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Latest News in Israel – 22nd November

Thanks to Israel, Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak is no longer a fairytale

You don’t need to be a Harry Potter fan in order to enjoy this unbelievable invisibility cloak.

This magical invention is based on truly amazing optics.

These Ben-Gurion University researchers have worked on this amazing invention which will bring what seemed like fiction into the realm of non-fiction. (Israel Video Network)

Liberman seeks billions for defense against Iran

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is seeking an extra NIS 4.8 billion over the next three years to deal in part with increased threats along the northern border, including from Syria and Iran.

“There is a fundamental change in the security situation in the region which requires an increase in the defense budget,” Liberman said on Monday, as he detailed several reasons for the increased spending. “Our primary goal is to prevent the next war.”

The defense minister said the IDF has maintained a high level of security for several years, but now the “situation is fragile and volatile.” Liberman detailed three new situations that did not exist when the budget was first drafted: a “massive Russian presence” in Syria; precision weapons introduced in the area, with both Hezbollah and “other elements” trying to get precise weapons; and a dramatic acceleration in the Iranian military industry, which is a source of concern not just for Israel but also for the Arab League.

Liberman added that the Iranian military budget was growing at a much faster rate than the IDF budget.

“The IDF will deal with every challenge under any circumstance,” Liberman said. He explained that he was not issuing any threats nor did he want to make it seem as if the IDF would stop fighting if it didn’t receive the extra money.

“But I want everyone to be aware of the sensitive situation we have found ourselves in,” Liberman said. “If we want to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel, we will have to increase the budget.” (Jerusalem Post)

Not all criticism is incitement, PM says after Rivlin comes under fire

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded Monday to a volley of attacks on President Reuven Rivlin, defending the right of lawmakers to criticize the head of state but urging that it be done in a respectful manner and without provocative imagery.

Rivlin came under fire Sunday after he refused to grant a pardon to former IDF soldier Elor Azaria, who was imprisoned after being convicted for the manslaughter of a prone and injured Palestinian attack he shot dead in the West Bank city of Hebron during his army service.

Some of the harshest criticism against Rivlin for his refusal came from Likud lawmakers, and police said they were opening an incitement investigation after a doctored picture posted on the president’s Facebook page showed him wearing an Arab headdress. Opposition leaders condemned Netanyahu for not speaking out against some of the vituperation directed at the president.

“In a democracy, you may criticize everyone,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Likud faction meeting. “Not all criticism is incitement — but it should be without keffiyehs, without statues, without nooses, and without Nazi uniforms that we have all been dressed in” — a reference to previous incidents in which members of the public depicted the prime minister in a Nazi uniform as a form of criticism.

However, he said, the right wing was often unfairly attacked for expressing legitimate criticism.

“With regard to substantive criticism it is not only permitted, it is essential,” the prime minister continued. “You can’t always define substantive criticism from the right as incitement and substantive criticism from the left as freedom of speech… Because that is the basis of democracy. ”

He also noted that he disagreed with Rivlin’s decision not to pardon Azaria, who is serving a 14-month sentence for manslaughter.

Labor party leader Avi Gabbay, in contrast, rapped Likud politicians for condemning Rivlin’s pardon decision.

“Politicians are not supposed to deal with pardons; this is the job of the legal system, not the political system,” Gabbay said at the weekly faction meeting of the Zionist Union, which is made up of the Labor and Hatnua parties. “We hear the embarrassing attacks by politicians in Likud [against the president] and the prime minister is silent because this is the political culture that he is instilling.”

“Those doing the attacking are his [Netanyahu’s] messengers and so don’t need to be called to order,” Gabbay scoffed.

Speaking just before Gabbay, Zionist Union faction chairman MK Yoel Hasson thanked Rivlin for his “brave decision” to commute the sentence of Yonatan Heilo, who was serving time for killing his rapist.

“The president did the right and moral thing,” Hasson said.

Following Rivlin’s decision, announced Sunday, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who opposed Azaria’s imprisonment, criticized the president for not taking the opportunity to set Azaria free.

“The president had an opportunity to fulfill the proper purpose of the institution of pardoning. It is very regrettable that President Rivlin gave in to unacceptable pressures and chose to join those who abandoned Elor,” Regev said in a statement. “It is a great shame that the president didn’t end this saga today.”

