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Latest News in Israel – 8th April

Hezbollah said building missile base in Syria, to strike at Israel

The Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has reportedly been constructing a fortified base inside Syria that it may be using to store Iranian ballistic missiles with the range to hit Israel.

Satellite images of an area on the northern Lebanese-Syrian border show that Hezbollah has been consolidating positions it conquered from Syrian rebels in June 2013, global intelligence company Stratfor said Wednesday.

Photos show several facilities in the region around Qusair, including one large compound surrounded by an earthen berm. Villages up to four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the base have been razed to enable clear observation of the territory, and tunnels have reportedly been dug back under the border and into Lebanon.

Other sources said there are long-range missiles at the base including Iranian-manufactured Shabab-1, Shabab-2, and Fateh-110 ballistic missiles, although there was no satellite confirmation to back up the claim.

“While these missiles could prove crucial in the event of a large-scale Israeli ground offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon, they are not beyond the reach of the Israeli Air Force,” the report said. “Notably, imagery does not show significant underground facilities at the base capable of protecting this weaponry.”

The missiles are estimated to have ranges from 200 to at least 1,000 kilometers (125-625 miles), putting all of Israel within striking distance.

Several airstrikes in Syria, attributed to the Israeli Air Force, reportedly targeted advanced weapons shipments to Hezbollah. Although Israel has never publicly admitted to carrying out the strikes, it has vowed to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining any game-changing weapons.

One source said the plan is to also store Katyusha rockets, mortars, and howitzers at Qusair as well as to station some of Hezbollah’s 60 T-72 battle tanks at the base. Additional intelligence reported four munitions factories in the complex.

Stratfor said the installation is part of a Hezbollah plan to keep a force of 3,000 fighters in Syria as well as provide a base of operations for its sponsor, Iran. An Iranian diplomatic source claimed officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps make frequent visits to the positions near Qusair, Starfor said.

Hezbollah conquered the area while fighting on behalf of the Syrian government against rebels in the country’s civil war.

Based on information from diplomatic sources and those described as “close to Hezbollah,” Stratfor assessed that Hezbollah will strive to further increase its presence in Syria as a precaution against the possible ousting of President Bashar Assad’s regime by rebels.               (The Times of Israel)

Terrorist planned shooting attack at Jerusalem’s Malha Mall

A Palestinian Arab from a village north of Jerusalem was indicted Thursday morning at Jerusalem District Court, for planning a shooting attack at the capital’s popular Malha Mall.

Abed Al-Muatay Abu-Sneineh, a 22-year-old resident of Kfar Akib, contrived to carry out an attack while serving time at Ktziot Prison in southern Israel last July, together with fellow inmate Ihab Sheikh Subah.

According to the indictment Subah, who was released last September, told Abu-Sneineh that he intended to carry out a terror attack, and asked him to act as his accomplice. Abu-Sneineh agreed, and the pair determined to resume contact once both were released from prison.

Abu Snieneh was released in January of this year, and the next month met Subah in a cafe in Ramallah, during which the latter disclosed his plans to conduct a shooting attack against Israeli security forces stationed near Malha Mall on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem. He said he planned to strike on a Thursday afternoon, when a high concentration of soldiers would be waiting at the nearby bus stations on their way home from base for the weekend.

Subah revealed he had already gained possession of several guns and a stock of ammunition, and that he planned to wear an IDF soldier’s uniform during the attack, in order to enable him to draw as close as possible to the group of soldiers and cause maximum casualties.

He told his accomplice Abu-Sneineh to conduct reconnaissance of the mall, including recording extensive video footage of the comings and goings of local public transportation, concentrations of soldiers, and access points to the site.

Abu-Sneineh agreed, but was arrested by police as soon as he finished filming.

The indictment against Abu-Sneineh includes charges of conspiracy to carry out an act of terror. Prosecutors have requested he be held in custody until the end of proceedings against him.       (Arutz Sheva)

Hamas’ army of tunnel diggers keeps Gaza terrorism alive

While Hamas claims the Gaza Strip suffers from unbearable levels of poverty, the terror organization spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every month to build and maintain its massive terror tunnel network.

With operations along the Israeli and Egyptian borders, the Hamas tunnel system employs a veritable army of over 1,000 regular diggers.

According to a report on Israel Radio, these diggers are paid $300-400 a month.

Aside from the diggers themselves, maintaining and expanding the tunnels requires large-scale smuggling by Hamas, which invests heavily in efforts to bring electric drilling equipment, raw materials, and building materials like cement in from Israel and Egypt.

