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Latest News in Israel – 7th March

Report: Senior Israeli Delegation Meets with Saudi Officials in Riyadh to Discuss Iranian Threat

An Israeli delegation, headed by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, reportedly visited Saudi Arabia recently to meet with officials in Riyadh, including King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon reported this week, after noting that the Western media did not pick up on the story, released by Israel’s Channel 10 and quoted in Hezbollah’s Lebanon-based Al Manar TV.

Though, according to the report, this was not the first such visit by prominent Israelis, the IDF Censor prohibits discussion of them for security reasons. The Saudi royal family, too, according to Al Manar, has preferred to keep such talks confidential, though it is no secret that both Israel and Saudi Arabia are concerned about growing Iranian influence in the region, and both opposed the nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers.

According to the report, which Elder of Ziyon also found on the Middle Eastern AhlulBayt News Agency site, Saudi officials said they are not interested in solving the Palestinian issue, yet want Israeli support against Iran.

In fact, reports point to the beginning of cooperation in 2014. Israel and Saudi Arabia publicly admitted to clandestine diplomatic ties several months ago; the announcement, which was delivered at a conference of the Council on Foreign Relations, was made in the context of the increasing fear of both countries that the Iranian nuclear agreement will only strengthen Iran’s dangerous position in the Middle East.

In December, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold, in an interview with Saudi news outlet Elaph, stressed the two countries’ common interests, among them standing up to Iran and the “joint threat of ISIS.”

Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal has stated that in the event of another Palestinian Intifada against Israel, he would side with the Jewish State, saying that “Saudi Arabia has reached a political maturity to constitute a durable alliance with the Jewish nation.”

“I will side with the Jewish nation and its democratic aspirations in case of outbreak of a Palestinian Intifada and I shall exert all my influence to break any ominous Arab initiatives set to condemn Tel Aviv, because I deem the Arab-Israeli entente and future friendship necessary to impede the Iranian dangerous encroachment,” Al Qabas quoted the Saudi media tycoon as saying.              (The Algemeiner and United with Israel)

President Rivlin talks to PM Turnbull

Unless he specifically wanted to spend Purim in Israel, having already spent Hanukka in the United States, it would appear that with a little flexibility, President Reuven Rivlin should have been able to go to both Australia and Russia. Having postponed his Australian visit that was due to begin on March 13, he will now be leaving for Russia on March 15 and will remain there till March 17. He could have possibly left Israel a little earlier, cut his Australian visit by a day and his visit to Russia by a day, but then, of course, one does not know to what extent the Australians or the Russians might be flexible, if at all.

Rivlin had a long, convivial telephone conversation this week with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and explained to him how critical it was in view of developments in the region for him to go to Russia at this time to meet with President Vladimir Putin. Rivlin told Turnbull that he had been looking forward to his visit to Australia with eager anticipation and emphasized that Israel sees Australia as one of its most long-standing and true friends. Turnbull voiced disappointment that Rivlin would choose Moscow over Canberra, but assured Rivlin that this would not impact on the friendship between the two countries, and said that he hoped to see Rivlin in Australia sometime soon.   (Greer Fay Cashman at the Jerusalem Post)

Soldier wounded in terrorist car ramming in Gush Etzion

An Israeli soldier was wounded on Friday morning when a Palestinian woman drove a vehicle directly into him at the terror-prone Gush Etzion junction.

The terrorist, 34-year-old Mani Sabateen from the village of Husan near Bethlehem, was shot and killed at the scene. A knife was found inside her vehicle.

The wave of heightened violence across Israel, now in its sixth month, has shown no sign of abating and has raised concerns of further escalation.

The wounded soldier, 20, sustained light injuries to his leg. He was evacuated to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for treatment.

Other soldiers who were with him at the scene managed to flee before the impact and were unharmed.

“The soldier was wounded and evacuated for medical treatment in hospital. Forces on site responded to the imminent threat and shot the attacker, resulting in her death. A knife was found in the assailant’s vehicle,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Meanwhile, video footage documenting the aftermath of a stabbing attack at an isolated military position near the community of Har Bracha in Samaria on Wednesday revealed a lack of vigilance by the victims.

In the attack, three Palestinian terrorists approached the post where Kfir Brigade soldiers were supposed to be standing guard. They stabbed two soldiers and then fled. One of the soldiers was moderately injured, the other lightly injured.

Video filmed shortly afterward revealed the post to be in a generally disheveled state, with leftover food, a backgammon board apparently used by soldiers during guard duty, and, worst of all, the soldiers’ weapons, abandoned.

Initially it was believed that the weapons had been snatched by the terrorists, but they were later found strewn near the post.

