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Latest News in Israel – 11th March

Abbas reportedly turns down visiting VP Biden’s peace plan

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly turned down a peace initiative put forward by US Vice President Joe Biden in Ramallah on Wednesday.

The deal offered a settlement construction freeze and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem in exchange for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the relinquishment of Palestinian rights to return to live in Israel, Palestinian newspaper Al Quds reported.

The idea was floated on Tuesday by White House officials who told The Wall Street Journal that President Barack Obama, who leaves office in less than year, wanted to bequeath more promising ground to his successor by announcing an initiative of some kind to push the moribund peace process forward. One of the ideas on the table was the one Biden reportedly proposed to Abbas.

The last US-backed effort to kick-start the peace process broke down in 2014.

Biden’s push came as the French Foreign Ministry’s special envoy Pierre Vimont was making preparations to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah on March 13. The French are pushing an international peace conference aimed at bringing the two sides together this summer.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Wednesday withdrew a threat made by his predecessor Laurent Fabius that France would automatically recognize a Palestinian state if the Paris initiative failed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had rejected Fabius’s ultimatum as counterproductive, arguing that the confab was doomed to fail since the Palestinians were being told they would gain recognition if no results were achieved. Still, Jerusalem has said it would study the framework for the conference when official invitations are sent out and would carefully weigh its response.

During his two-hour meeting with Biden on Wednesday, Abbas offered the first indirect criticism of terror during the current wave of violence by offering his condolences for the murder of American citizen Taylor Force, 29, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. Abbas immediately stressed that Israel had killed some 200 Palestinians during the past five months of violent tension, Ynet reported.

Earlier this week, Abbas praised as a “martyr” a young Palestinian woman who attempted to kill an IDF soldier with her car. “We see in her a martyr who watered the pure earth of Palestine with her blood,” he wrote in a letter to the parents of Amani Husni Sabatin, 34, from the Palestinian village of Husan, near Bethlehem, who was killed by IDF troops as she ran over a soldier in the Gush Etzion area on Friday.           (The Times of Israel)

Amid bout of attacks, Netanyahu decides to complete barrier in Jerusalem area

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to complete the security barrier in the area of Jerusalem, in the aftermath of the three terrorist attacks Tuesday, in which an American graduate student was killed and 15 people were wounded.

The attacks occurred around the time that US Vice President Joe Biden landed in Israel for a two-day visit.

Late Tuesday night, Netanyahu held security consultations with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai and representatives from the IDF.

During the meeting, Netanyahu made a number of security decisions in addition to the already established measures such as the closure of villages where Palestinian terrorists live or left from to carry out their attacks.

Media outlets that promote incitement will be closed.

Legislation to punish those who help Palestinians illegally enter or live in areas of Israel within the Green Line will be fast-tracked. Work and trade permits for Palestinians will also be denied.

Netanyahu did not clarify what he meant with regard to the completion of the security barrier in the area of Jerusalem, although he did speak of finishing the barrier by the Tarkumiya checkpoint that separates the area of Kiryat Gat from the West Bank.

Netanyahu pledged last month to complete the security barrier in response to calls to do so from opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union). At the time, officials said that the premier planned to focus on the Jerusalem area.

Work on the barrier first began in 2002 in response to the second intifada. Sixty percent of the barrier’s 790- km. route has been completed.

The project has been mostly frozen since 2007.

In a written response, the Defense Ministry told The Jerusalem Post last month, “Thus far, 470 km of the security barrier have been completed.” It added, “an additional 71 km. still remain.” That would account for a built-up route of 541 km.

In October 2014, the ministry told the Post that 460 km. of the barrier had been completed out of a 525-km route that did not include the blocs of Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion.

At that time, it explained that the route of the barrier around Jerusalem itself was 145 km., of which 21 km. had not been completed. It estimated that it would be finished by the end of the year.

Since then only 10 km. of the overall barrier route have been completed.

The Defense Ministry to date has refused to answer any other specific questions about the route of the barrier in the area of Jerusalem.    (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli envoy calls on UN Security Council to condemn Palestinian terror attacks

Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon has sent an urgent letter to the UN Security Council demanding that it condemn Tuesday’s three terrorist attacks.

Twenty-nine-year-old American tourist Taylor Force was killed and some 14 people, including his wife, were wounded in the attacks that took place in Jaffa, Jerusalem and Petah Tikva on Tuesday.

“This ongoing wave of terror has claimed the lives of 34 victims – 34 fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, buried by their loved ones,” the ambassador wrote, telling the council that since the onset of the current wave of violence the Palestinians have committed 317 attacks against Israelis at an average of 2.18 per day, a third of which were committed by minors.

“Yet, the Security Council has not condemned Palestinian terror even once,” he said.

“The international community must not continue to ignore this ongoing campaign of brainwashing and indoctrination,” he wrote, referring to Palestinian incitement.

“I ask you to open your eyes, condemn the ongoing attacks,” Danon concluded.

Jewish leaders in the United States also spoke out against the stabbings. Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Stephen M.

Greenberg and Executive Vice-Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein extended their condolences to Force’s family.

