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Latest News in Israel – 14th March

Israeli wounded in stabbing attack near Jerusalem’s Dung Gate

An Israeli was lightly wounded in a stabbing attack near Jerusalem’s Dung Gate on Friday afternoon. Magen David Adom was treating the Israeli, who sustained a stab wound to the upper body.

After fleeing from the scene police arrested a suspect  in the attack.

The wounded Israeli, a 30-year-old haredi man, was evacuated to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the capital.

Police said they located the suspect with the assistance of CCTV cameras that caught him hiding in one of the alleys of the Old City.

The suspect was a 19-year-old resident of the West Bank.

Late Thursday, the security cabinet approved the immediate renewal of construction work on the security barrier around the area of Jerusalem, in an effort to halt Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis.

The security cabinet also agreed to fast track legislation against those who help Palestinians to live and work illegally in the country and to make it easier to obtain permits to demolish the homes of terrorists.

Palestinian broadcasting stations that incite Palestinians against Israel will be closed, the cabinet decided.           (Jerusalem Post)

 IAF strikes Hamas terror targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire

The Israel Air Force struck multiple Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Saturday in retaliation for four Gazan rockets fired into the South of Israel.

The rockets set off warning sirens throughout the Sderot and the Sha’ar Hanegev regional council, sending local residents fleeing for cover. They exploded in an open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev region.

In response to the rocket attack, the IDF Spokesperson Office said :”The IDF holds the Hamas terrorist organization responsible for the Gaza Strip and will continue to work seriously in order to keep the peace in the southern localities.”

Authorities are still searching the area for signs of a rocket or missile.  No injuries have been reported.

The last time rocket sirens were activated along the Gaza frontier was in late January, when terrorists fired a rocket at southern Israel, triggering warning sirens in the Sha’ar Hanegev region on Sunday night.

On December 17, terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket at southern Israel, triggering warning sirens around Miflasim, which is close to the border with northern Gaza. The rocket exploded in an open area and did not cause any injuries.            (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinians say 2 Gaza children killed in overnight Israeli strikes

A 6-year-old girl who was critically injured in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip Friday night died of her wounds Saturday, officials in the Hamas-run enclave said. Earlier it was reported that her 10-year-old brother was killed in the bombing.

The Israeli strike had come in retaliation to rocket-fire at the southern town of Sderot on Friday. The IDF said it struck four Hamas targets in northern Gaza, with Palestinian sources saying the bombings occurred near the town of Beit Lahiya.

AFP reported that the victims’ home was located near one of the Hamas centers. Reuters said the home was hit by debris from a missile explosion nearby.

The Israeli army did not comment on the reports of the deaths, but said its air strikes were directed at Hamas terror infrastructure.

Reuters quoted IDF spokesman Peter Lerner saying the rocket fire from Gaza into Israel was an effort by terrorists to “threaten the security and safety of the people of southern Israel. The (military) will continue to act to protect against those who threaten innocent lives and Israel’s sovereignty,” he said.

Hamas’s Health Ministry said 10-year-old Yassin Sleiman Abu Khussa was killed. His 6-year-old sister Isaa and 13-year-old brother were injured in the airstrikes, with Isaa later dying of her wounds.

On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people attended Yassin’s funeral.

At least four rockets launched from Gaza landed in an open field near Sderot on Friday night. All four rockets fell in open areas.

Rocket sirens sounded in the Sha’ar Hanegev area and in Sderot ahead of the projectiles’ fall.

No organization claimed responsibility for the launch, which came at around the same time as a shooting attack in the West Bank that left two IDF soldiers lightly hurt.

Earlier Friday evening, Hamas hacked into the private satellite feed of Israel’s Channel 2, interrupting broadcasts with a video promising its “terror will never end.” The rockets were fired soon after.

Israel has said in the past that it holds the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group, which rules the Strip, as responsible for any attacks initiated from within the Palestinian coastal enclave.  (The Times of Israel)

Two IDF soldiers shot by  Palestinian terrorist on Highway 443

A suspected Palestinian terrorist shot two IDF soldiers on Highway 443 late Friday.

