soviet authorities aware of them and demand that they investigate them fully,” he said.
Breaking the Silence maintains that it does bring its complaints to Israeli authorities but these are largely ignored, and for that reason it has no choice but to air its grievances outside the country.
Sharansky was addressing a special session of the Knesset committee on global anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel. While attacking Breaking the Silence, he also voiced criticism of a controversial new bill that would regulate organizations just like it that receive funding from foreign governments.
“I don’t understand how that law will help us fight Breaking the Silence,” said Sharansky. “If, for example, Breaking the Silence doesn’t get money from abroad but rather from a donor in Israel – does that make it a human rights organization? Of course not. “
Referring to Breaking the Silence, he called on all those organizations engaged in Israeli public diplomacy efforts “to fight against those who try to use the flag of human rights to slander the State of Israel.” (Ha’aretz)
Obama spied on Netanyahu after NSA reforms
President Barack Obama’s administration continued to spy after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, even after he announced two years ago he would curtail the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program on friendly heads of state, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Current and former officials who spoke to the newspaper said that the White House decided to keep certain allies under close watch and that Netanyahu topped the list.
The U.S., pursuing a nuclear arms agreement with Iran at the time, captured communications between Netanyahu and his aides that inflamed mistrust between the two countries and planted a political minefield at home when Netanyahu later took his campaign against the deal to Capitol Hill, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and officials also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups, the report said.
That raised fears, an “Oh-s**t moment,” one senior official said, that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.
Over the past few years there has been a series of revelations related to the NSA’s spying program, most of which has been based on documents supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Snowden’s leaks revealed, among other things, that the NSA had monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders. The documents particularly caused tensions with Germany, after Chancellor Angela phoned President Barack Obama and accused the NSA of monitoring her telephone conversations.
It has also been reported that the NSA recorded millions of phone calls in France, including calls involving individuals with no links to terrorism, and that the agency had collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details.
As for the spying on Netanyahu, White House officials believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Netanyahu’s campaign against the Iran deal. They also recognized that asking for it was politically risky, however, so, wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold, officials said.
“We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ ” a senior U.S. official said. “We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’ ”
Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.
Mostly disturbing is the fact that after Snowden’s revelations and a White House review, Obama announced in a January 2014 speech he would curb such eavesdropping, and this surveillance of Netanyahu came after that announcement.
According to The Wall Street Journal, in closed-door debate, the Obama administration weighed which allied leaders belonged on a so-called protected list, shielding them from NSA snooping. French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders made the list, but the administration permitted the NSA to target the leaders’ top advisers, current and former U.S. officials said.
Other allies were excluded from the protected list, including Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of NATO ally Turkey, which allowed the NSA to spy on their communications at the discretion of top officials, according to the American officials who spoke to the newspaper.
Privately, Obama maintained the monitoring of Netanyahu on the grounds that it served a “compelling national security purpose,” according to current and former U.S. officials. Obama mentioned the exception in his speech but kept secret the leaders it would apply to.
Israeli, German and French government officials declined to comment on NSA activities. Turkish officials didn’t respond to requests Tuesday for comment. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the NSA declined to comment on communications provided to the White House.
The Wall Street Journal noted that its account, stretching over two terms of the Obama administration, is based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former. intelligence and administration officials and reveals for the first time the extent of American spying on the Israeli prime minister.
The report also marks the second time that American surveillance on Israeli leaders has been exposed.
Some Snowden documents showed that the U.S. had been monitoring the email traffic of Israeli officials, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Defense Minister Ehud Barak. (Arutz Sheva)
Soldier whose gun was used in extremist wedding celebration sent to prison
A soldier from the IDF’s haredi Netzah Yehuda Battalion was sentenced to 21 days in military prison on Friday, after an investigation found that extremists had illegally used his assault rifle as part of their celebration at a wedding in Jerusalem last month.
Israel Police, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the IDF have been investigating last month’s notorious wedding event, at which far-right activists danced with guns, knives and simulated firebombs and stabbed a photograph of Ali Dawabsha, the Palestinian toddler burned to death with his parents in an arson attack last summer.
Following an investigation ordered by IDF Chief of Staff Maj.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the military questioned soldiers who were present at the event, and found that one of the rifles swung by the extremists belonged to a Netzah Yehuda soldier who was at the wedding.
“The soldier did not supervise his personal firearm, and allowed it to pass from one person to another. Today, the soldier was placed on trial and judged by Kfir Brigade commander Col. Guy Hazot. The soldier was sentenced to 21 days in military prison,” the IDF Spokesman said on Friday.
Separately, Hazot tried two other soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion on a charge of assaulting Palestinian security prisoners who were in army custody.
Hazot ruled both soldiers had acted contrary to IDF regulations.
One soldier was ejected from the battalion, while a second was suspended from all combat operations, and will be transferred to an administrative position. (Jerusalem Post)
Harry Triguboff supports Jewish bid to de-radicalise Bedouin
Billionaire Harry Triguboff and other Jewish philanthropists will partner with the Israeli government in programs to educate young members of the Bedouin community, in a bid to reduce the influence of Islamist extremism.