“We condemn the attacks in Jaffa, Jerusalem and Petah Tikvah and call on the international community, especially the Palestinian Authority, to take action to end these outrages by holding to account those engaging in incitement or who otherwise encourage or aid these attacks,” they said in a statement.

“There can be no compromise or excuses for terrorism.”

Greenberg and Hoenlein also welcomed the statement from Vice President Joe Biden, who was not far from the site of the Jaffa stabbing spree when it occurred, condemning “in the strongest possible terms, the brutal attack.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Abbas ignores Biden’s call to condemn terrorist attacks

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas offered condolences Wednesday to visiting US Vice President Joe Biden over the death of US citizen Taylor Force, killed in a terrorist stabbing in Jaffa Tuesday night, but stopped short of heeding a strong call by the US to condemn the attack.

Biden called on the Palestinian leadership and the international community to denounce terrorist attacks against Israelis, including the one in Jaffa.

“Let me say in no uncertain terms: The US condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts,” Biden said in Jerusalem on Wednesday at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In Washington, the White House echoed his call. Press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the Obama administration expects Palestinian leadership to condemn “any act of terrorism” against innocent civilians, including the stabbing attack that took Force’s life.

But the PA officials rejected the Vice President’s request.

After offering his condolences at their Ramallah meeting, Abbas told Biden that Israel has “killed 200 Palestinians in the past five months,” but he did not clarify that many of those deaths were Palestinians killed attempting to execute attacks against Israelis.

Abbas stressed the need to “combat terrorism in all its forms,” according to a statement released by Abbas’s office after the meeting. “Victory over ISIS and terrorism requires the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital,” the statement quoted Abbas as telling Biden.

Abbas held Israel responsible for the current wave of terrorism.

“The continued Israeli dictates, settlements and occupation are the reason behind the violence and bloodshed,” Abbas charged.

One official said Biden should have demanded that Israel “halt its policy of extra-judicial executions” against Palestinians and “daily assaults” on al-Aksa Mosque and other Islamic holy sites. Amin Maqboul, a senior Fatah official who is closely associated with Abbas, said the Palestinian leadership was not denouncing attacks on Israelis because Israel does not condemn “deliberate attacks against Palestinians.”

Maqboul and a number of Palestinian officials accused the US administration of “bias” in favor of Israel.

They said Biden’s remarks were further proof the White House has endorsed the Israeli government’s position.

Biden’s two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories that began Tuesday was marked by the Jaffa attack that occurred soon after he landed at Ben-Gurion Airport.

The attack, in which 12 others were wounded, occurred just a short distance away from where Biden was meeting former president Shimon Peres.

Biden noted that his wife and his grandchildren were having dinner on the beach nearby.

“It just brings home that [terrorism] can happen anywhere at any time,” Biden said during his press conference with Netanyahu. “The kind of violence we saw yesterday, the failure to condemn it, the rhetoric that incites that violence, the retribution that it generates, has to stop.

“This cannot become an accepted modus operandi,” he continued.

“This cannot be viewed by civilized leaders as an appropriate way in which to behave even if it appears to inure to the benefit of one side or the other. It’s just not tolerable in the 21st century,” Biden said. “They’re targeting innocent civilians, mothers, pregnant women, teenagers, grandfathers, American citizens.

“There can be no justification for this hateful violence, and the United States stands firmly behind Israel’s right to defend itself, as we are defending ourselves at this moment as well.”

Biden also called on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, something they have refused to do.

Israel has been known as a Jewish state since its inception in 1948, he said. “We should get over all of this.

It was a Jewish state that was set up,” said Biden.

He urged both Israelis and Palestinians to find a way to move beyond the impasse in the peace process and to resolve the conflict so that there can be two states for two peoples.

“The status quo has to break somewhere along the line here in terms of a two-state solution,” Biden said. “Even though it may be hard to see the way ahead, we continue to encourage all sides to take steps to move back toward the path to peace – not easy – and for the sake of Israel, and I might add, for the sake of the Palestinians.

“There cannot be unilateral steps to undermine trust,” he continued.

“That only takes us further away, further and further away from an outcome we know in our hearts is the only fundamental outcome, the only outcome that is the ultimate guarantor.”

Netanyahu thanked Biden for his strong support and denounced the PA for failing to condemn his people’s terrorist attacks against Israelis, including the one in which Force was killed.

“Unfortunately Abbas has not only refused to condemn these terror attacks. His Fatah party portrays the murderer of this American citizen as a Palestinian martyr and a hero,” Netanyahu said. “This is wrong. This failure to condemn terrorism should be condemned itself by everyone in the international community.”

Palestinian society itself persistently incites against the Jewish state and glorifies those who kill its citizens, Netanyahu said. Civilized societies must stand together to fight terrorism, and Israel has no better partner in this battle than the US, he added.

“I look forward to continuing to work together with you and President [Barack] Obama to strengthen the remarkable and unbreakable alliance between our two countries,” Netanyahu said.

Biden promised Netanyahu the US would insist Iran must comply with the terms of the deal it worked out with the six world powers to curb its nuclear program.

