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Latest News in Israel – 4th June

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

PM Netanyahu’s Jerusalem Day Message

Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people. It always has, and it always will. Our forefather Abraham passed the “greatest test of faith” in Jerusalem. King David named Jerusalem as the eternal Jewish capital 3,000 years ago. King Solomon built the first Jewish Temple. Where? Jerusalem. Then the Jews who were exiled and returned from Babylon rebuilt the Temple. Then there is the story of Hanukkah and the Maccabees. About 2,000 years later, the soldiers in the IDF recaptured the old city and what remained of the destroyed Temple.

We will not let anyone tell us that Abraham never existed as the father of the Jewish people and passed his greatest test in JERUSALEM. We will not let anyone tell us that thousands of years ago, King David never named Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or that King Solomon never built our first Temple. No, we will not deny our past. (Israel Video Network)


Israel’s political instability reaches the White House

U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on Israel’s political dysfunction Sunday, saying that an “all messed up” Jerusalem needs to “get [its] act together” following the inability of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to form a government in the wake of recent elections.

“Bibi got elected. Now, all of a sudden, they’re going to have to go through the process again until September? That’s ridiculous. So we’re not happy about that,” he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname and referencing the timeframe for new elections set by a parliament that dissolved itself last week.

President Trump is not alone in his conviction, with most commentators describing the political fiasco as a blow to the Israeli political system, which was unable to produce the result favored by the electorate. However, the American leader seemed less concerned about the state of Israeli democracy than with the wrench it has thrown into the planned unveiling of his much-hyped Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal.

Indeed, according to reports, Washington is now contemplating shelving the political elements of the plan until 2020, at which point the U.S. election cycle will be in full swing and any diplomatic failure could hurt President Trump’s bid for a second term in office. The US administration is also reportedly debating canceling a “workshop” scheduled for later this month in Bahrain, where the Americans intended to unveil the economic components of the plan geared toward improving Palestinian living conditions.

There are ample shoulders on which to lay the blame, including those of the Palestinian Authority, which has repeatedly rejected engagement in any US-led negotiating process and recently announced that it would boycott the 25-26 conference in Manana. President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, appeared to shoot back in an interview published on Monday in which he cast doubt on Ramallah’s ability to “become capable of governing” the West Bank.

That, in turn, came on the heels of the leak of a recording in which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo conceded during a closed-door meeting with American-Jewish leaders that the peace plan could be “unexecutable.”

President Trump said Pompeo “may be right” after hearing about the comment.

Lenny Ben-David, a former deputy chief at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and currently director of publications at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told The Media Line he tended to agree.

“I do not think that any peace plan could [at this juncture] receive Palestinian approval, including the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia,” he said. “This is because the geopolitical reality has fundamentally changed, and the Palestinians are very upset about the [rapprochement] between regional [Sunni] countries and Israel. The PA is no longer comfortable with the positions of some Arab nations, which have moved on.”

In this respect, Ben-David further noted that President Trump had already upended the status quo of the peace process by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and parts of the Golan Heights as being under Israeli sovereignty. Notably, these moves garnered relatively tepid reactions from most Middle Eastern capitals, lending credence to the claim that intra-Arab politics at least partially accounts for the White House’s collective headache.

The other elephant in the room – not to mention the lukewarm response to the plan by key U.S. allies Egypt and Jordan – is that Israel is unlikely to have a new government in place, if at all, before December. That the U.S. administration favors Netanyahu’s reelection is no secret, but presenting the peace proposal during his campaign could provide ammunition to the prime minister’s opponents – on the right and the left – should it call for significant Israeli concessions.

Dr. Emmanuel Navon, professor of international relations at Tel Aviv University and a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, agrees that Israel’s transitional government is unlikely to make any significant decisions on the peace process without a clear mandate from the public.

“Netanyahu was not able to form a narrow right-wing coalition, which would have had members who oppose the peace plan,” he told The Media Line, adding that “the best chance for Trump” would be a national unity government between Netanyahu and the centrist Blue and White list, which would be more flexible to making concessions.

“At this point, though,” Navon said, “people seem ready to dump Netanyahu – including some within his Likud – and this has to be taken into account as well.”

Indeed, much hinges on whether Netanyahu is even reelected, although most opinion polls show the Likud and smaller right-wing factions – the Israeli prime minister’s “natural partners” – increasing their representation in parliament. Nevertheless, many analysts argue that it is too early to make predictions given that the political landscape could be totally reshaped before Israelis head to the ballot boxes.

First, it is worth noting that Benny Gantz, a political novice and former chief of staff of the Israeli military, created Blue and White only a few months before the April elections yet still managed to equal the 35 mandates Netanyahu’s Likud received. The possibility of other political blocs emerging is a virtual certainty, with rumors of behind-the-scenes machinations already swirling.