Initial evidence suggests that the soldiers manning the post were not operationally prepared, and thus were surprised by the terrorists and failed to shoot them. The investigation is still ongoing and has not yet drawn any solid conclusions.  (Israel Hayom)

Obstacle’ Being Developed to Detect, Destroy Hamas Tunnels

A new underground defense system is in the works for the Israeli military, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, “The Obstacle” — the system to detect and destroy Hamas tunnels extending from Gaza into Israel — was recently proposed by the IDF to the Knesset, and will be partly funded by the US government, which has agreed to provide $40 million this year.

Though details of the system are confidential, security analysts told the WSJ that it will likely involve the use of acoustic sensors that can pick up sounds of digging or construction taking place underground.

Residents of Israel’s kibbutzim and moshavim in the south of the country along the Gaza border, have been complaining of hearing hammering and other noises emanating from under their homes, leaving them feeling vulnerable and fearing it is just a matter of time before terrorists infiltrate their communities. Hamas has released a number of videos — a couple of which are in Hebrew — showing terrorists in tunnels, and threatening to use the underground pathways to enter Israel and kidnap and/or kill soldiers and civilians.

The IDF has said that every complaint lodged by Israelis hearing clamoring under their houses is taken seriously and investigated, but say that so far, no evidence has been found to back up these claims.

Residents’ fears, as were documented and reported on last month, come in the wake of Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, the war that Israel launched against Hamas to destroy the terrorist organization’s infrastructure in Gaza, the enclave that it has controlled since 2006. The vast tunnel network it had created was the target of Israel’s ground incursion, while the air force bombed launching sites from where Hamas sent rockets and mortars into Israeli population centers, both prior to and during the war.

The Iron Dome missile defense system, deployed strategically in sensitive areas throughout Israel, was largely successful at intercepting Hamas rockets. The purpose of “The Obstacle,” according the WSJ report, is to serve a similar purpose in relation to the tunnels.

Reports of Hamas operatives being killed while building tunnels have emerged over the past few weeks, as have reports in the Arab press of cooperation between Israel and Egypt, the other country bordering Gaza, whose government also considers Hamas a threat, and whose main method of tackling the tunnels crossing under its own borders has been to flood them.

It has not been established whether the recent tunnel collapses have been perpetrated by external forces (i.e. the IDF or Egyptian army) or caused by accidents occurring during construction.                 (The Algemeiner )

As another tunnel collapses, Hamas members refuse to dig

Hamas is convinced that Israel is behind the widespread collapses, and that it is using special detection equipment placed along the border

Members of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, are afraid of being buried alive and have refused orders to enter underground tunnels, which have mysteriously collapsed one after the other in recent months. This, according to Palestinian accounts, is the situation for Hamas in the Gaza Strip as it pursues the development of its attack tunnel capabilities against Israel.

On Thursday, in an open field east of Khan Younis, a tunnel being dug by the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades collapsed, killing 31-year-old Muhammad Musa al Astal, Hamas said.

Palestinian media outlets quoted senior Hamas officials who confirmed that an additional five tunnel diggers were missing and their condition was unknown. Thursday’s tunnel collapse was the seventh such incident in recent months, which have led to dozens of casualties.

Hamas is convinced that Israel is behind the widespread collapses, and that it is using special detection equipment placed along the border.

Following the collapse of the tunnel in Khan Younis, photographs of “advanced technological equipment for the detection of tunnels” began appearing on Palestinian websites, with one Hamas website claiming that the “Zionists are worried there are tunnels underneath their communities near the border fence.”

The Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, has said on several occasions that Israel is working to destroy Hamas’ underground capabilities, and has vowed the digging would continue. The terrorist group, however, has never officially said that Israel is responsible, because every tunnel that collapses not only claims lives but erodes the morale of those sent to dig the “tunnels of death,” as they are now being called, according to one Hamas member who spoke to Israel Hayom.

The man told Israel Hayom that senior Hamas officials were aware of the concerns and fears being expressed by members of the military wing who have been asked to dig the tunnels.

“The Zionists are nervous. They’re afraid the tunnels are underneath their homes, and because of their fear they are using very advanced tools to locate and collapse the tunnels,” the source said. “I know of those who have been sentenced to harsh punishments for refusing to take part in the [tunnel-digging] effort. This is a serious offense, and the punishment for it is extremely severe.”

Meanwhile, a relative of one Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades operative told Israel Hayom that despite high levels of secrecy within the military wing, rumors of its members refusing to enter the tunnels have spread throughout the coastal enclave. According to the relative, “To be buried alive is a terrible way to die. Everyone has heard the stories of Qassam Brigade members who preferred harsh punishments over digging the tunnels. The Zionist occupation is finding the tunnels and collapsing them on anyone inside. That’s not being a shahid [martyr]. That’s gambling with your life.”           (Israel Hayom)

Hamas: Infiltrations into Israeli settlements to manifest the next phase of the ‘intifada’

Hamas has declared that the recent terror attacks committed by Palestinians in Israeli settlements in the West Bank show that “the next phase of the ‘Jerusalem intifada’ will cause great fear among settlers, who will no longer enjoy security.”

