Israel: Shin Bet Chief Meets Palestinian President, Warns of PA’s Bankruptcy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Shin Bet Chief Meets Palestinian President, Warns of PA’s Bankruptcy

Monday, 17 June, 2019 – 11:30
Mourners carry the body of Palestinian volunteer paramedic Sajed Mezher was killed by Israeli troops, during his funeral in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 27, 2019. (Reuters)
Ramallah, Tel Aviv – Kifah Zboun, Asharq al-Awsat
Head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argaman, recently met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to persuade him to agree to accept tax money collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf, according to political sources in Tel Aviv.

The sources said that Argaman tried during the meeting to convince Abbas to accept the funds after the deduction of amounts paid to families of martyrs and prisoners. He informed the PM that the amount Israel intends to decduct is far less than the salaries.

But Abbas refused to give up any “dime” and asked that Israel deal with these funds as Palestinian funds that no one has the right to dispose of them.

“Any deduction from these funds is a theft,” Abbas said.

After his meeting, the Israeli Minister reported to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon that Abbas firmly and categorically refused the proposal and called for a political decision to resolve this crisis.

Argaman said that the Authority is suffering from a severe financial crisis, which led to the reduction in salaries of a large number of employees, including tens of thousands of members of the Palestinian security services.

Military analyst Amos Harel indicated that Abbas believes he is facing a triple attack from the United States, Israel and Hamas. Washington has almost completely curtailed economic aid to the Palestinians.

The United States is now offering “economic peace” without resolving the issue of Jerusalem and borders, and trying to impose a permanent separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The military estimates that Abbas considers that Israel is economically affected by the prisoner crisis, but continues to build the settlements, rejects the political dialogue and seeks the opportunity to annex parts of the West Bank after the failure of the deal of the century.

Hamas is building a state in the Gaza Strip with a “silent US-Israeli approval.” It is also believed that a number of Arab leaders in the region support Trump’s plan.

Israeli security services top officials agree that the Authority will begin its economic collapse within two or three months.

In related news, Abbas stressed that “we reject the US peace plan,” better known as the “deal of the century,” in a meeting with the leaders of the Fatah Youth Movement.

He announced that Palestine will not participate in the US-sponsored economic workshop to be held in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25.

“Jerusalem and Palestine are not for sale,” asserted Abbas, adding that “the Palestinian leadership is sticking to the stable legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state.

Abbas reiterated the Palestinians’ rejection to receive the partial funds of the tax revenue dues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA from the Palestinian trade.

Israel: Liberman: We’ll force gov’t with Likud, Blue and White to block ultra-Orthodox

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Liberman: We’ll force gov’t with Likud, Blue and White to block ultra-Orthodox

Yisrael Beytenu leader promises ‘liberal-national’ coalition after elections; Likud: Cat is out the bag — Liberman wants leftist government; Blue and White: Better late than never

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman leaves after a faction meeting at the Knesset, on May 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman leaves after a faction meeting at the Knesset, on May 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said Saturday that after the upcoming elections he would force an “emergency” coalition with the Likud and Blue and White parties to block ultra-Orthodox parties from entering the government.

“We will impose a government with the Likud and Blue and White parties — it will be an emergency government, a liberal-national government. We will do everything to block the ultra-Orthodox; not to let them enter the government,” he told Channel 13 news.

Liberman, who used his party’s five seats to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a coalition after the April 9 elections, is aiming to again be kingmaker or king-breaker after September’s elections. His call for an emergency government involving both Likud and Blue and White amounts to a demand for a government without Netanyahu — though he did not spell this out in Saturday’s interview — since Blue and White, under its leader Benny Gantz, has said it will not sit in a coalition with Netanyahu, who is facing indictment, pending a hearing, in three criminal cases.

Asked whether he would again recommend Netanyahu as prime minister, might recommend another candidate, or would seek to become prime minister himself, Liberman was non-committal. But in recommending Netanyahu after April’s elections, he specified, Yisrael Beytenu had been “committing to an agenda” which it then became clear the coalition Netanyahu sought to build would not have followed. Yisrael Beytenu, he said dryly, had not been “crowning” Netanyahu “for life.”

Later Saturday, in a Facebook post, he added that “the representative of the party that wins the most seats will be the candidate to form a government.”

“Netanyahu is trying to focus the campaign on who will be prime minister,” Liberman said in the TV interview. “I think the much more critical question is what kind of government it will be.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman seen with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in the assembly session in the plenum hall of the Israeli parliament, as the Israeli parliament vote on the Governance Bill, which among others will raise the electoral threshold. March 11, 2014. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90 )

A Likud, Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu coalition, without the ultra-Orthodox, Liberman added in his Facebook post later Saturday, would represent the will of “an overwhelming majority of the citizens of Israel.” He also ruled out a coalition in which the far-right Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir would be present.

He said he hoped Yisrael Beytenu would win enough seats in September in order to impose such a coalition. He said he’d heard ultra-Orthodox leaders saying they’d refuse to sit in a government with Liberman, and he accepted this completely. “You’ve convinced me,” he said. What was required, he said, was a government without the ultra-Orthodox. He referred to his longtime friend Aryeh Deri, leader of the Shas ultra-Orthodox party, as “my former friend.” And he complained that while Israel was currently facing a budgetary crisis, “the only place they’re not planning to cut is [in funding for ultra-Orthodox] yeshivas.”

The Likud party responded to Liberman, saying: “The cat is out the bag — Liberman says explicitly that he is willing to go with [Blue and White No.2 Yair] Lapid and Gantz, and force the establishment of a leftist government. Anyone who wants a right-wing government must vote only for the Likud party, headed by Netanyahu.”

