Israel News for December 29, 2016

Kerry Speaks
US Secretary of State John Kerry gave the Israeli government a thorough beating as part of his speech to lay out US parameters for a two-state solution. He castigated the government, which he categorized as the most extreme ever, for thwarting peace by attempting to impose a one state solution through an aggressive and illegal settlement policy.

Kerry set the tone for his address at the outset by saying, “Some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles — even after urging again and again that the policy must change. Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.”

He went on to give a lengthy description of the Israeli Palestinian crisis in which he equated Palestinian and Hamas terror with Israeli settlements as being obstacles to peace. He claimed that US policy has consistently considered settlement building in “occupied territories” to be illegal and that the Republican administrations of Reagan and Bush (the first) both allowed UN Security Council resolutions similar to the recent one to pass.

Kerry said that based on its policy and values, the US could not in good conscious veto the resolution. He also reiterated that the Obama administration has done more for Israel than any other administration (yup, he said that).

Kerry then laid out the Obama administration’s parameters for a two state solution, non of which are new.

1. A “secure and recognized border between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine,” based on Israel withdrawing from territory captured in 1967, along with land swaps to “reflect practical realities on the ground.”

2. Creation of a Palestinian state.

3. A “fair and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue,” which would include compensation and resettlement. Kerry implied that the international community would fund the compensation, but he wasn’t clear as to where the refugees would be resettled. He did not make reference to a “right of return”, which would allow refugees to settle in Israel. [No mention was made of compensation for the hundreds of thousands of Jews forced to leave Arab countries after 1948.]

4. Jerusalem to be capital for both states.

5. An agreement to satisfy Israel’s security needs while ending its military occupation of Palestinian territories.

Finally, Kerry said that both sides must end the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling all normal relations, “To bring closure to this conflict, so that everyone can move ahead to a peaceful future.”

To watch Kerry’s entire speech click here.

Let’s assume that Kerry is right about Israeli settlement policy eroding the possibility of a two state solution and that vetoing the UN security council resolution would have gone against American policy and beliefs. Given that the current administration has less than a month remaining, couldn’t the US have just postponed the vote until after January 20th and avoid having to veto or abstain?

Whether or not the US was involved in creating and pushing forward the resolution (as Israel claims), there is no doubt that if the US requested a postponement, it would have sent a clear signal to the council not to force the vote and it would have most likely been postponed.

Clearly the Obama administration wanted to use the venue of the Security Council to make its point and take a final swipe at the Netanyahu government. But what purpose did it serve, just weeks before a new president will take office? Why did Obama wait until his final days to make the statement he’s been wanting to make for eight years? Judging by the strong bipartisan reaction to the move, its clear that he would not have been able to survive as president had he done so during his substantive time in office.

As Kerry clearly stated in his speech, there are already similar resolutions “on the books” against settlements, and this latest one will most likely not change anything in practice. So the only thing gained was an opportunity for Obama to take his parting shot at Israel and stain his legacy in the minds of many Americans.

Response to Kerry
PM Netanyahu lashed out at Kerry’s speech, calling it biased against Israel and blaming Kerry for blaming the failure of the peace process primarily on Israel. The PM said, “Israel does not need to be lectured about peace by foreign leaders.”

Netanyahu also said, “The entire Middle East is going up in flames, entire countries are toppling, terrorism is raging and for an entire hour the secretary of state attacks the only democracy in the Middle East. Maybe Kerry did not notice that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christmas can be celebrated in peace and security. Sadly, none of this interests the secretary of state.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas responded to Mr. Kerry’s speech by calling on Israel to freeze housing construction in order to restart negotiations. He said, “The minute the Israeli government agrees to cease all settlement activities, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem, and agree to implement the signed agreements on the basis of mutual reciprocity, the Palestinian leadership stands ready to resume permanent status negotiations.”

Republican and Democratic members of Congress criticized Kerry’s speech and displayed strong bipartisan support for Israel.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said, “Secretary Kerry’s speech today was at best a pointless tirade in the waning days of an outgoing administration. At worst, it was another dangerous outburst that will further Israel’s diplomatic isolation and embolden its enemies.”

