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Latest News in Israel – 4th July

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

136 arrested, 111 police wounded during riots over police shooting of young Israeli-Ethiopian man

According to the Israel Police, more than 100 people have been arrested across the country in connection with the wave of protests sparked by the shooting of a young Israeli-Ethiopian man by an off-duty police officer on Sunday.

The protests devolved into violent riots Tuesday night, following the funeral earlier in the day of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah. Police reported 136 arrests and 111 officers wounded across the country.

According to police, though an effort was made to act with restraint in the early hours of Tuesday’s demonstrations, when things became violent they were forced to act. Those arrested are being held for assaulting police officers, vandalism and disturbing public order, said police.

Tekah was shot in Haifa’s Kiryat Haim neighborhood on Sunday when an off-duty police officer attempted to break up a street fight among some youths at a playground he was visiting with his wife and children.

According to police, the officer claims that after he identified himself to the youths they began throwing stones at him. The officer, believing he and his family were in danger, fired his weapon at the ground. The officer claims the bullet ricocheted and struck Tekah in the chest. The officer’s version of events has reportedly been refuted by an eyewitness to the shooting.

The officer was arrested on suspicion of unlawful killing, but later released to house arrest by the Haifa Magistrate’s Court. He was placed under police protection due to fears for his safety, and a gag order was placed on the publication of his name for the same reason.

Demonstrators continued to block major roads overnight Tuesday. Images of cars being torched and roads strewn with debris have been circulating on social media.

Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan expressed his remorse for “the great sorrow and suffering” of the Ethiopian community in the wake of the killing, but said on Wednesday morning that “today, if we see such a level of violence, police will have no choice but to use all means to disperse demonstrations.”

Activist leaders have called for protesters to gather on Wednesday afternoon at major intersections throughout to country.       (JNS) Staff

Iran threatens: If US attacks, we’ll wipe out Israel in half hour

In a local television interview Sunday, a senior Iranian lawmaker threatened that Israel will not survive if the United States attacks his country.

Speaking on Al-Alam TV,  Mojtaba Zonnour, chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament, said, “If America attacks us, Israel will survive for less than half an hour.”

The hardline cleric, who until 2019 also served as chairman of Iran’s Nuclear Subcommittee, spoke mainly about the U.S. threat to Iran amidst the rising tensions between the two adversaries.

Zonnour claimed that 36 American bases in the region are under Iran’s surveillance, all within reach of its missiles. This includes the “closest military base” in Bahrain, which serves the American Fifth Fleet, he said, as well as even the “most remote” one on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

“Today, we have intelligence hegemony,” he noted, according to a translation by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute. “We detect very quickly all the changes in the American bases in the region.”

If the Americans “think of attacking us,” the Iranian regime will sink the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier that is currently patrolling the region, Zonnour said. “Its huge size only makes it easier for us to target…. We will sink [it] along with its 7,000 crew members,” he added with a smile.

According to the state-sanctioned Mehr news agency, the senior parliamentarian scoffed at reports that President Donald Trump had called off a strike on Iran after Tehran shot down an unmanned American drone in June.

“If they (the Americans) had predicted their attack would be successful, they would not have cancelled it and it would definitely have happened,” he stated, crediting Iran’s “deterrence” for the aborted strike.

The U.S. administration said that the attack was called off due to the potential loss of life it would cause. Instead, the Americans disabled Iranian missile launch systems via cyberattack in retaliation for the downing of its drone.   (WIN) Batya Jerenberg

Netanyahu: Israel preparing for wide scale campaign in Gaza

Israel wants to restore calm to the South, but at the same time is preparing for a wide-scale military campaign inside the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

Netanyahu’s comments came after he convened a security cabinet meeting at the IDF Gaza Division headquarters to discuss the situation in the Strip, followed by a meeting with local and regional council heads, some of whom left the meeting in protest.

“Our policy is clear: we want to restore the calm, but at the same time we are preparing for a large-scale military operation, if such an action is required,” Netanyahu said. “Those are my instructions to the army.”

A few local council heads most affected by the violence who were invited to the meeting did not attend, with Gadi Yarkoni and Ofir Liebstein, heads of the Eshkol and Sha’ar Hanegev regional councils, walking out when they saw that there were a number of other local and regional heads from the South in attendance.

