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Latest News in Israel – 31st October

Stunning aerial tour of rapid train ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

A few months before the scheduled opening of Tel Aviv-Jerusalem rapid train, the tracks are ready and the electrification project is under way. Take a stunning 4-minute aerial tour across beautiful Israel.  (WIN)

IDF destroys attack tunnel in Israeli territory built after 2014 war

The IDF on Monday “neutralized a terror tunnel” that was discovered inside Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip and is believed to have been dug after the 2014 war, the army said.

The military said the tunnel had been under surveillance for an extended period of time and was under active construction at the time of the demolition.

The tunnel, which the IDF described as a “grave and unacceptable violation of Israeli sovereignty,” started in the Gazan city of Khan Younis, crossing under the border and approaching the Israeli community of Kibbutz Kissufim, the army said.

“The tunnel was detonated from within Israel, adjacent to the security fence,” the military said in a statement.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the tunnel was approximately two kilometers away from the Israeli kibbutz. He said it did not pose a threat to the residents.

The demolition was carried out near the fence separating Israel from Gaza.

The tunnel was discovered by a new, advanced piece of technology that was being used for the first time, Conricus told reporters. He would not specify what type of equipment was used.

It was the third such tunnel that the military has said it’s destroyed since the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge. However, the first two tunnels, which were demolished last year, were believed to be leftovers from the 2014 conflict, whereas the tunnel that was detonated on Monday was “in progress,” according to Conricus.

The destruction of the tunnel was first reported by Palestinian media on Monday afternoon. The reports said it was carried out by airstrike.

The IDF initially contradicted those reports, saying it was a “controlled demolition,” but Conricus later clarified that the military would not comment on what munitions were used.

The IDF officers said it was not immediately clear who dug the tunnel, but that ultimately the Israeli army holds Hamas “accountable and responsible” as it is the governing figure in the Strip.

Hamas did not immediately comment on the demolition.

The news site Palestine Today, which is affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, reported that a number of members from the group’s armed wing, Saraya Al-Quds, were incommunicado after the Israeli army destroyed the tunnel on Monday.

Conricus would not comment on the dimensions of the tunnel, specifically its depth and length. The military could not confirm that the entire tunnel was destroyed.

“The IDF does not intend to escalate the situation but stands prepared for a variety of scenarios,” the army said.

The officer added that the “IDF is working above- and below-ground to thwart attempts to harm Israeli civilians and protect the relative calm in the area.”

The IDF set up additional Iron Dome missile defense batteries in the area in case terror groups in the Strip fired rockets in response to the demolition.

This summer, Israel began work on an underground barrier that is meant to counter attack tunnels. The army said the construction of the barrier was not connected to the discover and demolition of Monday’s tunnel.    (the Times of Israel)

Israel’s UN envoy blasts discovery of Gaza tunnel under UNRWA school

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon on Sunday blasted the discovery of a tunnel underneath a Gaza school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, accusing the Hamas terror organization of using UNRWA facilities as “terror bases” and Gazan children as “human shields.”

“Yet another terror tunnel under an UNRWA schoolyard. This is what Hamas rule looks like and this is more proof of the double war crime committed as terror tunnels are built to attack Israelis, while using the children of Gaza as human shields,” said Danon in a statement.

“We cannot accept a situation in which UNRWA schools are used as terror bases.  This dangerous incident must not be ignored and strict oversight is needed to ensure that UN facilities are not used to protect terrorists,” he added.

Since the discovery some two weeks ago, UNRWA closed the school and sealed off the opening to the tunnel. The school resumed operations last Wednesday, the UN organization said in a statement on Saturday.

The statement did not say where the tunnel led, where it was found, or who was believed to have constructed it.

“The presence of a tunnel underneath an UNRWA installation, which enjoys inviolability under international law, is unacceptable. It places children and agency staff at risk,” the UN agency said.

UNRWA informed Israel’s Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories, IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, of the incident and also lodged a complaint with the relevant authorities in Gaza over the violation of the neutrality of a UN facility, according to a Sunday report from the Hebrew-language Ynet website.

