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Latest News in Israel – 14th December

Shabak foils kidnapping plot in Samaria

The Israel Security Agency (Shabak) and Israel Police recently foiled an attempted kidnapping in Samaria, it was revealed Wednesday.

The kidnapping was planned by Hamas, and was scheduled for the Hanukkah holiday.

During October and November, Shabak discovered that members of a Hamas terror cell from Kafr Tal, near Shechem (Nablus) were planning a terror attack.

In the course of the investigation, it was discovered that the cell was planning to kidnap an IDF soldier or a Jewish civilian from a bus stop at one of the central junctions near Shechem in Samaria.

Mouad Ashtiya, 26, has been identified as the cell leader. Ashtiya planned the attack, acquired weapons, and enlisted Mahmad Ramadan and Ahmad Ramadan, both 19, to join the cell and aid the attack. The three gathered exact intelligence about the routes, bus stops and central junctions, and were planning to disguise themselves as Israeli civilians to cause the abductees to enter their vehicles.

Ashtiya inquired about various Shechem-area apartments which could serve as hiding places for the victims while Hamas held negotiations.

All three members were in contact with Hamas terrorist Oumar Atzeida, who serves as a Gaza commander and works to advance terror activities and move money from Gaza to Judea and Samaria.

The Hamas command center in Gaza provided funds and guidance, and the purpose of the planned kidnapping was to advance negotiations for the release of jailed Hamas terrorists.

During the Shabak interrogation, the terrorists provided information about the weapons which were intended for use in the attack. Among other things, Shabak confiscated a pistol, stun gun, and gas spray; the cell planned to acquire additional weapons before the attack.

The results of the investigation have been transferred to the IDF’s Samaria Prosecutor’s office, which will decide whether or not to indict the suspects. (Arutz Sheva)

Europeans say Netanyahu told Macron he’d make ‘concessions’ within Trump peace plan but PM denies this

During their talks in Paris on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French President Emmanuel Macron that he would be prepared to make “compromises and concessions” to the Palestinians within the framework of US President Donald Trump’s much-touted Middle East peace plan, Israel’s Channel 10 TV news reported on Tuesday.

The report, which quoted unnamed senior European diplomats familiar with the content of the two men’s discussions, was denied by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Channel 10 quoted brief excerpts from what it said were exchanges between Netanyahu and Macron in Paris on Sunday, and between Netanyahu and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels on the following day.

At their Elysee Palace meeting, according to the report, Macron said to Netanyahu, “Trump told me that, within a few months, he will set out a peace plan that will be different from previous initiatives. It will be a move that will shake up the status quo.”

Netanyahu reportedly responded, “I’m still waiting to see the Trump initiative. I don’t know exactly what he is going to put on the table. But I will be prepared to make compromises and concessions within the framework of the plan he presents.”

To which Macron reportedly replied, “The trouble is that, in the wake of Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem, it will be complicated to advance a peace initiative.” Last Wednesday, Trump announced that the US recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that he would ultimately move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives for their meeting at the European Council in Brussels on December 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Eric Vidal)

Quoting next from Netanyahu’s conversation Monday with Mogherini, the report said the prime minister told the EU foreign policy chief, “Trump is preparing a serious peace plan, and it must be taken seriously. At present, there are a lot of waves [in the wake of the Jerusalem announcement]. But when they die down, his plan will again be taken up.”

Netanyahu reportedly added, “Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem was cautiously worded. Read it carefully. It doesn’t close the door on negotiations for an agreement.”

The Prime Minister’s Office denied the key quotation in the TV report. In a statement, it said, “We firmly deny that the prime minister spoke of compromises and concessions. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he expects Trump’s plan will challenge him and [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas]. Apparently, there is an interest in Europe in presenting things differently.”

The report quoted the European sources as saying that both Macron and Mogherini were “skeptical” about Netanyahu’s professed readiness to compromise.

In a joint press conference after their meeting on Sunday, Macron expressed his disapproval of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and urged Netanyahu to “show courage” in advancing peace talks.

Netanyahu, for his part, insisted that Jerusalem is as much Israel’s capital as Paris is France’s. And he said the sooner the Palestinians “come to grips” with that the fact, “the sooner we move toward peace.”

Later Sunday, the prime minister told reporters that he was not yet fully aware of Trump’s peace proposal, but noted that Jerusalem is one of the “core issues” that will be on the table. “We never ruled out that Jerusalem be discussed. The Palestinians have their positions on it, and they are free to bring them up,” he said.

“We never rule out discussions — we rule out [certain] results,” he added, noting that his government’s opposition to a partition of Israel is well-known.

Standing next to Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, at the headquarters of the European Union after their talks on Monday, Netanyahu predicted that most countries on the continent would eventually recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassies to the city.

“I believe that even though we don’t have an agreement yet, this is what will happen in the future,” he said. “I believe that all, or most, of European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem and recognize it as Israel’s capital and engage robustly with us, for security, prosperity and peace.”

Mogherini later issued a flat rejection of that notion. “He can keep his expectations for others, because from the European Union member states’ side this move will not come,” she said, adding that the bloc — the Palestinians’ largest donor — would stick to the “international consensus” on Jerusalem.