Mr Triguboff’s Tel Aviv-based philanthropic foundation, chaired by a former Mossad chief, Ephraim Halevy, was in Australia earlier this month, raising funds for the project.
Mr Triguboff, who provides annual support to his foundation but declined to reveal the amount, said many Bedouins lived in Israel but were at risk of being radicalised.
“I am worried that if we don’t start to educate them, extremists will,” Mr Triguboff, who founded the Meriton Apartments empire and is Australia’s third wealthiest citizen, told The Australian.
“We are just setting it up,” he said of the project.
“There are many that will follow me (in donating) from Australia and Israel.”
There has been ongoing conflict between Bedouin communities and the Israeli government over land, with the traditionally nomadic people drifting to cities or establishing “unrecognised” villages, some of which the government has bulldozed.
The Bedouin communities have high unemployment rates and poor education. Young Bedouins increasingly undertake higher education in Palestinian territories.
A spokesman for the Israeli ministry of agriculture and rural development said the government had invested $6 million in a pilot project that needed to be expanded.
“It seems that the Triguboff Institute is a strategic institute which can be a real partner not only for funding but also for planning a better social infrastructure for the future of young Bedouins, as a full partner with the government,” he said, pointing to the Australian TAFE system as a model.
Some students were being exposed to radical Islam, which Israeli society had to cope with when they returned, he said.
Shalom Norman, chief executive of the Harry Oscar Triguboff Institute, said that more than 2000 students from Bedouin communities in Israel’s southern Negev region were Israeli citizens attending universities in the West Bank and Amman in Jordan.
He said these students often failed to meet the entrance standards for Israeli academic institutions.
“They (Bedouin students) are smart, they are capable but have difficulties with cultural and language issues,” Mr Norman said.
Broadening the opportunities for the Bedouin community, which has a high proportion of young people, would prevent radical Islam from becoming the “single alternative”, he said.
“Needless to say that it does not include the syllabus from the workshops of Hamas and Islamic State,” Mr Norman said.
The Israeli government was expected to match charitable donations, he said.
Mr Norman said he expected to raise “seven figures” from his Australian visit.
He said other philanthropic foundations were also providing educational funding or scholarships, including The Bloustein Foundation and The New York Jewish Federation in the US.
Irwin Cotler: World is witnessing new, ‘virulent and even lethal’ anti-Semitism
Irwin Cotler, Canada’s former justice minister and attorney general, warned Tuesday that hatred of Israel was behind a “new, escalating, global, sophisticated, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism.”
Cotler, a top international human rights lawyer, described this new strain of anti-Semitism as “discrimination against, denial of, assault upon the right of Israel and the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations, in fact the right even to live, with Israel emerging as the collective Jew among the nations – the targeted collective Jew among the nations.”
Addressing the Knesset Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, he said evidence of this new anti-Semitism could be found in the tendency to deny Israel’s right to exist and to single it out as the “embodiment of all evil.” Cotler was a guest speaker at a special session of the committee devoted to anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel.
Also addressing the session, Gideon Behar, director of the department for combating anti-Semitism at the Foreign Ministry, said that the anti-Jewish sentiments had taken a particular turn for the worse in Europe, as evidenced by recent statistics.
“Our expectation is that because of demographic changes in Europe and the resulting strengthening of the extreme right, things are bound to get worse for Jews there,” he warned.
Behar noted that in the first six months of 2015, anti-Semitic incidents in France rose by 84 percent, compared with the same period last year. In Britain, the increase was 53 percent. “What we are seeing as a result is growing fear among Jews in these countries, greater numbers of Jews moving, assimilation that takes the form of Jews taking off their kippahs and removing other signs of their Jewishness, and a self-ghettoization, with more and more Jewish communities living behind walls and armed guards,” he said.
According to figures presented at the session by Avinoam Bar-Yosef, president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, an independent Israeli think tank, Jews in France feel more threatened today than anywhere else in Europe, while Jews in Britain feel safest. “It shows us that how Jews feel has a lot to do with whether they feel they can rely on their governments,” he said. “And here is where our Foreign Ministry can play a key role.”
Charles Asher Small, director of the New York-based Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, alleged during the committee session that the spread of anti-Israel sentiments and campaigns to boycott the Jewish state on university campuses around the world had financial roots.
“Follow the money,” he said. “We’re finding very strong and clear links between nefarious sources, even funders with connections to terror, funding some of the most eminent universities in the world.” (Ha’aretz)
In Europe, manipulating Israeli democracy is basic policy
The practice among many European Union European states to fund extremist anti-Zionist groups inside Israel is so entrenched that it has become an integral part of those countries’ foreign policies, a leading expert has said.
Professor Gerald Steinberg, who heads the NGO Monitor watchdog which tracks extremist anti-Israel NGOs, explained to Arutz Sheva that that troubling fact was the reason behind his group’s surprise withdrawal of its previous firm opposition to the so-called Transparency Bill, which was officially approved by the Israeli government yesterday.
The bill, sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), is the latest incarnation of a string of similar, failed legislative proposals to expose the degree to which foreign – primarily European – states are attempting to impose their policies on the State of Israel by funneling tens of millions of euros annually to extremist left and Arab NGOs inside Israel. It would mandate NGOs which receive more than 50% of their funding from foreign states to reveal their sources of income, and with approval from the Ministerial Committee on Legislation it now seems highly likely that the bill will become law once it comes up for a vote in the Knesset.
