Updates from Israel and the Jewish World
Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman
Israel halts fuel to Gaza power plant in response to arson attacks
Israel announced early Tuesday that it was halting the transfer of fuel to the Gaza Strip’s only power plant until further notice. The decision was a response to a surge of incendiary balloons launched from the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave into Israel.
Explosives-laden balloons floated over the Israel-Gaza border sparked eight wildfires in the space of an hour on Monday afternoon as they landed in Israeli territory.
The fires broke out in farmland near Shaar Hanegev and the Eshkol Regional Council. Firefighters and employees of the JNF and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority were successfully battling the blazes in the Eshkol region.
One of the fires erupted at a memorial to the late Staff Sgt. Asaf-Yaakov Siboni near Kibbutz Nir Am. Siboni was a Nahal Brigade soldier who was killed when two IDF helicopters crashed in northern Israel in February 1997.
Another incendiary balloon sparked a fire at a nursery school in Kibbutz Saad, which was luckily empty at the time.
On Sunday, after a week of relative calm during which Gaza-adjacent communities in the western Negev were spared arson balloons and kites, seven separate wildfires broke out as a result of several dozen of arson balloons that were released from the Gaza Strip.
A security coordinator for one of the Eshkol region communities said Sunday that “we are battling the problem of arson balloons around the clock.”
“That has become our main occupation, while ongoing security work is pushed aside because the balloon terrorism has become a major issue in the day-to-day lives of the residents of [these] communities. The ones who pay the heaviest price are the farmers, who see months of labor go up in flames in moments. Massive damage is also being caused to the fields [themselves] and the crops, as well as to agricultural equipment,” the coordinator said.
“The fact that the government and the defense establishment live with this terror and do almost nothing to contain the phenomenon – not shooting down the balloons, but active steps against Hamas and the [other] terrorist groups and the people who release the balloons – is a disgrace.
“The lives of the residents are forfeit. No country in the world would allow terrorism like this to go on, and accept it in defeat,” he added. (Israel Hayom) Gadi Golan, Lilach Shoval
Netanyahu leads historic US-Russia-Israel security meeting focused on Iran and Syria
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the historic trilateral summit meeting of the national security advisers of the US, Russia and Israel in Jerusalem, on Tuesday morning. The discussions focused on Iran, Syria and regional issues .(WIN) Staff
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In trilateral Jerusalem summit, Russia sides with Iran, against Israel and US
Russia’s top national security adviser spoke out on behalf of Iran during trilateral meetings with his Israeli and American counterparts in Jerusalem on Tuesday, backing Tehran’s claims against the United States and supporting its ongoing military presence in Syria, which Israel sees as a threat to its security.
The trilateral conference of Israeli, Russian, and US national security advisers was the first event of its kind to be held in Jerusalem and, according to Israel, was aimed specifically at countering Iran, including both its nuclear aspirations and its influence throughout the Middle East.
The meeting came amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal last year and put in place a series of crushing economic sanctions. The Islamic Republic has retaliated by stepping up its uranium enrichment to levels beyond those permitted under the 2015 accord, allegedly carrying out a number of attacks on petroleum facilities around the Middle East, and shooting down a sophisticated US drone last week.
Russia, which maintains close ties to both Israel and Iran, is seen as a potential interlocutor between the West and Tehran. But comments made by its representative at the summit, security adviser Nikolai Patrushev, indicated that Moscow was siding with the Islamic Republic.
Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev speaks at a trilateral summit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center-right, US National Security Adviser John Bolton, center-left, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on June 25, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton\Flash90)
In press conferences on Tuesday, Patrushev rejected the view held by the US and Israel that Iran represents “the main threat to regional security” and said Israeli airstrikes in Syria against Iranian forces and its proxies were “undesirable.”
Commenting on the downing of a US drone by Iran last week, Patrushev said the Russian Defense Ministry had determined that the aircraft had entered Iranian airspace, as Tehran claims. The US maintains that the drone was flying in international airspace when it was downed.
“We have not seen any proof otherwise,” Patrushev said.
Patrushev also lauded Iran’s ongoing presence in Syria — which Israel sees as an unacceptable threat. The Russian official said Iran was “contributing a lot to fighting terrorists on Syrian soil and stabilizing the situation there.”