“The prime minister had no intention of holding a special meeting on the Gaza envelope area as expected and as requested today,” they said. “We respect the heads of the local authorities in the South who are also dealing with difficult situations, but we are convinced beyond any doubt that the challenges, needs and realities in the Gaza vicinity are completely different from the other authorities.”

Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi also did not attend, citing a previous commitment and saying beforehand that he would be unable to attend, and Sdot Negev Regional Council head Tamar Idan was out of the country.

Regarding the local council heads who left the meeting, Netanyahu said that he was sorry that “some of the mayors who always say that they are not being listened to” left the meeting.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that those who left did so for “political reasons.”

“It is odd that they say they are not being heard, but then when we come to hear them, they leave,” the sources said.                (Jerusalem Post) Herb Keinon

IDF arrests 22 terrorism suspects, seizes submachine gun

Israeli forces on Monday night carried out counter-terrorism operations throughout Judea and Samaria during which they arrested 22 Arabs.

The suspects were taken for questioning related to their involvement in terrorist activities and violent disturbances against civilians and security forces.

The forces also searched for weapons in the Ephraim Region and seized a Carlo submachine gun.

While Arab communities in Judea and Samaria are ostensibly governed by the Palestinian Authority, the Gaza-based Hamas terror organization has made inroads as of late in the area, attempting to set up cells to perpetrate attacks on Israeli civilians.

Such attacks have taken their toll on Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, with Palestinians using drive-by shootings, car-rammings, and stabbings to murder Israelis in public locations like bus stops and ride-sharing posts.

Last year, Israel-American activist Ari Fuld was stabbed to death at a commercial complex where Jews and Arabs shop and work alongside one another. After Fuld was stabbed in the back, he chased down his assailant, removed his firearm from his waist, and released several rounds before collapsing. Fuld later succumbed to his wounds, leaving a grieving wife and four children behind. (WIN) Staff

15 said killed, 9 of them foreigners, as Israel strikes Iranian sites in Syria

At least 15 people were killed, including six civilians, during strikes on Iranian targets in Syria in the predawn hours of Monday morning, according to a Syrian war monitor.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group, said it was not immediately clear if the six civilians, among them an infant, were killed by the attacks themselves, which were attributed to Israel, by Syria’s anti-aircraft fire, or by some other secondary explosion.

The other nine people killed were said to have been members of pro-Iranian militias, some of them foreign nationals.

The Observatory said Israel launched strikes both from the air and sea, targeting Iranian-linked bases near Homs and at least 10 targets near Damascus, including a base where Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are headquartered and a weapons research center.

Israel did not comment on the attack — one of the most extensive series of strikes in several months, coming less than a week after a trilateral summit with Russia and the United States concerning Tehran’s activities and military presence in the region.

Syria’s official mouthpiece said that four civilians, among them a month-old baby, were killed and 21 people injured in explosions in Sahnaya, a neighborhood of Damascus. It blamed the deaths on “Zionist aggression.”

Other news sites in the country reported at least 50 people injured in the strikes.

While hundreds of casualties have been linked to Israeli strikes in Syria — mostly Syrian soldiers, Iranian troops and other foreign nationals connected to pro-Iranian militias — it is exceedingly rare for civilians to be said injured in these attacks.

State news agency SANA said that Syrian air defense had intercepted several of the incoming missiles that were fired from Lebanese airspace.

A projectile, later identified as a Syrian surface-to-air missile, crashed into a forest in northern Cyprus during the predawn exchange, sparking a large fire.

SANA gave no further details on the sites targeted.

However, the Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes targeted a research center and a military airport west of the city of Homs, where the Shiite Hezbollah terror group and Iranian forces are deployed.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the observatory chief, said the strikes injured some of those pro-Iranian troops.

In the Damascus area, the monitor said strikes targeted the 91st Brigade base where the IRGC were headquartered and a research facility in Jamraya. Jamraya, which lies just over 10 kilometers (seven miles) northwest of Damascus, is home to several military positions and a branch of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC).

The US has repeatedly imposed sanctions on the SSRC for its alleged role in chemical weapons production. France has also imposed sanctions on the agency.

Israeli airstrikes reportedly hit the facility in May 2013 and again in February 2018.

The monitor said that at some sites large blasts were caused by exploding ammunition depots and noted lots of ambulances had headed to the sites.

