Hamas leader: We’ll fire hundreds of rockets at central Israel if talks fail

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas leader: We’ll fire hundreds of rockets at central Israel if talks fail

Yahya Sinwar says no deal reached yet, but talks continue; reportedly warns terror group can make alarm sirens wail in the Tel Aviv region for six months straight

Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, speaks during a protest east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, speaks during a protest east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar on Wednesday said there was no concrete ceasefire agreement yet with Israel, but warned that if hostilities resume the terror group could launch hundreds of rockets deep into the Jewish state.

“Until now, there is no final text for a ceasefire. What is being circulated is proposals and ideas,” Sinwar told Palestinian writers and analysts in Gaza, according to the Hamas-linked Shehab news agency. “We decided to end the siege on our people, who have the right to live a dignified life.”

Sinwar warned that if talks broke down Hamas would fire hundreds of rockets in Israel.

“What the resistance launched in 51 days in the last war, it can launch in five minutes during any [future] Israel aggression,” he said, referring to the 2014 conflict.

Illustrative: Flames from rockets fired by Palestinians are seen over Gaza Strip heading toward Israel, in the early morning of May 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

The Hebrew Walla news site quoted him as saying that “Hamas could set off rocket warning sirens in the Tel Aviv region for six months straight.”

Indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel have reportedly included discussion on easing the blockade, but by no means a complete lifting of it. Israel says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

Sinwar said that talks on a prisoner exchange were progressing on a separate track and were not connected to the ceasefire agreement. Hamas holds the bodies of two Israeli soldiers and two civilians. Israel has said in the past it would not ease the blockade until they are released.

Recent months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.

Around 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly protests began, a Hamas ministry says. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

In addition to the border clashes, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

Sinwar also warned the Palestinian Authority against taking steps to foil the nascent deal.

“Any punitive measures the PA imposes on the Gaza Strip will be in violation of the rules of the game. We respond to any such measures appropriately,” he said.

His comments come after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly lambasted the potential ceasefire agreement, saying such a deal would only be reached “over my dead body.”

“If the agreement is signed without the PA’s permission, it is illegal and constitutes treason,” Abbas said in private conversations, according to Hissein al-Sheikh, a senior member of Abbas’s Fatah party.

“Over my dead body will there be a ceasefire and calm between both sides,” Abbas said, according to al-Sheikh.

Regarding intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks, which have stalled recently, the Fatah member said disagreements between the factions were mounting and that such a deal “never looked more distant.”

Abbas was also said to be furious at Egypt, which has been brokering Israel-Hamas truce talks, for being willing to sit down with members of the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip without his presence.

“The Egyptians aren’t reading the map correctly and are harming the Palestinian national interests,” al-Sheikh said. “Talks with Hamas, which took control of Gaza by force and without the consent of the Palestinian Authority, are unacceptable and are an act of defiance against Palestinian leadership.”

Abbas’s Fatah party and Hamas have been deeply divided for more than a decade. Hamas, an Islamist terror group which openly seeks to destroy Israel, seized control of Gaza from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in 2007 and several attempts at reconciliation since then have failed.

Palestinians wave the national flag during a demonstration in Gaza City on December 3, 2017, in support of the reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

The PA government has been putting pressure on Hamas to reach a reconciliation deal that would return Fatah rule to Gaza, and earlier this year began to scale back electricity payments and other financial support in an effort to force Hamas to cede ground in Gaza.

Abbas is demanding that Hamas hand over complete control of Gaza to the PA, and that the switch be conducted in a single stroke rather than in stages.

He has warned against a reported deal taking shape between Israel and Hamas for a long-term ceasefire in Gaza if it does not include the PA.

Hamas responded to the criticism with a rare statement slamming the PA and saying that there is a “national consensus” among the Palestinian people in favor of a long-term Gaza ceasefire with Israel.

The terror group was referring specifically to a deal that would lift the blockade of Gaza, which would ostensibly require some sort of agreement with Israel.

“We aren’t moving toward a political agreement or a part of an international deal that gives up our lands, recognizes the occupier or destroys the national project, as you did,” Hamas said, addressing the PA. “We didn’t recognize the Zionist entity and sanctify the security coordination, as you did at the expense of our people.”

Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif al-Qanua dismissed the PA criticism as “worthless” and added they were “not fooling anybody — the people still supports the resistance and we will keep our hand on the trigger to defend the Palestinian people from the Zionist occupation.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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Missile Strikes on 2 Syrian Military Base’s Kills Dozens

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

 

Missile Strikes on Syrian Military Base Kills Dozens

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 27 people were killed in Hama, the majority of whom were Iranian

A Syrian fighter in Tadef in Aleppo province on Friday.
A Syrian fighter in Tadef in Aleppo province on Friday. PHOTO: SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

BEIRUT—Missile strikes on Syrian government bases overnight killed dozens of pro-regime forces, including Iranians, according to a monitoring group, in what could mark an escalation of hostilities between foreign powers fighting for influence.

“Enemy missiles” targeted military bases in Aleppo and Hama, Syrian state news agency SANA reported Monday. Footage circulated on social media showed a large ball of fire, purportedly from an explosion at a military base in Hama believed to house Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces.

There were conflicting reports about the death toll. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 27 people were killed in Hama, the majority of whom were Iranian, without providing further details. There were no immediate details about casualties in Aleppo.