“If in fact they break the deal, we will act. We will act,” Biden said and explained that the US would also work to halt Iran conventional military aggression.

He noted that he had come to talk with Netanyahu, who he considers to be a decade-long friend, about regional issues even though he did not have any concrete plans in his back pocket.

He swore Islamic State – which he said had helped the region change its attitude toward Israel – would be crushed.

“They’ve realized they’d rather be in your orbit than in the orbit of Daesh and ISIS and terrorism, and al-Nusra, et cetera,” he added.

Similarly, he said, Israel’s natural gas reserve, “which is about to make it the epicenter of energy in the region” has also had a positive impact on its relations with its neighbors.

During their meeting the two men discussed ISIS and Syria including Iranian involvement in Syria and the flow of weapons from Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon.They spoke about efforts to restore Israeli-Turkish diplomatic ties.

Additionally, Biden urged Netanyahu to renew the Memorandum of Understanding under which Israel annually receives defense funding from the US while Obama was still in office. Israel and the US are at odds the size of the funding package.

The two men talked about the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process and issued related to the security coordination between the IDF and the PA. Netanyahu also spoke with Biden about Palestinian incitement and showed him Fatah’s official Facebook page in which the Jaffa attack was lauded.

In a discussion with President Reuven Rivlin, Biden focused on the reduction of extremism and the offering of greater economic opportunities for both Israelis and Palestinians.

“The two-state solution and a strong and secure Israel are very much in the interests of the United States,” Biden told Rivlin at the start of their meeting.

At the President’s Residence Biden also spoke of Force’s death: “This plague of terrorism has a tendency to harden hearts,” he said. “Israelis and visitors cannot go about afraid to walk in the streets,” Biden insisted, adding: “This violence has to stop and it cannot be done just by physical force.”

Rivlin opened the meeting with Biden by referring to the more recent terrorist attack which had taken place in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning.

“Once again we woke up to terrorism in Jerusalem,” he said, adding “I stand here in grief and solidarity. Our prayers go to the victim’s family and to the injured.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Selfies and shwarma – Tel Aviv takes terrorism in stride

If the number of teenage girls taking selfies on the promenade is a barometer for how a city is coping the morning after a deadly terrorist attack, then it seems Tel Aviv will be alright.

The recently renovated promenade near the clock tower in Jaffa seemed basically the same as always the day after a terrorist from Kalkilya stabbed an American tourist to death and wounded 11 others, as long as you zoomed in close enough to miss the mounted policemen and Border Police officers with assault rifles patrolling at a leisurely pace.

There were dozens of teenagers on school trips making duck faces for selfies sharing the promenade with tour groups on Segways, American retirees, and the marginally employed beach people of Tel Aviv, none of whom appeared to have received the memo that the city was under attack.

Brothers Markus and Christian, aged 25 and 31, were plowing through some shwarma at the Haj Khalil restaurant at the clock tower at mid-day, and neither said they felt any reason to cut the trip short. Visiting Israel from Germany for a cross-country bike trip with their father and sister, they said the situation was sad, but as Markus put it, “It’s a weird feeling, but I wouldn’t say I’m afraid.”

They both ventured that a stabbing could also happen to them in Berlin, depending on where they were. They said their mother had written them Tuesday night after hearing about the attack and told them to be careful, but they didn’t seem overly concerned.

Or perhaps they were a bit concerned, but more worried about the pitfalls and terror of dealing with Israeli motorists while traversing the country on a bicycle.

A wife and husband from Elad named Golda and Meir (their actual names) were pushing a baby in a stroller on the promenade just steps away from two mounted cops on towering black steeds Wednesday morning.

Meir said they had some second thoughts about coming to Tel Aviv, but that “it’s not under our control what happens.

Besides, what are the odds there will be another attack today in the same exact place?” Golda did express surprise at the relative shortage of police elsewhere in Jaffa, but neither seemed to be in a hurry to vacate the area.

The cliché about Tel Aviv getting back to routine quickly after terrorist attacks is a well-worn cliché for good reason.

Besides the police strolling on the promenade and the cops that were checking motorists entering Jaffa from Tel Aviv, there was little sign that anything had happened here the night before.

Perhaps that’s why Frank and Nancy Kirkland, two retirees from Fort Worth, Texas, had no idea that there had been an attack the night before.

In town for a church trip across the region, they said they weren’t concerned being in Israel, which they added may be the safest branch of a trip that includes visits to Cairo and Istanbul.

“I’d venture there were more people killed last night in Texas by guns,” Nancy said, taking in the sea view.                          (Jerusalem Post)

Broad support in Knesset for bill to deport terrorists’ families to Gaza

MKs from all coalition parties and some in the opposition signed a bill that would deport terrorists’ family members to Gaza, which Knesset House Committee David Bitan (Likud) submitted Wednesday.

The idea for the bill came from Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said last week that expelling Palestinian terrorists’ families from the West Bank to Gaza violates Israeli and international law and could play into the hands of those seeking to have Israel tried for war crimes in the International Criminal Court.