Democratic Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Mr. Kerry’s speech “gratuitous” and “wrong” and said, “There doesn’t seem any purpose to this other than to embarrass Israel. It just pained me to watch it.”

Germany, France and Great Britain all praised the speech. What a surprise.

Reaction from the Arab world can be summed up by a statement from Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science in the United Arab Emirates, who said, “At the last five minutes of the hour, apparently Kerry and Obama are showing some courage to stand up to Israel, but it is coming too late in the game. It is after the fact. They should have shown this amount of political courage four years ago, if not eight years ago.”

To watch PM Netanyahu’s full response to the Kerry speech click here.

Oh No
In a much more disturbing development, Gap stores will be closing in Israel. Apparently, the prices were just a bit too high for Israeli tastes. No, the closings have nothing to do with Obama, the UN resolution or John Kerry’s speech.

For further reading click here.

Video Clip
To watch PM Netanyahu giving a Hanukkah lesson to the young children of employees of the Prime Minister’s Office click here.

Israel News for December 2, 2016

Trump Appoints General
President elect Trump has announced that he will nominate 66 year old retired Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Mattis, nicknamed Mad Dog, retired as chief of U.S. Central Command in 2013 after service over 40 years in the Marine Corps.

Even though Central Command does not encompass Israel, Mattis made a point of visiting Israel on many occasions to discuss military matters.

However, Mattis has made statements in favor of a two-state solution, calling the alternative “apartheid”. He also indicated that US support for Israel has hurt it in dealings with the Arab world and made military operations in the Middle East more complicated.

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a Right leaning organization, has called Mattis’s remarks, “hostile to Israel, and revealed a lack of appreciation for and understanding of the extraordinary value to American security resulting from a strong American-Israeli alliance and a secure Israel.”

While Mattis has taken a tough stance against Iran, which he has called the biggest threat to stability and peace in the Middle East, he has also said that “absent a clear and present violation,” he did not see how the US could back out of the Iran deal, since reinstating sanctions would not have the intended effect if the other signatories to the agreement would not reimpose their sanctions. While Trump has promised to scrap the Iran deal, it’s unclear whether he will actually do that as president.

Mattis will require a special waiver from Congress to be able to serve as Secretary of Defense, since the current law states that the office must be held by a civilian who has not been in uniform for at least 7 years prior to taking the job. Mattis retired from service just under 4 years ago.

For further reading click here.

Lieberman in NY
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman addressed a group of UN ambassadors hosted by Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. The ambassadors were from Canada, Russia, India, Italy, Senegal, Singapore, Rwanda, Greece, Cyprus, Holland, Bulgaria and Argentina. The DM briefed the ambassadors on the security threats in the Middle East and warned that the UN and other international agencies have no real power to stop them. Instead, they spend their time passing anti Israel resolutions. He said, “All this proves that the United Nations, including the Security Council, do not perform their duties and are not relevant to the rest of the world.”

Ambassador Danon explained the purpose of the meeting saying, “We are strengthening our ties and cooperation with many countries and there is a clear understanding among our allies that Israel is an island of stability in a turbulent Middle East.”

For further reading click here.

Rabbi Takes Post
Brig. Gen. Rabbi Eyal Karim officially took his position as Chief Rabbi of the IDF last night at a ceremony attended by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

Eisenkot remarked, “The appointment of chief rabbi of the IDF is an extremely significant event in the army. Unfortunately, the ceremony took place a week late. I was convinced months ago that we are choosing Rabbi Eyal Karim for the job. He is the most fitting and appropriate choice for command and rabbinic authority in the IDF. I had no doubts.”

Eisenkot was referring to the controversy that surrounded Karim’s appointment as a result of statements the rabbi made that were understood by some as being anti-women and anti-gay. The Supreme Court even got involved by ordering Karim to clarify his statements, which he did.

Rabbi Karim spoke at the ceremony saying, “The military rabbinate needs to be a force for unity. We will only have one army, an army of the people, that all soldiers can find their place in. The military rabbinate, by its very nature, is firmly rooted in Jewish law, values, morals and thought.”