Some Iranian media outlets, citing local sources, reported that 18 Iranians were killed in the strikes, but the reports later omitted the Iranian death toll. The semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency, which carried the original report, later quoted an intelligence source saying that no Iranian forces were killed in the attack outside Hama.

It wasn’t immediately clear who carried out the attack. Israel has conducted dozens of strikes against Syrian government positions, some of them targeting Iranian personnel. Israeli military declined to comment. It has a policy of neither confirming nor denying strikes in Syria.

Addressing allegations that Israel was behind the strikes, the country’s Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told Army Radio: “The policy is clear: Iran won’t be allowed to establish a northern front [on Syria’s border with Israel].”

The explosions occurred hours after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. On Saturday, Mr. Netanyahu also spoke with President Donald Trump by phone.

Syria’s Chemical Weapons and the West: From Diplomacy to Military Action

The airstrikes against the Syrian regime, in response to a suspected poison gas attack, underscore the West’s shift from pursuing a diplomatic solution to a militaristic one. Will this approach work?

The attack comes on the heels of U.S.-led airstrikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, in retaliation for an alleged attack with chlorine and nerve gas in a Damascus suburb earlier in April.

In the wake of the attacks, Syrian regime forces have continued to bomb areas outside of their control, in a push to continue gaining ground and end the seven-year war.

Iran has been a vital ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the war, sending thousands of elite Revolutionary Guard forces into Syria and training and arming foreign militias.

The semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency reported that none of Iran’s Afghan Shiite troops were killed in the strikes on Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the target in Aleppo was the Nayrab military airport.

“The base of this division near Aleppo is safe and none of the forces of this group have been martyred in the media-claimed strikes,” an unnamed commander of the troops was quoted as saying.

As Mr. Assad has gained ground—in part due to Russia’s intervention in 2015—Iran has extended its presence in Syria, causing concern in Israel, which views Tehran as its main regional adversary.

Israel for years largely stayed neutral in the Syrian war, launching airstrikes only against weapons convoys bound from Iran to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia supported by Iran, which helps prop up Mr. Assad. But fearing that Tehran would establish weapons factories and military sites in Syria, threatening Israeli territory, Mr. Netanyahu’s stance has shifted, ordering the Israeli air force to repeatedly hit sites in Syria, raising the prospects of a wider regional war.

On April 9, in a strike that Russia blamed on Israel, missiles struck another Syrian base, killing at least 14 pro-regime forces, including seven Iranians.

Referring to the most recent attack, Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told The Wall Street Journal that, “The magnitude and accuracy of the attack in Northern Syria is the capability of a state and not the Syrian opposition.”

“From the Iranian perspective, there is an open account with Israel. If they blame Israel for this attack, there is a higher risk of retaliation,” Mr. Yadlin said.

After the latest attack, an Israeli open source intelligence site posted purported satellite imagery on Twitter, saying that the target of the attack was an Iranian base recently erected north of Hama airport.

The site claimed that an Iranian plane had recently arrived from Tehran, likely carrying weapons, and showed images of an alleged Iranian drone at the base.

Write to Sune Engel Rasmussen at [email protected]

Romanian ruling party chief says plans to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OR REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

Romanian ruling party chief says plans to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – The leader of Romania’s ruling Social Democrats said the government had approved a memorandum to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, one of the first countries to do so following the United States.

FILE PHOTO: Social Democrat Party leader Liviu Dragnea gestures after leaving the Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors headquarters in Bucharest, Romania, November 13, 2017. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/via REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump in December recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, infuriating Washington’s Arab allies and dismaying Palestinians who want the eastern part of the city as their capital.

Under Romanian legislation, a final embassy relocation decision belongs to centrist President Klaus Iohannis, who said he had not been consulted. The Romanian government and foreign ministry did not immediately confirm the information.

“Yesterday, the government adopted a memorandum deciding to start the procedure to effectively move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Social Democrat leader and lower house speaker Liviu Dragnea told private television station Antena3 late on Thursday.

Dragnea keeps a tight grip on his party and is seen as effectively in charge of the cabinet.

Romanian President Iohannis said in a statement on Friday that he had not been informed or consulted about the decision and urged all government and political actors to show “responsibility and discernment regarding major foreign policy decisions that have strategic effects including on national security.”

“Such a decision must be taken only after consulting and securing the approval of all foreign policy and national security institutions, with a final decision belonging to the President, according to the constitution.”

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “at least half a dozen” countries were considering moving their embassies to Jerusalem. The U.S. Embassy is due to relocate on May 14.

“Our gesture has a huge symbolic value … for Israel, a state with an unbelievably large influence in the world and with which we have had a special relationship for many years,” Social Democrat leader Dragnea said.

“Moving the embassy to Jerusalem can and I believe will bring short, medium and long-term benefits for Romania and we must use this huge chance and opportunity.”

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Toby Chopra

Israel aims to eliminate use of coal, gasoline and diesel by 2030

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel aims to eliminate use of coal, gasoline and diesel by 2030

Energy minister to present plan to reduce pollution, strengthen ‘peace axis’ through sole use of natural gas and alternative fuels for energy production and transportation

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz speaking at an energy conference in Tel Aviv, February 27, 2018 (Dror Sithakol)

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz speaking at an energy conference in Tel Aviv, February 27, 2018 (Dror Sithakol)

The Energy Ministry forecast Tuesday that within 12 years Israel would be fully reliant on natural gas and alternative fuels for the production of electricity and for transportation.