Gantz’s Blue and White party also issued a statement, saying: “Better late than never. If Liberman had come to this conclusion before he and his party voted for the dispersal of the Knesset, they would have avoided unnecessary elections for the people of Israel.”

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at the Knesset, June 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ben-Gvir slammed Liberman, saying he “once again proves that he is deep on the left, and lacks any ideological backbone.”

The Knesset voted to disband itself and called new elections for September 17, after Netanyahu failed to broker a compromise between right-wing secular Yisrael Beytenu and ultra-Orthodox parties in the wake of the April 9 elections. Netanyahu was thus unable to muster a majority coalition.

Initial polls have suggested Liberman may emerge from the coalition standoff in a stronger position, and increase his party’s five Knesset seats to eight or nine in the September election.

Liberman had repeatedly said he backed Netanyahu for prime minister, but would only join the government if there was a commitment to pass, unaltered, the Defense Ministry version of a bill regulating the draft of the ultra-Orthodox into the military. That version of the bill is opposed by ultra-Orthodox parties, who want to soften its terms.

Liberman said last month that he would not back Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for prime minister, but refused to be drawn on whether he would support Netanyahu.

Last week the Kan public broadcaster reported that during the failed coalition talks a month ago, Netanyahu agreed to an ultra-Orthodox demand to allow for gender segregation in public spaces.

A leaked draft of 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.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hosted by Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party (left), at a meal to celebrate the birth of Litzman’s grandson, June 18, 2017. (Shlomi Cohen/FLASH90)

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.

On Saturday, Yisrael Beytenu MK Evgeny Sova condemned the army’s punishment of a soldier who put dairy and milk in the same fridge on a base, warning it could portend further religious strictures on troops.

“Today they forbid putting milk and meat together in the same fridge. Tomorrow they’ll forbid girls from enlisting in the army. In two days we’ll become the army for the defense of Jewish law,” Sova said.

Liberman on Saturday also attacked the Likud party’s recent announcement of the appointment of a new “special adviser” for Israel’s Russian-speaking community.

Ariel Bulshtein (Courtesy of EAJC)

The adviser, attorney Ariel Bulshtein, will help Likud target a demographic that will be vital for its campaign — right-leaning immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The move is meant to help the party’s efforts to siphon votes away Liberman, whose hard-nosed demands stymied Netanyahu’s efforts to build a coalition by the May 29 deadline.

“It’s an insult to the intelligence and an insult to the dignity of the [Russian] immigrants — Netanyahu has no idea what he is talking about,” Liberman said.

Netanyahu has blamed the Yisrael Beytenu party chief for “dragging the country to unnecessary elections.” Notably, it was Netanyahu who decided to call new elections. The more natural course of events would have been to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he had failed to form a coalition, at which point the president could have tasked another member of parliament with trying to do so.

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JUNE 16, 2019
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US envoy Greenblatt backs Friedman on Israel’s ‘right’ to annex some settlements

White House could delay rolling out long-awaited peace plan until November, due to political turmoil in Israel, says special envoy

L-R: US President Donald Trump's envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 12, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO/File)

L-R: US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 12, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO/File)

US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt on Sunday backed comments by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, in support of Israel retaining some parts of the West Bank.

Greenblatt participated in the annual Jerusalem Post conference in New York, where he was asked about comments made by Friedman published by the New York Times last weekend.

“I will let David’s comments stand for themselves,” said Greenblatt. “I think he said them elegantly and I support his comments.”

In an interview published by the New York Times last Saturday, Friedman said that some degree of annexation of the West Bank would be legitimate.

“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” Friedman said.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, on March 26, 2019. (Jim Watson/AFP)

An anonymous American official later said Israel has not presented a plan for annexation of any of the West Bank, and no such plan is under discussion with the US.

Greenblatt spoke days before the US is set to lay out an economic component of its long-awaited Mideast peace plan on June 25 and 26 in Bahrain, where Gulf Arab states are expected to make pledges to boost the troubled Palestinian economy.

But it is not clear when the political aspects of the plan — which is expected to avoid calling for the creation of a Palestinian state — will be unveiled.

At the conference Sunday, Greenblatt also signaled that the White House might delay the full publication of its long-awaited peace plan until November, due to political turmoil in Israel, though he said no final decision had been made.

He said that the Trump administration would have published a blueprint for its peace plan this summer if Israel had not dissolved its parliament last month and declared another election — the second in a year — for September 2019.

“The new elections have thrown us off,” Greenblatt said.

Trump’s own reelection campaign for US president “should not be an obstacle,” he added.

In his remarks, Greenblatt conceded that there were limits to Arab concessions to the Jewish state.

Jared Kushner alongside a member of the Saudi delegation at a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2018. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images via JTA)

“There is a limit how far the Arabs will go with Israel, they don’t want to sell out the Palestinians,” he said. “We are not going to push any country to go further than they are comfortable.”

However, he warned that “failure will put this in the box for a long time.” Such a development would be “a tragedy for the Palestinian people.”

Greenblatt also stressed that Washington is not seeking to oust the current Palestinian Authority leadership, which has already said it will reject the peace plan, but rather is hoping that the Palestinian people will be able to decide for themselves if they want to accept the peace deal or not.

“We are not looking for regime change in PA,” he said, before adding that “there is no question” the Palestinian people have the right to see what the plan offers before they decide.

During campaigning for the general election in April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to gradually annex West Bank Jewish settlements, a move long supported by nearly all lawmakers, in his alliance of right-wing and religious parties, and said he hoped to do so with US support.

