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Latest News in Israel – 5th April

Netanyahu responds to Abbas invite: ‘I’ll be here, any day’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he was willing to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “any day,” after the PA leader called for a meeting during an interview last week on Israeli television.

Netanyahu also stressed that he had made the offer before, and was standing by his invitation.

“I’m inviting him again. I’ve cleared my schedule this week. Any day he can come, I’ll be here,” Netanyahu told journalists in Jerusalem ahead of a meeting with visiting Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek.

Abbas told Channel 2’s “Uvda” program last week that he was willing to meet the prime minister to reach a peace agreement.

“I still extend a hand to Mr. Netanyahu because I believe in peace. I believe that the people of Israel want peace and that the Palestinian people want peace,” Abbas said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas talks to Channel 2 in an interview aired on Thursday, March 31, 2016 (screen capture)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas talks to Channel 2 in an interview aired on Thursday, March 31, 2016 (screen capture)

Abbas called Netanyahu “the partner” for peace, and called on the Israeli premier to meet with him “at any time.”

But Netanyahu said Monday that before peace talks, the first thing the two needed to discuss was ending Palestinian incitement against Israelis.

“My door is always open for those who want to pursue peace with Israel,” the prime minister said.

Israel has accused Abbas of failing to condemn the wave of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and security forces that erupted in mid-September, and says his PA hierarchy presides over incitement to violence against Israel.

The attacks, mostly stabbings but also shootings and car-ramming assaults, have killed 29 Israelis and four non-Israelis. Over the same time, at least 188 Palestinians have died by Israeli fire. Israel says most were attackers, and the rest died in clashes with security forces.

Abbas told Channel 2 news that if it were not for his forces, the violence would be much bloodier now. He denied that he is encouraging Palestinian youth to stab Israelis and said that Israelis are unaware of his security forces’ efforts to prevent stabbings.

Netanyhau’s comments came hours after President Reuven Rivlin made similar statements saying he was willing to meet Abbas.

“We need to find a way to build trust between us,” he says. “I am ready to meet with [Abbas] with whatever coordination with the Israeli government of course.”

Rivlin, also speaking alongside Zaorálek, said he was somewhat heartened by Abbas’s interview but that the PA leader needed to back up his words by distancing himself from fundamentalists like the Hamas group who would prefer to see a temporary agreement that allows for the future destruction of Israel.              (The Times of Israel)

Palestinian autopsy observer: Shooting by soldier suspected of manslaughter was killing shot

The Palestinian observer at the autopsy of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, the Palestinian stabber shot in Hebron recently after he was already “neutralized,” said the accused soldier’s late shot was the fatal one.

If the official results of Sunday’s autopsy agree with the observer’s opinion, the determination would significantly enhance the IDF prosecution’s case against the soldier, likely for manslaughter, whose shooting of Sharif on March 24 was captured on video and went viral nationally and globally. Some reports indicated the indictment could be filed within two weeks.

Though the IDF refused to publicly confirm the determination or comment on the autopsy pending completion of the criminal investigation, and the IDF examiner was the official performer of the autopsy, there were several confirmations of the finding from military and medical sources who asked to remain anonymous.

If the autopsy determination turns out to be the opposite and reveals that the original first shooting of the terrorist – unquestionably by soldiers in self-defense – caused a fatal wound, then the prosecution’s chances of proving manslaughter would be much slimmer.

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh responded to the autopsy saying, “One didn’t require a pathology determination to observe the execution-style killing and the total indifference of all those present at the scene. When the prime minister calls the murderer’s relatives to console them, the bias of the trial is a foregone conclusion. The days since the shooting have only provided further evidence of the necessity for immediate international intervention to investigate the crimes of the occupation.”

In contrast, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said the fact that two level of military courts have either rejected the IDF prosecution’s evidence or have not been immediately convinced by it, indicates that “the evidentiary basis for the case is very weak.”

Liberman also said that the video of the event that went viral, which B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories took and originally distributed, was “heavily edited.”

The IDF Appeals Court on Friday ordered a temporary partial release of the soldier.

The conditions of the partial release were that he be held in detention on an army base within his unit until Tuesday’s hearing, when the Appeals Court would make a final ruling on whether to release him or keep him in pre-indictment detention.

Chief IDF Prosecutor Col.Sharon Zigigi made an unusual personal appearance to argue before the Military Appeals Court deputy president, Brig.-Gen. Doron Filis.

