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Latest News in Israel – 1st November

Terrifying Arab road rage attack on Israeli bus full of passengers

Three residents of the northern Israeli-Arab village of Turan are under arrest for attacking a public bus with a metal rod and other objects.

The “road rage” was triggered by the fact that the three were in a vehicle on the shoulder of a highway and, when they wanted to re-enter the highway, they were blocked by the bus for ten seconds. (WIN)

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20 Arabs from West Bank indicted in largest agricultural theft in decades

Less than 10 days after 67 Palestinians, including 40 minors, were arrested in what police deemed one of the largest agricultural heists in decades, 20 of the suspects have been indicted for stealing more than 30 tons of produce.

On October 21, a Shabbat, Arab residents of the West Bank village of Beit Awwa were found in possession of 24 tons of grapes and seven tons of tomatoes stolen from Moshav Shekef in the Lachish region, near the West Bank security barrier.

They had intended to sell the goods on the black market.

According to police, the suspects, including dozens of women and children, illegally entered the area with crates and baskets by crossing the security barrier. A resident of the moshav told YNet the suspects “waded through water five and a half meters high and entered the greenhouses and vineyards.”

“They took advantage of the fact that there are no workers here on Saturday and destroyed the greenhouses,” he added.

According to the indictment, the defendants caused NIS 300,000 in damages to the vineyards and tomato plots by breaking the greenhouses walls, destroying equipment, cutting through insect nets and ruining new crops.

Following the arrests, the Southern District Attorney’s Office filed a request to remand the suspects pending an ongoing investigation.

“The actions of the defendants, who spent hours in Israel in broad daylight, stole agricultural produce worth hundreds of thousands of shekels and caused extensive damage – with the help of minors and women – are a testament to their insolence and raises the fear similar acts will be perpetrated,” the indictment states.

“They were organized, planned their actions and worked systematically,” it added.

The defendants are being charged with multiple crimes, including illegally entering Israel, trespassing, malicious damage of property and theft under aggravated circumstances.

(Jerusalem Post)

FIFA says it won’t censure Israel over settlement teams, irks Palestinians

Israel scored a rare win on Friday as the Palestinians lost their bid to oust six West Bank soccer clubs from the global body governing the sport, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

“FIFA’s decision is a great victory for our fight against the boycott,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said after hearing the news.

The Palestinians have failed in their attempt to use sports as a political weapon against Israel, said Erdan.

“We will continue to work to thwart the boycott initiatives of the Palestinians and the BDS organizations,” he added.

The Palestinians had hoped FIFA would censure Israel over the settlement teams, thereby forcing them to either drop the clubs from the Israel Football Association or risk losing FIFA membership.

Instead FIFA on Friday said it had no intention of taking action against the teams or of intervening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Given that the final status of the West Bank territories is the concern of the competent international public law authorities, the FIFA Council agrees that FIFA, in line with the general principle established in its statutes, must remain neutral with regard to political matters,” the organization said.

“It was agreed that any interference by FIFA in the status quo of football in the relevant territories without the consent of the parties concerned might aggravate the situation of football not only in the territories in question, but also in the greater region affected – which would not be in the best interests of the game,” FIFA said.

“Therefore, the FIFA Council has decided to refrain from imposing any sanctions or other measures on either the Israel FA or the Palestinian FA, as well as from requesting any other FIFA body to do so. The matter is declared closed and will not be the subject of any further discussion until the legal and/or de facto framework has changed,” FIFA said.

FIFA said it would “continue to facilitate the movement of players, officials and football equipment in, out of, and within Palestine.”

The Palestinian Football Association had argued that the FIFA statutes which state that a member country’s teams cannot play matches on the territory of another association without permission.

The PFA has also complained that Israel hampers its activities, including limiting the movement of players between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and that it has barred some international travel.

Israel has cited security concerns for its actions and the IFA says it is not responsible for the actions of its government.

In 2015, the PFA proposed during a FIFA Congress that Israel be suspended from international soccer, but the PFA backed down after FIFA set up a task force led by South African politician Tokyo Sexwale.

Fadi Quran, a senior campaigner for the NGO Avaaz in Palestine, warned that FIFA could face legal action as a result of its decision.