There are reports that Ayelet Shaked, the popular justice minister freshly-fired by Netanyahu, would eventually join the Likud, a move that cannot be ruled out in light of the dynamics of Israeli politics. Furthermore, Naftali Bennett, Shaked’s co-leader of the New Right party, which failed to cross the electoral threshold, has made overtures to various right-wing parties with the aim of forming – yet again – a “united right-wing front.”

Regarding the Center, Blue and White officials say their list will remain intact, but historical precedent proves there are no guarantees and that a last-minute split is possible. There is also talk of the left-of-center Labor Party merging with Meretz, considered the farthest-left party on the Zionist political spectrum, to offset the potential that both could fall short of the threshold needed to enter the next parliament.

All of this, meanwhile, has happened in less than a week – which is to say that three months is an eternity in Israeli politics. Hence, voter fatigue must be factored in, as turnout in September is expected to be lower than in April. This could have a determining impact on which parties cross the electoral threshold, especially when considering that Bennett and Shaked’s New Right fell only 1,500 votes short last time around. Its inclusion in parliament, along with that of another right-wing party that also just missed the cut-off, would have greatly enhanced Netanyahu’s chances of forming a government.

As things stand, then, chaos is the word of the day. Lucky for them, both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu thrive in this type of environment and, therefore, may still be holding aces, if not wild cards, up their respective sleeves to be played moving forward.        (Jerusalem Post) Charles Bybelzer / The Media Line

In Israel, Blair says Corbyn is an anti-Semite, but doesn’t know it

UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite, who doesn’t know that he is one, Tony Blair said Monday during a visit to Israel, speaking of the “shameful” anti-Semitism scandal that has engulfed the opposition party.

Blair, a former prime minister and long-time leader of Labour said he no longer recognizes the party he led from 1994 until 2007.

“To be frank, this anti-Semitism row, it’s a shameful thing,” said Blair who was interviewed at a panel event at the Bar Ilan University just outside Tel Aviv.

“If you told me, not merely back in May 1997, but at any point in the next 10 years that the party I led for 13 years would have a problem with anti-Semitism, I would literally not have credited it, or believed it, and yet it is, and it’s there today,” said Blair.

Jewish groups have accused Corbyn, a far-left politician, of allowing a massive surge in anti-Semitism within the ranks of the party that was once considered the natural home of British Jewry. Thousands of cases of alleged hate speech against Jews have been recorded within Labour since 2015, when Corbyn was elected to lead the party.

The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, a racism watchdog, announced last week it had launched a formal investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

“When I established [the EHRC], I never dreamed it would be investigating the Labour party,” he said.

Asked if he believed Corbyn, himself was anti-Semitic, Blair said yes.

“Some of the remarks are not explicable in any other way I’m afraid and that is sad,” said Blair. “Does he think he is? No, he doesn’t think he is at all.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has accused Corbyn of encouraging anti-Semitic rhetoric and at times engaging in it, though he disputes the claim.

Corbyn has vowed to punish any party member caught making racist statements, yet he has defended a number of members who made vitriolic anti-Semitic remarks, and has expelled hardly any members despite more than 850 formal complaints. Last month he admitted in a secret recording that evidence of racism against Jews in his party may have been “mislaid, ignored or not used.”

Corbyn himself has drawn criticism for his actions. Last year he expressed regret for having defended a 2012 anti-Semitic mural in London’s East End. The mural, named Freedom of Humanity, was painted on a property near Brick Lane by the Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Kalen Ockerman. It depicted a group of men — seemingly caricatures of Jewish bankers and businessmen — counting their money on a Monopoly board which is balanced on the back of naked workers.

Earlier this month, Corbyn was found to have authored a glowing foreword to a book that claims that Jews control global financial systems and describes them as “men of a single and peculiar race.”

In addition, the Hamas terror group has thanked Corbyn for his solidarity in recognizing Palestinian mourning over the 71st anniversary of the formation of the State of Israel.

The Labour leader has in the past been criticized for calling terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” when inviting members for a parliamentary meeting in 2009. He later downplayed the comment and said he regretted using the term.

Last year it emerged that in 2014 Corbyn attended a ceremony that honored the terrorists behind the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre. He later said, “I was present when [a wreath] was laid, I don’t think I was actually involved in it.

Blair said the party would fail to survive if it did not adequately confront anti-Semitism in its ranks.

“For the Labour party in Britain this is a huge challenge. It’s got to rise to the challenge and it’s got to defeat this anti-Semitism and if it doesn’t it will imperil the Labour party, and it should if it is not rooted out or defeated,” he said.