Katz said the bill is “a firstrate act of deterrence,” and called on the Attorney-General’s Office to cooperate and allow it to pass into law quickly.

“Everyone must understand that we are at the height of a war against ISISstyle terrorist attacks by radical Islam,” Katz stated. “This is terrorism by individuals, about which we do not have additional intelligence, and therefore, we need to take additional deterrent and preventative steps.”

According to Katz, support from coalition parties as well as Yisrael Beytenu and Yesh Atid, including party leader MK Yair Lapid, shows how necessary the bill is and that it has broad public support, giving it a good chance of passing.

Bitan pointed out that two former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chiefs – MK Avi Dichter (Likud) and MK Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) – support the bill, indicating its great potential, and said it could be the factor that ends the ongoing wave of terrorism.

The bill states that family members of a terrorist who helped commit the act of terrorism or who knew about it in advance could lose their permanent residence status if they are residents of sovereign Israel, including east Jerusalem, or be deported from the West Bank.                      (Jerusalem Post)

Jewish Agency to distribute money to terror victims

The Jewish Agency announced on Wednesday that it will distribute one million dollars to more than one hundred victims of the current terrorism wave in Israel, including foreign nationals, in “an expression of Diaspora Jewry’s solidarity with the people of Israel.”

The agency’s Fund for Victims of Terror, in cooperation with the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod-UIA, will issue the money to individuals and families who, since October, have been affected by the attacks.

“The support provided by Jewish communities around the world is not only financial in nature. This is an expression of Diaspora Jewry’s solidarity with the people of Israel, which is also manifested by the hundreds of thousands of Jews who visit Israel, the tens of thousands of Jewish young people who participate in Israel experience programs and the record number of Jews who choose to immigrate to Israel – even now,” said Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.

Each victim or family will receive approximately $6,400 above and beyond an initial, and unrelated, grant of around NIS 4,000 offered to families affected by terrorism, intended to help cover immediate needs after attacks. The agency said that it has provided such assistance around seventy times during the current wave of terrorism.

In February the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced that it had recorded 228 attacks since October, a number which has only risen in the month since.

Tuesday saw three terrorist attacks, including a stabbing spree that killed an American citizen not far from where United States Vice President Joe Biden was meeting with former president Shimon Peres.

“Let me say in no uncertain terms the US condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts,” Biden said in Jerusalem on Wednesday.            (Jerusalem Post)

‘We knew you were a hero’

Amir Mimuni, the 28-year-old Shin Bet agent killed along the border with Gaza Wednesday morning, was laid to rest yesterday in Moshav Nogah.

Mimuni, a resident of Zohar in the Negev, was shot and killed during a friendly fire incident along the Gaza border.

The Shin Bet has launched a probe to investigate the incident.

Initial reports revealed that as Mimuni’s unit was operating near Gaza, a fellow Shin Bet agent spotted Mimuni, and believing he was a terrorist, opened fire.

Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen revealed the details of incident during Mimuni’s funeral on Wednesday.

The bereaved father, Efraim Mimuni, eulogized his son, calling him “an angel in human form”.

“He loved the state and the army, and he succeeded in everything he did.”

As a Shin Bet agent, Mimuni was trusted with sensitive operational information, giving his family little knowledge of the precise nature of his service.

“I would drive him nuts asking him to tell me things [about his work], but he wouldn’t tell me anything. Now I just want to hug and kiss him.”

“I want to tell him that even though we don’t know what he did, we know you were a hero.”                  (Arutz Sheva)

Major poll: About half of Israeli Jews want to expel Arabs

About half of Jewish Israelis believe Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel, according to an extensive survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and whose results were revealed on Tuesday.

Pew surveyed more than 5,600 Israeli adults in face-to-face interviews from October 2014 through May 2015 in what it described as a first-of-its-kind poll of Israelis on a wide range of religious, social and political issues.

Nearly four fifths – 79 percent – of Arab Israelis say there is major discrimination against Muslims in Israeli society. Jews believe the opposite. The vast majority, 74 percent, says they do not see much discrimination against Muslims in Israel.

At the same time, public opinion among Jews is divided on the question of whether Israel can be a national home for the Jewish people while maintaining the Arab minority in the country. Nearly half of Israeli Jews, 48 percent, say Arabs should be deported or exiled from Israel. Religious people tend to be particularly supportive of such a move: about 71 percent agree that Arabs should be expelled.

Secular Jews tend to go the other way: 58 percent opposes the idea of expelling Arabs, including 25 who are completely opposed. But some secular Jews agree – about one third would support expelling Arabs from Israel.

Poll 1[1]

Religious distribution

According to the survey, there is a majority of religious and traditional Jews in Israel: Only 40 percent of Jews in the country are secular, while 23 percent are traditional, 10 percent are Orthodox and eight percent are ultra-Orthodox. In addition, 10 percent of the population is not Jewish: 14 percent are Muslim, two percent are Druze, two percent are Christian and one percent do not have a religion.

In comparison, the first census in Israel, conducted in 1949, showed that 86 percent of the population was Jewish, nine percent was Muslim, three percent was Christian and one percent was Druze. But in 2014, only 75 percent of the population was Jewish, while the rate of Muslims in the population doubled to 18 percent, and the rate of Christians dropped to two percent.

