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Latest News in Israel – 9th December

Greetings from Jerusalem.

Knesset lights Hanukka candles with victims of terrorism

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and MKs from every party gathered to light Hanukka candles at the Knesset on Monday night.

Children recovering from wounds inflicted by Palestinian terrorists and children who lost their parents in attacks, who receive support from NGO One Family, as well as children with cancer, helped by organization Zichron Menachem, were in attendance.

There were also Border Police officers, whom the Knesset honored for their work protecting the population from terrorism.

Among those called up to light candles was Tzvia Lavie, who will celebrate her bat mitzva on Tuesday.

Tzvia’s father, Nehemia, was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in October while trying to save Adele Bennett, who was stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City and whose husband Aharon was killed by the same terrorist.

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Edelstein spoke after the candles were lit and the children’s choir Kids.il accompanied the audience in singing “Hanerot Halalu” and “Maoz Tsur.”

“For the first time since the days of the Hasmoneans, we renewed here, in this land, our sovereignty, and that does not allow our enemies to rest,” Edelstein stated. “The children here with us today, who are recovering from their wounds, show us more than anyone else how we cling to life and our routine, despite the difficulties and the pain.”

“These are days in which we must, more than ever, look for light and raise it,” he added.

The Knesset Speaker wished the attendees “light and warmth in their hearts.”

Chantal Belzberg, CEO of One Family, said, “These children have experienced the worst. The trauma stays with them their whole lives. It is important that we all brighten their holidays and help them throughout their lives. I thank the Knesset speaker for inviting the children of the organization to bring light to the nation of Israel.   (The Jerusalem Post)

PA leaders meet to seek mechanisms that ‘define’ relations with Israel

For the second time in less than 24 hours, a key decision-making Palestinian body met in Ramallah to discuss putting in place mechanisms to “define” the Palestinian Authority’s relations with Israel.

The discussions come amid increased demands from Palestinians to suspend relations in wake of Israel’s “refusal to abide by signed agreements” with the Palestinians.

On Saturday, the PLO Executive Committee during a meeting chaired by PA President Mahmoud Abbas entrusted a special committee to discuss the issue.

The Fatah Central Committee also met in Ramallah on Sunday to discuss “defining security, economic and political relations” between the PA and Israel. This meeting was also chaired by Abbas.

Both the PLO and Fatah accused Israel of turning its back on signed agreements with the Palestinians and “stepping up its dangerous assaults” on the Palestinians.

They also accused Israel of carrying out “summary executions, ethnic cleansing, desecrating Islamic holy sites and house demolitions.”

A statement released by the Fatah leaders following their meeting said Israel’s measures were tantamount to “war crimes” and accused Israel of destroying the two-state solution and working toward creating a one-state solution with an “apartheid” system.

The Fatah committee hailed the Palestinians killed in the recent wave of violence as “martyrs and heroes.”

In a related development, the PA Foreign Affairs Ministry strongly condemned “continued invasions” by Jewish groups to al-Aqsa Mosque and said that these “invasions” were aimed at dividing the Temple Mount in time and space between Muslims and Jews.

It warned that the Israeli government was seeking to turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a political one to a religious one.            (The Jerusalem Post)

UN approves Israeli resolution despite Arab opposition

The UN on Friday adopted an Israeli resolution on utilizing agricultural technology for sustainable development, with 124 votes in favor and 37 abstentions.

The adoption of the resolution marks a diplomatic achievement for Israel,especially considering the Arab group’s automatic opposition to any Israeli resolution.

The resolution was adopted after complex diplomatic efforts that took place over several months. Even though the resolution can make a difference in many countries, especially in the Middle East, the Arab group still attempted to prevent passage of the resolution simply because it was submitted by Israel.

“It is quite ironic that the group of nations blocking a consensus on this resolution is the same group who would benefit from it most– the Arab group.  The need for agricultural technology in the Middle East is undeniable. Yet, as we are all painfully aware, these governments continuously put politics before people and pride before progress,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, who also declared, “The Israeli innovation beat the UN’s hypocrisy.”

Today, 75 percent of the world’s population is poor and relies on agriculture for a living. The Israeli resolution promotes making agricultural technology more accessible in areas stricken by poverty, drought and hunger.

“Today’s resolution is not only about agricultural technology. It is about improving the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the developing world,” said Ambassador Danon.

Just last week, the United Nations General Assembly adopted six resolutions, all of which condemned Israel and none of which condemned the wave of Palestinian Arab terror attacks.

In late October, Israel was accepted as a member of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, again defeating Arab pressure not to allow Israel on the committee.             (Arutz Sheva)

Netanyahu appoints Yossi Cohen as new Mossad chief

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named Yossi Cohen, currently the head of the National Security Council, as the 12th head of the Mossad on Monday night.

Cohen will take over from outgoing Mossad head Tamir Pardo, who will be leaving his post in January after five years.

The announcement put an end to weeks of speculation over who will be named to one of the most important security positions in the country.

Cohen has served as National Security Council head since August 2013, replacing Yaakov Amidror. During that time he served as a trusted interlocutor between Netanyahu and many governments around the world, including Washington, where he is widely respected by key administration officials.

In marked contrast to the situation that existed up until the 1990s, when the name of the Mossad chief was kept a secret, Netanyahu made the announcement at a hastily called press opportunity in his office. The fact that the announcement was delayed for nearly an hour added to a sense of high drama.

The premier prefaced the announcement of the appointment by delineating three primary tasks for the Mossad: operational tasks to thwart threats to the country, intelligence gathering, and paving the way for contact with countries in the Arab and Islamic world with whom Israel does not have diplomatic relations.

The head of the Mossad, Netanyahu said, “must have the ability to lead the organization with daring, wisdom and professionalism.”