In a press statement released on Thursday, Hamas Spokesman Husam Badran praised the two stabbing attacks and the shooting attack that took place Wednesday in Nablus that resulted in the injuring of three IDF soldiers.

Badran said that the recurrent infiltrations by Palestinians into Israeli settlements, and the stabbing and shooting attacks they carry out inside, signal that the next phase of the intifada will sow fear among settlement residents.

He added that Palestinians know that the settlements are Israel’s weak point, which means that “they would carry out new forms of courageous attacks by infiltrating these settlements.”

“In the next days, the West Bank’s settlers will witness additional surprises from Hamas,” Badran further stated.

In recent weeks, various attacks within West Bank settlements have been carried out by predominately lone wolf assailants.

On Wednesday, two teenage Palestinian assailants attempted to barge into the home of a resident in the West Bank settlement of Eli and carry out an attack.

In mid-January, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed Israeli citizen Dafna Meir, 38, to death in front of her teenage daughter inside their home in the West Bank settlement of Otniel.

It marked the first time Palestinian terrorists had executed a fatal attack inside a settlement since March 2011 when five members of the Fogel family were stabbed to death in their home in Itamar                      (Jerusalem Post)

Two Arab Israelis charged with plotting ISIS-inspired attack

Following a joint investigation by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police, two Arab-Israeli men said to have been inspired by ISIS to kill IDF soldiers were indicted by the Nazareth District Court on Thursday.

According to the indictment, the suspects, Bahaa Eldin Ziad Hasan Masarwa, 19, of Yafia, and Ahmad Nabil Ahmad Ahmad, 21, of Nazareth, viewed numerous videos of ISIS sermons and other propaganda on Facebook.

“The defendants first watched videos and sermons from ISIS, and then were in contact via Facebook with its supporters from Israel and abroad,” the indictment states, adding that they went on to distribute propaganda for the organization.

Soon, both developed an “ideological identification with the organization’s activities, its values and goals,” the indictment continues, and even considered going to Syria to join ISIS’s fight “against the infidels to Islam.”

The friends, who for several months prayed together weekly at Jerusalem’s Aksa Mosque, eventually agreed to carry out shooting attacks against soldiers in Afula and at the Jalama checkpoint leading to Jenin, and attempted to raise funds to purchase guns.

They were arrested in January and February after the Shin Bet and police learned of their social media activities.

They subsequently confessed to attempting to raise money to buy weapons for the deadly attacks to support “jihad.”

Masarwa and Ahmad are charged with conspiring to assist an enemy during war, contacting a foreign agent and supporting a terror organization.

Since the current terrorism wave began spreading throughout the country in October, police have arrested and imprisoned several Arabs who have used Facebook and other social media to incite attacks against civilians and security personnel.

In January, two Palestinian men from the capital were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for inciting terrorism by using their Facebook accounts.           (Jerusalem Post)

Gazan indicted for planning attacks on Jews in Ukraine, Israel

A Gazan man who spent years living in Ukraine was indicted on Thursday in the Beersheba District Court for planning attacks against Jews in Ukraine and in Israel.

Sami Haviv, 30, was charged in an indictment filed by the Southern District Attorney’s Office with several counts relating to terrorist activities, spying and falsifying documents.

According to the indictment, the plots, hatched from Ukraine between 2014 and 2016, included luring an IDF general to Sinai to kidnap him and bring him to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and to attack a bus of Israeli tourists in Ukraine with gunfire or a bomb.

Haviv selected Odessa as his target city having observed that many Israeli tourists come through there.

He started to plan an attack in which he would use a small electronic remote control airplane, purchasable for $300-$500, to deliver a 5 kilogram explosive.

Another plot involved recruiting Israeli Arabs who admire Islamic State to carry out suicide bombings in Israel.

Before moving to Ukraine in 2010, Haviv assisted Hamas fighters in various ways during the 2008-9 Gaza war (Operation Cast Lead) and in general from 2006 to 2010.

Eventually, Haviv got his family to forge a document to the effect that his mother in Gaza was sick, in order that he would be able to gain entry to the Strip via Israel.       (Jerusalem Post)

EU businesses demand ‘made in occupied territories’ labels on Israeli settlement products

The European Union plans to step up its anti-Israel boycott measures and require farmers based beyond the Green Line to clearly label produce as coming from “the occupied territories,” Israel Hayom learned Thursday.

Farmers in the Jordan Valley were recently informed by two companies that export their produce to the EU that the new directive will take effect in mid April.

One Israeli exporter told Israel Hayom that since the EU made the decision to label settlement products, many clients across Europe have made arrangements to implement the directives.

