Three killed in central Tel Aviv terror shooting; two attackers nabbed
Two suspected Palestinian terrorists killed at least three people and wounded multiple others in a shooting attack Wednesday night at central Tel Aviv’s popular Sarona complex.
Police confirmed that two attackers were arrested and one was shot and wounded. Footage from the scene showed an armed civilian firing shots at one of the suspected perpetrators.
According to unconfirmed reports, two assailants had worn disguises and sat at a cafe in Sarona before opening fire.
Ten wounded people were evacuated to the nearby Ichilov Medical Center. The hospital later pronounced the deaths of three people, and said one other causality was in life-threatening condition, while five others were in serious condition and three were in moderate-to-light condition.
Hamas’s Al-Aksa Radio reported that the two perpetrators of a deadly shooting attack in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday night were Palestinian cousins from the West Bank town of Yatta, located near Hebron.
“We need to see who sent the terrorists and to find them,” Likud MK Amir Ohana told reporters on the scene.
An eyewitness named Ofer told Army Radio that a flock of people fled the area during the incident and chaos ensued.
A large contingency of police officers were in the area distancing bystanders from the scene. Police later ruled out the possibility of additional perpetrators involved in the attack. Police said the investigation is ongoing and they have no details about the identities of the attackers.
The attack is the first shooting attack in Tel Aviv since New Year’s Day, when Israeli Arab Nashat Milhem opened fire at a Dizengoff bar, killing two before murdering a cab driver.
Following the shooting, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality issued a statement urging the public to stay away from the scene.
After the attack, the Defense Ministry called for an emergency assessment meeting, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to attend shortly after he returned from a trip to Russia.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai was defiant following Wednesday night’s terror shooting attack at the Sarona shopping complex.
Huldai told the media at the scene of the incident that Tel Aviv has been a target for terrorists for years, but the city would not be stopped by such attacks.
“We will continue to create, to build and to go out in this city,” Huldai said.
The mayor cautioned, however, that the investigation into the incident was ongoing and residents should heed the calls of authorities to avoid arriving at the scene of the attack. (Jerusalem Post)
MKs weigh in, give eyewitness accounts, on deadly Tel Aviv shooting
Several MK’s were on site or near it at the time that two suspected Palestinian terrorists killed at least three and wounded multiple others in a shooting attack Wednesday night at central Tel Aviv’s popular Sarona complex.
MK Amir Ohana (Likud), a former Shin Bet agent, drove to the site of the attack after hearing about it while in his car not far away.
“The scene was totally upside down: chairs overturned, broken glass, half-eaten cakes left on tables, and a ton of blood,” he described. “I could see that terrorists shot with automatic weapons, and they were caught soon after.”
He said there was nothing for him to do to help once he had arrived, because MDA “worked very fast, did great work.”
MK Itzik Shmuly (Zionist Union) was close to the site of the attack when the shooting began. He said he was walking down Ha’arbaa Street when he heard gunshots.
“People started running hysterically in all directions, and I saw what looked like a chase after the terrorist, but I didn’t see him,” he recounted. “Then they took a lot of people to the parking lot to be treated for shock. I went in to try to calm people down.”
Shmuly said many people were nervous because of “disinformation that there’s another terrorist walking around,” but that he was unable to get any confirmation if that was true or not.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) reacted to the attack, saying that the Israeli people would continue to be strong in the face of terrorism.
“Terror has never defeated us, and it will never defeat us,” Herzog wrote on Twitter.
The opposition leader sent his wishes to those wounded in the shooting attack.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Israel Wednesday evening from his trip to Moscow to news of the terror attack. He headed straight to the Kirya for security consultations along with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberian and Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman.
The attack is the first shooting attack in Tel Aviv since New Year’s Day, when Israeli Arab Nashat Milhem opened fire at a Dizengoff bar, killing two before murdering a cab driver.
Police said the investigation is ongoing and they have no details about the identities of the attackers. (Jerusalem Post)
How many Palestinians live in the West Bank? Don’t ask the IDF
Israel doesn’t have exact figures for the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank, the head of the Civil Administration told a Knesset committee on Tuesday, even though such information lies at the heart of any final status arrangement for a two-state solution.
His words shocked both right- and left-wing members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s sub group on Judea and Samaria.
Lt.-Col. Eyal Ze’evi did his best to answer the politicians’ questions, as he read from a paper document, explaining that he had not created a power point presentation.