According to Magen David Adom, the two soldiers were lightly wounded in the shooting.

The incident took place near an army checkpoint not far from Beit Horon. Initial reports indicate that the wounded soldiers, both of them in their 20s, were rushed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

One of the victims suffered a bullet wound to his lower extremities while the other suffered wounds to his limbs.

According to the military, a Palestinian motorist drove up to an IDF-manned checkpoint near the settlement of Beit Horon.

As the soldiers conducted a search of the Palestinian’s vehicle, the motorist pulled out a gun and shot the soldiers. He then sped off, fleeing the scene.

Large contingents of IDF troops were summoned to the scene to conduct a search of the area.   (Jerusalem Post)

Security cabinet approves completion of barrier around Jerusalem

The security cabinet late Thursday night approved the immediate renewal of construction work on the security barrier around the area of Jerusalem, in an effort to halt Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis.

It was one of a series of measures the cabinet took just hours after US Vice President Joe Biden flew out of Ben-Gurion Airport for Jordan.

The security barrier has been largely frozen since 2007. Only some 470 km. of its 790-km. route has been erected. It has yet to be built around the Gush Etzion, Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim settlement blocs.

There are also gaps in the barrier around Jerusalem that need to be completed.

The US has opposed construction of the barrier in the West Bank, but while Biden was here opposition leader Issac Herzog spoke with the vice president about the need to finish it.

It’s part of an overall separation plan Herzog has been promoting for the last month by way of lambasting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to deal with the wave of terrorism.

“Only separation will stop terrorism. If we do not separate from the Palestinians, the Jews will continue to be killed here,” he told Biden.

The Prime Minister’s Office had no further details about the renewal of the barrier’s construction, including where the building would start or how much it would cost.

Gaps are also to be closed by the Tarkumiya checkpoint that divides the West Bank from the area of Kiryat Gat.

The security cabinet agreed to fast track legislation against those who help Palestinians to live and work illegally in the country and to make it easier to obtain permits to demolish the homes of terrorists.

Palestinian broadcasting stations that incite Palestinians against Israel will be closed, the cabinet decided.

In Ramallah on Thursday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said he is opposed to violence and extremism, but did not condemn terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Biden spoke in Jordan with King Abdullah about ways to stop the violence that spiked amid his visit to Israel, including an attack that killed a visiting US veteran, Taylor Force, 28.

During his two days in Israel and the Palestinian territories Biden held similar conversations with Netanyahu and Abbas, without any tangible results.

The vice president’s calls to the PA to denounce terrorist attacks went unheeded.

Speaking at a press conference with visiting Romanian President Klaus Johannis in Ramallah, Abbas said the Palestinians are continuing to seek peace based on justice

“We are against violence and extremism, regardless of its source,” Abbas said in an apparent response to demands from the US administration to condemn terrorist attacks against Israelis.

“Our hands are extended for peace based on justice and right.”

Abbas said that the ongoing status quo is “intolerable.” He said that peace and coexistence require “decisive decisions” by the Israeli government, including a freeze of settlement construction.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, who met on Thursday with Danish politicians in Jericho, accused the Israeli government of working toward “destroying the two-state solution.”

Erekat complained that Israel is imposing its dictates on the Palestinians, creating new facts on the ground, demolishing houses and carrying out ethnic cleansing and extra-judicial executions.

Erekat called for the release of Palestinian legislators and activists held by Israel, including Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti, Hamas’s Hassan Yusef, the PFLP’s Ahmed Sadat and female parliament member Khalida Jarrar.

Separately, as Biden left Israel controversy swirled again over the relationship between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu.

In an interview with Israel Radio, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that Netanyahu canceled his meeting with Obama because the two countries are still working out the details of a 10-year American defense package for Israel.