She reiterated the EU’s stance that “the only realistic solution” for peace is two states — Israel and Palestine — with Jerusalem as a shared capital and borders based on the pre-1967 lines, when Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Six Day War.

And she pledged to step up efforts with the two sides and regional partners, including Jordan and Egypt, to relaunch the peace process.

Leaving Brussels after a further meeting, with EU foreign ministers, Netanyahu told reporters who were traveling with him Monday that he had been asked whether he accepts the two-state solution, and that he replied by asking the ministers what kind of state the second one would be: “Would it be Costa Rica or Yemen?”

He said he also told them that it was high time for a more realistic discussion about where the region is headed, and said the current turmoil in the Middle East is due to a battle between “modernity and early medievalism.”         (the Times of Israel)

Senior Hamas leader among dozens arrested overnight in West Bank

Israeli troops, in raids across the West Bank overnight Tuesday, arrested 32 Palestinians for suspected involvement in terror activities and violent rioting, as well as a senior Hamas figure, security forces said.

Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas leader in the West Bank and one of the group’s founding members, was arrested in Ramallah, the Shin Bet security service said.

He is suspected of “involvement in promoting and advancing Hamas’s activities in the West Bank,” it confirmed in a statement after Palestinian media broke news of the arrest.

Yousef was recently released from administrative detention, and has been arrested many times in recent years. Earlier this week, he called for a violent response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Since Trump announced his decision last Wednesday, the West Bank has seen daily protests that have at time devolved into clashes.

Hamas last week called for a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel over the US decision, urging Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers, and allowing thousands of Gazans to clash with Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence. Its leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, on Friday praised the “blessed intifada,” urged the liberation of Jerusalem, and made plain the group was seeking to intensify violence against Israel.

In his address, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. The final status of Jerusalem is a key issue in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim the eastern neighborhoods of the city as their future capital.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but rejected by the international community.

Alongside the clashes in the West Bank, recent days have seen an escalation in violence around Gaza, where Yousef’s Hamas group holds sway.

In the latest in a series of tit-for-tat exchanges, the Israeli Air Force early Wednesday morning struck a Hamas facility in the southern Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire hours earlier.

On Sunday, Israel demolished a Hamas attack tunnel that penetrated hundreds of meters into Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip. It was the second tunnel destroyed by Israel in less than six weeks.  (the Times of Israel)

Jewish Agency chief: Reform criticism of Trump’s Jerusalem move was ‘terrible’

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky on Tuesday lambasted the Reform movement’s critical response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week.

“The Reform response to the recognition of Jerusalem was terrible,” Sharansky, an influential backer of the Reform movement’s position on the Western Wall and other matters, said in a Hebrew-language radio interview.

“Everything that comes out of Trump is bad, from their perspective. When the leader of a superpower recognizes Jerusalem, first you have to welcome it, then offer disagreement. Here it was the opposite,” he told Israel Radio.

After last Wednesday’s recognition by Trump, the head of the Reform movement’s synagogue umbrella body, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, wrote that Trump’s declaration “affirms what the Reform Jewish movement has long held: that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Yet while we share the President’s belief that the US Embassy should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we cannot support his decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process.”

Jacobs also said that the White House should not undermine efforts toward making peace between Israel and the Palestinians by “making unilateral decisions that are all but certain to exacerbate the conflict.”

The statement has already come under criticism from Israeli officials. Last week, Israel’s consul general in New York, Dani Dayan, called Jacobs’s statement “deeply frustrating and disappointing because Jerusalem is the uniting force of the Jewish people.”

Other US Jewish organizations lauded Trump’s decision last week.

The Republican Jewish Coalition praised the US president for his announcement of a “significant change in US policy” by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing a plan to begin the process of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Malcolm Hoenlein, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Trump was doing “the right thing.”

“When President Trump visited the Western Wall and made a declaration recognizing Jerusalem as holy to the Jews after the denunciation of UNESCO, there was not even one warm-up, not one demonstration, because when you do the right thing, you do not have to ask questions, you just do it,” Hoenlein said Wednesday in an address at the launching of the Lobby for the Protection of the Mount of Olives in the Knesset.

In an address last Wednesday from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.  (the Times of Israel)

‘What country is Jerusalem in?’

Jerusalem might be the capital of Israel, but the United States is still hard pressed to say that it is actually part of the State of Israel.

“What country is Jerusalem in?” Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs David Satterfield last Thursday at a press briefing in Washington.

To Israelis, his question might be akin to asking if the sky was blue. But Lee was not being facetious.

It was only one day after President Donald Trump’s dramatic announcement that the US Embassy would be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Still, Satterfield did not respond to Lee with the simple one word answer: Israel.

Instead he explained, “The president [on December 6] recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”

Lee pressed on, asking if the US “officially recognized” that Jerusalem was part of Israel.

Satterfield clarified during the briefing that Trump’s statement did not mean that US policy had shifted with regard to Israeli sovereignty over the city.

“We are not changing or taking a position on the boundaries of sovereignty in Jerusalem,” Satterfield said.

 

 

 

His careful answer spoke to a 70-year diplomatic dance that the US and the larger international community has been doing with Israel with regard to the status of Jerusalem.