The Civil Administration relies heavily on data from the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, which as of April 2016 has 2.9 million Palestinians listed as living in all of the West Bank, not including east Jerusalem, he said. The bulk of those Palestinians live in Areas A and B of the West Bank, which is under the civil control of the Palestinian Authority.
“Israel knows how many tanks the Syrian army has and how many missiles are in Hezbollah’s hands, but it can’t count how many Palestinians live under its rule in Judea and Samaria?,” MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) asked.
Right-wing Israeli politicians in the past, have estimated that some 300,000 Palestinians live in Area C of the West Bank, which is under the civil control of the IDF.
Zeevi said he also lacked exact data for Area C, which prompted committee head MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) to ask: “But isn’t the Civil Administration directly responsible for those Palestinians? Why haven’t we surveyed the population?” Yogev called the situation “unacceptable,” and said such information is critical for the basic planning of civilian life, including educational institutions and master plans for growth.
Such information is also “the basis for every cabinet decision, for every diplomatic decision,” Yogev said.
Bar was much more blunt, however, calling the absence of information a “serious failure that threatens the future of Israel and the Zionist enterprise,” since “the Palestinians have already declared that demographics is their central weapon in their battle against Israel.”
After the meeting, he said the situation, “was both embarrassing and alarming.”
Yogev, meanwhile, asked the Civil Administration to return in two weeks time with a comprehensive presentation of the data known to them, adding that a complete population survey must be done (Jerusalem Post)
Liberman on northern border: I would advise against testing us
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman held his first visit to the IDF Northern Command on Tuesday.
The freshly appointed minister heard briefings from IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.
He was also briefed by OC Northern Command, Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the head of the Northern Formation and Commander of the IDF Staff and Command College, Maj.-Gen. Yossi Bachar, and regional commanders in northern Israel.
Defense officials declined to say whether Liberman toured the Syrian or Lebanese borders.
“I heard briefings today on this area, which is always sensitive, and I can say that the northern border is in good and secure hands,” Liberman said.
“I was impressed by the readiness, the plans, and preparations. The role of the IDF here is to safeguard the quiet on the northern border, and that is what we are doing. We have no other plans, other than to safeguard the quiet, and I hope that everyone understands that well, including our neighbors.”
Liberman added, “In any case, I would not advise anyone to try and test us.” (Jerusalem Post)
Saudi Arabia provided intel to Israel during Second Lebanon War, Iranian official claims
Shortly before Israel is set to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, a senior Iranian official has alleged that the Saudi Kingdom provided Israel with key intelligence during the war against Hezbollah.
In an interview with the Lebanese TV channel al-Mayadeen on Sunday, Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said that while Saudi Arabia shirked its responsibility to help “the resistance axis” both in the 2008 war in Gaza and in the Second Lebanon War, Iran supported Hamas and Hezbollah.
“In 2006, when Israel invaded Lebanon, the Saudis argued that it was a war between Sunnis and Shi’ites in which they would not intervene, “Larijani said.
“We do not interfere in the Sunni-Shi’ite schism. One of the basic principles of our constitution is the support for the weak people, and that is why we support Hamas and Islamic Jihad even though they are Sunnis,” he said.
“Similarly, we supported Hezbollah and the Lebanese resistance to enable them to protect themselves and today Hezbollah is a key force in Lebanon and the entire Middle East.
“However, the Saudis used the excuse of the purportedly sectarian conflict to stay out of the war and support the Zionist entity. We have reliable information according to which during the Second Lebanon War, the Saudis provided Israel with intelligence,” Larijani added.
“In 2008, when Israel attacked Gaza, we provided Hamas with military aid. The Saudis claimed that this war was Iran’s war,” Larijani stated.
In addition, the senior Iranian official argued that “resistance to Israel is not part of the Arab states’ agenda,” adding that “it is enough for them to shout out slogans touting their support for Palestine in international conferences.”
This Arab approach toward the Palestinian issue, Larijani said, is what transformed Israel into a power in the region. (Jerusalem Post)
In Moscow, Netanyahu slams ‘systematic persecution’ against him
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday lashed out at the media for turning his wife Sara Netanyahu “into human dust” as part of what he called “systematic political persecution” against him.
Sara Netanyahu was propelled anew into the public eye after police recommended last week she stand trial on graft charges over alleged financial wrongdoing at the official residence. Last Tuesday, the Jerusalem District Labor Court also awarded NIS 120,000 ($31,000) in damages to a former employee of Netanyahu’s official residence, ruling that Sara Netanyahu had mistreated him with verbal abuse and unreasonable demands.