Over the years, Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers have built a labyrinth of tunnels, some passing under the border into Israel which they used to launch attacks during their last conflict with the Jewish state in 2014.

On June 1, UNRWA said it found “part of a tunnel that passes under two adjacent agency schools in the Maghazi camp” during construction work.

At the time, Danon submitted a letter of protest to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council.

Hamas later “strongly condemned” the UNRWA revelation, saying it would be exploited by Israel to “justify its crimes.”

The terror group denied it built the tunnel and said it had clarified the issue “with all factions and resistance forces, who clearly stated they had no actions related to the resistance in the said location.”

UNRWA has long been criticized by Israel for aspects of its handling of relations with Hamas, and Israel has claimed that some of UNRWA’s Palestinian employees support terrorist activities and spread anti-Semitism online.

An independent UN inquiry found in 2015 that Palestinian armed groups hid weapons in three empty UN-run schools in Gaza and that in at least two cases terrorists “probably” fired rockets at Israel from the facilities during the summer war in 2014 between Israel and the Gaza Strip.  (the Times of Israel)

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn refuses to attend Balfour Celebration dinner

Ahead of a joint British-Israeli dinner marking the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the leader of Britain’s Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, said he would refuse to attend the event, the Sunday Times reported.

Corbyn, who has often been labeled ‘antisemitic’ and ‘anti-Israel,’ was criticized for the move. The Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, alleged that Corbyn was part of a group of ”extremists” for opposing the declaration, and suggested that those who reject the document are on par with terrorist groups like Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to the UK for the centennial of the Balfour Declaration on Thursday. While Corbyn will not be in attendance, the Labour leader has asked the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, to attend in his place.

Corbyn, a fierce supporter of the Palestinian cause, made the same move a month ago, when he asked Thornberry to attend an event with Labour Friends of Israel instead of him.

Abbas says Britain should apologize for Balfour declaration promising right to Jewish homeland

The Balfour Declaration, signed on November 2, 1917, called for the establishment of a “national home” for the Jewish people in the British mandate. Israelis have long used the declaration as justification for the existence of the State of Israel, while Palestinians have said that the declaration, issued by a colonial power, is not valid.

Palestinian leaders have long urged British officials to apologize for and disavow the declaration and acknowledge their responsibility in the plight of the Palestinian people. The British government has refused.   (Jerusalem Post)

Turnbull, Israel to set up annual defence talks

Australia will forge a closer ­defence and intelligence relationship with Israel at a time of growing concern about Iran’s expanding influence in the region after the defeat of Islamic State.

This will include closer co-­operation on ways to prevent terrorist attacks in both countries.

Malcolm Turnbull, when he arrives in Israel late today for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, will announce Australia and Israel will conduct annual defence talks and boost defence industry co-operation.

The Prime Minister also will meet his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a visit cut short by almost two days because of political turmoil in Canberra.

Mr Turnbull, the first Australian prime minister to visit Israel since John Howard in 2000, said the visit would focus mainly on defence ties but also address the broader issues of trade, investment and technology.

“Our defence ties have become a vital part of the relationship between Australia and Israel. As a result of this visit, we aim to upgrade the co-operation on defence, national security, and the protection of crowded places,” he said. “Our nations can learn a great deal from each other in order to strengthen security and keep our citizens safe.”

Although the new measures are not being announced in direct response to Iran, they come at a time when Israel, the US and Australia are increasingly concerned about Iran’s creeping influence in the region as it seeks to fill the strategic vacuum left by the military collapse of Islamic State.

Australia and Israel will also forge closer links on cyber-­security, with Veterans Affairs Minister and the Minister Assisting the PM on Cyber Security, Dan Tehan, also on the visit.

Mr Turnbull will receive a ceremonial welcome when he ­arrives in Israel today, followed by a one-on-one meeting with Mr Netanyahu and a private dinner with spouses at Mr Netanyahu’s residence.

