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Latest News in Israel – 23rd April

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Netanyahu Expresses ‘Deep Shock,’ Offers Help in Wake of Sri Lanka Massacre

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reacted with shock to the massive horrific attacks at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, which claimed the lives of 290 people and wounded hundreds more.

No group has claimed responsibility.

“On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I express my deep shock over the murderous attacks against innocent civilians in Sri Lanka,” said the prime minister, also expressing Israel’s desire to help in whichever way it can.

“Israel stands ready to assist the authorities in Sri Lanka at this difficult time,” Netanyahu said in his message. “The entire world must unite in the battle against the scourge of terrorism,” he added.

Christians were marking Easter Sunday at holy sites in Israel as well, even as Jews were in the midst of celebrating Passover. Israeli security forces are on alert to allow the different religions to exercise their right to observe their respective holidays.

Coincidentally, this past January, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and United Hatzalah teamed up to train first responders in Colombo, Sri Lanka in mass casualty incidents and disaster management. The mission, funded by the AJC, brought experts from United Hatzalah of Israel to train members of local response organizations in how to provide quick and effective emergency response to large scale emergencies ranging from natural disasters to terror attacks.

The team from Israel provided training to members of the military, police force, search and rescue units and the fire department in Sri Lanka and provided them with tools and techniques developed in Israel in dealing with large-scale attacks such as the kind that occurred Sunday.

Israel oftens extends its assistance to other countries fighting terror, including intelligence resources, rescue efforts, and identification of the dead.  (United with Israel)

US offers $10 million for info to disrupt Hezbollah finances

The Trump administration is offering rewards of up to $10 million each for information that disrupts the finances of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah organization.

The State and Treasury departments say the money will be paid to people who provide information such as the names of Hezbollah donors and financiers, bank records, customs receipts or evidence of real estate transactions.

The payments will be made by the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” program that usually offers cash for information leading to the whereabouts of wanted terrorists. This is the first time the program has been used to target a financial network.

Since it began in 1984, Rewards for Justice has paid more than $150 million to more than 100 people who have provided information about terrorists or prevented terrorism attacks

This is the first time that the State Department is using the program to harm the finances of a terrorist organization. Hezbollah is recognized as a terrorist organization by the US since 1997

The announcement comes at a time that the administration is greatly concerned with the influence Hezbollah has in the Lebanese government. The Shiite organization has managed in recent years to increase its regional influence and dispatches its fighters to assist its allies throughout the Arab world

Earlier, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah attacked the Trump administration for imposing further sanctions on Iranian oil exports. Iran is Hezbollah’s main sponsor. (Ynet News) Associated Press

Saudis pressuring Abbas to accept Trump’s Mideast plan

According to a report on the website Alkhaleej Online, a member of Fatah’s central committee revealed on April 20 that heavy Arab pressure was being applied to the Palestinian Authority leadership with regard to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan—the so-called “deal of the century”—that the White House is expected to unveil in June. The official stated that Saudi Arabia was leading the campaign, the report said.

The source was quoted as saying: “There are Arab countries, chief among them Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, that express great interest in the American deal, and are employing every available means, including political and financial pressure, to assure that the Palestinians accept the plan, despite the risks it involves for the Palestinian cause.”

The source added that the position of the Arab countries on the deal cast a disappointing light on all their previous support for the Palestinian cause. He emphasized that the P.A. leadership would never give in to pressure, whether from the Arab states, the United States or Israel.

It should be noted that Alkhaleej Online, which is under Qatari ownership, is hostile to Saudi Arabia in light of the tensions between Doha and Riyadh. (WIN) Shahar Klaiman

Hezbollah leader warns of war with Israel, fears being killed by IDF

Is Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warning of a war with Israel in the summer, and worried that he might be killed?

According to Elijah J. Magnier of the Kuwaiti Al Rai newspaper, Nasrallah told commanders: “The possibility of a war with Israel is very high this summer and I may no longer be with you.”

However, Hezbollah sources are cited by Lebanon 24 as denying the report, saying that all of it is a “fabric of the writer’s imagination.”

In the Al Rai report, the Hezbollah chief is quoted as warning that Israel could be ready to attack “with the objective of removing the threat on its borders once and for all.”

