Moving White House ceremony starts to relegitimize a precious little word: Peace

26 years after the Israel-Jordan treaty, a whole generation of Israelis and Arabs witnesses something it had simply never seen before

(L-R) Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hold up the documents they signed at the Abraham Accords ceremony where Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognized Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)

“In Israel’s entire history, there have previously been only two such agreements. Now we have achieved two in a single month. And there are more to follow.” Thus spoke US President Donald Trump near the start of his remarks to hundreds of people at the White House, and untold numbers around the world, watching on Tuesday as Israel established relations simultaneously with both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Our first, earth-shattering peace agreement came in 1979, when Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat — having restored his country’s self-respect in the 1973 war, after its six-day humiliation in 1967 — shattered three decades of intransigent Arab hostility to the very fact of Israel’s existence and signed the Camp David Accords with prime minister Menachem Begin.

And then came… nothing.

Israel had wanted to believe that after Egypt, the floodgates of normalization would open. Instead, Egypt was boycotted by the rest of the Arab world for its crime in legitimizing Israel, and Sadat was soon gunned down.

Only 15 years later, in 1994, did Jordan’s King Hussein dare to become our second full peace partner, liberated to publicly acknowledge his hidden alliance with Israel because prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had pledged to try to resolve the Palestinian conflict and had warily shaken hands with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn.

And then came… nothing. Nothing, this time, for a full quarter century

Until Tuesday’s dual wedding.

And so, when Trump noted that he was overseeing the doubling of Israel’s entire history of peace alliances, he was also telling a whole generation of Israelis and of Arabs — a generation that has simply never witnessed such a ceremony before — that, yes, Israeli-Arab peace is actually possible. It can be achieved here and now. It’s not something that happened a couple of times long ago and then froze over, or that dreamers talk endlessly about being almost within reach.

And it’s hopefully not something that, after it is ostensibly attained, disintegrates into conflict and bloodshed, as was the case with the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” and the strategic Palestinian terrorist onslaught of the Second Intifada.

For once, “let us put all cynicism aside,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his remarks. And for a rare few hours, in the midst of a pandemic, and even as Hamas tried to spoil the show with rocket fire from Gaza, everything about the ceremony encouraged us to do precisely that.

What Netanyahu called “the pulse of history” was tangible in the warmth of the separate interactions between Trump, the two Gulf foreign ministers, and Netanyahu that preceded the main event. If Tuesday’s widening of the circle of peace was insufficient, Trump vouchsafed to Netanyahu that “five or six” other states are waiting in line. “Frankly, we could have had them here today,” he said, but that would have been disrespectful to the UAE, which had shown the courage to go first, and to Bahrain, which had been so determined to join the festivities.

It was tangible in the content of all the leaders’ speeches — their individual declared commitments to genuine and lasting peace between our peoples — and the sincerity and warmth with which they delivered their remarks.

It was tangible in the little-noticed moments, such as when UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Al Nahyan, having completed his address, walked over to where Netanyahu was standing, and, with attention focused elsewhere, they smiled at each other and exchanged a few words. Or when everybody — and especially the joyful star of the show Al Nahyan — laughed good-naturedly at the logistical complexities that inevitably arise when two-to-four leaders are signing and/or witnessing three accords.

If Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel was the first vital step toward the acceptance of modern Israel’s revival in the Jews’ ancient homeland, Tuesday’s ceremony may come to signify our belated acceptance by those further afield who, as Trump noted, have for decades been fed lies and falsehoods about Israel, and especially Israel’s ostensible religious intolerance.

The Palestinians are still absent, of course, dismally led in the West Bank by President Mahmoud Abbas into what appears to be a deepening alliance with the Gaza-ruling terrorists of Hamas. Still, the US president who brokered these accords remains insistently optimistic that, as he told the press pack during his Oval Office session with Netanyahu, “at the right time, they’ll be joining too.”

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said at the very start of his speech. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” he went on, and “thanks to the great courage of the leaders of these three countries, we take a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity.”

Trump delivered these hitherto mind-boggling claims in tones that were almost matter-of-fact. These new peace allies are “going to work together; they are friends,” he said, as though this was the most normal thing in the world.

But for a whole generation, 26 years after any of us last saw anything like it, Tuesday’s ceremony was anything but normal. It was, rather, unprecedented, surprising and heartening. For once in the tortured context of Israel and the Arab conflict, it was a pleasure to put all cynicism aside.