One controversial issue that the new IDF Chief Rabbi will have to face is the proposal by the IDF to assign women to serve in tanks alongside men. The proposal has already garnered harsh reactions from senior rabbinic figures including the Chief Rabbis of Israel.

For further reading click here.

More Rain
Heavy rains, with strong winds, are expected to continue throughout Israel over the weekend. The first snowfall hit the Hermon this morning dropping close to 8 inches of snow. Snow is expected to continue throughout the day. Good news for the Mount Hermon Ski Resort.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for July 13, 2016

Terror Ramming
Three Palestinian men tried to ram their car into security forces who were dismantling an illegal weapons production facility in the village of a-Ram. Security forces shot and killed one of the men and wounded the other. The third man was arrested. No Israelis were hurt.

The IDF closed down a total of 16 weapons factories in the West Bank in a major crackdown yesterday.

For further reading click here.

Chief Rabbi Clarifies
Rabbi Col. Eval Karim, who was appointed as the next IDF Chief Rabbi, responded to critics by clarifying his positions in a meeting with the head of the Manpower Directorate Maj. Gen. Hagi Topolanski yesterday.

Karim confirmed that he in no way sanctions wartime rape by soldiers, and that the statement he once made permitting it was made exclusively in a theoretical context. He also clearly stated that he was in favor of drafting women into the IDF, as opposed to a statement he once made prohibiting women from serving.

He also claimed that he permits soldiers from being present at events where women are singing, which seems to contradict a 28 page legal opinion he offered which prohibited women singers from performing at IDF events and permitted male soldiers from being excused from such an event.

It’s still unclear whether the rabbi’s clarifications will be enough to placate his critics, as more controversial statements of his come to light. Most of those statement were made in the context of responses to questions on the website

Examples of Karim’s controversial statements include his position that soldiers may refuse an order that goes against Jewish law, that wounded suicide bombers should be killed, and that the Torah prohibits women from testifying in a Bet Din (Jewish legal court) because “a woman’s sentimental nature does not allow her to withstand a cross examination at court.”

For further reading click here.

Republican Platform
The Republican Party’s Platform Committee has unanimously agreed to omit references to a two-sate solution in its new platform.

The two-state solution has long been accepted by both the Democratic and Republican parties as well as by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). When the Republicans tried to omit the two-sate solution from their platform in 2012, AIPAC opposed the move. This time they didn’t.

The new platform says, “The U.S. seeks to assist in the establishment of comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, to be negotiated among those living in the region. We oppose any measures intended to impose an agreement or to dictate borders or other terms, and call for the immediate termination of all U.S. funding of any entity that attempts to do so. Our party is proud to stand with Israel now and always.”

Other language on Israel “reject(s) the false notion that Israel is an occupier” and describes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and “indivisible,” both changes from the 2012 platform.

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann said, “We appreciate that both parties’ platforms have now included strong pro-Israel language which is reflective of the broad bipartisan consensus in support of the Jewish state.”

J Street called the new Republican platform language, “dangerous and irresponsible.” The left-leaning Jewish group said, “It breaks with over half a century of bipartisan US consensus on Middle East policy and disavows the important achievements of previous Republican presidents in seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It would place the Republican Party to the right of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who continues to maintain that he supports the two-state solution.”

The Democratic platform, which was recently approved, does include the two-state solution saying, “We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”

The Republican platform will still need to be approved by the full Republican National Committee ahead of the convention in Cleveland next week.

For further reading click here.

Hezbollah Missiles
Addressing a UN Security Council discussion relating to the security situation in Lebanon 10 years after the Second Lebanon War, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon presented evidence of how south Lebanon has turned into a Hezbollah stronghold.

Danon said the Hezbollah currently has 120,000 missiles pointed at Israel. That’s a larger missile stockpile than all of the European NATO countries combined. At the end of the Second Lebanon War Hezbollah only had 7,000.