Coalition chairman David Bitan echoed Regev, saying at the time that Rivlin had missed an opportunity, and outspoken Likud MK Oren Hazan said Rivlin should step down.

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, speaking Monday at his own faction meeting, called on Netanyahu to bring his party’s lawmakers into line.

“Since yesterday the prime minister has not seen fit to get up and condemn all of the attacks on the president of the country,” Lapid said. “There are pictures of him [Rivlin] with a keffiyeh and calling him a Nazi. Miri Regev, David Bitan, Oren Hazan are saying things about the president in intolerable language — and the prime minister is silent as a fish, as though it has nothing to do with him.”

The keffiyeh is a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. The photo is resonant in Israel because it recalls an infamous doctored image of the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in the traditional Arab headscarf, which was disseminated as part of a vicious campaign against him following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1994 and before his assassination.

Azaria’s months-long trial and conviction revealed deep rifts in Israeli society, with some hailing him as a hero for killing an attacker and others deploring his actions.

Azaria, at the time of the shooting an enlisted serviceman in the IDF, was convicted of manslaughter for killing Palestinian stabber Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, who had been shot and disarmed some 11 minutes earlier after he attacked soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron in March 2016.

Currently, Azaria is scheduled to be released in October 2018. However, he may get out of prison before then, as, under military law, a prisoner is eligible for parole after half the sentence has been served. (the Times of Israel)

Palestinians freeze all US contacts over threat to shutter PLO office in DC

The Palestinians have frozen all contacts with the United States after it decided to close their representative office in Washington, officials said on Tuesday.

“In practice by closing the office they are freezing all meetings and we are making that official,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told AFP.

A spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization confirmed that it had received instructions from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “regarding closing down all communication lines with the Americans.”

The Palestinian move comes as the Trump administration seeks to broker the long-out-of-reach Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Speaking in the Spanish Parliament today, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians were “committed to a historic peace deal [with Israel] under the auspices of President Trump.”

Over the weekend the US State Department informed Malki that the PLO office in DC would be closed because the Palestinians had violated a 2015 US Congressional mandate.

A US State Department official cited “certain statements made by Palestinian leaders” about the International Criminal Court as the violation.

In December 2015, Congress introduced a new provision into the annual State and Foreign Operations Bill, mandating that the PLO mission in Washington be shut if the Palestinians initiate or support an International Criminal Court investigation against Israelis.

In his 2017 address to the United Nations General Assembly, Abbas seemed to have violated that clause:

“We have also called on the International Criminal Court, as is our right, to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials” over Israeli settlement activity, he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Malki told the PA’s official radio station, the Voice of Palestine, that the US administration was reconsidering its decision to close down the PLO office due to the threat by the Palestinian leadership to freeze contacts.

Malki added that if the US wanted to review the decision to shut the office in DC, it would also have to review all the laws passed by Congress that treat the PLO as a terrorist organization and “disrespect relations between the two countries.”

In 1987, Congress outlawed any PLO presence on US soil due to the group’s terror activities at the time. In 1993, due to the Oslo peace process, Congress allowed for the PLO to open a mission in DC, as long as it stayed faithful to its commitments in the peace talks.

In 1997, Congress made it easier for the president to waive sanctions against the PLO: The president would only have to say the waiver was in the US’s national security interest without providing addition explanation. Still, a waiver would have to be signed every six months.

That was the case until 2011, when the Palestinians joined UNESCO and declared they wanted full membership status in the UN.

In response, Congress introduced a new provision into the annual State and Foreign Operations Bill, mandating that if the Palestinians obtained full membership status in the United Nations outside of an agreement with Israel, the president would be unable to waive sanctions against the PLO, unless “the Palestinians have entered into direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

The “national security interest” excuse would no longer suffice.

After the Palestinians joined the ICC in 2015, Congress passed a similar provision into the December 2015 foreign ops bill.

The provision calls for the waiver to be revoked should the Palestinians “initiate an International Criminal Court (ICC) judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation” against Israel.

The US consulate in Jerusalem declined to comment on Tuesday, instead referring back to a statement on Saturday that said it was hopeful any “closure will be short-lived.”