“FIFA’s failure to act means thousands of Palestinian children are being robbed of the chance to play the game they love on the land that’s theirs. If FIFA won’t do its job and won’t respect its own statutes and international law, then the courts will force it to do so,” Quran said.  (Jerusalem Post)

With PM Turnbull in town, Australians laud ties with Israel

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull checked into the King David Hotel in Jerusalem at 2 p.m. on Monday, just less than two days later than he originally intended, and almost immediately entered into discussions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Neither Turnbull nor Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan attended a cocktail reception in Turnbull’s honor that was co-hosted by the Australian Embassy and the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce. But Turnbull’s wife, Lucy, was there before joining the Netanyahus for dinner, and so was Cannan’s immediate predecessor, former Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma, who returned to Israel specifically to participate in Tuesday’s centenary commemoration of the Battle of Beersheba.

Parliamentarians representing Turnbull’s Liberal Party as well as those from the Australian Labor Party led by party and opposition leader Bill Shorten were in attendance, as well as members of five delegations – four of them trade delegations – who are in Israel to enhance bilateral relations in their respective fields and to join in the Beersheba festivities.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during a joint press conference at the Prime Minister Office in Jerusalem

Josh Frydenberg MP, the minister for the Environment and Energy who was in Israel last April to sign a declaration of intent with Minister Zev Elkin for cooperation on various environmental issues, recalled that when Menachem Begin was opposition leader, he went to Washington and, at a press conference, was full of praise for the government. A puzzled journalist couldn’t understand this and asked how come, to which Begin replied that when he’s in Israel he’s the leader of the opposition, but when he’s in America he’s a proud Israeli.

Frydenberg said that Australians are much the same and that all of the parliamentarians present, regardless of their political affiliations, had come as proud Australians.

The minister also referred to the fact that Australia’s Dr. Herbert Evatt had made sure that Australia’s would be the first “yes” vote for the partition of Palestine at the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947.

Frydenberg said that the strength of Australia’s bipartisan commitment to the bilateral relationship was based on common values and shared interests. Bilateral trade between the two countries stands at $1.2 billion, he said.

Praising the role of the Chamber of Commerce in fostering trade relations, Frydenberg said that over the last year or so ten Israeli companies with a combined market value of $1.7 billion had been listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.  (Jerusalem Post)

Amid tension over terror tunnel, PM at Beersheba ceremony: ‘Don’t test us’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a clear message on Tuesday to Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which may be planning to retaliate a day after the IDF destroyed a terrorist tunnel from Gaza: “Don’t test us.”

Speaking at the British Cemetery in Beersheba at a ceremony marking 100 years since the Battle of Beersheba, Netanyahu said, “We set out a simple policy: We seek peace with all our neighbors, but we will not tolerate any attacks on our sovereignty, on our people, on our land, whether from the air, from the sea, from the ground or below the ground.”

Netanyahu continued: “We attack those who seek to attack us. And those who contemplate that, I strongly advise you: Do not test the will of the State of Israel or the army of Israel.”

His words came amid tension that Islamic Jihad may try to retaliate for the destruction of the tunnel and the killing of a number of its men inside the tunnel.”

At the ceremony, in the presence of visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand’s Gov.-Gen. Patsy Reddy, as well as many other Australian and New Zealand dignitaries, Netanyahu said that what the Australian light brigade accomplished in the battle of Beersheba has inspired generations of Israeli soldiers.

“We saw here in Beersheba 800 cavalry go against 4,000 embedded Turks with machine guns and bunkers, “he said. “The few won against the many. That’s the spirit of the army of Israel, it stands today.”

Netanyahu said the “brave soldiers who are buried here played a crucial role in defeating the Ottoman Empire, liberating the Holy Land and ending 400 years of Ottoman rule in one great dash.”

The prime minister began his words by saying: “Nearly 4,000 years ago Abraham came to Beersheba, the City of Seven Wells. Exactly 100 years ago, brave ANZAC soldiers liberated Beersheba for the sons of daughters of Abraham and opened the gateway for the Jewish people to enter the stage of history.”

Turnbull, who arrived on Monday evening for 48-hours to take part in the ceremonies, said the “mad Australians” who charged the Turkish positions and took the town of Beersheba “secured the victory that did not create the State of Israel, but enabled its creation.

“Had the Ottoman rule in Palestine and Syria not been overthrown by the Australians and New Zealanders, the Balfour Declaration would have been empty words, but this was a step for the creation of Israel,” he continued.

Turnbull said that while the men who fought in the battle could not have foreseen the “extraordinary success of the State of Israel, its resilience, its determination, its indomitability against overwhelming odds, the spirit was the same. And, like the State of Israel has done ever since, they defied history, they made history, and – with their courage – they fulfilled history.”

The battle, Turnbull added, has become an integral part of Australian history and “part of our psyche.”