Nasrallah cautioned that “our people should know and…be prepared for the worse-case scenario.”

In December, Israel launched an operation to neutralize attack tunnels dug along the Lebanese-Israeli border. The U.N. backed up the Israeli position that the tunnels were a violation of an agreement reached ending the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Israel launched the 2006 military campaign after two of its soldiers were abducted and killed along the border.

According to Al Rai, Hezbollah believes that Israel would evacuate its communities located near the Lebanese border before the launching the next military operation in order to prevent the possibility of kidnappings.

Magnier reports that Nasrallah believes that the U.S., Britain, and Arab states could take part in the next conflict. The U.K. recently extended its classification of Hezbollah as a terror group to include the entire organization, as opposed to just its military wing. The official European Union position categorizes only the military branch as terrorist in nature.

Despite its terror activity, Hezbollah is a member of the Lebanese government.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil recently met with a senior Israeli official in Moscow, according to a report in the Saudi newspaper Elaph. Bassil  is said to have called on Israel to stop threatening the Lebanese government over Hezbollah’s terror activity.

Israel has relayed the message over the years that while the Lebanese government is not the target of Israeli reprisals against terror attacks into the Jewish State, Jerusalem does ultimately view Beirut as responsible for attacks carried out from its territory.  (WIN) Staff

Senior Israeli official meets with Lebanon’s foreign minister in Moscow

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil recently met with a senior Israeli official in Moscow, the Saudi newspaper Elaph reports.

The discussion is said to have centered around the military operations and warehouses of Iran and its proxy Hezbollah near Israel’s border, the overall situation in Syria, and the dispute between Israel and Lebanon over their common maritime border. A source cited by Elaph said that the meeting lasted about two hours.

Israel and Lebanon are in an official state of war. However, Israel’s military operations in that country have been aimed at terror groups: in the case of the First Lebanon War, launched in June 1982, the enemy was the PLO; in the summer of 2006, the Second Lebanon War was a clash with Hezbollah, which was formed after the PLO was forced out of Lebanon.

Though Hezbollah is recognized by many countries, including the U.S., as a terror organization – either in full or just its military wing – it is also a member of the Lebanese government.

Israel has relayed the message over the years that while the Lebanese government is not the target of Israeli reprisals against terror attacks into the Jewish State, Jerusalem does ultimately view Beirut as responsible for attacks carried out from its territory. The inclusion and apparent growing influence of Hezbollah in the Lebanese government have served to reinforce the Israeli position.

In this spirit, the unnamed Israeli official told the Lebanese foreign minister in their recent meeting to relay a message to President Michel Aoun that Israel does not view his country as an enemy but would not hesitate to attack Iranian targets in its territory, according to the Saudi newspaper report.

In December, Israel announced that it had launched Operation Northern Shield against Hezbollah attack tunnels, which had been dug along the border. Israel received the backing of the United Nations in its position that the Hezbollah tunnel construction ran contrary to the truce that ended the 2006 war.

For his part, Bassil called on Israel to stop threatening the Lebanese government over Hezbollah’s terror activity.

The meeting would signal yet another sign of Russian influence in the region. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently discusses the Syrian situation with President Vladimir Putin. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has stated that he is willing to hold a summit meeting with Netanyahu, but only if facilitated by Russia.  (WIN) David Jablinowitz

Netanyahu congratulates new Ukraine president, invites him to Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Ukraine’s newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday and invited him to visit Israel.

Netanyahu “congratulated him for his victory, expressed his hope to continue the good relations between our countries and invited him to visit Israel,” according to Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Joel Lion.

“In another phone call, Netanyahu thanked outgoing Ukrainian President Poroshenko for his friendship toward the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” he added.

Israel and Ukraine in January signed a free trade agreement as Poroshenko visited Jerusalem.

Zelensky, a 41-year-old comic with no political experience, was elected Sunday on promises of change but has generally stood by the Western-oriented course of defeated president Poroshenko. Zelensky hailed his victory as a sign to people in post-Soviet nations that “everything is possible,” but he also has said he wants better relations with Russia.