EU guidelines have left the exact nature of product labeling to the discretion of each member state. For the most part, settlement products imported to the EU are repackaged upon arrival at their destination, and a small sticker is added indicating the West Bank as the goods’ point of origin.

According to the exporter, he was recently approached by several German supermarket chains which told him that Israeli manufacturers must now label their products prominently to indicate to consumers that they were “manufactured in territories occupied by the Israeli government.”

Some German clients have decided to cease importing settlement goods altogether, he said.

Israel Hayom has learned that last week, the Dutch Agriculture Ministry informed importers that settlement products must be clearly labeled before leaving Israel.

“This is a purely anti-Semitic decision. This is because we’re Jews. This is an act of humiliation, and they [the EU] are trying to make it look like we’re occupiers and land thieves,” David Elhayani, the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, told Israel Hayom.

Elhayani urged the government to take immediate steps to prevent the draconian labeling directive, suggesting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lead the efforts on the matter.

Yehuda Reines, from Moshav Mehola in the Jordan Valley, who exports herbs and spices mainly to the EU, said that within weeks losses could amount to hundreds of thousands of shekels.

“In the long run, the damage could be devastating,” he said, adding that the issue must be addressed at the government level.

“This is the State of Israel, and we’re not squatters,” he said, adding that he and other farmers know they may soon have no choice but to relocate their greenhouses to farms within the Green Line.

“It may sound defeatist, but this is our livelihood. What can we do?” he said.

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel’s office issued a statement saying: “Product labeling and the boycott of Israeli products by European countries and companies are reprehensible, and reek of anti-Semitism. Their [the EU’s] hypocrisy screams to high heaven. They are ‘very concerned’ with peace in the Middle East and they make sure to label Israeli products, while rushing to make deals with Iran, the terrorism power.”

Ariel said boycotting and labeling Israeli products “is foolish, as it hurts Palestinians as much as it does Israelis. Palestinian workers will lose their jobs because of the hateful steps taken by the Europeans. I suggest the same Europeans open the history books to learn about the Jewish people’s heritage.”                   (Israel Hayom)

Hamas said to have fully restocked its missile arsenal

Just over a year-and-a-half has passed since Israel’s government agreed to a ceasefire with the Hamas terrorist organization in August 2014, ending Operation Protective Edge, but new Israeli assessments indicate Hamas has already fully restocked its missile arsenal.

The appraisal, reported by Walla on Friday, notes that most of the missiles that bring Hamas back to the amount it had before it launched its third terror war on the Jewish state are of a shorter-range, and are domestically produced and therefore of a lower quality.

Back in June 2014 the terror group had around 12,000 rockets of various ranges, including long-range missiles. According to reports Hamas used around 4,600 of its rockets during the Operation, and another 4,000 or so were destroyed in Israeli strikes, leaving the terrorists with a third of their arsenal by the end of the fighting.

But in the 18 months that have passed, Hamas has worked intensively to rebuild its military capabilities while largely ignoring the civilian population in Gaza that continues to suffer from poor conditions, to the point that the UN has estimated Gaza will be “unlivable” by 2020.

Hamas has been rebuilding its terror tunnel system breaching into Israel, and likewise has ramped up its domestic production of rockets given that the Israeli naval blockade and Egyptian construction of a buffer zone has largely cut off the influx of weapons to the terrorists. However, Hamas is unceasing in its efforts to illegally smuggle in materials for building weapons and digging tunnels.

In addition to the many short-range missiles held by Hamas it has added many mortar shells, which were proven to be lethally effective in the last round of fighting. While of a much shorter range than rockets, mortars are easier to transport, quicker to fire and are not detectable under Israel’s Color Red warning system.

Israel estimates that the number of Hamas terrorists and members of the various Hamas mechanisms in Gaza including its civilian police force stands at roughly 40,000 people. Around half of that number are members of the terror group’s Al-Qassam Brigades, with around 1,000 of them working on the tunnel digging project.

Mohammed Deif remains the terror chief for Hamas, after having survived a sixth assassination attempt by Israel against him during Protective Edge, and is playing a key role in rebuilding the terror group’s capabilities. Deif is supported by Yahya Sanwar, who serves as a sort of “defense minister” for him – Sanwar sat in an Israeli jail for 22 years before being released in the 2011 Shalit deal.

Deif, who is missing his legs from previous assassination attempts, had his wife and son killed in the strike that missed him during the Operation.

According to a report as Protective Edge wound down, Israel delayed striking Deif for three full days when it had concrete information on his whereabouts due to a ceasefire agreement, thereby missing the chance to take out the elusive terrorist – even though Hamas had breached numerous ceasefires during the war.

