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Latest News in Israel – 29th September

The Bottom Line of the Iran Agreement

by Amb. Dore Gold             Jerursalem Center for Public Affairs

One of the most important standards set by the U.S. Congress for the Iran agreement concerns covert Iranian activities in the nuclear field. The Iran agreement gives the International Atomic Energy Agency access to certain declared facilities. But the agreement doesn’t adequately address the question of undeclared sites.

It’s as though the negotiators forgot some famous names: Natanz – the main enrichment site of Iran; Arak – where the Iranians have their heavy-water facility which will allow them the pathway to a plutonium bomb; and the famous underground site at Fordo near Qom where the Iranians have another enrichment facility for their uranium.

These sites were all secret, undeclared sites. If the Iranians are going to break through to a nuclear bomb, they’re going to do it in those kind of secret sites that eventually the West discovered over the last 20 years, and not through some declared facility.

Dr. Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote in September in an FDD policy brief that he has information from an IAEA staff member that the agency has not conducted a single visit to suspected military sites in Iran. They’re off the table. In fact, the whole arrangement for inspections and monitoring is the weak link in the Iranian nuclear deal.

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Three Umm al-Fahm residents arrested for planning attack on Temple Mount

Two residents of Umm al-Fahm were indicted over planning a terrorist attack on the Temple Mount, Israel’s Security Agency (Shin Bet) said Thursday. A third Umm al-Fahm resident was arrested with them for possessing firearms and supporting the Islamic State (ISIS).

In a joint operation of the Shin Bet and the Israel Police, the three, who were allegedly affiliated with the Islamic State, were arrested earlier this month. According to a statement released for publication on Thursday, the three were planning a shooting attack similar to the one in July, in which two Israeli police officers were killed.

The three were identified as Sa’id Ghasoub Mahmoud Jabarin, 26, who is suspected of masterminding the attack; Fares Salah Mahmoud Mahajneh, 24, an ISIS supporter who is suspected in possessing firearms; and another unnamed 16-year-old who is suspected of involvement.

Jabarin and the minor were indicted in the Haifa District Court on charges of conspiring to aid an enemy, contact with a foreign agent and a series of weapons charges.

During the investigation, the police found two pistols and ammunition that the suspects were planning to use in their attack. In addition, a “Carl Gustav” type sub-machine gun was found in Mahajne’s house.

The police statement stressed that the attack was planned in light of the suspects’ support of the Islamic State and its ideology. The suspects were said to frequent ISIS propaganda websites and watch official ISIS videos and had planned to join the group’s fighters in Syria.

It was reported that the three were also planning to target security personnel and other non-Muslims and that they already conducted reconnaissance surveys around the compound, looking for potential locations to carry out the attack.

Jabarin and the minor were indicted in the Haifa District Court on charges of conspiring to aid an enemy, contact with a foreign agent and a series of weapons charges.

A senior Shin Bet official said following the publication that “The image that became clear during the investigation showed us that a short while after the deadly attack in July 2017 on the Temple Mount, two Umm al-Fahm residents planned a similar attack in the compound.”

“The attack was prevented due to accurate intelligence that enabled the arrest of the squad before they managed to carry out the attack. The Shin Bet sees the Israelis who support the Islamic State – and further more those who are in touch with their members and working directly for them – as a severe security threat,” he added.

The statement added that the Islamic State organization, which is retreating from most of its battle fronts these days, is still making an effort to show a positive image on social networks.

”By doing that, the terrorist organization tries to recruit potential operatives,” the statement reads.

The attack in July 14th was carried our by three Umm al-Fahm residents as well – Muhammad Ahmad Mahmoud Jabarin, 29; Muhammad Ahmed Fadel Jabarin, 19; and Muhammad Hamed Abd al-Latif Jabarin, 19. After the attack, two Carl Gustav guns were found on their bodies, as well as one pistol. (Jerusalem Post)

Lapid to Erdogan: Threats won’t change Israel’s foreign policy

With the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry silent on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threat to halt normalization with Israel as a result of its support of Kurdish independence, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid stepped into the void on Wednesday and said the government should make clear it will not be threatened.

