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Latest News in Israel – 6th June

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Stabbing in central Israel: Attacker said to be Arab

A 46-year-old Israel man was injured in a stabbing attack while walking down the street in a central Israeli city on Wednesday morning.  The police are still searching for the suspect, who fled the scene. A witness said that “the stabber had an Arabic accent,” Ynet reports.

First responder Guy Gutlenski of Magen David Adom said: “When we got there, we saw a man, fully conscious, lying in the street with stab wounds in his upper body. We provided him with life-saving medical treatment in the field, including stopping the bleeding and bandaging the wounds, then we evacuated him to the hospital. His condition is moderate and stable.”

“I was nearby the location of the stabbing when it occurred,” said United Hatzalah first responder Irit Levinsky, Arutz7 reports. “I immediately rushed over and began treating the injured man. I bandaged his wound and applied pressure to stop the bleeding.”

The victim was transported to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva.

A witness, Dalia, told Ynet, “It’s not pleasant to see a man suddenly stabbed. This is my running path. I’m really in shock. I don’t know if I’ll run here again.” (WIN) Staff

Following Winter’s Bounty of Rain, Kinneret Still Rising

Following six years of drought, Israel’s Water Authority announced that the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) rose an additional 11 centimeters in May. This is great news, as the sea is Israel’s largest source of natural water and has receded significantly during the past few years.

Recently, the Kinneret’s water level came dangerously close to reaching the “black line,” which is the demarcation point below which water cannot be pumped without damaging infrastructure and the water supply. Thankfully, the Kinneret rose nearly 3.5 meters since Israel’s winter rainy season began. Nonetheless, the sea remains below its optimal level by about 2.4 meters.

Before this winter’s blessed rains, Israel’s lakes, riverbeds and aquifers were at an unprecedented 100-year-low.

Had the Kinneret reached the black line, irreversible ecological problems might have occurred. These would have included an increase in water salinity and overgrowth of algae that can permanently damage the quality of the water, flora and fauna.

Had the drought continued through 2019, the Water Authority would have been forced to impose limits on water consumption in the country.

Recognizing the urgent need to compensate for a lack of fresh water, Israel has constructed five massive desalination plants on the Mediterranean coast and is working on two more. These provide about 70 percent of the country’s drinking water.

Israel also recycles nearly 86 percent of its waste water for agricultural use

Unfortunately, the Dead Sea, which is fed by the Kinneret, continues to shrink, sometimes causing sudden sink holes on the roads in the area.

Israel’s citizens have long been trained to preserve water. Israelis, for example, shut water off while lathering in the shower or brushing their teeth. Hand-washing dishes involves first soaping all of them with the water off and then rinsing one after the other.

Additionally, special prayers for rain are part of Jewish liturgy. With the land relying so heavily on God’s blessings, the prayer for rain is said several times a day, from the last day of the autumn holiday of Sukkot through the beginning of Passover in the spring.  (United with Israel) Staff

Netanyahu appoints Amir Ohana justice minister, first openly gay cabinet member

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday confirmed loyalist Amir Ohana as justice minister in the run-up to elections on the September 17.

Ayelet Shaked formally departed from the Justice Ministry on Tuesday, two days after she was fired by Netanyahu in a cabinet reshuffle that also targeted her political ally education minister Naftali Bennett. The move was widely seen as a bid to prevent the once-popular right-wing duo from using their cabinet positions to bolster their campaigns ahead of the new national vote.

Ohana is a lawyer by training who became the first openly gay MK in a right-wing party when he was elected to the Knesset in 2015. In announcing his appointment Wednesday, the Likud party noted that he would also be the first openly gay minister in Israel’s history.

“Good luck to Justice Minister MK Amir Ohana!” Netanyahu tweeted Wednesday evening.

Thanking the prime minister, Ohana said in a tweet that it was “a great honor to serve the State of Israel in the role of justice minister.”

