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Latest News in Israel – 5th September

Netanyahu accepts invitation to visit Down Under in 2017

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minster Avigdor Liberman on Sunday.

Netanyahu began the meeting by telling Bishop that “your friendship is terrific – Australia, the government’s and yours personally. And we appreciate our friends.”

In return Bishop invited Netanyahu to visit Australia. “I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our absolute enduring commitment to the State of Israel and our friendship, and invite you to come to Australia,” she said. “We’re thinking there’s a little window of opportunity early next year maybe?”

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu accepted the invitation.

On Sunday afternoon Rivlin met with Bishop at his residence, welcoming her to Israel and Jerusalem.

“I want to say to you that the connection between us — Australians and Israelis — is very important for us in Israel. We appreciate the friendship between our peoples, between our two states, and your friendship with the people of Israel,” he said.

Bibi and Bishop[1]

Bibi and Bishop

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 4, 2016

Rivlin also stressed the importance of the cooperation between Israel and Australia in the fields of innovation and cybersecurity, among others. “We are cooperating greatly on issues that are of concern to the whole free world,” he said.

Rivlin made specific mention of the fallen Australian servicemen in the Holy Land on the centenary of World War I. “We as Israelis remember the Australian servicemen, who helped the Jewish people return to their homeland, along with the necessity to cooperate with all of the people living here,” he said.

Rivlin added that he hoped to be able to reschedule a previously postponed visit to Australia for the near future.

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin meets with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the president residence in Jerusalem on September 4, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, right, meets with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on September 4, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Bishop told the president that her visit to Israel was “an opportunity for me to ensure that this relationship is not taken for granted, that this relationship will continue to be nurtured by both sides, and that it will continue to flourish based on common values.”

Bishop also told the president that Australia was committed to standing up for Israel in international arenas that were “obviously biased, discriminatory and unfair resolutions put forward,” according to a readout from the President’s Residence.

During her visit, Bishop also met with Defense Minister Liberman, with whom she met several times in the past when he served as foreign minister. The two discussed issues of international and regional security, including the war on Islamic State, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Liberman thanked Bishop for the role Australian soldiers play in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, which supervises the ceasefire between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, and their participation in the Multinational Force and Observers mission, which monitors the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in Sinai.

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop MP, visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on August 4, 2016. (Issac Harari/Flash90)Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on August 4, 2016. (Issac Harari/Flash90)

Liberman and Bishop agreed that the two countries would work together to plan a commemorative event to mark the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba, when Australian forces captured the city from the Ottoman Turks in 1917.

While in Jerusalem Bishop also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum, where she laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance.   (the Times of Israel)

Frustration, questions after Israeli satellite bringing Africa internet blows up

An Israeli satellite destroyed in Thursday explosion of SpaceX’s rocket was the country’s most ambitious space platform to date, and was slated to bring internet access to vast swaths of rural Africa.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, visiting Kenya, expressed frustration Thursday hours after the SpaceX rocket meant to take the Israeli-made Amos-6 satellite into orbit exploded during a test on the launchpad, destroying the device slated to be a linchpin of Facebook’s effort to bring speedy internet access to sub-Saharan Africa.

“As I’m here in Africa, I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent,” said Zuckerberg in a post Thursday from Nairobi, where he was meeting with local officials to advance efforts to provide internet access in Africa.

He added that the setback would not spell the end of his initiative.

“We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided,” he wrote.

Zuckerberg’s social media company has pinned great hopes on its Internet.org initiative, launched in 2013, to bring stable internet access to billions throughout the world who currently lack what has become a staple of economic growth and daily life in the developed world.

The initiative’s first major breakthrough was to be the broadband unit aboard the Amos-6.

In October, as Facebook and French satellite operator Eutelsat Communications announced they were working jointly with Israeli operator Spacecom to deliver satellite broadband internet to connectivity-hungry sub-Saharan Africa, Zuckerberg laid out his vision.

“As part of our collaboration with Eutelsat, a new satellite called AMOS-6 is going to provide internet coverage to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa,” he wrote in a Facebook post at the time. “The AMOS-6 satellite is under construction now and will launch in 2016 into a geostationary orbit that will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa. We’re going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite.”

Eutelsat said in a statement at the time that the project was to offer access “using affordable, off-the-shelf” hardware, sharing capacity with Facebook in regions often lacking access to reliable fixed and mobile terrestrial networks.

Zuckerberg’s October post included photos and artists’ renderings of the satellite under development.

Those plans are now scuttled, delaying those efforts possibly for several years.

Amos-6 was to mark several more milestones. It was the largest satellite ever built by Israel’s small but advanced space program – and the heaviest payload ever put on a SpaceX rocket. It was valued at over $200 million, and was meant to operate in orbit for 15 years, bringing hard-to-reach areas in 14 countries online.

Its destruction may have dealt a blow to the Israeli space program, delaying new Israeli space efforts planned for commercial markets and possibly putting out of work the Israeli ground staff that was to operate it.

The immediate financial blow to Spacecom, which has sent the five previous “Amos” satellites into space, remains to be seen. The satellite would have brought a dramatic boost to the company’s space-based offerings.

AMOS-6 enhances Spacecom’s existing service offering by supporting a full range of services, including Direct-To-Home (DTH), video distribution, VSAT communications and broadband Internet,” the company said last year.