Zigigi’s personal appearance was a striking show of the importance the prosecution places on the case.

It is almost unheard of for the chief prosecutor to personally appear in court, as his role is usually to make decisions behind the scenes.

Zigigi and the head of the IDF’s Operational Prosecutions Unit, Lt.-Col. Edoram Rigler, focused their arguments on convincing Filis that the evidence was more one-sided and that the soldier was more dangerous than lower court judge Lt.-Col.Ronen Shor had ruled.

On Thursday, Shor ruled that the evidence was mixed, leading to his ordering the soldier released.

The IDF prosecution appealed, resulting in the hearing on Friday, and the follow-up session set for Tuesday.

The prosecution said details used to present the evidence as having two sides were misunderstood and misleading.

To debunk the idea that the fact that the Palestinian was wearing a coat was suspicious, indicating that he might be concealing an explosive vest, they noted that the temperature at 8 a.m. in Hebron was cold and that many of the security personnel in the area were also wearing coats.

The prosecution criticized the suspect for refusing to cooperate with reenacting the scene and with engaging in confrontations with soldiers in his unit who said his self-defense claim was false, that they would have stopped him from shooting the Palestinian if they had known his intent and that his motivation for shooting was revenge.

Defense lawyer Ilan Katz slammed the prosecution as having backed off its argument that the suspect might obstruct the investigation.

He said that all the other arguments were factual and not new legal arguments and should not be raised on an appeal. He added that the soldier was not cooperating with specific issues because Katz viewed those investigative acts as traps using false information to confuse the soldier.

Sunday’s autopsy followed a compromise ordered by the High Court of Justice in which the Palestinian representative could ask for certain additional autopsy actions and a record of disagreements would be kept. However, the IDF representative has the final say.

On Thursday, the IDF Prosecution dropped the expected charge from murder to manslaughter, but manslaughter still carries heavy jail time.

Meanwhile, numerous human rights organizations said this past week that France should bring forth war crime charges against the accused soldier if the Israeli judicial system fails to convict him.

Foreign media sources revealed that the soldier in question is a dual Israeli-French citizen and is therefore subject to the legal clause of universal jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, the issue has gone largely unreported in the Israeli press due to a gag order on the soldier’s identity.    (Jerusalem Post)

IDF report: Terrorist attacks declined in March

March was the calmest month for Palestinian terrorist attacks since last November, according to Israel Defense Forces data.

The IDF said there were five shootings, eight stabbings and two vehicular rammings in Judea and Samaria and the Jerusalem area in March, down from seven shootings, 14 stabbings and one vehicular ramming in February.

There has also been a consistent drop in the number of stone throwings, firebombings and violent disturbances.

According to the IDF report, since the wave of terrorism began last fall, the IDF has treated 185 injured Palestinians, 153 injured Israeli soldiers and 93 injured Israeli civilians.

Overall, according to Israeli Foreign Ministry figures, 34 people have been killed and more than 400 injured in the current wave of attacks, which has featured more than 200 stabbings or attempted stabbings, more than 80 shootings, and more than 40 vehicular attacks.    (Israel Hayom)

Military edge in peril as weapons flood region, general warns

A top Israel Air Force general warned that Israel may be losing its military edge amid a growing arms race in the Middle East, during a conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

Brig. Gen. Tal Kalman, chief of staff of the air force, warned that weapons flowing into the region could shift the balance of power away from Israel, hinting at growing Iranian hegemony without naming the country.

“There is the potential for the erosion of the IDF and IAF’s qualitative edge,” Kalman warned, alluding to a US commitment to make sure Israel is better equipped militarily than its neighbors.

Kalman called the air force the “dominant and central figure” in successfully defending Israel against the threats facing it, but warned that could change.

“Advanced Western and Eastern weapons have entered the equation and have been received by the countries surrounding us,” he said, referring to military equipment coming from Europe and the United States, as well as from China.

“Fighter planes, ballistic missiles and advanced surface-to-air missiles. An arms race, along with instability, created a great danger,” he said, alluding to Iran and some Islamic extremist groups, but without identifying them by name.

Since the signing of the Iran nuclear deal and the lifting of economic sanctions from the Islamic Republic, Tehran has been working to acquire military equipment, including the S-300 air defense system from Russia — something Israel has been protesting vehemently.