“We intend to reach a situation in which Israel’s industry will be based on natural gas, and most importantly, transportation in Israel will be based on natural gas or electricity,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said at an energy conference in Tel Aviv. “From 2030 onwards, the State of Israel will create alternatives and will no longer allow the import of cars that run on gasoline and diesel fuel.”

Steinitz said he would be submitting a master plan with this vision to the government.

In 2014, electricity was produced through a fifty-fifty split between coal and natural gas. The aim for 2030 is to alter that to 83% natural gas and 17% renewable energy, with “zero pollutants,” Steinitz said.

Illustrative photo of Israeli natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea, September 2, 2015. (Flash90)

Already this year, the balance of electricity production will be 71% natural gas, 25%-27% coal, and 2% renewable energy, with the economy transitioning to using coal only for emergency and backup purposes by 2030.

“We have abolished the strategy of diversification of fuels,” Steinitz said, noting that Israel had previously believed that this kind of diversification — using coal and natural gas — was essential for energy security. “We realized we can reach energy security even without this diversification.”

“There is a historic opportunity to transform Israel into one of the first Western countries in which energy is produced with zero pollution and harm to the environment,” he said.

Steinitz said that according to OECD data some 2,500 people die in Israel annually because of air pollution. He added that the controversial natural gas legislation passed two years ago has been a “huge success,” having enabled the development of Leviathan, Israel’s largest natural gas field, which is expected to come online next year. The one and a half-year holdup in the development of Leviathan caused by delays in passing the gas regulations cost Israel some $20 billion, he said.

The development of the field allowed Israel to sign its “most significant export deals” with neighboring Egypt and Jordan since the signing of peace accords with these nations, he said.

Earlier this month, the partners in the Tamar and Leviathan offshore natural gas fields said they signed deals to export 64 billion cubic meters of gas to the Egyptian firm Dolphinus over a 10-year period. In September 2016, Jordan struck a deal to buy 8.5 million cubic meters of Israeli gas per day over 15 years, a deal estimated to be worth $10 billion.

“This strengthens the peace axis,” Steinitz said. “It is a geopolitical success that has been made possible because of natural gas.”

Israel, a country with scarce natural resources, discovered offshore natural gas fields that may enable it to achieve energy independence and become an exporter of natural gas. The Tamar gas field was discovered in 2009 and started production in 2013, while the Leviathan field — the largest deep water natural gas field discovered in the world in the past decade — was discovered in 2010 and is expected to start production in 2019.

Steinitz was speaking at a conference organized by the Israel Institute for Energy and Environment that dealt with the potential of and challenges to Israel’s natural gas industry.

Steinitz and other speakers were heckled by a group protesting against the planned Leviathan rig, which they say will be set up just 10 kilometers off the northern shore and will cause pollution and billions of dollars’ worth of environmental damage.

Protesters demonstrating outside an energy conference in Tel Aviv against setting up a gas rig 10 kilometers from Israel’s shores, February 27, 2018 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

“Instead of a proposed rig, the companies should be setting up a floating production storage and offloading facility above the rig, not close to the shore of Dor Beach,” said protest head Yoni Sapir.

In addition, a gas-processing to be set up on land could pollute local water sources, said Eli Budman, a toxicologist who was protesting outside the hotel.

Steinitz dismissed them as “not in my backyard” protesters who were ignorant of the issues. “We will not submit to pressure by anyone. We are convinced we are doing the right things for the future of Israel,” he declared.

An environmental heckler disrupting the speech of Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz at an energy conference in Tel Aviv; 27 Feb. 2018 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

Responding to the demonstrators, Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin said Israel cannot both cut its consumption of coal and stall development of the natural gas industry. “We can’t go in both directions,” he said.

The ministry was prioritizing the reduction of pollution, he said, and natural gas had to play its part as soon as possible. “Pollution is the number one environmental challenge of Israel,” he said. “The progress of Leviathan is of environmental interest to Israel.”

At the conference Yona Fogel, the CEO of Paz Oil Company Ltd. an oil refiner, said the price of natural gas in Israel as set by the agreement reached by government and the producers of the gas was too high. “There is a market failure here,” he said. Paz’s two plants, in Haifa and Alon Tavor, were ready to receive natural gas but “the gap between implementation and desire” was very high, he said.

Mathios Rigas, CEO of Energean Oil & Gas, a Greek oil and gas explorer that won the license to develop and operate the smaller Karish and Tanin offshore natural gas fields — which are estimated to have reserves of 2 trillion cubic feet (TCF) and are earmarked to supply fuel to Israel and compete with Tamar and Leviathan — said he expects drilling at the fields to start in 2019 and supply of gas to start in the first quarter of 2021. Energean will be investing some $1.6 billion in the development of the fields, he said, and has already raised the funds to manage the project, he said.

Yossi Abu, the CEO of Delek Drilling LP, a unit of Delek Group Ltd., which together with Noble Energy Inc. is a partner in the Tamar and Leviathan fields, said that he expects more deals with Egypt following the one with Dolphinus signed earlier this month. Egypt is estimated to need some 20 to 40 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year for the next decade, he said, and this presents an opportunity for Israel.

