Revealed: An Arab prince’s secret proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Revealed: An Arab prince’s secret proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews

A quixotic overture by a courageous prince lay hidden in files at the UK Colonial Office for 90 years, where this author discovered it. Now it can proudly take its place in history

On August 29, 1929, Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha, the uncle and future regent to King Farouk of Egypt, walked into the British Embassy in Istanbul and hand-delivered a letter to British Ambassador Sir George Clerk. The letter was addressed to the British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir John Chancellor. The prince asked Ambassador Clerk to forward the letter to Chancellor in Jerusalem.

The prince had written and signed the letter less than one week after the shocking August 24, 1929, massacres in Hebron, following months of rising tensions at the Western (Wailing) Wall. The letter began by deploring the violence, with the prince expressing hope the Arabs and Jews could settle their differences peacefully. The prince then offered a stunning suggestion:

My proposal for a solution is that, instead of fighting or dealing unjustly by one party or the other, it would be infinitely better to come to an understanding. The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing [the Wailing Wall] is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it. If this could be done, it would avoid coercion and possibly injustice to one or other of the parties. Certainly I am sure the Mohametans and Arabs will not accept a small sum such as £10,000 or even £20,000 for a matter in which their honour is so far involved… Let them give £100,000 and I feel sure this would settle the difference.

This is the story of Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s surprise proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews, revealed here for the first time.

***

The Temple Mount and the Western Wall today represent the defining religious symbols of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The same was true during the 1920’s, following the British conquest of Palestine. Muslims and Jews clashed repeatedly over the Wall throughout the 1920’s.

The Jews claimed rights of prayer at the Wall, the only surviving remnant of the ancient Temples and the holiest and most sacred site for Jews to pray. Jews had been praying at or near the Wall nearly continuously since the Roman conquest.

‘The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing [the Wailing Wall] is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it’

The Muslims, for their part, also regarded the Wall (or the Buraq, named for Mohammed’s steed whom the Angel Gabriel, according to Muslim legend, tethered to the Wall at the end of Mohammed’s celestial journey from Mecca) as an Islamic Holy site that had been dedicated as Wakf property nearly a millennium ago. The Muslims asserted absolute ownership of both the Wall and the narrow strip of pavement facing the Wall. Prior to 1967, as shown in the following photograph, the pavement was sandwiched between the Wall on one side and an area of small dwellings, known as the “Moghrabi Quarter,” on the other side:

The Western Wall and narrow strip of pavement, late 19th Century (Library of Congress).

The Muslims refused to accord the Jews any rights to pray at the Wall, for fear the Jews would use that as a wedge to encroach further on Muslim property and eventually seize control of the entire Temple Mount area. During Ottoman times the Jews would pay small bribes to bring chairs and benches to the Wall, even as the Ottoman authorities issued formal rulings banning such practices as late as 1911.

After the British captured Jerusalem in December 1917, General Allenby immediately pledged to honor the so-called Status Quo prevailing at the Holy Sites. Allenby’s pledge became embedded as a legal concept five years later in Article 13 of the Mandate for Palestine, requiring the British to “preserve existing rights” at the Holy Sites.

The British soon found themselves caught in the middle between conflicting Jewish and Muslim assertions of rights and claims to the Western Wall and the pavement facing the Wall. The Mandatory authorities struggled to enforce the shaky Status Quo that had prevailed during Ottoman times, when Jews were allowed to utter individual prayers at the Wall, but not allowed to take any steps which could be viewed as asserting symbolic ownership of the Wall. Thus, the British enforced the Turkish ban on the Jews bringing chairs and benches to the Wall, as well as most other accoutrements of congregational prayer.

Jewish Legion soldiers at the Western Wall after British conquest of Jerusalem, 1917 (Public Domain)

The tensions led to controversy at the Wall during Passover 1922, Yom Kippur 1923 and Yom Kippur 1925. The most notable confrontation occurred on Yom Kippur 1928, when the British Deputy District Commissioner for Jerusalem, E. Keith-Roach, ordered the forcible removal of a screen (mehitza) the Jews had placed on the pavement in front of the Wall to divide men from women, causing the Jews to file an angry protest with the League of Nations. Tensions continued escalating during 1929 as the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, launched the so-called Buraq Campaign to galvanize Muslim and Arab Nationalist sentiment around the Wall dispute. The Jews likewise formed groups to “defend” their asserted rights to the Wall.

The tensions reached boiling point and exploded into violence in August 1929. On Tisha b’Av (August 15) 1929, a group of Jewish youth marched to the Wall, where they raised the blue and white flag, listened to a brief speech from one of their leaders, and sang the Hatikvah. The Muslims held a counter-demonstration the following day, the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. The Muslim demonstration quickly turned violent, resulting in the murders of several Jews outside the Old City. The violence continued throughout the following week, culminating in the Hebron massacre of August 24, 1929, where approximately 60 Jews were butchered.

Jews flee the Old City of Jerusalem, August 1929. (US Library of Congress / Public Domain)

While the history of the violent clashes at the Wall during the 1920s has been told many times, less-known were various attempts by the Jews and British to strike a deal with the Muslims to buy the area in front of the Wall and the Wall itself.

Sir Ronald Storrs (Library of Congress / Public Domain)

In the spring of 1918, for example, Chaim Weizmann approached the British military government about buying the Wall and pavement area, along with the Moghrabi dwellings. The Military Governor, Sir Ronald Storrs, floated the idea with the Muslim community. Storrs reported the Muslims were offended, and “it would be a grave error of policy for the Military Government to raise the question at all.”

In August 1918, another British Official, Brigadier General Sir Gilbert Clayton, told the Muslims they might be able to secure “a large sum of money for a property which is to-day of little value.” The Muslims, however, opposed any such initiative, fearing it would be the first step toward Jewish encroachment on the Temple Mount.

In October 1918, Clayton notified London of an unauthorized Jewish attempt to buy the Wall, interfering with Clayton’s ongoing, quiet efforts to persuade the Arabs to consider selling the Wall:

“Up to quite recently signs were not wanting that the Moslem Dignitaries and notables were beginning to be impressed with the arguments explained to them at great length in favour of the scheme [for the Jews to buy the Wall]. The hopelessness … of obtaining the funds to put into effect … the restoration of the Haram es Sharif, the possibility of replenishing the Wakf coffers and so promoting Moslem education of a liberal scale, the comparative unimportance and squalor of the buildings and their [Moroccan] inhabitants in the precinct, the lurking fear that they might have one day to yield for nothing (as a City improvement scheme or otherwise) that for which they would now receive a very large sum of money – these and a variety of other considerations appeared to be modifying a ‘non possumus’ attitude into one of critical apprehension and fear of the effect on the local and general Islamic world. From the moment, however, that an attempt was apparently made by a Jerusalem Jew (doubtless without the knowledge of the Zionist Commission) to get into direct pecuniary contact with the Moslems concerned something approaching a panic set in, and from that day things have gone from bad to worse in so far as concerns the Zionist hopes in this respect.”

