Hundreds protest reported Gaza ceasefire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hundreds protest reported Gaza ceasefire, block Sderot roads with burning tires

Some demonstrators in rocket-battered town clash with police, chant ‘Bibi go home’; protesters said planning rally in Tel Aviv Wednesday

Protesters burn tires at the entrance to the southern town of Sderot, Novermber 13, 2018 (Hadashot screenshot)

Protesters burn tires at the entrance to the southern town of Sderot, November 13, 2018 (Hadashot screenshot)

Hundreds of people were demonstrating Tuesday evening at the entrance to the town of Sderot over Israel’s reported agreement for a ceasefire with Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers, after a 25-hour period that saw over 460 rockets fired at Israeli communities near the Palestinian enclave.

Protesters were blocking roads and burning tires, with some chanting, “Bibi go home,” using a nickname for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Confrontations were reported between protesters and policemen.

Police said they were working to restore order, saying they would “allow freedom of expression and lawful protest” but not “disturbance of public order, violence towards policemen and civilians and riots on major roads.”

Some 500 people were reported to be taking part in the protest.

According to Hadashot TV news, some southern residents planned further demonstrations and road blockages in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to protest the truce.

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Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay expressed support for the protesters, saying it was a “justified” response to the government “forsaking” them.

He said the government had failed the south by “neglecting” the issue of Gaza since the 2014 war.

“This is not the time for another fragile truce,” he said. “This is the time for a true diplomatic initiative in Gaza, that will lean on the recommendations of the security establishment.”

Hamas and other Gaza terror groups said Tuesday they had accepted an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire with Israel. Terms of the deal were not immediately known, and there was no immediate comment from Israel. But a senior Israeli diplomatic official appeared to confirm the reported armistice.

“Israel maintains its right to act. Requests from Hamas for a ceasefire came through four different mediators. Israel responded that the events on the ground will decide [if a ceasefire will go into effect],” the official said, on condition of anonymity.

Many southern residents were unhappy with the decision.

“It’s better that we suffer in shelters and they put an end to it once and for all,” Reut Bassis of Sderot told Hadashot. “A month from today the same thing will happen…it doesn’t make sense that our lives are like this.”

Another Sderot resident, Miri, said: “The IDF is hitting empty buildings, while sending them trucks with cement and construction materials. Where’s our self-respect? We’ve been at war for 17 years.”

Another man, Yohanan Cohen, said he had lost faith in the prime minister. “I’ve been a Likud man for 40 years but I promise I won’t vote Likud anymore. We’re captives of Hamas.”

People gather outside a house that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on November 13, 2018. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Channel 10 news reported Tuesday evening that at least four senior ministers opposed the decision.

The report said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett proposed an alternative response, but it was rejected by the other ministers.

An unnamed minister who attended the seven-hour meeting Tuesday told the news outlet that no vote was held to determine the next steps. A source with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed to the Times of Israel there was no vote.

The source confirmed there were several disagreements between cabinet members, some of which were the focus of debate for a number of hours. They would not comment on the content of the disagreements.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the security cabinet released a statement that read, “The security cabinet discussed the events in the south. The cabinet received briefings from the IDF and defense officials on the [IDF] strikes and widespread operations against terror targets in Gaza. The cabinet instructed the IDF to continue its strikes as needed.”

According to the military, over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of 25 hours on Monday and Tuesday. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens more, and causing significant property damage.

A home in the southern Israeli town of Netivot that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018. (Israel Police)

In response to the rocket and mortar attacks, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”

In recent weeks, Egyptian and UN mediators had appeared to be making progress in brokering informal understandings aimed at quieting the situation.

Last week, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver $15 million to Gaza to allow cash-strapped Hamas to pay the salaries of thousands of government workers. At the same time, Hamas has lowered the intensity of violent border protests in recent weeks.

The fighting on Monday and Tuesday cast doubt over understandings previously brokered by Egypt and UN officials to reduce tensions. Just a day earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had defended those understandings, saying he was doing everything possible to avoid another “unnecessary war.”

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Israel: Defense Minister Liberman resigns over disagreements with Prime Minister

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Defense Minister Liberman resigns, says Israel ‘capitulated to terror’ in Gaza

Yisrael Beytenu leader slams ‘drastically inadequate’ response to massive rocket fire on south, calls for elections as soon as possible; Netanyahu to take over defense portfolio

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman announced Wednesday that he would be resigning as defense minister and called for the government to be dismantled and for new elections to be set.

“I am here to announce my resignation from the government,” he said at a hastily organized press conference at the Knesset after a Yisrael Beytenu party meeting, during which he told MKs of his decision.