In Moscow, and standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu on Tuesday said “they trample the image of my wife and turn her into human dust.”
In the press conference, the prime minister linked the ostensible of hounding of his wife to allegations that he received money illicitly from a Frenchman accused of fraud, and said this was all part of a concerted campaign to oust him from power.
He termed it, along with a growing number of other recent instances where his integrity has been questioned, “systematic political persecution” and “false accusations.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, tour Ramat Hanadiv, a nature park in northern Israel, April 25, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
“They spoke about a million euro for the 2009 election campaign,” he said of the funds he allegedly took from Frenchman Arnaud Mimran. “It wasn’t a million euro. It wasn’t an election campaign. It wasn’t 2009. What they failed to do in the ballots they’re trying to do with false accusations and media hype,” said Netanyahu.
It was his first reaction to claims by Mimran to the effect that he funded an election campaign by Netanyahu. Mimran reportedly testified in a French court that he gave Netanyahu one million euro in 2009. The prime minister’s office denied the claims, but on Monday it acknowledged that Mimran gave the prime minister some $40,000 in 2001, when he was a private citizen, for Israel advocacy. On Monday, Mimran told Channel 10 that he gave Netanyahu one million francs in 2001, but on Tuesday told Channel 2 that he couldn’t remember the details and that Netanyahu was right.
“I believe in our justice system, and nothing will come of any of these cases, and do you know why? Because there is nothing,” Netanyahu added. The attorney general is examining the Mimran accusations.
Last week, police told the state prosecutor they had amassed sufficient evidence to put Sara Netanyahu on trial for aggravated fraud for appropriating for private use public funds earmarked for the Prime Minister’s Residence.
The prime minister’s wife has been accused of improper behavior and misuse of state funds relating to the Prime Minister’s Residence, including receiving goods under false pretenses, falsifying documents and breach of trust.
Two of the cases involve her using state money to order food for personal use on the public dime, and a third case involves using public funds to pay for a caretaker for her elderly father.
Handing over their findings to the Jerusalem district attorney, police said there was sufficient evidence to indict Sara Netanyahu, electrician Avi Fahima, and Ezra Saidoff, deputy director for operations at the Prime Minister’s Office. (the Times of Israel)
Israel honors Japan’s ‘Schindler’ who saved thousands of Jews in WWII
Israel on Tuesday honored Japan’s “Schindler” by naming a street after the Japanese diplomat who issued thousands of exit visas to desperate European Jews, against his government’s orders.
Chiune Sugihara helped about 6,000 Jews escape war-torn Lithuania, the advancing Nazis and an almost certain death with his actions during World War Two.
Sugihara began issuing the visas in late July 1940, writing them day and night until he closed the consulate about a month later. Even as he left, he was writing visas and handing them out the window as his train pulled away, bowing and apologizing to those who still remained on the platform.
Within a year, almost all the Jews in Lithuania had been killed.
The Mayor of Netanya, Miriam Fierberg-Ikar unveiled the new street sign in an official ceremony in the presence of Sugihara’s son, Nobuki Sugihara.
One of those helped to escape by Sugihara, Itshak Tarashansky, said the diplomat gave them visas even though they did not have a clear destination.
“He was not particular about them (Jews) having a visa to go on, because that is a principle before you give a transit visa, the traveller has to have a destination to go past the transit country, but Mr Sugihara was not particular that he gave transit visas freely and we got our visas for continuing later in Japan,” Tarashansky said.
At a reception later, Nobuki Sugihara thanked the Israeli people.
“I thank you very much for the street by my father’s name. My father ones showed refugees the way to escape from Holocaust and this street now show young people the future next to this very meaningful planetarium,” he said.
Sugihara’s actions saved five times as many people as Oskar Schindler, made famous in the film “Schindler’s List.”
Sugihara was later asked to resign by Japan’s Foreign Ministry for defying the rules of a government then allied with Germany and that a year later was at war with the United States. He died in obscurity in 1986. (Jerusalem Post)
Malka Leifer: Bid to keep alleged paedophile off Israeli streets fails, bail returned
Israel’s state prosecutor has failed in a bid to see Malka Leifer, the former principal of an ultra-Orthodox girls school in Melbourne, returned to house arrest in Israel.
Leifer is wanted by Victorian police on 74 charges of indecent assault and rape allegedly involving girls at the Adass Israel School in Melbourne, where she was principal from 2003 until 2008.