The pipeline infrastructure already in place will allow Leviathan to supply gas to Egypt and Jordan when production starts in the fourth quarter of 2019, he said, and will allow Israel to be part of a regional grid connected to the two Arab countries, as opposed to the energy island it has been until now.

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Jerusalem, Israel, And The Palestinian People

Jerusalem, Israel, And The Palestinian People

 

So, tomorrow December the 6th President Trump is supposed to say whether or not he is going to officially recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and if the U.S. is going to move our Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. So, this article this evening is simply my thoughts on this issue, I am not consulting other writers nor any pre-written documents. I am only going by articles that I have already read during my lifetime, up to this point in time. I know that no matter what I say, I am going to get a lot of people angry simply because I don’t agree with them.

Today the President of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan threatened to cut relations with Israel if Mr. Trump goes ahead with the Jerusalem Capital issue. To me, this is a fraudulent concept, if Mr. Erdogan wants to cut relations with any country it should be the U.S. not Israel. Israel cannot control what comes out of the mouth of Donald Trump, no one can. It is said that the whole of the ‘Arab League’ will cause many deaths if Mr. Trump goes through with this announcement. These type of threats help show the ‘low road’ of the Islamic leaders, not their intelligence. It is also because of threats like this that would cause a narcissists like Trump to not bow down to such a threat because it would/will make him look weak and in this case, that is actually true.

Now, for my personal thoughts on how to make the Jerusalem Capital issue work for all sides, yet at the same time not make any side totally happy. Isn’t that pretty much what the definition of what a compromise is? My idea is for Jerusalem to be declared the Capital of Palestine, all of Palestine. This would encompass all of Palestine and all the people of Palestine, Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, the people of Gaza and of the West Bank. This way it is everyone’s Capital. All people of this region, no matter if they are Israeli Jews or residents of the ‘so called’ Palestinians of the West Bank can prove that they are capable of recognizing each others right to exist, in peace with each other.

Because of the current security issues raised by terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and the PLO plus the fact that Jerusalem was the Capital of Israel at least 1,600 years before Mohammad was even born, Israel would have to have control of the security issues within all of the city. Maybe in time these folks who are hell-bent on violence will mature into civilized human beings and the ‘walls’ of security can be let down. Israel on their side would need to allow the Palestinian people to have such things as their Embassy in Eastern Jerusalem once there is a two State agreement in place. All sides of this issue should be allowed to call Jerusalem their Capital. Jerusalem is the ‘City of God’ and it should be able to be an ‘International’ City. Yet the only way for this to come about is if groups like Hamas who refuse the existence of the State of Israel to lay down all of their weapons. Israel can not allow its citizens to continue to be fodder to murderers, so until all Islamic groups in the Palestine region agree to commit no violence, there can not be a safe and secure two State compromise.

Another reality is that even though Mr. Trump seems to think that he decides if Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel, he actually has no say so in the matter. Jerusalem is and has been the Capital of the people of Israel for more than 2,600 years. It is God who decided that Jerusalem is His City. The world can call Tel Aviv Israels Capital, but it has never been Israels Capital, Jerusalem is. But there is no reason that all of the people of Palestine can not call Jerusalem their Capital as it is the Capital of all of Palestine.

 

 

Trump Will Recognize Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in Wednesday speech — report

A White House official will not confirm the Axios report, saying only that president ‘is still considering options and we have nothing to announce’

US President Donald Trump speaks about the Iran deal from the Diplomatic Reception room of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 13, 2017. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

US President Donald Trump speaks about the Iran deal from the Diplomatic Reception room of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 13, 2017. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

WASHINGTON — Defying longstanding American policy, US President Donald Trump will give a speech Wednesday recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, according to an Axios report on Friday.

A White House spokesman, contacted by The Times of Israel on Friday afternoon, would not confirm the story. “The president has always said it is a matter of when, not if,” the official said. “The president is still considering options and we have nothing to announce.”

The Axios report cited two sources with direct knowledge of Trump’s intentions.

The US Embassy building in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, December 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Multiple reports surfaced this week that the president would for the second time waive a congressional mandate requiring the US embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but that he would take the dramatic step of formally recognizing the holy city as Israel’s capital.

An Israeli television report on Wednesday, for instance, said that the Israeli government considered it extremely likely that Trump would declare in the next few days that he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that he is instructing his officials to prepare to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. The White House rejected that report as “premature.”

On Tuesday, US Vice President Mike Pence said Trump “is actively considering when and how to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” Pence spoke at a gathering of UN ambassadors, diplomats and Jewish leaders at an event in New York commemorating the 70th anniversary of the UN vote for partition of Palestine, which led to the creation of the State of Israel.

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks as he attends a Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the UN vote calling for ‘the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel’ at the Queens Museum on November 28, 2017 in New York. (AFP/ Timothy A. Clary)

Declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be a highly controversial move, with the potential to spark unrest in the Middle East. The Wall Street Journal reported that US officials were contacting embassies in the region warning them to prepare for the possibility of violent protests.

A presidential declaration could risk producing an angry response from the Palestinians and other Arab allies, like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, just as the Trump White House is preparing to move forward with its attempts to broker a Mideast peace accord.

Israel says Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish state, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been tasked with leading the administration’s peace efforts. He will participate in a highly anticipated keynote conversation this Sunday at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in Washington, DC, marking a rare occasion when he will give public remarks and discuss the administration’s peace push.