The proportion of secular people remained mostly stable throughout the years, while the rate of traditional Jews – who often only display a moderate level of religious observance – dropped the most. Among the Jewish population, the biggest growth over time was among the ultra-Orthodox. Nine percent of Jewish Israelis in 2013 defined themselves as ultra-Orthodox, signifying a six percent rise within a decade.  Between 2002 and 2012, the proportion of Jews aged 20 and over who considered themselves Orthodox jumped from 16 percent to 19.

A significant factor for these trends is the size of the family, with 28 percent of ultra-Orthodox respondents aged over 40, both men and women, saying they had seven or more children. For the sake of comparison, only few among the Orthodox (five percent), the traditional (two percent) and the secular (one percent) respondents said they had seven or more children.

Poll 2[2]

As a result of the differences in the birth rates, the rate of secular Jews is smaller among adult Jews aged 30 or younger (44 percent) than among adult Jews over 50.

Religious observance

Previous studies show a drop in the rates of Israeli Jews who report a moderate level of religious observance in recent years, going down to about one third (34 percent), compared to surveys conducted by the Guttman Center for Surveys in 1991-2009, which found a rate of four in ten moderately observant Jews – meaning roughly 40 percent.

Secular Jews see their Jewish identity mostly as a matter of heritage or culture, and this reflects in their beliefs and customs. Few secular respondents go to synagogue every week or pray regularly, and 40 percent said they do not even believe in God.

However, wide swaths of secular Israelis observe what could be described as cultural aspects of religion. For instance, 87 percent of secular Jews say they hosted or participated in a Passover Seder in the past year, and about half of them, 53 percent, say that they light Shabbat candles sometimes. Only 20 percent of secular Jews fasted for the entirety of the latest Yom Kippur, compared to 99 percent of ultra-Orthodox Jews, 98 percent of Orthodox Jews, and 83 percent of traditional Jews.

Those who define themselves as traditional are not uniform in their prayer habits. About one in five say they pray every day (21 percent). 15 percent say they pray at least once a week. About a third say they pray once a month or infrequently (32 percent). About three in ten traditional Jews say they don’t pray at all (31 percent).

Almost all secular Jews drive on the Sabbath (95 percent). One this subject as well, traditional Jews are more divided, with a slightly higher percentage saying they do drive on the Sabbath (53 percent), over those who say they do not (41 percent).

Jewish and democratic state

Most Jews, across the religious spectrum, agree that Israel can in principle be a simultaneously Jewish and democratic state. However, they are divided on the question of what has to happen in practice when democracy clashes with the Jewish Halakha (Jewish religious law). The vast majority of secular Jews (89 percent) say that democratic principles should be given priority over religion, while the same kind of majority among the ultra-Orthodox public (89 percent) say that religious law must be given the higher spot.

The groups are also divided on what the essence of Jewish identity is. Most ultra-Orthodox Israelis say that being Jewish is mostly a religious matter, while more secular Jews tend to say it’s a matter of heritage and culture. For some, Jewish identity is also tied to Israeli national pride.

Poll 3[1]

Most secular Jews in Israel say they see themselves as Israeli first and only then as Jews, while most Orthodox Jews say they see themselves as Jewish first and Israeli second.

More than three quarters of Israeli Jews, 76 percent, believe anti-Semitism is common and only growing throughout the world. About nine in ten say a Jewish state is crucial for the long-term survival of the Jewish people.

Religion and the state

Most ultra-Orthodox and religious Jews (86 percent and 69 percent, respectively) support making Jewish religious laws Israel’s official legal code. In comparison, most traditional (57 percent) and the vast majority of secular Jews (90 percent) oppose such a move.

For example, a clear majority of ultra-Orthodox and religious Jews say public transportation should stop on Shabbat, while 94 percent of secular Jews oppose this. Traditional Jews are split, with 44 percent supporting the position and 52 percent who think certain transportation options should be available in at least some places.

Intermingling of men and women in public is another divisive point. A strong majority of ultra-Orthodox Jews, 62 percent, supports gender segregation n public transportation used by the ultra-Orthodox public. Among secular Jews, only five percent support this policy. The vast majority of secular Jews, 93 percent, oppose enforced gender segregation on public transportation, even if the transportation serves ultra-Orthodox people.

The ultra-Orthodox strongly oppose allowing non-Orthodox rabbis to conduct marriages in Israel, while most secular Israeli support altering the existing law in order to permit Reform and Conservative rabbis to preside over weddings.

Poll 4[1]

Another finding was that the children of immigrants from the former USSR are more religious than their parents: 70 percent of second-generation immigrants say they believe in God, higher than the 55 percent of first-generation immigrants from the former USSR.

In general, more religious Jews count themselves among the political right (56 percent) than the center (41 percent). The ultra-Orthodox, however, tend to split between the ideological center (52 percent) and the right (47 percent), which is also the case among traditional Jews. Most secular Jews, 62 percent, define themselves as leaning towards the political center. Secular Jews are more likely to consider themselves on the left end of the political spectrum – but only 14 percent define themselves that way.