Prior to yesterday’s vote, NGO Monitor had opposed the bill, opting instead to engage directly with European politicians and diplomats to explain to them the harm that their countries’ funding of “anti-peace” NGOs was causing to the cause of peace they claimed to be interested in.
While NGO Monitor will continue its efforts on that front, Steinberg explained that the twin obstacles of bureaucracy-induced ignorance and outright anti-Semitism meant EU states were unlikely to come round any time soon – and that in the meantime Israel has every right to protect its sovereignty in the face of a seemingly-endless assault-by-proxy.
“In Europe, while governments provide tens of millions of NIS every year to Israeli, Palestinian and other political NGOs, the top officials, MPs, journalists, and others are largely unaware of the amounts, activities, or agendas of the groups that receive taxpayer funds,” Steinberg explained.
“In many cases, the funding process is entirely secret in order to prevent criticism, and even ambassadors to Israel from European countries are not involved in or informed of NGO funding decisions made in their home countries, and, in the case of the EU, in Brussels,” he added.
Via detailed reports and face-to-face engagement, NGO Monitor aims to “enable these officials to perform the due diligence that should be done whenever government money is spent, and in particular, when it is used to manipulate another democratic society (Israel).”
But despite the issue being on the radar for several years at least, European states – including those considered close allies of Jerusalem such as France and Germany – are still funneling millions into radical anti-Israel groups.
“It is clear that unless there is a major change in the activities of European officials who have responsibility for this destablizing and dangerous NGO funding used to oppose peace and demonize Israel, including through BDS, there is no alternative other than through Knesset legislation to protect Israeli democracy,” Steinberg asserted.
He noted that this policy is nothing new, with Europe having long ago identified a clear weak spot to manipulate Israel, whose laws governing NGO funding and conduct are far more lax than most western countries, including in Europe and North America.
“In the mid-1990s, some EU and Western Europe officials ‘discovered’ the ease with which Israeli NGOs could be used to advance their interests and ideologies on Israel. So the first factor is the exercise of political power and manipulation,” Steinberg said, explaining how and why the policy took root.
“But over the years, other factors became apparent – including general naivete about NGO politics (known as the halo effect), and for some European officials including in Brussels, anti-Semitism, in its new form of anti-Zionism and double standards applied only to Israel.”
By way of example, he noted that the “Breaking the Silence” NGO – which has been accused of fabricating alleged testimonies by former IDF soldiers in order to demonize Israel – “gets the majority of its budget via church aid frameworks funded by European governments, and some of these church groups are infected by the new anti-Semitism.”
Steinberg dismissed claims by opponents of the bill that it amounted to silencing free speech, noting that the actual objective is to simply inform the public and political officials. Indeed, under the bill NGOs will not have their activities curbed in any way – they will merely be obliged to reveal the sources of the funding if more than 50% comes from foreign states. (Arutz Sheva)
“The proposed legislation is a means of putting this issue on the agenda, not only in Israel, but more importantly in Europe,” he said. “It sends a very strong signal to European political leaders regarding the need to stop giving massive amounts to fringe Israeli groups and messianists such as Breaking the Silence, where less than 10 activists have over $1 million, and the dangerous impact this has.”
“If this signal fails and the NGO war continues, Israel’s elected officials have the obligation to consider other responses.”
Palestinians: Save Us from the Good-Hearted Westerners!
by Bassam Tawil The Gatestone Institute
Every Palestinian knows in his heart that we do not want a state of our own alongside Israel, but rather instead of Israel. This includes all the land of Palestine and Israel. It means that Jews have no right to exist on even one speck of it.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claims he wants to reach a peace agreement with Israel. But at the same time he and his henchmen incite the Palestinians to stab, run over and shoot Israelis to death, while he idealizes, glorifies and finances — with the funds he receives from the West — the terrorists and their families.
The Palestinian people are already almost totally radicalized, even in the West Bank. They do not seem concerned about living under an Islamist regime run by Hamas or Islamic State.
Abbas’s goal is now, with the help of the international community, to impose a solution on Israel. The solution he seeks – a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines – would pose an existential threat to Israel. It would also just be a matter of time before the Palestinian state will be run by Hamas or Islamic State.
What can be done with these Americans and Europeans? They always seem pining for a dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians that would end in a peace agreement, yet oddly all of them seem aware that the Palestinians have not, in all honestly, met Israel’s most minimal demands: the cessation of incitement (agreed to even under the Oslo accords — and requiring no funding!) and the recognition of Israel as a Jewish State. Many throughout the world still view Israel as potentially the next — and 22nd — Arab state.
As hard as it is to say it, the Jews have a point. There is a legitimate concern that without such a stipulation, there will be two Palestinian States: the West Bank and Israel – actually three if you count Gaza.
The Americans and Europeans seem not to realize that, for the Jewish people, the request for a state has to be a precondition for any discussion of Jerusalem, as well, based on its history. Before 1967, when half of Jerusalem was in the hands of Jordan — what the international community says it wants Israel to go back to — around 38,000 ancient Jewish headstones were taken from the Mount of Olives cemetery by Arab residents and used to pave latrines.