“The government should make clear to Mr. Erdogan that we do not conduct our foreign policy according to threats and demands,” he said.

“Israel should stand by the Kurdish people, it is morally and strategically the right thing to do,” Lapid added. “We remember what it is to fight for your homeland and we shouldn’t allow the Kurds to stand alone in the face of threats from Turkey and Iran.”

The results of the referendum for an independent Kurdistan in Iraq that was held on Monday were announced on Wednesday, with an overwhelming 93% voting yes, despite threats of grave ramifications from Iran, Iraq and Turkey – which all have large Kurdish populations.

On Tuesday Erdogan threatened to halt steps being taken toward normalization with Israel if it does not end its support for an independent Kurdish state.

“If Israel does not reconsider its support for Kurdish independence, Turkey will not be able to take many steps we would have with Israel, too,” he said.

Israel and Turkey renewed full diplomatic relations at the end of last year, following a six-year hiatus in full ties because of the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which a protest flotilla tried to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip, leaving nine Turks dead.

Netanyahu was the only leader in the region to endorse the referendum. Last month, during a meeting in Jerusalem with a delegation of Republican congressmen, he expressed a “positive attitude” toward a Kurdish state in the Kurdish areas of Iraq, saying the Kurds are a “brave, pro-Western people who share our values.”

Erdogan said Turkey would initiate political, economic, commercial and security steps against the Kurdistan Regional Government in response to the referendum. Iraq has threatened a military response.

“A referendum was conducted in northern Iraq, and only supported by Israel,” Erdogan said.

“Who will recognize your independence, Israel?” the Turkish leader said.

“The world is not about Israel.”

Lapid tweeted in response to those comments on Tuesday that Erdogan’s threat to freeze ties with Israel were “empty.”

“The relations are hollow anyway,” Lapid said, “and we don’t take directives from him.”

The Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Office’s silence on Erdogan’s comments fits in with Jerusalem’s long record of rarely responding to the Turkish leader’s periodic outbursts against Israel.  (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli intel takes global approach, helps thwart dozens of terror attacks

Israel’s intelligence community has helped thwart dozens of terrorist attacks around the globe planned by Islamic State and al-Qaida by sharing intelligence with other countries.

The defense establishment marks the November 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people, as the day the intelligence community changed its perspective to a more global one and tightened its coordination with international bodies.

Three years after Islamic State ran through the Middle East, once controlling nearly half of Syria and large parts of Iraq, the group is reported to have lost 85% of its territory in Syria, including almost all of its de facto capital of Raqqa, and has been largely dispersed across the deserts of Iraq.

The intelligence branch also changed its focus to collecting more information about the activities of jihadists who are not in the Middle East.

As the group’s territorial “caliphate” collapses, the group’s ideology remains popular among a large number of disenfranchised youths across the globe. The jihadists’ expertise in online propaganda allows them to continue to operate as a “virtual caliphate” urging their supporters to carry out attacks in their home countries.

With shared threats in the Middle East, cooperation between the intelligence communities of Israel and Western countries such as the United States has always been close and intensified since the early 2000s, despite Israel not being a part of the “Five Eyes” – a term used for the core countries involved in surveillance-sharing with Washington – Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

In May, The New York Times reported that Israel was the source of classified intelligence that President Donald Trump disclosed to Russian officials about a planned Islamic State operation to blow up passenger planes flying to Europe using explosive devices hidden in laptop computers.

Shortly afterward, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that despite the intelligence cooperation between Jerusalem and Washington being “unprecedented,” Israel has nonetheless changed its intelligence-sharing apparatus.

Trump defended having shared “facts” with senior Russian officials, taking to Twitter to say he had an “absolute right” to do so and had been trying to get Moscow to be more active in combating Islamic State.

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety,” he posted on Twitter. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

In January Yediot Aharonot reported that US officials had warned their Israeli counterparts to be cautious in sharing classified intelligence with the Trump administration, concerned that it could be leaked to Russia and to Iran.  (Jerusalem Post)

Marking 50 years of settlements, PM vows they will never be uprooted

Speaking Wednesday at a state ceremony to mark 50 years of Israeli settlements in the West Bank,  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the Jewish communities in the territory will never be uprooted.