“It is an extraordinary episode in our national story – imagine these young men so far from home, out of the Australian bush, with their own horses, in a completely alien landscape, the only familiarity being the names of the places, and that from their Bible lessons,” he said.

“Their feats will never be forgotten, their memory never fade. The tradition of man and horse is a part of us, part of Australia, it always will be. This was the last great cavalry charge in history.” (Jerusalem Post)

Despite huge tunnel setback, Islamic Jihad likely won’t start war with Israel

By Avi Issacharoff                The Times of Israel

https://www.timesofisrael.com/despite-huge-tunnel-setback-islamic-jihad-likely-wont-start-war-with-israel/

It should have been one of the quietest and most festive weeks in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, Hamas is ostensibly set to hand over control of the border crossings to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority as part of the reconciliation accord.

With a delegation of Egyptian officials due to visit the Gaza Strip in the coming days, the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings are slated to officially be relinquished to Palestinian Authority oversight in the first concrete step in the rapprochement agreement between rival factions Hamas and Fatah.

Though this transfer of power is not particularly dramatic since PA forces, and not Hamas, are already running the two crossings, the symbolic gesture to a certain extent was to signal a new era in Gaza.

That was, until Israel destroyed an active terror tunnel extending from the coastal enclave into southern Israel, killing two senior fighters of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization and and at least five others on Monday.

Israel’s decision to blow up the tunnel near Kibbutz Kissufim on the border instantaneously changed the conversation in the coastal enclave. Instead of discussing unity, reconciliation, and an improved economic situation, Gazans were again speaking of martyrs, escalation of hostilities, and tunnels.

It appears that the coastal enclave refuses to give up its wicked ways — Gaza will always be Gaza.

The Israeli operation was certainly justified.  The demolition of the terror attack tunnel was carried out inside Israeli territory — showing clearly that the tunnel was an act of aggression by the Islamic Jihad terror organization, which dug into Israel with the goal of carrying out a terror attack at some point.

It is hard to think of a better, or more legitimate reason for Israel to act.

However, as a result of the destruction of the tunnel, seven terrorists were killed and a further 12 were injured (at last count), raising the possibility that the Islamic Jihad group will respond by firing rockets at Israel. Israel’s reaction to any rocket fire would be swift, and Hamas would likely then get involved.

On the one hand, it appears the Islamic Jihad has all the reason it needs to seek revenge for the attack on its men; it is the highest death toll for the Palestinians since the end of 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

On the other, the terror group has many reasons not to respond, foremost of which is the pressure for restraint by Hamas.

Reconciliation or war?

The Hamas terror organization which rules Gaza does not want an escalation right now. It wants reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority.

Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and his colleagues do not hide the fact that they want to achieve three goals in the near future — quiet, quiet, and more quiet. And without the backing from Hamas and a real pretext for war, it is doubtful that the Islamic Jihad would rush to draw two million Gazans into another war.

Despite the anger over the deaths of the terrorists, those living in the coastal enclave, like the heads of Islamic Jihad, know there is no real reason for them to react now, other than to let off some steam. They know that Israel acted within its own borders, and was working to prevent a terror attack by Islamic Jihad. The terror organization is paying the price for its own actions.

There is another factor that makes war more unlikely and has many people in Israel and Gaza breathing a tentative sigh of relief: the fact that it was not a Hamas terror tunnel, even though two of those killed in the blast and collapse were members of the Hamas naval squad.

According to Hamas, the two tried to help free those trapped in the tunnel and suffocated on poisonous gasses that were released within the underground passage.

Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, nonetheless faces no pressure from the Palestinians in Gaza to respond. Quite the opposite — the people of Gaza want quiet, an improvement in their economic situation, and unity. An attack by Islamic Jihad at this time won’t serve that purpose.

What did the IDF know?

The cryptic response from Israel also raises numerous questions. What exactly are the new technological innovations vaguely cited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that enabled Israel to locate the tunnel? If this was a tunnel built by the Islamic Jihad, how many more Hamas attack tunnels are out there that Israel knows about?

Was the operation an attempt to send a message to the Palestinians and Hamas about what will happen to those who attempt to sneak into Israel through tunnels?

What were two Hamas operatives, members of its elite unit, doing there?

Was the destruction of the tunnel foiling a specific, planned terror attack, nipping it in the bud?

Did Israel know there were terror operatives inside the tunnel including Arafat Abu Murshad, the Islamic Jihad’s central Gaza commander, and his deputy Hassan Abu Hassanein?

An IDF spokesperson said the army did not know anyone was inside the tunnel.