Beyond enabling smuggling into the Gaza Strip, the tunnels are used by Hamas’ elite combat unit, Al Nukhbeh, which is trained to operate in the expansive tunnel network dug near the border with Israel, in anticipation of future terror attacks on Israel

Several Al Nukhbeh fighters were recently killed when a tunnel they were operating in collapsed.

Speaking on Israel Radio, one Israeli official noted that the amount of money Hamas has invested in building and maintaining its tunnel network would have been sufficient to build entire residential neighborhoods in the Gaza strip.   (Arutz Sheva)

US army building secret missile-proof base in Israel

Iran’s recent ballistic missiles tests, which have led to concern and consternation in Israel, apparently have the United States military worried as well.

In late February the US military took part in a five day joint military exercise with Israel code named “Juniper Cobra”.

The central focus of the exercise was coordinating responses to a potential ballistic missile attack.

Since then, however, security officials have revealed that the US military has serious concerns about the possibility of missile attacks by Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas, and is taking additional precautions to protect American assets in Israel.

Speaking to Walla News, these officials said the US is constructing a secret army base in central Israel.

The new base, which is being built in response to the Iranian missile threat, is reportedly designed to withstand ballistic missile attacks.

According to the report the base, which is already in advanced stages of construction, will be fully manned at all times and prepared for emergency situations.

The base is linked to the US army’s radar facility in Dimona.

In March Iran conducted a series of ballistic missile tests, the first since October 2015.

Iran’s ballistic missiles, which are capable of reaching Israel and can be fitting with nuclear warheads, have prompted partial American sanctions, with some American lawmakers calling for harsher measures to punish the Iranian regime.    (Arutz Sheva)

Israel exported 5.7 billion dollars of defense products in 2015

Israeli defense industries exported some 5.7 billion dollars worth of defense products in 2015, the Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday, describing the figure as stable compared to recent years.

Michael Ben-Baruch, head of the Defense Ministry’s Sibat (Defense Export Organization) department, said, “We are proud of the Israeli defense industry for its achievements in the global defense export market. After a challenging year, we succeeded, through joint and determined work, to maintain stability in the scope of signed contracts.”

The figure for 2015 represents a small rise from that of 2014, when Israel exported 5.6 billion dollars of defense products.

According to Sibat, throughout 2015, Israeli defense companies and the Defense Ministry signed dozens of “significant contracts that stemmed the decrease [of sales] and stabilized the scope of defense exports.”

Ben-Ben-Baruch added that “thanks to Israeli defense industries, we are bringing technological innovation to Israel in general, and to the IDF specifically.”

Israel is ranked among the largest ten defense exporters in the world.

Sibat said its products are “suited to the changing security reality around the world: Asymmetric warfare, the rise of precision weaponry, the use of quality intelligence collection in real-time, and minimizing harm to noncombatants.”

Enhancing planes and aerial platforms, ammunition and weapons stations, radars and electronic warfare systems, drones, and observation and optronics formed the largest chunks of the sales.

The Asia-Pacific was the area that purchased the highest portion of Israeli defense products – 2.3 billion dollars worth – followed by Europe (1.6 billion dollars), North America (a little over a billion dollars), Latin America (577 million dollars) and Africa (163 million dollars.” Defense budgets in many countries suffered due to the crash in oil prices and currency values, Sibat added.

“We expect that in 2016, stability will be maintained,” it said.     (Jerusalem Post)

Israel warns: Europe flooded with hundreds of jihadists planning to strike

There are “hundreds of jihadists planning to strike Western targets on European soil,” already present on the continent, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told his Polish counterpart, Antoni Macierewicz, in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

“We are concerned that what we saw in Paris and Brussels is just the start, and that attempts to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe will continue,” he added.

Turning his attention to events closer to home, Ya’alon said, “We do not expect there to be stability and an end to the bloodshed in Syria anytime soon.

“In the war there, there are many conflicting interests and too many players in the arena.

Some of these players, the global jihad organizations for example, are determined to continue fighting,” he added.

Jihadists – radical Islamists whose primary ideology involves fighting the West – are stockpiling weapons and knowledge in Europe that they have obtained through fighting in Syria, and fostering extremist ideology, Ya’alon warned.

Addressing the humanitarian catastrophe afflicting Syrian civilians, Ya’alon said that Israel is providing medicines, food, “and anything that refugees who reach our northern border need. As Jews, we cannot ignore this human tragedy.”