“Settlement is important to you in the same way that it is important to me, so I say very clearly: There will be no further uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel,” Netanyahu told the crowd at the event, which was held in the Gush Etzion bloc, a key settlement region that lies south of Jerusalem.

The prime minister was joined at the gathering by a roll call of ministers and dignitaries including Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein — but no representative from the Supreme Court after its chief justice, Miriam Naor, balked at sending a representative, saying that the court should not be involved in controversial political events.

“The way to make peace is not through uprooting — not of Jews and not of Arabs,” Netanyahu said.

“We did not get peace when we uprooted settlements, we got terror and missiles and we will not do that again,” he continued, referring to Israel’s 2005 pullout from the Gaza Strip. “The Gush will always be part of the State of Israel.”

“Any territory that falls into the hands of radical Islam becomes the basis for violence, murder and death, and so we will not abandon our national home to danger,” Netanyahu said. “Instead we will strengthen our home with this momentum.”

Much of the international community views West Bank settlements as illegal and has frequently tried to pressure Israel to halt construction beyond the Green Line. The Palestinians say the settlement enterprise is one of the major obstacles to reaching a peace deal. Israel says most settlements are legal under Israeli law — though Israel has never extended its sovereignty over the West Bank.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett called at the ceremony for Israel to extend its sovereignty to the West Bank.

“I don’t take such a step lightly, in order to implement sovereignty, it takes timing and courage,” Bennett said. “There is no better time than now, as it is clear that we are here by right and not by grace.”

“There is no better time that this, even if world resists, we shall overcome it,” he added. It [the world] also understands what the Israeli public understands, the Land of Israel will never again be divided!”

Edelstein echoed Netanyahu in declaring that removing the settlements would not resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.

“It is not the uprooting of settlements that will bring peace. A [settlement construction] freeze is not the way to an agreement. For years we will continue to build and develop our ancestors’ heritage in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, in the Jordan Valley, on the Golan Heights,” he said, using the biblical names for the West Bank.

Culture Minister Miri Regev was also at the ceremony. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was absent as he was on a work trip abroad.

Naor explained her decision to cancel Justice Neal Hendel’s attendance at ceremony saying it would be inappropriate for the court to attend a political event “devoted to one side.” Her decision drew criticism from right-wing lawmakers led by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Liberman and Regev and support from opposition lawmakers including Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid. (the Times of Israel)

Hamas leader’s son blasts Palestinian Authority leadership at UN

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a Hamas leader and militant-turned-Israel-activist, took the floor at the United Nations on Wednesday to criticize the Palestinian Authority.

“Where does your legitimacy come from? The Palestinian people did not elect you, and they did not appoint you to represent them,” he began.

He alleged that the PA and its security forces kidnap and torture Palestinians, and, as such, are the chief architects of Palestinian suffering.

“If Israel did not exist, you would have no one to blame.”

Yousef also suggested that the PA was misleading its own people, violating their human rights, and abusing its own power.

Yousef was speaking on behalf of UN Watch, a watchdog group that monitors the United Nations for supposed anti-Israel biases. He left Hamas in the 1990s to work for the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, and has since moved to the United States.

The Green Prince is an autobiographical documentary of Yousef’s life, released in 2014.  (Jerusalem Post)

Survey: 60% of Arab Israelis have positive view of the state

A survey of Arab citizens of Israel has found more positive attitudes to the state and its institutions than was previously thought.

Sixty percent surveyed said they had a favorable view of the state, while 37% said their view was unfavorable.

The poll, whose findings were released Wednesday, was conducted by the Israel office of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center and Keevoon, a research, strategy and communications company.

The poll, conducted last month, surveyed 876 citizens of Israel and 125 east Jerusalem permanent residents. It had a margin of error of 2.25%.

Broken down by religion, 49% of Muslims view the state favorably compared with 48% unfavorably, while 61% of Christians view it favorably compared to 33% unfavorably.

Ninety-four percent of Druse view the state favorably compared to 6% unfavorably.

The survey showed that slightly more Israeli-Arabs have favorable views of the legal system, Supreme Court and police than unfavorable ones. The latter finding is seen as reflecting tremendous worries about crime in Arab communities.