Liberman said his decision came in light of the ceasefire reportedly agreed on Tuesday between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza following an unprecedentedly fierce two-day barrage of over 400 rockets fired by Hamas and other terror groups toward Israel.

A day earlier, Liberman and other ministers severely criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the decision.

“What happened yesterday, the ceasefire, together with the deal with Hamas, is a capitulation to terror. There is no other way of explaining it,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“What we are doing right now is buying quiet for a heavy price with no long-term plan to reduce violence toward us,” he said of the deal, which wasn’t officially confirmed by Israeli officials. He also slammed the military’s response to the rocket fire. “To put it lightly, our response was drastically lacking to the 500 rockets fired at us,” he said.

Fire and smoke billow following Israeli air strikes targeting Hamas infrastructure in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, near the border with Egypt, on November 12, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Liberman also directly criticized Netanyahu, saying he “fundamentally disagreed with him” on a number of key issues, including the government’s allowing $15 million to be transferred in cash from the Qatari government to Hamas on Friday.

“I opposed it. The prime minister needed to write an executive order for it to go above my head,” Liberman claimed, saying that the money went first to the families of Hamas members killed on the Gaza border in clashes with the IDF and then to funding for rockets to fire at Israel.

He said that he made his decision because “I could not remain [in office] and still be able to look residents of the south in the eyes.”

Liberman concluded his prepared statement by calling for elections to be held “at the soonest possible date.” During a subsequent question-and-answer session he predicted that right-wing voters would “see through the other parties’ hypocrisy” and reward his Yisrael Beytenu party with 20 Knesset seats.

A Likud source said in response that there was “no need to go to elections at this time of sensitive security,” despite the coalition losing five seats with Yisrael Beytenu’s expected exit.

After Yisrael Beytenu’s pull out, the coalition will hold a paper-thin majority in the 120-seat Knesset. New elections must be held by within the coming 12 months.

“The government can complete its term,” the Likud source said in a statement. “In any case, in the meantime, the defense portfolio will go to Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

The Jewish Home party, however, is expected to demand the position of defense minister for its leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Liberman has clashed frequently with Bennett, whose religious-nationalist party will compete with Liberman’s secular right-wing Yisrael Beytenu over the votes of many hawkish Israelis in the upcoming Knesset elections.

The two men have traded barbs repeatedly in recent weeks, with Bennett accusing Liberman of being soft on Gaza and Liberman replying in kind, while also asserting that policy decisions regarding the ongoing violence emanating from the Strip were made by the ministers in the high-level security cabinet rather than his office.

Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu defended his decision to accept a ceasefire with terror groups in Gaza after the worst escalation in violence in the Strip since 2014.

“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said at a ceremony in honor of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion.

“Our enemies begged for a ceasefire and they knew very well why,” he added.

The deal has provoked criticism from within Netanyahu’s government as well as from Israelis who live near the Gaza Strip and want further action against Hamas, the terror group that rules the enclave.

Sources close to the defense minister told Haaretz that he was “incensed” by a briefing in which Netanyahu appeared to indicate that Liberman supported the reported ceasefire.

The security cabinet reportedly agreed to the ceasefire with Hamas on Tuesday afternoon, in a decision that several cabinet ministers later said they opposed. The decision was slammed by some opposition leaders, who called it a capitulation to terror after a deadly two-day conflagration that saw over 400 rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (C) leads discussions at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, November 12, 2018 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Channel 10 reported that at least four senior ministers who attended the cabinet meeting opposed the decision, which was made by Netanyahu without a vote. But Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, who was at the meeting, said the ministers all accepted the decision.

The ceasefire was hailed by Hamas as a victory ostensibly imposed on Israel on Hamas’s terms. Rocket fire at Israel came to a halt on Tuesday afternoon, after two days of incessant attacks.

Liberman, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett proposed an alternative response, but it was rejected by the other ministers at the meeting, according to Channel 10.

An unnamed minister who attended the seven-hour meeting Tuesday told the outlet that no vote had been held to determine the next steps. A source with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed to The Times of Israel that no vote took place.

The source said there were several disagreements between cabinet members, some of which were the focus of debate for “a number of hours.” The source would not, however, comment on the content of the disagreements.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the security cabinet merely released a statement that read: “The security cabinet discussed the events in the south. The cabinet received briefings from the IDF and defense officials on the [IDF] strikes and widespread operations against terror targets in Gaza. The cabinet instructed the IDF to continue its strikes as needed.”

Missiles from Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system in the south of Israel destroy incoming missiles fired at Israel from the Palestinian enclave of Gaza above Ashkelon on November 13, 2018. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

According to the military, over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of 25 hours on Monday and Tuesday. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens more, and causing significant property damage.