Friedman, in the New York Times interview, declined to specify how the US might respond to unilateral Israeli annexation, saying: “We really don’t have a view until we understand how much, on what terms, why does it make sense, why is it good for Israel, why is it good for the region, why does it not create more problems than it solves… These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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10 Sivan Facts That Every Jew Should Know

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

 

1. Sivan is the 3rd Month on the Jewish Calendar

Counting from the springtime month of Nisan, Sivan is the third month on the calendar. Conversely, counting from the month of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah) in the fall, it is month number nine.

Read: Our Other Head

2. Sivan Is First Mentioned by Name in the Book of Esther

Like the other contemporary Hebrew names of the months, Sivan originated during the Babylonian exile.1 Thus, we first encounter it in the Book of Esther when we read of a royal communication allowing the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies which was issued on the 23rd day of “the third month, which is the month of Sivan.”2

Read: The Basic Purim Story

3. It’s When We Were Given the Torah at Sinai

On the first day of the third month after the Exodus, our ancestors arrived at Mount Sinai.3Six days later, G‑d descended upon the mountain and communicated the 10 Commandments. The timing was exquisite. The Torah contains three parts (Torah, Prophets, and Writings), the Jewish nation has three tiers (KohenLevite, and Israelite), Moses was the third child (following Miriam and Aaron), and it was the third day since G‑d had commanded that men and women separate in anticipation of the great event.4

Read: What Happened at Matan Torah?

4. Shavuot Is Celebrated in Sivan

We celebrate Shavuot, the anniversary of the revelation at Sinai, on Sivan 6 (as well as Sivan 7 in the diaspora), 50 days after we commemorate the anniversary of the Exodus on Passover. Some special features of Shavuot include: learning Torah all nighthearing the 10 Commandments in the synagoguedelicious dairy meals, and Yizkor memorial.

Read: What Is Shavuot?

5. Wheat Is Harvested in Sivan

In Israel, crops grow through the rainy winter season. By Sivan, they’re ready for harvesting. In ancient times, two wheat loaves, made from fresh grain, were offered in the Holy Temple on Shavuot. It was also at this time that people would begin to bring bikkurim, their first and choicest fruits and grains, to thank G‑d for Israel’s bounty.

Read: Shtei Halechem: The Two Breads

6. The Zodiac of Sivan Is Gemini (Twins)

Following Aries (ram) and Taurus (ox), the Gemini (twins, te’omim in Hebrew) is the first zodiac sign that is a human (the only other is Virgo, the virgin). The sages explain that this is appropriate for the month when we received the Torah, as only a human can extoll, clap, and dance with joy over this momentous event.5

Watch: Do Jews Believe in Zodiac?

7. Sivan Is Associated With Jacob

The third month is a composite of the first two months, distilling and combining their qualities. Thus it is connected to Jacob, who perfected and synthesized the unique paths of Abraham and Isaac who preceded him. And of course, Jacob was a twin to Esau, who took the following two months, Tammuz and Av, associated with the destruction of both holy Temples. 6

Read: Jacob of the Bible

8. Some People Fast and Mourn on 20 Sivan

Over the years, several tragedies have befallen the Jewish people during the month of Sivan. In 1096, during the first days of the month, mobs of frenzied crusaders murdered Jews in Worms, Maintz, and other Rhinish cities. Following the 1171 massacre of the Jews of Blois, France, who had been falsely accused of murdering a Christian child, Rabbenu Tam declared 20 Sivan a fast day. This was reinforced after thousands of German Jews were butchered during the 1289 Rindfleisch massacre at the same time of year. In time, this day became a memorial for victims of the 1648 Cossack riots (tach vetat), many of whom met their deaths at this time of year. Today, this fast is only observed by some Chassidic communities.

Read: The Martyrs of Blois

9. The Month Begins With an Element of Mourning

Each new month is announced and blessed in shul on Shabbat Mevarchim, the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh. Because it is a joyous day, we omit the Av Harachamim prayer for the millions of Jewish martyrs who gave their lives to sanctify G‑d’s name. According to Chabad custom, on the Shabbat preceding the month of Sivan we say this prayer as usual, in deference to the bloody history of the season.

Read: Shabbat Mevarchim

10. The Rebbe Came to America in Sivan

After narrowly escaping the Nazi onslaught in France, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), and his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson (1901-1988), arrived in the United States of America on Sivan 28 in the year 5701 (1941).

Thus began the Rebbe’s decades-long revolutionary work to revitalize Jewish life in the West and across the globe.

Read: What the Rebbe’s Arrival in America Means to Me

FOOTNOTES
1.

Jerusalem Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 1:2.

3.

Exodus 19:1 and Rashi ad loc.

4.

Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 88a.

5.

Pesikta Rabbati 20.

6.

Zohar II 78b.

1,500 Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ live in Israel. They are appallingly mistreated

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

1,500 Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ live in Israel. They are appallingly mistreated

A 2001 law promised housing, medical care to this group of heroes, but scandalously has never been implemented. Maybe interest sparked by the remarkable TV series will change that

Ksenia Svetlova
Chernobyl liquidators visiting the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

Chernobyl liquidators visiting the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

The much-discussed new TV series, “Chernobyl,” which focuses on the worst nuclear disaster of the twentieth century, has reminded the world about what happened at the plant’s No. 4 nuclear reactor 33 years ago.

Despite the very real health dangers, many curious tourists have been making their way to the remote Ukrainian city where time stopped in April 1986. And journalists have been seeking out the people who fought the devastating fire and built the Chernobyl sarcophagus, the massive steel and concrete structure that was constructed on top of the destroyed reactor to isolate it and limit radioactive contamination of the surrounding area.