Netanyahu had initially requested and then turned down a meeting with Obama toward the end of the month. His office had said he canceled out of fear he might be forced to meet with presidential candidates and then would be seen as interfering in the election.

But Hotovely said, “There was a decision not to go to the president as long the agreement over the compensation package is not concluded.”

While in Israel, Biden urged Netanyahu to come to an agreement with Obama about the aid package before the president leaves office in January 2017. He warned that the next president might not be as generous.

Current US military grants to Israel, worth about $3 billion annually, expire in 2018.

Israel, which last year requested $5b. in future annual aid but whose officials have since set their sights on $4b. to $4.5b., says it needs to expand its military, rather than just upgrade technologies, given spiraling arms procurement it anticipates by archfoe Iran and Arab states.

US officials have given lower target figures of around $3.7b.

The dispute prompted Israeli officials to hint that Netanyahu may bank on Obama’s successor for a better deal.

“The prime minister wants to honor the US president by going when there is a basis, good news on the matter of the US aid package,” she said.   (Jerusalem Post)

Suspected Palestinian hackers interrupt TV broadcast with ominous message

Suspected Palestinians hackers briefly overtook an Israeli television broadcast Friday evening.

During the airing of a popular television show “Big Brother” on Channel 2, the broadcast was briefly interrupted by a clip showing images of terror attacks and threatening messages in Hebrew.

“Stay in your homes,” begins the ominous text. “The story is not over…there is more to come.”

At the bottom of the message reads in Arabic: “Al-Quds Intifada.”

Al-Quds intifada refers to the rash of terrorist violence Israel has experience for some six months, seeing nearly 30 Israelis killed and dozens more injured.

Earlier in the day, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) together with the IDF and Israel Police shut down an Islamic Jihad media channel in Ramallah, according to security forces.

The move comes one day after the security-diplomatic cabinet approved a decision to close Palestinian media outlets that incite to terrorism against Israelis. The decision was taken following a spate of Palestinian knife and firearm attacks around the country in recent days.

The Falastin Al-Yom outlet is a television broadcast station, which also uses social media networks to send out its content.

The channel’s manager, 34-year-old Faruk Aliat, from Bir Zeit, an Islamic Jihad operative who has been in an Israeli prison in the past, was arrested during the raid.

OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Roni Nume, citing 1945 emergency laws, declared the channel to be an illegal organization, paving the way for its closure.

Incitement to terrorism “serves the interest of terror organizations, to widen the circle of terrorists carrying out attacks against targets in Israel and Judea and Samaria,” the Shin Bet said.                 (Jerusalem Post)

Israel seizes guns, gun-making tools in the West Bank

The Shin Bet, together with the IDF, has seized dozens of homemade weapons and gun-making equipment in Palestinian cities in the West Bank over the past few months, the security service announced on Sunday.

During one raid on Saturday, Shin Bet officers confiscated 15 rifles that had been hidden in the Yabad village, outside Jenin.

The officers learned of the weapons’ locations after interrogating a gunsmith they had arrested and questioned earlier, the service said.

On March 1, security forces conducted a similar raid in Nablus, seizing guns, bullets and weapon-making equipment.

“The IDF and the Shin Bet are constantly carrying out operations to thwart the creation and sale of weaponry in the West Bank,” the Shin Bet said this month.

Improvised submachine guns, based off the Carl Gustav design, have been used frequently and to devastating effect in the ongoing wave of violence.

Most recently, two Palestinian terrorists opened fire with two Carl Gustav submachine guns at a city bus in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem and then at police officers near the Old City. During the firefight, an elderly Arab Israeli man was seriously injured.

The day before, a Palestinian gunman shot and seriously injured two police officers with a Carl Gustav-style submachine gun in a drive-by shooting in East Jerusalem.

Three terrorists armed with such guns also shot and killed 19-year-old Border Police officer Hadar Cohen in February.

Some 68 shooting attacks have been carried out in the West Bank and Jerusalem since October 1, many of them with this kind of fabricated gun, the IDF said in a statement.