Amos Yadlin, formerly the head of Military Intelligence, revealed in August 2014 that in the last attempt on Deif’s life in 2006, “instead of a one ton bomb, we decided to shoot two quarter ton bombs in order to avoid hitting innocent civilians. One of them didn’t explode, and Deif survived.”             (Arutz Sheva)

Israeli intel prompts Russia to freeze missile delivery to Iran

Russian President Vladimir Putin has suspended the transfer of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran in light of Tehran’s violation of an earlier pledge not to provide sophisticated Russian-made weaponry to the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, according to a report Saturday in the Kuwaiti daily Al Jarida.

A senior source told the newspaper that the Russian leader elected to punish the Iranian regime after Israel supplied him with clear-cut evidence that Tehran had given its proxy Hezbollah SA-22 surface-to-air missiles.

The intelligence information was corroborated by reports from Russian pilots flying their fighter jets over Lebanon and Syria.

The Russian air force anti-missile radars were able to detect SA-22 systems stashed in regions of Lebanon that are under the control of the Shi’ite militia.

During his speech before the United Nations General Assembly this past fall, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed a number of new details regarding Hezbollah’s re-stocking of its weapons arsenal with the help of Iran and Syria.

The premier said that Hezbollah had managed to smuggle advanced SA-22 missiles into Lebanon as well as Yakhont surface-to-sea precision missiles.

Foreign media reports from April of last year indicate that Israel’s air force attacked Hezbollah bases in Lebanon that were outfitted with SA-22.

The Israeli military is hardly concerned about the older SA-5 model surface-to-air missile that is currently rusting in Hezbollah’s stockpiles, for these are considered unreliable and ineffective.

SA-22 missiles, however, could pose a threat to Israeli fighter jets who enjoy relative freedom of operation in the skies over Lebanon.

The senior source told the Kuwaiti newspaper that the Kremlin has been adamant that Iran withdraw its forces backing President Bashar Assad from Syria.

According to the report, Moscow has told the Iranians that it has no need for their support given its interest in reaching a political settlement that would put an end to the five-year civil war in Syria.

The Russians have reportedly told Iran that their interests are not identical when it comes to Syria.

Russia canceled a contract to deliver the S-300 advanced anti-missile rocket system to Iran in 2010 under pressure from the West following UN sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.

Tehran agreed to the deal on curbing its nuclear work in July last year and international sanctions were lifted in January. But tensions with Washington have remained high as Tehran continues to develop its military capabilities.                    (Jerusalem Post)

Israel building world’s tallest solar tower in the Negev

Israel is aiming to generate 10% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. With its ample sunshine, Israel has excellent potential to tap into solar as a renewable energy source.

Crane[1]

Crane lifts huge mirrors during construction of solar-power tower in the Negev

A 240 meter (787-foot) solar tower is currently being built by the Israel-based Megalim Solar Power, which when completed will generate up to 121 megawatts of power, providing about 1% of Israel’s electricity consumption. Construction completion is expected in late 2017. Israel is aiming to generate 10% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. With its ample sunshine, Israel has excellent potential to tap into solar as a renewable energy source.

While most solar energy is produced by photovoltaic panels which can be installed anywhere, solar towers are large-scale projects that use concentrated solar power generated by thousands of mirrors that project the sun’s rays.

The Ashalim solar tower in the Negev is surrounded by 50,000 computer-controlled mirrors which are larger than those used in previous projects and controlled over a dedicated Wifi network rather than cables, which is expected to cut production costs. The mirrors track the sun and concentrate sunlight onto a boiler on top of the tower. Utilizing the high temperatures and high pressure, the steam turbine will be able to generate sufficient electricity to supply 120,000 homes with clean energy each year, at an annual savings of 110,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

The project also takes into account another aspect of environmental protection: protecting wild life. In order to prevent heat from the mirrors harming the millions of birds that migrate over Israel each year, the tower will ward off the birds by spraying vaporized grape skin extract and emitting sounds of natural predators.   (MFA)

Talk at Lunch, Not In Court

by Graham Richardson            The Australian

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/graham-richardson/talk-at-lunch-not-in-court-over-israel/news-story/eb9b5f3da07dcbb3f87062a302c942a9

That war is a dirty business is a proposition that cannot be challenged. Both innocence and the innocent are the victims, and when the war has been going on for years then all the horrors are multiplied and magnified.

In the case of Israel and Palestine, there long has been conflict that shows no sign of abating. The Israeli cabinet contains a majority opposed to a two-state solution. Hamas continues to cling to a constitution that demands the destruction of the state of Israel. The fight on occasion has ranged beyond the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Incursions into Lebanon have been as bloody as they have been useless in terms of settling any issue.

This conflict is the background for a Muslim member of the NSW Legislative Council, Shaoquett Moselmane, and a journalist at this newspaper, Sharri Markson, staring down the barrel of a very ugly court case. In a 2013 speech, Moselmane uttered the words: “I accept the right of people to express their views, even when they are wrong, naive, ill-informed, indoctrinated and blinded by the power of a lobby group that is cancerous and malicious and seeks to deny, misinform and scaremonger.” These harsh words were used to describe what could be called “the Jewish lobby”.