Ya’alon, who hosted Macierewicz at his bureau at the Defense Ministry, discussed the latest situation in the Middle East, its influence on Europe, and on ways to continue strengthening Israeli-Polish defense ties.

“Israel and Poland share common values and interests, as well as many, complex challenges,” Ya’alon said during the meeting. Security collaborations benefits both countries, he said. “Unfortunately, Israel is very experienced in dealing with these challenges, both in their conventional and terrorist perspectives, rockets, and more. We are prepared to cooperate and share knowledge and technology.”

He stressed the cooperation between the Polish and Israeli defense industries, as well as defense establishments and armies.    (Jerusalem Post)

Four Israelis being investigated for spying in Romania

Four Israeli citizens are being investigated on alleged espionage charges in Romania, Romanian outlet the Rise Project reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the suspects spied on, and attempted to discredit, the chief prosecutor of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), Laura Kovesi Codruţa.

Two of the suspects are former Israeli intelligence officers and co-founders of the intelligence firm Black Cube, Avi Yanus and Dan Zorella. The firm’s honorary president was former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who died after a battle with illness last month.

The Rise Project quoted prosecutors as saying that Yanus and Zorella, along with other Black Cube employees, including Ron Weiner and David Geclowicz, “organized a group to commit offenses of harassment and other offenses, which included making threatening phone calls, launching [Internet] phishing attacks to steal access credentials and compromising email accounts, by spying on, copying and transferring correspondence.”

According to the report, Werner and Geclowitz have already been arrested. They are accused of hacking into the email accounts of three associates of Codruţa.

The investigation is in its preliminary stage, the chief prosecutor of Romania’s Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), Daniel Horotniceanu, told the Rise Project.

Horotniceanu said that it had not yet been determined who hired the Israeli firm Black Cube to carry out the alleged espionage activity.

Black Cube describes itself as “a select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.     (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Christians bitter over destruction of church ruins in Gaza

Palestinian Christians on Wednesday expressed anger over the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have handled the ancient ruins of a Byzantine church that were uncovered in Gaza City last week.

They said that bulldozers removed the antiquities and continued with their work without supervision. They accused the two big Palestinian parties of seeking to obliterate Christian history and identity in the Holy Land.

Construction workers found the remains of the 1,500-yearold church in Palestine Square in Gaza City, where a shopping mall is being built.

“Our first thought is that the site is a cathedral or a church from the Byzantine period,” said Jamal Abu Rida, head of the PA Antiquities Ministry, according to Reuters.

Although the ministry has great interest in preserving the remains, it lacks the means to do so, he said.

“The site we are talking about is 2,000 square meters and 10-meters deep and requires hundreds of workers and millions of dollars to carry out proper excavation to extract pieces and read the texts,” Abu Rida added, noting that his ministry has only 40 excavation workers.

The construction work is being carried in an area that is under the control of Hamas.

That is why some of the criticism is also being directed against the Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip. Sources in the Gaza said that the Wakf (Islamic trust) Ministry in the Strip was responsible for the construction.

Some Palestinian Christians claimed that the construction workers moved the remains of the church out of their way and continued work at the site.

“They used bulldozers to remove the antiquities and no one ordered a freeze of the construction work at this important archeological site,” said Father Ibrahim Nairouz, a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem who lives in Nablus.

“Had they found the remains of a mosque or synagogue or any other ancient structure, would they have dealt with them in the same manner?” Nairouz asked. “Or are they doing this because it’s an ancient church?” His criticism came in a letter he wrote to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Minister of Antiquities and Tourism Rula Maa’yaa.

“It’s obvious that Christian legacy and human beings are being targeted in our region,” the priest charged.

He also accused the PA of giving Islamic names to two Christian and Jewish holy sites in Nablus – a monastery and the stairway known as the Jews’ Steps.

He and other prominent Christian figures also took issue with the PA for arresting the archbishop of the Syriac community in the Holy Land, Swerios Malki Murad.

PA policemen in Bethlehem last weekend arrested the top clergyman as he was on his way back from a celebration of Syriac heritage in the nearby village of El-Khader. He was released on bail 24 hours later.

PA prosecutors said the archbishop was arrested following a complaint lodged against him by a woman from his own community. They refused to give details about the nature of the complaint, triggering rumors that the church leader was involved in sexual assault – a claim he has vehemently denied.