There was no immediate word about insurance coverage, but Spacecom’s stock plummeted over 10 percent on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange within two hours of the explosion.

The stock started the day at 4,289.00 shekels, began climbing steadily in anticipation of Saturday’s planned launch of the satellite into space. It reached a high of 4,346.00 in the afternoon before tumbling to a closing price of NIS 3,895.00 after the blast, a 10.4% drop from the day’s pre-explosion high.

Amos 6[1]

The Amos-6, Israel’s largest ever satellite, and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on which it was perched go up in flames after the rocket exploded on the launch pad during a static fire test at a launch facility at Cape Canaveral in Florida on September 1, 2016.

The destruction of the satellite could also adversely impact Israeli viewers, Channel 2 reported.

The Yes satellite television company relies on the Amos-2 and Amos-3 satellites to broadcast to subscribers. The destroyed satellite was supposed to replace the older Amos-2, which went into orbit in 2003.

Now reliant on just one satellite, at least in the short term, the company could face a breakdown in transmissions if there are any technical difficulties with the Amos-3. Yes could also be forced to reduce the number of channels it offers, but says it will not remove popular channels.

The explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket, also used by SpaceX at NASA facilities nearby, most recently in a launch in July, also marks the second accident of its kind in the company’s history, and is expected to significantly disrupt its plans for six more launches between September 2016 and January 2017.

“It’s clearly a setback [for SpaceX], but how great the setback is and how long the delay, it’s impossible to know until there is more information available,” said John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

‘Anomaly’

A SpaceX update several hours after the explosion said the unexplained “anomaly” that caused the blast “originated around the upper stage oxygen tank” of the rocket “and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle.”

There were no injuries reported from the blast.

CEO Elon Musk also said in a tweet that the blast took place as the rocket was being fueled.

“We are continuing to review the data to identify the root cause,” the company said.

Dramatic footage showed a massive explosion and flames engulfing the rocket, followed by several smaller explosions.

The blast occurred at Launch Complex 40 at the Air Force station next door to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s Atlantic coast, which is on lease to SpaceX and from which the private space firm has conducted 25 successful launches since 2010.

Buildings several miles away shook from the blast, and multiple explosions continued for several minutes — one right after another. Dark smoke filled the overcast sky. A half-hour later, a black cloud hung low across the eastern horizon.

Kennedy emergency staff were on standby following the explosion. At the same time, personnel were monitoring the air for any toxic fumes. The Air Force stressed there was no threat to public safety in the surrounding communities.

Because the pad was still burning, it remained off-limits to everyone as the afternoon wore on. “We want to make sure we isolate any potential problem,” said Shawn Walleck, a spokesman for the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, “because at this point, we’ve had no casualties, we’ve had no injuries, and we want to keep it that way.”

TV cameras showed smoke coming from the launch pad nearly four hours after the explosion. The rocket was still standing, although the top third or so was clearly bent over.

The initial blast sent next-door NASA employees rushing frantically outside to see what happened. At first, it sounded like lightning, but was followed by the sounds of more explosions, then more and more. The explosions went on for several minutes, according to eyewitnesses.    (the Times of Israel)

Was Israel’s satellite sabotaged on US rocket pad?

A day after Israel’s Amos-6 communications satellite was lost in a highly unusual explosion/fast fire of the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and its Amos 6 satellite payload at Cape Canaveral, some Israel aerospace industry experts are beginning to suspect sabotage. They are keeping their suspicions to themselves pending an investigation in which NASA ad the US Air Force will be taking part.

An explosion or fire occurring during a standard pre-launch static test prior to the engine igniting may be unique. These Israeli experts can’t recall any space satellite disasters happening at that particular stage.

Immediately after the event, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said an “anomaly happened around the upper-stage oxygen tank wile propellant was being loaded into the vehicle.”

Two days later, Saturday, Sept. 3, Musk attributed the loss to a “fast fire” rather than an explosion.

Representatives of Spacecom owned by Israeli Eurocom and Israeli Aerospace Industry, which manufactured Amos 6, their largest satellite to date, don’t expect to be invited to take part in the investigation.

Those circles resent Elon Musk’s reference to an “anomaly,” which they see as a euphemism to disguise the cause of the mishap.

American experts are speculating about a large, black. unidentified object picked up by video footage hovering in the sky at the moment the fireball rose over the Cape Canaveral launching pad.

Some are suggesting it was a large bird which happened to be flying past; others say the object is much too big and too fast for any known bird.

In Israel, some informed sources suggest that the reason for the Amos 6 satellites destruction is far from technical and may never come to light.

They cite the only previous SpaceX failure, which occurred in June, 2015, when a Falcon 9 rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station exploded just a few minutes after launch. The company set up an inquiry team composed of 11 staff members and one FAA official, but never released details of its findings.

Three causes for the Amos 6 loss are postulated by Israeli sources:

  1. The stiff competition among the companies of the eight nations that manufacture satellites. The last in the Amos series of communications satellites, produced at a cost of $200, was the most sophisticated produced so far. Some international competitor may have decided to push Israel out of the contest by destroying its newest product. This has indeed set Israel’s satellite industry back for years.
  2. The other motive may be connected with the fact that Amos 6 was to have been Facebook’s first satellite. CEO Mark Zuckerberg had announced that Amos 6, scheduled for launch into geostationary orbit on Sept. 3, would have opened large parts of sub-Saharan Africa to direct internet.