“The number of people who agreed to respond positively when asked about state institutions is quite remarkably high,” said Itamar Radai, academic director of the Adenauer Program and a scholar at the Dayan Center. “It reflects a general desire to be more incorporated and to participate more.”

At the same time, racism was listed as a top concern by respondents and 47% of them said they feel “generally treated unequally” as Arab citizens.

Most respondents also said that Arab citizens are getting an unfair distribution of tax revenues.

In the view of Michael Borchard, Israel director of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, one of the most significant findings came in response to the question posed to citizens, “Which term best describes you?” The largest number, 28%, replied “Israeli Arab” while 11% said “Israeli,” 13% said “Arab citizen of Israel” and 2% said “Israeli Muslim.” Only 15% said “Palestinian” while 4% said “Palestinian in Israel,” 3% said “Palestinian citizen in Israel” and 2% said “Israeli Palestinian.”

Eight percent of respondents said their preferred self-identification was “Muslim.”

“The bottom line is there is more identification with Israel than with a possible Palestinian state,” Borchard said. “They want to be recognized in their specific identity but have no problem to be related in a way to Israel.”

Borchard also highlighted that 63% of Arab citizens surveyed said Israel is a “positive” place to live, with 34% saying it is negative, while respondents also gave high marks to the country for having a “strong” degree of personal freedom and a “strong” amount of stability.

“The sense of stability, amount of personal freedom and quality of life compared to surrounding countries is appreciated,” Borchard said.

The survey asked citizen respondents to rate on a scale of 1-10 how much “belonging” to the State of Israel they have. Forty-five percent gave responses between 8 and 10, 17% between 5 and 7 and 35% between 1 and 4.

Asked if they would be proud or embarrassed if a relative became a member of Knesset, 73% responded they would be proud and 16% embarrassed.

The survey found that Arab citizens are more concerned about the economy, crime and equality than the Palestinian issue. Asked which issue most concerns them, 22% of Arab citizens said personal security and crime and an equal number said racism. Fifteen percent said the economy and jobs, while 13% said the Palestinian issue.

“People have been living in Israel for the last 70 years and have a desire to be more incorporated,” said Radai.

“Their interest in the Palestinian issue can be compared to Israeli Jews being interested in Jews around the world even as domestic issues are a higher priority.”

Asked about the policy implications of the survey, Brochard said: “Israel should do more to answer this rather positive attitude and be more inclusive and not have these ongoing allegations that these people are not loyal or not to be trusted because the dynamics speak another language.”

MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), responded to the survey’s findings by saying that it might be putting too positive an image in terms of how Arabs view their situation in Israel.

Participation in the state and decision- making, he said, “is our demand but it’s the government that excludes us and has this campaign of delegitimization.

Wanting participation is an aspiration but it doesn’t reflect the situation on the ground.”

He added: “When it comes to being satisfied with the situation, when I meet people from my community I always hear concerns about increasing discrimination and racism, they’re worried about their socioeconomic status, an absence of jobs and housing so my own look at things encounters mostly worries about the future.”   (Jerusalem Post)

US, others won’t honor Palestinian Interpol notices, top lawmaker says

A top US lawmaker said that Washington won’t honor Palestinian warrants issued through Interpol, though a Palestinian official claimed Ramallah had no plans to use the international policing body to seek the arrest of Israelis, but rather would pursue Palestinian criminals, including a top rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Interpol voted Wednesday to include Palestine as a member state, in a new boost to Palestinian efforts for international recognition and influence amid long-stalled negotiations with Israel for full statehood.

The decision drew an angry Israeli reaction and threat of retaliation. It also raised concerns that the Palestinians might use their elevated status to seek the arrests of Israelis.

US Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was concerned that the Palestinians would now issue Interpol “red notices,” which the US Justice Department describes as the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today.

Cardin said any “red notices” issued by the Palestinians “will not be recognized in many countries, including the United States.”

Cardin also told reporters that the Palestinian membership could harm peace efforts.