He said Moscow was aware of Israel’s concerns regarding Iran’s military presence in Syria and was working to address the issue with Tehran. Iran, he stressed, “was and remains our ally and partner.”
“We pay special attention to ensuring Israel’s security,” he added, calling it “a special interest of ours because here in Israel live a little less than about two million of our countrymen. Israel supports us in several channels, including at the UN. The prime minister [Netanyahu] has already said that we share the same views on the issue of the struggle against falsifying the history of World War II.”
According to a Central Bureau of Statistics report in 2016, as of five years ago, there were 985,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union living in Israel.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton, seen as a longtime hawk on Iranian issues, threatened Tuesday that the White House would step up the sanctions and other measures against Iran if it exceeded the uranium enrichment levels of the nuclear deal, saying such a move would be a “very serious mistake” by Tehran.
Tehran had announced on May 8 that it was suspending two of its 2015 pledges and gave Europe, China and Russia a two-month ultimatum to help Iran circumvent US sanctions and sell its oil or it would abandon two more commitments. Bolton spoke a day after the US imposed fresh sanctions against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“They’ll either get the point or as the president said, we will enhance the maximum pressure campaign further,” he said at a press conference, adding that “all options are on the table.”
In his press conference, Bolton disputed Patrushev’s positive view of Iranian troops in Syria, saying he did not believe this was the true stance of Russia and that Moscow also hopes to see Tehran’s forces and proxies leave Syria.
“The Russians have said repeatedly that they would like to see Iranian forces leave,” he said, citing comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a recent meeting in Moscow.
Bolton said that despite this desire, Russia has thus far been unable to achieve this goal but that with the summit in Jerusalem the three countries were working to “find a way to make it happen.”
Israel has long sought Russian backing for its demand that Iranian forces leave Syria upon the conclusion of the country’s civil war.
Earlier this year, the Israeli military said the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group had established a new base of operations in southern Syria along the border with Israel.
Earlier in the day, Bolton said that Trump, while imposing “significant new sanctions” on Iranian leaders on Monday, “has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program, its pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism, and its other malign behaviour worldwide
“All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door,” he said.
In his press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Bolton stressed that the White House was not seeking regime change in the Islamic Republic. “That’s not the policy of the United States,” he said, acknowledging that as a private citizen he had called for this in the past.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said that new US sanctions against senior Iranian officials including top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif showed Washington was “lying” about offering to negotiate. (the Times of Israel) Judah Ari Gross
How a Lebanese Man Escaped Hezbollah and Became a Rabbi in Israel!
After spying on the Hezbollah terror group for Israel, this courageous Lebanese man endured torture at the hands of his captors, before escaping to Israel and becoming a devout Jew.
Avraham Sinai’s life involves the type of high-stakes espionage that feature films are made of, which is why he has become the subject of a brand new documentary called “The Rabbi from Hezbollah.”
Raised in Lebanon in a village controlled by the brutal terror group, Sinai saw firsthand the ravages of war and the toll it took on innocent civilians. Sinai befriended an IDF officer, became a spy for the Jewish state, and eventually escaped Hezbollah’s iron fist by sneaking into Israel, where he embraced a new life as an Orthodox Jew. (United with Israel)
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If only the Palestinian leadership really wished for peace
by Aex Ryvchin The Australian
The economic component of the Trump administration’s intensely awaited plan to achieve an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been released.
Formally titled Peace to Prosperity, the proposal contains a three-pronged program of investment and reforms to transform the Palestinian economy and society through the injection of $US50 billion ($71.8bn) of foreign investment, opportunities for ordinary Palestinians in employment, education, even recreation, and the establishment of a transparent and competent Palestinian administration, without which businesses will have no confidence to invest and Palestinian institutions will continue to wither.
The plan assumes, correctly, that peace building and viable Palestinian self-government will require far more than glamorous signing ceremonies on manicured lawns. In offering unprecedented opportunities while maintaining diplomatic and economic pressure on the bloated, inert Palestinian leadership, US President Donald Trump has overthrown the old discredited order of attempting to get the Palestinians to negotiate in good faith by extracting upfront concessions from Israel.