Damon said, “Hezbollah hasn’t been stopped. They chose to establish their firing positions next to schools and other public buildings, thereby endangering the innocent civilian population. It is the responsibility of the UN security council to get Hezbollah out of south Lebanon.”

For further reading click here.

Israeli in Gaza
A bedouin Israeli citizen has crossed the border fence into Gaza yesterday and is now missing. The man is a shepherd who lives with his family a few miles from the border. He is considered to be mentally unstable.

Security forces were alerted of the breach in the fence and raced to the scene but were too late to stop the man. He is thought to have been captured by Hamas. He is the third Israeli civilian to cross the border and be held by Hamas. The other two are a bedouin and an Ethiopian, both mentally unstable.

For further reading click here.

Saudi Rankings
The Saudi Arabian based Center for World University Rankings has ranked theHebrew University of Jerusalem as the best university in the Middle East and #26th in the world (out of 25,000). Other Israeli universities to finish in the top 100 were the Weizmann Institute of Science, at 41, and Tel Aviv University, at 81.

Yes, the ratings agency is based in Saudi Arabia, and still…

For further reading click here.

Israel News for January 20, 2016

Hezbollah Cell Busted
The Shin Bet arrested five Palestinians from the Tul-Karem area of the West Bank for planning to commit a terror attack. The five were part of a cell that got their orders from the son of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah via email. They also received $5,000 from Nasrallah Jr., which they used to purchase a gun that they planned to use in the attack.

The Shin Bet claims that Hezbollah’s “133 unit,” which recruits in the Middle East and Europe, has failed in its attempts to build terrorism networks in Israel. This incident is an exception.

For further reading click here.

PM Supports Ban
Speaking during a Knesset session commemorating the 67th anniversary of the legislative body’s creation, PM Netanyahu said that he would not hesitate to prohibit Palestinian workers from entering Jewish settlements as part of Israel’s war against terror.

He said, “We have a strong desire to maintain our and the Palestinians’ daily life, but we will not hesitate, if necessary, to ban the entry of Palestinian into [Israeli] towns. Our goal is to restore calm, coexistence and one day peace.”

The IDF commander of the Judea and Samaria division issued a temporary order banning Palestinian workers from settlements. The order does not include industrial parks, and will be reviewed on a daily basis.

For further reading click here.

Must Read
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Herzog Solution
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) spoke at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv yesterday. He said that the two-state solution was impossible to realize under current conditions, and presented a new plan in which several Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem would be severed from the rest of the city and the separation barrier in the West Bank would be built to encompass all of the settlement blocs.

He said, “I wish to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as quickly as possible. They over there and we over here; we’ll erect a big wall between us. That is the kind of co-existence that’s possible now. You exist there and we exist here. Ariel Sharon did the right thing when he put up the fence that prevented the infiltration of suicide bombers, but he didn’t finish the job. We want to finish it, to complete the barrier that separates us … Israel must part from Netanyahu so that it becomes possible to part from the Palestinians.”

Herzog blasted PM Netanyahu and PA President Abbas for denying that a third intifada was imminent. He added that there will be no progress under Netanyahu since he’s made “a pact with the extreme right wing.”

Whereas Netanyahu is supported by those who want to annex Judea and Samaria, Herzog wants to keep the Jewish areas but separate in full from the Palestinian ones. He wants to separate totally Arab neighborhoods from Jerusalem, which is against the view of the right wing and the PM that Jerusalem must remain united, including all of the surrounding Arab areas. Herzog said, “Issawiya is not and won’t be part of Israel’s eternal capital. Neither is the refugee camp in Shoafat. We’ll separate from them. We’ll build a wall. Terrorists won’t have access to Jews.

Doesn’t sound so bad when you put it that way.

For further reading click here.

Ethiopian Women
In December of 2012, an investigative report was published that included testimony from 35 women immigrants from Ethiopia who claimed that they had been required to receive birth control shots as a condition for the processing of their requests to come to Israel. The main accusations were leveled against the Jewish Agency, the Joint Distribution
 Committee and the Health Ministry.