File: Sen. Ben Cardin speaking at a news conference at the US Capitol, Oct. 1, 2015. (Win McNamee/Getty Images via JTA)

“The international community has a great deal at stake in pursuing the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Cardin said. “There’s only one way forward: two states living side by side in peace; a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. To try to use international organizations to advance the cause only sets back that opportunity.”

In a statement, Interpol said red notices are not international arrest warrants, but rather act as an alert to member countries, and are issued based on a valid national arrest warrant. Each member country decides how to respond to such a notice and Interpol can’t compel its members to arrest a wanted person who is the subject of a red notice.

Omar Awadallah, the head of the UN organizations department in the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, said the Palestinians “now have the right to sue anyone” and could theoretically use their Interpol status to pursue legal steps against Israelis suspected of crimes in Palestinian territory.

“But this is a political issue and needs a political decision,” he said.

The Palestinians already have been providing evidence in a preliminary war crimes investigation against Israel at the International Criminal Court, another international body they have joined.

A senior Palestinian official said there were no plans to sue any Israelis through Interpol. He said the purpose is “to pursue criminals who commit crimes here and escape.”

He said one target would be Mohammed Dahlan, a rival of Abbas.

Dahlan, convicted in absentia on corruption charges, now lives in exile after a falling out with the Palestinian leader. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal Palestinian deliberations.

The rivalry between Dahlan and Abbas surfaced in late 2010, when reports of dubious accuracy spread that Dahlan was preparing a putsch against the PA president. The reports, together with critical statements made by Dahlan against Abbas’s sons, led the PA president to make a rapid move that ended with Dahlan’s expulsion from the Palestinian territories in January 2011.

Dahlan has been living in the United Arab Emirates since then and trying to set up bastions of support in the Palestinian territories, particularly among the inhabitants of the refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza.

He recently played a key role in brokering an agreement between Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas and Egypt to provide electricity to the impoverished Strip.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki hailed Wednesday’s vote as a “victory for law enforcement” and a “voice of confidence in the capacity of law enforcement in Palestine.” He promised to uphold Palestinian commitments to combating crime and strengthening the rule of law.

Interpol announced the inclusion of the “State of Palestine” as well as the Solomon Islands on Twitter and its website Wednesday after a vote by its general assembly in Beijing.

With the new votes, Interpol will have 192 member countries. Interpol didn’t immediately announce how many members supported Palestinian membership.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s negotiations affairs department said on Twitter that it had received more than 75 percent of the vote.

The move was roundly criticized by Israeli leaders and US Jewish organizations.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah applied for Interpol membership in 2015, and submitted a formal letter this July promising not to use the organization “for any political, military, racial or religious interventions or activities,” and to cooperate with Interpol, according to minutes of the Interpol meeting.

The approval vote requires the Palestinians to pay membership dues worth 0.03 percent of the Interpol budget.

Interpol, based in Lyon, France, is an international clearing house for arrest warrants and police cooperation against cross-border terrorism, trafficking and other crimes.(the Times of Israel).

Australia, New Zealand PMs to visit Israel for Beersheba battle anniversary

The Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand will visit Israel next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

The 1917 attack on the Ottoman forces in the city, which was led by British general Edmund Allenby, enabled the British Empire to take control of southern Palestine after months of inconclusive fighting in Gaza and continue its advance towards Jerusalem.

Mounted units of soldiers from both Australia and New Zealand played key roles in the fight for the city.

The ceremony will be held on October 31 at the Beersheba Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, where more than 1,000 commonwealth soldiers are buried, including the over 100 troops who died during the Battle of Beersheba.

Battle of Beersheva

Australian men and women reenacting the last cavalry charge that took place in the Battle of Beersheba during World War I.

The Foreign Ministry said Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will arrive in the country on October 28, while New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English will land in Israel a day later.

It did not say whether the two will hold meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or any other Israeli officials while in the country.

Netanyahu last met with Turnbull in February during his trip down under.

English’s visit comes after Israel restored full diplomatic ties with New Zealand in June after the two countries had a falling-out over a UN Security Council resolution condemning West Bank settlements.

New Zealand’s prime minister, whose conservative National Party came just short of winning a majority of seats last week in the country’s elections, is currently locked in “tense” negotiations with other parties in order to form a coalition.  (the Times of Israel)