Its loss has forced Zuckerberg to put his plan on hold.

This plan went well with the largely covert Israel drive in the last three years to expand its ties across the Africa. The Facebook project fitted in well this policy an added dimension and spurt.

  1. Spacom had just signed a $285 sale contract with Beijing Xinwei Technology that was contingent on its successful launch into orbit of Amos 6 Saturday. One of Israel’s competitors may have been after the Chinese contract. (Debka file)

IDF lieutenant: Soldiers now avoid opening fire for fear of prosecution

Due to fears they will be prosecuted, soldiers are refraining from opening fire even when they feel in danger, an officer from Sgt. Elor Azaria’s company, told the Jaffa Military Court at the Hebron shooter’s trial on Thursday.

The lieutenant from the Shimshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, whose name is banned for publication, explained that following the manslaughter charge against Azaria, he heard soldiers in the battalion say that if they felt in partial danger, but not absolute danger, they would not open fire to defend themselves for fear of prosecution.

The officer said that in the past, the soldiers would have opened fire in some borderline situations, feeling that doing so was within their discretion.

Azaria shot terrorist Abdel Fatah al-Sharif as he lay wounded in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida neighborhood on March 24, after he and another Palestinian had earlier attacked and stabbed a soldier.

He is accused of manslaughter, and three of the four IDF commanders who were on the scene have testified that his shooting of Sharif was unjustified since the Palestinian was “neutralized” and no longer a threat.

The Hebron shooter has claimed self-defense on the basis of alleged concerns that Sharif might grab for a knife or might have been concealing an explosive vest under what he called a heavy-looking and suspicious coat.

The Kfir Brigade lieutenant was not on the scene at the time so he does not appear in the B’Tselem video of the incident that went viral and led to public condemnations of Azaria by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, and to supportive statements by current Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and others.

However, Azaria’s defense team brought the lieutenant to testify to support their claim that the trial has been tampered with by the top defense officials’ public condemnations.

Supporting that claim, the Kfir Brigade lieutenant said it was clear that he and most of the soldiers who were testifying in the trial were impacted by the statements of senior officers and defense officials.

At the same time, he said that Azaria’s lawyer Eyal Besserglick’s accusation that the IDF had “brain-washed” its personnel regarding the trial due to frequent speeches by top commanders to their soldiers that Azaria’s actions had been “terrible,” went too far.

Rather, as imperfect as the situation was in terms of influencing soldiers, the lieutenant implied it was natural for the IDF to give guidance to its soldiers about what was proper and improper to prepare them for future incidents.

The defense also used the lieutenant to boost Azaria’s credibility.

The lieutenant testified that whereas Azaria’s three top commanders all considered him a liar, accusing him of inventing the self-defense narrative to cover up that he killed Sharif out of revenge for the attacker stabbing Azaria’s friend, most of the rank and file soldiers “think differently.”

Late on Wednesday night, Channel 1 reported that pathology expert Dr. Yehuda Hiss has submitted a report for the defense and will be testifying soon that Sharif was already dead by the time Azaria shot him.

Earlier in the case, the IDF prosecution brought its own official pathologist report that Sharif was alive and had a good chance of surviving his original wounds if Azaria had not shot him.

Azaria can only be convicted if the court finds that Sharif died to the Hebron shooter’s shot to his head, and not due to his earlier wounds.     (Jerusalem Post)

Shabbat crisis causes transportation chaos, political turmoil

A dispute over work on Shabbat on Israel Railways’ projects threatens to derail not only trains across the country but also Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.

The dispute over Shabbat work for the second weekend in a row erupted after United Torah Judaism’s representatives on a committee, formed to assess which transportation projects could be completed on the Sabbath, permitted none.

Netanyahu blamed the crisis on Transportation Minister Israel Katz, whose political fate was up in the air at press time Saturday night. Likud sources said there was a good chance the prime minister could decide to fire Katz, a former close ally.

“This unnecessary crisis was initiated by Katz in order to harm Netanyahu’s relationship with the haredi [ultra-Orthodox] community or alternatively to harm the prime minister’s image in the general public,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement Saturday night.

The statement said there was no reason for the work to be performed on Shabbat in the first place and that it could have been done at another time without hurting the religious population or public transportation users, including soldiers on their way to and from bases.

“Israel Katz is holding the passengers and soldiers hostage in the artificial crisis he initiated after he failed to take over institutions in the Likud,” Netanyahu’s office said. “The prime minister is shocked by Katz’s cynical harm to the passengers and soldiers, and he is doing everything possible to minimize the damage.”

But Katz’s associates said it was Netanyahu who initiated the crisis, because he was looking for an excuse to fire him. He kept mum, not releasing any official statements over the weekend.

Allies of Katz in the Likud began efforts to prevent his firing.

Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz (no relation) and coalition chairman David Bitan both volunteered to mediate between Netanyahu and Katz.

Opposition parties said the prime minister is to blame.

They held protests outside the Tel Aviv Savidor Central Railway Station and operated hotlines to help passengers get where they needed to go.

In a joint statement, the IDF and the Defense Ministry said they would operate bus services for soldiers in place of the regular train service. Dozens of buses will ferry soldiers between northern and central Israel in both directions, the statement said.

