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Latest News in Israel – 4th May

Struggle to maintain human spirit to be theme of Holocaust Remembrance Day

Six torches will be lit to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.

“In an instant, I realized that I had no one but my sister,” recalled Sara Kain, a former Auschwitz inmate, when she learned that her parents had been murdered in the camp’s gas chambers.

Kain, along with five other survivors, will light the torches at the opening ceremony of Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem this week, it was announced on Monday. The others being honored are Robert Tomashof, Jehoshua Hesel Fried, Joseph Labi, Chaim Grosbein and Lonia Rozenhoch.

The six torches commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.

According to Yad Vashem, the theme for this year’s ceremony is “Everything is Forbidden to Us, and Yet We Do Everything: The Struggle to Maintain the Human Spirit during the Holocaust.”

President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver remarks, while Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, a former chief rabbi and a survivor himself, will kindle the Memorial Torch.

The current chief rabbis, David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, will also participate, as will Cantor Israel Parnes and singer Kobi Aflalo.

Kain (née Izikowich), who will light the first torch, was born in 1919 in Kassa (Košice), Czechoslovakia, to a religiously traditional family of eight. Her parents owned a pâtisserie, where she and her siblings worked.

Two older siblings, Rachel and Meir, emigrated to Mandatory Palestine before the war.

In 1938, the region where Sara lived was annexed to Hungary, and in April 1944, a month after the Germans occupied the country, the Jews of Kassa and the neighboring towns were concentrated in a ghetto. Sara, her sister Ethel and her parents were deported to Auschwitz in early June 1944.

Her mother and father were taken straight to the gas chambers. At one time, Ethel was selected to be murdered, although Sara and others managed to save her from this fate.

The sisters were eventually transferred to Bergen Belsen and other camps, but survived them as well as a death march before being liberated by US troops. Sara weighed just 38 kg.

They made their way to Palestine in 1946 . They were detained by the British in the Atlit detention camp, but eventually settled at Kibbutz Gan Shmuel.

Sara married Abraham, now deceased, whom she had met as a girl in Kassa. She has three children, 10 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.          (Jerusalem Post)

Fifty Holocaust Survivors Celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvah Ceremonies at Western Wall

Fifty Holocaust survivors who never got to celebrate their Jewish coming-of-age ritual because of the horrors of World War II got a chance to do so Monday in Jerusalem.

The bat mitzvah and bar mitzvah – the first for girls, the second for boys – is typically performed when the child is about 12 or 13. Monday’s participants were all well past retirement age.

Many of the participants said it had never occurred to them to participate in the ceremony, until they were encouraged to do so by the organizing agency.

During the ceremony, boys can go up to the front of the synagogue and read from the Torah when they turn 13. This event is celebrated – by both practicing and even secular Jews – as a major milestone.

The bat mitzvah is a more recent invention, introduced as a coming-of-age celebration for girls, with the first one dating back to 1922.

But, during World War II, Jews interned in concentration camps were unable to mark their symbolic transformation from children into teens moving closer to adulthood.

Monday’s mass ceremony was conducted at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, which holds up the platform that once housed the Biblical Jewish Temple, Judaism’s holiest site.

Wrapped in Jewish prayer shawls and tefillin – small leather boxes with sections of the Torah strapped to the forehead and arm – the Holocaust survivors cited special prayers.

The event “symbolizes revenge against the Nazi oppressors, in the form of a return to Jewish tradition and proof that ‘it is never too late,'” a religious Israeli news site, The Jewish Voice, quoted the Western Wall Heritage Foundation as saying.

The foundation in charge of the Jewish holy site said that more than 1,100 survivors who were 13 during World War II and unable to hold the ceremony amid the horrors of the Holocaust, have participated in such mass bar mitzvahs during the past four years.

Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day from sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday this year.             (Haaretz)

Palestinian assailant rams car into three IDF soldiers in West Bank

Three Israeli soldiers were injured in a vehicular terror attack in the Binyamin region of the West Bank on Tuesday evening.

Two lightly wounded troops were evacuated to the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Karem and the third soldier who was seriously wounded was rushed to the Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer in Tel Aviv, according to Magen David Adom.

Around 7 p.m. a Palestinian driver rammed his vehicle into three soldiers who were standing by the side of the road near a checkpoint between the settlements of Dolev and Talmon.