Prodded by several female Knesset members, the State Comptroller Joseph Shapira launched an investigation into the allegations in 2013. The investigation recently ended and Shapira concluded that “no evidence could be found for the claims raised that shots to prevent pregnancy were administered to Ethiopian women under pressure or threats, overt or covert, or in any way that was improper.”

Shapira had harsh words in his statement about the attitude of Israeli society to Ethiopian immigrants, which he said contributes to their sense of discrimination. He said one reason for this sense was that they feel they are not masters of their own fate, desires or dignity.

He wrote, “It is our obligation as a democratic and progressive society to fulfill the obligation to human dignity and liberty, as the Basic Law says to ensure equality as determined in the Declaration of Independence.”

For further reading click here.

Trump to Jerusalem
In an interview with the Brody Report, Republic presidential candidate Donald Trump said that he was 100% in favor of moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed in 1995 with overwhelming support in the House and Senate, called for the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to take place no later than fiscal year 1999. But it has been waived by every president since them, citing U.S. national security concerns.

Whether Trump would be different, if he makes it to the Oval Office, is anyone’s guess. But if you believe what he says, then there’s hope: “We have a president that I think is the worst thing that has ever happened to Israel. But I will be backing it very strongly. They’re our best ally. They’re our best ally in the Middle East. They’ve really been loyal to us. We have not been loyal to them.”

For further reading click here.

Bibi Netanyahu

Did Bibi Propose Limiting Jewish Visits to the Temple Mount?

Yesterday Walla News reported from Arab sources that Israeli diplomats told Jordan’s King Abdullah that Israel would reduce the number of Jewish and non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount. Both the King and PA President Abbas rejected the offer, claiming that it was insufficient.

They weren’t the only ones unsatisfied with the proposal. Knesset members from the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party called on the PM to clarify whether he instructed the diplomats to make the offer.

Education Minister and head of the Bayit Yehudi party Naftali Bennett said, “I don’t believe that the PM would offer such a proposal.” He added that if the terrorists gain concessions from their terror, then their next wave of terror will be even worse, and that in the Middle East, displays of weakness are not effective diplomacy.

The PM’s office responded that no such proposal ever existed. So I guess it never happened.

Israel News for October 22, 2015

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Soldiers Kill Jewish Man
Last night, in another tragic case of mistaken identity, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Jewish man at a bus stop in Jerusalem.

According to police, two soldiers were waiting to get on the bus when a man getting off the bus asked them to show him their identification. They got suspicious and asked him for his ID. An argument ensued and he allegedly attacked them and tried to grab one of their guns. A civilian security guard in the area saw the scuffle, wrongly identified the man as a terrorist and shot at him. Then the soldiers opened fire, killing the man.

The victim was an immigrant from Russia who had served in the IDF in the Nahal Haredi (Ultra Orthodox) Brigade and had worked as a security guard in a school. He was currently studying at a yeshiva in Har Nof, Jerusalem. The rabbis at the yeshiva interviewed by Walla News couldn’t believe how something like this could have occurred. They all described the victim as a quiet, well mannered person who evidently made a bad mistake by arguing with the soldiers.

Police and IDF investigators are sorting through numerous testimonies that include very different facts. In one account the man shouted, “I am ISIS!” (could it have been like, “what, you think I’m ISIS?”). In another, a girl screamed, “Terrorist! Shoot him!”

So many factors in this case point to a very tragic and deadly mistake. The soldiers were part of the reinforcements sent to bolster security on buses. They weren’t trained to do police work and handle this kind of situation. The security guard shot before positively identifying who he was shooting at. He probably should have let the soldiers handle the situation. Fear and hysteria took over. In a culture where arguing is commonplace and can often turn violent, this seems to be a case where mistakes were made and shots were fired when they shouldn’t have been. And a man is dead.

For further reading click here.

Terror Continues
This morning two terrorists tried to board a school bus in the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh. When people nearby shouted at them they got off. When police arrived they found them stabbing an 18 yr. old Haredi man. Police shot and killed one of terrorists and wounded the other. Both of the terrorists were 20 yr. olds from a village near Hebron who were working at a construction site in Beit Shemesh. They were wearing Hamas t-shirts beneath their clothing.The victim was “moderately” wounded.