The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of Chernobyl “liquidators”— those who were called in to deal with the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic nuclear leak — who are still alive today reside in the former Soviet Union. But about 5,000 of them immigrated to Israel at the start of the 90s, and 1,500 of them still live here. Unfortunately, the liquidators are elderly and suffer from ill health. Unsurprisingly, those facts are less interesting than the painful memories from those terrible days: the friends who died, the hair that fell out, the diseases that spread.

I came into contact with this unique group of people four years ago in the course of the election campaign for the twentieth Knesset. The head of the association of Chernobyl liquidators here, Alexander Kalantirsky, got in touch with me before I was elected, and asked for my help. When we started talking, it emerged that he had studied construction engineering together with my mother at the same university in Moscow.

Alex Kalantirsky (R) during a demonstration of Chernobyl liquidators at the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

Kalantirsky was in his 40s, married and with children, when he was sent to Chernobyl to work on the construction of the sarcophagus.

Did he know what was waiting for him there, and that his health would be irreparably harmed? Absolutely. But at no point did he contemplate evading this mission.

“We knew that if the radiation continued to spread, not only would Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia be hit, but all of Europe, including the Mediterranean basin. That was all we were thinking about. We hoped we would be able to neutralize that immense danger,” he told me in our first discussion.

A concrete and steel sarcophagus that seals the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s No. 4 reactor is seen in this picture from December 8, 1999, in Ukraine’s Chernobyl. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The rights of the Chernobyl disaster liquidators are anchored in several international treaties to which Israel is not a signatory. Nonetheless, when the liquidators immigrated to Israel, they asked for the assistance that would enable them to deal with their illnesses and other needs.

And indeed in 2001, the late Knesset member Yuri Stern initiated legislation that recognized the liquidators’ work and gave them a unique status. The law specifies their right to public housing, to a one-time grant and to treatment in a special medical facility to be set up for this purpose.

An aerial view of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, is seen in April 1986, two to three days after the explosion in Chernobyl, Ukraine. In front of the chimney is the destroyed 4th reactor. (AP Photo)

Since the passage of the law 18 years ago, however, the state has not implemented it and has not allocated the funding to implement it. In the four years that I served as a Knesset member, I sought answers from the government ministries responsible for this failure. Some of their responses were quite fascinating.

The Immigrant Absorption Ministry, and the Construction and Housing Ministry, for example, completely ignored the liquidators. The insurance companies refuse to insure the liquidators, because of the high level of illness to which they were exposed, but an effort to involve the Treasury in this issue was thwarted, with the explanation that the Treasury has no right to require private companies to insure or not insure an individual.

Deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman during a press conference after meeting with president Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, April 15, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

But the most outrageous response of all was from Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who told me that “research does not prove that the Chernobyl disaster liquidators suffer from illnesses as a consequence of their work at the reactor. Most of them are smokers and it is possible that cancer in their cases is a consequence of that smoking.”

Once that contemptuous and offensive response was received, the path to a petition to the High Court of Justice was plainly open, since the 2001 legislation had instructed the government ministries to set up a medical facility to treat the Chernobyl liquidators. A petition was submitted by attorney Gilad Sher, who has been working for years on their behalf.

A doctor examines a boy who was evacuated from near the Chernobyl disaster area to Artek, June 14, 1986. (AP Photo)

At a hearing on December 17, 2018, the High Court accepted most of the liquidators’ key demands. The court made clear that the state had no right not to provide the liquidators with all their rights via a pretext that their medical situation was unclear.

The state was given 120 days to rectify the situation. But then the election campaign, and now the second election campaign, have frozen the work of the government and the Knesset, and nothing has moved.

Children from Chernobyl come to Israel for medical treatment in 1990 (Natan Alpert / GPO)

Very few reporters have taken an interest in this saga and the dire situation of the liquidators here. Among those who have focused on the story at all, most have concentrated on the awful details of what happened 33 years ago and interviewed these elderly, ailing people about that. For most of the liquidators, this is a profoundly traumatic experience.

And now came the remarkable “Chernobyl” historical drama.

Poster for Chernobyl, the 2019 miniseries

Says Kalantirsky: “This series returned me to the nightmare. The more I talk about my experiences there, the sicker I get.”

He and his friends, he says, do not understand why interviewers ignore their tales from the last three decades in Israel — the relentless battle they have been waging against government ministries who try to fob off responsibility from one ministry to another, and their dire financial situation.

“It’s been 18 years since Yuri Stern’s law passed. How many more years will it be before they start taking care of our issue?” asks Kalantirsky, a wise, intelligent, clearheaded man.

He has been amazed by the number of requests he has received for comments from the media, and disappointed by the superficiality of the questions.

“I have no problem talking about what happened at Chernobyl, even though it’s not easy for me,” he told me recently. “I watched the series. It was staggeringly accurate, apart for a few minor details. But it’s vital for me that it is not only the story of what happened then that is heard, but also our cry today.”

Workers who constructed the cement sarcophagus covering Chernobyl’s reactor four, pose with a poster reading: “We will fulfill the government’s order!” in summer of 1986 next to the uncompleted construction.(AP Photo/ Volodymyr Repik)

In contrast to the characters in the TV series, the Chernobyl disaster liquidators are real people, flesh and blood.

I can only hope that the renewed interest in the greatest ecological disaster of the twentieth century will eventually lead the media to focus not only on the horror stories of the two-headed chickens and the prematurely lost teeth, but also on the actual lives of 1,500 Israelis who live here.

Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ testify at a Knesset committee meeting (Ksenia Svetlova)

As their right, and not as an act of pity of charity, they require and deserve our practical help with homes and medical treatment. This is the least we should be doing for them, and it is scandalously long overdue.