In response to the rocket and mortar attacks, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”

As news of a ceasefire broke, Liberman’s office put out a statement saying that any claim that he had backed ending Israel’s offensive was “fake news. The defense minister’s position is consistent and has not changed.”

Similarly, Bennett’s office said any reports that he had supported a halt to strikes were “an absolute lie” and that the minister had “presented his resolute position to the cabinet that he has expressed in recent months and his plan for Gaza.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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Father of slain IDF officer: ‘I hope this is the final loss for Israel’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Father of slain IDF officer: ‘I hope this is the final loss for Israel’

Special forces soldier who died in secretive Gaza Strip mission gone awry is recalled as contributing to social activism, raising children with patriotic values

Israeli soldiers stand guard in Nahal Oz, southern Israel, near the border with Gaza, November 12, 2018. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Israeli soldiers stand guard in Nahal Oz, southern Israel, near the border with Gaza, November 12, 2018. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

The father of a senior special forces officer who was killed overnight during an operation in the Gaza Strip said Monday he hopes that his son’s death will be the last Israel suffers.

The army described the incident, in which another officer was moderately injured which sparked hours of clashes, as an intelligence-gathering mission that went awry.

Most details of the raid, including the identity of the officer who was killed, remained subject to a military censor and could not be published.

“This is a great loss,” the father said, according to a report from Hadashot news television. “I hope it will be the final loss for the people of Israel.”

A close relative said that the officer, who has been identified by the military only by the Hebrew initial “Mem,” joined the army after high school and had remained in the service ever since.

The lieutenant colonel was 41 years old, was married with two children and lived in a town in northern Israel.

“He was a social activist and contributed greatly,” the relative said. “The family didn’t know what he did aside from the fact that he was a senior officer in an elite unit. His family was exemplary, his wife works in the medical sector and helps children.”

A close acquaintance of Lt. Col. Mem said he volunteered in various organizations and “raised the next generation with values of patriotism, and values of contributing and volunteering.”

“He began to think of the future, of advancing in the civilian security establishment,” the acquaintance said. “Or alternatively, he considered progressing through the military establishment.”

Palestinians stand next to the remains of a car allegedly used by Israeli special forces during a raid in Gaza, which was was later destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Condolences and commiserations over the death of the officer came from senior Israeli figures including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein.

Netanyahu tweeted: “I bow my head in sadness at the loss of Lt. Col. Mem, a glorious fighter who fell during an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip.”

The injured soldier, who has also not been identified, regained consciousness Monday morning, and was not in life-threatening danger, Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center said in a statement.

After he regained consciousness, his wife and children were allowed to see him for a short time.

His mother, who was also at the hospital intensive care unit where he is being treated, told Hadashot news of her relief that he was still alive.

“I pray that my son recovers as soon as possible,” she said. “It is a miracle that I got him back alive. I couldn’t bear to see his children, my grandchildren, crying. It was hard. I left the room.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett also paid a visit to the officer at the hospital and declared that the deceased soldier and his wounded comrade were “national heroes.”

“I send my deepest condolences to the family of Lt.-Col. Mem, and wish a speedy recovery to those wounded,” Bennett said.

The wounded officer’s brother told Hadashot news that he still had not seen his sibling.

“The whole family and I are praying for his health,” the brother said. “We believe God is watching over him. We want to thank all the people who are interested in his welfare.”

A helicopter carrying a wounded Israeli soldier who was injured during an operation in the Gaza Strip lands outside Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center on November 11, 2018. (Twitter)

IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said Monday that the overnight mission in Gaza was intended as an intelligence-gathering mission by IDF special forces operating deep inside Gaza, not an assassination or kidnapping attempt.

At some point during the operation, the Israeli troops clashed with local Hamas fighters, killing a senior commander and several other members of the Gaza-ruling terrorist group.

The IDF unit called in aerial support — aircraft to bomb the surrounding area — and made its away out of the Gaza Strip.

Manelis said the soldiers operating in Gaza overnight “became trapped in a highly complex situation but they had responded “heroically, hit those who threatened them and extracted themselves to Israeli territory.”

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, seven Palestinians in total were killed in the exchange and another seven were injured.

Following the raid, Palestinian terrorist groups launched at least 17 projectiles — rockets and mortar shells — at southern Israel. Three of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. The rest fell in open fields outside populated communities, one of them causing light damage to a greenhouse in the Eshkol region.

Hamas accused Israel of sabotaging an emerging ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Egypt and supported by Qatar.

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Giving cancer patients hope is as valuable as giving them medicine

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Giving cancer patients hope is as valuable as giving them medicine

Israeli cancer patients rely on ICSN’s volunteers and services to help them cope, fight, and recover

Families grappling with the double pressures of watching their children suffer through cancer while simultaneously having earn a living benefit most from ICSN's services, such as transport and financial assistance.

