+61 3 9272 5644

Latest News in Israel – 25th June

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Fearing lackluster performance, Netanyahu may try to dodge fresh elections

Likud sources say that Benjamin Netanyahu has polling data showing that the September elections – called after he was unable to form a coalition government in the wake of the April vote – would leave him in worse political shape than today.

The polls show, claims these sources, that if the elections were held today, the Netanyahu’s rightwing-Orthodox camp wouldn’t even make it to 59 seats without Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu party – the very ones who scuppered his chances of building a coalition last time.

In this situation, Netanyahu would rather cancel the September elections and try to reform a government – perhaps a joint coalition with chief political rival the Blue and White party – in order to avoid a national ballot that would most likely end up with President Reuven Rivlin tasking someone else with forming the next government.

Over the last few days, Likud has checked the option of cancelling the dissolution of the Knesset that Netanyahu initiated in May, talking to both members of the current coalition and representatives of the Arab parties that would most likely oppose such a step.

The problem is that the legal opinion currently being given unofficially by Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon and other senior judicial officials is it is impossible to cancel the dissolution of the Knesset by law.

But those in Netanyahu’s inner circle are planning to work around this by allowing a Likud MK to submit a private members bill that would allow the dissolution to be overturned, and would work to pass it in the plenum, against the advice he received.

Then, once the law was approved, the High Court of Justice – which would decide on any bid to overturn it – would likely prefer to avoid conflict with the political echelon and decline to cancel the legislation.  (Ynet News) Amihai Attali

Fatah calls for days of violence against Israel over Bahrein Conference

Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority, has called for days of violence against Israel in response to the Bahrain Conference, where the economic part of President Trump’s Middle East plan will be unveiled.

The PA has refused to send any representation to the conference and several senior officials in the faction have called for violence against Israel.

Majed Al-Fatiani, secretary of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, in an article published by the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, called on  “Fatah members and the vital forces on the Palestinian lands to [dedicate] the 24th, 25th, and 26th [of June] to Palestine and Jerusalem, in order to express their rejection of the Bahrain Conference.”

A counter-conference to Bahrain, entitled, ‘The Holocaust of the Century in Bahrain… Its Signs, Consequences, and Ways to Deal With It’, took place last week, attended by Palestinian leaders, where it was emphasized that the Bahrain Conference is “a holocaust for the basic Arab principles and the Palestinians’ rights”.

Anti Trump protest

Protesters burn a poster of US President Donald Trump with the words “No for the deal of the century” in the Palestinian Authority controlled side of Hebron

Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus said of the PA’s behavior, “It is outrageous that Palestinian leaders are coining a conference whose entire purpose is to promote economic well-being for Palestinians, as a ‘holocaust’ – a term used exclusively to refer to the Nazi genocide of Jews.

“At what point will the international community finally say they have had enough of the PA and leave them to wallow in the endless disasters they keep bringing upon themselves?” Marcus continued.

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh wrote in May regarding the conference, “… on behalf of the martyrs, wounded, prisoners, and their family members….I salute all parts of the Palestinian private sector – from Gaza to the West Bank – that have refused to participate in this conspiracy against our people.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organization has also called on participants of the Bahrain Conference to refrain from attending.  (Jerusalem Post) Alex Winston

Israeli experts doubt Bahrain workshop’s chances for success

Observers and former Israeli and American officials express criticism for the economic part of the Trump peace plan to be revealed Tuesday in Bahrain.

Dr. Nimrod Goren, Head of the Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies said in a conference held Sunday in Tel Aviv, that the American proposal promises the Palestinian a better economic future without consideration of the political aspects of a future peace agreement or the Palestinian hopes for Independence.

“If the Americans are trying to motivate Palestinians to reach a peace deal, they are going about it the wrong way” said Goren and added

“the plan must be directly linked to a political solution to the conflict”.

“The Arab peace initiative tabled in 2002 and the Obama administration’s push for a two-state solution, include all these elements and lay-out the benefits that will come after a political agreement is reached.”

Goren points to the outright rejection by Palestinians, of the Trump- Kushner, plan that comes after two years of policies aimed at weakening the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and bolstering the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

For that reason, Goren says “The current proposal is viewed as a humiliating offer of a bribe, to make Palestinians give up their national aspirations in exchange for large sums of money. This will surely increase their animosity towards the administration rather than encourage them to engage in dialogue” he predicted.