“We are not cutting off relations with the PLO,” that statement said.

The declaration does not automatically mean the mission will close.

US President Donald Trump now has a 90-day window to decide whether “the Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel,” according to 2015 law– in which case he can waive the requirement to shutter the office.

However, the US, by its own admission, is still working on a way to bring the two sides back to the table for the first time since peace talks fell apart in 2014, and there is no timeline yet for the process to bear fruit, the State Department has said.   (the Times of Israel)

Haredi paratroopers take to the sky

Thirty-five Haredi future soldiers will soon embark on their final training drill before putting on parachutes and jumping out of planes. These Haredi paratroopers-to-be will jump from the top of a 12 meter [39 ft] tower, nicknamed “Eichmann” by previous Israeli paratroopers, and experience a three meter free fall before their harnesses lock into place and they are secured.

Haredi Soldier

While some Haredi communities reject military service as a state-imposed mandate that could alter their unique ultra-Orthodox way of life, some embrace the service as a way to demonstrate how a pious life meshes well with army duty.

The rabbis of the Nahal Haredi Organization have been helping these Haredi soldiers during their training ever since the group was created less than a year ago and have made every effort to ensure that a Torah-observant lifestyle would be kept alongside the rigors of army training. All the meals were kosher l’mehadrin [high-level kosher] and the soldiers were given Torah lectures and time to pray three times a day. (Jerusalem Post)

India Reportedly Scrapping Half-billion-dollar Arms Deal With Israel

The Indian defense ministry has decided to spike a half-billion dollar deal to buy anti-tank guided missiles from Israel in favor of making a “home-grown” version, Indian press sources report.

Ishay David, deputy spokesman for Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, told Haaretz that “Rafael has not been officially informed of any change in the decision to purchase Spike missiles.” He added that Rafael already “began the transfer of development and manufacturing knowledge as part of the Make-in-India program. This activity will continue as planned.”

Surprising some defense industry insiders, India had opted to buy Spike anti-tank technology from the Israeli company Rafael rather America’s Javelin system. The deal with Israel was closed in May 2016.

Production was to be done in Hyderabad, by a joint venture Rafael just announced this August, with the local company Kalyani Strategic Systems. However, it seems the Indian government has tapped its own Defence Research and Development Organization to develop a “man-portable” antitank guided missile instead.

The decision may have been driven by Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s stated objective of encouraging Indian industry.

Deliveries by the joint Israeli-Indian venture were expected to start in 2018. Now development could well take some four years, Zee News reports.

Indian sources surmise the reason is New Delhi’s desire to promote weapon development in India, which could be discouraged by importing armaments. It bears adding that the Indian development authority has created anti-tank guided missiles before, the Nag and Anamika.

Just this August, Rafael announced the inauguration of a missile manufacturing plant in India with Kalyani. India had been expected to buy around 8,000 antitank missiles from the plant.

In another sign of the warming relations between Israel and India, Indian Air Force commandos took part in joint exercises with their Israeli counterparts for the first time ever as part of the “Blue Flag” drill, the largest air force exercise ever held in Israel.  (Haáretz)

Palestinians: If You Do Not Give Us Everything, We Cannot Trust You

by Bassam Tawil     The Gatestone Institute


The Palestinians have made up their mind: The Trump peace plan is bad for us and we will not accept it. The plan is bad because it does not force Israel to give the Palestinians everything.

If and when the Trump administration makes public its peace plan, the Palestinians will be the first to reject it, simply because it does not meet all their demands.

Trump will soon learn that for Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians, 99% is just not enough.

The Palestinians are once again angry — this time because the Trump administration does not seem to have endorsed their position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians are also angry because they believe that the Trump administration does not want to force Israel to comply with all their demands.

Here is how the Palestinians see it: If you are not with us, then you must be against us. If you do not accept all our demands, then you must be our enemy and we cannot trust you to play the role of an “honest” broker in the conflict with Israel.

Last week, unconfirmed reports once again suggested that the Trump administration has been working on a comprehensive plan for peace in the Middle East. The full details of the plan remain unknown at this time.

However, what is certain — according to the reports — is that the plan does not meet all of the Palestinians’ demands. In fact, no peace plan — by Americans or any other party — would be able to provide the Palestinians with everything for which they are asking.