Families grappling with the double pressures of watching their children suffer through cancer while simultaneously having earn a living benefit most from ICSN’s services, such as transport and financial assistance.

To recover from cancer, having the best doctors, treatment, or medication is not enough. Without hope and personal connection, the prognosis for cancer patients is decidedly poorer. This is exactly why Israel Cancer Support Network (ICSN) offers cancer patients and their families the warmth they need to survive emotionally and the firm support they need to meet the challenges of suffering through painful cancer treatments. 

The emotional, physical, and fiscal strain of treating cancer, from arranging doctors’ appointments to meeting personal expenses and trying to maintain a “normal” family life, are hurdles that many have a tremendously difficult time overcoming.

In less than a decade, ICSN has helped over 11,000 families dealing with cancer, giving 50,000 car rides to cancer patients in need of transportation to the hospital and back. That comes out to 150 trips each day. ICSN uses a network of volunteers to create a community of support throughout Israel. Over 2,000 multilingual volunteers from the Jerusalem metro area and further away take time out of their busy lives to transport cancer-stricken children and adults to and from the hospital, around the clock year-round.

But these services represent only a fraction of what ICSN does.

ICSN sets up fully stocked, 24/7 coffee stations in cancer wards so that patients and families can savor a hot drink at any hour of the day. In its 15-year history, the organization has served over a million cups of coffee to cancer patients. ICSN also assists patients with the herculean task of gaining access to top doctors with long waiting lists for appointments.

The bottom line is that ICSN’s services are integral to the recovery of those who use them.

Many families suffer extreme difficulties as a result of cancer treatment and the financial damage caused by months of treatments can be crippling. Patients often lose their jobs due to the inability to work while parents miss countless hours of work accompanying their children to treatments. ICSN eases the burden by offering cash stipends and gift certificates to cover the cost of household help, including shoes, clothing, basic food items and life-saving drugs.

But beyond the financial, physical, and logistical help they provide, ICSN most importantly furnishes cancer patients with hope.

“A smiling volunteer driver picking you up in the middle of the night with his car to take you to the hospital is just as valuable as the cancer treatment itself,” said Shlomi, a recipient of ICSN’s services.

Personal outreach has a distinct therapeutic effect, according to Professor Dina Ben-Yehuda, director of Hematology at Hadassah Ein-Kerem and professor of Hematology at Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine. “When you battle a disease like cancer, the supporters are just as important as the fighters.”

During the High Holidays, ICSN goes the extra mile to give cancer patients in need the serene conditions in which to celebrate and usher in the new year.

ICSN functions entirely through donations with no external support.

Learn more about how you can help cure cancer.

At Least 18 Children Die in Jordan Flash Floods

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

At Least 18 Children Die in Jordan Flash Floods 

Thursday, 25 October, 2018 – 18:00
At least 14 children were killed in flash flooding near the Dead Sea in Jordan. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
At least 18 school children died on Thursday in flash flooding in Jordan, rescuers and hospital workers said.

The students from a private school and their adult chaperones were touring near the Dead Sea when heavy rains led to flash floods in the area, Health Minister Ghazi al-Zaben and official media said.

Twenty-two people were also wounded.

Jordan’s state news agency Petra said Prime Minister Omar Razzaz was at the scene to oversee the rescue mission.

Hundreds of families and relatives converged on Shounah hospital a few kilometers from the resort area. Relatives sobbed and searched for missing children, a witness said.

Israel sent search-and-rescue helicopters to assist, an Israeli military statement said adding the team dispatched at Amman’s request, was operating on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.

Civil defense spokesman Captain Iyad al Omar told Reuters the number of casualties was expected to rise.

Netanyahu defends freezing Western Wall deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Blaming ‘ultra-Orthodox street,’ Netanyahu defends freezing Western Wall deal

PM tells US Jewish leaders in Tel Aviv that spats over the site and conversion can easily be overcome and that he’s worried more by the loss of Jewish identity in the Diaspora

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jewish federation's annual General Assembly in Tel Aviv, on October 24, 2018 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jewish federation’s annual General Assembly in Tel Aviv, on October 24, 2018 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Addressing North American Jewish leaders in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his controversial freezing of a compromise deal to expand the pluralistic prayer platform at the Western Wall, blaming pressure from the “ultra-Orthodox street,” and arguing that religion and state issues in Israel have always been settled with “ad hoc compromises” and “slowly evolving arrangements.”

While the agreement — made in January 2016 and suspended a year and a half later — will not be fully implemented, he vowed that a new “refurbished” prayer platform will open very soon.