Other soldiers who were at the checkpoint shot and killed the Palestinian driver.                  (Jerusalem Post)

Police nab Palestinian suspect in Jerusalem stabbing attack

Police late Monday night arrested a Palestinian youth suspected of stabbing and moderately injuring an Israeli man in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday evening.

The suspect was detained after a major manhunt for the perpetrator in the attack in the heart of Jerusalem’s ancient quarter, which ended weeks of relative calm after months of roiling violence in the capital.

Immediately after the attack, security officials shut down the Old City and launched extensive searches for the assailant, the police said in a statement.

The attacker, an 18-year-old resident of the West Bank, admitted during initial questioning that he had carried out the attack. The investigation was ongoing, police said.

According to officials, the victim, apparently in his 60s, said he was stabbed in the back on al-Khaldaya Street in the center of Old City and reached the Austrian Hospice hotel some 300 meters away, where he reported he’d been attacked and asked for help.

Police spokesperson Luba Samri said that officers found a knife at the scene.

The victim was transferred to a local hospital for treatment. Hospital officials described him as stable and conscious.

The attack came weeks after Israeli officials pointed to a marked decrease in Palestinian stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks in and around Jerusalem, following six months of near-daily assaults which had wracked Israel and the West Bank.

The calm had been previously shattered by an April 18 bus bombing, in which a Palestinian resident of Bethlehem blew himself up in Jerusalem, injuring 20 people and killing himself. Israel said the attacker was a Hamas member; while the terror group praised the attack, it avoided claiming responsibility.

Twenty-nine Israelis and four non-Israelis have been killed in the recent wave of terror attacks. Some 200 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.    (The Times of Israel)

Netanyahu touts quiet on Gaza border; hours later Palestinians fire on IDF patrol

The nearly two years since Operation Protective Edge has been the quietest in the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control of the area in 2007, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during an unannounced visit to border with Gaza on Tuesday.

Hours after Netanyahu left, Palestinians fired on an IDF patrol near the fence in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported.

Netanyahu went to the site of the large terror attack tunnel from Gaza into Israel that was discovered last month. Netanyahu was accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, and other top IDF officials. He received a briefing there on the security situation in the area.

Speaking to soldiers in the area, Netanyahu compared the situation today where IDF soldiers are defending the country to the situation 70 years ago during the Holocaust when we “we were like a leaf driven in the wind, with no defense force, helpless. They massacred us, slaughtered us.”

Today, he said, “we have a country, an army, , the ability to defend ourselves in this sector, in all sectors – near and far – and what motivates me is to secure the future of Israel in its land.”

The Jewish people, he said, has no future without its country.

Netanyahu praised the soldiers for their “spirit,” saying this is what makes the army what it is.

Touching on a theme he frequently repeats, Netanyahu said that Israel is an isle of stability in a very stormy Middle East sea.

“We are in the eye of the storm, I want you to know this,” he said. “ A half million people have been murdered around us in Syria, which is collapsing. Iraq has collapsed, neither of them – actually – still exist. Yemen collapsed, Libya collapsed.”

As a result, the premier said,. There is a massive flow of migrants to Europe who are “running for their lives.”

And amid it all, Netanyahu said, Israel is the most stable, quietest and safest country in the region.                     (Jerusalem Post)

UN says 29.5% of WB “refugees” live in UNRWA camps. It doesn’t ask why.

The question that the UN leaves unasked is – why do these camps still exist some 68 years after the last refugees were created? (There were essentially no refugees by any definition created by the Six Day War.)

This graphic claims that life in the UN-administered camps is dangerous due to IDF operations. Of course, it doesn’t bother to say that the reason that many operations occur in these camps is because they are hotbeds of terrorism.

70% of the so-called “refugees” (actually, descendants of refugees) live outside the camps – meaning that there is no legal impediment to integrating the “refugees” with the rest of Palestinian society.

The Palestinian Authority, recognized by the UN as the State of Palestine, can build as many houses as needed for these people in Areas A and B. And they have had this autonomy for nearly 20 years now.

Where are the infographics showing how successful the PA, with international aid, has been in dismantling these completely unnecessary and dangerous camps and mainstreaming the residents to become normal citizens?

refugees[2]

They don’t exist, because no such programs exist.

The PA doesn’t want to dismantle the camps because they want to point to overcrowded, violence-filled ghettos as evidence of how Palestinians are still suffering from Israeli actions in 1948.