Noting that Cohen had a long career in the Mossad and has also been the head of the NSC for the last two years, Netanyahu said that he has “much experience and many achievements, and proven ability in a wide range of Mossad activities. He has leadership abilities and professional understanding, which are necessary for the person to lead the organization.”

Prior to heading up the NSC, Cohen was a 30-year veteran of the Mossad who rose through the ranks there and held a wide variety of positions, including as director of the department responsible for running Mossad agents around the world.

While serving in the Mossad, he received the prestigious Israel Security Prize, given to Israelis recognized for achievements in improving state security and maintaining its power and qualitative advantage on the battlefield, both technologically and operationally.

Netanyahu said that in addition to Cohen there were two other candidates for the job, former Mossad deputy Rami Ben-Barak, who was a deputy to Pardo’s predecessor Meir Dagan, before being named direct general of the Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Ministry in 2014 by then minister Yuval Steinitz.

He served in the Sayeret Matkal unit, and then in the Mossad’s Keshet Division, responsible for electronic intelligence and wiretaps, and as head of its Operations Division.

The other leading candidate is the current deputy chief of the Mossad, known only by the initial of his first name, “N.”

Of the previous 11 Mossad heads, six hailed from the intelligence community, and five came from the military.

Cohen’s appointment means that Netanyahu now will have to name a new head of the National Security Council.                               (The Jerusalem Post)

67% of Israelis fear being hurt in wave of terror

The number of Israelis who fear they or someone important to them will be attacked in the current wave of terrorism went up 10 percentage points in the last month, the Israeli Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University’s Peace Index poll, released Tuesday, indicated.

The poll found that 67 percent of Israelis feared being hurt in a terrorist attack, as opposed to 57% last month.

The amount of Israeli Arabs who feared for their own or their loved ones’ safety declined in the last month from 78% to 68%.

Most Israelis (61%) believe the current wave of terrorism was planned and guided by Palestinian leadership, while only 21% believe it was spontaneous.

Members of left-wing parties were more likely to believe the violence broke out spontaneously – Meretz 41%, Zionist Union 37% – than other parties.

Most Israeli Arabs (59%) viewed the wave of terrorism as a popular effort, not organized by Palestinian leaders.

Over half of Jewish respondents (54%) agreed with security officials’ label of the wave of terror as a “limited uprising,” not an Intifada, while 42.9% disagree. Among Israeli Arabs, 46% agree and 40% do not.

There is broad agreement among Jewish Israelis (71%) that signing a peace treaty with the Palestinians would not bring an end to Palestinian terrorism against Jews; 41.8% said they were certain it would not, while 29.3% said they think it would not.

Israeli Arabs believed the opposite, with 72% saying a peace agreement would end terrorism.

The Peace Index also asked Israelis about the Islamic State.

Less than half (45%) of Jewish Israelis said they thought the likelihood of destroying IS was high, and even if that happened, it would not eradicate Islam, according to 58% of Jewish Israelis.

Conversely, most Israeli Arabs (61%) thought the West is highly likely to defeat IS and 55% thought such a defeat would be a fatal blow to radical Islam.

Most Jewish Israelis (59%) thought that most Muslims do not support IS and only one percent fewer thought most Israeli Arabs do not support the group. The vast majority of Israeli Arabs (87%) said most Muslims do not support IS, and even more (89%) said the same of Israeli Arabs.

Only 10% of Israelis said they are sure most Israeli Arabs do support IS, though most voters for United Torah Judaism, Shas and Yisrael Beytenu (64%, 56.5% and 55% respectively) agreed with the assertion.

Another topic in December’s Peace Index was the public image of MKs.

Less than 1% (.9%) of Jewish Israelis think Knesset members set a good example to the public through their behavior. Over three-quarters of Jewish Israelis (77%) and most (62.5%) Israeli Arabs think the personal quality of MKs has declined in recent years.

Only 28.6% of respondents said MKs work hard and do their jobs well, though the rate of pride in MKs from the party from which a respondent voted is 54.4%. Voters for three parties are more likely to not be proud of their MKs’ work: Yisrael Beytenu (62%), Likud  (52%) and Kulanu (51%).

The poll was conducted by telephone from November 30-December 1 by the Midgam Research Institute, with 600 respondents constituting a representative national sample of the Israeli adult population. The margin of error is 4.1% at a confidence level of 95%.              (The Jerusalem Post)

Government approves 50% pay raise for soldiers

The government approved a proposal by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to give enlisted military members a 50 percent pay raise on Sunday. The vote on the proposal was unanimous.

Combatants, who currently receive a salary of NIS 1,077 a month, will be making NIS 1,615. Combat support soldiers, who currently make NIS 784, will make NIS 1,176. And non-combatants, whose salaries are currently NIS 540, will see them increase to NIS 810.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister Kahlon have said that the raise will be given starting December, and that more raises are to come.

Netanyahu said that, “On the eve of Hanukkah, there is no more proper moment to bring about the initiative to raise enlisted soldiers’ pay, It’s a sensible, right, and correct thing. There is no better gift to give on the eve of the Hannukah holiday.”

Finance Minister Kahlon added, “This is a correction of a many years-long wrong, and I’m glad it happened on out watch and we managed to correct this wrong. It’s important to us to give parents a message: Just as the commanders safeguard the soldiers, we as the government take care of their needs. It’s still not enough, but we’re going in the right direction.”  (Ynet News)

IDF launches digital revolution to replace maps

The IDF is developing a digital battle command system that could replace the usage of physical maps, documents, and stickers traditionally used by the army to issue commanders with combat instructions, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Maj. Moshe Castro, head of the Mission-Oriented Technological Branch at the IDF Training Campus in the Negev, told the Post on Monday that the new system can be used for both training and real-life missions.

Castro’s branch was set up last year to develop new techniques to enhance soldiers’ learning processes.

Maj. Castro and six IDF programmers, graphic designers, and engineers recently took part in a 30-hour “hackathon” conference, held by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where they unveiled the system.