Despite Russia’s nominal withdrawal from Syria, the more advanced S-400 air defense system, along with other pieces of Russian military equipment, will remain in the war-torn country, according to Russian media.

While Kalman said the Iran nuclear deal did serve to delay the threat of nuclear annihilation from Tehran, he hinted that conventional war with those funded by the Islamic Republic was still an ever-present threat.

“The nuclear deal pushed back the nuclear threat, but [Iran] provides much of the resources and weapons that are given to the organizations working against the State of Israel,” Kalman said. “In my opinion, this threat will be with us for the next decade at least.”

A senior air force official quoted by Defense News last week said Russia had merely shifted its air power in Syria without withdrawing in any significant way.

The general’s comments came amid ongoing negotiations with the United States over a military aid package, with Israel reportedly requesting additional assistance from America beginning in 2018.

Israel currently receives approximately $3 billion (NIS 11.32 billion) a year from the US, but when the current aid package ends in 2017, Israel has reportedly requested that amount be increased to closer to $5 billion (NIS 18.87 billion) a year in order to maintain a qualitative military edge over its enemies.

This $5 billion a year request will reportedly be denied, US sources told Reuters news late last year. However, negotiations between Jerusalem and Washington over the aid package are ongoing.

The general, a former fighter pilot, described the Middle East as “teeming and erupting,” warning that many of the developments in the region have been “unexpected.”

“The enemy of today is the friend of tomorrow, and the friend of today is the enemy of tomorrow,” Kalman said.

The brigadier general spoke at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies’ annual conference in Tel Aviv’s Hilton hotel on Sunday.

The F-35 jet, a fifth-generation stealth fighter recently rolled out by the US, was the center of this year’s conference.

Kalman lauded the state-of-the-art aircraft, which is slated to arrive in Israel in December 2016.

“This plane is better than other planes on the market and its price is smaller than some of the other planes available,” he said.

“The cost of the plane” — approximately $100 million (NIS 377 million) per airplane — “has gone down and the maintenance of it is cheap and will become cheaper with time,” he said, responding to criticism of the platform’s high cost.

“The plane’s software, which is still being developed, is a leap forward from our current planes,” Kalman said.    (the Times of Israel )

MK: State Dept. criticism causes Palestinians to avoid talks

MK Michael Oren (Kulanu), former Israeli ambassador to the United States, on Sunday night criticized the American government over its criticism on the weekend of the fact that Israel was demolishing Palestinian Arab homes in eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.

“The State Department criticizes Israeli measures in Judea and Samaria which it views as ‘unilateral measures’ that could harm negotiations with the Palestinians, but on the other hand does not condemn unilateral Palestinian action such as illegal construction and taking over lands,” Oren said.

“This policy of double standards weakens the confidence required by the Israelis on the one hand, and on the other hand weakens the viability of the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table,” he added.

Oren pointed out that “the State Department’s announcement is another indication of the erosion of our relations with the U.S. administration, as expressed recently with the cancellation of the Prime Minister’s trip to the annual AIPAC conference.”

“While I support the declaration of the Prime Minister that he would not attend AIPAC and thus avoid creating the impression of inappropriate Israeli interference in the campaigns of the presidential candidates, I also urge the Israeli government to devote efforts and resources to strengthen the support for Israel among the two parties,” said Oren.

The remarks in question came on Friday, when State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters that Washington was “concerned” by Israel’s recent demolitions of illegally built Arab structures in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.

In March Israel security forces demolished an illegal Arab building in the village of Khirbet Tana in the Jordan Valley. The structure, which was reportedly being used as a school, had been constructed with the help of the European Union.

Since 2012 the EU has worked aggressively to build illegal Arab outposts across strategic sections of Judea and Samaria, particularly near Jerusalem. From 2012 to 2015, the EU has built approximately 1,000 illegal buildings for Palestinian Authority Arabs.

Trudeau told reporters on Friday that enforcement of building laws on illegal Arab structures “are indicative of a damaging trend of demolitions, displacement, and land confiscation”.

The State Department was silent, however, on last week’s demolition of a synagogue near the town of Carmei Tzur.

The synagogue, which had previously been damaged by Arab arsonists in a February attack, was built in honor of the three Israeli youths who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014.   (Arutz Sheva)

Facebook Says Passover Blood Libel Posted by Egyptian Media Outlet Doesn’t Violate ‘Community Standards’

Facebook does not consider contemporary blood libels against Jews to be in violation of its “Community Standards,” pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon reported on Friday.