Blair declined to say if he would vote for Labour in the next elections under Corbyn.

But Blair also said the anti-Semitism problem was not just in Labour.

“The question is what do we do about it now,” said Blair who said he has been urging urgent action to confront anti-Semitism, not only in the UK, but also in Europe and in the US.

“Anti-Semitism is something you must confront immediately when you see it,” he said, noting that the current resurgence came from both the left and the right.

Blair also said that while criticism of Israel was legitimate there were many instances where it was “so lopsided and disproportionate, the only conclusion is that it comes from anti-Semitism.”

Blair also served as the Special Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East from 2007 until 2015.  (The Times of Israel) Staff

In coalition talks, PM accepted Haredi demand for gender segregated public areas

During the failed coalition talks last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to an ultra-Orthodox demand to allow for gender segregation in public spaces, the Kan public broadcaster reported on Monday.

A leaked draft of the Likud’s agreement with the Haredi United Torah Judaism party stated that “within 90 days the government will amend the law in such a way that it will be permissible to provide public services, public study sessions and public events in which men and women are separated. This separation will not constitute discrimination according to the law.”

The draft agreement also barred individuals from filing a civil suit against municipal organizers of such events on the grounds of gender discrimination.

Ultra-Orthodox groups have pressed in the past to have gender segregated events or facilities, like public transport, but the moves have been knocked down by the courts, which ruled it constituted discrimination.

Responding to the report, Likud issued a statement saying that the agreement on the matter had not been finalized and that Netanyahu had sought during the coalition talks to soften the demand of Shas, UTJ, and the Union of Right Wing parties on issues of religion and state.

The Yisrael Beytenu party, which refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition by last week’s deadline, initiating snap elections scheduled for September, said that the Kan report provided further proof that the Likud leader “yielded to all the Haredi demands in the coalition negotiations.”

“The cancellation of the prohibition on gender segregation is another step in transforming the State of Israel into a halacha (religious law) state,” Avigdor Liberman’s party added.

The report came just hours after Netanyahu pushed back against comments by his hardline political ally and aspiring justice minister Bezalel Smotrich, who had called for the Israeli justice system to adhere to Jewish religious law.

“The State of Israel will not be a halacha [Jewish religious law] state,” Netanyahu tweeted, amid an uproar over Smotrich’s remarks.

On Monday morning, the URWP MK said the country should aspire to run itself as “in the days of King David.”

The national religious lawmaker was defending comments he made the previous night at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem in which he demanded his party be given the posts of education minister and justice minister, which were vacated after Netanyahu fired Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked on Sunday.

“We want the justice portfolio because we want to restore the Torah justice system,” Smotrich said.

Asked whether he was calling for a “halacha state,” Smotrich retorted: “You’re throwing a scary expression into the air. Torah laws are far superior to the ‘halacha state’ founded here by Aharon Barak.” He was referring to the controversial former Supreme Court chief who is most closely identified with Israeli justice system’s “activist” streak, long a target of right-wing ire(The Times of Israel) Jacob Magid

Israeli Study May Provide Hope for Some Pancreatic Cancer Patients

A ground breaking study at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer has determined that a targeted cancer therapy drug developed in partnership with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Merck & Co. Inc. delays the progression of a specific strain of pancreatic cancer, offering “potential hope” for patients suffering from the 12th most common cancer worldwide.

Talia Golan, head researcher at the Sheba Medical Center Pancreatic Cancer Center, has been testing the safety and efficacy of a new treatment regimen based on olaprib tablets, a medication that attacks a certain enzyme important for the cell development of several forms of cancer.

The study was conducted among 154 patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who also carried the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations, which seriously elevate the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in women.

Research found that those with the mutations lived an average of 7.4 months without pancreatic cancer progression, compared to 3.8 months in the placebo group. The scientists said the results provide “potential hope” for this specific subset of pancreatic cancer patients.

Median survival in the two groups was not drastically different—18.9 months in the test group versus 18.1 months in the placebo group.

Golan presented her findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual conference on Sunday in Chicago, the same day the findings were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, with a five-year survival rate of nine percent. (The Algemeiner) Staff

In seeking to deter Israel and the US, Hezbollah may be risking regional war

With latest speech, Nasrallah lays down Lebanese terror group’s guidelines, threatening to strike if US attacks Iran or Israel keeps preventing it from getting precision missiles

by Avi Issacharoff                            The Times of Israel


The rockets fired at Mount Hermon on Saturday are an indication as to what Iran is trying to push Syria to become: a testing ground for experiments in the battle against Israel and the United States, with the help of the pro-Iranian militias it has established there.