Jared Kushner exits the West Wing of the White House October 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)

At that event, he will likely face questions about the Trump team’s position vis-a-vis Jerusalem and how that might impact their quest to forge an agreement between the sides.

A 1995 law requires the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but provides the president with the prerogative to postpone the move every six months on national security grounds.

Each of Trump’s three immediate predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — repeatedly exercised that right. Trump, for his part, signed the waiver when faced with his first deadline in June. He will have to decide whether to sign it for the second time in his presidency on Monday. (While the official deadline is December 1, since that date falls on a Friday this year, the deadline is extended until after the weekend.)

Israel’s Channel 10 TV news, citing sources in Israel,  said there were three camps in the White House with differing opinions on how to deal with the issue.

The first was pushing the president not to sign the waiver and start the process of moving the embassy, and also recognize Jerusalem at Israel’s capital. “It could happen” that the president “simply doesn’t sign” the waiver, Channel 10 reported Friday.

A second camp says don’t do anything, sign the waiver and don’t recognize Jerusalem as it would harm prospects for a peace process and hurt ties with Arab states. The third group is urging the president to sign the waiver, but make a symbolic gesture by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, the report said.

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Christians Must Think Differently About Israel, Jews in Light of Past Atrocities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

Christians Must Think Differently About Israel, Jews in Light of Past Atrocities: Gerald McDermott

 

Jun 22, 2017 | 10:05 AM

 The majority of Christians have been wrong about Israel for most of their history, according to a leading Anglican theologian and Israel scholar.
(Photo: Reuters) An Israeli flag flies high in Tel Aviv, December 28, 2010.

For many reasons, Christians ought to think differently about the land of Israel and the Jews as God’s covenant people, Gerald R. McDermott, Anglican chair at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, explains in a new book.

In an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday, McDermott explained that his latest work, Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land, articulates why it’s important for believers in Jesus to engage Israel with the utmost humility. This is necessary not only because of the geopolitical complexities present there but especially because “the Jews have been horribly wronged by Christians over the millennia.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Gerald McDermott)Gerald McDermott, author of Israel Matter: Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land.

“Even before the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Jews were murdered over the last 1,800 years by Christians as “Christ-killers,” McDermott said, noting at the time of the Holocaust Germany was the most Christianized nation in the world.

“Jews know these things and are afraid of us,” he said.

The error in thinking that Jesus departed from Judaism and began a new religion furthers the distance between Christians and Jews and makes Jews into an “other,” he said.

Yet in the past several decades, especially in the United States, a resurgence of what is known as Christian Zionism, the view that the land of Israel and ethnic Jews remain central to God’s eternal purposes, has occurred.

McDermott did not personally subscribe to this perspective because he associated it with dispensationalism, theology that considers biblical history as divided intentionally by God into specific ages to each of which He has allotted distinctive administrative principles. This teaching was popularized in the 1800’s by Anglo-Irish preacher John Nelson Darby.

But all that began to change for him upon doing further study of the Bible and history and he found that throughout the ages a minority has believed that one day, in accordance with Scripture, a massive in gathering of Jewish people to their historic homeland would take place.

(Photo: Courtesy of Gerald McDermott)Cover of the book “Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land,” by Gerald R. McDermott.

He realized he did not have to accept a dispensationalist approach to regard the land and people of Israel as an essential component of God’s ongoing work in the world. Nor did he have to subscribe to the often wild, apocalyptic end times scenarios some Christian Zionists have espoused in the past.

In Chapter 3 of Israel Matters the author showcases “Those Who Got It Right.”

From early Church fathers like Tertullian to more recent figures like American theologian Jonathan Edwards and Swiss theologian Karl Barth, each of these men believed that a day would come when the Jews would return to their ancient homeland.

During his ministry Edwards repeatedly warned against spiritualizing biblical promises to the Jews. When the modern state of Israel was established in 1948 Barth wrote that it was a “secular parable” and that the large numbers of Jews returning to the land was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

As is expressed throughout The New Christian Zionism, a volume of Christian scholarship on Israel released last year for which McDermott was the editor, Israel Matters argues strongly against supercessionism. This is also known as “replacement theology” which holds that the Church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.

Today, what is known as “fulfillment theology,” which some assert is merely an updated form of replacement theology, also holds that Jews do not have a God-given destiny in their ancient land. But instead of the Church replacing Israel, its proponents contend that Jesus fulfills in his life and redemptive work all the promises that God ever made to the Jews, including the promise that the land of Canaan would be their everlasting possession.

This theology considers the land insignificant and that the only Jews who are now significant to God are Messianic Jews, those who believe Jesus is the Messiah.

But several passages in the New Testament suggest both beliefs are wrong, McDermott explained.

“Paul says in Romans 11:28 that the Jews who did not accept Jesus as Messiah were ‘enemies of the Gospel’ but nevertheless ‘are beloved’ to God, and that their ‘gifts and calling of God’ to be His special people ‘are irrevocable,'” he said.

Moreover, the Apostle Paul was writing to the Romans 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection but even then was still saying that God’s covenant with ethnic Israel remains in place. This did not mean that all Jews were saved, but that they were still special to God in a particular way.

Likewise, in his Beatitude in Matthew 5:5, Jesus was quoting Psalm 37:11 word for word when he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the [earth.]” The Hebrew word for “earth,” which is used five times in Psalm 37, in every one of these five instances in Psalm 37 refers to the land of Israel, McDermott continued. So the Beatitude is better translated, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Land.”