Jordan was happy to keep these camps around from 1948-1967 because the hundreds of million of dollars used to maintain the camps was money that Jordan didn’t have to spend – even though the Palestinians were full Jordanian citizens.

The UN, which puts out reams of reports about how awful things are for Palestinians, has no interest in a single program to take vulnerable people out of these camps.

The graphic comes from a 33-page UN document that describes how many problems Palestinians have and all of the programs the UN has to help them. Yet these is not one program to mainstream camp residents into normal houses and apartments, going to normal non-UN schools and becoming self-sustaining members of society.

There is no reason that these camps should exist today. But the UN is complicit in keeping a second-class society of Palestinians in misery and insecurity, all while promising them a fairy tale that one day they will “return” and go back to their ancestors’ houses that no longer (and in some cases never did) exist.

If the UN recognizes a “state of Palestine,” isn’t it time for the UN to help that entity to take responsibilities for its own citizens as every other nation does? (elderofziyon).

Smuggling attempt foiled: Israel seizes 4 tons of Gaza-bound chemicals used in rockets

Security forces have foiled an attempt to smuggle into Gaza four tons of chemicals that can be used to manufacture long-rang rockets, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Tuesday morning.

Before the Passover holiday, customs and Shin Bet officials at the Nitzana Border Crossing used by Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority seized the four tons of ammonium chloride concealed within a shipment of salt.

The Shin Bet estimates that the importer of the latest smuggling attempt is a Gaza resident associated with Hamas. The importer was believed to have been urged by the terrorist group to bring the materials into the Strip for manufacturing use by Hamas.

Ammonium chloride can be used in the production of long-range rocket and the quantity of material seized had the potential to yield hundreds of such weapons, according to the Shin Bet.

According to Tuesday’s announcement, the delivery intended for Gaza was discovered about a week before Passover during inspections of goods traveling between the border crossing.

During examinations of a 40-tons shipment of salt, the Israeli officials located the illicit shipment of ammonium chloride.

Due to the dual-purpose nature of the material that can potentially be used by terrorist organizations, its transfer to the Gaza Strip requires a licenses.

Shin Bet said it has been operating as of late on increased alert in light of large amounts of salts being transferred to Gaza as such shipments can be used as a smuggling channel.

The Shin Bet emphasized that this case illustrates that terrorist operatives in Gaza smuggle dual-use materials into the coastal Palestinian enclave for militant purposes under the guise of imports intended for the civilian population and construction restoration projects.             (Jerusalem Post)

Dore Gold to visit Germany amid reports of strain in ties

Foreign Ministry Director- General Dore Gold will travel to Berlin on Tuesday for a political dialogue with his German counterparts taking place just days after a report in Der Spiegel said there were significant voices in Germany’s foreign policy establishment calling for a reassessment of that country’s traditional support for Israel.

During Gold’s two-day visit, he is scheduled to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief foreign policy adviser, Christoph Heusgen. He could also meet with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

On Thursday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, he will speak at a memorial service at Bergen-Belsen.

Gold’s visit and meetings were planned far in advance and are not connected with the Der Spiegel report, which triggered denials from both Jerusalem and Berlin.

According to the story – the latest in a number of articles that have emerged in recent years about tensions between Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – there are voices in the German Chancellery and Foreign Ministry calling for a rethinking of Berlin’s relationship with Israel because of the latter’s settlement policy and what is perceived as Netanyahu’s disinclination to move on the Palestinian issue.

Germany has consistently been one of Israel’s strongest allies inside the 28-member European Union, and Merkel famously said in a Knesset speech in 2008 that Germany’s “special historical responsibility for Israel’s security” is part of her country’s “raison d’etre.”

Yet Der Spiegel quoted Rolf Mützenich, deputy floor leader for the Social Democrats (SPD) in the Bundestag, as saying: “The perception has been growing in the German government that Netanyahu is instrumentalizing our friendship.”

The SDP is the party of Steinmeier, and a junior member of Merkel’s coalition.

Norbert Röttgen, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, was quoted as saying: “Israel’s current policies are not contributing to the country remaining Jewish and democratic. We must express this concern more clearly to Israel.”

A senior Israeli official quickly downplayed the report, saying the two countries remained very close and attributing the story to internal domestic politics seeking to attack Merkel for “her close relationship” with Netanyahu.