Former Chief of Military Intelligence in the IDF, Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash shares these views and adds that Trump administration’s proposal to connect Gaza to the West Bank does not factor in the current disconnect between the two. “I see no chance that the Bahrain conference will lead to peace” he added.

Former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro concurs and worries about a negative affect that might stem from the workshop “No one will invest in an economic plan that is rejected outright by the side expected to benefit from it.” Shapiro said. He added that the United States has not, so far, stated what the goal of the peace plan is. “whether it is a Palestinian state, a two-state solution or autonomy”.

Shapiro says he believes 12 to 15 countries will sit around the table in Bahrain and describe the political aspects they hope to see behind these financial initiatives.

Yitzhak Gal, a fellow at the Dayan center for Middle East studies and Mitvim, says that from the economic standpoint the U.S. plan has excellent potential for the Palestinian economy but adds four key point must be included before there can be any movement forward:

“There must be corresponding political steps, strong international and Arab involvement in implementation that will work with the Palestinian Authority, Israeli involvement in facilitating economic plans including removing all obstacles imposed by Israel and mechanisms for implementation”.

The “Peace to Prosperity” plan reportedly involves a $50 billion investment of which $28 billion is dedicated to the West Bank and Gaza and the rest to Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon to among other things, pay for resettling Palestinian refugees currently living there. It also includes 179 infrastructure and business projects. (Ynet News) Itamar Eichner

Putin Adviser: Israel’s security important, Russian ‘countrymen’ are here

Russia has a special interest in Israel’s security because just under two million “countrymen” live here, Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s National Security Council, said Sunday before meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We put special attention on ensuring Israel’s security,” he said.

Patrushev arrived on Monday to take part in a trilateral meeting with US National Security Adviser John Bolton, who arrived on Saturday, and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat. Netanyahu will also take part in the meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday.

Patrushev, in brief public comments in Russian before the meeting that were translated into Hebrew, said he is in the country at the instructions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who agreed on this format during talks with Netanyahu.

He said that talks will focus on the situation in Syria. “In order to solve the situation in Syria, there is a need to restore peace in the region and in Syria,” he said. “To achieve those goals, steps are needed to ensure internal order in Syria and the destruction of the terrorist groups that still remain there.”

While Patrushev did not mention Iran in his remarks, Netanyahu certainly did, reiterating Israel’s position that it will not allow Iran to entrench itself along Israel’s Syrian border.

Netanyahu noted that this week marked the 78th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, known as Operation Barbarossa, when the “Russian people were attacked in the most formidable and cruel way by the Nazis.”

He said that because of this tragic past, Russia surely understands “what is the significance for us of a regime calling for our destruction, not only to occupy us – [but] to destroy us, and which acts day after day to achieve that goal.”

For that reason, Netanyahu told Patrushev – who said last week that he would represent Iran’s positions during his meetings here as well – that Israel will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria, and will do everything to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“Self-defense is an important lesson from the 20th century, certainly for the Jewish people and our state,” he said. “On this occasion, I would like to thank President Putin for his statement that Israel’s security is important for Russia. He has said it many times, and I very much appreciate it.”

Netanyahu said that Israeli-Russian security cooperation has contributed “greatly to the security and stability in our region, and has brought about a substantive change in the situation in the region.”

He also thanked Russia for all it has done to retrieve the remains of Israeli soldiers, signaling out for special mention its facilitation of the return to Israel earlier this year of the remains of Zachary Baumel, who went missing during the Lebanon War at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in June 1982.  (Jerusalem Post) Herb Keinon

Nearly 20% of Australian Jews live in poverty

Nearly one in five Jews in Australia live below the poverty line,according to an Australian-based ABC News report. The “stigma” that Jews are generally affluent cloaks the fact that many Australian Jews are struggling financially.

“There are a large number of people in the community experiencing [hardship], but it’s not well-known because they try their best to hide it,” said Rachel Tanny, chief executive at Connections, Opportunities, Activities (COA), a non-profit in the Eastern Sydney suburb of Woollahra. The organization provides lunches two nights a week in Woollahra, debt counseling, phone calls for those who are lonely, and other services for the elderly Jewish community.

Many Australian Jews are struggling to keep their homes due to increased property values. “There are elderly people who have purchased a home decades before and it’s now increased in value, it’s worth millions, but their bank account is empty,” said Ms. Tanny. She went on to explain how these Jews have “too many assets to receive the type of assistance that they require”. Because those who own their homes are elderly, they do not want to move and uproot their lives.