The leaders of the United States, the European Union, Germany and France also phoned Zelenskiy, who is Jewish, to give their congratulations.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that Zelensky’s victory showed Ukraine’s “vibrant democracy” after “five years of unrelenting Russian aggression.”

“The United States maintains steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its international borders and will continue to stand with Ukraine as it undertakes essential reforms,” she said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky to advance our two nations’ shared goal of a secure, prosperous, democratic and free Ukraine,” she said.

Russia has taken a wait-and-watch approach to Zelensky, with the Kremlin saying it was too early for President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him.

Moscow “respects the choice of the Ukrainian people” and will wait for concrete steps by the new Ukrainian leader before making judgments, Peskov said.

Following the victory of Zelensky, Ukraine will become the only country in the world besides Israel whose president and prime minister are both Jewish.

When Zelensky is sworn in as president, his prime minister — at least for a while and possibly until the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place sometime later this year — will be Volodymyr Groysman, a Jewish politician who was the mayor of the city of Vinnytsia.

Last year, Israel’s government singled out Ukraine as a regional trouble spot in the Israeli government’s annual report on anti-Semitism.

Poroshenko’s government greatly encouraged glorification of those troops and leaders as fighters for Ukrainian freedom who it insisted sided with Germany only in order to fight against the Russian-controlled Soviet Union.

Zelensky has said only that he personally does not favor the veneration of people like Bandera, whom he described as “a hero to some Ukrainians.” It was a markedly reserved formulation compared to the unreserved endorsement of figures like Bandera by officials under Poroshenko.

In 2016, Netanyahu canceled the Israel visit of Groysman as a consequence of Kiev voting in a favor of an anti-settlements resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

The two countries, however, later reconciled.  (the Times of Israel) Staff

Israel welcomes Emirate billionaire’s call for peace

Israel welcomed a call by a billionaire from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to establish ties with the Jewish state while singling out Iran as the real enemy.

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, a tycoon from the UAE, called on the Gulf States to seek “peace and cooperation with Israel,” economically and scientifically, as well as in agriculture and defense.

Al Habtoor posted a video on Twitter calling on the Gulf States to declare peace and with Israel while underscoring that the biggest enemy is Iran and not Israel.

“There is no need for compliments and lies to ourselves,” he said, noting that even the more than two million “Palestinians” have acquired Israeli citizenship and that Jordan and Egypt have already made the move.

“Why do not we make peace and be clear, rather than hiding and being unclear?” he demanded.

“Israel is not an enemy. Cooperation with it will benefit everyone,” he stated.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday welcomed the invitation and posted his clip on its official Twitter page in Arabic.

“Israelis are not enemies and cooperation with Israel will bring good to the region,” the Foreign Ministry stated

Israeli journalist Shimon Aran also praised Al Habtoor’s position, describing his enthusiasm for normalization with Israel as “the voice of reason.”

Israeli Minister of Communications Ayoub Kara lauded Al Habtoor’s statement and invited him to Israel.

“One cannot remain indifferent to Al Habtoor’s call for open relations between Israel and the Gulf States,” he stated, saying “he shared his belief.”

“It is time to end the hypocrisy in the Middle East, Iran and only it is the enemy of the Saudi coalition and Israel is a true seeker of peace,” he added.

This is not the first time Al-Habtoor has spoken positively of Israel. In March, he provoked controversy by praising Israeli democracy, commenting on the Israeli attorney general’s investigation into corruption charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Al Habtoor is a 70-year-old billionaire from Dubai, founder and chairman of Al Habtoor Group and chairman of Dubai National Insurance Company.

A former member of the Federal National Council and member of the Board of Directors of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, his wealth is estimated at $ 2.3 billion.  (WIN)

Erdan shuts down soccer match glorifying Palestinian prisoners in Jerusalem

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan has instructed not to allow a soccer tournament to take place in Jerusalem on Friday.

The match was sponsored and funded by the Palestinian Authority and organized by members of Hamas, meant to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

Erdan said that “I will not allow an event that glorifies terrorists and violate the Israeli sovereignty to take place in Jerusalem, our capital.”

The minister signed an order to close the tournament that was supposed to take place on the football field in Beit Tzafafa, in the capital.