In 1926, a Jewish effort was launched to buy properties in front of the Wall as a first step toward acquiring the entire Moghrabi area and eventually the Wall itself. In early October 1928, Frederick Kisch, a Jerusalem-based Zionist official proposed, in a confidential letter to the Zionist Executive in London, that the Muslims be compelled to sell the pavement and the Moghrabi area to the Jews for £100,000, “in exchange for another suitable area in the Old City, with the inevitable addition of a cash payment for the benefit of the Wakf authorities.”

But these efforts, like those preceding them, went nowhere.

Three unique initiatives

Suddenly, however, in the days immediately following the Hebron massacre, three new initiatives appeared. While none of these new initiatives succeeded, their close proximity to each other and the dramatic nature of their presentation make them, especially Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s proposal, unique in the history of Mandate Palestine.

The first initiative came from a prominent Egyptian Jew, the Baron Felix de Menasce, the President of the Israelite Community in Alexandria. On August 26, 1929, only two days after the Hebron Massacre, Menasce walked into the British Embassy in Paris and met with Adrian Holman, the Second Secretary at the Embassy. Later that day Holman cabled the Foreign Office in London and reported as follows:

“[Menasce] explained to me at some length that the frequent cases of rioting at the Wailing Wall were due to the fact that the buildings surrounding the Wall were in the hands of the Moslems and had always been looked upon by the British Government as bearing a religious character. It had consequently always proved impossible for the Jews to buy the buildings in question and thus prevent troubles in the future. He maintained that the buildings were purely civil as opposed to religious and that the present moment might be an opportune one for the British Government to reconsider the possibility of arranging for the Jewish community to buy the buildings for demolition or other purposes. He was sure that if this were done, the Jewish community throughout the world would easily be able to find the necessary sum of money.”

George W. Rendell of the Foreign Office’s Eastern Division responded to Holman’s cable on September 7, noting the Muslims viewed the Wall as a religious site and would not be willing to sell the nearby dwellings to the Jews. Rendell poured more cold water on the idea, adding, “[t]he Colonial Office are, I think, familiar with the advantages and difficulties of a solution on the lines of the Baron de Menasce’s proposal, and seeing how overworked they are at the moment with a variety of Middle Eastern crises, I am not adding to their correspondence by passing the suggestion on to them.”

Dr. Chaim Weizmann. (AP Photo 1938)

Menasce sent a handwritten letter in French to Weizmann reporting on his meeting with Holman at the British Embassy in Paris. Menasce wrote, “J’ai la conviction c’est le moment psychologique de transfer tout l’argent necessaire, si jamais les Juifs deraint acheter ce Wakf …” (“I am convinced that if the Jews are ever going to buy this Wakf, this is, psychologically, the right time to find all the necessary money …”) No record has been found indicating whether Menasce had been acting on Weizmann’s behalf, or whether Weizmann ever responded to Menasce.

The second initiative came from Pinchas Rutenberg, the Managing Director of the Palestine Electric Corporation. On August 29, 1929, three days after Menasce’s meeting at the British Embassy in Paris, Rutenberg sent a letter to Lord Reading (previously known as Rufus Isaacs, a Jew and Chairman of the Palestine Electric Corporation), urging the British government to expropriate the entire area in front of the Wailing Wall to create “a suitable and dignified Jewish praying place.”

This was not the first time expropriation had been floated, but never at such a high level. Rutenberg was the preeminent Jewish businessman in Palestine and the future Chair of the Va’ad Leumi. Lord Reading took matters to the very highest level of the British Government, forwarding Rutenberg’s letter to Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald the next day, with a cover letter of endorsement:

“I would therefore earnestly represent that the necessary measures should be adopted as soon as practicable to make a complete end of this cause of dispute by expropriating the more extended area, as suggested by Mr. Rutenberg in his letter to me. I understand that this could be accomplished without interfering with any part of Moslem ‘Holy Ground.’”

But nothing came of Rutenberg’s expropriation proposal. The Colonial Office reacted negatively, noting “the present time is not opportune for considering the question of compulsory expropriation… Quite apart from the legal aspect, such action would be intensely resented by the Moslems and we have taken the line hitherto that expropriation is out of the question.”

In addition, High Commissioner Chancellor had already told the Permanent Mandates Commission (PMC) of the League of Nations in July 1929 that the first conclusion he came to after arriving in Palestine as High Commissioner and studying the Western Wall issue was that “there must not … be any attempt to expropriate, in favour of the Jews, the area of the pavement in front of the Wall.”

Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini (Library of Congress / Public Domain)

However, at that same PMC meeting, Chancellor disclosed he personally had asked the Mufti to consider selling the Moghrabi dwellings (“mean hovels,” as he described them) to the Jews, assuming the Jews would pay to relocate the Moghrabi inhabitants to superior accommodations elsewhere. Chancellor explained the Jews would be able “to make there a courtyard surrounded by a loggia where they could say their prayers in peace and in dignified surroundings.”

Weizmann embraced the idea and had £70,000 at the ready. But the Mufti rejected the plan, even after Chancellor suggested the Mufti consider an indirect sale, whereby the Mufti would transfer the property to the Mandatory Government as middleman, which would then complete the sale to the Jews, thereby allowing the Mufti to avoid looking as if he had sold Muslim property to the Jews.

An unprecedented proposal

The third initiative involved Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha of Egypt. Ali Pasha had built the famous Manial Palace on Rhoda Island on the Nile River in Cairo. The prince was the uncle of and future Regent to Farouk, the future King of Egypt. Those who knew Ali Pasha regarded him as a “very liberal-minded man,” with a “courtly bearing.” Storrs described Ali Pasha in his memoirs as “Prince Muhammad, afterwards Regent, with his great “lucky” emerald ring, the revived Oriental splendours of his Manial Palace, his courtly bearing and graceful entertainment; his fine devotion to his mother.” The Jewish, Alexandria-based lawyer Alec Alexander once described Ali Pasha as “the one person who could use his good offices to bring about peace between Muslims and Jews.”

Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha (Public Domain)

In an amazing coincidence of history, Ali Pasha entered the stage on August 29, 1929, the same day Rutenberg had sent his letter to Lord Reading, and only three days after Menasce’s meeting with Holman at the British Embassy in Paris.
On that fateful day of August 29, 1929, Ali Pasha, while on a visit to Istanbul, hand-delivered to the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir George Clerk, a letter addressed to High Commissioner Chancellor in Jerusalem. The letter contained a stunning proposal from Ali Pasha for settling the Muslim-Jewish dispute over the Western Wall:

“Having heard about the troubles going on in Palestine between Jews and Mohametans, and having a certain knowledge of the Arab and Mohametan aspirations, I thought I might be of service outlining a proposal by which this quarrel might perhaps be ended peacefully.

The Mohametans and Arabs having been masters in Palestine for over one thousand years, they are fighting for their honour and do not want to lose anything which they have acquired as a possession. They fear that either through administrative channels or by force they will be compelled ultimately to relinquish rights they have held for so long.

Every one knows that in every country in law after the lapse of a certain period proprietary rights are established. In this case the rights of the Mohametans go back one thousand years.

My proposal for a solution is that, instead of fighting or dealing unjustly by one party or the other, it would be infinitely better to come to an understanding. The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it. If this could be done, it would avoid coercion and possibly injustice to one or other of the parties.

Certainly I am sure the Mohametans and Arabs will not accept a small sum such as £10,000 or even £20,000 for a matter in which their honour is so far involved. In Zurich the Zionists have collected £240,000 for Palestine. Let them give £100,000 and I feel sure this would settle the difference.”

Although the letter does not specifically mention a “sale” of the Wall, Ali Pasha made clear in his meeting with Ambassador Clerk that selling the Wall was precisely his intention. According to Clerk’s contemporaneous recollection of their conversation, Ali Pasha “submit a suggestion which would, he thought, provide a solution to the question of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem;” specifically, “the idea of the Jews buying the Wall.”

Ali Pasha’s letter was extraordinary. No one in the Muslim world had previously – or ever since – proposed to sell the Western Wall to the Jews. Surely Ali Pasha never spoke a word of this to anyone in the Muslim world, as he lived peacefully for nearly three more decades

But Ambassador Clerk never forwarded Ali Pasha’s letter to High Commissioner Chancellor in Jerusalem. Instead, Clerk sent Ali Pasha’s letter directly to the Foreign Office in London, along with a cover note adding his own observation that “the idea of the Jews buying the Wall has long been considered and rejected, and recent events seem scarcely favorable to the idea of the Muslims accepting even as fancy a price as £100,000, supposing the Jews were prepared to offer that sum.”

The Foreign Office kept Clerk’s original cover letter in its files, together with a copy of Ali Pasha’s letter. The Foreign Office made the following file notation regarding the prince’s letter:

Foreign Office File entry, E 4557/204/65 (September 3, 1929; photo by the author).

W. L. Knight of the Foreign Office made a sarcastic handwritten file entry several days later:

“It would appear from the last para. of the prince’s letter that while the Jerusalem Arabs would scorn to sell their honour cheap, they would probably be prepared to do so for £100,000!”

Foreign Office File entry, E 4557/204/65 (September 10, 1929; photo by the author).

The Foreign Office later recorded the prince’s letter in its official index for 1929 as, “Suggested sale of wall to Jews by Moslems: proposal of Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha:”

Foreign Office Index, 1929 (photo by the author).

The Foreign Office sent the original of Ali Pasha’s letter, along with the calling card Ali Pasha had given to Ambassador Clerk, to the Colonial Office, where both items were tucked inside an envelope and filed away for the next 90 years.

The prince’s calling card, given to the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir George Clerk, on August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Ali Pasha’s letter was extraordinary. No one in the Muslim world had previously – or ever since – proposed to sell the Western Wall to the Jews. Surely Ali Pasha never spoke a word of this to anyone in the Muslim world, as he lived peacefully for nearly three more decades. Nor is there any evidence he had any authority from the Muslim authorities in Jerusalem to make the offer. But his letter nevertheless represents an extraordinary and courageous – if not somewhat Quixotic – step for a highly prominent Arab and future Regent to the King of Egypt to have taken so soon after the August 1929 violence.

The letter also seriously undermines Muslim claims regarding the holiness of the Buraq. Surely Ali Pasha would never have dreamed of proposing to sell any truly sacred Muslim shrines, such as the Dome of the Rock or the Al Aqsa Mosque, to the Jews. Clearly he did not regard the Western Wall as even a minor Muslim religious site. Indeed, no evidence exists of any Muslim prayer or veneration at the Buraq since the 7th Century Muslim conquest of Jerusalem.

Moreover, during a 1930 courtroom trial presided over by three League of Nations-approved judges, pitting Muslims against Jews regarding their respective rights and claims to the Wall, the Jewish side offered evidence that the Muslims had repeatedly defiled the Wall and the pavement. Dr. Mordechai Eliash, the Jerusalem-based lawyer representing the Jewish side, said the following in his opening statement (pages 53-54 of the transcript, the only surviving copy of which is located at King’s College, London):

“Evidence will be brought before you that time and again the Wall was desecrated by actually smearing human excreta on its stones. Filth and rubbish were always allowed by the Mughrabis to accumulate there, while time and again have Jewish individuals and organized communities paid for the sweeping and cleaning of the area in front of the Wall, and it will be shown to you that it was through Jewish intervention that a sewage drain was not laid close to the Wall …”

In any event, no record was found of any further action by Ali Pasha or the British Government regarding Ali Pasha’s proposal, nor is there any evidence in Chancellor’s files or his diary proving or even hinting he ever learned of the letter’s existence.

The original Ali Pasha letter, containing the only Arab offer ever to sell the Wall to the Jews, remained buried in the Colonial Office files for the next 90 years.

Prince Ali Pasha’s letter, August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Prince Ali Pasha’s letter, August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Two of Israel’s leading historians of the Mandate era, Professor Motti Golani of Tel Aviv University and Professor Hillel Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, examined Ali Pasha’s letter and the related documents at the author’s request last year. Both professors said they were unaware of Ali Pasha’s letter or of any prior publication mentioning it. Golani called it a “major discovery.” Cohen initially noted the absence of any specific reference to “selling” the Wall in the text of Ali Pasha’s letter, but after reading Clerk’s cover letter to the Foreign Office, Cohen acknowledged Ali Pasha’s letter indeed conveyed an implicit offer to sell the Wall.