“Like a lot of refugee communities, [Jewish people] want to hang out where there are the synagogues and the other support services,” Clare Vernon, chief executive of Jewish Care, explained, ”People want to remain in the home where they raised their families, and they have better health outcomes and longevity if they do age in place.”

Not all Australian Jews are struggling financially. According to the Australian Financial Review’s annual list, five of the ten richest Australians are Jews. This is despite the fact that Jews represent a measly 0.4% of the population in Australia, according to the 2016 census.

“A very significant proportion of the Jewish community arrived in this country with nothing and were determined to realize their potential and embrace a second chance at life,” said Vic Alhadeff, Chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. One of those who has done this is Frank Lowy. “[Frank] and the partner John Saunders began Westfield … as a small little deli out in Blacktown, and it’s become the world’s largest shopping centre conglomerate,” said Alhadeff. According to the Financial Review Rich List, Lowy (who has moved to Israel), boasts a net worth of $8.56 billion, ranking seventh on the list.

Lowy and his family have donated to both COA and Jewish Care.

“And 15 years ago, Frank set up the Lowy Institute as a world-leading thinktank, and when he did so, he said, ‘I’m doing this as my way of saying thank you to Australia, for giving my family and other Jewish Australians a second chance at life,’” Alhadeff said.

Lowy and others believe in the Jewish philosophy known as “tikkun olam,” which Alhadeff described as “‘healing the world,’ and that is mandating Jewish people to do whatever they can, in their small way, to make the world a better place.” (Jerusalem Post) Staff

Take Palestinians at their word: give them rejection they crave

by Eugene Kontorovich             The Wall Street Journal/The Australian

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/the-wall-street-journal/take-palestinians-at-their-word-give-them-rejection-they-crave/news-story/a62a03d54d3f3bef39453c2e2e583182

The US-led Peace to Prosperity conference on the Palestinian economy opening in Bahrain today will likely be attended by ­representatives of seven Arab states — a clear rebuke to foreign policy experts who said recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the Golan Heights as Israeli territ­ory would alienate the Arab world.

Sunni Arab states are lending legitimacy to the Trump administration’s plan, making it all the more notable that the Palestinian Authority itself refuses to participate.

The two-day conference’s only agenda is improving the Palestinian economy. It isn’t tied to any diplomatic package, and the plan’s 40-page overview contains nothing at odds with the Palestinian’s purported diplomatic goals. Some aspects are even politically ­uncomfortable for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Given all that, the PA’s unwillingness to discuss economic opportunities for its own people, even with the Arab states, shows how far it is from discussing the concessions necessary for a diplomatic settlement. Instead it seeks to deepen Palestin­ian misfortune and use it as a cudgel against Israel in the theatre of international opinion.

This isn’t the first time the Palestinians have said no. At a summit brokered by Bill Clinton in 2000, ­Israel offered them full statehood on territory that included roughly 92 per cent of the West Bank and all of Gaza, along with a capital in Jerusalem. The PA rejected that offer, leading Israel to up it to 97 per cent of the West Bank in 2001. Again, the answer was no. An even further-reaching offer in 2008 was rejected out of hand. And when Barack Obama pressured Israel into a 10-month settlement freeze in 2009 to renew negotiations, the Palestinians refused to come to the table.

After so many rejections, one might conclude that the PA’s leaders simply aren’t interested in peace. Had they accepted any of the peace offers, they would have immediately received the rarest of all geopolitical prizes: a new country­, with full international recognition. To be sure, in each proposal they found something not quite to their liking. But the Palestinians are perhaps the only national ­independence movement in the modern era that has ever rejecte­d a genuine offer of internationally recognised statehood, even if it falls short of all the territ­ory the movement had sought.

The best example is Israel itself, which jumped at a 1947 UN proposal­ for a Jewish state, even though it was non-contiguous and excluded Jerusalem and much of its present territory. The Arab states rejected the proposal, which would have also created a parallel Arab country. India and Pakistan didn’t reject independence ­because major territorial claims were left unaddressed. Ireland ­accepted independence without the island’s six northern counties.

While there have been hund­reds of national independence movements in modern times, few are fortunate enough to receive an offer of fully recognised sovereign statehood. Including 1947, the Palestinia­ns have received four. From Tibet to Kurdistan, such opportunit­ies remain a dream.