Dismissing the discussion over the wall and other contentious matters, such as conversion, as issues that can easily be “overcome,” Netanyahu said the biggest problem facing world Jewry today was the loss of Jewish identity, and that the development of Jewish consciousness and pride in the minds of young Jews was the Diaspora’s most important mission.

Asked about Diaspora Jews’ concerns regarding the lack of religious pluralism in Israel, Netanyahu replied by noting that even the country’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had failed to bridge the gap between the secular majority and an ultra-Orthodox minority, without which he was unable to form a government.

“These are two conflicting principles — you can’t resolve it with a unifying principle. You resolve it by a series of ad hoc compromises, and they evolve over time,” Netanyahu said at the closing plenary of the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly.

“From time to time, the status quo is challenged. It evolves in step-functions. By the way, most of human progress until recently has been step functions. You sort of settle on a status-quo and it goes up to a certain point, and then it changes,” he continued.

On the matter of who would be authorized to perform conversions to Judaism, Netanyahu said that during his first term as prime minister he had found a good compromise with the Yaakov Ne’eman Commission, which survived for 20 years before it was challenged. The current government then commissioned a report by Moshe Nissim, which Netanyahu said was a “good compromise,” but added that he is currently unable to pass it. “It depends on the political realities,” he said.

Turning to the Western Wall, he recounted negotiating a compromise deal calling for a pluralistic prayer platform at the holy site that would be “accessible in an uplifting way” to everyone. That blueprint included the creation of a joint entrance to all three prayer areas — the pluralistic one and the two gender-separated sections to be used by Orthodox worshipers.

“We had technical drawings, the whole thing. Part of that [agreement] had explanatory notes, when I brought it to the government, which would imply an indirect recognition in Israel of the Conservative and Reform streams,” Netanyahu said. “And that was okay. People agreed. Then it was challenged, immediately, by the ultra-Orthodox street, and they basically said, you know, ‘Choose: You have a government, no government.’”

Netanyahu also said that members of the opposition may attack him for caving to the pressure, but that he has proof that they had themselves had made offers to the ultra-Orthodox parties “that exceed the ones given by Likud.”

Rather than canceling the agreement, he merely suspended it, Netanyahu said. “Keep it there. Don’t cancel it. But move with what the agreement actually says you do, which is refurbish the plaza.”

Netanyahu noted that work started on Tuesday to put back the boulder that fell out of the wall on to the egalitarian platform in July.

“This should speed up the conclusion and I expect the plaza to be completed [soon],” he said. “We finished nearly all the regulatory work, which was just impossible, but we’re getting there. That plaza will be there, refurbished, new, safe, very beautiful.”

Israel is and will remain the home of all Jews, the prime minister went on, to applause from the audience. “I don’t care whether they’re Conservative or Reform or Orthodox, and I don’t care if they’re completely secular or non-believing.”

The egalitarian prayer platform at the Western Wall’s Robinson’s Arch archaeological area. (Eilat Mazar)

The balance between religion and state in Israel is different from the system that exists in the US or elsewhere, he went on, “But it is what it is here. This is what we have: a series of slowly evolving arrangements.” Ultimately, those arrangements reflect the “evolution of the Israeli electorate,” he said.

Toward the end of his appearance, as his host, outgoing JFNA chair Richard Sandler, was about to bid the prime minister farewell, Netanyahu asked to make another point, stressing what he said really worries about him about Diaspora Jewry.

“What I’m concerned with when it comes to the Jewish people is one thing, and that’s the loss of identity. It’s not the question of the Wall or conversion; we’ll overcome that. It’s the loss of identity,” he said.

Paraphrasing an article by Ammiel Hirsch, Netanyahu said that those who are not concerned with Jewish survival will not survive as Jews.

“There is some basic truth to that,” he said. “Jewish survival is guaranteed in the Jewish state, if we defend our state. But we have to also work at the continuity of Jewish communities in the world by developing Jewish education, the study of Hebrew, having the contact of young Jews coming to Israel.”

What is needed is a new approach, suitable for the internet age, that will help Diaspora Jews “understand that their own future as Jews depends on continuous identity,” Netanyahu said.

“It’s protecting Jewish identity and developing Jewish consciousness that is the most important thing. It transcends politics; it touches on the foundations of history,” he concluded. “We’re one people. Let’s make sure that every Jewish child in the world knows how proud they should be to be Jews.”

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King says Jordan to reclaim land leased to Israel under 1994 deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA)

 

King says Jordan to reclaim land leased to Israel under 1994 deal

King Abdullah II says Amman will terminate parts of peace treaty which allowed Israeli farmers to use Jordanian land.

by

Jordan's King Abdullah II [File: Jordan Pix/Getty Images]
Jordan’s King Abdullah II [File: Jordan Pix/Getty Images]

Jordan has told Israel that it intends to reclaim two tracts of territories leased under a 1994 peace treaty, King Abdullah II has announced, in a move that was welcomed by activists and civil society groups opposing the deal.