Ohana is among the only senior members of Likud to have publicly backed Netanyahu’s drive to secure immunity from prosecution in the cases against him. Earlier this year, he struck out at legal authorities over the Netanyahu investigations, charging that judicial officials, who have announced their intention to charge the prime minister pending a hearing, were usurping the will of the Israeli voters.

“This is what happens when bureaucrats who are not chosen by the public and don’t have to ask for its trust once every four years decide to take for themselves the reins of the state,” he was quoted as saying by the Ynet news site.

Netanyahu is suspected of corruption — including one count of bribery — in three cases, one of which involves gifts from wealthy associates, with the other two involving potential quid pro quo deals for regulatory favors in exchange for positive media coverage.

The prime minister has long accused police, the media, judicial officials and the political left of conducting a witch hunt against him, and has denied any wrongdoing.

Following Shaked’s dismissal, the position of justice minister reverted to Netanyahu, who as well as prime minister, already holds the defense and health portfolios.

Initially, the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu would temporarily assume the mantles of education and justice minister, but that sparked a backlash, with critics saying he could not hold the latter portfolio with an indictment hanging over his head. His office then backtracked and announced that interim ministers would be named within 48 hours.

Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties on Monday called on  Netanyahu to appoint him as Shaked’s replacement, later saying he wanted to impose Jewish religious law on the country. In response, Likud sources were quoted as saying there was no chance Smotrich would get the position after his comments, which Netanyahu also criticized in a Facebook post.

Likud’s Yariv Levin, currently minister of tourism as well as immigration and absorption, has long been angling for the Justice Ministry, but on Sunday said he had no interest in serving there in an interim capacity ahead of the elections.

After Wednesday’s announcement, Smotrich tweeted that Ohana was a friend and worthy recipient of the post, but charged that Netanyahu was discriminating against his religious Zionist partners.

“But he isn’t the story,” he added. “The story is that Netanyahu wouldn’t treat any of his other partners like he allows himself to treat religious Zionists.”

“The time has come to draw our own conclusions,” said Smotrich, who had also demanded to be appointed justice minister in the wake of the April 9 elections.

Shaked wished Ohana luck, tweeting, “It is an important and challenging ministry with the most talented staff. I’m at his disposal for any help or questions.”

On May 29, the Knesset voted to disband and called new elections for September 17 after Netanyahu failed to build a coalition due to an impasse between the secular Yisrael Beytenu party and ultra-Orthodox parties.

Given the seven-day post-election advisory period for the president’s appointing a PM-designate, and the roughly seven-week period usually granted to premiers to negotiate a coalition, Ohana could serve in the position well into mid-November(The Times of Israel) Staff

Israeli robots will accompany soldiers into battle in future wars

Israeli robots from the companies General Robotics and Gahat Robotics could be man’s best friend in future battlefields.

General Robotics makes the DOGO tactical robot and Pitbull, a remote weapon that can be put on an unmanned vehicle, such as Gahat’s unmanned ground vehicles. Gahat robotics showcased several of its models at ISDEF on Wednesday, Israel’s largest defense and homeland security expo.

At first glance, the Gahat robots look like regular all-terrain vehicles. That is because the vehicle base and wheels are from the Canadian company Argo ATV. This is the kind of thing you could be driving through the woods of Quebec. But in Israel it has been transformed into an eight-wheeled model and a four-wheeled model. One model has a 7.62 mm. machine gun on it, part of the General Robotics Pitbull system. The other is just a flat surface.

Sharon de-Beer, CEO of Gahat, showed a video of how unmanned vehicles can perform a variety of tasks. These ATVs, for instance, are amphibious. They can go across streams and aid in search and rescue.

“The next generation of war will be more robots and less soldiers,” says de-Beer. That means when special forces or infantry need to go into a village, they could have vehicles driving alongside them that don’t require people to drive them. If the soldiers get to a point where they want to investigate what’s behind a house, they can send in the robots. If the robotic vehicle gets shot, it’s not like losing a human life. The vehicles are equipped with optics, sensors, and can be accessorized with cameras and even missiles.