To run that service, 100 government workers ended up working on Shabbat, more than would have worked on the three projects Israel Railways said were the most necessary to be completed on the day of rest. Channel 2 reported that the replacement transportation projects cost millions of shekels.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On petitioned the High Court of Justice for an injunction requiring the reinstatement of train service and railway work on Shabbat.

The court convened on Shabbat to turn down Gal-On’s request but said a more formal response would be delivered Monday.

“Netanyahu initiated the crisis in order to settle a score with Katz,” said Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich. “The tragedy is that the citizens of Israel are pawns in a cynical political game in Netanyahu’s mad pursuit to gain more and more power and control.”

Yesh Atid opened an online website in order to help soldiers and the elderly reach their destinations after Shabbat.

The new website aims to connect volunteers with soldiers, elderly citizens and other people who rely on public transportation to reach their destination, according to Yesh Atid’s spokesman.

In order to run this service, the party set up a special operations room in their headquarters with volunteers connecting those who wish to help and those who need a ride.

The party’s statement said “We heard the voices of the citizens and of the soldiers that don’t know how they will manage to reach their destination on Sunday morning and we decided to take action for them.

It can’t be that a citizen needs to cancel a work day, or the elderly will not have a way to be mobile or a soldier will need to shorten the duration of his visit home with his parents and family, due to political arguments within the government.”

A source from the state-owned Israel Railways said some 20 work permits defined as essential were prepared for this Shabbat.

“Due to the cessation of work for development and upgrading, a few minutes before Shabbat, technical teams that deal with the disassembly of part of the railway were forced to leave their work places without being able to restore the conditions to their previous state,” a statement from Israel Railways said.

“Some of the work will be done following Shabbat. Therefore, significant changes on the train routes will occur on Saturday night and Sunday.”

There will be no service between Tel Aviv and Haifa in either direction until train traffic returns to a normal schedule at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Israel Railways said.

All trains from the North will begin and end their journeys only as far south as Binyamina, while trains from the South will begin and end their journeys only as far north as Tel Aviv Savidor – aside from the Hod Hasharon-Beersheba line, which will travel as planned.

More details about individual train lines are available on the Israel Railways website and smartphone application. The company recommended that members of the public continually check these portals for updates, as the schedule may change.

To ensure that soldiers arrive to their bases, the IDF is operating shuttles where train service has been disbanded. The number of buses heading to the South, directly to Beersheba and Training Base City, is also being increased. In addition, more buses will be running in the areas between Tel Aviv Savidor and Haifa.

Between Tel Aviv and Haifa, Egged is adding about 50 buses on the relevant lines from Saturday night through Sunday, the company said. Egged traffic officials stressed their belief that they will be able to meet the high demand on a critical travel route in the country.

“Egged traffic inspectors will work this evening at the main transport hubs and central stations beginning at the end of Shabbat, in order to facilitate and carry out operations and ensure that the plans occur as smoothly as possible,” Egged spokesman Ron Ratner said on Saturday night. “The public is requested to demonstrate composure and patience on the queues that are expected at the transport hubs.”

On Sunday, additional buses are scheduled to operate from 6:30 a.m. to noon, to supplement the service the IDF normally provides for soldiers on that day, when many soldiers return to their bases.                (Jerusalem Post)

World scouting organization investigating Palestinian branch over glorifying killer

The world scouting organization is looking into complaints that its Palestinian branch named a leadership training course after the killer of Richard Lakin, a dual American and Israeli citizen.

The Palestinian Scout Association was accepted six months ago as a full member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. The Palestinian branch had been a non-voting conditional member of the world body for 10 years.

Last week, Lakin’s son, Micah Lakin Avni, sent a letter alerting the world scouting organization that the Palestinian training course is named in memory of Baha Alyan, who along with an accomplice carried out a stabbing spree aboard a Jerusalem bus on Oct. 13, 2015, that left Lakin, 76, and two other Israelis dead and 10 injured.

Alyan was killed and his accomplice was captured; Balal Abu Gaanam was sentenced to three life sentences.

Publicity for the course describes Alyan as “martyr” and shows him in a Palestinian scouts uniform.

Avni wrote that by allowing the Palestinian scouts to keep its membership in the world organization, the group “is effectively a co-sponsor of this terror promoting course.”

“We are definitely investigating and we hope to respond as soon as possible,” Srinath Venugopal, executive director at the World Scout Bureau’s office of the secretary general, told the French news agency AFP. “Due to the nature of the issue it takes a little time to establish the facts. Please be assured that the World Organization of the Scout Movement is not supportive of any terrorist activities.”

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Scout Association told the AFP they did not yet have a formal response.

Alyan’s body was returned to his family late Wednesday night, more than 10 months after the stabbing.

Lakin had moved to Israel from Connecticut in 1983 and held dual American and Israeli citizenship.

The watchdog website Palestinian Media Watch first highlighted the Palestinian scouts leadership course.  It also called on the World Organization of the Scout Movement to cancel the membership of the Palestinian Scout Association.                        (JTA)

Dani Dayan: The idea settlements are main obstacle to peace is ‘nonsense’

The idea that Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is the main obstacle to achieving peace with the Palestinians is “nonsense,” Israel’s new Consul-General in New York Dani Dayan said in an interview this week.