Twenty-nine Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed in a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October. Over 180 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.      (The Times of Israel)

Ya’alon heads to US to discuss renewal of Israel’s military aid package

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon left for the United States on Saturday night for working meetings that will include talks about the renewal of a

10-year military aid package between the two countries.

The package, known as the Memorandum of Understanding, is set to expire in 2018. It guarantees Israel $3 billion annually in military aid.

Israel wants hat sum raised to anywhere from $ 4 billion to $5 billion annually given the growing threats in the region. The US only wants to raise it to $3.7 a year for ten-years.

When US Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel last week he urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to finalized the deal while US President Barack Obama was still in office, warning that the next administration could offer Israel a worse deal.

While in the US Ya’alon will meet with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to discuss ways to deepen America’s security cooperation with Israel.

He will meet separately with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He will discuss with both men the latest developments with regard to regional threats.   (Jerusalem Post)

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General Dore Gold in South Africa

During his official visit to South Africa, MFA Director General Dr. Dore Gold honored the memory of Nelson Mandela by visiting his home in Soweto. Signing the guest book he wrote: “We Jews understand implicitly the struggle for freedom which Nelson Mandela led here. For us, Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.”

He also met with South African students at the University of the Witwatersrand and addressed the deepening of the ties between the two countries: “As Israel continues to upgrade its dialogue with South Africa it is essential that both countries deepen their understandings of each other’s narrative.”

DG Dr. Gold met with Christian leaders in South Africa. Luba Mayekiso, founder of the Africa for Israel Christian Coalition said: “What excites us the most is the potential between our two countries. Israel has solutions for the challenges that South Africa faces today and as religious leaders we can effect change and we know what is in the hearts of the people of South Africa.”

Gold remarked: “What I continue to find in South Africa is warm hearts. The people of South Africa want to partner with Israel. We are coming back to Africa and we are excited about the potential.”           (MFA)

Yisrael Kristal, Holocaust survivor from Israel, is world’s oldest man

It’s official: The oldest man in the world is Israeli Holocaust survivor Yisrael Kristal, age 112.

Kristal, a resident of Haifa who survived Auschwitz, was handed a certificate by the Guinness World Records on Friday according him the status as the oldest known man on the planet.

The recognition was first reported by the British newspaper The Guardian.

A grandson of Kristal was contacted in January by the US-based Gerontology Research Group following the death of Yasutaro Koide in Japan, who was also 112.


According to the organization, Kristal is now the oldest living man on record, although this still needs to be validated by his documentation.

Kristal was born on September 15, 1903, to a religious family in the town of Zarnov in the Lodz province of Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. His mother died in 1910. His father was a Torah scholar and Kristal himself went to heder, or religious primary school, until the age of 11.

During the First World War, Kristal’s father was forced into military service with the Russian Army, but survived the war and returned home.

Kristal married and had two children, eventually moving to Lodz, where he established a successful candy factory.

Following the Nazi invasion of Poland and the occupation of Lodz, Kristal was moved into the Lodz ghetto with his family but was allowed to continue operating his factory.

His two children died in the Lodz Ghetto before its liquidation, while Kristal and his wife were sent to Auschwitz.

Kristal’s wife was murdered there, but he survived doing forced labor in the concentration camp and other camps as well.

After the war he returned to Lodz and reestablished his candy factory, marrying again in 1947.

In 1950, he made aliya with his wife and their infant son, Haim, and settled in Haifa, where he has remained ever since. The couple had a daughter, Shula, and Kristal, doing what he knew, established a candy factory in the city called Kristal’s Sweets.

He has remained religious throughout his life, putting on tefillin and praying every day, reciting the prayers by heart since his eyesight is poor.

“The Holocaust did not affect his beliefs,” his daughter, Shula Kuperstoch, told The Jerusalem Post.

“He believes he was saved because that’s what God wanted. He is not an angry person, he is not someone who seeks an accounting. He believes everything has a reason in the world,” she said.