I have known Moselmane for quite some time and more than any other individual I am responsible for getting the Labor Party to put him into parliament. I harassed and hounded successive general secretaries of the NSW Labor Party until one finally agreed to give him a guernsey. He was the first Muslim elected to the NSW parliament and, as a qualified solicitor, it looked like sensible recognition for a significant Labor-leaning base of support.

He obviously took great ­offence to an opinion piece by Markson in which she wrote this: “He didn’t utter them in the privacy of his own home. He felt comfortable enough broadcasting this anti-Semitic sentiment within the walls of the NSW Parliament. This is terrifying in itself. He was not shouted out of the high office he holds for racist commentary. On the contrary, Labor continues to support him.”

Parliamentary privilege is a wonderful weapon in the hands of a politician with something nasty to say. In my late 20s I learned a great deal at the feet of my mentor, the legendary John Ducker. At the same time, I formed an unlikely friendship with Jack Ferguson, who served as deputy premier under Neville Wran. Jack was the leader of the Left and he and I shared some unforgettable four-hour lunches. I have never forgotten his advice: “Never sue anyone. You risk hundreds of thousands of dollars you can’t afford and you make certain you relieve the horror you’re trying to forget. And remember you can get up in parliament and say whatever you like. You can even the score and no one can sue you.”

When Joe Hockey sued Fairfax Media last year, he won a partial victory but it cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Joe could ­afford it, and as he settles in to his Washington digs he won’t give that case a second thought.

Moselmane does not have Hockey’s resources. That, however, should not be the determining factor. The principle involved is best summed up by British rugby league player Vince Karalius. He was a rugged bloke who played the game as hard as anyone ever had. He said: “You gives it, you takes it and you don’t f..king grumble.”

Too many of our politicians are good at dishing out the dirt but can’t handle it when the dirt is coming back at them.

Moselmane hails from a village in southern Lebanon. When the Israelis last ventured into Lebanon, I can vividly recall Moselmane’s reaction when up to 12 children in his village died from aerial and artillery bombardment.

Moselmane was quite emotional when discussing this with me. He vented his feelings about the Israeli army and the people who ordered them into his part of southern Lebanon. He would be less than human if the deaths of those children had no effect on his views about Israel and its inhabitants.

When you look dispassionately at the language used by Moselmane in condemning the Jewish lobby, it is hard to describe those words as anything but extreme. If you use extreme language you can’t be too surprised when you are labelled as extreme yourself. Words like “cancerous” and ­“malicious” are not used gently or moderately. In my view, if you use that kind of language, then you should not be too surprised that someone may respond in the way Markson did.

Whether you agree with her or not, if we seek to prevent her using phrases like “racist commentary” or “anti-Semitic comments” then we attack our right to free speech. I want a society where strong debate with strong language is welcomed. Both ­have an unalienable right to their views.

I don’t agree with all that is contained in the Markson commentary. Bob Carr, a friend of mine for more than 40 years, would have every right to be grievously offended by the column. Carr, though, would not call in the lawyers in a bid to shut Markson down. He knows debate is vital to democracy. Moreover, while he will not have heard of Karalius and may be only dimly aware of rugby league, he instinctively accepts the Karalius doctrine.

Markson is tenacious and fearless. She can be irritating and sometimes can go too far. It should be noted, though, that the task of a good journalist is not to make us feel relaxed and comfortable. While I didn’t agree with much of her column, it would be a great shame if anyone succeeded in shutting her down. Markson is a good advertisement for modern journalism.

It doesn’t matter to me whether she has crossed some indiscernible legal line. This matter should not finish up in a court of law. Moselmane should rethink and back off. He would be far better to take Markson to lunch and debate the issues. You gave it, Shaoquett, now you have to man up and take it on the chin.

There’s only one country in the Middle East that could produce a soldier like me

Alaa Waheeb[1]

Major Alaa Waheeb, Highest Ranked Muslim Officer In The Israel Defence Forces

By Major Alaa Waheeb                 The Jewish News (UK)

http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/theres-only-one-country-in-the-middle-east-that-could-produce-a-soldier-like-me

In the last few weeks, students across the UK have been involved in Israeli Apartheid Week.  Some have supported it. Others have opposed it. Invited by the ZF UK, last week I was able to attend campuses up and down the country specifically to address and counter some of the claims involved.

These fall into roughly three categories. First, that Israel is an inherently racist, and therefore unacceptable country, comparable to Apartheid South Africa.

Second that its army defends this racist status with acts of illegal and immoral violence.

And third, that the only solution to this problem is through the isolation tactics of boycotts.