A day later, Reuters quoted a German official as denying the report, saying that “the guidelines of German Middle East policy have not changed.”

The issue is expected to be raised during Gold’s meetings.      (Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s envoy to London: Redline crossed

It is crucial for British leadership to stand up and condemn anti-Semitism in unequivocal terms, Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev said on Sunday, stressing that there is a clear distinction between criticism of Israel and hate speech.

Regev’s comments to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, during his first televised interview since taking up his post last month, came as manifestations of anti-Semitism inside the British Labor Party are dominating public debate just days before local elections in London, Scotland and Wales.

Regev said it was “naive” to say that anti-Semitism is only a problem of the far Right, adding that while the socialist Left has had a proud history of fighting anti-Semitism, it has also been plagued by anti-Semitism.

Asked if he thought anti-Semitism was “alive and well in the current Labor Party,” he replied: “Well, we have definitely seen some language in the last two or three weeks that is definitely concerning,” adding that the redline between legitimate criticism of Israeli policy and anti-Semitism was crossed.

On Thursday, former London mayor Ken Livingstone said that Hitler was “supporting Zionism” in 1932 when he proposed Jews be moved to Israel.

Two days later, he defended those comments by saying he was merely stating facts acknowledged last year by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when he said that Hitler initially wanted to expel the Jews, until Jerusalem’s Mufti Haj Amin al-Hussein called for their extermination.

The Labor Party, reeling from the comments just days before mayoral elections in London where the Jewish vote is significant, suspended Livingstone and opened an inquiry into how to tackle anti-Semitism and racism in the party.

Last Wednesday, Labor MP Naz Shah was suspended after calling for Israel to be “relocated” to America.

Two weeks earlier a Labor councilor, Aysegul Gurbuz, was suspended following tweets in which she referred to Hitler as the “greatest man in history” and hoped Iran would “wipe Israel off the map.”

This was preceded in March by Vicki Kirby, the vice chairwoman of Labor’s Woking Branch, tweeting that Jews have “big noses” and “slaughter the oppressed.”

Regev said he would “love to meet” Labor Party head Jeremy Corbyn, who has been criticized from within his own party for not seriously tackling the anti-Semitism in its midst, and who in the past has referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends.”

Without referring to Corbyn by name, Regev said it is important for “leadership” not to be “neutral or agnostic” about anti-Semitism.

“I’ll give you an example,” he said. “You’ve had too many people on the progressive side of politics who have embraced Hamas and Hezbollah. Both of them are anti-Semitic organizations, you just have to read Hamas’s charter and it’s like chapters straight out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

“Yet some progressive politicians have embraced Hamas.

Now, I’d ask the following question: If you’re progressive, you’re embracing an organization which is homophobic, which is misogynistic, which is openly anti-Semitic, what’s progressive about that?” he asked. “I think there has to be an unequivocal message from leadership saying there is no solidarity with anti-Semites.”

Regev said it was impossible to imagine someone from Labor sharing a platform with an anti- Black racist or someone spouting hatred of homosexuals. Why then, he asked, “can you share a platform with someone who is openly anti-Semitic.”

Despite Livingstone bringing Netanyahu into the argument by referencing his quote about the mufti, the Prime Minister’s Office has not waded into the debate.

Meanwhile, the comments have thrust the issue of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism to the forefront of the public debate in the United Kingdom.

A British YouGov poll on Saturday found that 45 percent of those surveyed said that Livingstone should have been suspended from the Labor Party for his comments, while 22% said he should not have been, and 33% did not know.

While 60% of the 4,406 UK adults polled on Friday said that it was not anti-Semitic to criticize the Israeli government, 53% said that “hating Israel and questioning its right to exist” does constitute anti-Semitism.              (Jerusalem Post)

US authorities say one arrested in foiled bomb plot on Florida synagogue

US federal agents over the weekend arrested one suspect in what is said to be a thwarted bomb attack on a synagogue in Florida, local news reported Monday.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale’s 7News cited law enforcement sources as saying the FBI had set up a sting operation Friday to foil the planned attack at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center.

According to the sources, authorities posed as terrorists and managed to detain the suspect, who was allegedly planning to hurl an explosive device at the Jewish house of worship in the Miami area.

Friday’s arrest came as crowds filled the synagogue in observance of the second to last day of the Passover holiday.

The arrested suspect may have converted to Islam, according to the local news reports.