One lingering question remains: is it possible Ali Pasha and Menasce knew of each other’s initiatives? Two very prominent Egyptians, one Muslim and one Jewish, within three days of each other separately approached the British Embassies in Istanbul and Paris to float the idea of the Jews buying the Western Wall and the surrounding area. Perhaps they had coordinated their efforts and stage-managed them as carefully as possible to avoid detection. Or perhaps neither had any idea of the other’s activity, and their visits to the British Embassies in Paris (Monday) and Istanbul (Thursday) of the same week were purely coincidental. We will leave that mystery for others to solve.

In any event, Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s letter stands as a remarkable testament to the bravery and creativity of this urbane and worldly Egyptian prince, who at great personal risk launched an initiative to bring peace to the Muslims and Jews of Mandate Palestine.

Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Steven E. Zipperstein

The prince’s letter, concealed in the files of the Colonial Office for the past 90 years, can now proudly take its rightful place in history.

********

Steven E. Zipperstein is the author of the forthcoming book “Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Trials of Palestine” (Routledge, March 2020), from which this article is derived. Zipperstein, a former United States federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Development at UCLA. He also teaches in UCLA’s Global Studies program and School of Public Affairs, and as a visiting professor at the Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University.

(Copyright Steven E. Zipperstein, 2020)

Tens of thousands pray at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem in Selichot (forgiveness) prayers, early on September 27, 2019. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
READ MORE:
COMMENTS

Food: Eight tasty nights of Hanukkah

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE)

 

Food: Eight tasty nights of Hanukkah

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah is a delicious, festive holiday celebrating the miracle of a drop of lamp oil that burned brightly for eight days. Let’s put Hanukkah in a modern context. It’s the first night of an eight-night holiday. Your phone charge is down to 10 percent and you don’t have access to a charger for the next week. Miraculously, the charge lasts for all eight days. That’s Hanukkah.

This year the first night of Hanukkah is Sunday, Dec. 22. The word Hanukkah means re-dedication.

It commemorates a miraculous victory to preserve the ancient temple in which a brave family called the Maccabees prevailed over a much stronger opponent. In rededicating the temple they found only one day’s holy oil, yet the holy lamp miraculously burned for eight days.

To recall this miracle each year, Jews celebrate for eight nights by gathering together to light candles on an eight branch Menorah and indulge in rich and fried foods.

This decidedly decadent tradition of eating rich and fried foods makes the holiday special. Traditional Hanukkah foods are jelly donuts, potato pancakes and rich puddings called kugels. In celebration, children play a gambling game with a top called a dreidel. Winning spins are rewarded with “gelt,” delicious gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins. Modest gifts may be exchanged each night.

My family delights in this ultra-rich and easy to prepare Noodle Kugel. It can be easily scaled up or down, may be made ahead and freezes well. Just don’t substitute lower-fat ingredients. After all, it’s Hanukkah.

Ultra-Rich & Creamy Noodle Kugel

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

8 ounce package cream cheese

4 eggs

½ cup sour cream

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 ounce package wide egg noodles cook according to package directions

Topping:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Prepare the filling: In a food processor blend the melted butter, cream cheese and eggs. Add sugar, milk and vanilla and blend well. Gently stir in sour cream to keep the body of the sour cream so it doesn’t get liquefied. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the cooked noodles. Stir gently to combine. Pour into a greased 9-by-13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

3. Prepare the topping: Stir the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter together and mix well. Sprinkle over the uncooked kugel. Don’t worry if it seems to sink a bit, it should rise to the top as it bakes.

4. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until set. If the top browns too soon cover with foil.

Mara Kahn is a local real estate agent, co-owner of Jacob’s Kitchen, the Eighth Street East culinary outlet. Mara throws a great party.

It’s time to show your support

We’re always here when you need the latest information. Whether it is power outages, floods, fires or earthquakes, The Index-Tribune has reporters and photographers on the scene for whatever is happening in your world. A team of editors, digital producers, printing plant employees, and newspaper carriers further helps to keep you informed — every step of the way.

This kind of committed local coverage takes an investment. Please consider, right now, purchasing a digital subscription to show your support. You count on us. Can we count on you?

Israel: Likud hopeful Sa’ar says two-state solution with Palestinians is an ‘illusion’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Likud hopeful Sa’ar says two-state solution with Palestinians is an ‘illusion’

Attacking PM from the right, challenger blames Netanyahu’s ‘endless concessions’ for helping perpetuate the idea that a Palestinian state is the only way to achieve a peace deal

Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar speaks at a conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar speaks at a conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Gideon Sa’ar, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sole challenger in the upcoming Likud party leadership race, said Sunday that a two-state solution with the Palestinians is an “illusion,” and attacked the premier for giving the notion credibility over the last decade.

“Throughout the world they say that a two-state solution remains the path to an agreement,” Sa’ar said, speaking at a conference.”I have to say to you, this is not a position that helps anyone. Two-states in an illusion.”

Sa’ar said this had been shown through decades of negotiations based around two-states that had failed to bring peace. He also blamed the Palestinians for “never being able to agree to a compromise, despite very generous offers.”

Sa’ar castigated Netanyahu for perpetuating the idea that two-states was the only solution, accusing him of making “endless concessions” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the last decade, including settlement building freezes in the West Bank.

He also referred to Netanyahu’s famous speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, in which the prime minister expressed support for the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu has since said conditions for statehood no longer exist in the current reality in the Middle East.

Sa’ar said that the solution needs to be an autonomous Palestinian entity linked together in a federation with Jordan. “Between the Jordan River and the (Mediterranean) Sea there cannot be another state,” he said.

Sa’ar appeared to be trying to outflank Netanyahu from the right ahead of the Likud party leadership vote, set for December 26. However, Netanyahu has in recent years also moved away from tacit support for a two-state solution and has, over the last few months, been promising to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if reelected.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a map of the Jordan Valley, vowing to extend Israeli sovereignty there if reelected, during a speech in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Likud MK Sharren Haskel on Sunday said she would back Sa’ar, becoming the fourth lawmaker to publicly endorse him. Most Likud MKs have announced support for Netanyahu, with a few notable lawmakers keeping mum. Despite the defections, Netanyahu is expected to defeat Sa’ar handily.

The vote marks the first real challenge to Netanyahu’s leadership of the party in 14 years. He and Sa’ar are the only contenders who have announced they will run in the primary.

Sa’ar argues that Netanyahu is divisive and has proved he cannot put together a coalition, after failing to muster a governing majority following two national elections in April and September. Israel will go to polls again on March 2.