The writer was a Zionist Union member of Knesset in 2015-19.

This article originally appeared in Hebrew on Zman Yisrael, ToI’s Hebrew site

Israeli researchers find ‘potential hope’ for some pancreatic cancer patients

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli researchers find ‘potential hope’ for some pancreatic cancer patients

New drug stalls progression of disease for patients who have the BRCA genetic mutations, study by Sheba Medical Center with AstraZeneca and Merck shows

An illustrative image of a cancer patient and perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)

An illustrative image of a cancer patient and perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)

Researchers at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer said Sunday that a targeted cancer therapy drug they developed together with pharma giants AstraZeneca and Merck & Co. Inc. offers “potential hope” for patients with a specific kind of pancreatic cancer, as it delays the progression of the disease.

Dr. Talia Golan, the head of the Sheba Medical Center Pancreatic Cancer Center, has been conducting research and clinical trials with AstraZeneca and MSD, as Merck is called outside the US, to evaluate the safety and test the efficacy of a new drug treatment regimen based on Lynparza, or olaprib, tablets.

The tablets are a pharmacological inhibitor of the enzyme poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, or PARP. PARP inhibitors are a group of drugs that inhibit the enzyme. They were developed for a number of indications, but most importantly for the treatment of cancer, as several forms of cancer are more dependent for their development on the enzyme than regular cells are. This makes PARP an attractive target for cancer therapy.

Those who received the medication in the study on average went 7.4 months before their disease began to worsen, known as “progression free survival” rates, compared to 3.8 months in the group that took the placebo, the researchers said.

The study, called POLO, was held with 154 patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who carried the BRC -1 and BRCA-2 genetic mutations. Patients with these mutations “make up a small subgroup of those with metastatic pancreatic cancer,” the researchers said in their study. Golan said in an interview that this subgroup accounts for six to seven percent of the metastatic pancreatic cancer patients.

The results of the Phase III randomized, double-blind study with a placebo control group will be published in July in the New England Journal of Medicine, the partners said.

“The POLO trial using the medicine Lynparza offers potential hope for those who suffer from metastatic pancreatic cancer and have a BRCA mutation,” Golan said in the statement. “This treatment also exemplifies the advent of ‘precision medicine’ based on a specific genetic biomarker, BRCA 1 & 2.”

In the study, patients were randomly assigned to get the tablets, at a dose of 300 milligram twice daily, or a placebo.

However, though the drug was seen to slow the disease’s progression, an interim analysis showed “no difference” in overall survival between those who took the drug and the placebo group — a median of 18.9 months versus 18.1 months, the study said.

Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer worldwide, with 458,918 new cases in 2018 alone. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, and accounts for 7% of all cancer deaths, according to Cancer.Net. The five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is 9%. The cancer is often difficult to diagnose, as there are no specific cost-effective ways to screen for the illness, meaning that it is often found at later stages, when it has spread. For the 52% of people who are diagnosed after the cancer has spread, the 5-year survival rate is 3%, Cancer.Net says.

“When we saw the results were positive it was an exceptional, phenomenal moment,” said Golan in an interview. “For the field it is a huge thing.”

She added that this is the first Phase 3 biomarker study that is positive in pancreatic cancer and the drug “provides tremendous hope for patients” with the advanced stage of the cancer.  “This drug has shown efficacy and a tremendous really phenomenal response in this patient population,” she said.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce proteins responsible for repairing damaged DNA and play an important role in maintaining the genetic stability of cells. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly, and cells become unstable. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer. A significant number of Ashkenazi Jews (those of European origin) around the world are carriers of the BRCA 1 & 2 genes.

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Mother of Nechama Rivlin’s lung donor: ‘Another part of you has gone’

Sari Halabli, mother of 19-year-old Yair who died in March drowning accident, eulogizes president‘s ‘modest’ wife, says she will ‘rest in peace, together with my enchanting son’

Nechama Rivlin (R), wife of President Reuven Rivlin, on June 16, 2016. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Yair Yehezkel Halabli (L), who donated his lung to Rivlin. (Twitter)

Nechama Rivlin (R), wife of President Reuven Rivlin, on June 16, 2016. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90) Yair Yehezkel Halabli (L), who donated his lung to Rivlin. (Twitter)

The mother of the young man whose lung was transplanted into Nechama Rivlin said Tuesday she grieves the passing of President Reuven Rivlin’s wife.

Sari Halabli, the mother of 19-year-old Yair Halabli, who died in March after drowning in a diving accident in Eilat, said Rivlin’s death at the age of 73 meant another part of her son had died.

Rivlin was “a modest woman, just like Yair,” Halabli told the Ynet news site.

“Rest in peace, together with my enchanting son,” she said in a message to Rivlin, before addressing her late son: “Another part of you has gone, and of my heart.”

Memorial candles are lit next to a picture of Nechama Rivlin, the late wife of President Reuven Rivlin, outside the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Halabli’s family donated several of his organs after his death. Rivlin received his lung on March 11 after a long time on a waiting list as she suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition in which scar tissue accumulates in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. She died earlier Tuesday from complications linked to the transplant.

Her funeral will be held Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem. Prior to the ceremony, her coffin will be placed at the Jerusalem Theater, where the public can go to pay its respects.

On Thursday and Friday, the president and his family will receive condolence visits at his official residence in Jerusalem as part of the traditional Shiva mourning period.

“I’m happy Nechama is no longer suffering. She really deserves the love she is getting now and the recognition of her service and work,” Channel 12 news quoted Rivlin telling friends following his wife’s death.

Rivlin died on the eve of her 74th birthday at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, where she was being treated after relapsing following the lung transplant.