The sources underlined that no harm was caused to the synagogue or its worshipers. They added that the center had not been in immediate danger as federal agents took the suspect into custody before any harmful action occurred.

While local media reported that the FBI had declined to comment on the investigation, 7News reported that it had learned that the suspect was due to appear in court at the beginning of this week.   (Jerusalem Post)

Matthew Bronfman: Israeli Government’’s policies have pushed Diaspora away

– “The relationship between the Diaspora and the State of Israel is being challenged by the policies of the government of Israel,” American businessman and prominent Jewish philanthropist Matthew Bronfman said in a recent interview conducted in his Manhattan office.

“Israel needs the Diaspora and the Diaspora needs Israel,” he said. “[The policies of the government] are not in sync with the views and the mentality of Diaspora Jews and I would hope that over the next couple of years, those two versions of Israel would come into sync a little bit more.”

Bronfman, 53, who will be speaking at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on May 22, said he believes the divide has intensified over the last five years and comes from issues such as increased settlement activity, statements by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the rabbinate’s control over personal affairs including marriage and divorce.

Many in the American Jewish community have said they felt torn between Israel and the United States during the past year after Netanyahu spoke against the nuclear deal with Iran to Congress and after the deal was signed last summer, causing much tension between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations.

According to a fall 2015 survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee, the main correlative factor for the gap in attitudes toward the agreement is political party affiliation. Jewish Democrats were far more likely to support it, and Jewish Republicans were far more likely to oppose it.

“I think today if you ask most people, they have to honestly say that the promise of Obama that Iran’s behavior would change because we are going to welcome them back into the league of nations has not happened,” Bronfman said. “If you look at what’s happened in the last nine months, Iran’s actions have confirmed the fears that the prime minister expressed at Congress.”

With the US is in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, Bronfman believes it is “impossible to predict” which one of the five candidates will be the best president for Israel but said he “would not worry” about the two front runners’ support for the Jewish State.

“Both [Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump] will be fair supporters of the State of Israel,” he said. “Clinton has showed her unwavering support. Of course we have no record for Trump, no history to base it on, but when it comes to security, and to the bond between the nations, both candidates will be good for Israel.”

Israel and Jewish philanthropy have been at the heart of the Bronfman family for three generations. Matthew Bronfman is a major investor in Israeli and the main shareholder in IKEA Israel, Israel Discount Bank and the Shufersal supermarket chain. His uncle Charles Bronfman started the Birthright program with businessman Michael Steinhardt; and his father, Edgar Bronfman Sr., served as the president of the World Jewish Congress from 1981 to 2007. Edgar Bronfman, who died in 2013, played a key role in freeing more than one million Jews from the Soviet Union. Matthew Bronfman’s grandfather, whiskey baron Sam Bronfman, was the long-standing president of the Canadian Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress.

Matthew Bronfman, one of seven children, said that being the scion of such an illustrious family means he has big shoes to fill. He said he intends to live up to his father’s legacy in his own way.

As part of his philanthropic work, he serves today as the international chairman of Limmud FSU, an organization aiming to engage young Russian Jews.

“I have decided to be very involved in world Jewish life, but to do it in a way that is comfortable for me, in the same way my father didn’t do what his father did,” he said. “The challenges are different, the opportunities are different and obviously the world is different. So it’s not like I can replicate either what my father did, or what my grandfather did, or what my uncle Charles does today.

Limmud FSU held a tribute event for Edgar Bronfman Sr. at its conference in New Jersey in March. The event was organized on the occasion of the launch of Bronfman’s sixth book, Why Be Jewish? which was recently published posthumously, and raises the issue of continuity for the next generation of Jewish community leaders.

This next generation has been at the center of much debate in the Jewish community in past years. Young American Jews have shown a decreased involvement with the religion and with Israel, as demonstrated in the Pew Research Center’s 2013 study on American Jewry. But Bronfman believes this phenomenon is nothing new.

“There will always be struggles of connection in the Diaspora,” he said.

“I think my generation as well is less connected in a way than the generation before,” he said. “There is no question that there are still many young people who are connected emotionally to Israel.”

Bronfman said his father didn’t believe in God, but in “godliness.”