There was no response from the Israel Defense Forces, which rarely comments on reported strikes.

The Israeli military has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in recent years on targets linked to Iran, which is backing President Bashar Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war.

The reported strikes came just hours after an Israeli satellite imagery analysis company said Syria’s entire S-300 air defense system appeared to be operational, indicating a greater threat to Israel’s ability to conduct airstrikes against Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in the country.

Until now, only three of the country’s four surface-to-air missile launchers had been seen fully set up at the Masyaf base in northwestern Syria.

Israel has threatened to destroy the S-300 system if it is used against its fighter jets, regardless of the potential blowback from Russia. (the Times of Israel) Judah Ari Gross

Israel says Hamas bomb-maker used medical permit to leave Gaza

Israel recently arrested a Hamas agent accused of traveling to the West Bank and then Israel under the guise of needing medical treatment in order to set up an explosives lab, the Shin Bet security agency said Wednesday.

Fadi Abu al-Sabah, 35, was recruited by Hamas in July of 2018 and trained by the terror group’s military wing for about a year. He was taught to create explosives and bombs with the aim of carrying out attacks against Israelis, the Shin Bet said.

According to a statement from the security service, al-Sabah was recruited by Hamas operative Ashraf Sabah, who was released from Israeli prison in 2015 after serving 12 years for bomb attacks against IDF troops in the Gaza border.

Hamas became interested in al-Sabah, who has a prosthetic limb, because he was in the process of acquiring a humanitarian permit to receive medical treatment in the West Bank. However, the Shin Bet also accused him and Hamas of having a doctor falsify documents to claim the treatment he sought was only available outside of Gaza in order to get the permit. The Shin Bet did not explain why the documents needed to be falsified or why al-Sabah had applied for the permit in the first place.

Before crossing to the West Bank via Israel last September, al-Sabah received a coat in which was hidden a list of code words for the purpose of communications between Hamas leaders and the planned West Bank cell. However, he failed to bring it through for unspecified reasons.

In early May, he traveled to Hebron, where he joined up with other contacts, and on May 18 he entered Israel and traveled to the Israeli Arab town of Taybeh, where he was arrested by Shin Bet and Israeli police.

He has now been indicted at a military court in the West Bank, though the Shin Bet did not detail the charges.

Shin Bet sad it had in recent months thwarted several attempts by Hamas to establish infrastructure in the West Bank with the purpose of carrying out terror attacks in Israel.

In March the Israeli military arrested a Hamas operative suspected of planning a suicide car bombing to coincide with Israel’s national elections in April.

And in June, the Shin Bet said it arrested a Jordanian national acting on behalf of Iranian intelligence to establish a spy network in Israel and the West Bank. (the Times of Israel) Staff

U.S. Officials Attend Unveiling of Ancient Road to Jewish Temple in Jerusalem

US Ambassador David Friedman and US Middle East special envoy Jason Greenblatt attended the inauguration of Pilgrimage Road in the City of David on Sunday, triggering angry denunciations from Palestinian and left-wing circles for taking part in a “settler project.”

Ministers Rafi Peretz and Uri Ariel, US Senator Lindsey Graham, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, Israel Antiquities Authority director Israel Hasson, and US billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam were also among those present at the event.

Friedman wielded a sledge hammer and broke through a wall, ceremoniously opening the tunnel. Palestinians slammed the participation of US officials as recognition of Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem.

The event was hotly contested by activists from the NGO Emek Shaveh who argued that, due to its location in east Jerusalem, the decision to excavate the find was motivated by politics rather than searching for historical truth.

“The City of David brings biblical Jerusalem back to life,” Friedman said at the event. “It enables every one of us to stroll the corridors where the ancient prophets of Israel gave voice to revolutionary ideals of freedom, liberty and human dignity.”

“It is our unique privilege as Americans to walk together with our Israeli counterparts on the just unveiled Pilgrimage Road, where our shared ancestors ascended the flagstone steps in prayer and blessing,” he said.

Earlier Friedman and Greenblatt slammed the activists who had protested their cooperation in the event, with Friedman saying that discovery “brings truth and science to a debate that has been marred too long by myths.”

He argued that this discovery, among others, will “bring an end to the baseless efforts to deny the historical fact of Jerusalem’s ancient connection to the Jewish people.”