Nairouz said he has decided to boycott an official tour of Bethlehem and Hebron by Hamdallah.

“Your companionship is priceless,” he wrote, addressing the PA prime minister. “But with national affection, I have decided not to participate in the tour to protest the destruction of the remains of the church in Gaza City. And I haven’t heard any official or public or private protest against this destruction.”

Many Palestinian Christians took to social media to voice support for the priest’s criticism of the PA.

“No one has the right to deny the existence of the other,” a Christian woman from Nablus wrote. “We are all brothers in this country and we are suffering and feeling the same pain as our Muslim brothers. Our history is deeply rooted in this land and anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken. What is happening is sad.”

Suleiman Fayoumi, another Christian from Nablus, commented, “How are the Wakf officials in Gaza different from ISIS when they bulldoze antiquities and a religious and cultural treasure?” Nick Bandak of Bethlehem said it was “disgraceful” and “barbaric” to remove the remains of a church in this way.

“Are they trying to change history that has proven that Gaza was one of the ancient cities for Christians?” he asked.

“The question is, where are those who care about preserving our Christian heritage?” asked Sami Khalil. “Where are the heads of the churches in Jerusalem and the world? Where are the bishops and archbishops and what’s keeping them busy from addressing an important incident that is contributing to the obliteration of our Christian identity in the Holy Land? Where are the Vatican and UNESCO?” “This incident should be publicized so that the world would know the truth about Hamas,” said Samir Qumsieh, chairman of the United Christian Society in Bethlehem, in a post on Facebook.              (Jerusalem Post)

Jewish settlement, synagogue from Second Temple era unearthed on Sea of Galilee shore

The excavation of a 2,000-yearold Jewish settlement and synagogue from the Second Temple period in Magdala, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, recently revealed rare and well-preserved antiquities, including a bronze incense shovel and jug.

The dig, overseen by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the construction of a building there, took place in an area considered to be the crossroads of Jewish and Christian history for its historical and religious significance for both Jews and Christians.

Magdala was once a large Jewish settlement in the early Roman period. Its Greek name, “Taricheae,” means “place where fish are salted,” possibly alluding to the main source of income of the city’s inhabitants two millennia ago.

“It is mentioned in Jewish sources and, at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, it served as Josephus’s main military base in his war against the Romans in the Galilee,” the IAA said in a statement.

Moreover, evidence of Magdala’s existence is also found in historical Christian sources where Christian tradition states it was the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, the Apostle of the apostles of Jesus.


An aerial view of the settlement uncovered in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority at Migdal

According to the Gospel of Luke, “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out… follows Jesus until his crucifixion and according to John’s Gospel became the first witness of his resurrection.”

The Hebrew word for incense shovel is “mahta,” which is derived from the action of raking or gathering embers. It is mentioned in the Bible in Exodus 27:1–3: “You shall make the altar… you shall make pots for it to receive its ashes, and shovels and basins and forks and fire pans; all its utensils you shall make of bronze.”

The mahta is believed to have been a sacred implement, much like the rest of the items that were utilized in the Temple, where it was mainly used for transferring embers from place to place, the IAA said.

Indeed, incense shovels frequently appear in Jewish art as one of the religious articles associated with the Temple, and they have been depicted on mosaic floors of synagogues alongside the menora, lulav and etrog.

Dina Avshalom-Gorni, the chief archeologist on behalf of the IAA, said the incense shovel that was found is one of only 10 others that are known in the country from the Second Temple period.

“From early research in the world, it was thought that the incense shovel was only used for ritual purposes; care for the embers and incense that were burnt in ritual ceremonies,” she said. “Over the years, after incense shovels were also discovered in a non-cult context, [it was determined that] apparently they were also used as tools for daily tasks.”

Avshalom-Gorni said the bronze incense shovel and jug were exposed lying next to each other on the floor in one of the rooms of a storehouse located adjacent to the dock of the large Jewish settlement.

“These implements might have been saved in the storeroom as heirlooms by a Jewish family living at Magdala, or they may have been used for daily work, as well,” she deduced.

In recent years, the authority has been leading extensive excavations at the site, overseen by Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar, in partnership with the Anahuac University of Mexico, led by the Mexican archeologist, Dr. Marcela Zapata-Meza.

During the dig at Magdala, Jewish ritual baths (mikvaot), streets, a marketplace and industrial facilities – as well as a synagogue, whose walls were decorated with colored plaster, along with mosaic floors along the pavement – were also revealed.