These good-hearted Americans and other Westerners nevertheless pressure Israel to act as the “responsible adult” and make unilateral gestures of goodwill. They ask the Israelis to withdraw from the occupied territories and to take Jewish residents of the West Bank settlements with them. They seem already to have forgotten what happened just over ten years ago, in the Gaza Strip, when the Israelis did offer a unilateral gesture of good will. The Israelis unilaterally evacuated every meter of Gaza in 2005, so the Palestinians could build a Singapore — no conditions attached! In return, they were met by Hamas and a nine-year war of rockets. If anyone thinks the Israelis are about to try that again, they have a surprise coming.
As a Palestinian, I welcome the humanistic approach that calls on the strong to cede to the weak; but an honest examination of the issues makes me wonder if Westerners even understand the Middle East. In trying to find a just solution, they keep making every possible mistake. First, they keep demanding from the Israelis concessions that would undermine the country’s security — and they do not demand from the Palestinians so much as a statement, such as “Israel has the right to exist.”
Westerners, it seems, want to frighten Israel into making concessions. What seems to have been forgotten is that under UN Security Council Resolution 242, the territories would be occupied until the dispute is settled. Now, that makes a nice game of rope-a-dope: You never end the dispute, so the territory stays occupied, then you blame the other side for occupying you! Even we can see that.
The Westerners’ latest good-hearted demand — so devastating to the employment situation for Palestinians — is to label goods from the occupied territories. This requirement is asked of no other occupying nation: not Russia in Crimea and Ukraine, Turkey in Cyrus, Pakistan in Kashmir, nor China in Tibet. It is basically a form of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), presumably intended to crush Israel economically.
What these good-hearted Westerners fail to see is that their threats only strengthen Israel’s perception of danger, and end up creating a result that is the opposite of what the Europeans intended. Instead of bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians to the negotiating table, such a move understandably strengthens Israel’s resolve to protect itself. But exerting pressure on Israelis will not induce them to commit collective suicide. Rather, it will make both the Israelis and Palestinians more intransigent than ever.
The American threat of Israel turning into a binational state is meant to frighten Israel into waiving its vital interests while getting nothing from the Palestinians in return. In reality, the threat just stiffens the Palestinians’ resolve and keeps our leaders from granting even the least of Israel’s demands. The American threat is an obstacle to peace.
Most of all, what, staggeringly, Westerners do not seem to understand, is that the aim of the current incitement and attacks by the Palestinian Authority (PA) comes from a desire to replace Israel with a Palestinian state.
Look for a minute at the Palestinian Authority. In the Middle East, sooner or later, anything that can collapse, collapses — regardless of efforts to shore it up. The Israelis, all too experienced in such matters, are understandably not about to cast their lot with the PA’s current leader, Mahmoud Abbas. The death rattle of his regime gets louder every week, as even Westerners can surely see. So if the PA can expire at any time, how can anyone even think of asking the Israelis to place their future in Abbas’s trembling hands? Do Westerners seriously mean for the Israelis to give up their security in return for the empty promises of a regime a few faltering steps from implosion?
Unfortunately, the Israelis already know — again from history — that so far, at least, Palestinian promises are not worth an old shoe. Again, just as one example, in the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians signed an agreement no longer to use terrorism to advance political aims.
Mahmoud Abbas may serve as the President of Palestine, but whom does he represent? He certainly does not represent the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and anyplace else there are Palestinians. He does not even represent the Palestinians in his own West Bank. Broad swaths of Palestinians in the West Bank no longer consider Abbas their lawful representative. His term of office ended years ago; he is now in the eleventh year of his four-year term. I can promise to sell you that that olive tree over there, but what do I do if it is not my olive tree to sell? He cannot truthfully promise anything to anyone.
The Palestinians in Gaza also reject the legality of Abbas’s reign. They support Hamas. Not only that, but in the West Bank, supporters of Hamas make up roughly half of the population. Their goal is to destroy the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas along with it.
Israelis therefore regard the Palestinian president as terminally ill, on life support — also known as the Israeli security forces, Israeli economic support and Western handouts.
Despite relying totally on this charity, Abbas’s position is so weak that to remain in power, he needs to pander to his opponents, to the “resistance front” and the Islamist terrorist organizations in the Palestinian camp. He therefore claims he wants to reach a peace agreement with Israel and that “Palestinian hands are extended in peace;” but at the same time he relentlessly attacks Israel on the international front, in UN agencies and in the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, he and his henchmen incite the Palestinians to stab, run over and shoot Israelis to death, while he idealizes, glorifies and finances — with the funds he receives from the West — the terrorist “shaheeds” [martyrs] and their families.
Hamas and ISIS at least tell the truth. They openly and repeatedly declare their intentions to destroy “infidel” places such as Israel and Rome — the same way Islam conquered the former seat of Christianity, Constantinople. Mahmoud Abbas, by contrast, is a merely a cowardly hypocrite who successfully dupes the world by talking peace while inciting terror.