As part of the agreement, Israel leased about 405 hectares of agricultural land in the southern sector of its border with Jordan called al-Ghumar, as well as the small al-Baqura area near the confluence of Jordan and Yarmouk rivers.

The territories – water-rich farmlands currently cultivated by Israeli farmers – were leased for 25 years, with a 12-month notice period needed to prevent an automatic extension. The deadline for renewing the leases is Thursday, October 25.

“We have informed Israel of an end to the application of the peace treaty annexes regarding al-Baqura and al-Ghumar,” the king said on Sunday, according to Petra state news agency.

“Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar have always been on top of my priorities. Our decision is to end the annexes of the peace treaty based on our keenness to take all that is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians,” the king added.

“Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar are Jordanian land and will remain Jordanian.”

عبدالله بن الحسينPrime Minister 

@KingAbdullahII

لطالما كانت الباقورة والغمر على رأس أولوياتنا، وقرارنا هو إنهاء ملحقي الباقورة والغمر من اتفاقية السلام انطلاقا من حرصنا على اتخاذ كل ما يلزم من أجل الأردن والأردنيين

Following the king’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would negotiate with Jordan an extension of the leases, which expire next year.

“We will enter into negotiations with [Jordan] to option an extension of the existing lease agreement,” Israeli media quoted him as saying.

It is unclear how and when the territories will be returned back to Jordan’s ownership. The territories have been under Israeli control since 1948.

Growing pressure

Jordan is only one of two Arab countries that signed a peace treaty with Israel – the other being Egypt.

Observers said the king’s announcement is expected to be positively received by the Jordanian public amid increasing efforts by activists and civil society groups aimed at forcing the government to end the leasing of Jordanian territories to Israel.

It also comes a week after 85 Jordanian members of parliament signed a petition urging the king to intervene so that the lease agreement would not be renewed, according to MP Khalil Atiyeh.

“For over a year, we have been demanding the scrapping of this agreement that was not in the interest of Jordan or the Jordanian people,” Atiyeh told Al Jazeera.

Oraib al-Rantawi, a political analyst in Jordan’s capital, Amman, said “the king saw the popular rejection against keeping this agreement with Israel, especially in the last few months where economic decline in the country has led to mass protests – and he wisely decided against it”.

Thousands of angry Jordanians took to the streets in June to protest against price hikes, an income tax reform bill and official corruption, in a country where national poverty and unemployment rate stand at around 20 percent.

Political activist Hussam Abdallat praised the king’s decision as one that would “endear him to the public”.

Sufyan al-Tell, a former United Nations environmental official and outspoken critic of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, told Al Jazeera the king’s announcement is “timely and reflects the will of the people of Jordan”.

Public sentiment in Jordan against Israel is strong because of its continued occupation of Palestinian territories and its treatment of Palestinians.

Follow Ali Younes on Twitter: @ali_reports

Israel: Supreme Court nixes deportation of US student accused of BDS support

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Supreme Court nixes deportation of US student accused of BDS support

Lara Alqasem’s lawyers hail ruling rejecting state’s attempt to bar her entry to study; interior minister calls decision a ‘disgrace’

US student Lara Alqasem at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on October 17, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

US student Lara Alqasem at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on October 17, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that an American student accused of advocating boycotts of Israel can enter the country, putting an end to a weeks-long saga that drew scrutiny of an Israeli law allowing alleged anti-Israel activists to be barred from entry.

Lara Alqasem, 22, had been held in detention for 15 days after arriving in Israel for a master’s program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The state alleged that Alqasem, who headed the local chapter of the pro-boycott Students for Justice in Palestine group while she was a student at the University of Florida, currently supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

In court, Alqasem insisted that she has not participated in boycott activities for a year and a half, and promised not to engage in BDS in the future. State lawyers argued that Alqasem’s deletion of her social media aroused suspicion and that she remains a threat.

In accepting her appeal, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling by a lower court that upheld the ban on her entry under a 2017 law forbidding BDS activists from entering Israel.

Alqasem, whose father is Palestinian, was released shortly after the Supreme Court decision.

Justice Neal Hendel, one of three Supreme Court judges who heard the appeal, affirmed in the ruling that while the state has the authority to bar BDS activists from the country, the law was not applicable in Alqasem’s case.

Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on April 23, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“In this case, preventing the entry of the plaintiff does not advance the purpose of the law and it was even argued, for example, by the Hebrew University that it harms Israeli academia,” Hendel wrote.