And in Acts 1:6, “when Jesus’ disciples asked him just before his ascension, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ Jesus did not tell them they were wrong to think there would be a future Israel that God would establish,” he said.

“Instead, He (Jesus) said that the timing of that future was not to be known then.”

(Photo: Reuters)People walk near Damascus Gate leading into Jerusalem’s Old City, 2017.

In addition to the theological objections McDermott unpacks in the book, he explores the modern political history of the region, which is often characterized by intense and bloody conflicts.

Yet unlike some Christian Zionists who appear to think that the nation of Israel can do no wrong, McDermott is not afraid to criticize the Israeli government when it’s warranted.

He acknowledges in the book where Palestinians have been mistreated at times, how the Israeli government has broken promises, and how certain policies have been unwise. He also writes that the state of Israel should do more to protect Messianic believers. Whether an unjust action is perpetrated by a Jew or an Arab, he says, Christians need to feel free to raise their voices to criticize whoever is responsible when it is clear such an injustice has occurred.

Although imperfect, the state of Israel, “an oasis of freedom and democracy in the Middle East,” is inextricably linked with the Jews, McDermott insists.

“Even if the covenanted people of Israel and the state of Israel are not one and the same, they are intertwined in a complex way,” he writes in the book.

“The state could not exist without its people, and the covenanted people could not survive or flourish without the state. The state shelters the people, and the people — though not all are religious Jews — support the state. One without the other is unthinkable and impossible.”

For Christians who care about the Palestinians and their rights, McDermott encourages them to visit Israel since tourism helps everyone there, and to support the largely-unreported incremental steps Israel is taking to improve the lot of Palestinians.

(PHOTO: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN/FILE PHOTO) The facade of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel as seen on Jan. 20, 2017.

Written in a scholarly yet accessible tone, Israel Matters is likely to be a important resource for Christians looking to bring their faith to bear on current events unfolding in the United States and in the Middle East. Earlier this month President Donald Trump signed a waiver delaying the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, skirting a key campaign promise that he might or might not revisit.

CP asked McDermott if moving the embassy would constitute a blessing to Israel, as some scholars have argued.

Such a move would “help the cause for peace, not hurt it,” he replied.

“First of all, it would be the simple recognition of reality: Jerusalem and no other city is Israel’s capital,” McDermott said.

“Second, the Palestinian leaders are thugs who would realize by this move that they can no longer dictate as they did to Obama, whose policies hurt both Jews and Arabs.”

The only hope for improvement is for [Palestinian President] Abbas to understand that he has to talk to the Israelis and moving the U.S. diplomatic outpost to the capital would signal to him that he can no longer circumvent the Israelis and try to get what he wants from the United Nations, he added.

Aside from the fulfillment of prophetic scriptures and political considerations, Christians need to think differently about the people and land of Israel because Jesus was and is Jewish, McDermott stressed. And in order to relate to Jewish friends, getting in touch with His Jewishness is essential.

“The Jews were raised up by God as representatives of humanity,” McDermott said. “So that if the Bible shows their departures from God, it is really illustrating ours.”

“Jesus prized Jewish law, said that salvation is from the Jews, predicted that one day Jerusalem will welcome Him, and foresaw that His Apostles will one day rule over the tribes of Israel,” McDermott said.

If Christians begin to think they are somehow better because they believe in Jesus as Messiah and the Jews do not, they fail to understand God’s grace, he added.

“When we realize how profoundly Jewish Jesus was and is, we will feel greater kinship with those for whom Paul said he had ‘unceasing anguish in his heart.'”

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Trump The Habitual Liar Strikes Again: This Time Too The American People And Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

The United States embassy in Tel Aviv in August 2013. CreditAriel Schalit/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an order keeping the American Embassy in Tel Aviv rather than move it to Jerusalem as he promised during last year’s campaign, aides said Thursday, disappointing many Israel supporters in hopes of preserving his chances of negotiating a peace settlement.

Mr. Trump made no mention of his pending decision during a visit to Jerusalem just last week and waited to announce it until almost the last minute he could under law, underscoring the deep political sensitivity of the matter. The order he will sign waives for six months a congressional edict requiring the embassy be located in Jerusalem, after which he will have to consider the matter again.

The decision is the latest shift away from campaign positions upending traditional foreign policy as Mr. Trump spends more time in office and learns more about the trade-offs involved. He has reversed himself on declaring China a currency manipulator, backed off plans to lift sanctions against Russia, declared that NATO is not “obsolete” after all, opted for now not to rip up President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran and ordered a punitive strike against Syria that he previously opposed in similar circumstances.

In this case, Mr. Trump may invite the wrath of powerful supporters like Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate and Republican donor who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owns a newspaper in Israel. Some hard-line Israel backers have privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump has not lived up to his campaign pledges because he has been seduced into thinking he may reach the “ultimate deal” that has eluded every other president.

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Mr. Trump began backing away from his promise to move the embassy shortly after taking office when King Abdullah II of Jordan flew to Washington without a White House invitation to buttonhole the new president at a prayer breakfast and explain what he viewed as the consequences. The king warned that a precipitous move would touch off a possibly violent backlash among Arabs, all but quashing any hopes of bringing the two sides together.

Mr. Trump has also urged Mr. Netanyahu to hold off on provocative housing construction in the West Bank pending peace talks, despite appointing David M. Friedman, a staunch supporter of such settlements, as his ambassador to Israel. But the president pleased many in Mr. Netanyahu’s right-leaning coalition by abandoning automatic support for a Palestinian state unless both sides agree.

The embassy question has assumed enormous symbolic significance over the years. The United Nations once proposed that Jerusalem be an international city, but after Israel declared statehood in 1948, it took control of the western portion of the city while Jordan seized the eastern side. During its 1967 war with Arab neighbors, Israel wrested away control of East Jerusalem and annexed it.

Over the 50 years since then, Israel has declared that Jerusalem is its eternal capital and would never be divided again, even as it has built more housing in the eastern parts of the city intended for Jewish residents over the objections of the Palestinians and much of the international community. Most of its main institutions of government are based in Jerusalem.

Like every other country with a diplomatic presence in Israel, the United States has kept its embassy in Tel Aviv to avoid seeming to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital at the expense of Palestinians who also claim it as the capital of a future state of their own. The United States does have a consulate in Jerusalem that mainly deals with Palestinians but could be converted on a temporary basis into an embassy until a permanent site is found and a full-fledged facility constructed.

Like Mr. Trump, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both promised to move the embassy as presidential candidates only to drop the idea once they got into office. In 1995, Congress passed a law requiring the embassy be moved to Jerusalem by 1999 or else the State Department would have its building budget cut in half.

But lawmakers included a provision allowing a president to waive the law for six months if determined to be in the national interest. So every six months since 1999, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama and now Mr. Trump have signed such waivers.

Mr. Trump had promised that he would be different and presented himself as the best friend Israel would ever have in the Oval Office. During the campaign, he said he would move the embassy “fairly quickly” and on the eve of his inauguration reiterated his commitment by telling an Israeli journalist, “You know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”

But he has become enamored of the idea that he, unlike all of his predecessors, could be the one to finally negotiate a permanent peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, and he was persuaded that an embassy move would hinder that. The president has assigned Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, his former personal lawyer, to lead the peace efforts.

Anticipating that Mr. Trump would back off the embassy move, some in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition hoped that the president at least would say during his trip last week that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, but he did not do that.

Mr. Trump did visit the Western Wall, the holiest Jewish prayer site in the country, becoming the first sitting American president to do so — an act that some interpreted as indirect recognition since the wall is in a part of the city that Israel took control of during the 1967 war.

Fatah Deputy Chief: We Accept A One-State Solution—Where Israel Does Not Exist

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ASHARQ AL-AWSAT SAUDI NEWSPAPER)

Interviews

Fatah Deputy Chief: We Accept a One-State Solution

Ramallah – Since I met him a few months ago, nothing has changed in Mahmoud el-Aloul’s entourage even though he has been elected the deputy party chief of Fatah, which means he could become leader of the movement in case of any surprises, and consequently president of Palestinian Authority.

On our way to his office for an interview, we were not questioned once and we were received by his office manager who delayed our interview several times due to unorganized appointments. Many members of Fatah believe this is a “creative chaos”.

Before the interview, I asked Aloul about his few security guards. His answer was that he didn’t like the fuss they create and wished he could carry out his duties without any assistants.

The first question was about US President Donald Trump and his numerous statements about Palestine and Israel.

Aloul acknowledged that it’s the question asked by everyone. No one can understand Trump’s policy, which he said is “mysterious and confusing.”

“As soon as he got into office, he created problems with the US and international community including Europe, China, and Japan. His policies are completely different from all his predecessors, so we are faced by a mysterious case. We have to wait and we are doing our best,” Aloul said.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that Fatah is trying to contact the Trump administration and has sent direct messages and via Arab leaders.

He said Fatah advised Trump not to rush into any decision concerning the region. But, regardless of anything, Abbas’ deputy stressed that Fatah holds onto the people’s rights and will defend them.

When asked if the movement received any response to its demands, Aloul said a number of Fatah figures had met with senior officials at the US administration and confirmed that discussions touched on both political and security matters.

Concerning what Trump had stated about moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Aloul said there might be some changes in the president’s stance, but, like the rest of the world, nothing can be predicted.

Trump retracted from the two-state solution, which Aloul is not entirely against given that it protects Palestinians’ rights and grants them freedom, independence and sovereignty.

Whereas, he added, a one state democratic solution has been proposed by Palestinians.

Concerning Trump, Aloul said that negotiations are an inevitable part of any war or conflict in the world and the Palestinian conflict with Israel has been ongoing for years.

The VP said that resistance is legitimate, as Fatah has said in its political declaration that resistance is a right. But, Aloul, didn’t deny that each phase has its own requirements and the current stage requires public resistance.

Such resistance is necessary as long as there are crimes and there is occupation, he said, adding that it should be a way of life for all Palestinians.

When asked about his position of Fatah deputy chief, Aloul said the position has certain authorities in line with the movement’s bylaws. He also mentioned that this post is up to review a year after it was created.

He said his main goal is to move forward with the movement and reconcile with the Palestinian people in order to create a state of unity within the movement itself and between the movement and the society.

He added that choosing him for this position put an end to a number of foreign interventions that had been going on for a long time.

Certain observers expected Marwan al-Barghouti to be chosen for the position of Abbas’ deputy. Aloul expressed his pride in everything Barghouti has done and confirmed that Fatah will continue battling for his freedom. He did however explain that not choosing Barghouti for the post was due to the fact that he wouldn’t be able to perform any executive duties from his prison cell.

He criticized the people trying to create strife out of this issue.

When asked about Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) elections, he said a committee is preparing for the polls but negotiations are ongoing on where they should take place.

Concerning the elections, Aloul explained that the election of a PLO deputy chief is under discussion. However, Hamas announced that the head of council can be the head of authority, to which Aloul said that Hamas has to determine first if it wants to be part of the Palestinian Authority or not.

Aloul said Fatah is a national liberation movement that hasn’t achieved its goals and will remain active until it does.

He also expressed his lack of interest in what Israelis think about his statements.

Finally, the Fatah deputy leader ruled out an Arab Spring in Palestine, saying the people are not against the government, they are all against one enemy: the occupation.

Israel Says It Is Not Ready To Confront Hezbollah’s Rockets?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘ONLY LEBANON.NET’ NEWS AGENCY)

December 7, 2016 Last Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2016 – 7:58
Israel is ready to confront Hezbollah rockets .. but

Ali Haider – News

Titled “Israel: The home front is not ready to face the Hezbollah rockets,” Ali Haider wrote in the “News”: Ten years after the 2006 war, and three bloody military confrontations against the Gaza Strip, Israel acknowledged that the home front is not ready to face the Hezbollah rockets, and that the government and the leadership of the army’s performance has not lived up to the level of threat that shaped tunnels Gaza Strip.

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“The state comptroller,” announced that the Israeli home front is not ready to face the Hezbollah rockets, ten years after the July aggression. Although the state comptroller’s report dealt with the readiness of the home front during the recent aggression on the Gaza Strip.

However, the notes and warnings, which involved them, targeting mainly the willingness to confront Hezbollah on its northern front.

He Amos Harel, military affairs commentator in the newspaper “Haaretz”, that this concept is based on the fact that there is no similarity between the seriousness of the threat posed by Hezbollah on the domestic front and fronted by Israel in the recent war with Hamas. The paper warned of the lack of understanding of the threat to Israel from its northern front, in light of Hezbollah’s possession of tens of thousands of rockets that have part of it accurate and extents cover all occupied Palestine.

Can not be separated between the conclusion of the Israeli newspaper, and understood by policymakers and security decision in Tel Aviv that Hezbollah, despite the concern to confront the threat posed by terrorist groups and infidels, we still have the will of the decision to activate its capabilities in the event of Israel to overcome some of the red lines that have evolved during the past years.

The “Haaretz” that the deep gap between the facing Israel on its northern front and facing the South forehead, which could explain the gap between the Israeli discourse firm against Hezbollah, and approaches the operational disorderly and justification for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who as much as possible try to avoid the outbreak war with the party. And Chi-sum referred to by Harel that cost calculations and feasibility of any war with Hezbollah is preparing strongly in the consciousness of policymakers and security decision in Tel Aviv, and explain a lot of the vocabulary of the political and operational performance.

Report of the State Comptroller for the home front put through the process of “steadfast shelf” against the Gaza Strip, is only a pre-emptive strike preliminary final report, which is supposed to be released in January, which will address the core issues that have held the opinion of the Israeli public, and formed the focus of disputes between Netanyahu’s hand and all of the ministers at the time of Naphtali built and Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni. These issues revolve around preparing for the threat of tunnels, and the performance of the cabinet in the war, and the image of intelligence and other dimensions.

In the case of the internal front, the prime minister was not the central goal of the criticism of the State Comptroller’s report, but the criticism focused on the leadership of the army and the Ministry of Security and former its Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The report included a series of flaws, starting with the work of the Cabinet and the government and the end of the field activity. The report, in this context, that the Cabinet as the observer, not until June held this year a broad discussion about the preparations of the home front’s meeting, given that this issue is one of the most critical questions by Israel in any future battle against Hezbollah in Lebanon or against the Gaza Strip.

As for Netanyahu, Vtantzerh three personal notes in the main report, relate not to study alternatives to war, and the failure to involve the cabinet in the seriousness of the threat of tunnels and lack of control on the army’s preparations for the threat. On this issue, Netanyahu still ran a focused campaign to influence the final report of the observer, Joseph Shapira, next month, in order to soften the draft version of the semi-final.

Although Shapira aware that he would be a media attack by the vicinity of the prime minister, but he skewered to the Ministerial Council on ways to warn and protect the population in Israel, especially in light of the expectations of their exposure in any future war with Hezbollah for tens of thousands of rockets, at the time still in it Department of defense systems and objection is not valid, and a large section of public and private shelters is not ready to meet the expectations.

He pointed to the observer that since the government decided to reduce the differences in fortify buildings, partly implemented, and in some places has never carried out, which prevented achieve equality at this level. The report pointed out that there are institutions not been vaccinated in the buildings around the Gaza Strip into Israeli towns, despite a decision in this regard by the Supreme Court. The report also warned that the ability to defend the north of Israel is extremely limited, given the lack of immunization buildings.

On the other hand, the observer’s report confirmed that the army and the Ministry of Security Ablora did not plan to evacuate towns in northern Israel and there were deliberations on the military and political levels about the gaps in the means of air defense of northern Israel. Also included criticism of the National Security Authority for being not pursued as it should implement the decisions of the prime minister, given that this matter of the roles specified in the law.