If an Islamist terrorist organization does take control of the Palestinian Authority, it will actually make life far easier for Israel. Israel will be able to explain its security position to the world and fight terrorism in the occupied territories — without having to negotiate, make concessions or beg the Palestinians for recognition.
There are some Israelis who worry about the possible fall of Mahmoud Abbas and a radical Islamist takeover of the West Bank. But no Western country will support the establishment of an Islamic emirate in the West Bank. The Islamists will kill the Palestinian Authority’s leaders, the same way Hamas did in 2006-2007 in Gaza. And as usual, only the Palestinians will suffer.
The only people rightly frightened by the thought of a Hamas or ISIS takeover of the West Bank are Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah loyalists. The Palestinian leadership will be summarily executed and their ill-gotten gains confiscated.
The Palestinian people, on the other hand, already almost totally radicalized, and do not seem even slightly concerned about living under an Islamist regime run by Hamas or Islamic State. They are Muslims: many feel it will make them more pure.
The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is not only a matter of semantics that could change over time. It is a deep-seated ideology that will never change; it is part and parcel of the militant Palestinian-Islamist perception that the Jews are a religious sect — not a nation — and therefore not deserving of sovereignty, a homeland or nationhood.
The Palestinians, like other Muslims all over the world, believe that any land once conquered by Islam becomes part of the waqf, Islam’s religious endowment, owned by Islam in perpetuity. This includes the land of Palestine and Israel, and means that the Jews have no right to exist on even one speck of it.
Our leaders know that recognition of the Jewish state would mean relinquishing the “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel, and instead settling them only in the future Palestinian state. They simply cannot agree to that.
Every Palestinian knows in his heart that we do not want a state of our own alongside Israel, but rather instead of Israel. Palestinians have not relinquished, and will not relinquish, the right of return; deep down, they hope it will lead to Israel’s demographic extinction and, on its ruins, the establishment of a State of Palestine.
The Jews living in the Middle East understand Middle Eastern dynamics and the challenge of maintaining an independent, democratic state in a region beset by chaos and internecine conflict. They know that anyone who blinks is perceived as weak, and that any blink is perceived by an adversary as an open door.
Despite the threats from the West, the Israelis do not seem particularly shaken. Israel has opened vast new markets in the Far East and appear to be doing brilliantly. Demographically, the number of Jews between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is rising.
What our past-the-expiry-date leaders have failed to grasp is that the Israelis have set a trap for us: they are building their plans on the foundation of our intransigence. Our leaders are only encouraged by the false hopes and unreasonable expectations given them by the good-hearted Westerners.
Their intentions may even be good, but they persistently refuse to see that our leaders simply do not have the will, the courage or the ability to deliver so much as a dish full of mud. Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership prefer to leave things as they are rather than be denounced as traitors by their people for sitting with Israelis at a negotiating table.
Abbas knows — as many of the leaders in Europe apparently do not — that without Israel’s presence in the West Bank, Hamas and Islamic State would execute him, along with his aides, in a public square tomorrow.
Abbas does not want to return to negotiations with the Israelis because he knows has absolutely nothing to offer. His main goal is now, with the help of the international community, to impose a solution on Israel. The solution he seeks — a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines — would pose an existential threat to Israel. It would also just be a matter of time before the Palestinian state will be run by Hamas or Islamic State.
We thank these good-hearted Westerners for all their good intentions. But they are causing suffering to everyone and accomplishing nothing. Our wish for the New Year is, please, for these good-hearted Westerners good-heartedly to stop.
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East
Go figure: Israel’s standing in the world is both fantastic and awful
Seeking high-tech and counter-terrorism expertise, world wants ‘close relationship’ with Israel, PM gushes. No, critics reply, the world shuns us because of the stalled peace process. Both are right
by Raphael Ahren The Times of Israel
How is Israel’s standing in the world? It couldn’t be better, says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s never been worse, argue his critics.
It’s an important debate, which does not merely deliver good material for political talk shows or theoretical discussions in Knesset committees, but could provide crucial lessons for foreign policy makers. And both sides of the argument make valid points.
The “it couldn’t be better” camp argues that in the age of terrorism and global economic crisis, the civilized world is mainly interested in two things: protecting itself against Islamist terrorism and good trade relations with countries that have what to offer. While many leaders still pay lip service to the Palestinian cause, in their meetings with Israelis counterparts they focus on Israel’s prowess in the fields of high-tech, cyber security and counterterrorism and hardly ever mention the peace process, according to Netanyahu.
Asian giants such as India, China and Japan are thirsting for Israeli technology, he gushes in virtually every speech he makes, and despite minor quarrels with the EU over the Palestinian issue, ties with most individual European states remain excellent, he insists.
“There are many problems in the international arena. One of our problems is the schedule; there is simply a scheduling problem,” the prime minister — who is also the foreign minister — said in late November, poking fun at doomsayers by pointing out that he hardly has time for all the world leaders who want to see him. “Whoever spoke about the collapse of our relations with the US, with the world in general and with the Arab world in particular, is mistaken.”
Netanyahu was referring to a long list of foreign dignitaries he had met or was about to meet. At the Paris climate conference last month, he spoke to Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande and the leaders of India, Canada, Australia, Egypt, Poland, the Netherlands, Greece and many other countries, including Arab states with which Israel has no diplomatic relations.