President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama Rivlin. (GPO)

Soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Rivlin was eulogized by Israeli politiciansfrom across the political spectrum. She was also mourned by foreign diplomats stationed in Israel, as well as US President Donald Trump’s envoy for Middle East peace.

Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank Walter Steinmeier all called Rivlin’s office to express their condolences, according to Channel 12, which reported the president only spoke by phone with a few close friends of his and his late wife’s.

Nechama Rivlin was born in 1945 in Moshav Herut in the Sharon region. She married Reuven Rivlin in 1971, and worked for many years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, until her retirement in 2007, at which point her lung condition was discovered.

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Foreign fighters among 10 killed in IDF Syria strike after rocket fire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Foreign fighters among 10 killed in IDF Syria strike after rocket fire — report

Monitor says Iranian, Hezbollah targets hit in airstrikes; IDF says Syrian military positions targeted, including anti-aircraft battery, after 2 rockets fired at Golan on Saturday

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson's unit)

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson’s unit)

Seven “foreign fighters” were among the 10 killed in Israel Defense Forces airstrikes on several military targets in Syria in the predawn hours of Sunday morning in response to two rockets that were fired from the country at the Golan Heights on Saturday night, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights did not specify the nationalities of the foreigners, but in an earlier statement said that Iranian and Hezbollah targets were hit in the strikes.

Beginning at 4:10 a.m., Israel Defense Forces helicopters and planes attacked several targets connected to the Syrian army, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence outposts, and an SA-2 type air defense unit, the IDF said in a statement.

Syrian media reported that Israel also struck several targets connected to Iran and is proxy militias in Syria, in the area of al-Kiswah, south of Damascus. These strikes reportedly targeted weapons caches and a military training facility.

The Israeli army refrained from specifying who it believes fired the two rockets at the Golan Heights — one of which landed inside Israeli territory, the other in Syria — but said it “sees the Syrian regime as responsible for all attacks against Israel from Syrian territory.”

The observation and intelligence targets bombed by Israel were located near the border with the Golan Heights, while the artillery and anti-aircraft batteries were south and south-west of Damascus, the IDF said.

During the exchange, Israeli air defense systems fired in response to Syrian anti-aircraft fire, but no projectiles were believed to have landed inside Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning that Israel will continue to respond to any attacks on its territory.

“We are not prepared to tolerate firing into our territory and we react with great force against any aggression against us,” the prime minister, who also serves as defense minister, said in a statement. “This is a consistent policy that I lead and so we will continue to do for the sake of Israel’s security.”

Syria’s official SANA news agency said that three Syrian soldiers had been killed and seven injured in the attack, and claimed that Syrian air defenses intercepted missiles coming from the Golan Heights. The attack also caused material damage, the report said.

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

Last night, 2 rockets were launched from Syria to Israel, 1 landing within Israeli territory. In response, we struck a number of Syrian Armed Forces military targets.

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Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

The Syrian Armed Forces targets we struck included:
🎯 2 artillery batteries
🎯 Observation & intel posts
🎯 An SA-2 aerial defense battery

We hold the Syrian regime accountable and will firmly operate against any attempt to harm Israeli civilians. pic.twitter.com/XtDTqz7Btc

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The two projectiles fired at Israel on Saturday caused no injuries or damage.

The incoming rockets did not trigger alert sirens. These alarms are typically only activated in cases where a projectile is heading toward a populated area, rather than an open field.

The launches came less than a week after a limited clash between Israel and Syria.

On Monday, a Syrian anti-aircraft battery fired at an Israeli fighter jet that was flying within Israeli airspace. Shortly afterward, in response, the IDF attacked the battery and destroyed it, reportedly killing a Syrian officer and soldier. A military vehicle was also said damaged in the attack.

Saturday night’s rockets appeared to be a relatively long-range variety, reportedly fired from the Damascus area, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) away, similar to an attack earlier this year aimed at Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is located in the northern tip of Israel’s Golan Heights. In addition to a popular ski resort, the area is also home to a number of military installations.

In January, Iranian troops in Syria fired a medium-range, Iranian-made missile at Mount Hermon in what the IDF said at the time was a “premeditated” attack aimed at deterring Israel from conducting airstrikes against the Islamic republic’s troops and proxies in Syria.

The incoming projectile was shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

Last Saturday, Syria said its air defenses shot down a number of missiles fired from Israel, a day after making a similar claim.

Toward the start of the Syrian civil war, the Israeli military established a number of “red lines” that if violated would result in a retaliatory strike, including any attacks — intentional or otherwise — against Israel.

They also included Iranian efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and attempts to transfer advanced munitions to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group.

In recent years, Israel has acknowledged conducting hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in response to these “red line” violations.

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Hundreds of Palestinians riot as Jews allowed on Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(IS IT PAST THE TIME WHEN ISRAEL SHOULD TEAR DOWN THE MOSQUE ON THE TEMPLE MOUNT?)(oped:oldpoet56)

Hundreds of Palestinians riot as Jews allowed on Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day

Palestinians on mount hurl chairs, rocks at police after rare decision to let non-Muslims in on final days of Ramadan; security high in capital as Israel marks city’s reunification

Clashes erupted between Palestinian rioters and police on Sunday morning at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, as hundreds of Jews were allowed into the holy site to celebrate Jerusalem Day — the 52nd anniversary of the unification of the capital in the Six Day War.

Later in the morning, hundreds of Palestinians rioters threw rocks and chairs at Israeli security personnel. There were no immediate reports of injuries. By mid-afternoon, police reported that the situation was again calm.