In the past, Erdan extended the order to close the Orient House building and other institutions of the Palestinian Authority in east Jerusalem. In recent months, he issued closing orders for a commemorative event in east Jerusalem financed by the Palestinian Authority, for a conference in Silwan that promoted the Palestinian takeover of east Jerusalem and other events Palestinian settlements planned for Jerusalem.

According to Erdan, “The terrorists imprisoned in Israel are despicable murderers, and their praise by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas demonstrates their intentions. The Palestinian Authority has been trying to strengthen its presence in East Jerusalem in sophisticated ways, including significant funding for its own activities. Intelligence forces and the Police are constantly working to trace these attempts and stop them, and I will continue to strengthen Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem and prevent any Palestinian attempt to create a foothold in the city. ”

(Jerusalem Post) Hagay Hacohen

Australian comedian joked about Nazi gas chambers

Here’s an Australian  stand-up comedian’s email response to an email complaint about his material involving Nazi gas chambers: “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the oven.”

Isaac Butterfield had asked his audience at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in Australia to “imagine the joy of people when they heard the Jews were sent to the gas chambers,” the city’s Herald Sun newspaper reported.

A Jewish woman who was in the audience wrote to the comedian.

“Sitting there hearing about Jews being gassed, eight million perished including children, watching family members being gassed or tortured or shot, is not remotely funny,” her email said.

We know his response.

Anti-Defamation Commission Chairman Dvir Abramovich said in a statement that “It’s never OK to spew such hate rhetoric, and Isaac Butterfield should be ashamed for his hideous remarks that crossed all lines and which trampled on the memory of the dead.

“It is beyond shocking to exploit the extermination of six million Jews in the Holocaust to generate despicable jokes. When you consider that the corpses of those killed with the poison gas were often cremated in ovens, Mr. Butterfield’s email response of ‘get out of the oven’ is disturbing and vicious,” Abramovich also said.

He called on Butterfield to apologize and to meet with Holocaust survivors to hear their stories. (Jerusalem Post) Henry Benjamin

Israel’s Election Didn’t Kill Hope for Peace. It Was Already Dead.

Jewish and Palestinian positions are entrenched, and no party offered ideas for changing that.

By Daniel Gordis                      Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-04-17/mideast-peace-hopes-were-dead-before-israel-re-elected-netanyahu

In 1996, when Benjamin Netanyahu ran against Shimon Peres for prime minister of Israel, his campaign slogan was, “There is no peace, there is no security, there is no reason to vote for Peres.” The implication was, as Netanyahu would reiterate in campaigns that would follow, that only he could bring “peace with security.” In his victory speech that year, he promised “peace for everyone,” “security for everyone” and “prosperity for everyone.” Then, he said:

This evening I stretch out my hand in peace to all the Arab leaders and all of our neighbors, our Palestinian neighbors. I call on you to join us on the road to real peace with security. Let us go in a way of security for everyone, for all the nations of the region. The government we will form … will continue negotiations with the Palestinians, and we will also try to advance the negotiations with other Arab states.

Today, almost a quarter of a century later, with Netanyahu poised to pass Israel’s founder David Ben-Gurion as the country’s longest-serving head of state, two elements of his 1996 speech are striking. First, he has made good on most of those promises. Israelis do feel secure. The Israeli economy is chugging along admirably, and the standard of living has risen drastically. Relations with other Arab states, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are close, some more publicly than others.

The second point, however, is that Netanyahu has failed to deliver on peace with the Palestinians. In the quarter-century since Netanyahu was first elected, that relationship has not budged. Yet — and this is the point that many U.S. observers misunderstood when they wrung their hands over the election results last week — very few Israelis hold Netanyahu accountable for that failure.

In this year’s election, not a single party — not Blue and White, which emerged from nowhere to give Netanyahu a serious run for his money; not Ben-Gurion’s Labor Party, which was reduced to a meager six seats in its most dismal showing ever; and not even Meretz, Israel’s Jewish party that leans furthest to the left — included peace in their campaign slogans or promises. In Israel’s 2019 election, peace was simply not on the agenda.