“It can be proven almost mathematically,” he added. “The Arabs did not recognize Israel before even one so-called settlement existed, that is a fact; Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, removing even the graves of our dead from there, and all we got is a launching pad for new aggression against Israelis is also a well-known fact that cannot be disputed.”

The issue surrounding settlements has been central to discussions about the Middle East peace process. As late as last Monday, it was brought up again during a briefing of the Security Council by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov, who slammed Israel for continuing to build settlements and going against the Quartet’s recommendations published in a July report.

But Dayan, whose background as the former leader of the settlers’ movement has been largely discussed in the media after he was officially appointed to the New York position, said he fully identifies with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the issue.

“Look, settlements can be an obstacle to anything only if you believe that if a Palestinian state is established, it should be ethnically cleansed of Jewish presence,” he told the Post. “Imagine for a moment Nelson Mandela saying that he wants majority rule, but not only majority rule, also the expulsion of all white persons from South Africa. Would he be the Nelson Mandela we admire? No. But for some reason, when Mahmoud Abbas says that, no one calls him to order.”

Dayan has often said that he does not believe in the two-state solution, but stresses he is not a decision-maker.

“Diplomacy is not about theories or ideology but about practice, about real life,” he said. “And whatever my views on that issue are, I heard very clearly both my prime minister and also many American experts and officials who say that it will not happen during my tenure in New York, during the next three or four years. And it will not happen for only one reason: Palestinian rejectionism.”

This week marked a month since Dayan arrived in New York City to serve as Israel’s consul-general, a position he believes is “the most important position that the Israeli foreign service can offer a person.”

Dayan has been focusing over the past month on observing his new environment, from meetings with large American media organizations to hosting breakfasts at his residence with representatives of all segments of the local Jewish community.

Even though it is customary for political appointees to bring their own staff members from Israel to their diplomatic posts, he decided not to do so. Instead, Dayan wanted to work with the existing staff left behind by his predecessor, Ido Aharoni, something they much appreciated.

Dayan is still new to the job. The neatly organized and still somewhat empty desk in his office is a testimony to that. Nevertheless Dayan is not new to public life, and said he is ready to take on whatever comes his way.

“I’ve prepared myself for this position,” he told the Post. “In some sense, I’ve prepared myself for this position my whole life.”

However, Dayan didn’t know he was going to represent Israel in New York until late March. He was originally appointed to serve as the country’s ambassador to Brazil, but Brazil refused to accept his appointment because of his affiliation with the settler movement.

“I already left it behind me,” he said.

According to Dayan, when Netanyahu called him over a year ago to ask him to take the ambassadorship in Brazil, he requested to be sent to New York, either to the United Nations or to the consulate.

“New York is the hub for public opinion-setters of this nation, and ultimately public opinion defines politics and not the opposite,” he explained. “We see it very clearly these days.”

While Netanyahu’s critics have said choosing Dayan for the US job was a testimony to how little the prime minister cares about the US-Israel relationship, the new consul makes it clear that this was no politically strategic move on Netanyahu’s part.

“It’s very hard to reconcile that theory with the fact that Isaac Herzog and Shelly Yacimovich and Yair Lapid fully supported my appointment,” he responded. “They saw me as maybe the most apt person to represent Israel in New York. Israeli politics are highly polarized. I am not sure there are many instances in which all the opposition leaders supported an appointment by the prime minister, but they supported mine. So to theorize that this was a political and not a substantive step by Prime Minister Netanyahu is quite absurd.”

In multiple recent interviews, Dayan has said that he has no trouble at all representing the policies of the Israeli government.

“Yes, I am the real thing,” he said. “I am a person who, if I may for a second take the diplomatic hat off, fully identifies with the current government. I don’t have to act as if I do, I really do.”

But Dayan knows he is also going to have to alleviate the concerns of many Israelis in this regard.

“I will tell my audiences the truth: when they see me, they see a person who fully represents the government of Israel, which is what an ambassador should do. I didn’t come to New York to represent a certain segment of Israeli society. I came to New York to represent all 50 shades of diversity that exist in Israel: I represent the LGBT activist from Tel Aviv and the Orthodox rabbi from Jerusalem. I represent the Muslim Israeli from Sakhnin and the Jewish resident of Hebron.”

Dayan also set himself another major priority for his three or four-year tenure: healing the rift created between US Jewry and Israel in recent years, not just by the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, but also by internal Israeli issues. These include the mikve (ritual bath) bill, the Western Wall praying issue, and unrecognized conversions among others.

“In that respect I will be an ambassador of American Jewry toward Jerusalem no less than an ambassador of Jerusalem toward American Jewry,” he told the Post. “American Jews, whatever their denomination, are not only a strategic asset, they are our soul and blood. I believe in this from the bottom of my heart. I don’t believe in hyphenated Jews,” he said. “In the concentration camps there were no hyphenated Jews, and neither should there be now, here or in Israel, any hyphenated Jews.”

Dayan has made clear he will allocate a “disproportionate amount of time and effort” to strengthening this relationship. “This is what the consul-general in New York does,” he stated.

As he has said multiple times, Dayan did not come to preach to the choir, or “get standing ovations on whatever [he] will say about Israel. I am here also to answer difficult questions that merit responses, of those who love Israel, who are sympathetic and empathetic to Israel, but are also disenchanted with Israel and have legitimate questions about this policy or that policy, this action or that action.”