“We demonstrated the prototype, and it worked,” he said.

The new system, dubbed Noked (a Hebrew acronym for Digital Battle Procedure), “creates, on a screen, a 3-D digital table to serve various roles responsible for other forces, whether they are ammunition, infantry, or medical officers. Once the officers receive their battle commands, they can efficiently upload a map, and then place transparent layers on top of the map to show the latest positions of the forces,” Castro explained.

IDF officers’ courses have begun falling behind in their training techniques, using printed maps, folders, and stickers to give out mock battle orders, while the army has become reliant on the Digital Ground Army command and control system, which features a digitalized map showing friendly and hostile forces.

“When I did my officers’ course, we used the same maps and documents that are used in today’s courses. But operationally, things have changed,” Castro said.

Battle commands are a set of instructions for commanders, informing them where to geographically deploy their forces ahead of a mission. The commander must ensure that his or her units are in the right place, matching them, like chess pieces, on a board. But the old folders once used to issue such orders are falling behind the times, prompting Castro’s team to work on a digitalized version.

“Not only will users receive a clear situation picture, but they can see where each component of the force is located, and launch an interactive dialogue, enabling rapid changes,” Castro said. “The picture comes alive. You can move layers around, and zoom in on the map. The real challenge was making it dynamic.”

For example, if a unit deployed to one area finds that it is too high up when it was supposed to get to a mountainside, the task of changing positions now becomes relatively simple.

With Noked, Castro said, the unit can communicate its problem instantly, and commanders can pull up a topographical layer on their digital map, making it three dimensional, before using the system to move the unit to a better location.

Noked enables dialogue and investigations of deployments afterward, offering features that are not currently available in army command and control systems.

Soldiers without access to tablet computers could receive maps that are specially printed out on mobile printers, using synthetic waterproof material.

“Some forces, including intelligence units, have already started to use this material, which can be folded into a pocket,” Castro added.

“Like any company, the army is looking at start-ups, but also has to convince management [to get behind the project]. Today, I am presenting this platform as part of the proposed multi-year training plan, from 2016 to 2020, to the head of the IDF’s Technology and Logistics Branch [Maj.-Gen. Kobi Barak]. I believe in this idea, and I believe it will spread around the military,” he said              (The Jerusalem Post)

Toy Story, Intifada Style: 4,000 anti-Israel dolls seized at customs

Customs workers in Haifa thwarted an attempt to smuggle 4,000 anti-Israel stuffed dolls to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank Tuesday.

The dolls, which were dressed in the Palestinian colors of red, green, black, and white, and in face-covering keffiyehs which had the slogans “Jerusalem is ours,” and “Jerusalem, here we come” inscribed on them, were found in a container which was labeled by the importer as having had contained articles of clothing, rugs, and plastic products.

The dolls, which originated in the United Arab Emirates and were en route to the Palestinian Authority, were meant to be used as tools of incitement for Palestinian youth.

With rocks in their hands, the dolls encouraged the long-time phenomenon of assailing Jews with rock-throwing.

The container’s contents were spotted by workers at Haifa customs and held-back from dispatch in order to undergo further investigation.

“These dolls were making their way to the Palestinian Authority with one clear purpose,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Tuesday. “And that was to poison the minds of innocent children.”

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“The Palestinians are continuing to incite their youth, using any means necessary to educate them about violence and hatred. Here, it’s in the form of a doll,” she said.

The Likud deputy minister called on the the international community to understand that “we cannot conduct an open dialogue with our neighbors until a drastic change is made in the Palestinian education system, which, as of now, only plants the seeds of fear and hate in its youth.”                               (Jerusalem Post)

PLO: Jewish plans to add installations at Western Wall a ‘flagrant assault’

The PLO announced on Saturday its opposition to Israeli plans to build Jewish “installations” at the Western Wall plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Referring to the Western Wall by its Arabic name, Ha’it al-Buraq, the PLO Executive Committee warned that building Jewish “installations” at the plaza would constitute a “flagrant assault” on Islamic religious sites and its “status among Palestinians and Arab and Muslim peoples.”

The PLO ’s announcement, which came following a meeting in Ramallah chaired by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was made in response to a plan to build a center called Beit Haliba (House of Core Values) in the plaza.

The center, which has been promoted by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and Western Wall administrator Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, will include offices, a museum and an educational center. The plan was recently approved by the Jerusalem Municipality.

The PLO warned that the approval of the plan to build the center would have “dangerous repercussions and undermine prospects of moving forward with any political settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The PLO called on the Israeli government to “take the hand of the [Jerusalem] occupation municipality off the Aksa Mosque and its premises.”

The PLO meeting was held to discuss ways of implementing previous decisions by various Palestinian bodies to revise the PA ’s security, economic and political relations with Israel. The PLO leaders entrusted a political committee with putting in place mechanisms to “define” the Palestinians’ relations with Israel.

They also repeated their charges that Israel is carrying out “summary executions” and imposing collective punishment against Palestinians.

The PLO leaders also condemned house demolitions and arrests of Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and accused Israel of destroying the two-state solution and “consolidating the status quo by creating a detestable apartheid system.”

The PLO called for dispatching a commission of inquiry to the Palestinian territories to investigate Israeli “war crimes” against Palestinians.

“Combating and defeating all forms of terrorism, regionally and internationally, requires ending Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders,” the PLO said in a statement.

“The continuation of the occupation feeds all forms of extremism and violence in the region and the world.”              (The Jerusalem Post)

Half of Israel’s homeless are Soviet immigrants, finds study

Israel’s homeless population has reached 2,300 people, almost half of whom were born in the former Soviet Union, a Welfare Ministry study released on Monday showed.

The study, the largest of its kind in 15 years, found that about a third of Israel’s homeless were in Tel Aviv, while Haifa had nine percent, Jerusalem 8% and Ashdod about 5%.