At this point, it appears that the deaths of the senior officers was no more than a coincidence. And it wouldn’t be the first time Israel and the Palestinians found themselves in this position, amid Palestinian unity negotiations.

In June 2006 the Israeli Air Force attacked a training camp of the Popular Resistance Committee, a terror group headed by former Fatah and Tanzim member Jamal Abu Samhadan. Samhadan was by chance in the camp at the time and was unintentionally killed by the Israeli planes. That incident led to discussions of Palestinian unity based on the National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners released by Marwan Barghouti.

A few days later, the terror attack was carried out which led to the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. That was the end of the unity talks.

Will the reconciliation agreement suffer a similar fate? Or will Islamic Jihad be able to restrain itself?

In the next few days, we will likely find out.

Celebrating Israeli-Australian Friendship

by Isi Leibler                 Israel Hayom

http://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/celebrating-israeli-australian-friendship/

Today Australia is indisputably Israel’s best friend in the world – in every respect.

The origins of this relationship have their genesis a century ago with the spectacular victory of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) that liberated Beersheba on October 31, 1917 and paved the way for the conquest of Jerusalem.  This was followed two days later by the issuance of the Balfour Declaration which preceded the British Mandate and subsequently served as the basis for the establishment of a Jewish state.

The Battle of Beersheba was a turning point in the war against the Ottoman Empire after successive failures to capture Gaza. It was the first time Australians and New Zealanders were highlighted as having effected a critical impact. The stunning charge of the ANZAC Light Horse Brigade that overcame the Turkish defenses was hailed as a milestone of military bravery comparable to that of the Light Brigade at Balaklava in 1854 and is remembered as the last great cavalry charge, establishing it as the best cavalry force in the world. It represented Australia’s first outstanding achievement as a fighting force, predating the 1918 Western Front victories.

With the disaster at Gallipoli, where over 8,000 Australians needlessly lost their lives, many initially predicted that this attempt was doomed to failure and represented yet another example of military incompetence and willingness to cynically sacrifice soldiers.

Beersheba was heavily fortified, making the town a virtual fortress, and the battle was considered a last-ditch effort to defeat the Ottoman Empire in the region.

Late in the afternoon of October 31, following an order by their commander, Sir Harry Chauvel, 800 Australian light horsemen, brandishing bayonets, galloped directly into machine-gun fire, many dismounting and engaging in hand-to-hand combat, surprising the Turks who did not imagine that the Australians would act so brazenly. Galloping over 2 kilometers at top speed, they overcame the stunned Turkish defenders in less than an hour. Thirty Australian horsemen were killed and 36 wounded. Over 500 Turks were killed and 1,500 surrendered.

It was a glorious victory, a turning point in the struggle enabling General Edmund Allenby to defeat the Ottomans in Palestine.

It also heralded the beginning of an extraordinary close relationship between Australia and Israel.

On the personal and individual level, it was enhanced by Australian soldiers temporarily stationed in Palestine at the outset of World War II who developed good relations with the Jews. Old timers still relate nostalgically to the friendship extended by the Australians as tensions were rising with the British mandatory officials.

This week the Australian and Israeli governments will jointly celebrate the centennial anniversary of the heroic Light Brigade’s extraordinary role in Beersheba. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, New Zealand Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a major entourage of ministers, officials, descendants of the ANZACs, and over 100 Australian horsemen, as well as private citizens from both countries will participate in commemorative ceremonies. These will include a joint Australian-New Zealand service at the war cemetery, the opening of an ANZAC museum, and a re-enactment of the charge by the Australian Light Horse Brigade.

It is anticipated that huge numbers will attend what promises to be a spectacular event highlighting the Australian-Israeli relationship.

Australian Jewry enjoys an outstanding Jewish lifestyle and can be considered a jewel in the crown of the Diaspora. Jews were among the first boatloads of convicts transported to Australia in the 18th century.

The first military commander of Australian forces serving during World War I was Sir John Monash, a proud Jew who was also the founding president of the Zionist Federation of Australia.

In the 1930s, the Jewish community was declining and rapidly assimilating but over the course of time it became reinvigorated by Holocaust refugees and survivors. Most of the newcomers were passionately Zionist and created a unique network of Jewish schools ranging from secular Zionist to Chabad, from Modern Orthodox to Reform and even a Bundist Yiddish school. From the 1980s, the community expanded further with the immigration of large numbers of Russians and South Africans.

Many penniless Jewish immigrants to “the lucky country” became leading industrial titans. Jewish leaders were appointed prominent roles in public life, including two governors general. One, the late Sir Zelman Cowan, was an outspoken Zionist and champion of Jewish rights. My brother, Mark Leibler, a long-standing Zionist leader and head of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, was appointed by the government as co-chairman of the expert panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal Peoples.