“My father is someone who is always happy. He is optimistic, wise, and he values what he has,” Kristal’s daughter continued.

“His attitude to life is: Everything in moderation,” she said. “He eats and sleeps moderately, and says that a person should always be in control of his own life and not have his life control him, as far as this is possible.”

Kuperstoch said that her father does not ascribe particular importance to his advanced age, seeing it as just the simple circumstances of his life and nothing especially unusual. He attributes his extreme longevity to God, and believes that his old age is simply a form of divine grace that has been bestowed upon him.

“He says that if he had created some medicine to extend life then it would be something notable,” said Kuperstoch. “But his attitude is that he has just lived his life, and reached this age, it’s just his reality, it wasn’t in his hands. That’s what he believes.”               (Jerusalem Post)

One in four life science innovations has Israeli roots, says expert

Few people realize that more than one out of every four of the medicines, treatments, and technologies in use today have Israeli roots.

“Research in Israel is present in between 25% and 28% of the world’s successful biotech-based solutions,” according to Ruti Alon, a General Partner at Pitango Venture Capital and chairperson of the upcoming IATI-Biomed Conference, set to take place in Tel Aviv in May. “Many of the patents in pharmaceuticals that are now being used to treat cancer, heart problems, and much more were developed at Israeli institutions like Hebrew University or the Weizmann Institute,”

“All of the big pharma and health tech firms, from Merck to Pfizer to Sanofi, and many more, have R&D centers in Israel, and there are dozens, if not hundreds of start-ups that over the years have come up with unique solutions to some of the most pressing problems in biotech,” said Alon.

Some of those solutions and patents are part of the main treatments in some of the world’s most devastating diseases.

Exelon, for example, is a treatment for Alzheimer’s that helps patients cope with the disease and remain independent longer. Marketed by Novartis, the drug is based on research that was conducted at Hebrew University. Doxil, sold by Johnson and Johnson, effectively helps treat numerous cancers, and it, too, was developed at Hebrew U, along with researchers at Hadassah Medical Center. And, of course, there’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, developed at the Weizmann Institute and marketed by Israel’s own Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Many of Israel’s biotech and life science solutions were first introduced to the world at the annual IATI-Biomed Conference, now in its 15th year.

“Having been involved in life science investments for many years, I realized the value of what we have here, but finding ways to get the rest of the world to realize it proved challenging,” said Alon. “So we organized the conference in order to create a ‘business card’ for the Israel biotech and life science industries.”

If anyone would know the value of those industries, it would be Alon, one of the two general partners, along with founder Chemi Peres, of Pitango, one of Israel’s biggest venture capital funds (the firm has $1.6 billion under management and investments in over 180 companies). Pitango is also the biggest investor in life science companies in Israel, and currently has a dozen life science firms in its active portfolio.

Among them are BrainsGate, which has developed a device that enhances blood flow to patients’ brains for up to 24 hours, which can help millions of stroke victims around the world; AposTherapy, which has developed a nonsurgical, drug-free method to treat musculoskeletal abnormalities and injuries for athletes; and LifeBond, which is developing a line of biosurgical products for prevention of surgical leakage and bleeding.

Israel’s biotech and life science industries are indeed thriving, according to numbers from conference sponsor IATI, the Israel Advanced Tech Industries group. Currently there are about 1,380 active life sciences companies in Israel, most of them (66%) less than a decade old. Ninety-eight new life sciences start-ups were established in Israel on average in each of the last seven years.

About 100 of those start-ups will show off their technologies and developments at the conference, which will take place over three days (May 24-26) in Tel Aviv. Because there is so much to cover, said Alon, the conference will be split into nine tracks, with top experts from Israel and around the world presenting research and papers on areas like immunoncology, medical robotics, neurological disorders, health IT, and even genetic editing.

“It’s a new format for conferences like this, but we think industry members, as well as the many visitors from abroad, will find it easier to work with, as it will give them a greater opportunity to engage with the areas they are specifically interested in,” said Alon.