Mr Turnbull will also pay his respects at the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem before attending the centenary anniversary late ­tomorrow (AEDT) of the famous charge of the Light Horse Brigade at the Battle of Beersheba.

On defence, the two countries will establish an annual bilateral strategic defence dialogue to discus strategic priorities and to help Australian officials to better understand Israel’s perspective on developments in the region. The new defence dialogue will complement regular talks ­between foreign ministers.

During the visit, the two countries will sign a memorandum of understanding on defence industry co-operation between their defence departments.

Australia has a niche but important defence industry relationship with Israel, focusing on co-operation to counter improvised explosive devices and on acquir­ing Israeli capabilities such as medium-altitude drones.

The MOU will provide a framework for closer defence industry co-operation, especially in innovation. It will help identify export opportunities for both countries and broker industry-to-industry links with Israel’s sophisticated defence industry, which exports about $US7 billion ($9.1bn) of products annually.  (the Australian)

Australian PM’s delay wreaks havoc for overbooked hotels

The delay in the arrival in Israel of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has turned the capital’s luxury hotel business and various arrangements connected with the visit topsy-turvy.

Turnbull was supposed to check in at the King David Hotel on Saturday night. However, it appears that he will not be arriving until Tuesday morning – and even that is not certain. He may go straight from the airport to Beersheba, depending on his arrival time in the country.

Sheldon Ritz, director of operations at the King David, could not say how many rooms had suddenly become vacant as a result of the delay because he did not know how many of the people traveling with the prime minister would still be arriving, whether some had come in advance or whether some had canceled the visit altogether.

Luxury hotels in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Negev have been booked out not only by the many Australian, New Zealand, and British visitors – some of whom may be staying on for the Balfour  Centenary Day – but also by people who are participating in the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting and other conferences taking place in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv this week.

Turnbull, who is coming to Israel to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, was due to visit Yad Vashem on Sunday and hold meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was also going to attend a cocktail reception on Monday night hosted by  Australian ambassador Chris Cannan and the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce.

It is unlikely that he will arrive in time for the reception, and it is unknown whether he will attend a luncheon in Jerusalem scheduled for Wednesday.

He was due to meet with President Reuven Rivlin on Monday, but the meeting was postponed and has been rescheduled for Wednesday morning.

Plans for the visit have been underway for more than a year, and now due to a political crisis in Australia, some were nipped in the bud.

Rivlin was due to visit Australia last year, and cancelled because of a greater political urgency to go to Russia  (Jerusalem Post)

US official: Jerusalem expansion bill ‘distracts’ parties from peace

A senior US official on Sunday criticized proposed Israeli legislation that seeks to absorb a number of West Bank settlements into Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.

“It’s fair to say that the US is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations. The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the administration to be one of those actions,” the US official told The Times of Israel.

The statement came hours after coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) told Army Radio a vote on the “Greater Jerusalem” bill in the key Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday was delayed because “there is American pressure claiming this is annexation.”

The proposed bill calls for expanding the Jerusalem municipal boundaries to include four major settlements and a settlement bloc in the West Bank that are home to more than 100,000 Israelis. It aims to solidify the city’s Jewish majority, but stops short of formal annexation, making the practical implications unclear. The bill says the communities would be considered “daughter municipalities” of Jerusalem.

Under the same proposal, some 100,000 Palestinians living in neighborhoods outside the security barrier would be removed from the city’s census and given a new municipality.

The Haaretz daily quoted Netanyahu as saying Israel needs to coordinate the bill with the US.

“The Americans turned to us and inquired what the bill was about. As we have been coordinating with them until now, it is worthwhile (to continue) talking and coordinating with them. We are working to promote and develop the settlement enterprise,” it quoted Netanyahu as saying at a government meeting Sunday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly government conference at the PM’s office in Jerusalem on October 29, 2017. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Flash90)

Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group, says the bill would amount to “de facto annexation” and be a clear step toward full annexation of the West Bank.