Palestinian requirements remain as unrealistic as ever. They include, among other things, the demand that millions of Palestinian “refugees” be allowed to enter Israel. Also, the Palestinians want Israel to withdraw to indefensible borders that would bring Hamas and other groups closer to Tel Aviv.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leader, 82-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, now in the twelfth year of his four-year term, continue to insist that they will accept nothing less than a sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital, on the entire lands captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.

Most dangerous is that even in the unlikely event that Abbas would sign some deal, another leader can come along later and legitimately say that Abbas had no authority to sign anything as his term had long since expired.

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist terror group controlling the Gaza Strip, maintains that it will never accept the presence of Israel on “Muslim-owned” land. Hamas wants all the land Israel supposedly “took” in 1948. Translation: Hamas wants the destruction of Israel in order to establish an Islamic Caliphate where non-Muslims would be granted the status of dhimmi (“protected person”).

Unlike the Palestinian Authority, Hamas deserves credit for being clear and consistent about its true goal. Since its establishment three decades ago — and despite recent illusory hopes expressed by Western pundits — Hamas has refused to change its ideology or soften its policy. It resolutely sticks to its stance that no Muslim is entitled to give up any part of Muslim-owned lands to non-Muslims (in this instance, Jews. The same held true for “cleansing” Turkey of Armenian and Greek non-Muslims).

The Janus-faced Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, continues to speak in multiple voices, sending conflicting messages both to its people and the international community. No one really knows whether the PA has a clear and unified strategy in dealing with Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas knows how to sound extremely nice, and often does so when he meets with Israelis and Western leaders. But when he speaks in Arabic to his own people, sometimes it is hard to distinguish Abbas from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Some of Abbas’s top officials sound even more extreme than Hamas. Except, of course, when these soft-spoken, Western-educated Palestinian officials are dispatched to talk to Westerners. Then, all of a sudden, comes the honey.

Because the Palestinian Authority leaders and their surrogates speak in more than one voice, they send conflicting messages to the world about their actual intentions, often managing to fool everyone. Too often the world believes the messages they want to hear instead of the less-comfortable real ones.

The Palestinian Authority’s contradictory messages have created the impression that it is both a peace partner and an enemy — depending on whom you heard and when you heard him.

One thing is clear: from the Palestinian angle, there is no love lost between the US and them. From their point of view — and this is a point of view that they have held for an exhaustingly long time — the US is unable to play an unbiased role as a mediator in the conflict with Israel. What eats at the Palestinians is the strong and strategic alliance between the US and Israel.

The Palestinians have accused every US administration over the past four or five decades of being “biased” in favor of Israel. The Palestinians would certainly like to see the hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid every year they receive from the US continue. Yet, no matter what the US does for the Palestinians, the Americans will always be denounced for their alleged bias in favor of Israel.

The Trump administration is about to receive a lesson in Palestinian politics. If and when the Trump administration makes public its peace plan, the Palestinians will be the first to reject it, simply because it does not meet all their demands.

Mahmoud Abbas knows that he cannot come back to his people with anything less than what he has promised his people: 100%.

The past few days have already given us indications of the Palestinian response. Here, for instance, is what Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, had to say when he was asked to comment on reports concerning the peace plan and the US threat to close down the PLO’s diplomatic mission in Washington: “The American administration has lost its ability to play the role of mediator in the region. The US can no longer be seen as the sponsor of the peace process.”

Abu Rudaineh’s remarks were rather more restrained than comments concerning the Trump administration made by other Palestinian officials and factions.

The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, went as far as threatening that the Palestinians would suspend all communication with the US if the PLO’s diplomatic mission is shuttered.

Of course, no one seems to take Erekat’s threat seriously. Suspending contacts with the US is tantamount to suicide for the Palestinians. Without US financial and political support, the Palestinian Authority and Erekat would disappear from the scene within days. At this stage, it remains unclear whether Erekat’s talk about suspending contacts with the Americans includes the refusal to accept US financial aid.