Concern over divisions

“This survey must be placed before the decision makers in Israel, before the government of Israel. It points to the need to address our problems at home, more than ever,” President Reuven Rivlin told representatives from the Pew Center who presented him with the report on Tuesday. “When I spoke in June last year at the Herzliya Conference, about the four tribes of Israeli society, I wished to place a mirror for us to look into. Looking at us as a society, it is clear we believe Israel is – in one breath – a democratic and Jewish state. The idea that the State of Israel could be democracy only for its Jewish citizens is unconscionable and we must find a way to address this.”

Rabbi David Stav, founder of Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, said that the study “serves as a further wakeup call to the position that we have been advocating for the past two decades; Israeli Jews wish to practice their Judaism but want to do so in a manner that is not coercive or manipulated by the institutions of the State.”

“Most troubling, the study drives home the reality that if we don’t find a manner to address these concerns over coercion, we are essentially creating a recipe for two Jewish nations within one state,” he added.                                (Ynet News)

Children of Tunnels, Children of Knives

by Orit Perlov            INSS Insight No. 802,


The prevalent view in Israel, which regards the young Palestinians who dig tunnels and conduct stabbing attacks as products of a process of religious and political radicalization by Hamas and of incitement led by the Palestinian Authority waged on the social media, is imprecise and at best a partial picture. The social networks are communication tools – not the root of the problems. The efforts to take care of the symptom, i.e., incitement on social media, without addressing the illness, namely, the problematic core issues in the Palestinian arena, will not serve to eradicate the phenomenon of children who turn to tunnels and knives. Thus alongside the efforts to implement operational (and partial) solutions to the symptoms, Israel should formulate an extensive plan of action that focuses on employment and the economy, and seeks to build a positive future for the children of the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. Reducing the attractiveness of joining the tunnel-digging teams in the Gaza Strip and doing away with the knife attacks as a means of national expression and as a solution to personal problems will require the promotion of solutions to hardships rooted in unemployment, poverty, and the impossibility of social mobility.

The current security discourse in Israel relating to the Palestinian arena focuses primarily on two issues: the offensive tunnels dug from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, which have returned to the headlines in recent weeks following the collapse and flooding of three tunnels within the Strip, and the wave of violence that erupted in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the autumn of 2015, with knife-based terrorism at its forefront. Against this background, questions arise regarding the role of social media among the other elements fueling the actions of young Palestinians and motivating them to take part in digging and stabbing activity.

Children of Tunnels

That Hamas resumed digging tunnels in the Gaza Strip following the end of Operation Protective Edge in August 2014 comes as no surprise. The destruction of the tunnels in the course of the operation and the action taken by the Egyptians to destroy the tunnels between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula have caused immense damage to Hamas’s military infrastructure and to the Strip’s main industrial and economic artery. Since the IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the “Gaza Underground” infrastructure has enabled the entry of weapons, raw materials, and food from the Sinai Peninsula. The disappearance of these resources as a result of Egyptian activity has had a detrimental impact on young industrialists, engineers, and contractors that were previously supported by this infrastructure. Unemployment of youth in the Gaza Strip currently stands above 50 percent, and the generation of parents is now the dominant sector in the workforce. With no alternative source of employment, adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 20 are employed by the Hamas military wing, which provides them with an income and a meaningful purpose by employing them to dig the offensive tunnels.

Social media constitutes an aggressive means of recruitment and branding in the service of Hamas, including viral campaigns (#rijal al-Anfaq – “men of the tunnels”). These campaigns include messages of national, religious, and heroic orientation on the digging of tunnels. However, the involvement of these young Palestinians in the digging of tunnels does not necessarily derive first and foremost from ideological reasons, but stems also, and perhaps primarily, from economic needs, boredom, and a search for ultimate meaning. Accordingly, membership in the “commando units” of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which coordinates the digging, has become the primary employment center for unemployed children and youth in Gaza.

At the same time, social media has served not only as recruitment agencies for the digging of tunnels, but also as a platform for voices opposed to these activities. The deaths caused by the collapse of the tunnels in January 2016 sparked a heated debate on social media focusing on the young Palestinians employed in the digging. Prominent in this discourse is a critical tone, reflected in opposition to what is perceived as Hamas’s cynical abuse of child and youth labor, and in some cases, is accompanied by messages that contrary to the recruitment vision of “light at the end of the tunnel,” these young Palestinians are actually digging their graves with their own hands. There has also been mounting discussion of the phenomenon of suicide among young Gazans due to their desperate situation. For its part, Hamas enhances its recruitment efforts by organizing extravagant funerals for the victims of this logistic arm of al-Qassam Brigades – a privilege previously reserved solely for the fighters.

Children of Knives

In contrast to the events in the Gaza Strip, the phenomenon of the “stabbing youth” is not organized, run, or funded by any organization – not the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, or any other institution in East Jerusalem or the West Bank. It is a phenomenon of individuals, with some operating in small groups of two to three. None of these individuals are considered leaders of public opinion, although Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have been quick to embrace their activity and in some cases to claim responsibility for it. For both entities, this is based on political interest, and is a reflection of the competition between them for leadership in the Palestinian arena. Within this framework, they compete with one another to fund the funerals and provide financial support to the families of the perpetrators after their death, in the event they are killed during the attack.