In the middle of the synagogue’s main hall, a stone was uncovered, well-known as the Magdala Stone, depicting the Second Temple of Jerusalem, within a carved seven-branched menora on one of its sides.

The synagogue, the IAA said, dates back to the early first century CE, Second Temple Period, and Jesus’s Public Ministry around the Galilee. It is now one of the seven oldest synagogues from this period uncovered in the country.

Archeologist Eyad Bisharat, who supervised the work in the excavation area on behalf of the authority, said volunteers from Chile, Mexico, Italy and Spain who assisted in the dig “were absolutely thrilled” by the discoveries.

“They simply could not calm down knowing that these artifacts had been waiting just below the surface for 2,000 years,” said Bisharat. “Even we veteran excavators were extremely excited because it’s not every day that one uncovers such rare artifacts as these, and in such a fine state of preservation.”

Arfan Najar, the archeologist leading the excavations on behalf of the IAA, said a similar incense shovel and jug were discovered by Yigael Yadin in a cache dating to the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising, which was revealed in the Cave of the Letters in the Judean Desert.

“Incense shovels have also been found in the Galilee at Bethsaida, Taiyaba and in Wadi Hammam, and across the country, but all-in-all, this is a very rare find,” said Najar.

The IAA said Magdala is presently open daily to the public and visitors can tour the remains of a first century Jewish town and Duc In Altum, a new prayer center at the site.

Next summer, according to the IAA, a group of volunteers and students from Mexico will continue digging in the southern area of the site.       (Jerusalem Post

I Wrote the IDF Code of Ethics. Here’s My Take on the Hebron Shooting.

by Asa Kasher                   The Forward


Israeli public debate is focused these days on a seemingly simple incident: In Hebron, two Palestinian terrorists attacked a team of Israel Defense Forces soldiers, managing to stab one of them before they themselves were shot. One terrorist was killed and the other injured. The latter was lying on the road when a soldier arrived, observed the scene and, without being commanded to do so, shot the terrorist once in the head. An autopsy, performed by Israeli forensic doctors in the presence of a Palestinian forensic doctor, revealed that that last shot was what killed the terrorist.

For more than 20 years now, I have been active in studying the military ethics of the IDF and in writing related documents such as the 1994 IDF Code of Ethics. I would like to make a few observations about the incident from that perspective.

The first thing to note is that the incident was immediately reported to the relevant IDF commanders, who at once conducted their routine debriefings. The professional military investigation was repeated several times along the chain of command, from the platoon and battalion level, through the brigade and division level, to the chief of staff. They all reached the conclusion that what the soldier had done was utterly wrong, in stark violation of commands, Rules of Engagement and the values specified in the “Spirit of the IDF,” the code of ethics that requires respect for human dignity (and especially human life) and restraint of force (or “purity of arms,” as it’s called in Hebrew).

At the core of military ethics in a democracy — whether it’s the United States, United Kingdom, Canada or Israel — you find two principles manifest in all doctrines, procedures, ROEs and commands. First, the right and duty of self-defense. A person and a state have the right to defend themselves when they are in jeopardy caused by unlawful activities of criminals or enemies. Plus, a democratic state has a duty to effectively defend its citizens when they are in such jeopardy. Second, every act of the state, including acts taken on its behalf by police or military, ought to show respect for human dignity. This means that compelling justification is needed for any significant interference in a person’s situation.

Killing a person is a last resort in self-defense and it ought to be confined to circumstances of necessity. It is ethically, morally and legally wrong to kill a person if it is not a necessary step of self-defense.

The soldier in Hebron killed a terrorist, but what he did was not a necessary step of self-defense. It was not a step of self-defense at all.

The military investigation found that before the soldier shot the terrorist, he said that the terrorist had injured an IDF comrade and therefore ought to be killed. Such reasoning is utterly wrong, whether it is meant to justify retaliation, punishment, deterrence or what have you.

The circumstances of the Hebron incident have often been misunderstood. Yes, the terrorist was an enemy, but soldiers are required to treat a terrorist wielding a knife as a criminal, not as an enemy in a battlefield. The terrorist’s attempt to kill or injure ought to be foiled, but killing him is sanctioned only if there is no effective alternative — only if it’s a last resort.0000:00

Nevertheless, the minister of internal security, several members of the Knesset and many participants in public debates took another view of the circumstances: Anyone who intends to kill or injure Jews as an act of jihad should know that he or she won’t come out alive. This is a wrong and pernicious view. Major General Eizenkot, the IDF chief of staff, correctly said a while ago that there is no justification for emptying a magazine on a girl holding scissors she intends to use against some Jewish passerby. Even an injured enemy combatant who has just killed your comrades ought to be captured and then appropriately treated, because he no longer endangers anybody’s life and he is a person whose human dignity should now be protected by ordinary means. We don’t kill POWs, who are enemy professional combatants; all the more so, we don’t kill terrorists once they’ve been rendered harmless.