It was the first time in three decades that non-Muslims were let into the site during the final days of the month of Ramadan, which coincided this year with Jerusalem Day. Police had earlier announced the contested compound would be closed to Jews and tourists, with the High Court of Justice rejecting a petition against the closure and leaving the final decision up to police.

Police said in a statement that “a riot began that included the hurling of stones, chairs and various objects.”

“Subsequently, Jerusalem District Commander Maj. Gen. Doron Yadid ordered police forces to enter the Temple Mount and deal with the rioters,” it added.

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Palestinian reports said at least one person was detained and removed from the site.

Police said later in the morning that clashes were renewed, with hundreds of Palestinian rioters throwing rocks and chairs at Israeli security personnel.

Left-wing NGO Ir Amin said the violence was renewed after police closed the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque, and worshipers attempted to gain entry.

Hundreds of Jewish activists showed up early Sunday morning at the Temple Mount entrance, demanding access to the site — the holiest in Judaism and the third-holiest to Muslims, who refer to it as the Al Aqsa Mosque compound or the Noble Sanctuary. Following a security assessment, police decided to let them in after suppressing the initial Muslim demonstration.

The flashpoint site is always closed to non-Muslims on the last ten days of Ramadan, when large numbers of worshipers are at the site. The last time the Temple Mount was closed to Jews on Jerusalem Day was in 1988, when it also coincided with the end of Ramadan.

Under an arrangement in place since Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray there. Jews are allowed to enter in small groups during limited hours, but are taken through a predetermined route, are closely watched and are prohibited from praying or displaying any religious or national symbols.

Last year, more than 2,000 Jews visited the site on Jerusalem Day, under close police supervision.

Chairs and other objects hurled at police forces by Palestinian rioters at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound on June 2, 2019. (Israel Police)

Meanwhile, thousands of Jews flocked Sunday to the nearby Western Wall — the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray — to mark the occasion.

Police were deployed in force and on heightened alert in Jerusalem Sunday, with tighter security inspections performed at checkpoints connecting the city to the West Bank in light of Friday morning’s stabbing terror attack in the capital’s Old City, in which two Israeli civilians were injured — one of them seriously.

A Palestinian teenager had stabbed two Israelis inside the Old City before being shot dead by Israeli police.

The most sensitive event is expected to be a parade that will go through the streets of the Old City in the afternoon and is frequently marked by tension with local Palestinians.

Many streets in the city center will be closed off between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. to accommodate the parade and other festivities.

Israeli youths hold their national flag during a march to celebrate Jerusalem Day, marking the unification of the city during the Six Day War, May 13, 2018. (Thomas COEX/AFP)

The so-called Flag March, in which primarily religious teenagers march through the Old City decked in white and blue, has raised tensions over its route through the Muslim Quarter.

Palestinian shopkeepers with stores along the route are forced to shutter their businesses during the parade, and residents of the Muslim Quarter are advised to stay indoors.

In previous years, the march has sparked sporadic incidents of violence between Palestinians and Israeli revelers.

The High Court of Justice last month threw out a petition by a left-wing group that sought to change the route of the nationalist march.

Later in the day, the Jerusalem Day state ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. at Ammunition Hill, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance.

Many celebrations and events will be held around the city in the evening and into the night, including a “White Night” concert at Sacher Park expected to be attended by thousands of students.

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Israel: Netanyahu’s legal problems mount as AG won’t delay his hearing

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

TV report: Netanyahu’s legal problems mount as AG won’t delay his hearing

Following his resort to new elections, PM may now run out of time to pass legislation aimed at evading prosecution in three graft cases

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on May 30, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on May 30, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Taking a stance that could drastically reduce Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances of avoiding prosecution in three corruption cases, Israeli state prosecutors will reportedly reject any request by his lawyers to defer his pre-indictment hearing beyond its scheduled date at the start of October.

The reports Thursday night also said that the attorney general is aiming to wrap up the Netanyahu cases before the end of the year. If so, Netanyahu, who on Wednesday night called new elections for September 17 having failed to build a governing majority after the April 9 elections, may not now have time to pass planned legislation aimed at protecting him from prosecution.

Netanyahu is facing indictment on three counts of fraud and breach of trust, and one of bribery, pending the hearing — his final opportunity to persuade the attorney general not to file charges against him. The hearing was originally set for July, but was postponed earlier this month to October 2-3, with the possibility of a final session a week later. The prime minister’s lawyers had sought a full year’s delay — a request that was dismissed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who ruled that a speedy resolution of the matter was in the public interest.

Now that Israel is to hold new general elections in September, with Netanyahu having failed to put together a majority coalition after the April 9 election, his lawyers are widely expected to seek another delay in the hearing process. But senior officials in the state prosecution and law enforcement hierarchies quoted at length in TV news broadcasts Thursday night firmly rejected the idea.

“We will not agree to a further delay in the hearing,” a source quoted by Channel 13 news said. “Netanyahu has enough time to prepare for it. He intends to use the matter of [new] elections to seek another postponement? Let him try. It won’t work for him. He has plenty of time to prepare as necessary.”

In similar vein, Channel 12 quoted sources declaring that the announcement of new elections would “not have slightest impact” on the Netanyahu corruption cases. “The date for the hearing has been fixed, and it won’t move a millimeter,” a source was quoted saying.

The officials also noted that it is Netanyahu’s lawyers, rather than the suspect himself, who will appear at the hearing.

Netanyahu is widely reported to have tried to build a coalition after April 9’s election in which his Likud MKs and their allies would initiate or back legislative efforts to enable him to avoid prosecution — first by easing his path to gaining immunity via the Knesset, and then by canceling the Supreme Court’s authority to overturn such immunity.