“Israel’s position is very strong. People are seeking out a close relationship with us,” Netanyahu declared at the time. “They understand that Israel is a major regional force as well as a major global force in technology and the cyber arena. There is hardly anyone who hasn’t spoken with me about this and they also understand that we can help in the war on terrorism and radical Islam. This is strong and genuine.”
Adherents of the school of thought that believes in Israel’s growing international isolation do not buy this. Rather, they paint a gloomy picture of a beleaguered country that has few friends left on the planet.
The global boycott movement is gaining steam; most countries in the world have recognized a Palestinian state against Israel’s expressed will; the EU has started to label settlement goods due to a never-ending feud over what is perceived as Israeli intransigence in the peace process, relations with the White House are in tatters due to the Iran nuclear deal; and now Brazil refuses to accept Israel’s designated ambassador, Dani Dayan, because he is affiliated with the settlement movement.
“It’s never been worse. Since 1948, our international status hasn’t been as bad as it is right now,” MK Yair Lapid, Israel’s self-styled shadow foreign minister, told The Times of Israel earlier this month. Similar sentiments can be heard from all opposition parties. The fact that Netanyahu meets with many statesmen doesn’t say much about Israel’s standing in the world, Lapid argued. “They walk down the corridors [at international conferences] and meet each other and talk to each other,” he said. “They talk to you about the things that are pleasant, instead of talking to you about the things that are unpleasant. I wouldn’t be confused by niceties.”
Whom to believe? The specter of international isolation is undeniably haunting Israelis, but at the same time the Jewish state recently celebrated a number of foreign policy achievements, such as the opening of a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi and the first-ever visit by an Indian president.
On the one hand, there is the EU’s labeling of settlement goods, BDS (the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) and the tangible threat of a anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations Security Council. On the other hand, there is growing trade with Asian superpowers and unprecedented security cooperation not only with Europe and the US but also with the Arab world.
“The truth is somewhere in the middle between these two poles,” said Oded Eran, a former Israeli top diplomat and currently a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies.
‘China and Russia always vote against Israel in international forums and supply Israel’s enemies with weapons’
The Arab Spring and the rise of the Islamic State terror group have pushed the Palestinian question to the bottom of the international agenda, which helps Israel’s standing somewhat, he explained. While the peace process is not entirely forgotten, and foreign statesmen do bring it up occasionally in conversations with Israeli counterparts, they are preoccupied with other issues. The global economic crisis further accelerates many countries’ desire to do business with Israel, which is recognized widely for its innovative high-tech industry.
“If you judge bilateral ties only by economic and trade relations, Israel’s standing in the world is improving,” said Eran, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the EU from 2002 to 2007. Turkey is a good example: While diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Ankara are currently at a nadir, bilateral trade is growing every year.
However, Eran cautioned, “obviously you cannot measure international relations only by trade ties.” Some countries are interested in Israeli technology and anti-terror know-how, but are still hostile in other avenues of diplomacy, he said. “China always votes against Israel in international forums and supplies Israel’s enemies with weapons. The same is true for Russia.”
The key to improving political ties with the international community lies clearly in the peace process with the Palestinians, according to several experts interviewed for this article. Historical precedent proves the world is keen on warming up to Israel as long as Jerusalem is perceived as taking steps toward a solution of the conflict, they posited. The Oslo Accord and the peace deal with Jordan not only were behind the establishment of diplomatic ties with China and India but also led to the 1995 landmark Association Agreement with the EU, Eran said.
Israel’s standing in the world is thus both great and horrible at the same time, depending on which aspect of it you are examining.
“In a certain context it’s really very good — there is indeed great appreciation for Israel’s economy, its high-tech sector and its achievements in cyber security,” said Sharon Pardo, who chairs the Center for the Study Center of European Politics and Society at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “But Israel’s political-diplomatic situation is actually very terrible.”
It is true that much of the international community is currently not much interested in the Palestinians’ plight. Especially Israel’s new friends in the Far East are not bothered by the peace process when they ask for increased trade or seek Israel’s technological or counter-terrorism expertise.
Promoting ties with China, Japan, India, Russia, Brazil and other large markets is of course a good idea. However, Pardo warned, Israelis should not forget that these countries are mere sidekicks to Europe and America, without whose support the Jewish state would be in a lot of trouble.
“Israel’s greatest economic partner is still the EU. And Israel’s greatest security partner is still the US,” Pardo said, referring to the $3 billion annual military aid package from Washington. Yes, Israel’s ties with India and China are on the upswing, but these countries are not crucial to Israel’s survival, he posited. “The basis for Israel’s existence was and remains the EU and the US, and there the situation in the political-diplomatic arena is not good.”
And yet, Pardo added, there is no need to panic. True, BDS is gaining strength in Europe, but not a single government on the continent is about to endorse a full-blown boycott of Israel. Even the countries most critical of Jerusalem, such as Sweden, are fully committed to Israel’s security. There is growing frustration over the lack of progress in the peace talks and yet European states are eager to upgrade trade relations with Israel, he said.