Netanyahu had previously indicated that he would give his backing for the proposal to absorb Ma’ale Adumim, Beitar Illit and Efrat, along with the Etzion bloc of settlements, into the Jerusalem municipality.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, the Old City and the West Bank from Jordan in 1967, and extended sovereignty to the Old City and East Jerusalem in 1980, in a move never recognized by the international community.

Most countries also consider the West Bank settlements illegal under international law, as well as the formal annexation of land seized during war. Israel officially maintains that the settlements are not illegal, because the land is disputed rather than occupied.

Israeli leaders on both the left and the right maintain that the largest settlement blocs in the West Bank will become part of Israel via land swaps under any future peace deal. (the Times of Israel)

UAE apologizes to Israel for judo handshake snub

The United Arab Emirates’ top judo official apologized to his Israeli counterpart Saturday after a tournament in Abu Dhabi saw Israeli athletes repeatedly snubbed by their hosts because of their nationality.

Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al-Darei, president of the UAE’s Judo Federation, and  Aref Al-Awani, another senior Emirates sports official, apologized to Israeli Judo Association head Moshe Ponte over the fact that an athlete from the UAE refused to shake hands with an Israeli judoka after a match during the several-day tournament, according to a statement from the International Judo Federation.

Darei and Awani “apologized because of the UAE athletes not shaking hands with the Israel athletes and also congratulated the Israel team for their success here,” IJF president Marius Vizer said. He called the move a “gesture of courage.”

On Friday, the UAE’s Rashad Almashjari refused to shake hands after losing to Israeli Tohar Butbul in the first round of the men’s lightweight (66-73 kg) category.

Butbul went on to win bronze, one of several medals won by Israelis at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament.

However, Israeli symbols were banned during the competition, the flag did not appear during medal ceremonies, and the national anthem was not played for Israel’s gold medalist Tal Flicker on Thursday.


“As you can see I don’t have the flag,” Or Sasson said Saturday after winning the bronze medal in the over 100 kilogram category, pointing the bare patch on his chest where the other competitors had their national flag. “But my heart is always, always with the state of Israel. I hope I made you proud and I will always continue to represent you with pride,” he said.

Peter Paltchik, who also won a bronze Saturday the men’s under 100 kilograms category, was pictured in a photo released by the IJF flanked by UAE officials congratulating him.

The entire Israeli team was required to compete without any Israeli identifying symbols, and had been told before the tournament that there would be no acknowledgement of their home country — a discriminatory policy imposed solely on the Israeli competitors.

On Thursday, event organizers refused to play the Israeli national anthem or display the Israeli flag when Israeli judoka Flicker won the gold medal in the men’s under-66 kilogram category. The same day, the flag was left out when Gili Cohen won bronze on the women’s side in under-52 kilogram class.

Flicker sang out his own private “Hatikvah” under the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) flag, as the federation’s anthem played in the background.

Vizier said Israel had still been treated well despite the flag and anthem flaps.

“Sometimes with courage, respect and politeness, you can solve tensions and conflicts, which have not been solved since many decades. I consider, that even without the flag and anthem of Israel, that their team have been treated very well with high respect during this event,” he said.

Israel’s Ynet news website reported that the group agreed that Israeli symbols would be permitted at the event next year, but there was no confirmation of this. Vizer only expressed hopes that “in the near future we can achieve the best condition of participation for the Israel teams.”

“Such delicate issues between countries, governments and nations cannot be solved overnight and cannot be solved through the sport immediately,” Vizer said. “In the last years the IJF has made a lot of work and important steps for the participation and recognition of the Israeli team in countries like Morocco and Emirates and I hope soon we can break down more barriers for more tolerance between countries and nations to express the real value of the sport, friendship unity and solidarity.”

Israeli athletes regularly face discrimination when competing abroad against athletes from countries critical of Israel.