Yet the latest proposal, astute as it may be, is destined to fail, just like more conventional diplomatic efforts of previous administrations. This is because the Trump plan, like all others, is founded on an irredeemable fallacy: that the Palestinian leadership wants to end the conflict.
Long before the Trump plan was tabled or its contents were revealed, it was predictably rejected out of hand by the Palestinian leadership. Any plan that promises to “empower the Palestinian people” and “improve the public sector’s ability to serve its people” is a threat to the status quo by which the leaders of the Palestinian movement have attained personal status and wealth while shedding all accountability to the people they claim to serve.
Saeb Erekat, the perennial “chief negotiator” for the Palestinians, announced a boycott of the regional conference in Bahrain at which the plan is being presented. Erekat’s three-decade career as a negotiator has resulted in three rejections of a two-state solution, which would have delivered the Palestinians statehood over territory equivalent in size to 100 per cent of the area of the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in east Jerusalem, an end to the blockade of Gaza and a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
The equally longstanding and self-serving Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, who lauded Saddam Hussein for “standing up for Arab rights, Arab dignity, Arab pride” following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and notoriously opposed the historic Oslo Accords because they recognised Israel, called the Bahrain conference “delusional, irresponsible” and “an insult to our intelligence”.
Ashrawi has a Sydney Peace Prize to her name and the adoration of Bob Carr and parts of the global left, but not a single, tangible legislative or diplomatic achievement in three decades of public life.
The petulant refusal of the Palestinian leadership to even consider a proposal intended to offer ordinary Palestinians an alternative to war, conflict and victimhood is a betrayal and a crime but is impeccably consistent with earlier Palestinian responses to international efforts aimed at giving them statehood.
When in 1937 the British first proposed resolving competing Jewish and Arab claims to the land through partition and the creation of a first-ever independent Arab Palestinian state, alongside a Jewish state on just 4 per cent of the British Mandate territory, the reaction of the Palestinian leadership was an outright “no”, backed by widespread violence and calls for the “liberation of the country and establishment of an Arab government”.
When the UN held consultations throughout the country in 1947, again seeking to mediate peacefully rival claims to the land, the Arab leaders boycotted the proceedings.
Periodically, some Palestinian leaders have admitted that their strategy of boycott backed by violence has been utterly ruinous. Palestinian jurist Henry Cattan admitted the 1947 boycott had been “unfortunate”.
Palestinian unionist Majdi Shella admitted the Palestinians “have a long tradition of boycotting everything. Sometimes boycotting is the easier road. If you want to do nothing, boycott.”
Yet the Palestinians have refined their instinct for rejection and political self-immolation to such an extent that they appear to know no other path.
This is why Palestinian rioters destroyed greenhouses left to them by the Israelis following the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. This is why last year Palestinians in Gaza set fire to the Kerem Shalom border crossing through which medicine, aid and consumer products intended for the Palestinians are transferred.
Far from holding Palestinian leaders accountable for their betrayal of their own people, instead supporters of the Palestinian cause in the West uncritically have backed the latest Palestinian boycott, thereby making themselves complicit in the entrenched culture of violence, corruption and bigotry of the Palestinian leadership.
After all, just as Palestinian leaders have been enriched by their own obstructionism, one wonders what anti-Israel activists would do with themselves if the Palestinians ever chose peace and prosperity over perpetual conflict.
Perhaps the most telling statement on the Trump proposal came from a senior Saudi diplomat who called the Palestinians “irresponsible” for refusing even to entertain a proposal intended to provide immense benefits for their own people.
“History and Allah have brought a real opportunity,” the diplomat said. “The blood conflict had lasted too long. The Saudis and all Gulf states plus Egypt and Jordan realise that the age of war with Israel is over.”
It took the Arab nations three failed invasions of Israel and decades of economic warfare and fruitless diplomatic skirmishes finally to recognise that the Jewish state is neither temporary nor a threat to their interests. One wonders how many more decades of boycott and bloodshed will be needed before Palestinian leaders finally chart a new and constructive course.
Alex Ryvchin is co-chief executive officer of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
What the Trump peace plan cannot accomplish
The economic vision for the Palestinians isn’t new and won’t work. But the problem isn’t the plan. It’s that its intended beneficiaries have other priorities.
by Jonathan Tobin JNS
When the Trump administration released the economic portion of its Middle East peace plan last week, the avalanche of criticism was immediate and harsh. Even though the president’s foreign-policy team couched the plan as a “vision” of peace rather than an intricate blueprint, its critics weren’t wrong in pointing out that there was little in it that was new, and that its chances of success were nil.