In the absence of a peace process, the international community regards east Jerusalem as part of “occupied Palestine” but is not willing to recognize Israeli sovereignty over west Jerusalem.

At issue is not the 50-year old question, asked since the Six Day War, of a united Jerusalem in Israeli hands or a divided city, with west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and a future Palestinian one in east Jerusalem.

Instead it goes to the heart of a more basic 70-year old question – asked since before Israel declared independence in 1948 – of whether Israel in modern times has a connection to the city that was the capital of the Biblical Jewish state and where its holiest site, the Jewish Temple, once stood. The Palestinians have been particularly blunt in rejecting this connection.

“Israel has annexed both parts of Jerusalem, west and east,” first in 1948 and then in 1967, said PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi.

It is “crazy” in the year 2017 “to determine geopolitical realities on the basis of 3,000 years ago,” Ashrawi said. Any potential Israeli sovereignty in the city could only be determined through negotiations, she said.

World leaders and dignitaries have been more vague and polite. For decades they have visited Jerusalem, shaking hands with its prime ministers and presidents.

No fewer than three former US presidents – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George Bush – have addressed the Knesset. Former US president Barack Obama delivered a eulogy for his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, at the city’s Mount Herzl Cemetery.

But on a policy level, since 1947, the international community has questioned Israeli sovereignty over the western section of the city.

Israel is reminded of Jerusalem’s shaky international status every time the UN General Assembly or another UN body, such as UNESCO , approves a resolution disavowing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Some 151 nations, with the support of Europe, approved such a General Assembly resolution just last month.

All of the 87 foreign governments with embassies in Israel have placed them in Tel Aviv and the surrounding areas. The US opened its embassy there in 1966, a year before the Six Day War.

The confusion over Jerusalem’s status dates in particular to 1947, when the United Nations excluded Jerusalem from its partition plan, known as General Assembly Resolution 181, which divided land into territories for both a Jewish state and an Arab one.

Under an idea called corpus separatum (Latin for separate entity), Resolution 181 placed an expanded Jerusalem region under international custodianship.

 

 

 

It set boundaries of an internationalized Jerusalem region, that is much larger then today’s municipal lines: “The most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, Ein Kerem (including also the builtup area of Motza); and the most northern Shuafat.”

The UN never implemented Resolution 181 because the Arab armies immediately attacked Israel.

Following the War of Independence, the UN General Assembly accepted Israel as a member state on May 11, 1949, under Resolution 273. It was a move affirmed by the UN Security Council in October of that year.

Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion decreed that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. But Israel at the time held only the western section of the city, while Jordan held the eastern part and forbade entrance to Israelis, even to the Old City where the Western Wall was located.

The UN largely accepted Israeli sovereignty over territory set by the armistice lines of the war, but refrained from doing so with regard to Jerusalem, passing a number of resolutions – 194 and 303 – that still spoke to an international custodianship over Jerusalem.

That idea seemed to fade after the Six Day War, when Israel acquired all of Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan. Israel placed the West Bank under IDF military rule but went about annexing Jerusalem. In 1980, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law, formalizing Israeli sovereignty over a united Jerusalem.

The UN Security Council condemned the move. Over time the UN texts increasingly clarified that Jerusalem was part of the “occupied Palestinian” territories and persistently refused to recognize any change to the ‘67 lines, unless agreed to by both parties. The latest such document was the December 2016 Security Council Resolution 2334.

Save for some isolated plans, the idea of an internationalized Jerusalem has fallen to the wayside of a larger global consensus that Jerusalem will be a divided city, serving as independent capitals of both an Israeli and a Palestinian state.

But the international community has still withheld formal recognition of any Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Just last Friday, ambassadors from five countries – Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, France and Italy – told reporters they rejected Trump’s declaration.

“The status of Jerusalem,” they said, “must be determined through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, leading to a final-status agreement.”

But when it came to east Jerusalem, they stated, “We consider east Jerusalem as part of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

This spring, Russia took the dramatic step of recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, becoming the first country to do so.

The Czech Republic followed the US’s lead and did so last week.

But neither envision moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

 

 

 

The US has long taken a middle of the road approach to Jerusalem, rejecting many UN resolutions on the city, including those defining it as “occupied territory.” In 1994 The New York Times reported that former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, then the country’s UN ambassador, said that calling Jerusalem “occupied Palestine” territory implied Palestinian sovereignty.

But there was no subsequent State Department or White House recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Under the Obama administration, the US more bluntly stated that Jerusalem was not in Israel.

Congress had no such ambiguity. In 1995 they passed the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, which recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital and called for the embassy to be relocated there. Congress’s 2002 Foreign Relations Act also required the US to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including in government documents. But the US Supreme Court struck down the act in 2015.

Trump’s statement, while it failed to recognize a united Jerusalem, marks the first time a US president has acknowledged what Ben-Gurion stated so long ago: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

“Through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have declined to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In fact, we have declined to acknowledge any Israeli capital at all,” Trump said last week.

“But today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done,” Trump said.

Former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold said that Trump’s statement of affirmation linking Jerusalem to Israel was a death knell to the idea of an internationalized Jerusalem.

All this time, Resolution 181 has hovered in the background and has not died, Gold said.