Greenblatt said that Emek Shaveh activists “misunderstand the meaning of archeology,” and claimed that “peace can only be built on truth.”

Pilgrim Road was discovered in 2004 when a sewage pipe burst and workers found long and wide stairs near to the water pool Jewish pilgrims used to purify themselves in before ascending to the Temple.

The discovery lead to further research by the City of David , an archeological site which studies the history of Jerusalem from the Bronze period until the Middle Ages.

The road now offers visitors the chance to walk the ancient path of Jewish pilgrims from the ritual pool, the Shiloah, to the Western Wall – the last surviving architectural element related to the temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

The political tension is due to the site being situated in the neighborhood of Silwan, which used to be controlled by Jordan until the Six Day War of 1967, in which the IDF asserted control over it.

The former Jordanian part of Jerusalem is seen by many Palestinians as the future capital of their own future-state and questions around it, and indeed the status of Temple Mount on which the Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated, are at the heart of any future resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel currently controls the whole of Jerusalem and many Israelis see the unified city as its capital.

While the whole world is riveted when a Heinrich Schliemann discovers ancient Troy or Hiram Bingham III discovers the Inca city of Machu Picchu, in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict a dig is much more than just a dig.

Zeev Hertzog and Israel Finkelstein are two famous archeologists who argue that there are few proofs, if any, that the biblical narrative is founded in historical reality. Their approach is known as the minimal approach, meaning, if there are no evidences that it happened we can’t say that it did.

On the other hand, the late Adam Zertal was positive he found Joshua’s altar, a direct proof that the biblical conquest of Canaan took place at least in part, he believed.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told The Jerusalem Post he intended to bring more international delegations of diplomats “to walk on the same road” that Jews used to ascend to the Temple Mount 2,000 years ago.

The US presence at the ceremony, he said, was a strong statement against past resolutions by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization that “denied the connection of Jews to those sites.”

Greenblatt and Friedman’s presence “sends a clear message to the entire world that they recognize the connection of Jews and Christians to the holy sites in the Old City and the eternal connection of Jews to the Old City and the City of David,” Danon said. (Jerusalem Post) Hagay Hacohen

Brain structure change in Holocaust survivors hereditary, study finds

Experiencing the Holocaust might have affected survivors’ brain structure, creating a change that was passed on to their children, a study has shown.

According to research presented at the fifth European Academy of Neurology Congress in Oslo on Sunday, the horrific ordeals of the death camps left a mark on the survivors’ brain structure, specifically in the form of gray matter reduction affecting the parts of their brain responsible for stress response, memory, motivation, emotion, learning and behavior.

The study, called “Life-long effects of extreme stress on brain structures – a Holocaust survivor MRI study,” compared the brain function of 28 Holocaust survivors with the brain function of 28 people whose family had not been involved in the Holocaust utilizing MRI scanning.

As explained in a statement by the European Academy of Neurology, survivors showed a significantly decreased volume of gray matter in the brain compared with controls of a similar age who had not been directly exposed via personal or family history to the Holocaust.

The average age of the participants in the study was between 79 and 80.

The study also found that the reduction in the gray matter was more pronounced in those individuals who survived the Holocaust as children (age 12 and below). The researchers said that this finding might be explained by a higher vulnerability to a stressful environment of the developing brain in childhood.

The scientists also detected a similar reduction of gray matter in areas of the brain associated with post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans and those suffering early-life stress experience. However, compared to those suffering from other forms of PTSD, survivors presented a higher level of stress but also higher levels of post-traumatic growth, calling themselves generally satisfied with their life after the war.

“After more than 70 years, the impact of surviving the Holocaust on brain function is significant,” Prof. Ivan Rektor, a neurologist from Brno, Czech Republic, and one of the authors of the study, explained.

“We revealed substantial differences in the brain structures involved in the processing of emotion, memory and social cognition, in a higher level of stress but also of post-traumatic growth between Holocaust survivors and controls,” he added. “Early results show this is also the case in children of survivors too.”

The study is not the first that identifies epigenetic changes in the children of those who experienced severe trauma.

In October 2018, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study on “the Intergenerational transmission of paternal trauma among US Civil War ex-POWs,” showing that children and grandchildren of survivors of Confederate prisoners of war camps during the US Civil War were impacted by their fathers’ experiences  .(Jerusalem Post) Rosella Tercatin

Archaeology shows Philistines, the enemy of the Israelites, came from Europe

New evidence has revealed that the ancient people most known for their biblical conflict with the Israelites were immigrants to the region in the 12th century BCE.