Yet in analyzing the effort, it’s important to note that there’s a difference saying that the plan won’t succeed and saying that putting it forth was the wrong thing to do. That’s because the problem with it isn’t the content, but the context. An effort to shift the focus from a push on Israeli concessions, which are never enough to satisfy the Palestinians, to one in which Palestinian society could be transformed—economically and hopefully peaceably—was long overdue. But as long as the intended beneficiaries aren’t interested in such programs, the “ultimate deal” is simply not going to happen under any circumstances.
The sticking point is clear. Palestinian Authority leaders say they want the investment and aid, but that any discussion of economics must await a political settlement in which they will be given an independent state. Only after they achieve sovereignty, they say, will the aid be welcome or relevant.
That’s a fact that many Trump-administration critics have echoed when dismissing the plan authored by presidential adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner and U.S. negotiator Jason Greenblatt. They say Trump’s team is putting the cart before the horse and effectively rendering the peace process irrelevant by not focusing on the actual points of contention that separate the parties, like borders, settlements and refugees.
As veteran State Department peace processor Aaron David Miller, who now heads the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, put it: “The Palestinians’ economic problem isn’t a lack of money. It’s a lack of liberty.”
Even if we were to lay aside for the moment that the main obstacle to Palestinian liberty is the tyrannical rule of Hamas in Gaza and that of Fatah in the West Bank rather than Israel, this argument fails to answer the key question that most be posed to critics of Trump’s plan: Why have decades of peace processing by foreign-policy professionals like Miller, who knew a lot more about the conflict and diplomacy than Trump’s Middle East team, always failed?
All previous administrations have paid some lip service to economic issues, with many issuing their own plans that were not dissimilar to the one Trump just proposed. They have all taken the approach the Palestinians say they prefer: how to strong-arm Israel into agreeing to a two-state solution. Yet that strategy never succeeded, no matter how much pressure presidents like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama put on the Jewish state, and no matter how many times Israel said “yes” to two states as they did a number of times in the last 20 years.
The Palestinians had their chance to get the “liberty” they say they wanted in 2000, 2001 and 2008, when Israeli governments put a two-state solution with almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem in their hands. They also enjoyed eight years of an Obama administration that clearly saw Israeli policies as the main obstacle to peace. Still, every time they had the chance to get the state they say they want so badly, they said “no.”
At some point, the foreign-policy professionals should have figured out that the old approach was never going to work.
That is, in essence, what Kushner, Greenblatt and company have done by attempting to restart the conversation about peace in a different way.
Instead, they think emphasizing policies that will give the Palestinians a stake in peace and promoting measures that will mandate good governance have the potential to change everything. You can call that an attempt to “bribe” the Palestinians into accepting peace with Israel, but all it really amounts to is a reminder that coexistence would create a better reality than the current one rooted in conflict.
Trump was right to try to end his predecessors’ coddling of Palestinian fantasies of defeating Israel, which is what their policies of non-recognition of Jerusalem and refusing to condition aid on ending support for terror amounted to.
The problem is that the Palestinians’ century-old war on Zionism has become inextricably linked to their national identity to the point where it is impossible for anyone inside their political structure to imagine normal life alongside a Jewish state. And even if they could make that leap of imagination, entrenched forces like Hamas and other Islamist groups, as well as the millions of descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees who continue to hold onto the false hope of erasing the last 71 years of history, won’t like them act on it.
That’s why Hamas continues to promote the “right of return” as if the eradiation of the Jewish state was a viable option. And it’s why the Palestinian Authority continues to subsidize terror in the form of salaries for imprisoned terrorists, and pensions for their families and survivors, because to do otherwise would be to admit that their defeat in a war they haven’t the courage or the good sense to give up on.
If Trump’s plan is going to fail—and it will—it can be attributed to these reasons. It’s not because previous administrations understood the conflict any better, or that the focus on economics is wrongheaded. If this latest approach doesn’t work, then the blame should fall on those responsible—the Palestinians—not on the ideas behind the plan itself.