Many Israelis still hope for peace, and many (though a steadily decreasing number) still favor a two-state solution. But few imagine that there is any chance for either in the coming years. U.S. President Donald Trump has long promised to deliver the “deal of the century,” but Israelis are largely of two minds on that: Many believe it will never see the light of day; most of the rest think that because the Palestinians have already declared the program “born dead,” it makes no difference what Israelis think of it.

There is no “deal” now or in the foreseeable future primarily because the Palestinians have still not made peace with the idea that a Jewish state is here to stay. When Hamas, which controls Gaza, started its “March of Return” last year, it promised that the march would mark the beginning of the “liberation of all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.” The march, in other words, was simply the latest chapter in Hamas’s drive to destroy the Jewish state. Thousands of Holocaust survivors are still alive in Israel, and Israelis regularly hear, “When an enemy of the Jewish people tells you he is going to kill you, believe him.” Israelis take Hamas seriously.

Similarly, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned U.S. President Donald Trump that any peace plan that does not establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 border would be unacceptable, Israelis took him seriously, too. Those borders, they know, are essentially indefensible; what Abbas is thus seeking is not a state, they believe, but the gradual destruction of Israel.

Israelis’ read of Abbas may be right or wrong, but it prevails. Couple that to the fact that today’s young Israelis, like today’s young Palestinians, have come of age long after Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 and the Oslo accords blew up in a wave of Palestinian terrorism, and it suddenly becomes less mysterious that Israeli millennials are more right-leaning than their parents.

To American ears, especially to American Jewish ears, Netanyahu’s re-election sounds like the death knell of peace; to Israeli ears, peace has long been dead.

What Israelis had to decide was whether they wanted the security and prosperity that Netanyahu has delivered at the cost of corruption indictments and Trump-like attacks on democratic institutions, or whether they preferred a Mr. Clean who would end the corruption, but whose ability to maintain the security and prosperity was entirely untested. They voted for the “devil they know.”

Whatever Israel’s election means, Israelis did not vote against peace: No party was committing to it. Nor did the election reflect a weakening of Israeli democracy. Benny Gantz, a political unknown a few months ago, came very close to beating Netanyahu. And no one worried that if Netanyahu lost he would not step aside.

If this year’s campaign is cause for concern, it’s because of another topic that — like peace — went unmentioned. In 1996, another of Netanyahu’s slogans was that he was “good for the Jews.” In an era when territorial concessions seemed likely, that phrase meant one thing. Today, with Netanyahu’s anti-Israeli-Arab rhetoric now undeniable, it evokes entirely different fears. What Israel needs is a conversation about what the Jewishness of the Jewish state means, and how it will be expressed.

Sadly, the only parties running with a clear Jewish vision for the Jewish state were those on the very-far, undeniably racist, right. To them, a Jewish state should have no Arabs. A Jewish state should not compromise territorially. Sovereign Jews should stop caring what the rest of the world thinks of them or their policies. Jews should annex the land that God gave promised them.

To most Israelis, such attitudes are anathema. Yet the majority of Israel’s parties said nothing significant about how Israel should manifest its Jewish commitments. Few in Israel believe that a Jewish demographic majority is a sufficient measure of Jewishness, but what ought to be the measure of Israel’s Jewishness is seldom raised.

In the days prior to the election, I attended a small parlor meeting with Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, one of Blue and White’s leaders. Asked what Israel’s being Jewish ought to mean, Ya’alon — not only a general and a former army chief of staff, but also an author, highly regarded for his intellect and breadth of knowledge — responded that Israel ought to be “just and moral.” No Western leader of a largely Christian country would have said anything different. Most of those in the room had come because they were inclined to vote Blue and White and wanted to learn more; I suspect that most did end up voting for the party. But there was no denying that many left the evening disappointed with the vapidness of the party’s vision for their state.

That peace is nowhere in the offing is of course tragic, but it is both also a danger and an opportunity. It is a danger because with the Palestinians likely to remain Israel’s enemies for as far as the eye can see, the potential for even deeper anti-Arab sentiment to become rooted in Israel’s youth is even greater.