The public debate that followed the Hebron incident spotlighted two aspects of life in Israel that should not be ignored.

First, most of the Israeli public became aware of the Hebron incident by watching a video produced by a Palestinian photographer working with the radical left organization B’Tselem. This immediately created a wrong impression: that the soldier had been condemned by the IDF chief of staff and the minister of defense solely on the grounds of a piece of radical left propaganda. The mistaken idea that an NGO that has often cooperated with enemies of Israel in international campaigns against the IDF could play a role in forming the views of the head of the IDF and minister of defense enraged many Israelis, not just those on the extreme right. The political tensions within Israeli society are strong and significant, but their manifestation often rests on mistakes and misunderstandings, coming out noisy and crude.

Second, public debate in Israel has for a while now been an arena of vitriolic political clashes instead of a theater of ordinary exchange on political matters. Israeli politicians, and therefore the media and the public as well, act as if we are in an election period, though we are not. The inclination to make every incident into the subject of a quarrel, the tendency to use harsh language in portrayals of political opponents and their views, and the resort to rude, irresponsible and even irrational expressions in every social network are all unhealthy. It is the duty of state leaders to get rid of them.

This tumult may give the impression that something has gone astray in the ethical fabric of Israeli society and even within the IDF. That impression is false. No one incident, grave as it may be, indicates a widespread weakness. The IDF and many other parts of Israeli society are morally strong and resilient; they will overcome terrorist activities, on the one hand, and marginal failures to maintain high ethical standards, on the other.

Asa Kasher is Laura Schwarz-Kipp Professor Emeritus of Professional Ethics and Philosophy of Practice at Tel Aviv University, and Professor of Philosophy at Shalem Academic Center in Jerusalem. He led the writing of the IDF’s code of ethics, and won the Israel Prize in General Philosophy in 2000.

Why the Palestinians Are Calling to Overthrow Abbas

by Khaled Abu Toameh                   The Gatestone Institute


Abbas has used the dirtiest words: Peace with Israel. Abbas, of course, was speaking to the Israeli public, and not to his own people. He has always sent a conciliatory message to Israelis, but this is the same Abbas who whips his people into a frenzy by telling them that Jews are “defiling the Aqsa Mosque with their filthy feet,” and the same Abbas whose media and officials glorify Palestinians who murder Israelis.

Abbas has only himself to blame for this morass. Like other Palestinian leaders, Abbas has become hostage to his own anti-Israel poison.

Perhaps this time, the international community can hear the truth: the Palestinian leadership does not educate the Palestinian people for peace with Israel. That is the real obstacle to peace.

The Palestinians are not up in arms about Abbas’s eleventh year of a four-year term in office. They really do not seem to care about that, especially as long as he is paying salaries.

Most Palestinians are not objecting to his dictatorial rule, or staunch refusal to bring democracy and public freedoms to the Palestinians. Nor is he under attack for failing to implement reforms in the Palestinian Authority, or to combat financial and administrative corruption.

No, the trouble stems from a different corner entirely. Abbas has used the dirtiest words: Peace with Israel.

Let us put things into perspective. This is the same Abbas who over the past six months has remained silent in the face of the new “knife intifada”; the same Abbas who whips his people into a frenzy by telling them that Jews are “defiling the Aqsa Mosque with their filthy feet,” and the same Abbas whose media and officials glorify Palestinians who murder Israelis.

The whole problem exploded when Abbas told Israel’s Channel 2 TV station that his security forces in the West Bank have been entering schools and searching students’ bags for knives. “In one school, we found 70 students with knives, and we told them that this was wrong,” Abbas said. “I told them I do not want to kill someone or die; I want you to live, and for others to live too.” He went on to say that he wants peace with Israel and is ready to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Abbas, of course, was speaking to the Israeli public, and not to his own people. He has always sent a conciliatory message to Israelis — leaving the truth with blood on it for his Arabic-speaking audiences.