A vehicle carrying five Israeli soldiers was stoned in Gush Etzion (West Bank) yesterday. When the soldiers got out they were hit by a Palestinian car. One of the soldiers was seriously wounded, 2 moderately and 2 lightly. The terrorist was shot and seriously wounded.

Earlier in the day a 20 yr. old female soldier was stabbed and seriously wounded, near the settlement of Adam. The terrorist then tried to stab another female soldier from the same unit, but she shot and killed him. Another terrorist who took part in the attack was arrested.

For further reading click here.

We’ve got good news and bad news about yesterday’s UNESCO vote to declare Jewish holy sites to be Muslim holy sites. The good news is that the Western Wall was removed from the resolution after strong protests from UNESCO’s director general and many countries. They also removed the part about Jerusalem being the “occupied capital of Palestine.”

Here’s the bad news. They did vote to declare the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron (where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah are buried) and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as being Muslim sites. They also condemned Israel for a bunch of things, as usual.

The resolution passed by 26 votes to 6, with 25 abstentions. The countries that voted against the resolution were the US, UK, Germany, Holland, Estonia and the Czech Republic. France was one of the countries that abstained. Hmm.

For further reading click here.

PM Backpedals
After making the outrageous statement in a speech on Tuesday that blamed the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem for giving Hitler the idea to exterminate the Jews, PM Netanyahu backpedaled, a little.

In a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the PM clarified that the mufti’s role during the Holocaust was to “call on the Nazis to prevent Jews from fleeing Europe and support the Final Solution.”

Even Merkel was taken aback by Netanyahu’s initial statement so much so that she felt compelled to place responsibility for the Holocaust squarely on Germany. She added, “We stand behind our responsibility and I don’t see any need to change our relation to history.”

So now we’re all clear on this. Hitler was responsible for killing the Jews but the Mufti certainly supported and encouraged his evil plans. Now what about all that Arab rhetoric about pushing us into the sea? Sounds like Jewish destruction to me.

For further reading click here.

Temple Mount Visits
Yesterday Walla News reported from Arab sources that Israeli diplomats told Jordan’s King Abdullah that Israel would reduce the number of Jewish and non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount. Both the King and PA President Abbas rejected the offer, claiming that it was insufficient.

They weren’t the only ones unsatisfied with the proposal. Knesset members from the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party called on the PM to clarify whether he instructed the diplomats to make the offer.

Education Minister and head of the Bayit Yehudi party Naftali Bennett said, “I don’t believe that the PM would offer such a proposal.” He added that if the terrorists gain concessions from their terror, then their next wave of terror will be even worse, and that in the Middle East, displays of weakness are not effective diplomacy.

The PM’s office responded that no such proposal ever existed. Good to know.

For further reading click here.

Kurdistan and Jews
Sherzad Omer Mamsani was recently appointed Jewish affairs representative for the government of the semi autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. It shouldn’t be a very taxing job, since there are no Jews in the region (also known as Kurdistan). Mamsani’s main role will be to foster relations with the 200,000 to 300,000 Kurdish Jews, most of whom live in Israel.

Kurdish officials say that there are some 200 to 300 families in Iraqi Kurdistan who outwardly converted to Islam over the last decades but who continue to secretly observe certain Jewish traditions. Mamsani is one of those who claim to have Jewish roots. He’s visited Israel several times and has written about Kurdish – Israeli ties. That cost him a hand, lost in a bombing attack against him by Muslim radicals.

His goal is to reconnect Iraqi Kurds to Jewish culture and to relatives they may have abroad. “We work with the government to reunite families, and to help those Kurds who want to find out about their Jewish roots.” Another longer term goal is to rebuild destroyed synagogues in the region.

The Kurds seem to really like Israel. Could be because Israel reportedly purchased a large portion of Kurdish oil exports and because they’ve supplied the Kurds with military assistance, secretly of course. Maybe it’s also because there are no Jews in the country, which makes it a lot easier to be a Jew lover (although it didn’t seem to have worked in Poland).