“For 30 years, we excavated at Ashkelon, uncovering Canaanites, early Philistines and later Philistines – and now we can begin to understand the story that these bones tell,” said Daniel M. Master, director of the Leon Levy

The team used state-of-the-art DNA technologies on ancient bone samples unearthed during the excavation from 1985-2016. Analyzing for the first time genome-wide data retrieved from people who lived in Ashkelon during the Bronze and Iron ages (around 3,600 to 2,800 years ago), the team found that a substantial proportion of their ancestry was derived from a European population. This European-derived ancestry was introduced into Ashkelon around the time of the Philistines’ estimated arrival in the 12th century BCE.

The findings of the study were published Wednesday in Science Advances.

According to the Book of Joshua, the land of the Philistines was in the southwestern Levant comprising the five city-states of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath, from Wadi Gaza in the south to the Yarkon River in the north. It was from this designation that the whole of the country was later called Palestine by the Greeks.

The Israelites’ conflict with the Philistines is well attested to in the Bible. Samson slays 1,000 Philistines in Judges 15, and David battles Philistine Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, among other examples.

Dr. Adam A. Aja, assistant curator of collections at the Harvard Semitic Museum and one of the Ashkelon Philistine cemetery archaeologists, said that people today often want to know, “who are we, where did we come from?

“When we found the infants – infants that were too young to travel… these infants couldn’t march or sail to get to the land around Ashkelon, so they were born on site. And their DNA revealed [that] their parents’ heritage was not from the local population,” Aja explained, referring to the new genetic input from the direction of Southern Europe that was found in bone samples taken from infants buried under the floors of Philistine homes, as was the custom during that period.

“All the work of previous scholarship was pointing in that direction,” said Aja. “The DNA answered that definitively for us… The DNA gave us the opportunity to let these people speak for themselves.”

MICHAEL FELDMAN of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, leading author of the study, explained that the genetic distinction is due to European-related gene flow that is known to have been introduced in Ashkelon during either the end of the Bronze Age or the beginning of the Iron Age.

“This timing is in accord with estimates of the Philistines’ arrival to the coast of the Levant, based on archaeological and textual records,” he said.

“Not only do we have radio-carbon dating that demonstrates the antiquity of the samples, but we also have stratigraphic evidence,” Masters said. “These samples come from carefully-excavated contexts, connected to artifacts that can be precisely dated.”

Archaeologists uncovered the first Philistine cemetery. From those graves, researchers successfully recovered genomic data from the remains of 10 individuals who lived in Ashkelon during the Bronze and Iron ages. This data allowed the team to compare the DNA of the Bronze and Iron Age people of Ashkelon to determine how they were related.

The researchers found that individuals across all time periods derived most of their ancestry from the local Levantine gene pool, but that individuals who lived in early Iron Age Ashkelon had a European-derived ancestral component that was not present in their Bronze Age predecessors.

The researchers also found that the European-related component could no longer be traced in later Iron Age individuals from Ashkelon.

In other words, within two centuries or less, the genetic footprint introduced during the early Iron Age is no longer detectable and seems to be diluted by the local Levantine gene pool, which researchers say suggests intensive admixture between local and foreign populations. Yet, there was continuity in their ethnicity.

“The Philistines stayed Philistines,” explained Masters. “Later people who called themselves Philistines looked very much like the people around them. Their ethnicity did not change even though, as we look at their genome, we see a lot [more] of Levantine influence than we did before.

“It is an interesting way of looking at how genetics and ethnicity operate in different ways under different principles,” Masters concluded.

Aja said that additional work still needs to be done.

“We need more genetic samples from this region to pinpoint more precisely where this population is from,” he said.

However, he noted that the latest findings help complete the picture more than ever before.

Aja said that archaeology is almost akin to having a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing, and the picture itself missing – “and we are trying to make the joins that work. When we found the cemetery and could get DNA evidence from this, it was as if someone handed us a picture.