Several lessons must be drawn from the Palestinians’ serial rejection of statehood — and this week, even of economic development. First, the status quo is not Israeli “rule” or “domination”.

The Palestinians can comfortably turn down once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because almost all Palestinians already live under Palestinian government. Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, they’ve ­enjoyed many of statehood’s ­trappings, particularly in foreign relations. Israel undertakes ­regular anti-terror operations, but that’s different from overall power. For instance, the US doesn’t “rule” over Afghanistan.

Second, statehood and a resolution to the conflict is not what the Palestinians truly seek. This is what economists call a “revealed preference”: to know what consume­rs truly want, look at what they choose. The Palestinians have repeatedly chosen the status quo over sovereignty.

Finally, throw out the assumption that when Palestinians reject an offer, it stays on the table and accrues interest. If offers will only improve with time, the Palestinians have an incentive to keep saying­ no.

The PA cannot be forced to ­accept a peaceful settlement, and Israel doesn’t wish to return to its pre-Oslo control over the Palestinian population. But rejectionism, culminating this week in Bahrain, must have consequences.

For more than 50 years, the ­future of Jewish communities in the West Bank — and the nearly half a million Jews who now live there — has been held in limbo pending a diplomatic settlement. While the authority rejects improved­ hospitals, port arrangements and employment centres, many of the benefits for Palestinians could still be achieved by locating them in parts of the West Bank under Israeli jurisdiction. But to do that, the question mark over these places, which include all of the Jews living in the West Bank and a much smaller number of Palestinians, must be lifted.

Washington should support Israeli initiatives to replace military rule with civil law in these areas, normalising their status. The Palestinia­ns’ no-show in Bahrain should end their ability to hold ­development and growth hostage.

Eugene Kontorovich is the director of the Centre for International Law in the Middle East

Palestinians and the Bahrain Conference: Condemning Arabs While Asking for Arab Money

by Khaled Abu Toameh     The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/14431/palestinians-money-bahrain-conference

The Palestinian strategy is clear: to incite the Arab masses against their leaders and governments. The Palestinian attacks are no longer directed against US President Donald Trump… Now the targets are the Arab heads of state, particularly those who are seen by Palestinians are being in collusion with Israel and the Trump administration.

As the Palestinians were condemning Arabs for agreeing to attend the conference in Bahrain, Palestinian leaders repeated their appeal to the Arab states for financial aid. On the one hand, the Palestinians are condemning Arab countries for attending a conference aimed at boosting the Palestinian economy and improving living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the other hand, Palestinian leaders have no problem begging their Arab brothers for urgent financial aid…. The Palestinians are asking the Arabs to give them $100 million each month to help them “face political and financial pressure” from Israel and the US administration.

The Palestinians realize that some of the key Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, are no longer prepared to wait for them and have decided to board the train whose final destination is prosperity and economic opportunities for both Palestinians and Arabs.

The decision of six Arab states to attend the Bahrain conference despite the Palestinian boycott call shows that the Arabs have chosen to endorse a new direction – one that will leave the Palestinians to fend for themselves in a hell of their own making. For their choice to thumb their noses not only at the US but also at influential Arab states, the Palestinians are likely to emerge as the biggest losers.

In 2009, the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz announced his country’s decision to donate $1 billion to contribute to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

The monarch made his announcement during an Arab economic conference in Kuwait. The Saudi pledge never materialized, mainly because of the continued dispute between the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip and Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank.

The king undoubtedly had good intentions and sought to help his Palestinian brothers, especially the two million residents of the Gaza Strip who remain in dire need of financial and economic assistance.

When King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz died six years later, the Palestinians did not hesitate to show their contempt for the Arab leader who had offered to help improve their living conditions and ensure a better future for Palestinian children.

The contempt was so intense that Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem booed down a preacher, Ismail Nawahdeh, who mourned the death of the Saudi king. As Nawahdeh read the statement, hundreds of Palestinians began shouting slogans denouncing the late monarch.

A decade has passed since King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz offered the $1 billion donation to the Gaza Strip, but it seems that nothing has changed in the world of the Palestinians. The Palestinians are now incensed with Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states for agreeing to attend a US-led conference in Bahrain. The main purpose of the conference, held under the banner “Peace to Prosperity,” is to help the Palestinians build a prosperous and vibrant society. “With the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over 10 years, the plan presents the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinian people to date,” according to the plan, which was released on June 22 and will be presented to participants of the Bahrain economic conference.