The support for stabbing attacks is also reflected in the terminology used to describe these actions: the children carrying out the stabbings are referred to as “freedom fighters” and “fedayeen,” and their young friends describe them in romanticized heroic terms. Facebook pages contain many comparisons of the stabbing boys and girls to Hollywood heroes such as Batman, Spiderman, and Superman. Against the background of its declining status as the legitimate leadership among the younger generation, the Palestinian Authority has not proposed an alternative way to deal with the phenomenon.

Today’s social media has broken the state monopoly and accessibility to knowledge and information, and has thus made the world that exists outside the refugee camps open to young Palestinians. Teenage boys and girls are now exposed not only to their immediate physical surroundings but also to those of millions of their peers, in Israel and around the world, who enjoy better living conditions than they do. The voice of these young people echoing on the internet – in “virtual classes” – and the extensive exposure they receive there creates an illusion of capability and power. However, when these young people attempt to make an impact and effect change outside the virtual platforms, they run into a low glass ceiling in Palestinian society in every way. When all the roads are blocked, frustration and radicalization arise among the young generation, leading, inter alia, to the “children of knives.” Moreover, the frequency and glorification of stabbing attacks constitute a source of inspiration for young Palestinians suffering from personal hardship in their immediate surroundings.

The Limitations of Power: What Can or Cannot be Done

Neither the imposition of a physical obstacle nor airstrikes will prevent young Palestinians armed with smartphones and an internet connection from rapidly spreading their ideas. This combination of ideas, a world with no physical borders, and rapid means of dissemination greatly limits, and in fact obviates the chances of suppressing and eliminating this threat by military means. This aspect of social media is characteristic of both the messages that inspire terrorism and the criticism of the violence – regardless of its sources. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages cannot be “massacred”; their servers are frequently located outside the arena of confrontation, and attempts to carry out “targeted assassinations” of the internet in certain regions are not effective. The erasure of pages and the closing of accounts only result in the reestablishment and reopening of these and other pages and accounts, in a mutation-like pattern.

Yet the prevalent view in Israel, which regards the young Palestinians who dig tunnels and conduct stabbing attacks as products of a process of religious and political radicalization by Hamas and of incitement led by the Palestinian Authority waged on the social media, is imprecise and at best a partial picture. The social networks are communication tools – not the root of the problems. The efforts to take care of the symptom, i.e., incitement on social media, without addressing the illness, namely, the problematic core issues in the Palestinian arena,  including the hardships and sources of frustration of the young generation, will not serve to eradicate the phenomenon of children who turn to tunnels and knives.

On the other hand, alongside the efforts to implement operational (and partial) solutions to the symptoms – that is, the digging of attack tunnels and knife-based terrorism – and alongside action against incitement on the social networks, Israel should formulate an extensive plan of action that focuses on employment and the economy, and seeks to build a positive future for the children of the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. Reducing the attractiveness of joining the tunnel-digging teams in the Gaza Strip and doing away with the knife attacks as a means of national expression and as a solution to personal problems will require the promotion of solutions to hardships rooted in unemployment, poverty, and the impossibility of social mobility.

Israelis grapple with Pew finding of support for Arab expulsion

By Ben Sales                JTA


In a survey that spanned politics, religion and interfaith relations, one statistic stood out: nearly half of Israel’s Jews support expelling the country’s Arabs.

The Pew Research Center’s study of Israelis’ attitudes, which had its findings released Tuesday, had asked respondents whether they agreed that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” Forty-eight percent of Israeli Jews agreed, while 46 percent did not. Among self-described right-wing Jews, 72 percent agreed, along with 71 percent of religious Zionists.

The figure was inconsistent with the findings of previous studies and provoked strong reactions in a country that sees its Arab minority as proof of its commitment to democratic values and respect for diversity. It has also shined a spotlight on what has been seen previously as a fringe proposal. No party in the Israeli Knesset advocates mass population transfer, and it has never been seriously discussed as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The idea that the State of Israel could be a democracy only for its Jewish citizens is unconscionable and we must find a way to address this,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said at a meeting with officials of the Washington-based Pew center. “I believe that also our democratic values are born out of our Jewish faith, a love for the stranger and equality before the law.”

Rivlin called on the public to engage in “soul-searching and moral reflection.”

But Alan Cooperman, the Pew study’s lead author, says support for expulsion comports with other data points in the survey. Cooperman pointed to survey findings that nearly four out of five Israeli Jews say Israel should give preferential treatment to Jews, 60 percent of Israeli Jews believe God gave the land to them, and that majorities of religious Zionists and haredi Orthodox also feel Jewish law should be the law of the state.

“You see it really makes sense,” he said. “Support is strongest among [religious Zionists], very high among settlers.”