The death of peace is an opportunity, however. Now that Israelis have no territorial or security concessions over which to argue, they could finally turn their attention to discussing what about their country, beyond demography, could be meaningfully Jewish. What was perhaps most tragic about Israel’s election was that neither the victor nor any of his challengers seemed interesting in engendering that conversation.

Next Israeli government could face new Iranian terrorist challenges

Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s fighting force of 10,000 armed operatives, combined with Hamas’s 30,000 armed wing members, means that Gaza has developed a veritable terrorist army.

by Yaacov Lappin    JNS

https://www.jns.org/next-israeli-government-could-soon-face-new-iranian-terrorist-challenges/

During last Saturday’s early hours, when the attention of most Israelis was focused on politics and election-related matters, enormous blasts rocked a suspected Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory on the outskirts of the town of Masyaf in northwest Syria. Satellite imagery showed that an entire complex had been destroyed.

International media reports attributed the attack to the Israel Air Force, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking a day afterwards, stated that “we are continuing to operate on all fronts, including the northern one.” He added, “We are not prepared to allow someone to entrench themselves in a way that endangers Israel.”

Netanyahu has pursued a policy of ordering preventative military action to stop Iran’s military build-up in Syria.

The incident is a reminder that Iran and its radical terrorist axis are continuing attempts to boost their attack capabilities against Israel in Syria, just as they are in other areas.

Assuming Israel was indeed behind the Masyaf attack, it likely responded to urgent intelligence of threatening activity at the site—possibly the conversion of rockets into precision ballistic missiles—a threat Israel has declared repeatedly that it would not tolerate.

It is also possible that Iran’s Islamic Republic Guards Corps (IRGC) tried to take advantage of the fact that Israel is in between governments, testing Jerusalem’s ability to order decisive military preventative strikes during a sensitive political time in the country.

If this was the reasoning behind the IRGC’s activities at Masyaf, its gamble failed to pay off. The targeted facility is in a region filled with suspicious sites related to the Iranian and Assad regime missile production and research program, according to Israeli satellite company ISI. Other sites, linked to Iran’s surface-to-surface missile project in Syria, have been attacked there in recent years.

The incident is the latest reminder that the new Israeli government will have no honeymoon period when it comes to dealing with Iran and its proxies in the region.

Already, following the U.S. designation of the IRGC as a terrorist entity on April 8, some have assessed that Iran is likely to intensify proxy attacks on Israel from Syria and Gaza in response.

In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the second-largest armed faction in Gaza and Iran’s direct proxy, has grown an arsenal of rockets that now surpasses that of Hamas, the largest terrorist faction in the Strip.

PIJ’s domestic rocket-manufacturing sites in Gaza have benefited directly from Iranian know-how and funding.

PIJ has been rebuilding its firepower since the 2014 conflict it and Hamas fought with Israel. Today. PIJ and Hamas have a combined rocket arsenal of more than 20,000 projectiles, some of which have a sufficient range of reaching targets north of Tel Aviv, as demonstrated by a March rocket strike on an Israeli home that injured seven civilians.

PIJ’s fighting force of 10,000 armed operatives, combined with Hamas’s 30,000 armed-wing members, mean that Gaza has developed a terrorist army. Together, these Iranian-funded factions threaten to indiscriminately fire rockets at Israeli civilian neighborhoods.

Israel Defense Forces units captured two PIJ operatives who had crossed over from Gaza on March 8, as they approached the fields of a southern Israeli kibbutz armed with grenades and knives.

The IDF captured the terrorists minutes before they reached Kibbutz Erez—an incident that underlines just how tangible the Iranian proxy threat from Gaza is.

The fact that PIJ is now headed by a new leader, Ziad Nakhleh, who travels back and forth between Syria and Iran, and who is extremely close to the Iranian leadership, means the PIJ will be an ever-willing Iranian proxy, prepared to do Tehran’s terrorist bidding.

As a result, the IDF has been on high alert to such threats, including the possibility of PIJ sniper fire from Gaza and bombing attacks. Israeli security sources were quoted in media reports on April 1, saying that PIJ was planning an imminent terrorist attack on Israel from Gaza. Citing suspicious activity by PIJ members, the officials said the attack could have taken the form of an anti-tank guided missile firing at Israeli military forces, a large-scale IED attack on the border, or a terror-cell intrusion into Israel.