Abbas[1] (1)

The two faces of Mahmoud Abbas: The Palestinian Authority president speaks to Israelis about peace, while he whips his own people into a frenzy by telling them that Jews are “defiling the Aqsa Mosque with their filthy feet,” and his media and officials glorify Palestinians who murder Israelis.

A few days earlier, Abbas seemed to have committed another “crime” when he told Druze leaders who visited him in his office in Ramallah that his hand would continue to be extended for peace with Israel. He even went as far as declaring that that he “rejected violence and terrorism.”

In yet a further “provocative” move on the part of Abbas, he received in his office a delegation representing the World Federation of Moroccan Jews. At the meeting, Abbas once again discussed his desire for peace, saying he was seeking to “end hostility and bloodshed between us.”

By granting an interview to an Israeli TV station, Abbas was defying instructions from his loyalists in the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. In February, the syndicate decided to boycottany Palestinian official who gives an interview to Israeli reporters or media organizations.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, which is dominated by members of Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, did not publicly condemn the interview with the Israeli TV station. They have better judgment than that. Privately, however, Palestinian journalists and political activists in Ramallah expressed outrage over their president’s “collaboration” with Israeli media in defiance of the ban.

The meeting with the Moroccan Jews also infuriated some Palestinians, who rushed to accuse Abbas of acting against the instructions of the “anti-normalization” movement in the Palestinian territories. This movement has long worked to foil meetings between Israelis and Palestinians; its supporters have not hesitated to use violence to stop such encounters from taking place. Even soccer matches between Israeli and Palestinian children are considered unacceptable by this extremist movement, which, ironically, also consists of Abbas loyalists.

Yet what really caused the outcry was the talk of peace. Without it, the interview and the meeting with the Moroccans might have been quietly condemned. Apparently, discussing searching schoolchildren’s bags for knives was considered “over the top.”

Verbal attacks against Abbas are not only coming from his political enemies, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Some are coming from his own supporters in Fatah and the PLO.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the second largest faction of the PLO after Fatah, has called for Abbas’s immediate resignation.

Accusing him of having “crossed all red lines,” the PFLP said that Abbas’s remarks to the “enemy’s TV station” prove that the Palestinian Authority continues to conduct security coordination with Israel.

The PFLP, which denounced Abbas’s remarks as “despicable,” said that if Abbas does not step down, then the PLO leadership should hold a meeting to remove him from power and hold him accountable for his statements and actions.

Palestinians also took to social media to denounce their president for his remarks, with some joking that it could have been because of April Fool’s Day. Abbas was mocked as a liar and a hypocrite.

Abbas has only himself to blame for this morass. In the last months, he and the PA leadership have been inciting their people against Israel through the media and public rhetoric. Forget what they say in English: in Arabic, many of the Palestinian leaders talk of death to the Israelis.

Like other Palestinian leaders, Abbas has become hostage to his own anti-Israel poison. He has now had some feedback from his people on how well he has taught them. The answer: very well indeed.

Perhaps this time, the international community will hear the truth: the Palestinian leadership does not educate the Palestinian people for peace with Israel. That is the real obstacle to peace.

Netanyahu looks to Africa for new allies

Prime minister plans trip to Kenya around 40th anniversary of his brother’s death in famed Entebbe raid

By Jonah Mandel                       The Times of Israel


Four decades after his brother was killed during a rescue operation in Uganda, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is embarking on an African mission of his own — but with very different aims.

Galvanized by a growing demand for Israeli security assistance and his government’s search for new allies, Netanyahu has put a fresh focus on improving ties with African nations.

Part of his push involves a planned visit to the continent around the 40th anniversary of the July 1976 hostage rescue operation that resulted in his brother’s death.

His itinerary has not yet been released, though Netanyahu said he has accepted an invitation to visit the continent from African leaders. Among them is the president of Kenya, with which Israel has strong ties, and a visit to that country seems likely.

“Israel is coming back to Africa; Africa is coming back to Israel,” Netanyahu recently told lawmakers and African ambassadors.

He noted his visit would be around the anniversary of the rescue operation, which he called “a very dramatic national experience” and “for me, obviously, one of great personal consequence.”

African nations that have survived colonialism and, more recently, the not-always-altruistic aims of Western nations and China certainly have reasons to be skeptical.

But economic progress in many African countries has begun to change the dynamics, while the threat of Islamic extremism in parts of the continent has left governments in search of advanced defense technology.