Beyond reconnecting the US Diaspora to Israel and discussing issues of religious pluralism, Dayan also aims to engage with the US society at large.

“Whoever will be blind to the changing demographics in the US will not do his job properly,” he told the Post. “I intend to engage with many ethnic communities, but the Hispanic community in particular because it’s growing, it’s important.”

Dayan, who was born in Buenos Aires, speaks fluent Spanish and plans to “make good use of it.”

“If that’s good for Senator Kaine as VP candidate, it should also be good for me as the consul-general of Israel,” he said with a smile.

Beyond the Hispanic community, Dayan also intends to engage with American millennials.

“They are the future leadership of this country,” he said. “It’s safe to say that the last month of the electoral campaign here revealed that in regard to millennials, we have a lot to do.”

When it comes to the US elections, Dayan sticks to the generic phrase: “Any US president will be good for Israel.”

“You know, Prime Minister Netanyahu told me that even when I am asleep, I have to make sure I don’t speak about Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump and I intend to obey,” he said with a smile. “I can only say it’s fascinating – and I want to stress on the record that fascinating is a neutral word.”                    (Jerusalem Post)

Should you support the New Israel Fund?…   asks Steve Lieblich                   J Wire

http://www.jwire.com.au/support-new-israel-fund-asks-steve-lieblich/

The New Israel Fund (NIF) claims to “protect human rights, champion social justice, and defend democracy… [and to] invest in hundreds of Israeli organizations whose work changes the equation on civil rights, on religious freedom, and on social justice” Sounds great, right?What about Jewish identity, and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination? How does the NIF stand on those issues?

Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor reports that the NIF has for many years funded NGOs active in campaigns that portray Israel as a racist, apartheid state (demonization); undermine Israel’s right to exist (de-legitimization); accuse Israel of war crimes (lawfare); and promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), aimed at destroying Israel as a Jewish nation. NGO Monitor provides a list of about 25 NGOs that are active in these harmful campaigns, and hundreds of examples of their activities. These NGOs receive millions of dollars (about 20%) of NIF’s funds, and have done so for years.

Those NGOs are also funded by European governments and they collaborate with interests outside Israel in these demonization, de-legitimization, lawfare and BDS campaigns. The Observer recently reported that the NIF received funds from a George-Soros-funded NGO to promote Palestinian-Authority lawfare and BDS. Tower magazine also reports that NIF-funded NGOs “…cooperate with international partners hostile to Israel… [focussing] primarily on international audiences …in France, Norway, Netherlands, the UK, and the U.S.”

We all have the right to express an opinion about Israeli policies. But only citizens of Israel have the democratic right, at the ballot box, to determine those policies, which will affect their well-being and their safety against daily mortal threats. NIF’s claim of defending democracy rings hollow while it funds NGOs attempting to undemocratically impose the will of foreign interests from outside the nation.

NIF also promotes the notion that Israel’s Jewishness is at odds with its democratic character. Some NIF-funded NGOs advocate for dismantling Israel’s Jewishness, including replacing the flag and the national anthem, and promote the Palestinian “right of return,” which will demographically eliminate Jewish self-determination. One has drafted a constitution that would replace Israel’s Jewishness with a “democratic, bilingual, and multicultural” framework, and has also inserted allegations of Israeli discrimination into the US Black Lives Matter manifesto. Eminent Australian Jewish community leader, Isi Leibler, commented on revelations that an NIF associate director said that “in 100 years, Israel would be majority Arab and that the disappearance of the Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic…” He suggested that she was in fact, rationalizing NIF funding of groups supporting the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

Isi Leibler, also said

It is a somber reflection on the naivety of well-intended Jewish philanthropists that they continue donating [to the NIF] despite repeated documented exposures demonstrating that this body is sponsoring anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian and post- Zionist organizations, committed to undermining the Jewish state. Many of the donors are liberal Jews genuinely committed to Israel who blindly accept at face value statements from NIF officials who obfuscate the truth.

The NIF is entitled to sponsor enemies of Israel and the Jewish people. But they should do so transparently so that naive charitable donors are not duped into believing that their contributions are being utilized to transform Israel into a better society.

The typical response of NIF officials to any criticism, and to the abundant evidence of its anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish activities, is to attack the critics and their sources. For example, the NIF has run paid advertisements claiming that “NGO Monitor is a mouthpiece for the extreme right.” In Australia their leaders have publicly accused critical individuals of “conspiracy theories and vilification” and “try[ing] to suck the oxygen out of Jewish life”. I’ve been the target of such personal attacks on several occasions, including one instance in which an NIF Australia leader threatened legal action in an attempt to silence me.

NIF leaders have even maligned an entire Jewish community with accusations of “power structures that silence [young people]”, “toxic McCarthyism within the Jewish community” and “protecting a narrow view of what it means to be pro-Israel” in an apparent attempt to engineer a mutiny of its misguided supporters against anyone who criticizes the NIF.

Typically, NIF officials have portrayed a recent controversy over an NIF-sponsored event in Western Australia as a communal dispute between “right-wing” and “left-wing”, between “conservative seniors” and disaffected “progressive” youth, or for/against “settlements”. This is not just untrue. It’s destructive to attempt to divide our Jewish community, which includes and welcomes a broad diversity political views, provided they promote Zionism and Judaism.