Israel is following with great concern the latest developments in Iran’s continued attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria. Israel isn’t alone — Moscow shares this concern, and is also worried that Syrian President Bashar Assad is letting the Iranians do as they wish in his own territory.

The Israel Defense Forces thwarts much of the Iranian effort, at least according to foreign reports. Tehran’s intended construction of factories for precision missiles was prevented for now, as were many of the shipments of precise weapons. Proof of that could be found on Saturday, as non-precise rockets were fired toward Israel from deep in Syrian territory and one of them landed inside Syria.

This is the good news. But the bad news is the Iran is trying hard to establish a rocket force in Syria that will be operated by Shiite emissaries — Iraqi and Afghan militias and even the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah — all under the supervision of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

That force is aimed at hurting Israel both in wartime and during calm periods, with the goal of creating a new type of war of attrition for Israel.

The critical question at this time is whether the strongest terror organization in the region — Hezbollah — will commit itself to this effort. The answer to that question isn’t clear, as was evident by its leader Hassan Nasrallah’s speech on Friday.

Which brings us to that speech, which came after Nasrallah disappeared for several weeks and didn’t make addresses to the nation, prompting a wave of rumors regarding his health in Lebanese media and on social media.

But since then, Nasrallah has returned and cannot stop talking. At any event, the Hezbollah chief is prone to make fiery speeches — sometimes aimed at the Shiite community in Lebanon, sometime at the entire Lebanese people, and on occasions also at Israel.

Nasrallah’s recent speech wasn’t different in essence from previous ones, containing a laundry list of threats against Israel and the US. But he also laid down clear guidelines that the organization will likely try to follow in the near future in the case of an escalation with Iran.

First, he warned that if the US starts a war with Iran, the fighting will not end there but will spread to the entire region, with Israel and Saudi Arabia paying the price.

That threat is of course supposed to create deterrence, but it also provides clarification as to Hezbollah’s intentions: It isn’t a purely Lebanese group, but is still first and foremost an Iranian extension operating in Lebanon. While Hezbollah doesn’t solely act on orders from Tehran, in emergency situations like a war with the US, it will stand at the Iranians’ side in any way possible.

Still, notably, Nasrallah did not mention a new battlefront with Israel in Syria.

Secondly, Nasrallah explained in his address that while Hezbollah doesn’t have precision missile factories in Lebanon, the Lebanese have the “right” to possess any weapon. He added that Washington was now trying to include the precision missile issue in the Israel-Lebanon negotiations regarding their maritime border. “The issue is not up for discussion,” he said.

Perhaps most worrying is Nasrallah’s direct statement that his group would react “immediately and strongly” to any Israeli strike on a precision missile factory in Lebanon.

The question is how this catch-22 can be solved. If the terror group continues to try and build factories for precision missiles in Lebanon, that will lead to an Israeli operation and a Hezbollah reaction — which could quickly lead to war. At the moment there are thought to be no such factories in Lebanon, but Hezbollah has recently tried to build several.

The international media reports about the Israeli information on the factories’ locations led to their evacuation by Hezbollah. The Shiite group’s intention may now change. While it understands the necessity for precise missiles, it also understands the price of building such a facility.

The attempts over the years to transfer precision missiles from Iran to Lebanon via Syria have been met with hundreds of operations attributed to Israel that likely prevented their delivery on a mass scale. Still, returning to the old method of importing precision missiles may be better than the second option — war with Israel.

Tehran and Hezbollah understand that the old route via the Damascus international airport is too exposed to Israeli eyes, so they are trying to land the aircraft carrying the weapons in other Syrian airports, intending to then transfer some of them to Hezbollah.

And a final note on the purported financial crisis suffered by Hezbollah. While this is definitely a difficult time for the group in light of recent US sanctions, Washington could be overestimating their effect. While the sanctions, including those on Tehran, will affect Hezbollah’s budget, it is doubtful that the group is already going through a real crisis. They will have an effect in months and years to come, probably not days or weeks.

While Hezbollah is cutting salaries, saving on fuel and canceling shifts for its staff, remarks voiced by many in the US and the Trump administration that it is “broke” are exaggerated, Tony Badran, a senior researcher on Lebanon, wrote Friday in Tablet Magazine.

Staff members are still getting their salaries — albeit decreased — and the reduced operations of its Al-Manar TV station and its public appeal for financial donations are not necessarily indicators that the organization is reaching its end. Charity is a known religious duty in Islam, specifically during the month of Ramadan, and Hezbollah is known to rely on Iranian and Lebanese donations. According to Badran, Hezbollah’s appeal may indicate financial hardship — but not necessarily desperation.