Of the 268 homeless people interviewed, the most common reason given as to why they were homeless (24%) was substance addiction to drugs or alcohol. Another 17% cited economic problems or lack of money, while 10% said their situation was the result of illness.

The survey found that just 17% had neither addictions nor mental/physical illnesses.

Some 39% said they were addicts, 21% were mentally ill, and 23% had a physical ailment.

While almost half the homeless population, or 48%, are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, about a third (32%) were Israel-born Jews, and 6% were Israeli Arabs, a figure relatively low relative to the proportion of Arabs in the general population. Some 3% were Ethiopian-born Israelis, somewhat higher than their prevalence in the population.

Welfare Minister Haim Katz said that as temperatures drop the ministry has been making efforts to distribute blankets, hot drinks and food, as well as absorb the needy into emergency facilities. But the rise in homelessness in Israel necessitated a different approach, he said.

“I believe that we must examine the development of a long-term solution for the homeless, and I have instructed the professional bodies to submit proposals on the topic,” Katz said.                     (The Jerusalem Post)

Merkel’s government announces support for EU labeling of settlement products

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she supports labeling of Israeli settlement products from the disputed territories of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Golan Heights.

The spokesman said that Merkel supports a German Foreign Ministry statement from Friday backing a European Union decision of last month to affix such a label to such items appearing on store shelves.

The decision “does not deal with a stigmatized warning decal, as many have presented… What Brussels wants is, however, only a clear designation of the origin of the products,” the spokesman said.

The remarks were a significant setback for the Israeli government, which had sought Germany’s help in convincing EU member states to reject implementation of labeling. It also contrasted with the spirit of close ties as the countries were winding up a year of events marking 50 years of diplomatic ties.

Merkel has repeatedly stressed her opposition in interviews and statements over the last year to boycotts of Israel, but has declined to offer a specific view on the labeling measure.

The Merkel administration has said “there will not be an Israel boycott in Germany” and “Israeli products will, of course, continue to receive preferential market access.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told German President Joachim Gauck when they met in Jerusalem on Sunday of Israel’s opposition to last month’s EU decision about labeling, a decision Germany now appeared to be adopting.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein criticized the German Foreign Ministry’s support for the labeling policy when he met with Bundesrat President Stanislaw Tillich in the Knesset on Monday.

Edelstein said it is unfortunate Germany’s Foreign Ministry is backing the policy.

Tillich responded that he also wondered at the wisdom of the decision.

Edelstein, referring to a Berlin visit last week, which included a meeting with Merkel, said German counterparts seemed surprised by the Israelis “not-always- diplomatic” attitude on the subject of labeling.

“It’s a very sensitive topic for us, boycotting products because of their source,” Edelstein said he had told them.

“I told my German colleagues: If we decide to follow the [logic of the] decision and get rid of the Golan Heights, to who in Syria would we give it? None of the German leaders knew what advice to give me on the matter,” Edelstein said.

Edelstein was happy though that his German counterpart, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert had called the EU directive unwise.

The MKs who accompanied Edelstein to Germany last week voiced anger at the latest decision.

MK Tali Ploskov (Kulanu) said the move “serves anti-Semitic interests. Don’t tell us stories. Product labeling is meant to allow boycotts of Israel. It’s unfortunate that these people do not understand that harming factories in Judea and Samaria will bring serious harm to the Palestinian population, since most of the workers in these factories are Palestinians who support thousands of families.”

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) said that labeling is not an effective way to bring about negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said: “As we said on the visit to Germany, whoever starts labeling products will end up labeling people. The discriminatory and audacious decision must disappear.”

Shai was among the initiators of a discussion in the Knesset Economics Committee about labeling on Monday, along with MKs Anat Berko (Likud), Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), who is in favor of the EU policy.

Lavie criticized the government’s responses to attempts to boycott Israel.

“There are too many ministries that are supposed to take care of the matter. The country is confused and the topic isn’t taken care of when we don’t have a Foreign Minister or an Economy Minister,” Lavie said.

Foreign Ministry Department for European Organizations manager Avivit Bar-Ilan said the ministry had a part in convincing the EU to delay the decision since 2012.

Asher Friedman, the coordinator for fighting BDS in the Strategic Affairs Ministry, said their office had just received a new director- general and a NIS 100m. budget to deal with the issue.

“Sometimes it’s hard to handle the hypocrisy towards Israel,” MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union) said.

MK David Bitan (Likud) warned that soon all Israeli products will be labeled, and urged the government to address the issue diplomatically, with individual European countries.

MK Michal Rosin (Meretz), however, said that other lawmakers’ unwillingness to separate settlements from the rest of Israel and “the continued occupation harms the Zionist interest and the continued existence of Israel as a home for the Jewish people.”

Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas told Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Monday he is “skeptical about the decision to label products of the settlements” by the EU.

Shaked called the EU decision hypocritical.

She also complained to Maas that, “the EU has not decided on this step of labeling products in any other place. We expected that Germany would stand by Israel’s side.”

Shaked added that “only last week, we experienced the effect of labeling products when the KaDeWe supermarket decided to remove settlement products from its shelves. We see that the step of labeling products leads to a boycott.”

Not pulling any punches, Shaked also accused Germany of providing funds to help certain groups seeking to prosecute Israelis at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for alleged war crimes related to the 2014 Gaza war and for settlement building.

“There is a need to stop this funding,” Shaked said.

Shaked also urged Germany and the West to avoid too close an alignment with Iran, while dealing with the crisis in Syria.

“I expect that the Western countries will not change what is left of Syria into an Iranian agent. Israel views Iran’s involvement in Syria gravely,” she said.

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, called labeling a first step toward boycotting Israel.