“For five decades now, Palestinians have contemplated going back to proposals for the internationalization of Jerusalem – and have made proposals to that effect in various bodies, like the UN,” Gold said.

“President Trump’s assertion that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, first and foremost, constitutes a major blow to that unrealistic kind of thinking,” Gold said. He added, “It puts the corpus separatism into the historical archives.” (Jerusalem Post)

Funeral for ultra-Orthodox spiritual leader draws hundreds of thousands

Hundreds of thousands of mourners attended the Tuesday funeral of the leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel, Rabbi Aharon Yehudah Leib Steinman, who died earlier in the day.

Police closed several major roads near the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak ahead of the funeral for the rabbi, who was 104 years old. The procession began at noon at his Bnei Brak residence at 5 Hazon Ish Street.

There were no eulogies, as requested by Steinman in his will. The will, which was read at the ceremony by a student, also saw the rabbi ask his followers not to name their descendants after him or publicize any articles about him in the newspaper.

 

“Ten people at my funeral would be enough,” he wrote in the document.

Estimates on the number of funeral-goers varied, with Israel Radio reporting police were expecting some 600,000 to arrive over the course of the afternoon.

Magen David Adom said it had treated some 70 people for light injuries, including fainting, feeling unwell and minor injuries due to the crowd.

By mid-morning, thousands of people had already gathered outside the late rabbi’s home.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mourned the spiritual leader, hailing his “true love” of the Jewish people.

“With the death of Rav Steinman, the Jewish people lost a central beacon of spirituality, heritage and ethics,” Netanyahu said. Steinman “was an important link in the chain of Torah which spans millennia. His memory will forever remain in the pages of our nation’s heritage.”

Earlier, President Reuven Rivlin said Steinman was “a giant of Torah and a guide who instructed the lives of thousands upon thousands,” and noted that “despite his firm views, he knew how to present his opinions in a gentle way, with a deep love for every Jew. His wisdom was second only to his humility.”

From 10 a.m., police started closing roads in and out of the mostly ultra-Orthodox city, including routes 1, 4, 5 and 20 near the city and the entire length of Highway 471.

Police said in a statement that private vehicles will not be given access to the funeral and urged mourners to use public transportation.

Steinman had been considered the top leader of the community since the 2012 death of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv. He was also the spiritual leader of the Degel Hatorah faction of the United Torah Judaism political party.

Born in 1913 in Belarus, he studied there and in Switzerland before emigrating to British-mandate Palestine in 1945.

He taught at the leading Talmudic schools in Bnei Brak, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox city outside Tel Aviv where he also lived.

His influence grew in the 1980s when he became part of the rabbinical committee running Degel Hatorah, a component of the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) alliance, whose six lawmakers are members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.

Steinman was famous for eschewing wealth and the trappings of power. He held almost no formal positions in ultra-Orthodox institutions and lived out his days in a modest apartment.

Steinman arrived at the Maayanei Hayeshua medical center on November 20 for treatment and a medical checkup but doctors decided to keep him hospitalized. Since then he remained in the center and his condition had become progressively worse.

Steinman had been hospitalized multiple times in recent months amid growing concerns for his health.

 

He died around 8 a.m. Tuesday from heart failure after resuscitation efforts failed, according to hospital officials.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews account for some 10 percent of Israel’s eight million population. (the Times of Israel)

In porcupines’ den, mother and daughter discover 2,200-year-old Hasmonean lamp

Last week, while out for a stroll near their home in the historic Beit She’an Valley, a mother and her seven-year-old daughter discovered a rare, intact 2,200-year-old clay lamp.

While Ayelet Goldberg-Keidar and her daughter Hadas, residents of Kibbutz Beit Alfa, were on an afternoon hike climbing the mounds near Kibbutz Nir David, Hadas suddenly noticed a pottery vessel lying at the mouth of a cave.

Excitedly, Hadas picked up the vessel and her mother — coincidentally an archaeology student at Haifa University — quickly realized that this was no ordinary lamp.

She explained to her daughter that it appeared to be an oil lamp used by ancient people and that they would need to hand it over to researchers at the Israel Antiquity Authorities for study.

“Guessing that this was connected to antiquity theft, I hurried to get in touch with the theft prevention unit at the IAA,” said mother Ayelet.

However, archaeologist Nir Distelfeld, the IAA’s theft prevention inspector for northern Israel, pointed to a more prickly culprit: porcupines.

“Innocent porcupines, digging out their den for the winter, are responsible for the excavation of this intact lamp,” said Distelfeld. Adding a fun fact about the protected wildlife species, he said, “Porcupines prefer archaeological sites because the earth is less packed due to man’s activities in the past.”

Upon receiving the archaeological find from the family, Dr. Einat Ambar-Armon, an expert in clay lamps, dated it to the Hasmonean period.

“The lamp is typical of the Hellenistic period, which began in the 2nd century BCE, the historical period that is known to all of us as the Maccabean Wars against the Greeks,” said Ambar-Armon, the IAA’s regional head of education and community outreach.

During this period, said Ambar-Armon, such lamps were produced from molds: the top and bottom pieces were constructed separately and then connected in a new technique that allowed for their mass production, which she attributes to western-influenced innovation.

An intact 2,200-year-old clay lamp found next to porcupines’ cave in the Beit She’an Valley.