“The message [in Edgar Bronfman’s posthumous book Why Be Jewish?] is that the next generation should go and learn Torah. They should study, and it’s only through study that they are going to be able to make an educated decision as to how they want to express their Judaism, whether they believe in God or not.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli company exhibits new generation drone sensors in US

Israeli defense company CONTROP put on display Tuesday a new-generation visual intelligence sensor at the XPONENTIAL 2016 defense exhibition in New Orleans. The May 2-5 trade show is held by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems.

CONTROP’s T-Stamp triple sensor day and night miniature payload is operational in several IDF units, as well as in the US military and other international clients. The payload provides high resolution images for longer range operations.

“The system is ideal for small UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems), VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) Systems, Hovering Aerial Systems, Aerostats and other lightweight aircraft (A/C),” CONTROP said in a statement.

An IDF drone carrying the CONTROP T-Stamp triple-sensor, small stabilized payload is ready for launch[1]

An IDF drone carrying the CONTROP T-Stamp triple-sensor, small stabilized payload is ready for launch

The payload is “already operational and proven in dozens of locations around the world,” it added.

Weighing 3.3 kilograms, the T-Stamp comes with an enhanced, cooled infrared camera, a day camera, and an optional laser pointer in a single payload. It can be mounted in “nose-mount, belly-mount or top-mount configurations,” CONTROP added.

The company makes a range of payloads for day and night surveillance on board drones, aerostats, helicopters, light aircraft, and maritime patrol boats.

In March, CONTROP announced that it was supplying India with long-range observation systems for critical site protection.

That same month, the company said it provided the Colombian Navy with maritime electro-optical and infrared camera payloads for installation on new warships. (Jerusalem Post)

Dead Sea Well Could Hold Oil Reserves Worth $322 Million, Israeli Company Says

An Israeli energy company looking to revive an old oil well near the Dead Sea said on Sunday a new resources report showed the field could hold reserves worth 1.2 billion shekels ($322 million).

Israel Opportunity said the report prepared by Edinburgh-based Dunmore Consulting on the Hatrurim license, which covers 94 square kilometers, gives a best estimate of the field containing 7 million barrels of oil, while the high estimate is 11 million barrels.

Partners in the Hatrurim project include Zerah Oil and Gas, Gulliver Energy, Ashtrom Group and Cyprus Opportunity.

A previous group had drilled at the same spot and discovered oil in 1995, but determined the field was not worth developing due to low oil prices.

Israel Opportunity said it plans to push ahead quickly with development, using more advanced technologies and taking advantage of dropping service costs. It said the drilling budget was $5 million.      (Haáretz)

The wildlife nature reserve in the Israeli desert

This unique nature reserve was established to foster the breeding of animals mentioned in the Bible and other endangered desert animals.

Spread over 3000 acres in southern Israel’s Arava desert, the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve is the desert counterpart of the Carmel Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, which operates in the country’s Northern Mediterranean forest.

Situated in the Southern Arava near Kibbutz Yotvata, 35 kms north of Eilat, the unique nature reserve was established to foster the breeding of animals mentioned in the Bible and other endangered desert animals. The reserve is now home to endangered and locally extinct animal species that are bred here for possible reintroduction to the Negev desert.​

https://youtu.be/l6gvHLD_HkY                                          (MFA)

Diplomacy: Old habits die hard

by Herb Keinon     The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Diplomacy-Old-habits-die-hard-452535

Last month’s UNESCO vote on ignoring Judaism’s ties to Jerusalem provides a peek at the nuanced nature of Israel’s ties with a number of the world’s countries.

It is a theme that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hammers upon constantly in both public comments and private meetings: the dichotomy that exists in Israel’s relations with the world.

Dozens of delegations from around the world beat a track to Jerusalem every month out of a desire to cooperate and join forces with Israel.

“Every day high-level delegations land at Ben-Gurion Airport,” Netanyahu said last month in a speech to the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, articulating a message he repeats in speech after speech.

“They come from America. They come from Europe. Increasingly they come from Asia, from Africa, from Latin America. As many of them confront the rise of militant Islam and its accompanying terrorism, they come to Israel to strengthen their security. They wish to learn from Israel’s proven security and intelligence capabilities how to better protect their own people.”

And they also come for another reason, he said, repeating one of his favorite mantras. They come “because they want to upgrade their economies with Israel’s technology.” They want Israeli expertise and know-how to upgrade their water management, agricultural yields, medical systems and much, much more.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that some of the same countries eager to work with Israel for their benefit on one day, spit on Israel in international forums the next.