Previous conferences have annually hosted over 6,000 industry senior executives, scientists, and engineers, including approximately 1,000 participants from over 45 countries.

An all-star line-up of speakers will include executives and experts from companies like Roche, Pfizer, IBM, Sanofi, Novartis, Mayo Clinic Ventures and Bristol Myers to present on issues like biotherapeutics, oncology, cardiology, pharmaceutical development, government approval and compliance, and much more.

“Participants will be able to enjoy roundtable discussions, panel presentations, networking opportunities and product demonstrations, exploring innovation and trends that are shaping the future of healthcare systems and the life science ecosystem,” said Alon.

And over the years, the conference has more than fulfilled its role of presenting Israel’s life science and biotech to the world.

“A few years ago, we invited the CEO of Irish med-tech giant Covidien (now a part of Medtronic) to speak at the conference,” said Alon. “It was his first visit here, and he and his staff were quite surprised to see what Israel was doing in this area. They ended up buying four Israeli firms before they were acquired – and yes, the Medtronic people will be at the conference too, and it would not be surprising if they followed in Covidien’s footsteps.”                 (The Times of Israel)

Why No Consequences for Abbas?

by Jonathan S. Tobin   Commentary Magazine


If the Mahmoud Abbas was looking to validate President Obama’s view of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, fate had given him the perfect opportunity. The terrorist attack in the old city of Jaffa that took the life of an American tourist not far from where a visiting Vice President Biden was having dinner was a moment when the PA leader could have sent a strong statement to both the world and his own people that the “stabbing intifada” had run its course. He could have seized on the incident as an indication that the murder spree in which individual Palestinians have attempted to randomly murder Jews wherever they could be found was hurting their cause. The fact that the American victim was not Jewish and that Arabs were among those wounded could have served as an excuse to say that such actions deserved the condemnation of the entire Palestinian people.

But that did not happen.

Abbas not only failed to make a statement about the immoral nature of this intifada or that it was counterproductive. He also did not even condemn it. He did offer condolences to Biden about the death of Taylor Force, a 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he compounded the failure to condemn by saying that “occupation authorities” have killed 200 Palestinians in recent months without mentioning the fact that almost all of those fatalities were individuals who were engaging in terror attacks or otherwise violently attacking Israeli forces.

Of course, that wasn’t all that was wrong about the Palestinian response to the attack. Official Palestinian Authority television ­ an entity that is directly controlled by Abbas’s government ­ called the Jaffa terrorist a “martyr” who earned praise for what they called a “complex operation.” The report also referred to the slain American and the ten people injured in the “operation,” which consisted of the terrorist running along the Jaffa port and the Tel Aviv beach promenade stabbing passers-by, as “settlers.” The social media operated by Abbas’s Fatah Party also called the Jaffa assailant a “hero” and a “martyr.” Nor is this an aberration since the PA has treated all Palestinians who commit terror against Israelis and Jews as martyrs. Abbas also referred to the perpetrator of another Palestinian attack this week as a martyr.

This language is significant because it indicates once again that the government of Abbas, the man President Obama has lauded as a moderate and a champion for peace, not only isn’t willing to condemn terrorism but also thinks of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa beachfront as “occupied territory” inhabited by “settlers.” Though Abbas at times pays lip service to believing in a two-state solution, the reaction to this and other acts of terrorism that occurs in land that is inside the 1967 lines shows that he and the PA think of all of Israel as “occupied” and not just the West Bank or even parts of Jerusalem.

This makes sense when you consider that Abbas has already refused an offer of peace and independence that would have given the Palestinians the state they claim to desire in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem. Moreover, even though President Obama is seeking to lay down a framework for Middle East peace via a United Nations Security Council Resolution that would enshrine those terms in law in a way that would further limit Israel’s negotiating position, Abbas reportedly refused to acquiesce to this very pro-Palestinian plan when Biden presented it to him yesterday.