Analysts say Jewish animosity toward Israeli Arabs has been exacerbated by the recent wave of Palestinian terror attacks and a government response that some consider inflammatory. Rawnak Natour, the co-director of Sikkuy, a nonprofit that works toward Arab-Jewish coexistence, pointed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech decrying “two nations within Israel” following a January terror attack in Tel Aviv.

“I think there’s a feeling of fear here that’s strengthened by the political echelon,” Natour said. “There’s a lack of familiarity of the other side.”

The Pew finding on expulsion is significantly higher than other recent polls that have sought to measure Israeli attitudes toward coexistence. The 2015 Israel Democracy Index, a survey published annually by the Israel Democracy Institute, found 37.5 percent support for the government merely encouraging Arab emigration.

A 2015 poll by Haifa University Professor Sammy Smooha found that six in 10 Israeli Jews felt “it would be good for Arabs and Jews to always live together in Israel.” That survey also found 32 percent of respondents in favor of encouraging Arabs to leave Israel in exchange for compensation.

Israeli pollsters have laid blame on the question itself, calling it vague and misleading. Is the question about Israeli Arabs, West Bank Palestinians or both? When would this expulsion occur, and under what conditions? Would the Arab refugees be compensated?

“It was asked in a very unclear way,” said Tamar Hermann, academic director of IDI’s Guttman Center for Surveys. “If we didn’t get a majority on a more cautious and less aggressive version [of the question], what happened here? I would say take it with a grain of salt.”

The statistic is a sign not only of extremism but also of polarization in Israeli society, says Steven M. Cohen, a sociology professor at New York’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion who consulted on the Pew study. Regardless of the exact level of support, he called the figure a “warning sign” for Israeli and Jewish leaders.

“There’s a lot of support for this notion that God gave this land to me ­ not to them, to me,” Cohen said at a panel discussion of the survey Tuesday in Tel Aviv. “Is there a context in which it seems the authorities are trying to diminish the place of minorities in this country? Is that happening? If that’s happening, then this question becomes very critical.”

Israeli public has accepted the ‘routine of terror’

The IDF and Shin Bet’s recommendations for a diplomatic initiative or gesture of good will have fallen on deaf ears.

By Yossi Melman       The Jerusalem Post


Tuesday was an unusual day in the routine of terrorism. Five terrorist attacks, or attempted attacks, in three different places – east Jerusalem, Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv-Jaffa – which ended in the death of one person and left more than 10 wounded, purportedly signals an escalation.

US Vice President Joe Biden’s participation in an event at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, not far from one of the stabbings at the Jaffa Port and the Tel Aviv promenade, led to baseless claims that there was a connection between the attacks and his visit. The naked truth is that there was no connection. There also was no connection between the different terrorist attacks on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s assailants fit in with what we’ve known for more than five months, since the beginning of the third intifada, in which 34 Israelis and some 180 Palestinians have been killed. They were lone wolf attackers who do not belong to an organization. The majority of them are teenage boys and men, but some are even middle-aged women. Their weapons have included everything at hand – kitchen knives or home-made submachine guns. It can happen anywhere. In the territories, east Jerusalem, or anywhere within the Green Line.

This is an intifada that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Israel Police and the IDF are powerless in the face of. The terrorist attacks are not guided by any organization. The Shin Bet and security forces cannot gather intel on the attacks ahead of time. Therefore, they cannot be thwarted. In this reality, it is impossible to initiate steps, but only to react.

The reality is one of accepting the situation.

The public accepts the terrorist attacks as if they are God’s will, a cosmic event or an act of nature.

On the one hand this approach shows national strength. The mantra that we must continue with our routines has been absorbed well.

However, the public’s acceptance of the situation plays into the government’s hands. The ministers are not subject to criticism, and therefore they feel they can pull the wool over our eyes with nonsense proposals that have no chance of passing. And even if they do pass, they won’t change the reality.

The only chance to perhaps decrease the scope of the phenomenon is a diplomatic initiative or a serious gesture of good faith from Israel. That is what the operational echelon – the IDF and Shin Bet – have recommended, and almost begged for, but the recommendations and the proposals fall on the deaf ears of the prime minister and his cabinet. They feel secure, because they have no public pressure on them to change the reality.

In 1992, the murder of a young woman from Bat Yam sparked protests in the streets, which eventually led to elections which the apathetic and passive prime minister Yitzhak Shamir lost and Yitzhak Rabin ascended to the premiership.

That is not happening this time. The majority of the public is apathetic and accepts the situation without challenge or a demand for answers from the government.

In this situation, it is possible, unfortunately, that tomorrow or the next day, in a week, or later, all of a sudden by surprise, unnecessarily, another terrorist attack or attempted attack will occur. And once again the politicians, with media that do not want to expand their view beyond the tiles under their feet, will blame the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and incitement for being responsible for the situation, and will not take diplomatic steps that could possibly lessen the phenomenon.

The unpleasant truth is that the government is a prisoner of its own right-wing ideology. It refuses to make concessions that would lead it to give up land and dismantle Jewish settlements on the West Bank, because such measures contrast its ideology. This is a routine of terrorism that costs us in lives, but its scope is apparently acceptable to all.