Last Thursday, Leifer was ruled mentally unfit to face extradition and had her home detention lifted in a move that shocked and deeply concerned Australian officials and outraged her alleged victims and Jewish community leaders in Melbourne.
Legal proceedings around her extradition were stopped for six months, during which time she will undertake court-ordered psychiatric treatment.
The ABC understands Israeli prosecutors had hoped to argue that because the case was an extradition request, the judge had the authority to continue Leifer’s home detention despite proceedings being frozen.
However, in the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday, Judge Winograd did not accept legal debate from prosecutor Mattan Akiva over the issue of Leifer’s house arrest being re-instated.
The prosecutor also requested Leifer’s bail be lifted from 100,000 Israeli shekels ($AU35,000) to 200,000 Israeli shekels ($AU70,000).
But Judge Winograd also refused this request, saying that because there was no evidence Leifer had breached her previous bail conditions, the bail should be returned in full.
The prosecution has 48 hours to appeal the full return of the bail.
Leifer’s passport would not be returned to her and she would remain banned from leaving the country.
One of Leifer’s alleged victims, Rebecca (not her real name), told the ABC she was disappointed the house arrest could not be appealed.
“I’m also outraged she has had her bail returned. I can’t understand how this happened,” Rebecca said.
Australia’s deputy ambassador to Israel, James McGarry, attended court proceedings, and told the ABC the embassy would continue to follow the case closely until Leifer was extradited.
“We continue to work with Israeli authorities to give them any assistance they need to finalize this extradition matter,” he said outside the courtroom.
A relative of Leifer who attended court refused to comment on allegations raised in a Melbourne newspaper that members of the Addas Israel community in Melbourne were sending money to Israel to support the fugitive principal.
Former Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer continues to evade extradition to face criminal charges in Australia. Now one of her alleged victims speaks out for the first time.
In 2008, after accusations were first raised against her, the former principal fled to Israel with her family in the middle of the night, allegedly with the help of senior members of Melbourne’s secretive Adass community.
For two years, she has managed to evade 10 extradition proceedings, claiming that she faces panic attacks whenever scheduled court dates arise and that she is too unwell to attend court.
In a civil case against the Adass Israel School and Leifer, last September a Melbourne judge awarded one of the alleged victims $1.27 million in damages. (ABC News)
US Army selects Israel Military Industries for APC active protection system
The US Army has chosen Israel Military Industries to provide it with an active protection system for its armored personnel carriers in a dramatic development for Israel’s defense export market.
The system will be installed on APC rooftops.
It will use a combination of a radar and an electro-optical sensor to detect and intercept a range of incoming missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, IMI corporate vice president of marketing Avinoam Zafir told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
In an official statement, IMI said the US Army “selected our Iron Fist-based Active Protection System technologies,” as part of its “Modular Active Protection Systems.”
After studying and testing it, the US Army chose IMI’s Iron Fist Light Configuration, designed for light- to medium-weight APCs.
When the vehicles come under guided missile fire, the system can jam the threats that have advanced guidance systems and cause them to fall harmlessly to the ground. “Dumb” weapons, such as RPGs, are destroyed using interceptors. Small warheads are fired and explode near the incoming threat, destroying it with a shock wave, Zafir explained.
The interception occurs at a safe distance from the defended platform, he added. The system works in a “very close-range scenario in both open field and urban environments,” an IMI statement said.
The system’s low weight, lack of shock after it fires its interceptor, and “attractive price” were all factors in the US army’s decision to select it, according to Zafir.
He hailed its “ability to defend against rockets, RPGs, anti-tank missiles from the entire spectrum, and even against recoilless gun munitions.
“A boxer can put up both hands to absorb blows – this is passive defense. He can also strike out with a fist and hit before he is punched. This is active defense, and it is what our system offers,” Zafir said.
The system’s computer enables it to decide when to fire the interceptor, or to jam the threat, within a “split second,” he said. In cases of physical interception, “We create a shock wave around the threat, and it falls as metal pieces to the ground,” he added.
Iron Fist’s sensors allow personnel inside an APC to see other threats around them, such as gunmen in the vicinity.
“We believe that the American army will begin acquisition and supply within two years,” Zafir said.
“We are convinced there is a very big potential here.” (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Politician Yair Lapid’s Facebook Post About His Autistic Daughter’s IDF Graduation Goes Viral, Brings Country to Tears
Israel’s former finance minister moved the country to tears on Tuesday with a post on Facebook about his special-needs daughter, who just finished serving in the IDF.