De-Beer says that the unmanned vehicles on display could carry equipment weighing between 450 kg. and 1.3 tons. That means soldiers could put ordnance, ammunition, food or other things on them. They could also transport wounded. For many soldiers on a long-distance mission over days, carrying water is a hassle. Here the soldiers can walk along with a robot by their side carrying their water, like horses would have done for Napoleon’s army.

But the robots can also be equipped to be “warriors” as well, to shoot and conduct intelligence missions. For instance, they could be dropped into a battlefield or inserted from the sea to conduct reconnaissance. A helicopter could bring them in at night, drop them off and let the vehicles go into a village before a raid takes place. While one of the robots was diesel, the other two vehicles use batteries, which may be a limitation as to how long they can operate.

Gahat says that its unmanned vehicles can be controlled from a satellite. It is already in operation assisting fire departments, but in several years it could be used more by militaries.

The DOGO, designed by General Robotics, is already operational. The small DOGO tactical robot has a Glock 9 mm. that is inserted into the vehicle before it is deployed. It weighs around 10 kg. and can help counterterrorism units avoid friendly fire incidents and also reduce casualties by letting the robot go into a terrorist situation first.

At a recent demonstration with Shahar Gal, CEO of General Robotics, the robot compared its marksmanship with a human’s and performed equally. It is operated with a tablet-like computer and has a safety switch and triggers to operate the gun. It drives like any remote-control car, but it can also climb stairs and has eight cameras, giving the user 360 degrees of vision. I tried driving it and saw how user-friendly it is.

The DOGO is unique as the world’s first operational shooting robot. It is so small it can be easily stuffed in a backpack by special forces or counterterrorism forces. In a standoff, such as the Paris kosher deli siege in 2015 or Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016, a small shooting robot might have saved lives.

Between Gahat and DOGO, Israel’s robotics pioneers are showing what the future of war may look like. With countries increasingly facing complex threats where a modern conventional army has to fight terrorist groups, having robots can be beneficial because one has to operate in urban areas among civilians, or try to find terrorists who are hiding out in terrain they know better than the attacker.

Because special forces need numerous gadgets with various capabilities, such as small reconnaissance drones, the unmanned vehicles and robots can give them a new “arm” in their operations. Unsurprisingly, Israel, faced with so many complex challenges, has found a new way to fight old wars.  (Jerusalem Post) Seth J Frantzman

Israel’s intelligence giant deployed to thwart Hezbollah

Two serious incidents on the on the Golan Heights put an end to any hope that the Israeli-Syrian border will be return to the calm of the pre-civil war days, now that Bashar Assad’s army has cemented its control, with the help of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The source of ground-to-air missiles fired at an Israeli Air Force jet in May or the identity of those behind the launching of two other missiles at Mount Hermon earlier this month are still unknown but the incidents illustrate the complex reality that Israel’s military will have to face.

Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Lebanese militia, replaced rebel fighters pushed out of the Golan region by the Syrian military. They are the most serious threat to Israel with deployment on both the Lebanese and the Syrian frontiers.

The IDF is now completing the construction of an unprecedently broad intelligence-gathering apparatus, attached to the Dotan division on the Golan Heights.

Never has a division entrusted with protecting the border had access to that kind of intelligence force, concentrated in a secret location a short distance away.

On the other side of the border, Hezbollah’s efforts, under the leadership of Ali Mussa Abbas Daqduq (codenamed Abu Hussein Sajed), are now focused on observing Israel from several observation posts and military locations, while also recruiting fighters from villages on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Daqduq’s efforts, conducted under the name “The Golan file,”  are in their early stages but still pose a worry for the Israelis. The militants have in their possession explosives, light arms, machine guns and anti-tank missiles.