The NIF has also accused West Australian Jewish community newspaper, The Maccabean, of “censorship”, because it declined to accept an NIF advertisement. The Maccabean is an independent organization created for the benefit of the Jewish community and can choose with whom it will do business. I wouldn’t expect it to take advertisements from organizations opposed to kashrut or brit milah, nor from those that support BDS or any anti-Jewish or anti-Zionist campaigns. NIF is an organization that supports both anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish campaigns, so it’s not surprising that The Maccabean has declined its advertisement.

So, if you want to protect Jewish identity, and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, should you support the NIF? The answer is a clear: NO. If you care about Zionism and the continuity of Judaism, there are many, much-more constructive ways to promote those values.

About the author:

Steve is the son of Holocaust survivors, born in Jaffa in 1950, and immigrated to Western Australia as a child.

After Engineering studies, he travelled to Israel on a World Union of Jewish Students Graduate programme, completed postgraduate studies at the Technion, and served in the Israel defence Forces. He returned to Perth in 1978, married and started a family.

Steve served on the Board of the Perth Hebrew Congregation for about 10 years, and since then, has focused on advocacy within the wider community for Israel and the Jewish community. He is Director of Public Affairs on the Jewish Community Council of WA, and has led two groups of State Parliamentarians on study tours of Israel in 2007 and 2010.

Steve also serves on the National Editorial Board of the Australia/Israel Review, a monthly magazine of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council; publishes two online Weblogs: Jewish Issues Watchdog, and Israel Issues Watchdog; and is an active member of the Committee of Management of the Friends of Israel in Western Australia.

Who is Responsible under International Law for the New Gaza Wars?

by Louis René Beres                    The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/8838/gaza-international-law

Recurrent Hamas rocket attacks upon Israeli noncombatants are terrorism. Such terrorism — all terrorism, irrespective of so-called “just cause” — represents a distinct crime under international law.

When Palestinian terrorism reflects populations that enthusiastically support terror attacks, and where the terrorists can find hospitable refuge among local populations, the legal responsibility for all ensuing counterterrorist harms lies with the perpetrators.

Under international law, which also happens to be part of the law of the United States, all Palestinian terrorists are hostes humani generis: “Common enemies of humankind.”

Hamas’ lack of distinction between “Jews” and “Israelis” is intentional. For Hamas, the true enemy is identifiable by religion, not territory, and is therefore irremediable. For “the Jews,” this means that the only way to avoid Arab terror is to disappear, or submit to Islamic control — to become persecuted, second-class dhimmi citizens in their own country, just as the indigenous Christians are now in Egypt and much of the Middle East.

“The safety of the People Shall be the highest law.” — Cicero, The Laws.

It is beginning again. As Hamas terrorists are attacking Israeli civilians with indiscriminate rocket fire, most recently in the southern city of Sderot, Israeli self-defense reactions are already being labeled “excessive” and “disproportionate.” As usual, international public opinion is quickly, if bizarrely, mobilizing against Israel’s underlying supposed “occupation” of Jews living in their own Biblical land.

But what of the facts? In Gaza, since 2005 at least, when every last Jew left, there has been no “occupation.” There are no Israelis in Gaza.

Systematic Hamas misrepresentations get progressively worse.

Any such blame, however, has no basis in law. Regarding “proportionality,” the actual legal requirement of proportionality contained in international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) has nothing to do with how many unfortunate deaths there might be on either side. Proportionality has nothing to do with each side incurring an equivalent number of deaths.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, investigated allegations of war crimes during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and in 2006 published an open letter containing his findings. Included was this section on proportionality:

Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable, does not in itself constitute a war crime. International humanitarian law and the Rome Statute permit belligerents to carry out proportionate attacks against military objectives, even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur.

A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality).

Under no circumstances, at least documented ones, have Israeli retaliations been guilty of any such excess.

Recurrent Hamas rocket attacks upon Israeli noncombatants are, basically, examples of terrorism. Such terrorism – all terrorism, irrespective of so-called “just cause” — represents a distinct crime under international law.

When Palestinian terrorism reflects populations that enthusiastically support terror attacks, and where the terrorists can find hospitable refuge among local populations, the legal responsibility for all ensuing counterterrorist harms lies with the perpetrators.

Understood in terms of a still-ongoing cycle of Palestinian terrorism, and Israeli self-defense against terror, the Palestinian side must accept full legal responsibility for civilian casualties in Gaza. Without their premeditated terror attacks on Israeli civilian populations, there would never be any Israel-inflicted Palestinian harm.

It is that simple.

Under international law, which also happens to be part of the law of the United States, all Palestinian terrorists are hostes humani generis: “Common enemies of humankind.” Significantly, in law, such murderers should be punished severely, wherever they are found. Concerning their prospective arrest and prosecution, jurisdiction is now, after the post-WWII Nuremberg trials and principles, expressly “universal.”

Terrorism, including Palestinian terrorism, is always cruel. In addition to rockets, Palestinian murderers, often using bombs filled with nails, razor blades, and screws dipped in rat poison, seek to maim and burn Israeli civilians. This objective is generally announced with cheers, and abundant blessings from the leading Islamic clergy.