Today, Australian Jewry numbers over 120,000, has the highest percentage of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in a Diaspora Jewish community, and is one of the most Zionist communities in the world with 15,000 – more than 10% of the community – having made aliyah.

The community, united under the umbrella of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, could well serve as a template for other Jewish communities to emulate. The Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce has emerged as probably the most successful chamber of commerce in the nation.

Despite its geographical distance, except for two minor aberrations, Australia has consistently maintained a positive bipartisan relationship with Israel since its creation, when Labor leader Dr. H.V. Evatt chaired the U.N. General Assembly.

Both parties also supported broader Jewish concerns. Successive governments made major global contributions toward ameliorating the plight of Soviet Jews, particularly in 1962 when Australia became the first country in the world to raise the issue of Soviet Jewry at the U.N., condemning Soviet anti-Semitism and calling for the right of Jews to emigrate. On a personal note, two successive prime ministers from each of the two major parties directly intervened to enable me to assist Soviet Jews and instructed the Australian Embassy in Moscow to provide me with maximum assistance. The embassy was regarded as a haven for refuseniks despite the tension this created with the Soviet authorities.

Australia was directly involved in efforts to rescind the infamous 1975 U.N. resolution that equated Zionism with racism. It also served as a crucial intermediary for Jewish leaders seeking to promote diplomatic relations between Israel and Asian countries.

The Jewish community can claim much of the credit for this.

In contrast to their American and European counterparts, Australian community leaders have not hesitated to confront their government on the rare occasions they considered their government was acting in a biased manner or applying double standards against Israel. The all-encompassing Zionist orientation of the bipartisan Jewish community is undoubtedly a major factor contributing to the pro-Israel orientation of the mainstream political parties.

However, there are now dark clouds emanating from sectors of the Australian Labor Party, whose former Foreign Minister Bob Carr has become a spokesman for extremist Arab causes and vitriolically lambasts the Jewish community for being extreme right-wing. He is supported by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who was once one of Israel’s greatest supporters. The growing electoral power of over 500,000 Muslims, especially concentrated in the Labor electorates, also strengthens these trends.

Yet, despite a growth of anti-Semitism and intensified anti-Israeli activity at universities, overall, the public tends toward Israel. But there are legitimate concerns that if the current government is defeated by Labor in the next elections, the Arab lobby – which now has a powerful electoral influence within Labor and its left-wing allies – will pressure Australia to adjust its Israel policy in line with that of the hostile EU.

But 18 months to the next election is a long time and meanwhile the Australia-Israel relationship has exceeded all expectations.

Netanyahu’s visit to Australia earlier this year was a resounding success and undoubtedly Turnbull’s visit will further cement this relationship.

We warmly welcome the Australian prime minister and his entourage to Israel and are confident that this will further strengthen the burgeoning economic, technological, defense and investment ties that bind our countries.

I Am Proud of Britain’s Part in Creating Israel – British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (Telegraph-UK)

On November 2, 1917, my predecessor Lord Balfour sat in the Foreign Secretary’s office and composed a letter that laid the foundations of the State of Israel.

On the Centenary, I will say what I believe: the Balfour Declaration was indispensable to the creation of a great nation. In the seven decades since its birth, Israel has prevailed over what has sometimes been the bitter hostility of neighbors to become a liberal democracy and a dynamic hi-tech economy.

In a region where many have endured authoritarianism and misrule, Israel has always stood out as a free society. Like every country, Israel has faults and failings. But it strives to live by the values in which I believe.

I served a stint at a kibbutz in my youth, and I saw enough to understand the miracle of Israel: the bonds of hard work, self-reliance, and an audacious and relentless energy that hold together a remarkable country.

Most of all, there is the incontestable moral goal: to provide a persecuted people with a safe and secure homeland. So I am proud of Britain’s part in creating Israel and Her Majesty’s Government will mark the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration on Thursday in that spirit.

I am also heartened that the new generation of Arab leaders does not see Israel in the same light as their predecessors. I trust that more will be done against the twin scourges of terrorism and anti-Semitic incitement.

In the final analysis, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must negotiate the details and write their own chapter in history. A century on, Britain will give whatever support we can in order to close the ring and complete the unfinished business of the Balfour Declaration.

Beersheva re-enactment

History enthusiasts, many of them descendants of Light Horsemen, retrace the route of the Anzacs near Beersheba in the lead-up to today’s anniversary