“While Israel is embraced by a growing number of individual nations, there are those who seek to malign Israel among the nations, and especially in the United Nations,” Netanyahu said at AIPAC.

What he didn’t mention is that in some instances those countries – those that embrace Israel and those that malign it – are one and the same.

A vote earlier this month on Jerusalem at the UNESCO Executive Board proved this point very well. By a vote of 33-6, with 17 abstentions, the organization entrusted with guarding and preserving the world’s cultural heritage voted to ignore any link between the Jewish people and its capital.

For instance, the language of the resolution ignores Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, expunging the term “Temple Mount,” preferring instead to refer to it only as al-Aksa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif.

In two instance where the resolution referred to the Western Wall Plaza, it put the words “Western Wall” in parenthesis, referring to the plaza by the Arabic “al-Buraq Plaza.”

It took more than a week, but eventually the Foreign Ministry sent letters of protest to all the countries that voted for the resolution. And what was surprising was the list of countries that received the letters. Some of these countries – India, China, Russia, France, Vietnam – are countries with which Israel has strong and even close ties.

A close look at who voted against Israel, who voted for, and who abstained gives an interesting peek at Israel’s nuanced relations with many countries of the world, and also at the difficult road ahead.

For the resolution The following 33 countries voted for the resolution: Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chad, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Guinea, India, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, Slovenia, Sudan, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Togo and Vietnam.

When one looks at that list, a couple of key points immediately emerge.

First of all, of these 33 countries, Israel does not have diplomatic relations with 12 of them, or 36 percent. These countries are Algeria, Bangladesh, Chad, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar and Sudan. Subtract these countries form the vote, and the tally becomes a lot closer (21 for, 6 against, and 17 abstentions).

Second, four European Union countries voted for this resolution. Judging by the text, France – the leading European country that voted for the resolution – does not feel that Jews have a historic connection to Jerusalem.

Paris’s vote is interesting because France now has aspirations of leading an international Mideast peace effort, calling for a summit of some 30 countries in Paris to discuss the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal (without the participation at that meeting of Israel or the Palestinians). This, France hopes, will lead to an international Paris peace conference.

One might think that Paris, therefore, would want to earn Israel’s trust as somewhat of an honest broker. One would also think that, to do so, it would be a good idea to admit that Jews have a historical connection to the Temple Mount. But one would be disappointed.

The three other EU countries that voted for the resolution were Sweden, which is currently the most unfriendly country to Israel inside the EU; Spain, which traditionally takes a very critical line toward Israel; and Slovenia, the least supportive of the European Union’s states that emerged following the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Interestingly enough, and a sign of the degree to which the EU is split on Israel-related questions, four EU countries voted against Israel, another five voted against the resolution and for Israel – Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – and two abstained, Greece and Italy.

Italy’s abstention shows the degree to which the country has shifted on Israel since the days of Silvio Berlusconi, when it surely would have voted against the resolution.

And Greece’s vote is somewhat of a disappointment for Jerusalem, which would have liked to see its new Mediterranean ally vote against such a negative text.

The other European country that voted for the resolution was Russia, proof that old habits die very hard. Never mind that, of late, Netanyahu has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin more than with US President Barack Obama. (He has met Putin three times since September, and has another meeting with him planned for June, but has met with Obama only once since September.) Never mind that Israel and Russia have created a mechanism designed to ensure that their militaries do not interfere with each other in Syria. This vote is a reminder that the relationship with Russia still has a long way to go.

Another major disappointment came in Asia. Netanyahu, when he speaks of the countries interested in ties with Israel, always mentions China and India as “small countries” very keen on benefiting from Israel’s technological prowess, and that the ties with those countries are strong and getting stronger.

Except when it comes to votes in international organizations.

While India did alter its anti-Israeli voting reflex a handful of times in

2015, the UNESCO vote is an indication that these patterns are deeply ingrained.

One diplomatic official, however, came to India’s defense, saying that on issues that come up again and again, such as Jerusalem, India will not change its historical voting pattern, but it will not vote for any newly minted anti-Israel resolutions. Plus, the official said, India does not sponsor these resolutions or speak out on their behalf.

And while China’s vote is a disappointment, it is rationalized in Jerusalem as having to do with that country’s complete dependence on imported oil and natural resources.