“Powerful ‘humanitarian’ groups are preparing to target not only Israeli banks with branches over the Green Line, but any bank that provides a mortgage for a home in east Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Golan Heights,” Steinberg said. “This attack is already in the pipeline.”

Merkel’s foreign policy spokesman in the Bundestag, Jurgen Hardt, had spoken against the EU measure last month, charging that it stigmatized Israel.

“In view of the background of a movement hostile to Israel, which seeks to boycott products from the settlements, the EU measure is false, ” Hardt had said.

Lammert a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, said last week that “Germany not only didn’t agree to the [EU] decision, it rejected it.”

A spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy in Berlin said she could not immediately respond about Merkel’s position.

Netanyahu had denounced the EU directive of last month as “hypocritical and (setting) a double standard.”

Israel’s National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz called the measure “anti-Semitism in disguise.”                     (The Jerusalem Post)

Fleeing recession and violence, Brazilian Jews moving to Israel in record numbers

For four years, llana Lerner Kalmanovich rode a hot and crowded bus three hours each day to reach the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where she was pursuing degrees in physical education and nutrition.

Police raids into nearby slums, or favelas, often blocked the freeway, and stray bullets from gun battles with criminals were a constant threat. Even on the Federal University campus, the oldest and among the most prestigious in Brazil, Kalmanovich felt unsafe. Robberies were commonplace and, every now then, corpses were found in the nearby woods.

So in 2007, Kalmanovich moved to Israel. She had spent a whole year there a decade earlier on a youth movement program and fallen in love with the country. And though she holds German citizenship and could have built a new life for herself in Europe, there was never any doubt she would make her home in the Jewish state.

“Israel is the place where I feel at home, happy, among my people,” Kalmanovich told JTA. “We say ‘Shabbat shalom’ to the bus driver, to the garbage man, to the sales clerk. Everyone shares mostly the same social and economic level. We all celebrate the same national holidays. It’s like living in a huge kibbutz of 8 million people. Here I am the rule, not the exception.”

Kalmanovich is not alone. Immigration to Israel, or aliyah, from Brazil has more than doubled in the past four years, from 191 in 2011 to over 400 so far this year. The average growth in aliyah for all of Latin America in the same period was just 7 percent. Though it has approximately half the Jewish population of neighboring Argentina, Brazil has sent more immigrants to Israel for two years running. An estimated 120,000 Jews live in Brazil.

“They seek a better future,” said Gladis Berezowsky, 58, who helps run Beit Brasil, a nongovernmental organization based in Israel established in 2014 to assist Brazilians seeking to move to Israel.

Brazil, a nation of 200 million, is facing its steepest recession in a quarter century, with the economy expected to shrink by almost 2 percent this year – down from more than 7 percent GDP growth in 2010. The Brazilian real has shrunk 138 percent compared to the American dollar in the past five years and the inflation rate has edged up to 10 percent.

The country is also one of the bloodiest on earth, with more than 58,000 Brazilians dying a violent death in 2014.

“More people are killed every year in Brazil through intentional violence than anywhere else on the planet, including most of the world’s war zones combined,” said Robert Muggah, a research director of a Rio-based think tank that studies the intersection between violence and the drug trade.

“The absurd violence in Rio was postponing our plans to have children,” said Silvia Brafman, 33, who moved from Brazil’s second-largest city to Haifa in late October with her husband. “The high unemployment rate and lack of opportunities were the second reason to head for Israel. The current stabbing wave here does not scare us at all. What really frightens me most is the language, which can delay my entering the job market.”

Fabio Erlich, 33, hasn’t had that problem. Erlich, who moved last year with his wife and three daughters to the central Israeli city of Modiin, secured jobs at two Jerusalem yeshivas before he arrived with help from Brazilian friends who were already established in the country.

“We wanted to give our children a better quality of life in the educational, social and religious fields,” Erlich said. “Israel allows you to be a Jew with no limitations, not only in the outside but mainly deep within. Finding a job in Israel made our big Zionist dream come true.”

Brazilian Jews have traditionally boasted a comfortable upper-middle-class life, but things are changing. Several Jewish day schools have merged or are in the process in order to survive, while administrators at some of them say the number of scholarship applications has never been higher.

“We have seen a 100 percent rise in requests recently,” said Yehoshua Goldman, the chief Rio representative of Chabad, which runs Lar da Esperanca (Home of Hope), an organization for Jews in financial need.

Despite the economic slowdown, real estate prices have nearly tripled in some parts of Rio in the past five years. Carlos Cohen, 36, a skilled IT specialist, could not afford the exorbitant rents, so he found an apartment in a favela near his office. When his daughter was born, Cohen realized he needed to get out.

“The high-tech market here is very vibrant,” said Cohen, who moved to the coastal city of Netanya with his family in 2012. “You only remain jobless if you want. We are proud to call this place ours, where we can truly put our citizenship in practice. Urban violence here is nearly zero, the safety feeling is absolute. We now can finally raise our family in a better place.”

For Martin and Michele Teitelbaum, being robbed in broad daylight in Higienopolis, an upscale and heavily Jewish neighborhood of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, was the last straw. In 2010, they took their three children – ages 2, 5 and 7 – and headed for Raanana, a city in central Israel with a large population of immigrants from Europe and the Americas.

“In Brazil, I was merely one more trying to survive,” Martin said.

“Life was sort of superfluous there, with many inverted values,” Michele added. “Here in Israel we value what must be valued.”

Psychologist Rita Cohen Wolf is a neighbor of the Teitelbaums in Raanana, where she settled in 1977 after she had been robbed eight times in Brazil. The last time, she had a gun pointed at her head.

In 2014, Wolf posted an open letter to President Dilma Rousseff on Facebook in which she criticized the violence in Brazil. She was astonished to see it republished in the Brazilian press.