In the 2016 Summer Olympics, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shahaby refused to shake hands with Sasson after being defeated by the Israeli, and only begrudgingly made the obligatory end-of-match bow after being being called back to the mat by the referee. He was later removed from the tournament for refusing to follow protocol.  (the Times of Israel)

ANZACs ride again: Centennial of the battle of Be’er Sheva

100 Australian, New Zealander cavalrymen participate in recreation of battle of Be’er Sheva fought by mounted ANZAC troops against Ottoman Empire 100 years ago; event to be attended by PM Netanyahu, Australian PM New Zealand governor-general; Tour de France champion Evans to lead charity bike ride tour; mosaic taken by Anzacs recreated by Israeli artists, displayed in Eshkol Regional Council.

Hundreds of Australian and new Zealanders converged on Be’er Sheva this weekend dressed in World War I regalia and mounted atop horses to reenact the battle in which their grandfathers conquered the Negev’s capital from the hands of the Ottomans.

While as far as most Israelis are concerned the battle of Be’er Sheva is just another in the myriad battles to take place in the Holy Land, in Australia and New Zealand generations were reared on the myth of the battle now celebrating its centennial, and thus their recent gathering was of particular significance.

The ostentatious celebrations in the southern city are presided over by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull—marking his first visit to Israel to participate in the festivities—and New Zealand Governor General Dame Patricia Lee “Patsy” Reddy.

The centennial event was so momentous it was speculated New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English might make a surprise visit as well, considered doubtful due to the tense relationship between the two countries since the 2004 Mossad affair.

Finally, the Ottoman contingent is represented by Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, Mekin Mustafa Kemal Ökem.

The event commemorates the freeing of Be’er Sheva by ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops, who broke the route to Jerusalem open for British General Edmund Allenby.

The ANZAC troops fought for the British crown in the “Great War” and many lost their lives thousands of miles away from their homeland. The battle is considered historic not only thanks to the important role it played in breaking ground for taking what today is Israel—and the rest of the Middle East—by the British Empire, but also because it was one of the final cavalry battles in modern military history.

Thousands of Australians and Kiwis arrived in Israel to attend the event—which is being broadcast live Australia—some of them related to the brave men who fought in the battle itself and grew up listening to stories about it. Some will even actively participate in its reenactment.

As part of the festivities, the Be’er Sheva municipality is holding ten separate ceremonies all across the city, including the grand opening of the ANZAC soldiers’ memorial center, a regal cavalry parade through the Old City’s Atzmaut Street, a memorial for New Zealand soldiers in Tel Be’er Sheva, a reenactment of the charge on the city in the Be’er Sheva River Park and more.

Apart from the cavalrymen and their horses, another special guest attended the festival: Australian national hero and former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, who’ll lead a bicycle journey tracing the precise path taken by the cavalrymen 100 years ago.

Proceeds from the ride are dedicated entirely to children afflicted with cancer and persons with disabilities.

The journey, titled “Ride like an ANZAC,” will start riders off on a challenging journey taken by the soldiers during the war, starting in the Be’eri kibbutz, passing through HaBesor Stream and culminating in Be’er Sheva itself.

Riders from all over the world are expected to participate in the bike tour, which will take place October 30-31.

“As an Australian native, I also grew up on ANZAC tales of heroism, which is why it’s such a great honor for me to invite riders from all over the world to this event saluting and commemorating the brave people who fought on and for Israel,” said Danny Hakim, the driving force behind the bike tour and chairman and founder of the Kids Kicking Cancer non-profit, which will receive the proceeds from the tour.

“It’s an important part in Israel’s historical mosaic, one many Israelis are unfortunately unaware of,” he said.

Be’er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich was excited to greet the guests from down under. “For the first time in the city’s history, we have the privilege of commemorating a centennial marking 100 years since the victory in the battle of Be’er Sheva, placing our city on the forefront of cities that played an important role in world heritage,” he said.

While Hakim was speaking about a mosaic figuratively, a very real, and very large, mosaic occupied most of artist Yardena Visoker’s study in the Eshkol Regional Council’s Sde Nitzan moshav.