According to a Biblical Archaeology Review article by Avraham Levy, “Small Inventions? They Changed How People Lived in the Hellenistic Age“: “The Hellenistic period’s spectacular new contribution to mold technology was the invention of keys. A key is a protrusion from one valve that fits into a matching indentation in the other. With keys you can obtain, every time, a perfect fit of the two halves of a twin-valve mold. Each of the two halves of the mold has keys that fit together.”

“This process not only required different skills, but mold production lent itself to a new division of labor. Different people could do different, repetitive tasks. As a result, large establishments emerged that produced enormous quantities of identical lamps that they marketed over large areas,” wrote Levy.

The new production style also saw the addition of a variety of decorations, including, in later periods, Jewish symbols such as the menorah, said Ambar-Armon.

The educator added that the newly found Hasmonean-period lamp testifies to such mass production in the area. Its discovery there connects with a 1960 find of an important Hellenistic-period inscription at nearby Kibbutz Heftziba, also in the Beit She’an Valley.

“This inscription, written in Greek, is actually a copy of the state correspondence between Antiochus III, who was the first ruler of the Seleucid family, and the regional Seleucid governor. Antiochus III, mentioned in the inscription, tended to be merciful toward the Jews, in contrast to his son Antiochus Epiphanes, also known as ‘Antiochus the Evil,’” she said.

“In the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, the decrees and persecutions against the Jews were unprecedented, and in the end they led to the Maccabean rebellion against the Greeks in 167 BCE,” explained Ambar-Armon. The holiday of Hanukkah was instituted in commemoration of the success of the revolt and the purification of the Temple in Jerusalem, which allowed for the renewal of religious worship there.

For handing over their find, in what could be considered an early Hanukkah present, the IAA announced it will present the Goldberg-Keidar family with a certificate of appreciation for its good citizenship — and for solving the case of the prickly purloiner. (the Times of Israel)

Israel’s groundbreaking water technology exported worldwide

“Everything begins with water,” Abraham Tenne said while walking through the Sorek Water Desalination Plant a few kilometers outside Palmahim Beach, south of Tel Aviv.

And he would know. The independent consultant on water and wastewater treatment and former chairman of the Water Desalination Administration has traveled the world explaining how Israel has managed to do the impossible: transform an arid desert in the Middle East to one of the leading countries developing water technologies and exporting that know-how across the globe.

Jewish National Fund-USA has been a critical element in making this a reality. Through building up to 250 reservoirs responsible for raising Israel’s recycled water from 5% to 85%, rehabilitation of rivers and transforming the Beersheba Stream into an oasis in the desert, supporting educational programs such as Green Horizons to teach young children the value of water conservation and helping preserve water for Beduin in the Negev, through its Wadi Attir project and more, JNF is implementing its overarching mission of making life better for the people of Israel.

“Green Horizons not only helps save water, but also is an educational tool. Water is precious and teaching children the importance of that is absolutely critical. This is what JNF helps to accomplish,” Marc Kelman, the JNF Water Task Force chairman, said.

Kelman was part of the organization’s delegation visiting Israel to see these projects unfold firsthand. The mission, called “Israel H2O: A JNF USA Tour on the Trail of Israel’s Water Solutions,” hosted water professionals, people from arid climates and, of course, those who simply have a love for Israel in their hearts.

“Our main purpose is to expose participants to water challenges and solutions of the State of Israel. We have traveled the country from North to South, visiting prominent water sites to understand how Israel can solve not only its challenges, but also supply water to its neighbors,” explained Talia Tzour Avner, KKL-JNF chief Israel emissary, who served as the tour’s director.

“One of our goals is to brand Israel positively. Not only to create that image but to export that knowledge to the rest of the world,” she said.

And exporting knowledge is what the Start-Up Nation is doing best.

While Israel did not invent the concept of drip irrigation, it perfected the modern-day version of the innovative process, and since 1959, has taken it to the next level, so much so that other countries, both developed and developing, want a piece of the action.

From a 2016 Obama administration initiative which called on Israeli firms to find solutions to California’s water crisis to JNF’s own Arava International Center for Agricultural Training, which trains farmers in developing nations like Vietnam how to use Israeli agricultural methods, Israeli cleantech know-how is spanning the globe.

Tenne believes water should be a nonpartisan issue, and it is politics that is preventing California – and America in general – from realizing its water conservation potential.

According to a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, nearly one million Californians are exposed to contaminated water, with mostly rural areas affected. A Dateline edition earlier this year interviewed residents outside Los Angeles who bemoaned a lack of water and even at one point saw “sand coming out of the faucets.”

“There are political and bureaucratic challenges. We have these problems in Israel too, of course, but before 1999 we reached a consensus because we were in a time of crisis,” he said.

“The US doesn’t have that consensus yet; they don’t have a master plan,” he explained, adding that the situation in America is further complicated by the many different utility companies that own the country’s water supply.

And visiting delegations are, in his view, not enough to solve America’s water crisis.

“Yes, we have delegations back and forth, but if politicians don’t make a decision, nothing will happen,” he said, recalling his experience with California state staffers in Sacramento two years ago, who listened intently to his ideas – but no progress was made since his visit.