This latter change would be achieved as part of a wide-ranging reform of the Supreme Court’s role, under which Israel’s justices would be denied their current quasi-constitutional authority to “override” legislation, and Knesset and government decisions, deemed unconstitutional. Plans for this “override” legislation have been described as marking a potential constitutional revolution in Israel, that would shatter the checks and balances at the heart of Israeli democracy.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit addresses an Israel Bar Association event in Eilat, May 27, 2019 (screen grab via Channel 13)

Mandelblit earlier this week castigated planned changes to the current immunity law as being apparently designed to help Netanyahu rather than being in the genuine interest of constructive reform. As for the so-called override bill, he said that it would cause “direct harm to the country’s citizens, who will be left exposed to the possibility of arbitrary decisions by the government. The individual will not have any protection from actions which… may in an extreme case, ignore the individual’s rights and so harm him illegally.”

Earlier this week, as Netanyahu struggled to muster a majority coalition, his associates were said to have warned him that snap elections would likely deny him the time needed to pass legislation shielding him from prosecution. Nonetheless, on Wednesday night, when he concluded that he could not muster a majority, he pushed through a vote to disperse the 21st Knesset, which was only sworn in a month ago, and set Israel on the path to new elections on September 17. He chose this course rather than allow for a different Knesset member, possibly opposition leader Benny Gantz, to have a turn at trying to build a majority coalition.

Netanyahu is widely expected to now seek a delay in the hearing process, by arguing that the recourse to new elections means he will not have sufficient time to prepare for the October hearing. “He chose to support new elections,” Channel 12 quoted a legal official saying in response. “That’s up to him.”

Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust in the three cases against him, and for bribery in one of them, in February. The prime minister’s attorneys requested, and were granted, that the case files not be handed over prior to the April 9 national election in order to prevent information from leaking to the media and affecting the vote.

But after the election, the lawyers refrained for another month from collecting the material, citing a dispute over their fees. They have been accused of engaging in delay tactics.

Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for extension of his remand in Case 4000, February 22, 2018. (Flash90)

Netanyahu denies all the allegations against him, and has claimed they stem from a witch hunt designed to oust him, which he claims is supported by the left-wing opposition, the media, the police and the state prosecution, headed by a “weak” attorney general.

Case 1000 involves accusations that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan in exchange for favors; Case 2000 involves accusations that Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth; and Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious against the premier, involves accusations that Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, in exchange for positive coverage from its Walla news site.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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Israeli Parliament Schedules Unprecedented Early Elections

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Israeli Parliament Schedules Unprecedented Early Elections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem.

Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Voters in Israel will go the polls for the second time this year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu missed a midnight deadline to form a coalition government.

The Israeli parliament, prompted by Netanyahu, has voted to hold new elections Sept. 17. The move comes after elections were just held in April and appeared to give Netanyahu a fourth consecutive term in office.

The Knesset voted 74-45, on a bill sponsored by Netanyahu’s Likud party, to dissolve itself and call for new elections.

Had Netanyahu not prompted the call for new elections, Israel’s ceremonial president could have chosen someone else to try to form a government.

The call for new elections is a surprising turn of events for Netanyahu who is widely considered Israel’s most powerful politician.

As NPR’s Daniel Estrin reported on All Things Considered, it is unprecedented to have new balloting scheduled just a month after the previous elections.

Estrin said there were two sticking points keeping Netanyahu from forming a majority government:

“The official reason given was that former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had very high conditions. He demanded a mandatory military draft for Orthodox Jews and ultra-orthodox parties refused that.

“But the bigger picture here is that Netanyahu is facing legal troubles. That is his chief concern. And by the end of this year he is going to be facing likely corruption charges. So he had been trying to build a coalition that would grant him immunity from prosecution while he’s in office. So things got complicated because he was trying to weave in his immunity into the deals he was trying to make with these parties.”

Estrin also reported that the new elections could delay the political components of a peace plan, such as borders and the issue of a Palestinian state, that is being fashioned in the White House by President Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Netanyahu is months away from being Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, having held the job for one term in the 1990s and for the last decade.

Israel Claims Easing Gaza Fishing Restrictions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Israel Claims Easing Gaza Fishing Restrictions

Tuesday, 21 May, 2019 – 10:00
Gaza fishing boats. (AFP Photo/MOHAMMED ABED)
Gaza – Asharq Al-Awsat

Israel announced Tuesday it had eased fishing restrictions off the blockaded Gaza Strip after a ceasefire with Hamas ended a deadly escalation earlier this month.

Israel extended the fishing limit to up to 15 nautical miles, said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.

The move restores the fishing zone to the limits set in April ahead of Israel’s general election.

Gaza fishing union official, Zakaria Bakr, however told AFP on Tuesday morning it had yet to be informed of any changes.

COGAT did not provide further details, but in April the limit was set at six nautical miles in the north near the Israeli border, 12 off central Gaza and 15 in the south near the Egyptian border, according to the fishing union.

Israel banned fishing completely when the two-day flare-up of violence began earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following the truce, AFP said.

According to the news agency, the 15-nautical-mile limit is the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.

But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.

Israeli authorities did not say the move was linked to the truce reached earlier this month with Hamas.

But Palestinian officials said at the time of the May 6 ceasefire that it included Israel taking steps to ease its blockade.

Israel media reported late Monday that the ceasefire, brokered by Egyptian and UN officials, is a six-month deal that includes the expansion of the fishing zone as well as the transfer of medicines and other aid to Gaza.

Negotiations are to also take place on issues including Gaza’s severe electricity shortage and border crossings, the reports said.

In return, Hamas would calm protests along the border and halt maritime demonstrations aimed at breaking the blockade.

According to AFP, Hamas denied the reports and Israel did not immediately comment.

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