Along with a group of artists from nearby towns, Visoker painstakingly recreated using tweezers a mosaic first discovered by ANZAC troops during World War I and removed by them as souvenir.

When those soldiers’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren returned to Be’er Sheva for the centennial, the recreated mosaic was displayed for them.

The ANZAC cavalrymen rode into Ein Shellal, today Eshkol National Park, in 1917 and set up camp there. The chaplain accompanying the troops, Maitland Woods, walked amongst the springs in the area and gave his blessings to the fighting men before they rode off to battle, when suddenly he noticed part of a spectacular, enormous mosaic floor underfoot, depicting various animals, later found to belong to a Byzantine church built 1,400 years ago and destroyed by Muslims.

The ANZAC troops immediately jumped in and uncovered the entire mosaic in all its splendor. The enthused chaplain decided to take the mosaic back to Australia as a memento and was able to remove the floor—using special tools imported from Egypt—without harming its adornments.

The mosaic pieces were packed away in 53 large crates and placed aboard a ship headed to Australia. “It wasn’t quite so easy because after its discovery an argument broke out between the prime ministers of England and Australia over who’ll get to keep the mosaic. Eventually the English acquiesced and the mosaic ended up in a museum in Canberra, the capital of Australia,” said Visoker, who is also a teacher and lecturer on Israel’s history.

In anticipation of the Australians’ visit to Israel for the centennial, Visoker contacted the Eshkol Regional Council, which agreed to fund the mosaic’s recreation.

Thus, in the past few months 20 artists—presided over by Visoker herself—were hard at work at creating an astonishingly exact replica.

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When the reenactment of the battle of Be’er Sheva begins in the Eshkol National Park, it will be right by where their ancestors discovered the original mosaic 100 years ago.

“It’s come full circle for me, and it’s also a historical wrong now corrected. We’ll be presenting the mosaic in our town’s cultural hall and to the descendants of the Australian cavalrymen, who were extremely moved by this gesture. It’s important to preserve the link between Israel and Australia, and this is yet another step in tightening the years’-long friendship,” said Visoker, who’s a member of a non-profit for the legacy of the First World War. (Ynet News)

‘Package deal’ with Putin needed against Iranian expansion

A comprehensive American-Russian agreement over Syria’s future, banning the presence of foreign forces, is the only way Israel can prevent Iran from realizing its intentions in the region. We must therefore stop dealing with the unchangeable nuclear agreement and focus on what is more important, as well as attainable.

by Giora Eiland              Ynet News


The series of incidents that have taken place in recent weeks between Israel and Syria—including the rockets fired into Israel, the attempt to shoot down an Israeli plane and the attack on an anti-aircraft battery in response—created the feeling of expected escalation to the point of a possible war in the north.

Some people even rushed to accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of allowing the situation to escalate. While the situation does require our utmost attention, it isn’t bringing us closer to war. Moreover, if we do the right thing, we’ll likely be able to prevent an escalation in the situation.

The northern threat should be divided in two: A threat from Hezbollah in Lebanon and a broader threat from Syria. At this stage, Hezbollah isn’t interested in a conflict with Israel. The primary reason is a political-economic reason. The organization has lost hundreds of fighters in Syria, and it must financially support their families, as well as care for thousands who were wounded.

Furthermore, the thousands of fighters who joined the organization when it was founded about 35 years ago have already retired. In other words, the organization must pay their pensions. Yes, Hezbollah—for better or worse—is more of an army than a terror organization, and it is subject to a lot of economic pressure. The anger rising from the bottom over the hundreds of young people who have been killed in a war that isn’t theirs is creating further internal Lebanese pressure to avoid a new adventure.

The Hezbollah organization may find itself, therefore, being pressured from two directions: pressure from Iran to launch a war against Israel and internal pressure in Lebanese to avoid a war. The way to guarantee the second type of pressure will be more effective requires Israel to make it clear that “the third Lebanon war” won’t be between Israel and Hezbollah—but between Israel and the state of Lebanon, and that in such a war Lebanon will suffer horrible destruction. There is full justification for such an approach, especially after the Lebanese president announced that “Hezbollah is part of the state’s defensive force against Israel.”