“The fight against boycotts is fitting and vital, as are the actions taken by the State of Israel on the matter. However, the concrete action before us clearly deviates from the range of reasonableness and cannot be accepted,” he added.

Alqasem’s lawyers praised the Supreme Court ruling and her “principled and brave stand” against the ban on her entry, calling it a “gross misapplication” of the anti-BDS law.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for free speech, academic freedom, and the rule of law. Israel has the right to control its borders, but that right does not give the Interior Ministry unchecked power to turn away anyone it deems unwanted,” attorneys Yotam Ben Hillel and Leora Bechor said in a statement.

“Lara has ensured that no one else should be denied the right to enter Israel based on sloppy Google searches and dossiers by shadowy smear groups,” they added, referring to the sources of the state’s argument that Alqasem supports the BDS movement.

“Lara’s case proves that thought-policing has no place in a democracy.”

Hebrew University, which joined Alqasem’s appeal, also welcomed the court’s decision.

“The Hebrew University of Jerusalem looks forward to welcoming our newest student, Lara Alqasem, as she begins her MA in Human Rights & Transitional Justice at our law school next week,” it said in a statement.

View of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus seen from Jerusalem’s Old City, on June 10, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Supreme Court ruling also was also welcomed by left-wing lawmakers and organizations, while right-wing politicians assailed it.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, whose ministry is tasked with enforcing the law, called the ruling a “disgrace.”

“Where is our national dignity? In the US would she also dare to act against the state and demand to remain and study there? I’ll examine ways to prevent the recurrence of a case like this,” he wrote on Twitter.

Thursday’s ruling was a blow to Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, whose ministry oversees anti-BDS efforts. He rejected a promise from Alqasem not to take part in boycott activities while in Israel as insufficient and was the most vocal opponent of allowing her to enter the country.

AP contributed to this report.

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Israel’s Liberman Has It All Wrong About Hamas

 

Israel’s Liberman Has It All Wrong About Hamas

 

A couple of days ago Israel’s Defense Minister Liberman asked the government for permission to strike Hamas “hard” when, not if, but when the next war brakes out with the Rulers of the Gaza Strip. Mr. Liberman said that he wanted to strike a decisive blow against Hamas so that there could be at least a four or five-year lull in Hamas offensives against the Israeli people. To this statement of Mr. Liberman I have to say, sir, you have got it all wrong and I will get to my reasoning in just a moment. If you would like to you can find this information of which I am writing about in the past two days articles from the “Times Of Israel.”

 

Yesterday one of Hamas’s rockets that they tend to fire off into Israel daily hit an Israeli home and last night Israeli jets struck several Hamas targets in the Conclave. Israel said that one Palestinian was killed and seven wounded in Israel’s return fire. Hamas says that about 25 were killed and another fifty or so were wounded, and of course Hamas says that a great number of the dead were children on their way to school. Every day since March 30th of this year Hamas has staged a violent confrontation at the Border Fence with Israel during their so call march of return. For the past several months these demonstrators have been sending kite bombs into Israel in an attempt to kill and destroy. If any Nation on earth was having to put up with this on their borders any Nation would have long ago reacted violently and decisively against these act of war that Hamas has been guilty of purporting, yet for the sake of the innocent civilians inside the Conclave Israel has stayed their hand. After Israel struck back at Hamas targets yesterday the leaders of Hamas said that Israel was trying to destroy the current truce. To that I say, truce, what truce? Hamas has been breaking that “truce” everyday for at least the past seven months. So I guess what Hamas means by that is a one-sided truce, one where Hamas commits acts of war everyday but where Israel does nothing about it.

 

Now, to the point of my article to you today on why I say that Mr. Liberman has it wrong about how Israel must address Hamas from this point forward. For more than a decade now since the Israeli government gave the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinian people and to a little bit lesser of an extent the West Bank also, these lands have been used for staging grounds for attacks on the people of Israel. Israel gave this land to the Palestinian people in what was supposed to be a “land for peace deal” yet since doing so there has been no peace and the hate groups like Hamas that reside within those lands vow that there will never be any peace with Israel until there is no such thing as a Nation of Israel. In my opinion, Israel must make it very plain to all of the people of the Gaza Strip that all hostilities toward Israel must stop at once. Reality is that the people within the Conclave, even if they themselves do want to have peace and much more freedom, they know that these hate groups will never allow peace. So, Israel must tell everyone in the Gaza Strip that it is up to them if they want to live in peace and the only way to have peace is if every member of Hamas and all of the other terrorist groups are killed by the citizens of the Strip.  It is easy to say that this will never ever happen and I know of only one way where my idea could work. That idea is simple, Israel must let the citizens of the Strip know as an absolute fact that if the violence does not stop at once that when Israel is forced to attack Hamas again that Israel is going to make every possible effort to kill every member of every terrorist group.  Reality is that in doing so that hundreds of thousands of civilians may well be killed also. In other words, if the people of the Strip do not quickly kill all members of these terrorist groups themselves, the Strip is going to be scorched!