For after 26 years, Tuesday’s ceremony tentatively relegitimized that precious little word: Peace.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Ashkenazi meets EU counterparts in Germany on first diplomatic trip overseas

The foreign minister pressed Germany to prevent Iranian arms embargo from running down in October

Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Berlin Wednesday on his first official visit overseas where he is set to meet with his EU counterparts.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas invited Ashkenazi to Thursday’s conference of EU foreign ministers.

Shortly after his arrival, Ashkenazi met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, thanking him for his country’s stance in designating the entirety of Hezbollah – both the political and military wing – as a terrorist organization.

In addition to updating the president on the recent deal to normalize ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, Ashkenazi also implored Germany’s head of state to prevent the United Nations’ arms embargo against Iran from running down in October.

Ashkenazi spoke at a ceremony at “Platform 17 in Berlin’s Grunewald Station, where there is a memorial marking Nazi Germany’s deportation of more than 55,000 Jews. He was joined by Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and representatives of the German Jewish community,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

“I stand here as the foreign minister of the government of Israel and the former IDF chief of staff,” Ashkenazi said. “Jews will never again be sent to their death because they are Jewish. Never again.”

The foreign minister will visit Wannsee, the villa in a Berlin suburb where the architects of the Nazi “Final solution” met – under the direction of Reinhardt Heydrich – to iron out details for the attempted slaughter of Europe’s 11 million Jews.

The article was published on the i24


UAE-Israel agreement followed many years of discreet talks

In-depth: Agreement between Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem comes as little surprise to those closely following the nuances of Mideast politics, with Trump almost single-mindedly pushing deal without resolution first to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Secret talks and quiet ties: That’s what paved the way for last week’s deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize relations.