Lt. Col L. from the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, assures Ynet there is no permanent Iranian presence on the Golan Heights, but Hezbollah is trying to set itself up there.

“Hezbollah, has been trying to establish a military infrastructure on the Syrian side of the Golan, and this is the latest effort so the IDF has reveal it to the public,” he said. “We continue to gather intelligence and are not going to allow Hezbollah to establish a terror infrastructure on the Golan, capable of striking Israeli civilians.”

At the secret Intelligence compound, screens show virtually every inch of the arena. Different branches of the military have representatives in the room.

When a convoy is spotted across the border, a drone is dispatched for a closer look.

Any clue is immediately analyzed, and field operatives stand ready to deploy as needed. (Ynet News) Yoav Zitun

Israel’s election woes

by Dr Ron Weiser

How did that happen?????

Notwithstanding the individual party count from the April 9th elections, the single outstanding overall result was that fully 65 members of the Knesset (out of 120), recommended to President Rivlin that Netanyahu be invited to form government.

With only 45 recommending Gantz.

This in itself signalled a decisive victory for Netanyahu with a crystal clear majority.

However right up to midnight on the 30th of May, even as Netanyahu was unable to stich a coalition together, we saw the absurd situation that concurrently, all those 65 members of the Knesset were still insisting that they would support only Netanyahu for Prime Minister.

Including Lieberman.

Or perhaps put another way, that they would not support anyone else for Prime Minister.

Including Lieberman.

And yet, no government.

And another election on the 17th of September.

As discussed previously, Lieberman knows how to play hardball – and so he did. Did he overplay his hand? Did he go too far? Or did he establish himself as the leader of the secular right or even left/right?

We won’t know till September, but that is a few months hence and it can go either way.

What we do know is that for the moment, the biggest loser is Netanyahu.

In his attempts to form a coalition by making increasingly generous offers to potential coalition partners, including increasingly unlikely partners – and yet without success – he simply looked desperate.

It reached such an absurd point that Ayman Odeh MK, the leader of one of the two Israeli Arab parties, brought some comic relief by rising to the Knesset podium and announcing that Netanyahu had offered to bring his party into the coalition and in return Israel would withdraw to the 1967 Green Line and recognise ‘Nakba day’.

At least Odeh has a sense of humour.

One beneficiary is Naphtali Bennett who was all but gone for the next few years, but will now have another chance to test whether his electoral appeal remains lower than his expectations yet again, or not.

Have these almost farcical events killed off the Trump ‘deal of the century’?

Whilst the first part of this process will take place with the economic conference in Bahrain later this month, the real political plan may never now see the light of day. It is unlikely that Trump will press on until a government is finally established in Israel – unless he simply loses patience, which is always possible. And then we move into the whole US presidential campaign cycle in 2020.

Timing from day one has never been on this deal’s side.

The political play is the critical one for Israel.

Whether one agrees with it or not, and whether one does or does not feel that it is even feasible, the ‘two state solution’ has been the longstanding mantra of the world since the 29th of November 1947 with UN Resolution 181.

The Trump administration’s ‘deal of the century’ will either endorse that, or more likely look at a state minus or autonomy type solution for the Palestinians, if the leaks are accurate.

If that is the case, it is important for Israel, that at least a suggested solution from a superpower makes it to the table as an official alternate proposition.

Just as the Trump plan was looking like becoming public, its automatic opponents, in this case not the Palestinians alone, but also the Europeans including the British, have ramped up their support for the ‘two state solution’.

For example, last week Israel published tenders for 460 housing units in Pisgat Ze’ev and 345 in Ramot. These suburbs are in what the world calls ‘East Jerusalem’ but are long established suburbs of Jerusalem and which no Israeli government will cede. They are completely within the Israeli consensus.

Moreover, as with the vast majority of settlement building over the Green Line generally, they do not increase the footprint of these areas.