Even though Israel recycles about 87% of its water, that is not to say Israel is itself out of the woods when it comes to supplying its citizens. With rainfall decreasing 50% in the past years, and the population set to double by 2050, Israel needs to drastically increase its water resources soon.

“JNF’s vision is to bring 500,000 people to the Negev and a further 300,000 to the North. That means more new residents need water in the years to come. This is an initiative that needs widespread support,” Tzour Avner said.

Dr. Rodney Glassman, a JNF board member and attorney who holds a PhD in arid land resources sciences, believes Israel’s water achievements are analogous to how JNF itself has grown over the past decades.

“This trip highlights the evolution of JNF. It used to be that every Jewish kid’s favorite bar mitzva present was a tree certificate from their Aunt Barbara in Baltimore. Today JNF’s capabilities are evolving with the needs of Israelis. Israel is now a country that is the best of the best. Who does America call now for creative solutions? Israel. Investing in Israel’s water future through trees, reservoirs and technology is really about investing in the survival of Israel,” he added.

The trip was an emotional one for Glassman, who arrived with his younger brother and 76-year-old father.

Witnessing the modern-day miracles Israel is accomplishing every day captivated the delegation. In Sorek, for example, 26,000 cubic meters of water an hour are blasted into massive filters in an energy efficient way and supplies 20% of Israel’s water demand.

At Shafdan’s Wastewater Treatment System, even the slight smell of sewage wasn’t enough to distract the group when they toured the facility and saw how it transforms sludge into water suitable for agriculture.

But for Robert Glassman, a Jewish farmer who has been leveraging technologies perfected in Israel while farming for over four decades in Central California, the water innovations paled in comparison to spending time in Israel with his sons.

While pleased with JNF’s contribution to Israel’s water future, spending a week with his sons in the Holy Land resonated with the elder Glassman the most. “I just wanted to come to Israel one last time with my boys,” he said.

And perhaps that is really the overarching story about Israel itself. Despite its technological prowess or innovation, at its core, its beckoning call to Jews can be hard to ignore. (Jerusalem Post)

Jerusalem Denial Complex

by Bret Stephens             The New York Times

If nothing else, Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital shows how disenthralled his administration is with traditional pieties about the Middle East. It’s about time.

One piety is that “Mideast peace” is all but synonymous with Arab-Israeli peace. Seven years of upheaval, repression, terrorism, refugee crises and mass murder in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq and Syria have put paid to that notion.

Another piety is that only an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could reconcile the wider Arab world to the Jewish state. Yet relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh, Cairo, Abu Dhabi and Manama are flourishing as never before, even as the prospect of a Palestinian state is as remote as ever.

A third is that intensive mediation by the United States is essential to progress on the ground. Yet recent American involvement — whether at the Camp David summit in 2000 or John Kerry’s efforts in 2013 — has had mostly the opposite effect: diplomatic failure, followed by war.

Which brings us to Jerusalem, and the piety that pretending it isn’t what it is can be a formula for anything except continued self-delusion.

What Jerusalem is is the capital of Israel, both as the ancestral Jewish homeland and the modern nation-state. When Richard Nixon became the first American president to visit the country in 1974, he attended his state dinner in Jerusalem. It’s where President Anwar Sadat of Egypt spoke when he decided to make peace in 1977. It’s what Congress decided as a matter of law in 1995. When Barack Obama paid his own presidential visit to Israel in 2013, he too spent most of his time in Jerusalem.

So why maintain the fiction that Jerusalem isn’t the capital?

The original argument, from 1947, was that Jerusalem ought to be under international jurisdiction, in recognition of its religious importance. But Jews were not allowed to visit the Western Wall during the 19 years when East Jerusalem was under Jordanian occupation. Yasir Arafat denied that Solomon’s Temple was even in Jerusalem, reflecting an increasingly common Palestinian denial of history.

Would Jews be allowed to visit Jewish sites, and would those sites be respected, if the city were redivided? Doubtful, considering Palestinian attacks on such sites, which is one of the reasons why it shouldn’t be.

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The next argument is that any effort by Washington to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would set the proverbial Arab street on fire and perhaps lead to another intifada.

But this misapprehends the nature of the street, which has typically been a propaganda tool of Arab leaders to channel domestic discontent and manipulate foreign opinion. And it also misrepresents the nature of the last intifada, which was a meticulously preplanned event waiting for a convenient pretext (Ariel Sharon’s September 2000 walk on the Temple Mount) to look like a spontaneous one.

Finally there’s the view that recognition is like giving your college freshman a graduation gift: a premature reward for an Israeli government that hasn’t yet done what’s needed to make a Palestinian state possible.

But this also gets a few things wrong. It will have no effect on whether or how a Palestinian state comes into being, whatever the current histrionics in Ramallah. And it’s not much of a bargaining chip, since most Israelis couldn’t care less where the embassy is ultimately located.

Then again, recognition does several genuinely useful things.

It belatedly aligns American words with deeds. It aligns word as well as deed with reality. And it aligns the United States with the country toward which we are constantly professing friendship even as we have spent seven decades stinting it of the most basic form of recognition.