“In Brazil, violence is felt every day,” Wolf told JTA. “In Israel, we don’t feel threatened with imminent violence. The feeling of security with our police and army plus unity of the population reinforces the generalized feeling that we are not alone.”                    (JTA)

Left’s new misogynist front against Israel

by Nick Cater                   The Australian

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/nick-cater/lefts-new-misogynist-front-against-israel/news-story/7ce0ffa8196934dc86f2e0e0d1a60cda

The National Women’s Studies Association has become the latest bunch of turkeys to vote for Christmas, rising to the defence of the misogynist, homophobic, theocratic thugs waging holy war in Gaza.

The NWSA last week joined other US academic associations in venting its disgust towards ­Israel by joining the boycott, ­divestment and sanctions movement.

Feminists for Justice in Palestine and the women-hating Hamas regime in Gaza are unlikely allies. Gender equality has been guaranteed in Israel since its creation in 1948. In Gaza, discrimination is part of everyday life.

What, one wonders, did the feminist academics think about the ban on female entrants in the Gaza marathon two years ago? “We don’t want any women running uncovered,” said Gaza’s cabinet secretary Abdul-Salam Siam.

Marriage equality may be another bone of contention. Marriage equality for widows, that is, who are legally obliged to live single, stigmatised lives. Same-sex marriage? Don’t even think about it. Gay people, says senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, represent “a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick”.

Nevertheless, the Palestinian Queers for BDS insist that they turn a blind eye. “Our main struggle is one against Israel’s colonisation, occupation and apartheid,” they say on their website. Queer is putting it mildly.

Seldom have the warped priorities of the Left been so apparent as in its framing of Middle Eastern geopolitics generally and theocratic Islam in particular. ­Islamic State’s sadistic rule in Syria and Iraq and indiscriminate acts of terrorism abroad are trivialised or denied while the BDS brigade takes up the cudgels against Max Brenner chocolate shops and Israeli-designed Soda Stream devices.

Catholic bishops in Tasmania are accused of homophobia for stating their honest views on gay marriage, yet homosexuals are ritually slaughtered by Islamic State without a murmur of complaint. Never let it be said Islam has a problem with gays, insist the intellectual thought police. To do so would “render invisible the role that fundamentalist Christians, the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jews play in perpetuating fear and even hatred”, writes Sarah Schulman in The New York Times. Israel’s claim to be a gay-friendly nation is mere “pinkwashing”, Shulman insists, part of a “messaging tool” to win over the global gay community.

It is worth dwelling on Schulman’s contorted argument to understand the modern Left’s thinking. It is against all forms of homophobia unless the homophobes are Islamic, when it would be Islamophobic to point it out. ­Israel, we are told, has introduced liberal, gay-friendly laws, including same-sex marriage, purely as a marketing exercise.

Buy that if you will, but conspiracy theories about Israel and a corresponding disregard for the Islamic threat are no longer confined to the fruitcake Left. Former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr claimed recently that parliamentarians “are being seduced and bribed … with paid overseas trips to Israel”.

When he appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 last year, Carr was not content merely to disagree with the pro-Israel views of his former leader Julia Gillard. He went further to claim that “extremely conservative instincts of the pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne (were) exercised through the then-prime minister’s office”.

There is a simpler explanation for Gillard’s approach to Israel. She simply may have been abiding by a bipartisan foreign policy position that insists on Israel’s right to exist. Yet Carr falls back on an account that bears the hallmarks of a classic conspiracy theory. He blames sinister individuals driven by dark forces who possess the power to ­manipulate the people who run the country. His mission, he told the ABC last year, is to “shine light on areas of government that are otherwise in darkness”. It is hardly surprising Carr must resort to voodoo logic. No argument that sees Israel as the problem and Hamas as the solution could be anything other than tortuous.

The intellectual Left is loath to write off its investment in post­colonial theory. It wants to tell us that it is our fault; that the West is paying the price for its imperial follies; that Islamism is the oppressed fighting back and that if Israel would only end the occupation, normal life will resume.

The rise of tyrannical Islamism has destroyed the last threads of this improbable narrative. Keeping it alive requires denying the evidence of one’s own eyes. Hence the Left’s disinterest towards human rights atrocities in the Middle East anywhere other than the state of Israel; the elevation of domestic gay marriage above concern for jihad against homosexuals; and the determination to seek out convoluted explanations for terrorist attacks.

More than 24 hours after Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik’s shooting spree in San Bernardino, California, the ABC’s Stephanie March insisted “it’s still unclear exactly why they went on this rampage”. Perhaps it was merely a “workplace incident”, as Barack Obama had suggested.

“All we know is that they were a seemingly normal, seemingly happy couple living in America with their young daughter,” March told listeners. Just an ordinary couple in an ordinary SUV loaded with handguns, rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and military clothing. They lived in an ordinary home stashed with thousands more rounds of ammunition and pipe bombs.

“Neighbours say they appeared to be a happy, normal couple,” March reported. “Devout Muslims but in no way fanatical or suspicious.”

It was so ordinary, in fact, that ABC’s PM that evening chose not to cover the story.

Perhaps the Left will wake up one morning and realise it has missed the big story for the past 15 years: that radical Islam poses a real and present threat; and those hurt or killed in Paris, San Bernardino and Sydney’s Lindt Cafe were not the victims of random acts of violence.

In the meantime, the Left clutches at straws and stretches the presumption of innocence to breaking point.

Anything but confront the cold, ugly truth.

Nick Cater is executive director of the Menzies Research Centre.

Jerusalem residents remain rattled, yet resolute, in face of protracted terror wave

by  Daniel Eisenbud     The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Jerusalem-residents-remain-rattled-yet-resolute-in-face-of-protracted-terror-wave-436606

Over two months since a terror wave metastasized throughout the capital, necessitating security measures not seen since the second intifada, Jerusalem residents on Monday expressed trepidation, coupled with steely resolve.