Yet, Erekat’s threats should be seen in the context of growing Palestinian rage and hostility toward the Trump administration. This anger is now being translated into a rhetorical onslaught against Trump and his administration. Palestinians are now accusing the current administration of working and conspiring towards “liquidating” the Palestinian cause with the help of some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The Palestinians have made up their mind: the Trump peace plan is bad for us and we will not accept it. The plan is bad because it does not force Israel to give the Palestinians everything. For the Palestinians, the plan is bad because it is viewed as part of a conspiracy concocted by Jared Kushner and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The Palestinians have convinced themselves that Trump wants to “liquidate” their cause, not solve it.

Trump is about to go through the same process that President Bill Clinton experienced at Camp David 17 years ago. Then, much to the astonishment of Clinton, Yasser Arafat turned down flat an astoundingly generous offer by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Trump will soon learn that for Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians, 99% is just not enough

Time for a peace process paradigm change

by Jonathan S. Tobin        Jewish News Service (JNS)


What are the details of the Middle East peace plan that President Donald Trump will use to craft what he hopes is the “ultimate deal?” Sometime in the next few months, they will be unveiled as part of an effort to revive the dead-in-the-water peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Though we’ll have to wait and see what exactly is in the proposal being cooked up by a team led by presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and chief negotiator Jason Greenblatt, the only two things that seem certain are that it is likely to be acceptable to Saudi Arabia and that it will have zero chance of success.

That’s why instead of merely repeating the mistakes of its predecessors, the Trump team should try a paradigm shift that will predicate peace on a simple concept: the Palestinians have to admit they’ve lost their war on Zionism. Avoiding this admission in order to mollify them or their supporters or concentrating, as every U.S. administration has done, on pressuring Israel to make concessions, merely makes it impossible for the Palestinians to accept the sea change in their political culture that is the only thing that will make peace on any terms possible.

It was this idea that brought two members of the Knesset—representing a larger group of legislators that come from six different parties that are in and outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government—to Washington to meet with several like-minded members of Congress to promote the concept of an Israeli victory in the long conflict rather than a self-defeating compromise. The launch of a joint #IsraelVictory caucus at the Capitol Hill gathering is a small step and, as of yet, hasn’t influenced the administration’s thinking. But the gathering, which was sponsored by the Middle East Forum think tank, is a long overdue effort to promote a concept Kushner and company ought to be thinking about.

Trump’s team is likely to embrace an “outside-in” strategy in which Arab states, principally the Saudis, will use their influence and money to pressure the Palestinians into finally accepting a two-state solution. In return, the U.S. would get the Netanyahu government to agree to terms that are likely to largely resemble past plans floated by the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations. Trump may think the missing ingredient for peace has been the absence of a master dealmaker, but this scheme has no more chance of working than the efforts of his predecessors.

The reason is that the essential element for peace is still missing. The Palestinians are still stuck in a mindset that rejects Israel’s legitimacy. The Palestinian Authority (PA) won’t accept a deal that ends the conflict for all time no matter where Kushner, Greenblatt and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman draw the borders between the two states, how much of Jerusalem the Palestinians receive, how many descendants of the 1948 refugees are allowed to “return” to Israel or even how much money is thrown at them. That’s because the Palestinians’ national identity as a people is still inextricably bound up in a futile century-old war on Zionism that its people have been taught to think they will eventually win.

At various times, the PA has declared a willingness to accept peace. Yet every such gesture has been undermined by its cradle-to-grave incitement that promotes a culture of hatred for Israel and Jews, and makes new rounds of bloodshed inevitable. The history of the last 24 years of negotiations since the Oslo Accords shows that peace is impossible so long as the Palestinians still hold onto hope of eventually winning this war. As with every other conflict, this one will only be settled when one side admits defeat and that is something no one, not even a Trump team that appears to be more realistic about Palestinian behavior and intentions than past administrations, seems willing to force them to do.

Critics of the #IsraelVictory idea mock its simplicity. But generations of would-be peacemakers have forgotten that it really is that simple. Once the Palestinians concede the war is lost rather than being paused and put aside their dreams of a world without a Jewish state, compromise would be possible. But if the compromises precede acknowledgement of an Israeli victory, then all the Jewish state will be doing is trading land for more terror, not peace.

The Trump team may not be listening to the #IsraelVictory caucus as it hatches its plans. But if the White House ignores the basic truths the caucus proclaims, it will be wasting its time and making the next round of violence more, rather than less likely.