‘In diplomacy, many people talk to many other people behind closed doors. That in itself means very little’
And what about Israel’s much-hailed yet still unofficial ties with the Arab world?
Last month, Israel celebrated the opening of a diplomatic office in Abu Dhabi. “This reflects the fact that Israel is appreciated in many fields including technology, and other fields, both within the Middle East and beyond,” Netanyahu said on November 29. (Five days later, the Foreign Ministry published a clarification stating that the office was established to represent Israel at the International Renewable Energy agency and is not “an embassy or consulate representing Israel bilaterally in the United Arab Emirates.”)
It is no secret that Israel and some Arab countries cooperate clandestinely and have done so for years. Netanyahu has long been saying that many moderate Sunni states no longer see Israel as an enemy and are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in fending off their common foe, Iran.
“There are Arab states that our sought our assistance. If I mentioned their names you’d fall off your chair,” Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold said last week.
The expansion of secret contacts with Sunni states is certainly a welcome development, but so far have not paid off, a senior diplomatic official argued. As long as Israeli athletes cannot obtain visas for certain Arab countries or are not allowed to display their flag there, the much-hailed rapprochement is nothing to brag about, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Israel always had behind-the-scenes contacts with Arab countries, but they also need to be translated into concrete achievements. “In diplomacy many people talk to many other people behind the closed doors. That in itself means very little,” he said.
“How does it help Israel if Dore Gold meets someone from Dubai to talk about the mutual threat emanating from Iran and agree to meet some time in the future to chat about Syria, when publicly the same person is still trashing us, telling everyone we’re murderers and genocidal maniacs?”
Israel’s homegrown enemies
By falsely accusing the state of committing torture, right-wing terrorism apologists are advancing the cause of terrorists just as Breaking the Silence advances the cause of Palestinian terrorists.
by Caroline Glick The Jerusalem Post
This past July, unknown assailants threw a firebomb into the home of the Dawabsha family in Duma. The mother, Reham, and the father, Saad, along with their 18-month-old baby Ali were killed. Four-year-old Ahmed was critically injured.
Authorities immediately alleged that the assailants were members of a Jewish terrorist organization.
The accusations were widely disregarded by members of the national-religious camp, and by the Right, more generally. But following news that Jewish suspects were arrested for the crime earlier this month, those early allegations ring truer than before.
The Right had good reason to raise an eyebrow at the allegations. The IDF, the Shin Bet and state prosecutors have a long history of open discrimination against the Right.
In 2001, 14 years before the Dawabshas were murdered, then-attorney-general Elyakim Rubinstein retracted five-year-old indictments against members of Eyal.
Eyal was a phony terrorist group put together in 1994 by a Shin Bet agent provocateur named Avishai Raviv. Its purpose was to demonize the national-religious community. As the most outspoken critics of the Oslo peace process with the PLO, the national-religious community was targeted for demonization.
Raviv and his colleagues had for years sought to entice members of the community to carry out acts of politically motivated violence. And when all else failed, he formed a fake terrorist group and invited reporters to film its fake swearing-in ceremony.
The Shin Bet’s history, along with IDF Central Command’s longstanding policy of portraying alleged Israeli vandalism of Palestinian property as the moral equivalent of Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, has led many law-abiding citizens on the Right to take allegations regarding Jewish terrorist cells with a grain of salt.
But this week we learned that this time the allegations may well be true. Just as bad, this week we discovered that not only do Jewish terrorists exist, they have supporters.
Wednesday night Channel 10 broadcast a video of young people dancing at a recent wedding in Jerusalem. The wedding was of friends of the men recently arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder of the Dawabsha family. Rather than dance around the bride and the bridegroom, as is the custom at Jewish weddings, wedding guests held up rifles, guns, Molotov cocktails and knives and danced around a photo of baby Ali Dawabsha.
The message was clear. The guests at the wedding weren’t waiting for indictments or a court verdict.
They were sure their friends murdered the Dawabshas – including their baby – and they supported the murder.
Here is the place to note that the suspects are innocent until proven guilty. The film is not evidence of guilt.
But the video does show that Jewish terrorists have supporters and those supporters believe that child killers are heroes.
How are we to relate to this state of affairs? How are we to respond to the increasingly sure knowledge that there are Jewish terrorists and that those terrorists have supporters? Among those supporters are hundreds of people who have tried to shift the discussion from the act of terrorist murder the suspects are alleged to have committed to a discussion of allegations made by their attorneys, that since their arrest the alleged Jewish terrorists have been tortured by their investigators.
How are we supposed to react to those who rush to every open microphone and accuse the state of torturing the terrorist suspects, rather than consider, for a moment, what these men are suspected of having done? How are we to react to people who, even in the presence of evidence insist that the state is completely evil and the suspected terrorists are simply victims of discrimination? Those who blithely accuse counterterrorism investigators of torturing terrorist suspects while ignoring evidence and the nature of the crime itself, are terrorism apologists. In behaving as they do, they serve as the moral equivalent of anti-Zionist leftists from Breaking the Silence and its sister groups who libel Israel internationally.
Both groups of terrorism apologists use anti-Jewish rhetoric to harm the Jewish state. Both groups libel Israel with false allegations of torture that neither would dare to raise against any other country.