In fact, even the anti-settlement Peace Now organisation noted that these new housing units “are intended to add housing units to the existing neighbourhoods in a way that increases the density of the built-up area and does not actually expand the area on which the neighbourhoods are spread.”

The British official comment came from Britain’s new Middle East minister Andrew Murrison who said: “We are clear that settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory are contrary to international law and an obstacle to a two-state solution. Regrettably, this takes us further away from a negotiated peace agreement.” He continued that when he visited Jerusalem, he reiterated “his country’s support for a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital for both states.”

This was followed by a statement from the EU saying: “The policy of settlement construction and expansion in East Jerusalem continues to undermine the possibility of a viable two state solution with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states, which is the only realistic way to achieve a just and lasting peace.”

If Trump has a different plan and if it never sees the light of day, the idea of the ‘two state solution’ will continue to be preeminent in the eyes of the world.

Meanwhile over in Syria, Russian forces aided by Syrian regime forces under their command, have in recent weeks expelled pro-Iranian militias that had taken over a civilian dock at the Tartus naval facility.

As Alex Fishman wrote in Ynet: “the recent Russian-Iranian dispute over the Tartus port is yet another episode in a series of clashes between the two nations over control over strategic, economic and political assets in Syria. The latest episode comes just before national security officials from Russia, the United States and Israel are set to meet this month in Israel, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced two weeks ago.”

The international Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat based in London quoted this week, “Western sources reporting on the deal being stitched by the three national security advisers — Nikolay Patrushev of Russia, John Bolton of the US and Meir Ben-Shabbat of Israel — regarding the future of Syria. According to the deal, Israel and the US will commit to recognising the legitimacy of the Assad regime, the US is expected to remove some of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia and in return, Russia will limit Iranian activity in Syria.”

The summit was scheduled when Netanyahu visited Moscow ahead of the April elections. President Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to establish a regional workshop. The upcoming summit is the first phase of the scheme.

If that does occur, that would indeed be both an interesting and positive move.

And in a sign that Trump’s sanctions on Iran are both effective and biting, the Iranians have cut 50% of their financial aid to Hezbollah for 2019, and Western intelligence sources say that Iran warned the organisation that the cuts will be even deeper in 2020.

Caretaker government or not, business seems to be carrying on as usual.

Considering we have already been in election mode for most of this year and that the September 17th elections fall just before Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot which will make building a government quickly of any colour quite difficult, this year will end up being known as perhaps the most unusual year for Israel’s democratic system.

Who knows, the Israeli public may even decide that this sort of non government is somewhat safer and more preferable with no radical decisions being able to be made.

In any case, the Israeli summer holiday season is upon us, who needs to be distracted by small things like forming a government?

And after all – Netanyahu is still the (caretaker) Prime Minister – almost same same.

The Palestinians Miss Yet Another Opportunity

by Alan M. Dershowitz                                          The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/14344/palestinians-miss-opportunity

The great Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once presciently observed that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Well, they are about to miss yet another opportunity by staying away from the June 2019 meetings in Bahrain during which the United States might unveil the economic aspects of its proposed Middle East peace plan.

The history of the Palestinian leadership is a history of missed opportunities for statehood and economic viability. Had the Palestinian leaders accepted the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 — two states for two peoples — there would have been a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel. Had they accepted the peace plan offered by President Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000-2001 or the even the more generous plan offered by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, there would now be a viable Palestinian state on 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza. But no! Neither offer was accepted, much to the regret of many moderate Palestinians and Sunni Arabs in the region.

Now the United States is working on yet another peace plan which the Palestinian leadership has already rejected without even knowing its precise contents. It is enough for them to know that the plan is being proposed by the Trump administration, which recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights (which was never claimed to be part of any Palestinian state).

But neither of these recognitions undercuts the possibility of a Palestinian state or even of a Palestinian capital in part of Jerusalem. They are yet another pretext for missing an opportunity for Palestinian leaders to sit down and negotiate a good deal for the Palestinian people.