Sa’ar has expressed his opposition to a two-state solution in the past. Earlier this year he was one of a group of right-wing lawmakers who sent a letter to US lawmakers warning that calls for a two-state solution are “far more dangerous to Israel” than efforts to boycott the Jewish state, and urging them to refrain from such appeals in the future.

“We believe (the proposed resolution) contains a grave error because it expresses, among other things, support for a so-called ‘Two-State Solution,’ meaning the establishment of a ‘Palestinian state’ in the heart of tiny Israel… We would like to make our position clear that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be far more dangerous to Israel than BDS,” they wrote.

A crane is used at the construction site in the West Bank settlement of Amichai on September 7, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The letter was sent to the offices of the four congressmen who co-sponsored a resolution that condemned BDS but also called for a two-state solution — Brad Schneider, Lee Zeldin, Jerry Nadler and Ann Wagner. It was written and sent at the initiative of Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset and the National Conference of Likud, an informal group of hawks within the ruling party.

Creating a Palestinian state in the region would “severely damage” both Israel’s and America’s national security, the Israeli legislators wrote.

In recent years the Trump administration has moved away from its support for a two-state solution.

Last month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Pompeo repudiated a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”

US moves that have weakened Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood have included President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the moving of the US embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. These moves have been widely, though not universally, welcomed in Israel.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and his point man for the Middle East peace process, has said that the administration’s as-yet-unreleased peace plan would avoid speaking about the two-state solution.

“I realize that means different things to different people,” he said earlier this year. “If you say ‘two states’ to the Israelis it means one thing, and if you say ‘two states’ to the Palestinians it means another thing. So we said, ‘let’s just not say it.’ Let’s just work on the details of what this means.”

JOIN US!
A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR OF TIMES OF ISRAEL
DAVID HOROVITZ

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy an ADS-FREE experience, as well as special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

Read moreJOIN THE TIMES OF ISRAEL COMMUNITYAlready a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

READ MORE:
COMMENTS

Turkish ships said to force Israeli research vessel out of Cypriot waters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Turkish ships said to force Israeli research vessel out of Cypriot waters

According to TV report, Turkish navy intercepts Israeli boat, orders it to leave; Turkey’s recent maritime deal with Libya has fueled regional tensions over drilling rights

File: Turkish navy ships in 2015 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

File: Turkish navy ships in 2015 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkish navy ships intercepted an Israeli research ship in Cypriot waters two weeks ago and drove it away, Channel 13 news reported Saturday, quoting senior Israeli officials.

The ship Bat Galim, of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research institution, was approached by Turkish vessels while conducting research in coordination with Cypriot officials and the Cypriot government, the report said.

The unnamed senior officials said the vessels radioed the Israeli ship, demanded to know its business in the area — despite not having jurisdiction there — and then ordered it leave. The Israeli ship had no choice but to comply and depart.

Turkey has recently taken steps to increase its influence in the eastern Mediterranean. It signed a maritime border agreement with Libya in November that has fueled regional tensions with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the region.

The three countries, which lie between Turkey and Libya, blasted the maritime border accord, saying it was inconsistent with international law. Greece has expelled the Libyan ambassador over the pact.

Meanwhile, Ankara has warned it will use its military forces if necessary to halt any exploratory gas drilling in waters off Cyprus that it claims as its own.

The Channel 13 report noted that tensions could negatively affect Israel’s plans for a submarine pipeline to transfer gas from its offshore reserves to Europe, which is set to pass through Cyprus and Greece’s territorial waters.

The report said an Israeli embassy official in Ankara was called in last week for a conversation, in which Turkish officials warned that the pipeline project would require Turkey’s approval.

“The Turks are trying to establish themselves as the ones running the show [in the region], and that is very worrying,” an official told the network.

Neighbors Greece and Turkey are divided by a series of decades-old issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. The NATO allies have come to the brink of war three times since the 1970s, including once over drilling rights in the area.

Greece insists the deal with Libya — which has no fully functioning government able to rule across all of its territory — is unenforceable and has stressed that it will protect its sovereign rights.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said he will ask other NATO members at the alliance’s London summit, which was held in the first week of December, to support Greece, in the face of fellow member Turkey’s attempts to encroach on its sovereignty.

Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a state — but does recognize the breakaway Turkish Cypriot entity, the only country to do so — and is conducting exploratory gas drilling in waters where the ethnically divided island nation has exclusive economic rights.

Ankara has said it is defending its rights and those of the Turkish Cypriots to regional energy reserves.

Agencies contributed to this report.

JOIN US!
A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR OF TIMES OF ISRAEL
DAVID HOROVITZ

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy an ADS-FREE experience, as well as special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

Read moreJOIN THE TIMES OF ISRAEL COMMUNITYAlready a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

READ MORE:
COMMENTS

Knesset dissolves, sets unprecedented third election in under a year

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Knesset dissolves, sets unprecedented third election in under a year

Israelis to head back to polls on March 2 in latest bid to solve political deadlock that has engulfed country; short-lived 22nd Knesset automatically disperses at midnight

Benny Gantz walks during a session of the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 11, 2019.(Gali TIBBON / AFP)

Benny Gantz walks during a session of the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 11, 2019.(Gali TIBBON / AFP)

Israelis will return to the ballot box for the third consecutive national election in 11 months on March 2 after its top politicians again failed to build a governing coalition, in the latest twist in a sprawling and unprecedented crisis that has left the country in political limbo for a year.

The Knesset was automatically dispersed at midnight on Wednesday, but lawmakers continued debating until early Thursday on the date of the vote.

With no Knesset member having gained the support of 61 MKs by the midnight deadline, the Knesset officially dissolved and new elections set for 90 days time, March 10.

However, having started the debate before midnight, Knesset members had until President Reuven Rivlin’s official announcement on Thursday, that no MK gained enough support to build a coalition, to pass the law setting the date for the new elections.

A general view of the Israeli parliament during a vote on a bill to dissolve the parliament, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on December 11, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

With March 10 falling on the Jewish festival on Purim and various other calendar considerations, MKs eventually finalized a bill setting the elections for March 2.

The second and third readings of the vote passed by 96 in favor with seven against. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was absent for earlier proceedings, showed up for the votes that were passed just before 3:30 a.m. Thursday.

That vote brought to an official close attempts by Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to assemble a coalition following the September election. Talks between Netanyahu and Gantz, leaders of the two-largest parties, on a unity arrangement broke down with both sides trading blame.

Over the past 21 days, lawmakers also had the opportunity to nominate any MK for a shot at forming a government by gathering 61 signatures, but no such candidate was nominated.