The attack did not materialize, possibly due to the release of that intelligence information, but the reports are one more illustration of how Iranian-backed terrorist forces can destabilize the region with ease.

Ultimately, Iran wishes to keep Israel busy around its borders with proxy threats, on the defensive, and deterred. Israel’s defense establishment appears to have proven in recent days that no matter what the political situation in Israel, it stands alert and ready to act against developing Iranian-backed terror threats.

Nevertheless, the Syrian and Gazan arenas will be worth watching in the coming weeks, for Tehran has shown no intention of backing away from its commitment to build up and activate bases of attack against Israel.

Iran’s activities are not, unfortunately, limited to these areas, as a recent warning by Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau noted. According to the advisory, Europe also faces a threat. The advisory, in effect for April and May, states: “Iran and front members on its behalf are continuing to act to build terrorist infrastructure—mainly against ‘regime opponents’ in Europe—[yet] in line with an Iranian decision, this infrastructure could also be used for terrorist attacks against Israeli targets.”

PLO Position Paper Confirms There’s No Partner for Peace

– Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Times of Israel)

The “PLO Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society” recently published a detailed, 37-page position paper in Hebrew explaining its positions regarding relations with Israel. The writers are careful not to use the term “the Jewish people” – a term that is tantamount to heresy in the Palestinian narrative that continues to deny the existence of a Jewish people or nation.

The paper completely ignores Palestinian terrorism as the main factor preventing the implementation of the Oslo Accords. It also makes no mention of the Palestinian obstinacy and intransigence that led to the rejection of all American and Israeli initiatives. Nowhere does it use the phrase “two states for two peoples” because this phrase implies a recognition of the Jewish nation.

The Palestinian narrative is the primary obstacle to peace and is the source of ongoing terrorism. It proclaims that there is no Jewish people and states that the Jews do not have a history of sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Therefore, the ongoing struggle against Zionism is legitimate.

The paper states that the allowances paid by the Palestinian Authority to the families of Palestinian casualties and prisoners are not support for terrorism. It claims that these casualties and prisoners did not commit acts of terror, but rather they are “freedom fighters.”

Thus, they admit that these payments are not “welfare support,” but rather an expression of esteem for the attacks that these people carried out. It promises these payments to any terrorist in advance and thereby encourages terrorism.

The Palestinian position paper once again details the reasons for there being no Palestinian partner for peace. It displays that there is no chance of making progress in the peace process, even within the framework of the American plan.

The writer is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.

US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman prepares for Pesach

Ambassador Friedman and wife Tammy preparing for Passover

איך אתם מתקדמים עם ההכנות לליל הסדר? במשפחת פרידמן כבר מוכנים! שגרירות ארה"ב מאחלת פסח שמח לכל עם ישראל!Are you ready for the Passover Seder? The Friedmans sure are! On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, Happy Passover!

Posted by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem on Monday, 15 April 2019

Watch: Tens of thousands attend Priestly Blessing

On Monday morning, tens of thousands of Jews from Israel and around the world gathered at the Western Wall for the traditional mass Priestly Blessing ceremony.

After the ceremony, Israel’s Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau greeted the visitors, together with Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.

Jerusalem’s Old City is closed to private traffic throughout the intermediate days of Passover, and the public is asked to use public transportation.

“The fact that tens of thousands of worshipers are now at the Western Wall Plaza is very moving,” Leon said. “The Jerusalem municipality prepared itself ahead of time, with stands offering water to the public. I call on the public to listen to the instructions of the police and organizers.”

“After we finished praying for rain, and began to pray for dew on the first day of Pesach (Passover), this is an opportunity to thank the Creator for the abundance and the rain given to us,” Rabbi Rabinovitch said.

The traditional Priestly Blessing ceremony includes hundreds of priests, descendants of the priestly tribe of Levi. The priests cover themselves in prayer shawls as they bless the Jewish people in the holiest place for the Jewish people, and thousands are expected to attend.

The commandment to bless the Jewish people and the words of the blessing are found in the Bible (Numbers 6: 22-27).  (Arutz Sheva)

Springtime snow falls on Mount Hermon

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