Palestinian statehood is not off the table, although every deliberately missed opportunity makes it more difficult for the Palestinians to reasonably demand a state. Other groups such as the Kurds and the Tibetans have never turned down offers for their independence. The Palestinian rejections make their case for statehood weaker in comparison.

The Palestinians should send a delegation to Bahrain and participate in the meetings. They can make their demands and propose changes in the U.S. plan. There is no good reason for them not to participate. They can object to what President Trump has done and even demand that it be undone, but their objections will have no credibility if they continue to be no-shows.

One reality should be clear to the Palestinian leadership at this point if they want a state rather than a “cause” they will never get through any means other than direct negotiations with Israel. They will not get a state from the United Nations, from the European Union, from Russia, from Iran or even from the United States. Nor will they get it as a result of BDS or university protests. They will certainly not get it through military conquest or terrorism. Only by negotiating with Israel will they achieve statehood. And it won’t be on the 1967 lines or without any other compromises, such as to the so-called right of return, despite dozens of meaningless one-sided resolutions, including the one engineered by outgoing President Barack Obama during his final days in office. Both sides will have to make painful compromises. Israel has already shown its willingness to do so by twice offering compromise plans. Prime Minister Netanyahu has recognized the need for Israel to make compromises. So must the Palestinian leadership.

Israel’s current political deadlock, with new elections scheduled for September, will inevitably postpone any real progress toward peace. The Palestinian leadership should take advantage of this delay to attend the meeting without having to make any concessions. They can listen and propose, knowing that no final decisions are likely to be made until Israel forms a new government in the fall.

If the Palestinian leadership persists in its refusal to sit down and negotiate, they will only have themselves to blame for the lack of statehood. President Abbas himself has bemoaned the failure of Palestinian leadership to accept prior peace proposals. Now he is the leader in charge, at least in theory. He should learn the lessons of the past, come to Bahrain and begin a process of negotiation that may be the only remaining road to Palestinian statehood.

How the Palestinians Failed to Move toward a State during Oslo

Yair Hirschfeld (Fathom-BICOM-UK)

  • When I started to work together with Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin on ways to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in the early 1980s, the first thing we did was to speak to Palestinian leaders, businessmen, and journalists. One of our first questions was whether Israel should simply withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. The answer we got was devastating. “We Palestinians will first kill each other, and then we will start to kill you.”
  • Israel has repeatedly offered ways and means to establish a prosperous State of Palestine, living in good neighborly relations beside Israel. Alas, internal Palestinian divisions, conflicting external influences, and the conviction that Israel is not here to stay have prevented the establishment of a state of their own.
  • In Shimon Peres’ memoir, Battling for Peace,he expressed Israeli fears, writing: “In our view, a Palestinian state, though demilitarized at first, would over time inevitably strive to build up a military strength of its own, and the international community, depending upon massive Second and Third World support at the United Nations, would do nothing to stop it. That army, eventually, would be deployed at the very gates of Jerusalem and down the entire, narrow length of Israel. It would pose a constant threat to our security and to the peace and stability of the region.”
  • In October 1993, Yassir Arafat’s brother, Dr. Fathi Arafat, suggested the building of working committees for “people-to-people” activities, aiming to lay the foundations of good neighborly relations. Joint teams worked for 14 months on a wide range of programs. Then the PLO decided on an “anti-normalization” strategy that meant that any Palestinian who cooperated with Israelis would be castigated. The major message understood by Israeli society was that good neighborly relations were not part of the deal, even if this would undermine Palestinian well-being and prosperity.

In October 1995, a small group of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators prepared what is known as the Beilin-Abu Mazen Understanding, which was a blueprint for a Permanent Status Agreement. In the summer of 2000, Abu Mazen (Mohammad Abbas) publicly withdrew his consent. When we phoned him, he answered in his own voice, telling us that he was not at home.

The writer was one of the two original architects of the Oslo accords.