This combination picture created on September 18, 2019 shows, Benny Gantz (R), leader of the Blue and White political alliance, waving to supporters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing supporters at his Likud party’s electoral campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand and Menahem Kahana / AFP)

The April 2019 election made history when by the end of May it became the first-ever Israeli election that failed to produce a government. At the time, Netanyahu was short just one vote of a majority. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman had refused to join over disagreements on the ultra-Orthodox enlistment law with Netanyahu’s Haredi political allies, precipitating the repeat vote in the fall.

Following both elections, neither Gantz’s Blue and White nor Netanyahu’s Likud had enough allies to form a government without the other or the support of the Yisrael Beytenu party, but the two parties could not finalize the terms for a unity coalition.

Netanyahu will be campaigning in the upcoming election in the shadow of criminal charges against him in three corruption probes, which were announced by the attorney general last month. He faces an indictment over bribery in one case, and fraud and breach of trust in the three cases. He denies all wrongdoing.

He also faces an internal leadership challenge by Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar in an upcoming party primary.

A member of the Israeli Druze community casts her ballot during Israel’s parliamentary elections on September 17, 2019, in Daliyat al-karmel in northern Israel. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The criminal charges have been a sticking point in the coalition talks since September, with Blue and White insisting it won’t serve under a prime minister facing trial and calling for Netanyahu to publicly declare he won’t seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution, which the prime minister is widely expected to request.

The centrist party has also been critical of the prime minister’s insistence on negotiating on behalf of all 55 MKs in his bloc of right-wing and religious parties. The parties also could not agree on who would serve as prime minister first under a power-sharing framework proposed by President Reuven Rivlin.

Even as another election has now been called, some recent polls indicated it may not resolve the political deadlock, with Liberman again potentially holding the balance of power.

A Tuesday poll showed Blue and White increasing its lead over Likud, expanding its current one-seat advantage to a four-seat lead — 37 seats to Likud’s 33 in the 120-member Knesset. Meanwhile, the rightist Haredi bloc of parties backing Netanyahu is set to fall by three seats, according to the Channel 13 poll, from the current 55 total to 52, far short of the 61 seats it would need to form a coalition in the 120-seat Knesset.

The poll predicted Likud falling even further if the party drops the scandal-laden Netanyahu in favor of his main challenger, Sa’ar.

When asked who they blamed for the expected third election, 41 percent of respondents blamed Netanyahu, followed by Yisrael Beytenu leader Liberman at 26%, and Gantz at a mere 5%. Twenty-three percent said “everyone is equally responsible.”

JOIN US!
A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR OF TIMES OF ISRAEL
DAVID HOROVITZ

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy an ADS-FREE experience, as well as special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

Read moreJOIN THE TIMES OF ISRAEL COMMUNITYAlready a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

READ MORE:
COMMENTS

Jersey City gunman was a Black Hebrew Israelite

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Jersey City gunman was a Black Hebrew Israelite, so don’t expect to hear much more about the shooting

It was only January when certain journalists went way out on a limb to give friendly news coverage to the racist and anti-Semitic Black Hebrew Israelite cult. This very odd editorial decision seemed to come in the service of better sticking it to the high school students from Covington Catholic — boys whom the Black Hebrew Israelites had taunted on the national mall, inciting what became a famous incident.

So, now that one of the black nationalist cult’s former members stands accused of a deadly shoot-out with police, possibly in an act of anti-Semitic terrorism targeting a Kosher grocery market in Jersey City, we are probably not going to hear much talk about the Black Hebrew Israelites in the broader context of radicalization and gun violence. That would be a personal and professional embarrassment for a lot of reporters and editors, some of whom are currently in the middle of defending against lawsuits by the Covington teens.

The New York Times, for example, published an entire profile in January describing the Black Hebrew Israelites and their tactics in friendly, playful terms, including “gamely engage,” “blunt and sometimes offensive,” and “attention-grabbing,” but all for the purpose of “drawing listeners near.” The profile is even sure to mention that a popular rapper once mentioned the group by name in a song.

A report published separately by the Washington Post likewise mentions the rapper incident. It does not, however, take any time to lay out the cult’s well-known history of racism and anti-Semitism. All that the report says is that the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have labeled the Black Hebrew Israelites as a “hate group” for its “inflammatory messages about white, LGBT and Jewish people.” That’s it. The Jan. 22 Washington Post story said also of the Covington episode that the Black Hebrew Israelites presence at the Lincoln Memorial “was, for the group, quite mundane,” adding further that “Israelite street preaching in parts of D.C., Philadelphia and New York is commonplace, a familiar if odd accent to city life.”

It is still possible Tuesday’s shooting spree inspires a broader conversation about gun violence and the dangers posed by radical hate groups like the Black Hebrew Israelites. But don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, the Covington teenagers, falsely portrayed as hateful bigots in the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere, are not known to have shot anyone — at least not in the last 11 months.

Suspected Jersey City gunman said to have railed against Jews online

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Suspected Jersey City gunman said to have railed against Jews online

Officials refuse to publicly elaborate on targeting of kosher market, but investigators reportedly believe rampage was motivated by anti-Semitism, anti-police sentiment

Emergency responders work at a kosher supermarket, the site of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, December 11, 2019. (AP/Seth Wenig)

Emergency responders work at a kosher supermarket, the site of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, December 11, 2019. (AP/Seth Wenig)

One of the suspected gunmen in the deadly Jersey City shooting at a kosher supermarket on Tuesday railed against Jews and police officers on social media, according to a report Wednesday, as authorities indicated that the store had been targeted in the deadly incident.

A law enforcement official said police believe the shooter was motivated by the anti-Semitic and anti-police beliefs, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Details of the online posts were not provided in the article.

The two suspects, who were both killed in a shootout with police, were identified as David Anderson and Francine Graham, NBC New York quoted law enforcement sources saying.

According to the network, Anderson was once a follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite’s, who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelite’s and may practice elements of both Judaism and Christianity. Some Black Hebrew Israelite groups have been accused of racism and anti-Semitism.

Officials said a religious note was found in the vehicle allegedly used by Anderson and Graham but that they were still investigating a motive.

A neighbor of Graham’s in Jersey City told NBC she was formerly a home health aide in Manhattan who met Anderson after getting hurt and quitting her job. The neighbor said Graham became a “dark” person after meeting Anderson.

A police officer and three bystanders were killed in the violence, as were the two suspects, Tuesday afternoon in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York City. Two of the bystanders have been identified by local community members as Leah Mindel Ferencz, 33, and Moshe Deutsch, 24, both members of the local ultra-Orthodox community.