“And now, we can see that the puzzle we are putting together actually matches what we thought it was going to be,” he said.  (Jerusalem Post) Mayan Jaffe-Hoffman

Israel prods Iran to conclude that Syria project ‘is just not worth it’

The strikes indicate that Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, were involved in a major new weapons’ development or smuggling project, possibly aimed at giving Hezbollah new precision missile capabilities with which it can target strategic Israeli sites.

by Yaacov Lappin       JNS


The airstrikes that hit multiple targets across Syria early on Monday were extensive and too widespread for the Bashar Assad regime to be able to deny. The overall message behind them appears to be aimed at telling Iran that it should give up on attempts to turn Syria into a war machine against Israel.

The details coming out of Syria appear to suggest that a major wave of strikes targeted Iranian and Hezbollah weapons development, storage and transfer facilities, at least some of which were embedded in Syrian military bases.

Syrian state media said the Israeli Air Force hit targets around Damascus, Homs in western Syria and on the Syrian-Lebanese border on Monday morning, adding that 16 people were killed (15 were noted in original news reports).

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israeli jets and naval missile ships pounded targets belonging to the Assad regime, Iranian militias and Hezbollah.

One of the targets reportedly included the notorious Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), a major complex that develops biological, chemical and missile-weapons technology. Israeli satellite company ISI published images on Monday showing that a hangar at the SSRC—thought to contain advanced weapons, and which was linked to Iran and Hezbollah—was obliterated.

The strikes indicate that Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, were involved in a major new weapons’ development or smuggling project, possibly aimed at giving Hezbollah new precision missile capabilities with which it can target strategic Israeli sites.

‘Lebanon is turning into an Iranian attack site’

Speaking hours after the attack at the Herzliya Conference, Mossad director Yossi Cohen seemed to provide valuable context to the shadow war raging between Israel and Iran.

“I believe that Iran will reach the conclusion that it is just not worth it,” said Cohen, relaying Israel’s long-term goal in Syria.

In addition, he said, the Mossad has seen Iran and Hezbollah shift their activities in Syria northwards, setting up bases further away from Damascus and away from the Israeli border. This comment matches previous reports that said Iran is increasingly relying on more distant sites, like the T4 airbase in the central Syrian desert, for smuggling in and developing weapons.

“They mistakenly think it will be harder to reach,” Cohen warned, issuing an explicit Israeli threat. Iran is also creating weapons bases in neighboring Iraq and in Lebanon, he said.

In Lebanon, Iran is moving “huge quantities of weapons” into Hezbollah bases, and pursuing a “widespread program” that seeks to convert unguided projectiles into accurate missiles, said Cohen. “Lebanon is turning into an Iranian attack site. During a war, Lebanon could be damaged by Israeli defensive measures. It is important for the Lebanese government to stop Iran from building offensive weapons in Lebanon.”

The Mossad plays a key role in the Israeli campaign to contain and thwart its aggressive activities. Cohen’s comments provide a small glimpse into a much wider confrontation. The comments also carry clear warnings to the Islamic Republic and to Lebanon over the dangers of their actions, and Israel’s firm determination to stop them.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Israel Project on Monday that the latest events are a reminder of Israel’s decision to prevent “the Iranians from building an independent war machine in Syria,” whatever effort is needed to accomplish that.

Referring to the trilateral meeting held in Jerusalem last week, which saw national security advisers from Russia, the United States and Israel meet to discuss Iran’s role vis-à-vis Russia and its proxies entrenched in areas north of Israel, Amidror said the fact that “we had important meetings in Jerusalem should not prevent us from the important efforts to contain the Iranians.”

Ultimately, Israel must remain “very determined not to let the Iranians build what they have in mind in Syria,” argued Amidror. “We won’t let the Iranians bring weapons systems, and transfer technology and know-how to Hezbollah. Whatever is the place [that was hit], it was probably connected to one of these efforts by the Iranians,” he assessed.

‘Israel is a player in the Syrian balance of power’

During a conference call with journalists, organized by Media Central, a media liaison center based in Jerusalem, Col. (res.) Eran Lerman, a former senior Israeli intelligence official, discussed the significance of that trilateral conference last week.

“Israel is a player in the Syrian balance of power,” he said. “The Russian leadership has a very healthy respect, based on experience and knowledge, for Israeli military capabilities … this is why this conversation takes place here,” he said.