Why? Because doing so would have also required Abbas to give up on the right of return for the descendants of 1948 Palestinian refugees and to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Both conditions remain unacceptable even to Palestinian moderates for the very same reason that PA TV calls Jews in Tel Aviv “settlers.” They won’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

To his credit, Biden not only condemned the terror attack but also “the failure to condemn these acts,” a pointed reference to Abbas though he didn’t call him out by name.

But at this point, with the Palestinians apparently committed to a campaign of terror and opposed to even the friendliest efforts by the administration to promote peace, the question is what will Washington do about it?

Will the U.S. end aid to the PA as an organization that aids and abets terror? Will it cease calling on Israel to hand over more territory to a PA that is committed to supporting terrorism? Will it promise to veto any effort at the UN to give them statehood without first making peace with Israel as well as to oppose further efforts by the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders?

The answer to all those questions is no.

That’s because despite all of the evidence that the Palestinians are interested in Israel’s destruction rather than peace, President Obama remains convinced that it is Israel and its government that is the obstacle to ending the conflict.

That’s one of the many fascinating nuggets of information in Jeffrey Goldberg’s wide-ranging interview with the president in The Atlantic . Despite all evidence to the contrary, Obama thinks Netanyahu “could bring about a two-state solution that would protect Israel’s status as a Jewish-majority democracy, but is too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so.” That’s why Obama, who knew little about the Middle East when he entered the White House, was convinced that peace could be obtained by creating more “daylight” between Israel and the U.S., and it’s what he still thinks today.

Nothing the Palestinians do or say is enough to shake the president of his ignorant assumptions and more than seven years into his presidency, and he shows no sign of learning from his mistakes now.

No doubt Biden was angered by Abbas’s refusal to even pay lip service to what a decent leader ought to do when he met with him, and that’s why there was no joint appearance or statement after their meeting. But the Palestinians don’t care much about that. They are hopeful a French diplomatic initiative will do them more good since it seems geared toward gaining them recognition without having to give up anything in exchange.

But if Biden and his boss are frustrated by Abbas, they need to do more than issue oblique statements. This administration is fond of ginning up conflicts with Netanyahu in which they can accuse the Israelis of insulting the president or even the vice president. But they appear ready to do nothing when Abbas spits in Biden’s face. Action is required to show the Palestinians that they will gain nothing from support for terrorism. But to a president who thinks he knows more about what is good for Israel than the Israelis and who has always refused to concede that it is the Palestinians that don’t want peace, even Abbas’s support for terrorism is not enough to distract him from his grudge against Netanyahu.

Israel Ramps Up Fight Against Tunnelers With ‘The Obstacle’

Security officials race to develop an underground defense system, fearing Hamas may be rebuilding its subterranean network

By Rory Jones and Orr Hirschauge                              The Wall Street Journal

One morning early last month, Ahmed al Zahar picked up a scarf, left his mobile phone in the kitchen and headed out to help build a tunnel underneath the Gaza Strip near the border with Israel.

Hours later, he was dead, after an underground passageway he was working on collapsed.

A member of the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the secretive militant arm of the Islamist movement Hamas, Mr. Zahar is one of at least 10 operatives who have died since the middle of January trying to create an underground network that could move weapons and supplies in any conflict with Israel, a more technologically advanced foe.

His parents have been told little about where and why their 23-year-old son died on Feb. 2, but they knew he worked for Al-Qassam. And despite his death, they support the digging.

“They are not safe,” Ahmed’s father Haidar al Zahar, 62, said of the tunnels from his home in Gaza City. “[But] tunnels guarantee safety and security for the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli officials and analysts say the digging could push the two sides toward conflict again, although Hamas officials have recently tried to play down the threat the tunnels represent.

Israel fought a 50-day war with Gaza’s rulers Hamas in 2014 to destroy a tunnel network. Since then, it has tightly controlled the movement of building materials, such as cement, into Gaza.

But that hasn’t stopped Hamas from digging.