According to the report, a complaint he had lodged with the social media giant about a “news” article posted on the page of Egyptian media outlet Sout al-Omma being an example of hate speech, received this response:

We reviewed the share you reported for displaying hate speech and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.

Please let us know if you see anything else that concerns you. We want to keep Facebook safe and welcoming for everyone.

According to the blogger, Sout al-Omma published the traditional “Passover blood libel” early last week as “straight news” in its “investigations” section. The outlet “explained” that since medieval times, Jews have used the blood of young children to make Passover matza, adding that today Israel imports children from Brazil for the same purpose. It claimed, too, that Israeli Arabs live in fear, during the weeks leading up to Passover, that their children will be kidnapped and murdered by Jews in preparation for the holiday.

Sout al-Omma then posted the article on its Facebook page, illustrating it with medieval Christian illustrations of Jews practicing the bloody ritual.

Elder of Ziyon said that Facebook’s response means that “accusing Jews of murdering Arab and Christian children to eat their blood is not a violation of [Facebook’s] community standards.”               (the Algemeiner)

Premier Mike Baird meets President Reuven Rivlin

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin has met with Mike Baird, the  Premier of New South Wales who is currently visiting Israel.

Baird, who is also the Minister for Infrastructure and the Minister for Western Sydney, is the first Premier of  NSW to make an official visit to Israel.

President Rivlin welcomed Premier Baird at his home and reiterated his disappointment at having been unable to fulfill his planned visit to Australia in March. He said, “I was especially disappointed because I know and appreciate the tremendous cooperation that we have, which is an expression of the close friendship between Israeli and Australian people.”

The President added that Israel was greatly concerned about the situation in the region, and praised Australia for their strong stance against extremism. He said, “Even though you are on the other side of the world, you know very well that the spread of hatred and the instability that we are witnessing in the Middle East is a danger to the whole world, and I want to thank you for your country’s strong position against extremism. To Israel’s north, five armies are fighting each other, and none of them are friends of Israel. The Islamic State thugs are carrying out acts of terror across the world, and the whole free world must be united against this threat.”

The President also praised the strong and growing economic cooperation between Israel and Australia, and noted the importance of the new innovation partnerships now being created between startups and innovators in the two countries.

Premier Bard thanked the President and said that he hoped he would be able to visit Australia in the near future. He added that he was especially proud to see the strength of the growing cooperation between Israelis and Australians, and noted that this was the best answer to the terrorists, by continuing to nurture close ties, and prosperous partnerships.

(J Wire)

Baird and Rivlin[1]

NSW Premier Mike Baird & President Reuven Rivlin

Meet the new Palestinian and the new Israeli

Pew poll: 48 percent of Israeli Jews support transfer or expulsion of Arab Israelis

By Alon Ben David                         The Jerusalem Post


The last six months of terror have revealed the new generations that have emerged on both sides of the Green Line: meet the new Palestinian and the new Israeli. One of these phenomena manifests itself with stabbings and killers and the other with a tumultuous animal-like temper. Both phenomena are worrying, and what is common to both groups is the complete disregard that both have for authority and institutions in society, to the point that both the Israeli and the Palestinian leadership fear them. Instead of leading, the politicians are being led by these defiant youth.

IDF soldiers at the checkpoints in the West Bank are encountering something they did not encounter in the past. For decades, when the soldiers would ask the Palestinians where they were from and where they were going, the Palestinians would answer obediently. But lately, young Palestinians are answering these same questions in protest: “What business is it of yours where I’m going? Who are you to even ask me?”

The generation that is leading the current wave of terror is very different from those that were at the forefront of the past intifadas. From Israeli interrogations of 90 terrorists in past months, an impression emerges of a generation that did not experience, or that does not remember the traumas of the past uprisings. A generation that has never even visited Israel, has never seen the sea or gone abroad, but that rather lives on the Internet, and via the web has gained its understanding of the world. Its reference point for information is Israel and what happens in the rest of the Arab world is of less significance.

This generation of Palestinians is not interested in a framework for a diplomatic solution with Israel and it does not care if Israel negotiates or does not negotiate with the Palestinian Authority. It cares about one thing only: human rights for the Palestinians. It believes that Israel negates its basic rights and it is demanding those rights and the creation of a Palestinian state is a secondary concern for it.