Sitting a few meters from the iconic Zion Square, where an industrial crane prepared for the candle lighting ceremony of an enormous menorah on the second night of Hanukka, Barak Kahana, a 25-year-old student, said he felt no safer now than in October.

“Actually, I don’t feel much safer than when this began a few months ago because you don’t know when someone is going to pull a knife; you don’t know what’s going to happen on any given day,” said Kahana.

“It’s happened here on this street at least five times,” he continued, pointing toward Jaffa Road. “So I have to watch my back and try not to take public transportation, like the bus or train, and hope it doesn’t happen to me.”

Consequently, Kahana said he is steering clear of the Old City, which he used to routinely visit, as well as other flashpoint areas in the capital.

“I try to stay downtown, or just at my place,” he said.  “I don’t go out unless necessary.”

Asked if he recalled a time when he felt as vulnerable to violence, Kahana said the ongoing terror threat is even more nerve-wracking than the second intifada was.

“It was different then, because it was bombs,” he said. “Now it’s different – you don’t know if a person will take his knife from the kitchen and go out. Personally, I do not feel confident because we don’t have control over this. In the intifada it was more dangerous, but there was more control.”

Allen Rosenwasser, a filmmaker who made aliya from Brooklyn 30 years ago, said the protracted nature of the violence precluded any meaningful sense of security.

“It would be ridiculous to feel safer,” he said. “The longer it goes on, the less safe you feel. Why would you feel more safe?”

With respect to improving security, Rosenwasser said such an undertaking is “virtually impossible.”

“Anyone can [carry out an attack] at anytime, anywhere,” he said, adding that the only solution is political.

“If there’s a solution that’s viable, it would have to be taking away peoples reason for wanting to be that violent, in a dramatic way,” he said.

“As long as people feel that they are being stepped on and don’t have rights, and their future holds nothing in store for them, they are capable of anything, just as we are.”

Moreover, until the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority make meaningful concessions, Rosenwasser contended that the country will remain in a “no-win situation.”

“As long as all the talk seems to be about ‘when a peace process will start,’ or ‘if a peace process will start,’ or ‘is there a partner” – until all those things stop being said – it’s just going to continue, and maybe get worse.”

Meanwhile, Matan Hadad, 26, who was walking his blue-eyed Husky near Zion Square, said Israelis have become accustomed to such terror, and will not become disillusioned by its perpetrators.

“Israeli civilians are used to these situations and people keep living day after day; it’s normal here,” he said. “You don’t become scared to leave your house.”

While Hadad conceded that some Israelis are indeed rattled by the violence, he said that the majority remain stoic.

“Some of them, yes, I believe they are nervous,” he said. “But most of us? Nope. Because we are used to it, and 70% of the civilians in Israel go to the army and see what the Israeli army can do. So, I am confident.”

For the time being, Hadad said the most effective deterrent against terrorism is to cut off violent Arab neighborhoods from the rest of the capital.

“You cannot put more police or soldiers on the streets because everywhere you go you have them, so the solution is to close them off from society,” he said.

“Put up checkpoints, and do what we do in Gaza. If they want to put our lives in danger, then that’s what we should do. If they want to come in peace, come. You want to live only with yourselves? I don’t have a problem with that.”

“If they want to put civilians’ lives in danger, then put them in a cage,” he concluded.

Despite the heightened tensions, 18-year-old American gap-year students, Eitana Friedman and Allie Miller, of Philadelphia and Baltimore respectively, who arrived to the city on October 1, said they are feeling increasingly secure.

“I definitely look over my shoulder still, and am very cautious about what’s going on, but I feel a lot safer than when I first got here,” said Friedman. “And especially with what is happening around the world right now, honestly I feel safer in Jerusalem than I would in a lot of places.”

“I think that they’re doing a really great job at making sure that all areas where there are a lot of civilians are covered,” she added.

Miller said that although the students in her program were on lock down for the first three weeks of the terror wave, and forbidden from using public transportation or going to the Old City, the dramatic police presence has reassured her.

“I do feel safer,” she said. “Maybe it’s a false sense of security, but we’ve got to keep living and we can’t be scared of everything. You do have to remember to look behind your back.”

Asked if they learned anything from observing how Israelis cope with the volatility, both young women nodded with approval.

“They really know how to look at the positive,” said Miller.

The Palestinians’ Window of Opportunity Is Closing

by Bassam Tawil               The   Gatestone Institute

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6894/palestinians-window-of-opportunity

Now the Israelis are trying to circumvent us by means of agreements with the Arab countries. They may not have much to offer the Arabs, except for advances in technology, agriculture and medicine, but now they all have a common enemy: Iran.

Our demands are the result of the greed of our leaders, who do not want a Palestinian state alongside Israel, they want a Palestinian state instead of Israel. Recently we openly exposed our desire to destroy the Jewish state. That is why we demand Jerusalem for ourselves, insist on the right of Palestinians refugees to “return” and threaten the Jews.

Like Hezbollah, we interpret Israel’s political left as a sign of weakness and dissention. We all sense their hypocrisy, arrogance, disdain, and how they patronize us as if we were stupid. That is why the Palestinians have always respected the Israeli right: they always tell us the truth.

The Europeans attempt to weaken Israel with territorial concessions that would make it possible for the Palestinians to fire rockets at Israel’s main cities and airport from the West Bank.

After seeing the results of their withdrawal from Gaza, the Israelis doubtless think one would have to be crazy ever to give up control of the border with Jordan.

Before Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trip to the United States to meet President Barack Obama, administration officials there said they had given up hope of establishing a Palestinian state during the president’s term of office. One could only think that if as the Palestinian project failed during the current administration, which supports the Palestinian cause, and with a secretary of state as highly motivated as John Kerry, the probability of its ever succeeding was fading away.