The 40-year-old slain officer, Detective Joseph Seals, who led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, was cut down by gunfire that erupted near a cemetery. The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout from inside the kosher market, where the five other bodies were later found.

Police officers arrive at the scene of an active shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey, on December 10, 2019. (Kena Betancur / AFP)

Local officials earlier on Wednesday said they believe the Jewish-owned supermarket was targeted, but stopped short of laying out an anti-Semitic motive. Neither the state attorney general, who is running the investigation, nor any other law enforcement authority has confirmed the shooters targeted Jews.

“Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said.

Fulop did not elaborate on why authorities now believe the market was targeted.

Steven Fulop

@StevenFulop

Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked. Due to an excess of caution the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead. We have no indication there are any further threats

839 people are talking about this

Fulop said that there were no signs of further threats, although earlier reports had said a third gunman may have escaped the scene, and said he had been in close contact with Jersey City’s Jewish community following the attack.

“I know the entire Jersey City community stands together with the Jewish Community during these challenging times,” Fulop said.

Next to the store, the only kosher supermarket in the area and a central fixture for the growing community, are a yeshiva and a synagogue. Around 100 Jewish families live in the area in the city’s Greenville neighborhood, with most of the families having moved there from Brooklyn in the last few years.

Chabad Rabbi Moshe Schapiro, who shops at the store and attends the synagogue next door, said he spoke with the store owner, Moishe Ferencz, before Ferencz learned that his wife had been killed in the attack.

“He told me he had just walked out of the store into the synagogue not five feet away just before this happened, and then he couldn’t get back for hours,” Schapiro said. “His wife was inside the store. He said, ‘I hope my wife is safe.’”

New York City councilman Chaim Deutsch, a member of the city’s Jewish caucus, said that New York City police were providing extra security to synagogues and other sites.

Volume 90%

Seals was credited by his superiors with having led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, and might have been trying to stop an incident involving such weapons when he was cut down by gunfire that erupted near the cemetery, authorities said.

The bullets started flying early in the afternoon in the city of about 270,000 people, situated across the Hudson River from New York City. Seals, who worked for a unit called Cease Fire, was shot around 12:30 p.m. The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout.

A police officer pushes pedestrians back from the scene of a shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Kelly said that when police responded to the area of the kosher store, officers “were immediately engaged by high-power rifle fire.”

“Our officers were under fire for hours,” the chief said.

Inside the grocery store, police found the bodies of who they believed were the two gunmen and three other people who apparently happened to be there when the assailants rushed in, authorities said. Police said they were confident the bystanders were shot by the gunmen and not by police.

Police officers arrive at the scene of a shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 10, 2019. (Kena Betancur/AFP)

US President Donald Trump said he had been briefed on the incident, which he called a “horrific shootout,” adding that the White House would be monitoring the situation and assisting local officials.

“Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims & their families during this very difficult & tragic time,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

JOIN US!
A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR OF TIMES OF ISRAEL
DAVID HOROVITZ

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy an ADS-FREE experience, as well as special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

Read more JOIN THE TIMES OF ISRAEL COMMUNITY Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

READ MORE:

Israel: Elections to be held on March 2 if no coalition formed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Elections to be held on March 2 if no coalition formed

Two days before deadline, Likud and Blue and White agree on prospective date, a Monday, which must still be approved by Knesset

File: Officials count the ballots from soldiers and absentees at the Knesset in Jerusalem, a day after the general election, April 10, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

File: Officials count the ballots from soldiers and absentees at the Knesset in Jerusalem, a day after the general election, April 10, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Blue and White and Likud have agreed that the next round of elections will be held on Monday, March 2, 2020, barring a last-minute coalition deal in the next two days.

The Knesset is expected to dissolve on Wednesday night, confirming the failure of both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a governing coalition following the inconclusive September elections.

If no lawmaker manages to get the support of at least 61 members of the 120-strong Knesset by Wednesday — and no candidate appears poised to do so — elections will be called for the third time in less than a year. The months-long political paralysis has continued since a previous round of voting in April failed to result in a majority government.

The proposed election date must clear three Knesset plenary readings to be approved, though even with just Likud and Blue and White’s support it already has a parliamentary majority.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Monday the three votes would be scheduled for Wednesday.

“Even when it seems that there is no chance of preventing these costly and unnecessary elections, we will not begin this legislative process before Wednesday, to allow the party leaders to come to their senses in the eleventh hour, a moment before it’s too late,” said Edelstein.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony marking 24 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset on November 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The unprecedented third round of elections in under a year will also be held on a Monday, a first for Israel, which generally holds the national vote on a Tuesday.

The change was due to a series of anniversaries and holidays that fall out on March’s Tuesdays, including a memorial day for soldiers whose burial sites are unknown, the Purim carnival, and the death anniversary of a Hasidic sage that sees a large ultra-Orthodox pilgrimage to his Polish hometown.

On Sunday, Hebrew media reports said Netanyahu’s Likud was seeking the latest possible date for the elections, while Blue and White sought the earliest.

Following September’s vote, Netanyahu and Gantz publicly supported a unity government of their parties under a power-sharing deal outlined by the president, but neither would bend on who would serve as premier first; the prime minister insisted on negotiating on behalf of his allied bloc of 55 MKs; and Blue and White ruled out serving under Netanyahu due to the criminal charges against him.

Both leaders have traded blame over the logjam.

Netanyahu will be facing a challenge within his party — Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar will by vying for the Likud leadership — and will campaign in the shadow of criminal charges against him, announced last month by the attorney general, in three corruption probes.

On Sunday, Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel was appointed to head the Central Elections Committee, replacing Hanan Melcer, who presided over the previous two elections.

JOIN US!
A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR OF TIMES OF ISRAEL
DAVID HOROVITZ

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy an ADS-FREE experience, as well as special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

Read moreJOIN THE TIMES OF ISRAEL COMMUNITYAlready a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

READ MORE:
COMMENTS

Israel: Taxi driver finds $60,000 in his backseat, tracks down owners

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Taxi driver finds $60,000 in his backseat, tracks down owners

Moshe Barkat of Bat Yam manages to locate the owners of the money, which was meant to fund treatment at Tel Aviv hospital: ‘They weren’t very excited to get the money back’

Illustration of US dollar bills. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)

Illustration of US dollar bills. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)

Taxi driver Moshe Barkat, like many other cab drivers, is used to passengers forgetting items in his vehicle, but what he found in the back of his cab on Friday was truly unforgettable: some $60,000 in American cash.