Like many I met during my visit, I oppose these views. But perhaps more than most people on either side of the debate, I am better placed to argue against them. Because I am an Israeli, an Arab, and the highest ranked Muslim in the IDF.

Is Israel inherently racist, an apartheid state? Well, do you think that such a country would tolerate a person like myself getting to the position I am today? Forget for a second (BDS supporters would like you to forget permanently!) that 20 percent of Israelis are non-Jewish, have full rights, and are represented throughout society. It’s one thing, after all, to have Arab politicians, Christian voters, and Muslim doctors – although we do have them, and quite a few at that.

But a non-Jewish army Major? Someone who has not only fought alongside Jewish soldiers, but now trains them too? Would a truly racist state allow me to play such an integral role in our nation’s defences?

And while we’re on the subject of those defences, let me tackle accusation two: that the Israel army is a particularly immoral one. I am not particularly religious, but as the Holy Quran says, “if anyone killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind.”

I do not serve in the army to kill people – I serve in it to save people. When Hamas fires rockets, or Fatah encourages stabbings, we are here to protect the lives of all Israeli citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish.

And so on to the last point – that the best way to resolve violence and conflict is through the kind of tactics advocated by the Boycotts movement. Namely, isolation and intimidation. For me, this is the most important issue, and the one which makes me shake my head with anger and sadness the most.

Like I said, I visited the UK to combat Israeli Apartheid Week, to challenge the lies and mistruths hurled at the country I am proud to call home. But what hurts me the most is not how unbelievable they are. The opposite, in fact. They are all too believable, and I should know – because I once believed them too.

The reality is that the town I grew up in did not recognise the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. While Arabic is an official language, I did not learn Hebrew until I was 17. I was raised to believe the worst things about Jews, and, had I not eventually met and worked alongside them, I might still believe those things today.

In my role as a soldier, I have met all kinds of people both in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Jews, Arabs, Religious, Secular, Left-wing and Right-wing. I have met Israelis who were prejudiced against me. But I have also met Palestinians who appreciate the work that I do to maintain some sort of peace and stability in the most dangerous part of the world.

Forget slogans and shouting. Peace – real peace – will only come when people talk to each other. Not necessarily agree – just agree to listen. But the irony of Israeli Apartheid Week is that it wants individuals to focus on differences, not similarities. Instead of building bridges between communities, it wants to build walls.

During my time in the UK, I spoke alongside a fellow soldier, a medic who has treated both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists without distinction. We were the Muslim who protects Jewish lives, and the Jew who saves Muslim lives. There’s only one country in the Middle East that could produce a couple like that – and it sure as hell isn’t an apartheid state.

Palestinians: The Right Time to Take Big Steps?

by Bassam Tawil              The Gatestone Institute

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7544/palestinians-big-steps

Despite the “official” surveys taken among Palestinians, which show support for Hamas, the residents of the West Bank are terrified that Hamas will gain control and destroy our lives and property, the way they did in the Gaza Strip.

The BDS organizations are trying to boycott products made in the West Bank, which only throws masses of Palestinians out of good jobs in an effort to force Israel into a hasty withdrawal that has no chance of taking place. The Israelis and everyone else remember all too well that the last Israeli withdrawals — from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip — led to the terrorist takeover of the vacuums created.

Krima Sabri, the former Mufti of Jerusalem, often said that Palestinians were better off with the Jews in charge of Al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem, because in the future they could be removed and killed off, but if the Crusaders returned to Jerusalem — such as an international commission headed by the French — it would be harder to get rid of them.

During a visit to Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu that now is not time to move forward with the “two-state solution” and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Merkel, evidently seeing Israel as a dam protecting Europe from Islamist extremists, told Netanyahu that while the Germans recognized the terrorist threat faced by Israel, and that a peace process had to be advanced based on two states for two peoples, now was not the right time to take big steps.

The Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip are well aware that they are hostages of the terrorist organizations, in particular Hamas. Jibril Rajoub, a senior official in the Palestinian Authority (PA), told Al-Jazeera TV the same thing just last week.

The Palestinians in the West Bank, regardless of public declarations, also secretly support security collaboration with Israel, which protects us from radical Islamist terrorism. Therefore, despite the “official” surveys taken among Palestinians, which show support for Hamas, the residents of the West Bank are terrified that Hamas will gain control and destroy our lives and property the way they did in the Gaza Strip. We do want a Palestinian state, but one that will preserve the lifestyle and accomplishments we have built over the years — not a state that will have them fall to the horrors of Hamas and ISIS.

In light of the quiet, passive public support for the regime of Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas is inciting Palestinians against it. Hamas, in an attempt to overthrow the Palestinian Authority, is portraying Abbas’s security forces as traitors who transmit information to Israel.