MK Yair Lapid, the head of the Yesh Atid Party, wrote:
At her graduation ceremony, Yaeli saluted her commanding officer. She wore a uniform and an orange beret, and her father wiped his eyes and hoped nobody could see.
Her class – a class of young people with special needs – volunteered for the entire year on a base of the IDF National Search and Rescue Unit. They contributed as much as they could.
The soldiers and commanders were charming and attentive and treated them with respect and affection. “I don’t know who learned more from whom this year,” a 19-year-old sergeant told me, with a huge smile.
“So you’re now a soldier like Lior?” I asked Yaeli, and my non-speaking daughter nodded forcefully.
The next time someone tells you that the only role of the army is to fight, send him the photo I attached here. Maybe it’s true of other armies, but the IDF is much more than that.
Within hours, Lapid’s post went viral, with thousands of likes, shares and sympathetic comments — from across the political spectrum. (The Algemeiner)
Rare cache of Hasmonean Period coins discovered in Modi‘in
The cache of silver coins found at the estate house.
A hoard of silver coins dating to the Hasmonean period (126 BCE) was exposed in April in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting near Modi‘in, with the participation of local youth. The excavation is being carried out prior to the construction of a new neighborhood, at the initiative of the Modi‘in-Maccabim-Re‘ut municipality. The treasure was hidden in a rock crevice, up against a wall of an impressive agricultural estate that was discovered during the excavation there.
According to Avraham Tendler, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is a rare cache of silver coins from the Hasmonean period comprised of shekels and half-shekels (tetradrachms and didrachms) that were minted in the city of Tyre and bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II. The cache that we found is compelling evidence that one of the members of the estate who had saved his income for months needed to leave the house for some unknown reason. He buried his money in the hope of coming back and collecting it, but was apparently unfortunate and never returned. It is exciting to think that the coin hoard was waiting here 2,140 years until we exposed it”.
According to Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, the head of the Coin Department at the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The cache, which consists of 16 coins, contains one or two coins from every year between 135–126 BCE, and a total of nine consecutive years are represented. It seems that some thought went into collecting the coins, and it is possible that the person who buried the cache was a coin collector. He acted in just the same way as stamp and coin collectors manage collections today”.
Tendler added, “The findings from our excavation show that a Jewish family established an agricultural estate on this hill during the Hasmonean period. The family members planted olive trees and vineyards on the neighboring hills and grew grain in valleys. An industrial area that includes an olive press and storehouses where the olive oil was kept is currently being uncovered next to the estate. Dozens of rock-hewn winepresses that reflect the importance of viticulture and the wine industry in the area were exposed in the cultivation plots next to the estate. The estate house was built of massive walls in order to provide security from the attacks of marauding bandits.
Numerous bronze coins minted by the Hasmonean kings were also discovered in the excavation. They bear the names of the kings such as Yehohanan, Judah, Jonathan or Mattathias and his title: High Priest and Head of the Council of the Jews. The finds indicate that the estate continued to operate throughout the Early Roman period. The Jewish inhabitants of the estate meticulously adhered to the laws of ritual purity and impurity: they installed ritual baths (miqwe’ot) in their settlement and used vessels made of chalk, which according to Jewish law cannot become ritually unclean.
Evidence was discovered at the site suggesting that the residents of the estate also participated in the first revolt against the Romans that broke out in 66 CE: the coins that were exposed from this period are stamped with the date “Year Two” of the revolt and the slogan “Freedom of Zion”. The estate continued to operate even after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. “It seems that local residents did not give up hope of gaining their independence from Rome, and they were well-prepared to fight the enemy during the Bar Kokhba uprising”, said Tendler. “During the excavation we saw how prior to the uprising the inhabitants of the estate filled the living rooms next to the outer wall of the building with large stones, thus creating a fortified barrier. In addition, we discovered hiding refuges that were hewn in the bedrock beneath the floors of the estate house. These refuge complexes were connected by means of tunnels between water ci sterns, storage pits and hidden rooms. In one of the adjacent excavation areas a miqwe of impressive beauty was exposed; when we excavated deeper in the bath we discovered an opening inside it that led to an extensive hiding refuge in which numerous artifacts were found that date to the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising”.
The unique finds revealed in the excavation will be preserved in an archaeological park in the heart of the new neighborhood slated for construction in Modi‘in-Maccabim-Re‘ut. (MFA)
French fried peace process
By Clifford D. May The Washington Times
The French government last week initiated a new “peace process.” Ignoring the butchery underway in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, as well as the threat Iran now poses to the Middle East, their focus is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The French initiative could turn out to be a waste of time, one more round of diplomatic blather and posturing. Let’s hope so. The alternative is that it will do further damage to both Israelis and Palestinians.