Recognition also tells the Palestinians that they can no longer hold other parties hostage to their demands. East Jerusalem could have been the capital of a sovereign Palestinian state 17 years ago, if Arafat had simply accepted the terms at Camp David. He didn’t because he thought he could dictate terms to stronger powers. Nations pay a price for the foolhardiness of their leaders, as the Kurds recently found out.

Peace and a Palestinian state will come when Palestinians aspire to create a Middle Eastern Costa Rica — pacifist, progressive, neighborly and democratic — rather than another Yemen: by turns autocratic, anarchic, fanatical and tragic.

For the international community, that means helping Palestinians take steps to dismantle their current klepto-theocracy, rather than fueling a culture of perpetual grievance against Israel. Mahmoud Abbas is now approaching the 13th anniversary of his elected four-year term. Someone should point this out.

Hamas has run Gaza for a decade, during which it has spent more time building rockets and terror tunnels than hotels or hospitals. Someone should point this out, too. It is indicative of the disastrous political choices that help explain 70 years of Palestinian failure.

Meantime, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. For those who have lived in denial, it must be some sort of shock.

DEBATE: Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital – What Does It Mean?

By Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos    BESA Center  (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies)

https://besacenter.org/online-debates/debate-trumps-recognition-jerusalem-israels-capital-mean/

Q: On December 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump made a statement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and declaring that his administration will immediately begin the process of building an embassy in Jerusalem. What does Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital mean?

Respondents: Elliott Abrams, Daniel Pipes, Max Singer, Eytan Gilboa, Jonathan Rynhold, Hillel Frisch

Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Washington, DC – Former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor in the administration of President George W. Bush

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and has been since its War of Independence ended in 1949. The refusal to acknowledge this fact is a piece of the long campaign to deny Israel’s permanence and legitimacy.

President Trump’s decision to abandon this offensive practice and state the obvious fact – that whatever else Jerusalem may ever become, including the capital of a new state of Palestine, and whatever its borders may be, it is and will always be the capital of Jerusalem – should be applauded. The argument that this kills any possible peace negotiations is ridiculous. Did George W. Bush’s statements in 2004 that there would be no “right of return” to Israel and that Israel would keep the major settlement blocs in any final status deal kill off further negotiations? Did the refusal of American presidents to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital under all previous presidents since 1949 lead to successful negotiations? The answers are no and no. Evading the facts and refusing to acknowledge reality will never bring peace.

Will there now be violence, for days or months? There will if Arab leaders want there to be. Like the intifada that Arafat fueled after Camp David, rioting and terrorism can always be arranged – or prevented. Those who “predicted” violence were in effect threatening Trump, and he was right to face them down and say rioters do not get to veto American foreign policy. If Palestinians want peace they will negotiate for peace – wherever the US Embassy sits.

Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum

The move of the US embassy to Jerusalem brings on a flood of thoughts. Briefly: This completes the UN creation of Israel on Nov. 29, 1947. It effectively recognizes pre-1967 West Jerusalem, not the whole of Jerusalem, as Israel’s capital. Coincidentally, it came 70 years and 7 days after the UN vote. Also of note, it came three days shy of the centenary of British conquest of Jerusalem from the Ottomans.

As a specialist on the Middle East, I hate to admit it, but this step results from fresh faces breaking with a stale past. The move sends exactly the right message to the Palestinians: your continued attempt to eliminate the Jewish state of Israel will cost you. Trump’s December 2017 moving of the embassy neatly checks and refutes Obama’s December 2016 abstaining from the Security Council resolution.

Denunciations of the move came in fast and hard from the pope, the UN Secretary-General, European leaders, Ankara and Tehran, Islamists, the Left, and Palestinians. Strikingly, however, Arab states were largely mum, for they have much higher priorities to contend with. Good for Trump for ignoring threats of the Arab street rising up; the riot veto must not be allowed to determine policy.

Max Singer, Senior Fellow, Co-Founder, and Trustee Emeritus at Hudson Institute, Washington DC and BESA Senior Fellow

President Trump’s decision was a good decision from the point of view of Israel, of the US, and of the long-term effort to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  Unfortunately the benefit of the decision was somewhat reduced by the lack of respect that exists for President Trump and widespread automatic opposition to anything he does, as well as doubts about his ability to ensure that his administration follows through with implementation of his new policy. But it is better to have the right decision from a president who is not respected than the wrong decision from a more widely respected president.

Trump’s judgment that Arab threats of widespread violent Arab reaction to the US action were largely bluff will be demonstrated to be correct. And those in the US and elsewhere who are willing to learn from experience will begin to change their opinion about the centrality of the Israel-Palestine conflict to Middle Eastern politics, and about the wisdom of what had been standard diplomatic views about Middle Eastern politics. The decision and its results will eventually improve Trump’s reputation with open-minded observers around the world.

The US decision to recognize the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel will be most important if it becomes the beginning of a new US policy of pursuing peace by teaching and speaking the truth concerning the Palestinian-Israeli dispute – instead of ignoring or downplaying reality adverse to the Palestinians on the false theory that doing so advances the cause of peace. One of the main obstacles to peace has been European and American encouragement of Palestinian illusions that the Jewish, democratic state can be removed from the region with the help of democratic denial of reality.