As expected, the Palestinians, who are boycotting the Bahrain conference, have rejected the plan, dubbing it a “bribe” to entice the Palestinians to relinquish their “national rights.” While the Palestinian rejection of the plan did not come as a surprise, their strong condemnations of the Arab states that have agreed to attend the Bahrain conference are an indication of the disdain in which the Palestinians hold Arab leaders and governments.

In the past week, Palestinian officials and factions were unanimous in making a last-minute appeal to the Arab states to heed the Palestinian call for boycotting the economic conference in Manama, Bahrain. The largest Palestinian faction, Fatah, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, said in several statements that anyone who attends the conference would be considered a traitor. Fatah also went a step further by urging Arabs to stage demonstrations in front of Bahrain’s embassies in their capitals.

The Palestinian strategy is clear: to incite the Arab masses against their leaders and governments. The Palestinian attacks are no longer directed against US President Donald Trump and his “Zionist” advisers, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Now the targets are the Arab heads of state, particularly those who are seen by Palestinians are being in collusion with Israel and the Trump administration.

The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz, despite his desire and ambition to help the Palestinians have better lives, was ridiculed after his death. The Palestinian refusal to mourn him during Muslim prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque is the most degrading act a Muslim can perform against a fellow Muslim.

It is as if the Palestinians were saying that King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz was a bad Muslim and a traitor — and, as such, he did not deserve to be honored in a mosque. Such disgrace is generally reserved for Muslims who commit the most serious sins and crimes.

As the Palestinians were condemning Arabs for agreeing to attend the conference in Bahrain, Palestinian leaders repeated their appeal to the Arab states for financial aid. On the one hand, the Palestinians are condemning Arab countries for attending a conference aimed at boosting the Palestinian economy and improving living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the other hand, Palestinian leaders have no problem begging their Arab brothers for urgent financial aid.

The Arabs, however, seem to have become familiar with Palestinian tactics and, other than lip service, they are not poised to part with their money in the near future in favor of the Palestinians.

On June 23, Arab foreign ministers were scheduled to meet in Cairo to discuss the Palestinian appeal for a “financial security net” from the Arab states, on the pretext that Abbas and his government are facing a severe financial crisis and are unable to pay full salaries to their employees. This is not the first time that most of the Arab states meet to discuss the “financial crisis” facing the Palestinians.

The Palestinians, for their part, are not pinning high hopes on the Arabs, particularly in light of the Arabs’ failure to fulfill previous promises of financial aid. The Palestinians are asking the Arabs to give them $100 million each month to help them “face political and financial pressure” from Israel and the US administration.

In the coming days, the Palestinians are expected to step up their attacks and denunciations of the Arab states for being in collusion with Israel and the Trump administration. Mass protests planned in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the meeting of the conference in Bahrain will also see Palestinians strongly condemning Arab “traitors” who attended the economic workshop.

The Palestinians realize that some of the key Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, are no longer prepared to wait for them and have decided to board the train whose final destination is prosperity and economic opportunities for both Palestinians and Arabs.

The Bahrain conference could mark the beginning of a “divorce” between the Palestinians and many Arab countries. The Palestinians may soon discover that their Arab brothers have priorities that supersede the Palestinians’ everlasting financial self-immolation, priorities such as the Iran threat and their own new economic uncertainty.

The Palestinians had nothing to lose by attending the Bahrain conference or accepting the economic plan. Instead, they chose to reject the billions of dollars the US economic plan is offering them and incite their people against Israel and the Trump administration. Even more serious is the Palestinian effort to incite Arab masses against their leaders – a step that is sure to aggravate tensions between the Palestinians and the Arab world.

In a scenario that is best characterized as bizarre, the Palestinians’ denunciation of Arab heads of state as traitors comes at the very moment that they are banging down their doors, begging for cash.

This time, however, the Arab leaders are refusing to be the Palestinians’ suckers. The image of the Palestinians’ posthumous humiliation of the late Saudi king is difficult to forget.

The decision of six Arab states to attend the Bahrain conference despite the Palestinian boycott call shows that the Arabs have chosen to endorse a new direction – one that will leave the Palestinians to fend for themselves in a hell of their own making. For their choice to thumb their noses not only at the US but also at influential Arab states, the Palestinians are likely to emerge as the biggest losers.