Like Germany — and unlike Sweden and France — Britain has recently instituted a more balanced policy. The UK has begun to fight the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) organizations. Matthew Hancock, Britain’s Minister for the Cabinet Office, who coordinates activities between various government ministries, is advancing protocols to prevent the ongoing boycotts by the British establishment.

These BDS organizations are trying to boycott products made in the West Bank, but the boycott only throws masses of Palestinians out of good jobs and great benefits in an effort to force Israel into a hasty withdrawal that has no chance of taking place. The Israelis and everyone else remember all too well that the last Israeli withdrawals — from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip — were nothing more than case-studies for the terrorist takeover of the vacuums created, exactly the same way as the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq made room for the Islamic State (ISIS).

As Palestinians we know that the BDS may or may not harm Israel, but it does untold damage to the Palestinians who support their families by working in the settlement factories and would otherwise be unemployed and then, as a scarcity of jobs will have been created, hired by various terrorists. When the SodaStream factory moved out of the West Bank, 500 Palestinians lost their well-paid jobs.

In view of the current U.S. helplessness in dealing with the Russians, Iranians and Syrians, the Obama administration has now chosen to bare its fangs at Israel. Despite what are apparently his predictable personal objections, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which includes anti-BDS provisions. It introduces new policy language by including all “Israeli-controlled territories” as part of Israel. Meanwhile, the American customs authority is still continuing to enforce a 20-year-old law, marking products made in the West Bank and hurting Palestinians. Labeling products hurts the Palestinians, who then are driven look for work in the eager arms of the terrorist organizations radicalizing the region.

The French, as usual, slither and shift. A number of months ago, they tried to build up steam for an international commission of inquiry into the Al-Aqsa mosque. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians objected.

Ikrima Sabri, the former Mufti of Jerusalem, often said that Palestinians were better off with the Jews in charge of Al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem, because in the future they could be removed and killed off, but if the Crusaders returned to Jerusalem through the back door — such as an international commission headed by the French — it would be harder to get rid of them.

The French, fearing for their lives at the hands of their own local Islamist enclaves, are in dire straits and doggedly try one maneuver after another to appease them. In desperation, they have proposed peace negotiations for the Palestinians and Israel “with international mediation.” They even brazenly suggested that if the negotiations failed, they would recognize the Palestinian state. The outcome is written on the wall: the Palestinians, who will have no reason to negotiate, will fall over themselves rushing to the conference, then automatically veto every proposal or possible compromise, and then receive the promised recognition of Palestine.

The French are masters of diplomatic flimflam: on the one hand, they will do anything to appease their own Islamists at the expense of Israel, and on the other, they know full well neither Israel nor any other Western country will accept their self-serving suggestion. The French keep revealing their duplicity again and again. They refuse to designate Iranian-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization; they instead call it a “political party,” despite its full participation in slaughtering Sunni Muslims in Syria. Hezbollah is also one of the main actors pushing the countless asylum-seekers (and occasional ISIS operative) flooding Europe, Turkey and Jordan.

The atrocities committed today in the Middle East are the direct result of the refusal of Europe (including France) and the United States to intervene, and the stunning silence of the Arab states. Unwilling to fight ISIS, they are more than willing to condemn, slander and criticize Israel, while the Middle East slips into anarchy.

The result for us Palestinians will be bloodletting, either in the Hamas-Fatah rivalry, or as collateral damage in the Israelis’ war against Islamist terrorism, or, when the Palestinian Authority falls, at the hands of ISIS and Al-Qaeda and the Al-Nusra Front as they sweep through the Jordan Valley on their way to attack Israel.

Al-Jazeera TV is also trying to serve its master, Qatar, radicalize the Palestinians by saying that the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel, which benefits everyone here by keeping out Islamic terrorists, is betraying the Palestinian cause. In addition, Israeli intelligence, by saying that a seaport for Hamas should be built is, for some mysterious reason, trying to kill off the Palestinian Authority by strengthening Hamas. Both the Egyptians and we Palestinians — and even the Israelis — do not need Hamas strengthened at our expense. Hamas and the many other extremist organizations that have infiltrated the Gaza Strip, including ISIS, are what enable Israelis to justify their security concerns as well as those regarding peace negotiations with the Palestinians, and that prevent a withdrawal from the West Bank. Given the current situation in the Middle East, Angela Merkel was correct. It is not the right time now to take big steps.

See How Israeli Soldiers Prepare for Battle

The Nahal Brigade recently kicked off a series of training exercises.

They used tanks, combat engineers, dogs, drones and combat helicopters.

These complex, physically-draining exercises ensure the IDF can overcome any challenge it faces in the next war against the enemies of Israel.

The combat brigade was founded in 1982. During the First Palestinian Intifada, the brigade took part in military operations in Judea and Samaria, developing a combat doctrine against Palestinian terrorism.                 (United with Israel)