Eytan Gilboa, Director, Center for International Communication and Senior Research Associate, the BESA Center, Bar-Ilan University

A long overdue action. A correction of an exceptional anomaly in international relations. States are entitled to determine where to locate their capitals. Jerusalem has been an odd exception. The US recognition doesn’t change anything on the ground. It doesn’t say anything about the future borders of the city or the final distribution of sovereignty. The Palestinian claim for Jerusalem is controversial. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years. The Palestinians never owned Jerusalem. Jordan occupied it between 1948 and 1967. There is almost a total consensus in Israel among all the Jewish parties except one that this was the right and justified move.

This is an American decision, not an Israeli one. Any action against Israel isn’t justified. A Palestinian harsh or violent reaction should be answered by immediate suspension of the annual $500,000 US aid and the expulsion of the PLO office from Washington. The Palestinians and Arabs have passed at UN organizations, such as UNESCO, ridiculous and outrageous resolutions that deny any Jewish rights and ties to Jerusalem. Trump’s statement balances this campaign. The US will remain the only mediator because there isn’t anybody else, and only the US can exert pressure on both sides to make concessions. Trump’s recognition may even inspire the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations because it proves that Trump means what he says, and he has promised to bring about a comprehensive agreement.

Jonathan Rynhold, Director, Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish People, Bar-Ilan University

President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem is certainly just, but is it wise? On the one hand, the US may have increased its leverage over both sides. By stating that he is beginning preparations for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, Trump has signaled to the Palestinians that it is in their interest to enter negotiations sooner rather than later because without serious negotiations their bargaining position will deteriorate.

Equally, because Trump is viewed as very pro-Israel by the Israeli public, it will be more difficult for Netanyahu to say no to any requests from the president for compromises. It was easy for Bibi to say no to Obama, since there was no domestic political price; not so with Trump. Moreover, nothing in the actual text of the president’s statement precludes future compromise on the issue of Jerusalem; nor does it change the situation on the ground.

On the other hand, this leverage may be blown away by a storm of extremist violence. Despite the reasonable foundations of the announcement, the emotional resonance and religious symbolism of Jerusalem makes it a potent recruiting sergeant for violent extremism. It is impossible to predict whether the match that has been lit will catch fire this time, but there is no lack of flammable liquid in the room. If violence does kick off it will destabilize the relatively moderate Palestinian Authority vis-à-vis Hamas and weaken pro-Western Arab states who are aligned with Israel against Iran. Since Iran is the major threat to Israel, this would be very bad news in strategic terms, as the regional balance of power would shift to Iran’s advantage.

Overall, then, Israel has gained a little from Trump’s act, but it stands to lose a lot more if things turn nasty.

Hillel Frisch, Professor of Political Studies and Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University

For Israel, this is a major achievement. Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish kingdom under King David and Solomon and since 1948, the capital of the State of the Jewish people, Israel, their descendants. It’s high time that a unique country such as the US accept the uniqueness of the rebirth of the Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital. The US is still the only superpower in the world today – with the only army that can project power globally, the scientific powerhouse of our age, a country with political and economic links the world over.

Others will follow in its wake. Incidentally, Russia has already recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. The PA will learn to live with the declaration and continue security coordination with Israel against the common enemy Hamas, and the Arab states are more concerned by Iranian aggrandizement than Jerusalem, a minor city in the Muslim faith. Those who will express the greatest enmity to the decision are Iran and Turkey, imperial powers of the past; and their proxies, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, and Hamas. Iran and Turkey are reawakening their imperialist designs towards their Arab neighbors and both, in this spirit, covet Jerusalem.

U.S.: Israel, Like All Nations, Has the Right to Determine Its Capital City – Amb. Nikki Haley (U.S. Mission to the UN)

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Friday:

“The Jewish people are a patient people. Throughout 3,000 years of civilization, foreign conquest, exile, and return, Jerusalem has remained their spiritual home. For nearly 70 years, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel, despite many attempts by others to deny that reality.”

“The American people are less patient. In 1948, the United States was the first nation to recognize the independent State of Israel. In 1995, the U.S. Congress declared that Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Israel, and that the U.S. Embassy should be located in Jerusalem.”

“Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all agreed with that position, but they did not act. They delayed, in the hopes that a peace process would produce results – results that never came….This week, President Trump finally made the decision to no longer deny the will of the American people….The President has announced that the United States recognizes the obvious – that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”

“Israel, like all nations, has the right to determine its capital city….It is simple common sense that foreign embassies be located there. In virtually every country in the world, U.S. embassies are located in the host country’s capital city. Israel should be no different.”

“Our actions are intended to help advance the cause of peace. We must recognize that peace is advanced, not set back, when all parties are honest with each other. Our actions reflected an honest assessment of reality.”

“To those who do not act in good faith – to any person, leader, country, or terrorist group that uses this week’s decision as a pretext for violence – you are only showing yourselves to be unfit partners of peace.”

“Over many years, the United Nations has outrageously been one of the world’s foremost centers of hostility towards Israel. The UN has done much more to damage the prospects for Middle East peace than to advance them. We will not be a party to that. The United States no longer stands by when Israel is unfairly attacked in the United Nations. And the United States will not be lectured to by countries that lack any credibility when it comes to treating both Israelis and Palestinians fairly.”