Just as boycotting and marking Israeli goods from the territories have led only to the mass layoff of thousands of Palestinian workers from dream jobs in the settlements, the fairy tales about a binational state will leave the Palestinians with nothing to show for our years of waiting.

Unfortunately, as time passes, Palestinian intransigence has led the Israelis to build a Zionist enterprise that cannot simply be dismissed.

In effect, regardless of what we say and think, apparently our agreement or disagreement is not a condition for the continued existence of the Jews on land they took from us. The danger is that at the rate Israel is growing, at some point there may not be that much territory left for a future Palestinian state.

The window of opportunity for change is rapidly closing. The sad truth is that the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas and the other suicidal organizations, and by the Palestinians who stab Israeli civilians to death on the streets, are nothing more than the manifestations of our hopelessness and weakness. Worse, they serve the interests of the Israelis by fortifying their refusal to accomplish anything with us. We do not have one single individual in our leadership who has proposed a pragmatic plan that can be implemented to halt the process that is inexorably distancing us from any possible political solution with the Israelis.

As the growing wave of useless terrorism beats impotently on Israel’s increasing hesitance to accommodate us, it becomes increasingly clear that our leaders will eventually come to the painful realization that the Palestinian cause is going nowhere. It is a pity that when the scales fall from our eyes, our eventual, commonsensical acceptance of the existence of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jews will come at the expense of so much needless death and suffering.

All we have been offering the Israelis are our mistakes and our unrealistic demands. One of them consists of putting the capital of Palestine in the heart of the capital of the State of Israel. Another is the ridiculous demand for the “return” of millions of Palestinian refugees to the territory of the State of Israel — which the Jews know would be demographic suicide for their country, and which would only be physically possible if all the Israelis suddenly vanished.

For our unrealizable demands, we look to the Europeans for support, while all they are interested in is gaining time and paying lip service to the local Islamists menacing them, while in effect, nothing is done for our cause.

Recently, out of an unjustified sense of self-confidence, we openly exposed our desire to destroy the Jewish state. That is why we demand Jerusalem for ourselves, insist on the right of the Palestinians refugees to “return” and threaten the Jews that if they do not accept our conditions we will demand the establishment of a binational state in all of Palestine.

Our demands are the result of the greed of our leaders, who do not want a Palestinian state alongside Israel, they want a Palestinian state instead of Israel. They delude themselves into thinking the West genuinely supports the Palestinian cause, hoping that by marking products made in the settlements, Israel will collapse like South Africa.

In reality, while the West does in fact hate Jews, it does not like Arabs much better. The West only supports the Palestinian cause out of the fear of another Islamist Arab Spring, carried out in their own backyards, instead of far away in the Middle East. We are betting that the West will support us against the Zionists, but even the radical Islamists know that Western support will mean a reentry of the Crusaders into our lands.

Our leaders have yet to identify the true source of Israel’s strengths, and in that they have made a fatal mistake. Like Hezbollah, we interpret Israel’s political left as a sign of weakness and dissention, we regard Israeli society as one long internal disagreement, and we consider Israel a paper tiger. What we do not understand is that arguing with one another and the lack of blind agreement are the foundations of Israeli democratic unity, and not signs that Israel is falling apart as we so earnestly desire.

What we have in fact identified is the sycophantic Israeli leftists, who think they can fool and cheat us with toned-down versions of the Zionist goals or seduce us with economic promises to make us suspect them less. We all sense their hypocrisy, arrogance, disdain, and how they patronize us as if we were stupid. That is why the Palestinians have always respected the Israeli right: they always tell the truth, even if it is unpleasant for us to hear.

Now the Israelis are trying to circumvent us by means of agreements with the Arab countries. They may not have much to offer the Arabs, except for advances in technology, agriculture and medicine, but now they all have a common enemy: Iran.

You can be sure that the Israelis do not delude themselves into thinking the Arabs will ever consider them as anything but a cancer in the heart of the Middle East. They rely only on their own strength and do not particularly care if we or the rest of the world agree. Paradoxically the more they strengthen and stop trying to negotiate with us, the more we shall expose our willingness to reach an agreement with them.

International oversight is out of the question. The Israelis are suspicious, and the Palestinians are greedy and respond only negatively.

Those who think Israel is immoral because it uses force do not understand that without the use of force Hamas, ISIS and Fatah would destroy it.

The European attempt to weaken Israel with territorial concessions that would make it possible for the Palestinians to fire rockets at Israel’s main cities and airport from the West Bank only increases the Palestinian appetite to eradicate Israel, and makes the Israelis more intransigent.

In view of the Palestinian determination not to reach a political solution, but rather bring about Israel’s demographic destruction as a binational apartheid state, it seems clear that the Israelis will continue with a reinforced reluctance to have anything to do with us. These actions on our part will simply lead Israel to make unilateral decisions, such as its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. After seeing the results of their withdrawal from Gaza, the Israelis doubtless think they would have to be crazy ever to give up control of the border with Jordan, for fear of the massive infiltration of weapons and terrorist operatives. They may simply draw new borders around their settlement blocks, and leave the rest to the Palestinians.

Or they may simply cede, for instance, the city of Um el-Fahm, which for years has openly identified itself as Palestinian. If that happens, it is almost certain that Hamas will take over the territory. Hamas will then kill the Palestinian Authority activists or throw them off roofs, as they did in Gaza, thereby proving to the world that Israel was right to act as it did.

The suggestion that the Israelis would agree to a multinational force along its border with Jordan to prevent weapons, ISIS or other terrorists from crossing the border is a fantasy. What do international forces do when the first bullet is fired? They flee! They were incapable of preventing slaughter in Syria, in Iraq, and regrettably cannot even maintain security in their own countries.

In the end, we shall see an Israel that is stronger and even more reluctant than before to trust Palestinians, and we shall have lost our dream of a Palestinian state forever.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks to the Saban Forum December 6, 2015