Israeli jets pound Gaza after Hamas rocket hits home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE AL-JAZEERA NEWS AGENCY)

 

Israeli jets pound Gaza after rocket hits home

One Palestinian killed, eight injured in Israeli attacks; Hamas says it’s an attempt to undermine truce.

Israeli jets pound Gaza after rocket hits home
The mother of the Palestinian who was killed by the Israeli air raid at the hospital in Gaza [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Israel says its fighter jets have struck 20 targets in the Gaza Strip, killing one Palestinian and injuring eight others.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, Naji Ahmad al-Zaneen, 25, was killed in the attack in northern Gaza early on Wednesday.

Among the wounded are six children who were on their way to school in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

Palestinian sources said several rockets fired by Israeli warplanes targeted sites south of Gaza City, while another blast rocked the central region of the Gaza Strip. A powerful explosion also rocked Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The Israeli army stated that it carried out air raids in response to a rocket that hit a home in Beersheba in southern Israel, causing damage but no injuries.

“At 4am [01:00 GMT] Israelis in the city of Beersheba were running to bomb shelters after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel,” the Israeli army said on Twitter.

“We will defend Israeli civilians,” it added.

The Israeli army said Hamas, which governs the besieged enclave, bears “full responsibility” for the rocket fire but the Palestinian movement denied their role.

In a joint statement with allied armed groups, Hamas said it rejected “all irresponsible attempts” to undermine Egyptian efforts to broker a new long-term truce.

It was one of the first rockets fired in months from the Palestinian territory under Israel’s devastating 11-year blockade and comes at a time of renewed tensions between Israel and Gaza.

Another rocket from Gaza reportedly fell into the sea near Tel Aviv. No injuries were reported.

Israeli fighter jets struck numerous sites in Gaza on Wednesday [Reuters]

‘Heavy Blow’

The rocket was the first to hit an Israeli home since the devastating 2014 Israeli military assault on the besieged enclave.

It comes a day after Israel’s defence minister said the time had come to deliver a “heavy blow” to Hamas after the Israeli army killed seven Palestinians on Friday, including two teenage boys, during demonstrations along Israel’s separation fence.

It was unclear who fired the projectiles but the Israeli army says it holds Hamas accountable for what is happening in the territory under its control.

The rocket fire comes after months of demonstrations in Gaza by the Israeli separation fence.

The protesters are demanding to return to their homes in what is now Israel, under the UN Resolution 194, which stipulates their right of return.

At least 70 percent of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees, their families been expelled or forced to flee the violence during the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.

They are also demanding an end to the crippling 11-year Israeli-Egyptian siege.

Since the Great March of Return demonstrations began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least 205 Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave, including journalists and paramedics, and have injured more than 18,000.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, 68 Palestinians have had their limbs amputated due to serious injuries.

In response to last week’s demonstrations in which some Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers and burned tyres, Israel halted Qatari-donated fuel shipments to Gaza’s power plant.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened “very painful blows,” saying Israel was very close to waging a “different kind of activity”.

“If it has any sense, Hamas will cease its fire and violent outbursts – now,” he said.

A member of Palestinian security forces inspects the scene of an Israeli air raid in southern Gaza [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Closing borders, cutting off fuel 

On Wednesday Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the closure of both of Israel’s border crossings with Gaza – the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods and the Erez crossing for people.

The permitted fishing zone along the Gaza coast has also been reduced to three nautical miles from six, the defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, said.

Under the Oslo Accords, Israel is obligated to permit fishing for Gazans up to 20 nautical miles, but this has never been implemented; the widest range Israel has ever allowed is 12 nautical miles.

Lieberman said on Tuesday the protests could not be allowed to go on.

“We are not prepared to accept the level of violence we see week after week,” Avigdor Lieberman told troops and commanders at an army base near southern Israel’s border with Gaza.

He also suspended shipments of fuel that had been trucked daily into Gaza over the previous week under a deal brokered by the UN and backed by the United States, Israel and others.

It had seen thousands of litres brought into the fuel-starved Gaza strip.

The UN says Israeli blockade of the enclave has resulted in a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.

Gaza’s two million residents endure dire living conditions including a shortage of safe drinking water and regular power cuts, partly because of the lack of fuel for the strip’s power station. Residents typically receive about four hours of electricity a day.