There are of course difference between the two groups.
Breaking the Silence and sister groups like B’Tselem are funded by foreign governments.
They disseminate their blood libels against Israel to foreign audiences. Their goal is to transform the anti-Semitic mood in foreign lands into anti-Semitic policies by foreign governments.
The ultimate goal of such groups is the destruction of Israel. They seek Israel’s destruction because they believe that Israel is illegitimate and should be replaced by a non-Jewish state of one sort or another.
Unlike their leftist counterparts, terrorist apologists on the Right do not receive foreign funding.
They do not direct their actions to international audiences.
They don’t seek the adulation of the likes of Roger Waters or John Kerry. They don’t encourage Europe to wage economic warfare against Israel or the US to abandon Israel at the UN. They don’t legitimize Arab terrorism.
Their target audience is the Israeli public. They wish to convince the public to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish terrorists by painting them as victims.
But these terrorists are not victims. In their manifesto, the terrorists make clear that they wish to bring about the destruction of Israel. They view terrorism as a means to achieve that aim. One of the consequences of terrorism is that it weakens Israel’s international standing. And in their manifesto, the terrorists say that they seek to use Israel’s “weak points,” including its diplomatic weakness in order to destroy it.
By falsely accusing the state of committing torture, right-wing terrorism apologists are advancing the cause of the terrorists just as surely as Breaking the Silence members advance the cause of Palestinian terrorists when they disseminate their blood libels about IDF “war crimes” to European and US audiences.
Given the similarity of their actions and goals, it should be clear that terrorism apologists on both sides of the spectrum must be shunned.
This brings us to the nature of the terrorism that these apologists justify.
Are Jewish terrorists who seek Israel’s destruction different from Muslim terrorists who seek Israel’s destruction? In two key ways they do differ. First there are the numbers. Whereas there may be a few hundred Israelis who have joined terrorist cells, tens of thousands of Palestinians are members of terrorist groups in Judea and Samaria alone. Gaza of course, is governed by a terrorist group.
Second, there are their support bases.
Jewish terrorists are condemned and rejected by every major and minor political force in Israel.
Although their support base may have grown in recent years, it still numbers no more than a few thousand people on the fringes of society.
In stark contrast, the Palestinian Authority and all private and public Palestinian institutions of note lionize Palestinian terrorists. Jailed terrorists and their families receive generous governmental compensation. The general public views them as national heroes and children are taught from preschool on to follow in their footsteps and kill Jews in order to destroy Israel.
Wednesday, as Israel’s entire rabbinical and political leadership stood as one and condemned the wedding guests who glorified Jewish terrorists on the video, Fatah – the terrorist group and political party led by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas – published a post on its Facebook page praising the terrorist murderers who the same day killed two Israelis and critically wounded a third outside the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem.
For counterterror and law enforcement bodies, fighting Jewish terrorism poses the same challenges as fighting Islamic terrorism. In both cases, the central challenge is to target and arrest terrorists and infiltrate their networks while continuing to respect the civil rights of the surrounding population.
In both cases, when investigators are contending with active terrorist networks, they are sometimes compelled to use unpleasant interrogation techniques.
As numerous courts, ministerial oversight committees and the Knesset have determined, these techniques are not torture. They are legitimate interrogation methods and they are used sparingly and only when they are required to protect the public from terrorists who target the innocent.
This brings us back to the wedding video and the difficulty we experience in accepting that Jewish terrorism exists, support for Jewish terrorism exists, and both need to be dealt with.
There can be little doubt that Jewish terrorism would be far easier to fight today if the Shin Bet and the state prosecutors had not made malicious use of agent provocateurs to demonize the national religious camp in the 1990s. So too, if IDF commanders and the civil administration were less quick to support anti-Israel European-funded NGOs against Jewish communal interests in Judea and Samaria today, community members would have less trouble believing the worst about Jewish extremists at the fringes of society. Indeed it would be far more difficult for overzealous defense attorneys to convince anyone that suspected terrorists have undergone torture.
But while the public has legitimate grounds for suspicion, it is no longer possible to dismiss the allegations of Jewish terrorism. There are members of the nationalist camp that wish to destroy Israel.
They are willing to commit terrorist attacks against Arabs as well as Jews to achieve their goals.
As a consequence, just as the vast majority of the public demands that the government take all necessary measures to destroy Palestinian terrorist groups, so the public must demand that the government destroy Jewish terrorist groups.
Just as we decry apologists for Palestinian terrorism, so we must shun apologists for Jewish terrorism.
In recent years, as the movement to delegitimize Israel from the Left has gained momentum, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has taken to referring to Israel as “the one and only Jewish state.”
To Zionist ears, his constant refrain often sounds grating. Why bother mentioning the obvious? But today his characterization of Israel rings true.
Indeed, it is a reminder of what we can lose, and what we must do everything we can to defend.
We have but one Jewish state; we will never have another one.
Warts and all, Israel must be defended from all of its enemies. Jewish terrorists, like Palestinian terrorists, are not victims. They are enemies of the state. Their apologists – like apologists of Palestinian terrorists – are also enemies of the state.
We must fight and defeat them all with equal determination.