The situation in Syria is different. Iran isn’t hiding its intention of establishing a “second Hezbollah” there—a strong Shiite militia that would be subject to its authority and whose main purpose will be to attack Israel in due time, even if this isn’t what the government in Damascus wants. Senior Israeli officials, including the defense minister, have announced they won’t let it happen. The question is, however, are we capable of preventing it?

The most Israel might be able to do is draw a line 10-15 kilometers from the Golan Heights border and attack any foreign presence there (in other words, not the Syrian army). Such a move is clearly insufficient, however.

The only one who can prevent Iran from realizing its intentions is actually Russian President Vladimir Putin. Does he have an interest in turning against his ally in Syria just because it’s important to Israel? I seriously doubt it.

The conclusion is clear: Only a comprehensive American-Russian agreement over Syria’s future, which would ban the presence of foreign forces (excluding Russian), could allow Israel to achieve its goals.

Israel should therefore focus all its diplomatic efforts on this issue. It should stop dealing with the Iran nuclear agreement, as it is unchangeable, and stop pressing the Americans to deal with it. It must only deal with what is more important, as well as attainable.

We are facing two challenges of a diplomatic nature: The simpler thing to do is to explain what the “third Lebanon war” would look like, and the more important thing is to urge the United States to reach a comprehensive “package deal” with Russia which would guarantee there will be no presence of foreign forces in Syria.

Major-General (res.) Giora Eiland is a former head of Israel’s National Security Council.

The Palestinian myth

by Joseph Farah    World Net Daily


The late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir made a bold political statement for which she was pilloried.

That’s what happens sometimes when someone speaks the truth in the face of shameless lies.

What she said was this: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people.”

Muslim propagandists ever since have ridiculed and derided her comment. They charged her with “racism.” They accused her of historical revisionism. They accused her of being out of touch with reality and of being in denial.

But she was absolutely right. And she still is.

In fact, she’s hardly the only person to make such a claim. In moments of candor, many Muslim and Arab leaders have admitted she was right – that there is no distinct Palestinian cultural or national identity.

Here are some of just two of my favorites – all spoken or written long after Gold Meir made her pointed observation.

Way back on March 31, 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Zahir Muhsein. Here’s what he said:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism. For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? It’s even more specific than Golda Meir’s statement. It reaffirms what I have written on this subject. And it is hardly the only such statement of its kind. Yasser Arafat himself made a very definitive and unequivocal statement along these lines as late as 1993. It demonstrates conclusively that the Palestinian nationhood argument is the real strategic deception – one geared to set up the destruction of Israel.

In fact, on the same day Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn in 1993, he explained his actions on Jordan TV. Here’s what he said: “Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish a sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.”

No matter how many people convince themselves the aspirations for Palestinian statehood are genuine and the key to peace in the Middle East, they are still deceiving themselves.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: In the history of the world, Palestine has never existed as a nation. The region known as Palestine was ruled alternately by Rome, by Islamic and Christian crusaders, by the Ottoman Empire and, briefly, by the British after World War I. The British agreed to restore at least part of the land to the Jewish people as their ancestral homeland. It was never ruled by Arabs as a separate nation.

Why now has it become such a critical priority?

The answer is because of a massive deception campaign and relentless terrorism over 40 years.

Golda Meir was right. Her statement is validated by the truth of history and by the candid, but not widely circulated, pronouncements of Arafat and his lieutenants.

Israel and the West must not surrender to terrorism by granting the killers just what they want – a public relations triumph and a strategic victory. It’s not too late to say no to terrorism. It’s not too late to say no to another Arab terror state. It’s not too late to tell the truth about Palestine.

Truth does not change. Truth is truth. If something was true 50 years ago, 40 years ago, 30 years ago, it is still true today.

And the truth is that only 30 or 40 years ago, there was very little confusion on this issue of Palestine.