Amid the flurry of recent deaths of Al-Qassam operatives, Israeli officials have been scrambling to train the country’s soldiers in underground combat—and to buttress its defenses.

Israeli security officials recently presented a proposal to a parliamentary committee to fund, develop and construct a system to detect and destroy cross-border tunnels, according to Israeli lawmakers.

Known as “The Obstacle,” the system is being funded in part by the U.S. government, which has agreed to offer $40 million this year, according to Israeli and U.S. officials.

The details of the system are confidential but security analysts say the technology is likely to use acoustic sensors that detect the sounds of digging.

The race to develop an underground defense system comes at a particularly tense moment for Israel and Hamas.

Over the past five months, Hamas militants have tried but largely failed to escalate a spate of stabbings and shootings in Israel and the occupied West Bank into a wider Palestinian uprising. An attack via a tunnel from Gaza remains a dangerous prospect, one that has divided Israeli lawmakers about how to respond.

In the war of 2014, Hamas mounted assaults on Israeli forces through a labyrinth of tunnels. The subsequent Israeli ground offensive in Gaza led to the deaths of 2,205 Palestinians and 71 Israelis and the destruction of 18,000 Palestinian homes.

Although the tunnel attacks spurred public criticism of its defenses, Israel had been making progress thwarting militant attacks from the sky. In 2011, the Israeli military introduced the ‘Iron Dome’ defense system, the first missile-defense system capable of detecting and destroying short-range missiles within seconds.

But like the Iron Dome system, which went through several iterations before it reliably shot down short-range missiles, The Obstacle isn’t expected to be completely effective initially, officials say.

At the same time, Israel’s army is investing millions of dollars to train hundreds in subterranean combat. It is building an advanced training facility in the north of Israel, called Snir, which will have hundreds of meters of tunnels and cost more than $50 million.

Soldiers will learn how to approach the entrance of a tunnel and fight inside, although combat underground is discouraged in most cases, according to Brig. Gen. Einav Shalev, commander of the Israeli military’s ground forces department.

The military is also spending millions of dollars on an elite engineering unit, called the Yahalom, or “Diamond” in Hebrew, to destroy tunnels without risking soldiers’ lives.

The unit is adding personnel, robots and other equipment to understand the size and depth of tunnels and how to destroy them without damaging buildings and infrastructure above.

“We understand that this is a big issue, and that we can’t just solve it [immediately],” Gen. Shalev said.

Hamas’ underground network into Israel—before the 2014 war largely destroyed it—was built over years by Palestinian workers who used sophisticated machinery and thousands of tons of cement. Militants created tunnels up to 3 miles long at a cost of up to $10 million each, according to Israeli officials.

With the help of the United Nations, Israel has since kept a close eye on cement and other materials moving into Gaza, which has helped slow economic and social development after the war.

Few Palestinian homes have been rebuilt since the war but cement distributors in Gaza say that some of the materials passing into the strip are being used for tunnel construction.

“The trick is that either the man receives more cement than he really needs or he uses part of the amount and sells the rest,” said Abu Feras, a distributor in Gaza. “In both cases, cement makes it to the black market.”

Those who dig the tunnels, like the late Mr. Zahar, are engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with Israeli intelligence. Mr. Zahar told his family almost nothing of his work on the tunnels, only that he wanted to be part of the resistance to what he perceived as Israel’s occupation of Gaza.

He used to leave his mobile phone at home to avoid Israeli intelligence. His parents would hear nothing from him all day.

His father says that rebuilding a tunnel network similar to the one that existed before 2014 is the priority for Gaza—more so than reconstructing homes destroyed during the war. That way, he argues, Hamas can continue to disrupt Israel’s security and push for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“Rebuilding Gaza is a matter of time,” he said. “But building tunnels is the priority if we want to finish what we started.”

“Jerusalem Prayer” – A New Song for Peace by Shmuel Halevi

This information is compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman, Board Member of the Zionist Council of NSW