Israeli interrogators often ask terror suspects during questioning to show them on their smartphones which Internet sites they visit. These youth, mainly from middle class families, read a lot of Islamic State content and other content from extreme Sunni movements in Syria and Iraq, even though the suspects being questioned are not themselves religious. They also read a lot about Israel, Israeli democracy and politics, and they feel that they also deserve the same kind of openness in their society.

They do not trust any Palestinian institutions and they first and foremost disregard their parents and do not recognize their authority. They hate the Palestinian Authority – and would rebel against it but for Israel’s occupation –  and they also have contempt for the existing terror organizations such as Hamas, Fatah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It is common for a terrorist to specifically write before setting out on a terror attack that no Palestinian organization should claim responsibility for his act.

At the Ofer Prison, which like other detention centers divides its prisoners based on their membership to specific terror organizations such as Fatah and Hamas, there is a new section labeled the “One Homeland Unit.” The new terrorists are not  part of any of the establishment terror organizations. Above all, these terrorists have no reverence for Israel. In the spirit of the “Arab Spring,” these terrorists have no fear.

Despite a recent downturn in past weeks in the number of terror attacks against Israel, it is too early to talk about a waning of the current terror wave. The potential of this generation is great. In the West Bank there are 950,000 Palestinians between the ages of 15-30,  the main reservoir for the knifing attacks. One  third of this group has a high school education and above. One third is also unemployed.

They study, earn degrees and then don’t find work. There were 370 applicants recently in response to an ad placed for a water meter reader in the village of Tubas. Half of the applicants had post secondary education. Hundreds apply when a police officer position opens in the Palestinian Authority, a job that pays 1200 shekels per month. In the West Bank, one can find chemists that work as bakers and mathematicians that work as construction laborers.

The ‘new-Israeli’ also lives online. They also have no reverence for authority and institutions in society and only exalt violence. The hero of this iconoclastic generation is not the person who stopped a Syrian army division on the Golan or who jumped on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, but rather the soldier who last week shot a dying Palestinian terrorist in the head because “he deserved to die.”

A person who doesn’t agree with them is marked as a traitor, the IDF chief of staff and the minister of defense included. Most embarrassing is that the politicians pander to this generation.

The phenomenon of the loss of faith in state institutions is not unique to the Palestinians and the Israelis. It is common among youth throughout the West. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican candidate Donald Trump both receive their support from the same disillusioned public.

There were many terrifying results from the Pew Research Poll on Israelis that was published last month. But there was one encouraging statistic: 56 percent of Israelis, including secular, traditional and religious Israelis placed themselves at the center of the political spectrum. This means that with the correct leadership it would be possible to bring sanity back to the country and return the extreme fringe back to its place.

For seven years already there has been no real opposition to the government in Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has really only been challenged from the Right. This creates a political discourse that is set by Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett who is on the Right of the prime minister. The result of this narrow political discourse is the distorted feeling that it represents all of Israeli society. None of the existing political parties in Israel succeeds to represent the sane and silent majority.

Anti-Zionism Is the New Anti-Semitism – Jonathan Sacks (Newsweek)

On March 27, speaking to the Sunday Times, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams expressed his concern at rising levels of anti-Semitism on British university campuses. There are, he said, “worrying echoes” of Germany in the 1930s. Two days later, in The Times, Chris Bryant, the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons and a senior member of the British Labour party, warned that the political left was increasingly questioning the right of the State of Israel to exist, a view he called a “not too subtle form of anti-Semitism.”

A survey in 2013 by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights showed that almost a third of Europe’s Jews have considered emigrating because of anti-Semitism, with numbers as high as 46% in France and 48% in Hungary.

In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries they were hated because of their race. Today they are hated because of their nation state, Israel. Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism.

Israel – the only fully functioning democracy in the Middle East with a free press and independent judiciary – is regularly accused of five crimes against human rights: racism, apartheid, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide. This is the blood libel of our time.

When bad things happen to a group, its members can ask two different questions: If it asks, “What did we do wrong?” it has begun the self-criticism essential to a free society. If it asks, “Who did this to us?” it has defined itself as a victim. It will then seek a scapegoat to blame for all its problems. Classically this has been the Jews.

The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. People of all faiths and none must stand together, not just to defeat anti-Semitism but to ensure the rights of religious minorities are defended everywhere.

The writer served as Britain’s chief rabbi from 1991 to 2013.

Bystanders use chairs to take down female terrorist with a knife