Certain countries would be especially keen to benefit from Israeli agricultural and water technology, said Na’eem Jeenah, head of the South Africa-based Afro-Middle East Center research institute.

“The manner in which Israel has presented itself to these governments is in terms of huge opportunities,” Jeenah said, adding that he believed “many countries” would be interested.

Netanyahu’s planned trip, the first by an Israeli premier to Africa since Yitzhak Rabin visited Casablanca in 1994, is a culmination of years of rapprochement.

It is also an opportunity for Israel to further deepen business ties with the economically growing African states in fields in which it possesses expertise.

Israel hopes as well to gain more diplomatic support from African nations at the various UN bodies, where it faces harsh criticism over its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli-Arab conflict drove a wedge between African countries and the Jewish state in the 1960s.

Pressure from North African nations, accentuated by the 1967 and 1973 wars between Israel and its neighbors, led African states to drop their relations with the Jewish state.

Netanyahu’s brother Yonatan was killed in a July 1976 commando raid in Entebbe, Uganda, to free passengers aboard an Air France plane hijacked by Palestinians.

By the time the commandos arrived, non-Israeli and non-Jewish passengers had been released by the hijackers, leaving about 100 hostages.

The hostages were freed in the raid but 20 Ugandan soldiers and seven hijackers were killed, along with several Ugandan citizens.

The lone casualty among the Israeli assault team was Netanyahu’s brother, who headed the operation.

Changes in diplomatic relations with parts of Africa began in the following decade, according to Aryeh Oded, who for years was an Israeli diplomat in African capitals and is now a researcher at the Hebrew University’s Truman Institute.

“Since 1982, the Africans realized they had made a mistake in cutting the ties,” he said. Israel, however, still feeling the sting of the snub, “didn’t have the desire to renew ties.”

But in recent years, Israel’s lack of progress in reaching peace with the Palestinians forced it to renew its African interests.

“Under Avigdor Liberman, Israel renewed its interest in Africa, because there were difficulties with Europe and other places,” Oded said of the ultra-nationalist who as Netanyahu’s foreign minister between 2009-2015 visited Africa a number of times.

At a recent conference on Africa-Israel ties, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general for Africa, Yoram Elron, noted Israel’s need for support from African nations in international forums.

“Today relations with the African continent are high on our foreign policy agenda,” he told dozens of African dignitaries and diplomats.

Indeed in recent weeks Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ghana’s foreign minister and a delegation of African Muslim religious leaders visited Israel.

And Israeli Foreign Ministry director general and Netanyahu confidante Dore Gold recently paid a visit to his counterpart in South Africa.

While Israel’s trade with Africa constitutes only two percent of its foreign trade, the potential for growth exists.

“Africa, which has today one of the highest growth rates in the world, presents many business opportunities in areas Israel has extensive expertise, such as agriculture, telecommunications, alternative energy and infrastructure,” Elron said.

He also noted Israel’s intelligence and military expertise were valuable for African states dealing with groups such as Boko Haram, Al-Shebab and Al-Qaeda.

But even with the warming ties, Israel is still dismayed to see African states not vote in its favor in international forums.

“What I’d like to see is the closeness of our relationship reflected also in the voting pattern of the African Union,” Netanyahu said at the parliament session.

Teaching Palestinians to Hate – Ariel Bolstein (Israel Hayom)

The world is quick to blame Israel for all the problems in the region, whereas the Palestinians are commonly met with forgiveness and understanding. It is therefore encouraging to learn that the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin, a German think tank, is focusing a spotlight on the Palestinian Authority educational system. Recently published research that deals with PA textbooks reveals messages of burning hatred, with condescending and degrading language about Jews.

No place where Jews live is described as a city, village or community. These places are only depicted as Arab villages and towns. Both Tel Aviv and kibbutzim are universally referred to as “settlements.” The word “Israel” is replaced with terms like “the occupation regime,” or “the Zionist terrorist organization.” Israel simply does not appear on maps in the PA’s geography textbooks.

In no Palestinian textbook will one find any call for peace, tolerance or mutual understanding, while calls to fight and carry out violent attacks against Israelis appear frequently. Those who perpetrate such attacks are glorified and praised profusely.

These textbooks promote and entrench hatred against Jews and Israelis, and contribute to legitimizing violence as a means to resolving the diplomatic conflict. Anyone who dreams of peace in the Middle East must first root out this incitement from the education system.

Since PA schools are largely funded by European donations, responsibility for teaching this hate and its consequences falls on European leaders.

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