Envoys from 26 nations attended the opening “summit” in Paris last Friday. They agree that a “two-state solution” is the answer. They do not agree on the question. Is the problem that a Palestinian state does not exist? Or is the problem that a Jewish state does?
There are currently two Palestinian entities. Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a designated terrorist organization and branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas leaders are openly committed to exterminating Israel and slaughtering its Jewish citizens.
That is not a negotiating position from which they can fall back. It’s in the Hamas Charter and it’s based on their reading of Islamic scripture. They believe only Muslims may rule in any lands conquered by Muslims at any point in history. (And, in their eyes, not all Muslims are equally qualified to rule: In the Sinai, Hamas is widely believed to be cooperating with the Islamic State in its war against the Egyptian government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, whose opposition to Islamism is unequivocal.)
The West Bank is governed by the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas serves as its president. As I am not the first to point out, he is currently in the 11th year of a four-year term.
At 81, Mr. Abbas is reportedly not in good health. It is unclear how much longer he intends to remain in office. It also is unclear who will succeed him or how such a succession will come about.
He may be considering his legacy. I suspect he wants to be remembered as a Palestinian leader who steadfastly refused to make peace with the hated Zionists. I suspect he would not want to be remembered as a Palestinian traitor — which is how Hamas, Iran’s rulers and others would characterize him were he to sign a document declaring an end to the conflict and leaving Israelis relatively secure within defensible borders.
How will the participants in the French peace process deal with these complexities? They won’t. They’ll pretend Hamas is irrelevant. They’ll pretend Mr. Abbas represents the will of the Palestinian people. They’ll ask little or nothing of him since there is little or nothing he can deliver.
Instead, they’ll insist that the central impediment to peace is the Israeli “occupation.” They may even contend that Gaza remains “occupied.” In fact, it has been 11 years since Israelis withdrew from Gaza — a territory, by the way, that Israel conquered from Egypt, not from Palestinians, in the defensive war of 1967.
Two years after Israel’s departure, Hamas took power in a violent coup against the Palestinian Authority. Hamas soon began launching missiles into Israel. More recently, Hamas has been constructing terrorist tunnels into Israel. One result: a 51-day war between Hamas and Israel two summers ago.
As for the West Bank, Jordan’s Arab Legion seized it in 1948. Jewish communities were forced out. Jewish religious sites were desecrated or destroyed. In 1967, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol asked King Hussein not to join Egypt, Syria and Iraq in what would become known as the Six-Day War, vowing: “If you don’t intervene, you will suffer no consequences.”
But the King felt obliged to show solidarity with his Arab brethren. So, on June 5, 1967, his artillery batteries in the West Bank began raining shells on Israelis. When the smoke cleared, Israel’s forces were in possession of the territory, including east Jerusalem.
In 2000, 2001 and 2008, Israeli leaders made Palestinian leaders offers that would have given them a state of their own in Gaza, almost all of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem. What Israel wanted in return: recognition that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland. Palestinian leaders declined. They made no counteroffers.
Suppose the French peace process leads to intense international pressure on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. Suppose Israel succumbs to that pressure. What prevents Hamas from taking over as it did in Gaza? Israel’s presence in the West Bank, in quiet cooperation with Palestinian security forces, protects and defends the Palestinian Authority. Those meeting in Paris last week should know that — even if discussing it is taboo.
Because the West Bank is adjacent to Israel’s largest population centers as well as its only international airport, missiles and mortars fired from its hills, properly called the Judean Mountains, would do substantial damage — much worse than anything Hamas has been able to achieve from Gaza. Israelis would have no choice but to respond militarily.
The West Bank today is no paradise. But it is not a war zone. It has a growing economy. Ramallah, Jericho and Hebron are vibrant cities. There’s also Rawabi — a strikingly beautiful new community being developed by the visionary Palestinian-American entrepreneur Bashar Masri. He hopes to provide homes for young, well-educated Palestinians whose main concerns are career and family, not jihad.
Have we not learned how quickly Middle Eastern societies can crumble? Do we not understand what has happened — what is still happening — in Aleppo, Fallujah, Raqqa and Sana’a? Should the French initiative lead to a similar outcome, will any of the participants at the Paris summit accept responsibility? Will any shed salty tears?
Palestinian Arab refugees – who are they?
from Yoram Ettinger