In the recurring indictments offered by Hamas-appointed clergy is the claim that “the Jews lack sanctity.” The lack of distinction here between “Jews” and “Israelis” is intentional. It underscores what most observers still do not seem to understand: For Hamas, the true enemy is identifiable by religion, not territory, and is therefore irremediable.

If the Hamas enemy were merely “the Israelis,” and not “the Jews,” there might still be good reason for seeking a political or diplomatic “peace process.” But for the Palestinians, especially Hamas and its terror-group allies, the enemy is, as expressed in the Hamas Charter, unalterably “the Jews.”

With such an enemy, there can never be a compromise. For “the Jews,” whether in Israel proper, or in “occupied territory,” this means that the only way to avoid Arab terror is to disappear, or submit to Islamic control — supposedly for the Jews once again to become persecuted, second-class dhimmi citizens in their own country, just as the indigenous Christians are now in Egypt and much of the Middle East.

There are additional ironies. Those more-or-less wealthy Palestinian commanders who directly control the suicide-bombers’ mayhem (made wealthy with huge sums of money systematically stolen from UN agency funds), evidently prefer to cower fearfully in their towns and cities, usually taking great care to find personal safety amidst densely-packed Arab populations.

Together with assorted Israel Air Force (IAF) units, special IDF counterterrorism and commando elements meticulously identify and target only terrorist leaders. Always, Israel seeks to minimize any collateral damage. Still, such harm cannot always be avoided even by the IDF, which follows its “Purity of Arms” code more stringently than any other military in the world.

Deception can be legally acceptable in armed conflict, but the Geneva Conventions disallow placement of military assets or personnel in heavily populated civilian areas. To place military assets in heavily populated civilian areas is considered, under international law, “perfidy.” It is widely recognized that these rules are also binding on the basis of customary international law.

Perfidy represents an especially serious violation of the Law of War, one identified as a “grave breach” at Article 147 of Geneva Convention IV, which states that, Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

The critical legal effect of perfidy committed by Palestinian terrorist leaders in Gaza is to immunize Israel from any responsibility for any unintended counterterrorist harms done to Arab civilians. Even if Hamas did not deliberately engage in perfidy, any Palestinian-created link between civilians and terrorist activities would grant Israel full legal justification for undertaking all necessary defensive actions.

Under law, all uses of force are governed by established rules. All combatants, including Palestinian insurgents, are bound by the international Law of War. This requirement is found at Article 3, common to the four Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and also at the two protocols to these Conventions.

Protocol I applies humanitarian international law to all conflicts fought for “self-determination,” the stated objective of all Palestinian fighters. A product of the Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law Applicable in Armed Conflicts (1977), this Protocol brings all irregular forces within the full scope of international law. In this connection, the terms “fighter” and “irregular” are conspicuously generous in describing Palestinian terrorists, fanatical criminals who “normally” target only civilians, and whose characteristic mode of “battle” is not military engagement, but rather what amounts to religious sacrifice.

In the ancient world, the Roman statesman Cicero wrote in The Laws: “The safety of the People Shall be the highest law.” Nothing has really changed. Under current international law, Israel has both the right and the obligation to protect its citizens from criminal acts of terrorism.

Louis René Beres is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue University.

Waiting for a Palestinian Leader Ready to Make Peace with Israel – Menahem Milson (Mosaic)

The issues I discussed with Palestinian interlocutors more than four decades ago continue to reverberate loudly today.

Despite the Oslo agreement between Israel and the PLO in the early 1990s, which led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, there has been no progress toward the realization of a two-state solution.

The Palestinian leadership insists on the right of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their original homes in Israel, which would effectively spell the end of Jewish sovereignty.

It has also rejected or failed to respond to repeated official offers from Israel to move toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

I continue to maintain that a two-state peace settlement is the only solution that is both just and internationally recognized.

Although it does not seem feasible at present, I am convinced it can become so if and when a Palestinian leader emerges who, like Anwar Sadat in 1977, openly and unequivocally declares his readiness to make peace with Israel and to end the conflict in return for Israeli territorial concessions.

Col. (ret.) Menahem Milson, former head of the civil administration in the West Bank, is professor emeritus of Arabic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Why Peace Is Not at Hand – Elliott Abrams (National Review)

Relentless optimists have long argued that Israel and the Palestinians are an inch apart and peace can be attained if they would just get to the table. Wrong.

A new poll by the Israel Democracy Institute and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research asked Palestinians and Israeli Jews if they support the division of Jerusalem, under which West Jerusalem would be Israel’s capital and East Jerusalem would be the capital of a new Palestinian state. Just 30% of Palestinians supported such an arrangement and 32% of Israeli Jews. Majorities were opposed.

Majorities on both sides also said sovereignty over the Temple Mount was critical to them: 55% of Israeli Jews said this was a deal-breaker, as did 57% of Palestinians. (In other words, a compromise wherein the Jews get the Western Wall and the Palestinians get the Temple Mount is opposed by majorities on both sides.)

Israelis and Palestinians are deeply divided on all the major issues. A deal that would mark a final end to the conflict and an end to claims was supported by 64% of Israeli Jews but only 40% of Palestinians.

Making the new Palestinian state entirely demilitarized gets the backing of 61% of Israeli Jews but only 20% of Palestinians.

The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.