Lerman, vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said that Israel’s realistic hopes from the conference is to get “a very clear delineation and a capping of Iranian penetration [of Syria]. Gradually getting rid of the Shi’ite militias that the Iranians have been bringing in. And a very clear limit on how much the Iranians can use Syrian territory.”

Iran has been seeking to use Syria, both to destabilize Jordan and launch attacks on Israel, said Lerman.

Israel would hope to see a clear signal from Moscow, he added, according to which, if Assad wishes to have Moscow comfortably at his side during the very difficult period of rebuilding Syria, “he needs to be much more proactive in not letting the Iranians run the country.”

The question of whether Tehran will continue to use Syria to attack Israel, threaten Jordan and consolidate its hold on Lebanon—or whether it will be marginalized, and Russia becomes the key player in stabilizing Syria—lay at the heart of the summit, stated Lerman.

In the meantime, the latest strikes indicate that Iran and Hezbollah have not evacuated the Damascus area and have paid a significant price as a result.

With Iran’s regime under considerable economic pressure at home due to U.S. sanctions, the Islamic Republic’s “long reach” in Syria is also under severe Israeli pressure.

Iran’s plans to surround Israel with terrorist armies doesn’t stop with Syria. During his speech, Cohen of the Mossad revealed that Tehran paid more than $100 million for the military build-up of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip over the past two years.

While Israel is prepared to deal with threats from Gaza, its top focus appears to be Iran’s ongoing attempt to take advantage of its role in the Syrian war to consolidate its power. As Syria—bloodied and battered after eight years of fighting—edges back towards becoming a state again, Iran must have no military or terrorist presence in it, Israel is clearly saying.

It remains to be seen whether Iran will heed the message.

Will Arabs Accept Normalization with Israel? – Prof. Asher Susser interviewed by Samuel Nurding (Fathom-BICOM-UK)

Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan were a result of their leaders coming to terms with the fact that fighting Israel was too costly and that it was therefore preferable to make peace. But the treaties were not about the public’s recognition of the legitimacy of Israel and the Zionist cause.

The idea of “normalization,” as Israelis like to call it, is unacceptable to most Arabs. It means acceptance of Israel as a natural facet of the Middle Eastern neighborhood. But they don’t, and they won’t (and they don’t think they should).

There is an antipathy towards Israel which is perceived as having imposed itself on the Arabs, inflicting a humiliating defeat upon them. It is too much for us to ask for them to not only accept Israel, but to embrace it too. This “cold peace” means that Israel must retain its military superiority to maintain deterrence.

The Arab world has entered a protracted period of crisis, with declining economies and rapidly growing populations creating unmanageable economic situations and instability. What happens if Jordan or Egypt collapses economically? How is Syria expected to be re-established? What lies ahead for the West Bank and Gaza? There is a zone of instability on Israel’s doorstep and it could blow up at any time.

The writer, Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, directed its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

Why the PA Rejects the American Economic Plan – Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch (Times of Israel)

When you read “Peace to Prosperity,” the American economic plan to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the first question that comes to mind is why is the Palestinian leadership rejecting it? The plan adopts Palestinian terminology and incorporates themes favorable to the Palestinian narrative and detrimental to Israel’s. It would appear to give the Palestinians almost everything they want.

Yet the PA/PLO’s rejection of the plan has nothing to do with its substantive contents. They reject the plan because it plainly says that for the last 25 years, the PA leaders have failed the Palestinian people.

Criticizing the PA’s eternal narrative of victimhood, the plan suggests opening “a new chapter in Palestinian history – one defined not by adversity and loss, but by freedom and dignity.” This approach undermines the PA leadership’s message which for decades has blamed the woes of the Palestinians on Israel while absolving itself of any responsibility.

The reforms the plan suggests to the Palestinian legal, educational, and health systems reflect deep-seated and wholly justifiable criticism of the failed, biased, and ineffectual systems that the PA, abusing billions of dollars of donor aid, has created.

The final PA rejection of the plan came when the U.S. authors dared to state that the capital raised would not be given directly to the PA but rather would be “administered by a multilateral development bank” that would ensure that “all the Palestinians – not just the wealthy and connected – share in the benefits of peace.”

For years, Palestinian leaders and their cronies have lined their pockets with millions of dollars of donor aid. This, according to the plan, would all come to an end.

The writer is head of legal strategies for Palestinian Media Watch. He served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps, including as Director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.