Such rationalizations are not made for Vietnam, however, which was one of the major disappointments in this vote.

Unlike India and even China, Vietnam does not have a large Islamic population it needs to placate, and it has huge economic interests with Israel.

Yet it continues to vote against Israel at the UN time and time again.

In Africa, the following countries voted for the resolution: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, South Africa and Togo.

Of that list, Togo raised some eyebrows, as Israel has good ties with that country, and Nigeria’s vote is an indication of how that country is changing toward Israel. When Goodluck Jonathan was president, until May 2015 (since replaced by Muhammadu Buhari), it could be counted on to at least abstain on anti-Israel resolutions. No longer. The rest of the African list holds no real surprises.

The same cannot be said of the Latin American countries that voted against Israel. This list includes Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Nicaragua.

That Brazil, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic voted against Israel was expected, but not Mexico and Argentina. Israel has strong economic ties with Mexico, and its president is expected to visit in the coming months, so that vote was disappointing.

But not as much of a disappointment as Argentina’s vote.

Argentina’s new president, Mauricio Macri, told Netanyahu soon after his election in November that Argentinean- Israeli relations will now change for the better. This vote indicates that this sentiment will take some time to trickle down.

Against the resolution The following countries voted against the resolution: Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The US vote needs no explanation, and is yet more proof – if any were really needed – that despite differences with the Obama administration, and despite growing ties with countries such as Russia, India and China, the one capital in the world that Israel can count on is Washington.

Germany’s and the Netherlands’ votes cement their status as the most favorable nations toward Israel in Western Europe, and the UK’s vote shows that despite often harsh anti-Israel public opinion among Britain’s chattering class, the government of David Cameron is friendly.

Estonia’s and Lithuania’s votes show that inside the EU today, Israel’s strongest supporters are the countries that gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union. Were countries such as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia members of the UNESCO Executive Board, they, too, would most likely have voted against the resolution or at least abstained.

Countries that abstained The following countries abstained: Albania, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Greece, Haiti, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Serbia, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Ukraine.

And another two were absent during the vote: Ghana and Turkmenistan.

What is interesting in the abstentions is that four African countries were among that list: Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and Uganda – an indication of Israel’s growing ties with the continent. Netanyahu is scheduled to make the first-ever visit by a sitting prime minister to Africa in the summer, going to Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

The visit is an effort to vastly improve relations with Africa, and the list of abstentions shows that this is possible.

That there were three Caribbean countries on this list – Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, and Saint Kitts and Nevis – indicates that Israel should not ignore that region, and should lead to questions in the Foreign Ministry whether Israel should indeed, as is currently planned, do away with the roving ambassador to the Caribbean who is stationed in New York. Haiti’s vote – it consistently abstains – is undoubtedly due to Israel’s relief efforts there following the 2010 earthquake, and a similar explanation – Israel’s relief efforts there following the 2015 earthquake – can be given for Nepal’s abstention.

Paraguay is arguably Israel’s closest friend right now in South America, and Israel would like to eventually move that vote from an abstention to voting in favor of Israel on Mideast-related votes.

Albania is the only Muslim country that was present during the vote for the resolution and voted against, and Ukraine’s abstention is an indication that Kiev holds no grudge against Jerusalem because of Israel’s fiercely neutral stand on the Crimean crisis.

Japan and Korea should be voting for Israel, one diplomatic official said, considering the close economic ties with those countries, but they often follow Europe’s lead on the Mideast, and when they see Europe divided, they split the difference and opt to abstain.

Back in November, at the Paris Climate Conference, Netanyahu told Israeli journalists during a briefing that the Foreign Ministry would take a more aggressive role in getting countries to change their voting patterns, asking countries with which it has friendly ties and which want Israeli cooperation to reflect this friendliness by changing their anti-Israel voting patterns at the UN.

The time has come for the friendship and cooperation of these countries to come out in votes in international institutions, Netanyahu said. “You will hear this [demand] more and more – this is our natural expectation.”

The problem is that this expectation has not materialized.

At a meeting with diplomatic reporters this month, held after the UNESCO vote, Netanyahu said that he has not forsaken this demand.

“It will take time until foreign ministers around the world change their voting pattern,” he said. “I have directed the Foreign Ministry to begin demanding this change.”

Demanding the change is one thing, but getting countries to actually break the anti-Israel voting habit – as the UNESCO vote showed – is something else entirely.