Barkat, from the city of Bat Yam near Tel Aviv, told Channel 12 that he had worked as usual on Friday, with his passengers including an elderly woman in a wheelchair accompanied by two young men who asked to be taken to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

At the end of his work day he noticed a black bag left on his back seat, and was surprised to find the money in organized stacks of $100 bills.

“I was in shock,” Barkat said. “People usually forget cellphones, small change, but this sort of sum?”

החדשות

@NewsChannelIL

נהג המונית נדהם: תיק עם אלפי דולרים נשכח במושב האחורי > http://bit.ly/2LzLei0  @avivitmy

View image on Twitter
See החדשות’s other Tweets

With the help of his wife he tried to figure out which of his passengers had left the money behind, and eventually managed to locate the owners, who said it was intended to fund medical treatments at Ichilov Hospital.

“It’s funny, actually, they weren’t very excited to get the money back,” Barkat said. “I thought they would cry from joy, but it didn’t happen.”

“I am a man of faith,” he explained. “The money isn’t mine, and I returned it wholeheartedly.”

JOIN US!
A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR OF TIMES OF ISRAEL
DAVID HOROVITZ

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We’ve achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

JOIN OUR COMMUNITY
READ MORE:

Trump: Some US Jews don’t love Israel enough

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Trump tells pro-Israel conference that some US Jews don’t love Israel enough

Speaking to Israeli American Council in Florida, US president says those in the audience will vote for him to protect their wealth; draws accusations of anti-Semitism

US President Donald Trump addresses the Israeli American Council National Summit 2019 at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida on December 7, 2019. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

US President Donald Trump addresses the Israeli American Council National Summit 2019 at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida on December 7, 2019. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump told a pro-Israel conference Saturday night that some American Jews don’t love Israel enough. He also noting that he did not have to worry about getting his audience’s votes, because they would cast ballots with business interests in mind.

Those comments, to the Israeli American Council advocacy group in Florida, drew quick criticism from opponents and were derided as anti-Semitic.

In his 45-minute speech to an audience of over 4,300, the president criticized American Jews who, he said, were not sufficiently supportive of the Jewish state.

“You have people — Jewish people — and they are great people and they don’t love Israel enough,” he said.

The comments were reminiscent of remarks he made in August when he said that Jews who vote for Democrats were disloyal, drawing a vociferous backlash.

Nonetheless, the vigorously pro-Israel crowd in Hollywood, Florida, cheered the president with chants of “Four more years!” and loud applause.

Later, Trump told an anecdote about people saying that he wouldn’t step down after a second term.

“So now we have to start thinking about that, because it’s not a bad idea,” Trump said. The audience responded with chants of “12 more years.”

Trump was welcomed to the stage by Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, who fund the IAC and who donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race.

Jews make up only a small portion of the national electorate but in Florida they represent a crucial piece of the swing state electoral puzzle. Historically, American Jews have voted heavily Democratic.

Wading into the 2020 campaign, Trump said the crowd would not vote for one of his potential Democratic opponents because she would take their wealth away.

“You have to vote for me, you have no choice,” Trump said. “You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that,” referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, in a dig at her claiming Native American ancestry.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) addresses a crowd outside of the Francis Marion Performing Arts Center October 26, 2019 in Florence, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/AFP)

“You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax,” he went on. “Let’s take 100 percent of your wealth away. No, no. Even if you don’t like me — and some of you don’t; some of you, I don’t like at all, actually — and you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes.”

Warren has proposed an annual two percent tax on households with a net worth of between $50 million and $1 billion — and an additional four percent tax on those with a net worth exceeding $1 billion.

Speaking about finding a location for the US Embassy in Israel, he told the audience, “A lot of you are in the real estate business.”

“I know you very well, you’re brutal realtors.”

Trump said that when making the decision to move the embassy, he ignored calls from “countries you’ve never even heard of,” along with powerful kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers.”Don’t do it. Don’t do it, please. Don’t do it,” they implored, he said. “But unlike other politicians, I kept my promises.”

Jewish Democrats criticized the president’s remarks about wealth as anti-Semitic.

“Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community — even Jewish Republicans,” said Aaron Keyak, a former chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “Trump’s embrace of anti-Semitic rhetoric much stop. Period.”

Emily Tamkin

@emilyctamkin

Hahaha Jews won’t vote for the candidate who wants a wealth tax because Jews are all about wealth get it lolol it’s funny because it’s an old trope often used to justify violent discrimination lmao https://twitter.com/avivaklompas/status/1203497195292499969 

Aviva Klompas

@AvivaKlompas

Further thoughts from the president on who the Jewish community should vote for next year.

Embedded video

67 people are talking about this

The Democratic Majority for Israel on Twitter slammed Trump for peddling anti-Semitic tropes and ignoring the threat from the far right.

Watching Trump “traffic in antisemitic stereotypes is disgusting,” the tweet said. “Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy when discussing antisemitism is equally distressing.

This is not the first time Trump has been accused of anti-Semitism for linking Jews to money.

In 2015, Trump, then a candidate, told the Republican Jewish Coalition that “you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians, that’s fine.”

President Donald Trump receives a menorah from Las Vegas Sands Corporation Chief Executive and Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson, left, and his wife Miriam Adelson at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Hollywood, Fla., Saturday, December 7, 2019. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

Throughout his speech, Trump boasted about his Israel policies — with a special emphasis on moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, cutting aid to the Palestinians, and withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.

He said he made the Golan recognition decision within a matter of moments, after discussing it with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. “Fifty-two years, and I go bing, and it’s done,” he said.

At no point in the 45-minute speech did Trump mention Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of his closest allies on the world stage who is facing indictment as he battles for his political life, with Israel poised to head into its third elections in less than a year.

Netanyahu’s Likud rival Gideon Sa’ar was set to address to conference on Sunday but pulled out in order to take part in the Likud Central Committee meeting on Sunday evening in Ramat Gan.

US President Donald Trump speaks at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Hollywood, Florida, December 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The political deadlock has stalled the roll-out of the administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal, but Trump said that his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was still working on hammering out a deal.

“If Jared Kushner can’t do it, it can’t be done,” he said.

The president also castigated the Obama administration as hostile to Israel. “I don’t think they liked Israel too much, I’m sorry,” he said. “After eight years [in] which our alliance was undermined and neglected, I am happy to report the United States-Israeli relationship is stronger now than ever before.”

At one point in his remarks, the president thanked Republican members of Congress in the room who were defending him against impeachment, such as Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, calling them “warriors” who were defending him “from oppression.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

JOIN US!
A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR OF TIMES OF ISRAEL
DAVID HOROVITZ

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We’ve achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

JOIN OUR COMMUNITY
READ MORE: