Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex a massive part of the West Bank, explained

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX.COM)

 

Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex a massive part of the West Bank, explained

Israel’s prime minister wants to seize the Jordan Valley — a move that would bury the two-state solution for good.

Netanyahu Pledges To Annex Jordan Valley In Occupied West Bank If Re-Elected
Benjamin Netanyahu announces plan to annex the Jordan Valley.
 Amir Levy/Getty Images

In a high-profile speech on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to annex a part of the West Bank called the Jordan Valley if he wins Israel’s upcoming election on September 17.

“If I am elected I commit to annex the Jordan Valley. It is our eastern border, our defense wall,” the prime minister vowed. “Give me the mandate. No previous Israeli prime minister has proposed doing so.”

The annexation is billed as a security measure, an essential move for Israeli to protect its heartland. In practice, though, it would mean seizing land that’s vital to any future Palestinian state’s success — effectively dismantling the peace process. It’s a truly radical pronouncement, a blaring statement that this Israeli government has no interest in a serious negotiated peace with the Palestinians.

Annexation is not inevitable. Netanyahu might lose the election, or he might end up with a parliamentary coalition that would block his move. The speech was clearly designed to shore up Netanyahu’s support in the upcoming elections (particularly with right-wing voters).

But just because the promise is campaign rhetoric doesn’t mean it’s empty. Experts warn that the very act of putting annexation on the table will shift Israeli politics even further to the right, potentially scuppering the peace process for good.

“Instead of a conversation on whether annexation is smart or stupid, bad for Israel or good for Israel, everyone across the Israeli political spectrum will accept this new baseline and annexation becomes normal,” writes Michael Koplow, policy director at the center-left Israel Policy Forum. “As it is, the gap between Israel and the Palestinians is wide and widening by the day. This makes that gap unbridgeable if it becomes the new Israeli baseline position.”

Why annexation is so scary for the peace process

The Jordan Valley runs along the east edge of the West Bank, the heavily Palestinian-populated area taken by Israel in the 1967 war, marking its boundary with neighboring Jordan. It contains both Palestinian population centers, like the city of Jericho, and a number of Israeli settlements.

Netanyahu claimed in his speech that he would not be “annexing even one Palestinian.” To do that, he exempted Jericho and nearby Palestinian villages from the annexation proposal, opting instead to encircle them (the red blob in the map below) with newly taken Israeli land (the much bigger blue chunk):

Raphael Ahren

@RaphaelAhren

Here’s the map of the territory of the Jordan Valley, in the West Bank, that Netanyahu vowed to annex if he wins next week’s election (blue: will be annexed to Israel; orange: will remain under Palestinian control)

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The most credible argument for Israel formally seizing control of this land is essentially strategic. Israel has faced invasions from Jordan before, and an IDF military presence in the Jordan Valley is arguably vital to protecting Israel from another hypothetical invasion in the future.

However, there is no imminent risk of such an invasion to justify an immediate land grab. And there are lots of arrangements by which Israel could protect legitimate security interests in the Jordan Valley without outright seizing the land. It could station some troops there with permission from a Palestinian state, for example.

Annexing the Jordan Valley at this particular moment is not a response to an urgent security threat. Rather, it a dagger blow to the idea of a two-state solution, amounting to a declaration that Israel is not interested in creating a Palestinian state but rather simply taking the land that it wants for itself.

“Annexation — taking land while continuing to subjugate the Palestinians on that land — is apartheid and should face the same consequences,” says Diana Buttu, a Ramallah-based political analyst and former adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

This unilateral land grab of a huge chunk of the West Bank would shrink the remaining Palestinian territory to such an extent that most observers believe it would render the very idea of a two-state solution impossible.

“Netanyahu is proposing annexing essentially a third of the West Bank,” writes Raf Sanchez, a Middle East correspondent at the UK’s Telegraph newspaper. “Very hard to see how anyone can say a Palestinian state is still possible if that happens.”

If that’s the case, then Netanyahu’s land grab would force Israel down one of two dangerous one-state paths.

One option would be giving the vote to Palestinians and making them full citizens of Israel, leading to an Arab demographic majority and thus ending Israel’s status as a Jewish state. This is not only a recipe for violence between Muslims and Jews but also unacceptable to the currently ascendant Israeli political right, of which Netanyahu is very much a part. The other option is indefinite Israeli rule over Palestinians without granting them citizenship. There’s a word for keeping an ethnically defined part of your population in permanent second-class citizenship: apartheid.

Annexation isn’t happening tomorrow. But this speech is still really scary.

Before we go down the doomsday road, though, it’s worth noting that annexation is not happening tomorrow — and may not be happening at all.

The polling for the September 17 election is ambiguous. The leading opposition party, centrist Blue and White, is polling ever so slightly ahead of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, but neither party is projected to come close to a parliamentary majority. Whoever comes out ahead will depend on a coalition agreement with a group of smaller parties, and it’s not at all clear what the most likely coalition will be come next week. It’s possible Netanyahu is out of a job or stuck with some kind of coalition that won’t let him pursue annexation.

What’s more, Netanyahu is currently battling indictment on corruption charges. The amount of attention and energy this fight will consume might, according to some Israeli observers, make it impossible for him to actually take the radical step he just proposed.

“If Netanyahu wins next Tuesday, and that’s a big ‘if,’ he will be spending all his time trying to tailor his immunity from prosecution. Not annexing the Jordan Valley,” writes Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist at Israel’s left-wing Ha’aretz newspaper. “If Netanyahu’s statement proves anything, it’s his contempt for his own right-wing voters’ intelligence. They are expected to believe that after all this time, the ‘historic opportunity’ to annex the Jordan Valley is suddenly just a week before the election.”

But just because annexation may not be imminent doesn’t mean the talk of it isn’t dangerous.

The basic concern here is that Netanyahu is changing the terms of Israeli politics. If he proposes it and gets even tacit permission from the Trump administration — which has yet to condemn the proposal — then expectations of what Israel can get from the Palestinians will be profoundly reset.

“What happens now is that Bibi says he will take a step that is important to Israeli security, probably get Trump administration backing, get most Israeli parties to support — or at least not to oppose — it,” writes Koplow. “This is precisely how the fundamental window on this shifts.”

If this comes to pass, then annexation is likely to happen one way or another. And if it does, the peace process will be well and truly dead.

“Yes you can argue that it’s an electoral ploy,” writes Brent Sasley, an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process at the University of Texas at Arlington. “But he’s been moving the goalposts of annexation every year and an outright public commitment to it is a major step forward.”

Hamas senses Israeli weakness

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Deadly Friday attack shows W. Bank heating up, as Hamas senses Israeli weakness

Netanyahu government is perceived to be trying to pay off Hamas in return for calm in Gaza, and that’s emboldening the terrorists in the West Bank too

Avi Issacharoff
Illustrative: Palestinians hold Hamas flags and chant slogans during a celebration organized by Hamas in the West Bank city of Nablus, on Friday, August 29, 2014 (AP/Nasser Ishtayeh)

Illustrative: Palestinians hold Hamas flags and chant slogans during a celebration organized by Hamas in the West Bank city of Nablus, on Friday, August 29, 2014 (AP/Nasser Ishtayeh)

The terrorist attack at a spring near Dolev on Friday, in which Rina Shnerb was killed and her father and brother were injured, was far from a bolt from the blue given the current atmosphere among Palestinians in the West Bank. And there are growing concerns that things could get far worse.

As so often in the past, the initial reaction from some in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government focused on the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, blamed as the inciter of terrorism. Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, for instance, called for the dismantling of the PA and Israeli annexation of the West Bank, neglecting to mention that the PA has been working in coordination with the IDF to try to thwart terror attacks.

The ferment among West Bank Palestinians, the growing calls for violence and the escalation in terrorism are being stirred from Gaza by its ruling terror group, Hamas, in its ongoing face-off with Netanyahu. What Netanyahu’s bitter critic and former defense minister Avigdor Liberman described Friday as the prime minister’s “surrender” to the terrorists — his agreement to allow Qatar to distribute funds in Gaza to needy families (and in the past to Hamas employees), the easing of certain restrictions at border crossings, the improved electricity supply — amid intermittent rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, is seen on the Palestinian side as proof of weakness. Weakness to be exploited.

Mourners carry the body of 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb, who was killed by a bomb in a terror attack while visiting a spring near Dolev in the West Bank, during her funeral in the city of Lod on August 23, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP); inset: Rina Shnerb (Courtesy)

Israel is understood to be capitulating to Hamas demands, more than in the past, precisely when the level of violence is rising — with the rocket attacks, attempts by armed infiltrators to breach the Gaza border fence, violent demonstrations at the border and more. The Israeli government, including Minister Smotrich of course, is seen to be following a policy of seeking to pay off Hamas in return for relative calm. This is being internalized in the West Bank too, which means not only that more terrorism seems likely, but that the West Bank is generally in greater ferment, with Fatah activists also perceiving an Israeli capitulation.

The rising tension also comes after six months during which the PA — fuming that Israel was holding back part of the tax funds it collects on behalf of Ramallah, to compensate for the PA’s payments to the families of dead terrorists and to jailed terrorists and security prisoners — refused to accept any of the tax payments at all. That meant some 160,000 employees were receiving only half their salaries. This week, the PA announced that it had accepted a partial payment, of just over half a billion dollars, after reaching an agreement with Israel on the issue, in order to avert the collapse of the PA.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, second right, and the Hamas delegation, in Tehran, Iran, July 22, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

The reduced salaries are only one factor behind the rising tensions in the West Bank. There is also the diplomatic crisis between the US and Israel on one side, and the Palestinians on the other. Even as Israel celebrates the pro-Israel declarations of the Trump administration and the growth of settlements, such moves prompt rising antipathy, and calls for violence, on the Palestinian side, including within Abbas’s Fatah faction. There are indications that we could be near to an eruption of terrorism and/or widespread protests akin to the start of the second intifada in 2000 or the so-called “stabbing intifada” in the fall of 2015.

Needless to say, Hamas is doing its utmost to exploit the bitterness in the West Bank. The Gaza leadership (even as it negotiates indirectly with Israel), and the leadership overseas headed by Saleh al-Arouri, are working relentlessly to orchestrate terror attacks in the West Bank. Most are being thwarted. But, as we saw on Friday, not all.

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IDF said to arrest 3 Palestinians during hunt for terrorists behind bomb attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

IDF said to arrest 3 Palestinians during hunt for terrorists behind bomb attack

Israeli troops reportedly confiscate cameras, raid homes in West Bank villages near site of bombing that killed Israeli teen Rina Shnerb

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, following a deadly terror bombing near the Dolev settlement. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, following a deadly terror bombing near the Dolev settlement. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli security forces reportedly arrested three Palestinian men in the West Bank early Saturday as they searched for the terrorists behind a bombing attack that killed an Israeli teenager.

According to Palestinian media reports, Israeli soldiers arrested two of the men during raids in the village of Ein Arik. The third man was said to be a resident of the nearby village of Ein Qiniya.

It was not clear what their connection to the bombing near the Dolev settlement was.

Troops also reportedly seized a number of surveillance cameras in Ein Arik.

المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام

@PalinfoAr

لحظة اعتقال قوات الاحتلال الأسير المحرر والطالب في جامعة بيرزيت إصرار معروف من منزله في قرية عين قينيا شمال غرب رام الله .

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The two villages are located near Ein Bubin, a natural spring where an explosive device detonated Friday as three members of the Shnerb family from the central Israeli town of Lod were visiting.

The teenage daughter, Rina, 17, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father, Eitan, a rabbi in Lod, and her brother Dvir, 19, were taken by military helicopter to a Jerusalem hospital in serious condition.

Rina Shnerb, 17, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank on August 23, 2019 (courtesy)

The army said an improvised explosive device was used in the attack. Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.

Following the bombing, security forces launched a large-scale manhunt in the area, with the IDF chief saying he believed they would apprehend the killers “quickly.”

“We are in the midst of a manhunt that is being led by troops from the Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet security service and Israel Police. We are focusing our large operational intelligence effort to finding the perpetrators of this severe and deadly terror attack,” IDF chief Aviv Kohavi said at the site of the bombing on Friday afternoon.

Rabbi Eitan Shnerb speaks to reporters from his hospital bed after being wounded in a terror attack that also killed his daughter Rina and wounded his son Dvir on August 23, 2019 (Screencapture/Ynet)

IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said the military did not yet know the identities of the culprits or if they belonged to an established terror group or were acting alone.

Channel 12 quoted unnamed officials as saying that the size and complexity of the the device indicated that one of the major terror groups was behind the attack.

Troops were working to find the terrorists behind the attack as quickly as possible, under the general understanding that the more time they have to flee, the more difficult the search effort becomes.

Israeli soldiers set up a roadblock as part of a search effort to find terrorists who set off a bomb near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and seriously injuring two other people. (Israel Defense Forces)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, said he was receiving constant updates on the search effort and would meet soon with the commanders of the country’s security forces.

“Security forces are in pursuit of the vile terrorists. We will reach them. Our long arm will pay them their dues,” Netanyahu said.

Speaking with reporters Friday from his hospital bed, Eitan Shnerb said he was in good condition, but had a piece of shrapnel in his stomach and a broken hip.

Dvir’s condition on improved to moderate on Saturday morning and he was conscious after undergoing surgery the day before, according to Channel 13 news.

Israeli military officials have warned in recent weeks of an increase in terrorist activities and violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the lead-up to next month’s Israeli elections.

Last Friday, a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into two Israeli teenage siblings, critically injuring one of them, outside the Elazar settlement in the central West Bank, just south of Jerusalem.

The car rolled over after the terror attack, and when the assailant tried to emerge from it, he was shot dead by an off duty police officer who was driving behind him.

Earlier this month, an Israeli religious seminary student, Dvir Sorek, was found stabbed to death outside the settlement of Migdal Oz. Israeli security forces tracked down the suspected killers in approximately 48 hours, arresting Palestinian cousins, Nasir Asafra, 24, and Qassem Asafra, 30, from the village of Beit Kahil in the southern West Bank.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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Israel: Teen Israeli girl killed as family hit by bomb at West Bank spring

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Teen Israeli girl killed as family hit by bomb at West Bank spring

Rina Shnerb, 17, succumbs to injuries as father, brother badly injured by blast at popular hiking spot near Dolev; army hunts for culprits as it decries ‘serious terror attack’

  • 17-year-old Rina Shnerb, killed in a bombing in the West Bank, August 23, 2019 (Courtesy of the family)
    17-year-old Rina Shnerb, killed in a bombing in the West Bank, August 23, 2019 (Courtesy of the family)
  • Israeli soldiers set up a roadblock as part of a search effort to find terrorists who set off a bomb near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and seriously injuring two other people. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli soldiers set up a roadblock as part of a search effort to find terrorists who set off a bomb near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and seriously injuring two other people. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli security forces stand at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli security forces stand at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing an Israeli teenage girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
  • Israeli medical teams and security forces and gather at the site where a bomb exploded in a terror attack near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and seriously injuring her father and brother (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli medical teams and security forces and gather at the site where a bomb exploded in a terror attack near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and seriously injuring her father and brother (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
  • Israeli security forces gather at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli security forces gather at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, killing a teenage Israeli girl and injuring two others (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
  • An Israeli military helicopter picks up two victims of a terror attack in the central West Bank on August 23, 2019. (Dolev settlement)
    An Israeli military helicopter picks up two victims of a terror attack in the central West Bank on August 23, 2019. (Dolev settlement)

A teenage girl was killed and her father and brother were seriously injured in a terrorist bombing at a natural spring outside the central West Bank settlement of Dolev on Friday morning, Israeli officials said.

Rina Shnerb, 17, of Lod, was critically wounded in the attack and received treatment at the scene from civilian and military medics before being pronounced dead of her injuries. Her father Eitan, a rabbi in Lod, and brother Dvir, 19, were taken by military helicopter to a Jerusalem hospital in serious condition, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said the army considered the blast to be a “serious terror attack.”

Shnerb was laid to rest on Friday afternoon, with hundreds attending her funeral in her hometown of Lod in central Israel. Her father and brother were unable to attend, due to the serious injuries they sustained.

The army said an improvised explosive device was used in the attack. Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.

17-year-old Rina Shnerb, killed in a bombing in the West Bank, August 23, 2019 (Courtesy of the family)

Security services were reportedly tracking a car that fled the scene shortly after the explosion. “IDF soldiers are searching the area,” the military said in a statement.

Manelis said the IDF did not yet know the identities of the culprits or if they belonged to an established terror group or were acting alone.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, said he was receiving constant updates on the search effort and would meet soon with the commanders of the country’s security forces.

In a statement Netanyahu offered his “deep condolences” to the family and wished swift recuperation to the wounded. “We will continue to strengthen [Jewish] communities. We will spread our roots deeper and strike out at our enemies.”

Rina Shnerb’s funeral was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in her hometown of Lod.

Troops were working to find the terrorists behind the attack as quickly as possible, under the general understanding that the more time they have to flee, the more difficult the search effort becomes.

“Security force are in pursuit of the vile terrorists. We will reach them. Our long arm will pay them their dues,” Netanyahu said.

The explosion occurred at the Bubin spring — a popular hiking spot — approximately 10 kilometers east of the city of Modiin.

“Our surroundings are full of natural springs and hiking to them is an inseparable part of residents’ lives,” Yael, a resident of Dolev, told Channel 12 news. “There is a difficult feeling.”

She said a bomb attack was “a severe escalation” the likes of which the community had not encountered “in over 20 years.”

Palestinian media reported that the IDF had begun setting up roadblocks and conducting searches in the western Ramallah area, southeast of Dolev.

Israeli sodleirs stand at the site where a bomb exploded near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019, injuring three people (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

“This [search] mission is being led on several fronts — the first is the intelligence front with other intelligence services, the second front is the manhunt in the field with roadblocks… The third front is the regular security effort to prevent similar events,” IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said.

Another IDF spokesperson said the military was working with the Shin Bet security service and Israel Police to track the culprits.

She said additional troops were also being sent into the West Bank both to find the terrorists and to boost security to settlements in the area.

Large numbers of emergency response personnel were called to the area, including the IDF helicopter that evacuated the victims.

One of the Magen David Adom medics said: “When we arrived at the location, the scene was difficult… We saw three victims lying on the ground, a 46-year-old man who was fully conscious and suffering from wounds to his upper body. Lying next to him was a [19-year-old man] with injuries to his limbs and upper body and a 17-year-old girl with multi-system injuries.”

Magen David Adom spokesman Zaki Heller said the father, despite his injuries, had called in the medics.

The father and son were taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem for treatment, MDA said.

A hospital spokesperson said the father was now considered to be in moderate, stable condition. The 19-year-old son sustained injuries throughout his body, including to his stomach, from the blast. He was unconscious and connected to a respirator.

Israeli ambulances leave the site where an explosive device killed an Israeli teenage girl and injured two others in a terror attack near the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank on August 23, 2019. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

The Dolev settlement told residents that they could not leave the community and that those outside should remain there for the time being in light of the bombing.

Israeli military officials have warned in recent weeks of an increase in terrorist activities and violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the lead-up to next month’s Israeli elections.

“The army is dealing with attempted terror attacks, with lone-wolf assailants and with terror cells,” Manelis said.

Last Friday, a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into two Israeli teenage siblings, critically injuring one of them, outside the Elazar settlement in the central West Bank, just south of Jerusalem.

The car rolled over after the terror attack, and when the assailant tried to emerge from it, he was shot dead by an off duty police officer who was driving behind him.

Earlier this month, an Israeli religious seminary student, Dvir Sorek, was found stabbed to death outside the settlement of Migdal Oz. Israeli security forces tracked down the suspected killers in approximately 48 hours, arresting Palestinina cousins, Nasir Asafra, 24, and Qassem Asafra, 30, from the village of Beit Kahil in the southern West Bank.

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Israel: Abbas Stresses to Congressional Delegation his Rejection of US Dictates

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

 

Abbas Stresses to Congressional Delegation his Rejection of US Dictates

Thursday, 8 August, 2019 – 11:45
Palestinian President receives a delegation of Democratic Party members in the US Congress on Wednesday, August 7, 2019. (Wafa)
Ramallah – Kifah Zboun
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received at his office in Ramallah on Wednesday a delegation of Democrats from the US Congress despite his boycott of the Trump administration since December 2017.

Abbas told the delegation, which was headed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, that he insists on a two-state solution in line with international resolutions.

He expressed his rejection of the “US dictates and decisions related to Jerusalem, refugees, borders and security.”

He also noted that Israel “has not respected the bilateral agreements signed under international legitimacy, and insists on destroying them, prompting the Palestinian leadership to halt their implementation.”

The delegation members, for their part, supported the two-state solution and peace achievement, while Abbas answered questions regarding the possibility of achieving peace between the Palestinians and Israel.

A committee formed and chaired by Abbas will meet to put a plan and suspend the agreements signed with Israel.

The committee decided to continue its work away from the media spotlight in order to come up with a peaceful and applicable plan.

There is no time frame for the committee, which is set to submit recommendations to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

It has begun working to implement a decision taken by Abbas late July to suspend all agreements with Israel, a few days after Israel destroyed more than 100 Palestinian housing units in Wadi Homs, east of Jerusalem.

“We will not bow to dictates and imposing a fait accompli by force in Jerusalem and elsewhere,” Abbas said back then.

“There is no peace, no security and no stability in our region and the whole world without our Palestinian people receiving their full rights,” Abbas added.

The Oslo agreement and its security and economic implications are being tackled. However, this is not the first time that the Palestinian leadership announces such decisions.

Israel: Hamas and Islamic Jihad praise ‘heroic’ West Bank slaying of student

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad praise ‘heroic’ West Bank slaying of student

Terror groups stop short of claiming responsibility for killing Dvir Sorek; Islamic Jihad hints attack partially in response to razing of homes near East Jerusalem last month

Palestinians look on as Israeli soldiers take part in a house-to-house search operation in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem on August 8, 2019, following a stabbing attack. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Palestinians look on as Israeli soldiers take part in a house-to-house search operation in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem on August 8, 2019, following a stabbing attack. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad heaped praise on a deadly attack on a student in the West Bank Thursday, but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the fatal knifing.

The body of Dvir Sorek, 18, was discovered bearing stabbing marks in the predawn hours of Thursday outside of a West Bank settlement where he was studying, the Israel Defense Forces said, describing the killing as a terror attack.

The army has launched a massive manhunt for the killer or killers centered around the Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem.

In a statement, Hamas said it praised “our people’s heroic fighters who carried out the heroic operation that killed a soldier in the occupation’s army.”

Sorek studied at the Machanayim yeshiva in the Migdal Oz settlement as part of a military program known in Hebrew as hesder. Though formally a soldier, he was unarmed and not in uniform at the time of the attack, nor had he yet undergone military training.

Hazem Qassim, a spokesperson for the Hamas terror group, told the Gaza-based Shehab news outlet that the attack was proof of the failure of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority security forces.

Israeli security forces at the scene where the body of an off-duty, out-of-uniform Israeli soldier was found dead with stab wounds, near the settlement of Migdal Oz in the Etzion region, on August 8, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The cooperation is seen as a key component to Israeli security operations in the West Bank and is seen as a bulwark against Hamas.

The Islamic Jihad terror group intimated that the attack was partially in response to Israel knocking down several residential buildings late last month in the Wadi Hummus neighborhood near Jerusalem’s Sur Baher neighborhood and the West Bank security barrier.

“The heroic operation is a natural response to the occupation’s terrorism and crimes at the expense of our people, land and holy sites. It is the right of our people to push back against the destruction and demolition of citizens’ homes in Wadi Hummus, a crime that requires a painful and deterring response,” it said in a statement.

Some of the demolitions took place in Areas A and B of the West Bank, which technically fall under full Palestinian administrative control.

Dvir Sorek, 19, a yeshiva student and off-duty IDF soldier who was found stabbed to death outside a West Bank settlement on August 8, 2019 (Courtesy)

The owners of the properties have said they received construction permits from the PA government in Ramallah, but Israel said the buildings were erected in violation of a military order that bans construction adjacent to the security barrier.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have frequently encouraged and praised stabbing, shooting, car-ramming and other attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

The military said it was investigating if Sorek was killed as part of an attempted kidnapping, similar to Hamas’s abduction and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, in the same area of the West Bank in June 2014.

Senior Hamas official Fathi Hammad. (Screenshot: YouTube)

In recent months, the Shin Bet security service warned that the Gaza-based Hamas has put considerable effort and resources into recruiting operatives to carry out attacks in the West Bank and Israel.

“A number of Hamas military cells have been uncovered in the Judea and Samaria area in recent weeks who were operating under the instruction of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and who were planning to carry out terror attacks against Israeli and Palestinian Authority targets,” the Shin Bet said Tuesday.

“The operatives in the West Bank were instructed to form cells in order to carry out kidnappings, shootings and stabbings, purchase weaponry, and find and recruit additional operatives for terrorist activities,” the security service said.

Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamist terror group Hamas, take part in a march in Gaza City, July 25, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

On Tuesday, the army said it uncovered a large bomb in Hebron that was slated to be used for an attack in Jerusalem.

In mid-July, Fathi Hammad, a senior Hamas official, suggested he was unsatisfied with the number of stabbing attacks Palestinians in the West Bank have recently carried out against Israeli Jews.

“O, the people of the West Bank, until when will you be quiet?” Hammad, a member of Hamas’s politburo who is considered a hard-liner and is known for his fiery rhetoric, said at a protest in the border region between the Gaza Strip and Israel at the time. “We want knives to come out. Five shekels. How much does the neck of a Jew cost? Five shekels or less?”

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Israel: Goodbye withdrawal, hello sovereignty: The triumph of the settlers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Goodbye withdrawal, hello sovereignty: The triumph of the settlers

Even rightist Israeli governments used to subconsciously regard them as potentially temporary, settler leaders say. Now, they claim, that’s all changed. Next stop: Full integration

SHILOH, West Bank — On the road leading to Shiloh stands a large sculpture, Dovecote, erected at the time that the settlement was founded in 1978. The work of Igael Tumarkin, it was implanted by Peace Now activists to symbolize their contention that the settlement enterprise in general, and Shiloh in particular, were obstacles to any hope of Israeli-Palestinian peace. An inhospitable concrete and metal structure, the sculpture looks like anything but a home for the doves that symbolize reconciliation and harmony.

As we drove past Dovecote last week in the company of Yigal Dilmoni, the CEO of the Yesha (Settlements) Council, he pointed it out with an indulgent chuckle. Rather than the towering reprimand it was intended to constitute, it is regarded by the Jews of modern Shiloh, he indicated, as a symbol of their endurance and maybe even their triumph. Dovecote is still here. But so, too, is Shiloh. Established by a handful of families and a few hundred yeshiva students 41 years ago, the settlement today has a population of about 4,000.

In the intervening decades, a succession of archaeological digs have unearthed storage jars, pottery and evidence of sacrifices here, among other findings attributed to pre-Temple-era Israelite’s, and work continues in and around an area that some archaeologists believe may have been the location of the Tabernacle, where the Ark of the Covenant sat for 369 years when the ancient Israelite’s first entered the Holy Land.

Tourists watch a movie during a visit to the archaeological site of Tel Shiloh in the West Bank, March 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

The Shiloh archaeological park now draws some 120,000 visitors a year from around the world, one of our hosts told us proudly when a small group of Times of Israel editorial staffers visited on Wednesday.

She herself grew up here, the daughter of one of those initial pioneering families, she said, as she pointed out the key finds and showed us two multi-media presentations underlining the site’s centrality to Jewish history.

Dr. Scott Stripling, head of the current excavation at biblical Shiloh, exhibits a find. May 22, 2017. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

With the Jewish people belatedly restored to their ancient homeland in today’s Israel, the desire to revive a vibrant Jewish presence at a place like Shiloh, with its pivotal Biblical resonance, is easily appreciated. Except, of course, that Shiloh lies in the West Bank, in the Biblical Judea and Samaria, outside modern Israel, and home to anywhere from two to three million Palestinians, depending on who’s counting.

For the four decades that Shiloh gradually expanded, therefore, it did so — like the rest of the West Bank settlement enterprise — in an ongoing twilight zone of dubious legitimacy, encouraged less and more openly by different Israeli governments, fighting to make its way closer to the mainstream Israeli political consensus.

Construction of new homes in the Israeli settlement of Shiloh. November 17, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Not annexation. Sovereignty

Over the last few years, though, that quest for Israeli legitimacy seems to have made unprecedented progress. Traumatized by the strategic onslaught of West Bank-hatched suicide bombings known as the Second Intifada, by Hamas’s takeover of Israeli-evacuated Gaza, and Hezbollah’s dominance of the former Israeli security zone in southern Lebanon, mainstream Israel has become increasingly disinclined to relinquish adjacent territory in the unreliable cause of peace.

And in the final weeks before the last elections, in April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began speaking about plans to gradually annex all of the West Bank settlements — home to some 450,000 Jewish Israelis — evidently regarding such a declared policy as a vote-winner.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurates a new promenade in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 31, 2019. (Courtesy)

Netanyahu has maintained the stance in the run-up to September’s election redo — declaring on a visit to Efrat last Wednesday that not a single settlement home or settler will be uprooted on his watch, and that the settlers will remain “forever.”

While this position is anathema to much of the international community and to many of those in Israel who see some kind of separation from the Palestinians as essential if Israel is to maintain both its Jewish and its democratic nature, Netanyahu may have an ally in the Trump administration, whose diplomatic team has said it is not predicating its much-anticipated peace deal on a two-state solution.

Rather than continuing to regard themselves in the way they felt successive governments regarded them, as a potentially temporary presence that might be uprooted at any moment, settler leaders decided to take their destiny into their hands. Instead of merely talking about their enterprise as permanent, they began working to ensure permanence

As Dilmoni made clear in his conversation with us, however, Netanyahu’s talk of the gradual annexation of all the West Bank’s Jewish settlements — blocs, isolated settlements, illegal outposts and all — which might until relatively recently have been regarded as a sensational victory — is now deemed insufficient. The vision being advocated by his Yesha Council, he said firmly, “is sovereignty.” He repeated for emphasis: “Not annexation, sovereignty.”

The way Dilmoni told it, as we sat around the table at the Shiloh visitors center and gift shop, settler leaders made a strategic decision about five years ago: Rather than continuing to regard themselves in the way they felt successive governments regarded them, as a potentially temporary presence that might be uprooted at any moment, they decided to take their destiny into their hands. Instead of merely talking about their enterprise as permanent, they began working to ensure permanence.

Yesha Council leaders Shilo Adler, Hananel Dorani and Yigal Dilmoni (right), pictured on May 9, 2018. (Flash90)

Along with the diplomatic challenge to their legitimacy, he said, the settlers had faced “a perception challenge. Even though we were marking 50 years of settlement,” he explained, “in the subconscious, this area was considered by government ministries to be temporary… There was no strategic planning. No ministry had plans for this area.”

The settlers’ potentially transient presence was reflected, for instance, by the “black hole” where Judea and Samaria should have been on the government’s master plan for transportation, said Dilmoni.

Tourists visit the archaeological site of Tel Shiloh in the West Bank, March 12, 2019. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

At one point, he recalled, the Yesha Council was allocated NIS 300 million for road improvements, “but we couldn’t spend it,” because there was no official plan. “We could add an extra lane to an existing road; install a traffic light, but that was about it… Band-Aids.”

Development was continually being planned for the periphery — the Galilee to the north, and the Negev to the south — “but nobody was looking to the east… even though, obviously, if you want to reduce housing prices in the Tel Aviv area, the place to build is to the east, in Judea and Samaria.”

Today, all that is changing, he said. As part of their effort to assert their permanence, they hired their own experts to draw up a master plan for transportation throughout Judea and Samaria, with major roads and highways integrating West Bank transportation into the Israeli transportation system. Now the government has taken over, and is currently preparing a plan that includes the West Bank in the national vision, he said, which will solve the acute traffic problems on West Bank roads, reduce fatalities, and smooth the access from the settlements to the employment heart of central Israel. Two and a quarter billion shekels has already been allocated to West Bank transportation in the past few years, he said. The Etzion bloc, south of Jerusalem, for instance, will have a second tunnel/bridge access road constructed in three to four years, he predicted.

The same integrated strategic planning is now taking shape for electricity, water and environmental issues, said Dilmoni, again essentially incorporating the settlements and their infrastructure into Israel.

‘If I had expressed confidence a few years ago that Israel will indeed extend sovereignty here, I would have sounded delusional. Now, the American ambassador says it. In a second, President Trump will say it. Netanyahu says it. This thing is getting closer’ — Yigal Dilmoni, Yesha Council CEO

What this all adds up to, said Dilmoni, a friendly, fast-talking and dynamic personality, is “strategic planning for a permanent presence.”

“We’re staying here; we’re not moving,” he said. “And the Arabs are here; maybe some will move, or not; but they’re not going anywhere.”

Practical integration is not all, however.  What “completes the vision,” he said, is that sought-after formal status, that goal of Israeli sovereignty, which he insisted is increasingly realizable. “If I had expressed confidence a few years ago that Israel will indeed extend sovereignty here, I would have sounded delusional,” he said, smiling.

“Now, American Ambassador [David Friedman] says it. [Friedman said in June that Israel, under certain circumstances, has the “right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”] [White House special envoy] Jason Greenblatt says it. [Greenblatt has rejected the designation of  the West Bank as illegally occupied.] In a second, President Trump will say it. Netanyahu says it. He doesn’t say it as election propaganda; he says it because that is what is going to happen. This thing is getting closer.”

US President Donald Trump, left, turns to give a pen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019 after signing the official proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. From left, White House adviser Jared Kushner, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Asked “sovereignty over what precisely,” Dilmoni says that’s up for discussion, but is adamant that the Yesha Council is “opposed to sovereignty on the specific settlements only, and opposed to [sovereignty] just on the [major] blocs” — such as the Etzion bloc, Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim. “We won’t agree to that.”

In the course of a series of stops during our settlements tour Wednesday, various officials and ordinary settlers with whom we spoke advocated different variations of this same confident vision. Some argued for Israeli sovereignty over the approximately 10% of the West Bank that takes in the settlements and their potential wider footprints; others called for sovereignty throughout Area C, the 60% of the West Bank that includes all settlements and perhaps 150,000-300,000 Palestinians; still others backed sovereignty throughout the West Bank.

Window of opportunity

But what, then, in a reality where Israel is permanently intertwined with the Palestinian populace — in a formal or de facto single entity between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River — would become of Israel as a majority Jewish country? Or would this enlarged Israel, newly sovereign in parts or all of the West Bank, subvert its democracy by denying those now rather “Israeli” Palestinians equal rights? “The questions of political issues, citizenship, the vote issues, we can discuss separately,” said Dilmoni.

“To my happiness, when Trump speaks of economic development before political, he’s right. That world view — economic development before trying to solve political issues — I think that’s the right approach.”

Right now, several officials told us, there’s a ‘window of opportunity’ — a chance to designate as authorized and legitimate under Trump what was so frowned upon by the Obama administration; to do for at least part of Judea and Samaria what the US president has already done for Jerusalem and the Golan Heights

When we pointed out that this is not exactly what the administration is saying, and that it has in fact made clear that its multi-billion dollar economic ideas package, as unveiled at June’s Bahrain workshop, requires a political framework, Dilmoni recalibrated a little: “I hear [them saying] the economy is a very important element, before we get into the political element.”

Plainly, the advent of a US administration so empathetic to the settlement enterprise has furthered the settler leaders’ confidence in their permanence. But they also recognize that in America’s politics, if not recently in Israel’s, the pendulum swings. Right now, several officials told us, there’s a “window of opportunity” — a chance to designate as authorized and legitimate under Trump what was so frowned upon by the Obama administration; to do for at least part of Judea and Samaria what the US president has already done for Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Avigdor Liberman speaks at a cornerstone laying ceremony for a new synagogue at his home settlement of Nokdim, October 23, 2014. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90

Hence, noted Dilmoni, the “anger” among many at Avigdor Liberman, the Yisrael Beytenu leader who condemned Israel to September’s repeat elections by declining to provide Netanyahu with a coalition majority. “There could have been a right wing government now, with a supportive US administration,” making key strategic decisions on the status of settlements that the current, transitional government is not allowed to take. Half a year of the precious two-to-six more Trump years has been lost, he lamented.

Withdrawal? What withdrawal?

Still, the fact that such fury is reserved for Liberman, himself a fellow settler, underlines the extent to which potent, genuinely ideological opposition to the settlers and their goals has become marginalized. Where the Labor party under the likes of Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak was intermittently supportive, ambivalent and hostile, and sometimes governed the country, today’s Labor barely exists. Meanwhile, the main political opposition to Netanyahu, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White alliance, includes champions of settlement alongside more dovish members whose only common cause is ousting the prime minister and the ills for which he is perceived to stand.

Ayelet Shaked speaks to reporters in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 22, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Indeed, the main ideological opposition to the pro-settlement Netanyahu going into September’s elections comes not from the left or center-left, but from the still more pro-settlement, Ayelet Shaked-headed, United Right alliance.

The political shift is nothing short of extraordinary. Barely a quarter-century ago, after all, Rabin was warily shaking hands with Yasser Arafat on an agreement-in-principle to gradually withdraw from much of the West Bank. By 2000, Barak was offering to relinquish some 90% of the territory, involving the uprooting of most of the settlements. Only a decade ago, Ehud Olmert was ready to withdraw from almost the entire West Bank, with one-for-one land swaps.

Bill Clinton looks on as Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Yasser Arafat shake hands during the signing of the Oslo Accords, September 13, 1993. (Courtesy GPO)

Now settler leaders, rather than battling against governments advocating withdrawal, are divided over whether to demand Israeli sovereignty in 10%, 60% or 100% of the territory.

Dilmoni and his colleagues are patently upbeat, believing that their “planning for permanence” strategy is paying off, and with good reason: Polls show the Israeli public is divided and uncertain over the fate of the West Bank, but some are clearly moving in their direction, not just empathetically but literally: “We had 3% growth in the settlements last year, with an average of 4.2% over the past decade — and that’s more than double the national average,” he said, reeling off a list of key statistics. The 450,000-470,000 settlers are diverse — a third ultra-Orthodox, a third modern Orthodox, and a third secular, he said. It’s a very young population — 48% aged 18 and under; 53% with the right to vote, compared to 72% nationwide. “Classrooms are overflowing. Birth rates are high. Demand to move here is huge,” and not only to settlements close to the pre-1967 lines.

“Why not?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s affordable, there’s clean air, good schools, we’re close to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It’s nice if people move for ideology; but it’s also great if they move for economy.”

***

Igael Tumarkin’s Dovecote sculpture outside Shiloh (Ovedc Elef Milim / Wikipedia)

Outside Shiloh, Igael Tumarkin’s “Dovecote” sculpture was recently spruced up and freshly painted — an act of somewhat ironic renewal that reflects the local residents’ sense of confidence, and of permanence. Far from an intrusive, reproving presence, it’s something the residents enjoy looking at as they pass.

Proof of your victory, I suggested to Dilmoni. He smiled and half-demurred. “I don’t want to brag that we’ve won,” he said softly. “Others would say it appears that we’re winning.”

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Israel: Security cabinet approves plan granting Palestinians 700 building permits

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Security cabinet approves plan granting Palestinians 700 building permits

One minister lauds colleagues for pragmatism after they push through PM’s proposal that will also allow for construction of 6,000 settler homes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement to the press during his visit in Har Homa, on March 16, 2015. (Menahem Kahana/AFP))

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement to the press during his visit in Har Homa, on March 16, 2015. (Menahem Kahana/AFP))

The security cabinet on Tuesday approved a plan introduced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that will grant 700 building permits to Palestinians in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, alongside 6,000 such licenses for homes in neighboring settlements, a spokesman for one of the ministers present confirmed.

The unanimous approval came after two lengthy meetings of the high-level ministerial body on Sunday and Monday on the politically sensitive matter.

Palestinians are rarely granted building permits in Area C, and recent years have seen the total number of approvals remain in the single digits, compared to the thousands of green-lighted homes for Israeli settlers.

One of the ministers present lauded his colleagues for the move, telling the Kan public broadcaster that the new cabinet “is more practical than the one before it.”

Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on June 24, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is one of the security cabinet’s newest members and is considered be one of its most hawkish, voted in favor of the plan.

He took to Facebook shortly after the vote, penning a lengthy post explaining his decision to back a proposal opposed almost across the board by settler leaders and even by the pro-settlement NGO Regavim, which he once helped establish.

Smotrich said the cabinet was advancing the construction of thousands of settlement homes and further rooting Israeli presence beyond the Green Line, while at the same time granting Palestinians who had been living in Area C before the 1994 Oslo Accords the right to build and develop “only in places that do not compromise settlement and security and do not… produce a de facto Palestinian state.”

It wasn’t clear, though, whether the permits are for new construction or for buildings currently slated for demolition.

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s special adviser and son-in-law, leaves 10 Downing Street in London on June 4, 2019, on the second day of Trump’s three-day state visit to the UK. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)

The developments came days before a US delegation led by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is slated to arrive in Israel and other countries in the region in order to promote US President Donald Trump’s administration’s peace plan.

It was not immediately clear why Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, brought the plan to a security cabinet discussion, given that only his approval is required (followed by that of a bureaucratic body within the Defense Ministry) for the granting of building permits in the West Bank.

As Israel girds for elections in September, several right-wing parties have vowed to prevent Palestinian expansion in areas of the West Bank that they hope Israel will annex.

The last time a plan for Palestinian building permits was brought for its approval, the security cabinet froze it indefinitely. That plan related to the expansion of the Palestinian city of Qalqilya, just bordering the Green Line. Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman had introduced the proposal in 2017, hoping to allow for the crowded Palestinian city surrounded almost entirely by the security barrier to expand within the space still available.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plants an olive tree at the Netiv Ha’avot neighborhood in the Elazar settlement in the West Bank, on January 28, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

But after settler leaders got wind of the program, they launched a campaign to pressure ministers to refrain from “rewarding terror” and managed to stop the plan.

The Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee — the Defense Ministry bureaucratic body that authorizes West Bank construction — had been slated to convene this month to advance the latest batch of settlement homes, as the subcommittee does four times a year. However, that meeting has yet to take place.

According to the Oslo Accords, Israel has full military and administrative control over Area C, which comprises about 60 percent of the West Bank’s territory.

Saudi’s: Shin Bet Breaks Up Iranian Espionage Network in Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ ALAWSAT)

 

Shin Bet Breaks Up Iranian Espionage Network in Israel

Thursday, 25 July, 2019 – 08:30
Israeli security forces stand in Jerusalem’s Old City, March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Tel Aviv – Asharq Al-Awsat
The Shin Bet intelligence agency said Wednesday that it busted an Iranian espionage network that aimed to recruit operatives in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip “for the benefit of Iranian intelligence.”

The Shin Bet cooperated with Israeli police, the army and other security bodies in this regard.

According to a statement issued by the agency, the network was based in Syria under Iranian guidance and was led by a Syrian operative nicknamed ‘Abu Jihad.’ It attempted to recruit people via preliminary contacts based on fictitious Facebook profiles and later messaging apps.

“Using social networks to recruit people is a method known to intelligence elements including those affiliated with terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The affair joins other recent events in which terrorist elements (including those from Hamas and Hezbollah) have established contacts with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians over the internet in order to recruit them for intelligence gathering and terrorist activity,” revealed the statement.

The Shin Bet added that those who have been recruited were asked to collect information on military bases, sensitive security installations, VIPs, police stations and hospitals, in order to prepare targets for terrorist attacks in Israel at the behest of Iran.

The statement went on, “The internet activity was identified and monitored by the Israeli intelligence community at the outset by closely monitoring both the handlers abroad and people in Israel and West Bank who expressed willingness to cooperate with them.

Beginning in April 2019, an extensive operation was launched against operatives in Israel and the West Bank including several Israeli citizens who are suspected of having been in contact with Iranian operatives.

The Shin Bet said that the investigation revealed the connection with the Syria-based handlers developed to the level of passing information and directives to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, both civilian and military.

However, “the operations have shown that the absolute majority of Israeli citizens refused to cooperate with those who contacted them,” the Shin Bet added.

The Most Populous Cities Throughout History

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

The Most Populous Cities Throughout History

Over the course of human history, the ranking of the most populous cities has changed many times over. Jericho was the most populous city back in 9000 BCE. Now it is Tokyo, thousands of miles away. Population growth, climate change, and political shifts are largely responsible for moving the world’s biggest urban centers, but there are truly countless reasons as to why populations move and fluctuate.

When evaluating the most populous cities throughout history, archaeologists look at the total estimated global population to determine the cultural hubs of the period. Before the widespread use of recorded history, many cultures relied on oral traditions to help keep their chronicles alive. Because of this, it is challenging to calculate how many people lived in cities before recorded history.

But historians have done their best to determine where populations converged throughout history. These cities were at one point considered to be the biggest in the world.

Jericho, West Bank

Credit: Gosiek-B / iStock

Population in 9000 BCE: 2,000; current population: 14,674

Most academics agree that Jericho is among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places, as settlements have been uncovered dating back to 9000 BCE. Jericho is considered the oldest and most populous city throughout history. It is located near Mt. Nebo and the Dead Sea in what is now the West Bank. The plentiful natural irrigation from the Jordan River makes it an ideal ancient city for long-term habitation.

Uruk, Iraq

Credit: Marcus Cyron / Wikimedia

Population in 3500 BCE: 4,000; current population: Uninhabited

Uruk was once an agricultural hub that lay the foundation of Mesopotamia. However, Uruk is no longer inhabited. Nestled between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, Uruk was once a thriving trade center that specializes in local crafts, writing, and grain.

Mari, Syria

Credit: Heretiq / Wikimedia

Population in 2400 BCE: 50,000; current population: Uninhabited

Researchers discovered a large population migration from Uruk to Mari, indicating a flourishing trade and livelihood in that region of Mesopotamia. Estimates place the population of Mari, which is located in what is now Syria, at 50,000 people in 2400 BCE. It was the trade capital of the region and had a fully functioning government and recorded history.

Ur, Iraq

Credit: M.Lubinski / Wikimedia

Population in 2100 BCE: 100,000; current population: Uninhabited

Ur was a very rich city in 2100 BCE, with a huge amount of luxury items made from precious metal and semi precious stones. After 500 BCE, Ur was no longer inhabited due to drought and changing river patterns. Today, the Iraqi city of Tell el-Muqayyar is at the site of Ur.

Yinxu, China

Credit: tak.wing / flickr

Population in 1300 BCE: 120,000; current population: uninhabited

Eventually, the world’s biggest population centers shifted away from the Middle East. The earliest forms of Chinese writing can be found in the modern day ruins at Yinxu, sometimes written as two words (Yin Xu). At its height, this city was the academic center of the Chinese world.

Carthage, Tunisia

Credit: CJ_Romas / iStock

Population in 300 BCE: 500,000; current population: 20,715

Located in present-day Tunisia, Carthage was an enlightened civilization until drought and famine sped up the decline of this ancient city. It was not until 1985 that the mayors of Carthage and Rome officially ended their 2,000-year-old conflict.

Rome, Italy

Credit: mammuth / iStock

Population in 200 CE: 1,200,000; current population: 2,754,440

What started as a small village a thousand years ago is now a bustling metropolis. In 200 CE, Rome was the most populated city in the world. It is no secret that Rome has been one of the longest occupied settlements and for a good reason. As a center for government, politics, religion, fashion, ancient history, archaeological sites and culture, it is still a top travel destination for millions of people.

Beijing, China

Credit: Sean Pavone / iStock

Population in 1500: 1,000,000; current population: 22,000,000

Still one of the world’s most populous cities, Beijing broke out around 1500, when it relied on grain and monetary taxes from the population to feed and supply the city. However, that was not enough. The population was so large that commerce destroyed all of the forests in the region. This irrevocably changed the ecosystem in the area.

London, England

Credit: ZoltanGabor / iStock

Population in 1825: 1,335,000; current population: 13,945,000

During the pinnacle of the British Empire, crime and terror in London ran rampant. The city was considered unsafe. However, this did not stop people from finding their way in the Empire’s capital. Today, it remains a global capital that welcomes millions of visitors every year.

Tokyo, Japan

Credit: yongyuan / iStock

Population in 2000: 20,500,000; current population: 36,000,000

After this trip through history, we arrive at the present day. Tokyo is the most populous city in the modern world, home to an astounding 36 million people in its metropolitan area. There was a brief interlude following World War II until Tokyo recovered economically. Prosperity and a strong bond to Japanese tradition, family, and history maintain Tokyo’s high population today.

The draw and allure of cities continue to bring human civilization closer and closer together. Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban centers, and this number is expected to climb. The current practice of census-taking will undoubtedly help future historians.