Hey, anyone fighting ISIS is a friend.

For further reading click here.

High Rent
If you think New York City rents are high, wait until you hear what they’re charging in Tel Aviv. According to the Israeli branch of Sotheby’s International Realty, a Russian (non Israeli) just rented an apartment for $45,000 per month (that’s US dollars, not shekels).

The 3,444 sq.ft. apartment takes up a full floor at the top of the Remez Tower, a high end building in the city’s popular “old north” neighborhood. The rent doesn’t include the $1,000 per month management fee.

According to Isidora Fridman, an executive director at Sotheby’s Israel, a similar sized apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York City rents for $50,000 per month. But why would you want to live on Fifth Avenue if you could live in Tel Aviv?

For further reading click here.

abbas at UN

Palestinian Authority President Abbas at the UN

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had an eventful time at the UN this week.

On Wednesday Abbas raised the Palestinian flag for the first time at the UN, after a resolution permitting non member states to do so was recently passed by a landslide majority of the UN general assembly. The US didn’t send a representative to the event, but other Western nations including France did. Abbas promised that the flag will soon be raised in Jerusalem, “the capital of our Palestinian state.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Wednesday a day of “pride” and “hope” for Palestinians around the world. He urged the Palestinians to pursue their long-held dream for their own state by first uniting Gaza and the West Bank, and he urged Israel and the Palestinians to revive negotiations that collapsed last year and conclude “a successful peace process that will lead to the unfurling of the Palestinian flag in its proper place – among the family of nations as a sovereign member state of the United Nations,” Ban said.

But wait…there’s more.

In his official address to the UN general assembly on Wednesday, Abbas stated that he is no longer bound by agreements, including the Oslo Accords, that have defined relations with Israel for the past two decades and are meant to form the basis for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.

Abbas demanded that Israel “assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power.” He stopped short of suspending security cooperation with Israel.

PM Netanyahu’s office issued a statement in response, saying that Abbas had delivered a “speech of lies that encourages incitement and unrest in the Middle East.”

Netanyahu called on Abbas to “act responsibly” and answer his proposal for direct negotiations with Israel without any preconditions. “The fact that time after time he (Abbas) does not respond is the best proof that he has no intention of reaching a peace agreement,” he said.

[bctt tweet=”“The fact that time after time he (Abbas) does not respond is the best proof that he has no intention of reaching a peace agreement” – Bibi” via=”no”]

Will Abbas’s speech lead to any practical change on the ground, other than the potential of inciting terror attacks? According to Palestinian analyst Hani al-Masri in Ramallah, Abbas was just trying to attract attention and pressure Israel. “This is a threat not a plan. Abbas has no plan, otherwise he could have spelled it out in his speech.” Nevertheless, his move will definitely not result in anything positive for Israel. Things could get much worse for both sides.

You can read more about this topic here.

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Israel News for August 14, 2015

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New IDF Strategy
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot yesterday published the new “IDF strategy” document, which maps out the various threats against the state of Israel and the IDF’s methods of confronting them. Part of the document was, for the first time ever, made public.

The document outlines necessary changes the IDF needs to make in light of future challenges and the changing face of the enemy. The changes include improving the effectiveness of ground force maneuvers, broadening the capacity of forces to mount military operations in non-wartime situations, improving cyber warfare capabilities, and generally preserving the IDF’s intelligence, aerial and naval superiority.

Eizenkot explained that the new document aims to prepare the IDF’s forces in the coming years to defend Israel in all scenarios, including simultaneous operations on several battlefronts and complex cyber warfare. “The IDF will prevail in every mission and challenge, and will achieve its goal – to defend and to win.” [source]

The document recognizes that times are changing and that the IDF must change with them. These changes will likely result in a smaller IDF that is more focused on successfully fulfilling its mission to defend Israel.

New UN Ambassador
PM Netanyahu has announced that he will appoint Danny Danon, currently the Minister of Science, Technology and Space, as Ambassador to the UN. Danon, a Likud member, is considered to be a staunch right-winger who is opposed to any two state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state. He has also been one of the most outspoken critics of US President Obama’s Middle East policies and has forged relationships with Republican Party conservatives. The opposition party Zionist Union called Danon’s appointment “another nail in the coffin of Israel’s foreign relations.” [source]

Opposition to Conversion Court
Hundreds of rabbis, including the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, gathered at the headquarters of the Rabbinate in Jerusalem yesterday to inaugurate a new organization (Noam) meant to strengthen and protect the power of the Chief Rabbinate.

The impetus for Noam was the establishment of an independent conversion court by a group of prominent religious zionist rabbis who believe that the Chief Rabbinate is preventing the conversions of hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are considered non-Jewish according to Jewish law (Halacha).

Out of the 1 million immigrants that came to Israel from the former Soviet Union over the last 20 years, at least a third do not have Jewish mothers. They do have Jewish fathers or spouses, or at least one Jewish grandparent, and are fully integrated into Israeli society. In practice they are part of the Jewish people and the overwhelming majority want to make it official.

The problem is that most of them aren’t fully religiously observant which, according to the strict position of the Chief Rabbinate, invalidates them from converting. The founders of the independent court claim that since:
1) they have Jewish roots and are already fully part of the Jewish people in the land of Israel
2) if they aren’t converted they pose a grave danger of assimilation to the existing Jewish population
they can be treated leniently and converted within the bounds of Halacha.

The Chief Rabbinate and the majority of prominent rabbinic leaders from the religious zionist and the charedi camps disagree.

Since all legal marriages in Israel must be registered by the Rabbinate, it has ultimate control in preventing “non-sanctioned” converts from marrying, at least in the eyes of Israeli law. That could lead the “break-away” rabbis to form their own marriage registration system, which would represent a complete and likely irreparable break from the Rabbinate.

Hebrew for Arab Kids
Education Minister Naftali Bennet has implemented a new elementary school curriculum which requires Hebrew language studies in Arab schools to begin in kindergarten. Until now required Hebrew language studies have begun in third grade. More hours of Hebrew language study will also be added to grades 3 to 12. Bennet claims that greater fluency in Hebrew will give Arabs greater economic and social opportunities. The changes will take effect in the coming school year and cost the government 30 million shekels. If Bennet is right, it will be money well spent. [source]

Army Radio
Ofir Akunis, the cabinet minister (Likud) in charge of the Israeli Broadcast Authority, told the Al-Monitor website that he believes public broadcasting should be balanced and that the opinions of those on the Right should get equal exposure with those on the Left. Except on Army Radio. “There I wouldn’t want balance,” he said. “There I would expect to see absolute support for the Israeli position and the position of the Israel Defense Forces. Army Radio is the station of the Israeli public and the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, and I don’t think it should provide broad coverage of the Palestinian position, for instance, or the position of illegal infiltrators.”

When asked whether this is “muzzling freedom of speech” he replied, “Just the opposite. We’re allowing people to speak. But when it comes to Army Radio, which is funded by the Ministry of Defense, the station’s purpose is to be a station for soldiers.” Sounds reasonable enough.

Stand by Your Man
In a taped phone conversation with the Chief Rabbi of Safed (R. Shmuel Eliyahu), the wife of Ezra Sheinberg, the Safed rabbi accused of molesting and raping 13 women, told him that she was aware that her husband had slept with at least two women. She claimed that he told her that he slept with the women as part of his “healing treatments”, and that it was all part of his blessing to them. She accepted his explanation. Enough said.

Never too Late
Semion Simkin, a 91-year-old Israeli Holocaust survivor won the world championship for senior runners in Lyon, France on Monday. He ran 10 kilometers in 1 hour and 20 minutes. He beat out his only competitor in the race for men between the ages of 90 and 95, a 93 year old Argentinian, by just over 21 minutes. The day before the 10k race, Simkin won the silver medal in the 5 kilometers race, with a time of 39 minutes and 47 seconds, merely five seconds behind the winner, the Portuguese Jose Canelo, 90.
Not too shabby for a man in his 90’s. Can you run a 10k? [source]