Touted by President Donald Trump as a major Mideast breakthrough, the agreement was in fact the culmination of more than a decade of quiet links rooted in frenzied opposition to Iran that predated Trump and even Barack Obama, as well as Trump’s avowed goal to undo his predecessor’s Mideast legacy.
And the deal leaves behind what had been a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the region: resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The effort to achieve that goal picked up speed 17 months ago at a U.S.-led conference in Warsaw, according to officials involved.
That February 2019 meeting, originally conceived as an anti-Iran gathering, morphed into a broader Mideast security endeavor after European objections to its agenda. Many countries opted not to send their top diplomats, and Russia, China and the Palestinians skipped it entirely. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended, however, as did the foreign ministers of key Arab states.
At the summit, diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain spoke of the threat Iran posed to their security and its use of Shiite proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. They stressed that confronting Iran had become the top priority — ahead of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — in comments appearing in leaked video, whose authenticity was confirmed by a U.S. official who attended the gathering.
Netanyahu followed, echoing similar concerns.“Iran was very high on the agenda because Iran’s foreign policy is the biggest driver of instability in today’s Middle East,” the U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, told The Associated Press.
Four months after the summit, a secret meeting between the UAE and Israel took place on June 17, 2019, in Washington.
The trilateral focused on regional, cyber and maritime security, as well as diplomatic coordination and disrupting terror finance, according to a U.S. official who participated but was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
More meetings followed in the U.S., Israel and the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, culminating in Thursday’s Trump announcement that his administration had brokered a deal between Israel and the UAE to establish diplomatic relations and exchange embassies. The UAE said Israel also agreed to halt its controversial plans to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank sought by the Palestinians.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, told White House reporters that discussions for the deal took place over the past year and a half.
“Look, at the end of the day, it’s an inevitability, right?” Kushner said, adding later: “No Israeli has ever killed an Emirati, right? There’s not that hatred between the people.”
To be sure, Israel and the UAE have never fought each other in war and do not share borders. Still, the agreement was far more warmly welcomed in Israel than the UAE, where the public has long viewed Israel with suspicion. But criticism has been muted, in part because of government suppression of free speech.
The UAE, composed of seven emirates run by hereditary rulers led by Abu Dhabi, will be only the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full ties with Israel. By doing so, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed laid a path for countries like Morocco, Bahrain, Oman or Sudan to potentially follow.
There are many, though, who shun any Arab embrace of Israel. To the Palestinians, who say they had no prior notice of the deal, the UAE turned its back on the longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel can only come after Israeli concessions in peace talks lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.
“I think the UAE is least beholden to these old formulas of solidarity … which gives them more strategic flexibility,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
“There’s no question that among the broader Arab and Gulf public, this will be a very unpopular move,” she said, adding that the agreement also leaves the UAE vulnerable to whatever decisions Israel makes in the future.
For the UAE, however, the calculus to build relations with Israel carries a number of strategic advantages beyond countering Iran and suspending West Bank annexation.
Through Israel, the UAE can build stronger ties with both Republicans and Democrats — a crucial hedge considering the uncertainty of Trump’s reelection chances against former Vice President Joe Biden in November’s U.S. presidential elections.
Another impetus was the perception among Arab Gulf states that U.S. dependability had waned, from the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, to Trump’s unpredictability in foreign policy. Their views on the matter have been reflected in state-linked newspaper columns and in quiet grumbling at private gatherings.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE were also barred by Congress from purchasing billions of dollars in U.S. weapons due to the humanitarian toll of their war in Yemen, before Trump vetoed the measures.
“Their first preference is to have the United States heavily involved in the Middle East as their primary ally. If they can’t get that, which … under Trump they absolutely cannot, then they’re going for second best, and Israel is second best,” said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst and now Mideast expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
The Saudis and Emiratis want to build up military strength and want the U.S. to give them more freedom of maneuver in places like Libya, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. With a stronger Emirati-Israeli alliance, “they can count on the Israelis to also make that case in Washington,” Pollack said.
Hook argues it was the Trump administration’s aggressive Iran policy and decision to withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear accord that helped seal the latest deal.
“Israel and UAE felt betrayed by Obama’s Iran strategy. With us, they knew we stood with our allies and partners, and that trust was a critical factor in getting this peace agreement done,” said Hook, who was involved in the trilateral talks.
At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has eroded vital oil and tourism revenue, the UAE will look to its ties with Israel to deepen trade links, security cooperation and technology sharing. Already, the UAE has deployed Israeli spyware against dissidents, according to a lawsuit brought against the company in Israel.
UAE efforts to seek better ties with Israel as a means of improving its standing in Washington dates back to 2006, according to Sigurd Neubauer, author of the book “The Gulf Region and Israel: Old Struggles, New Alliances.”
It began with a public-relations crisis over Dubai port operator DP World’s failed bid to manage major ports in the U.S. The longtime UAE ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al-Otaiba, held his first meeting with an Israeli official in 2008 and a diplomatic channel was established to focus on Iran, Neubauer said.
The relationship hit a snag in 2010 when the UAE accused Israeli Mossad operatives of assassinating Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel.
Nearly a decade later, then-Culture Minister Miri Regev stood in Abu Dhabi and sang her country’s national anthem at a judo competition, shook hands warmly with Emirati officials and toured the emirate’s grand mosque in a public spectacle of warming ties.
In January, when Trump unveiled his Mideast plan — it was rejected by the Palestinians — the ambassadors of the UAE, Bahrain and Oman attended the White House ceremony, which featured Netanyahu.
Senior Emirati diplomat Anwar Gargash said the relationship with Israel grew “organically” over the last 15 years or so.
“Through engagement with the Trump administration, the idea … developed and percolated, and it was right to do it,” he said.
The article was published on Ynet

‘We Share Your Pain’: Israel Offers Aid to Lebanon After Beirut Port Blast

President Rivlin tweets in Arabic: ‘We sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time’

Israel has offered humanitarian assistance to Lebanon after a massive explosion rocked its capital Beirut on Tuesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.

“Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance,” a written statement from Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.

The international mediators Israel employed were the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, and France.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister asked National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat to reach out to the UN envoy to the region, Nickolay Mladenov, on this matter.

President Reuven Rivlin also offered his assistance, tweeting: “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.”

A damaged vehicle is seen at the site of an explosion in Beirut, August 4, 2020.
A damaged vehicle is seen at the site of an explosion in Beirut, August 4, 2020. Credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR/Reuters

The Israeli army’s spokesman in Arabic, Avichay Adraee, tweeted in Arabic about the Israeli offer, adding: “This is the time to transcend conflict.”

Several Israeli lawmakers also posted messages of support on social media after Lebanese authorities reported thousands of casulaties in the blast.

Dr. Salman Zarka, director of the Ziv Medical Center, near Israel’s border with Lebanon, said in a Facebook message in Arabic: “We are ready to provide medical assistance as we did before with the people of south [Lebanon] and the people of Syria.”

An Israeli political source denied that the country had any connection to the incident, which came amid tensions with Hezbollah. Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said they had used international mediators UNIFIL and France to offer humanitarian and medical assistance to Lebanon.

The blast flattened much of the city’s port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Hours later, ambulances were still carrying away the wounded and officials said Beirut’s hospitals were full. Army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port.

Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said the blast might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.

Beirut governor Marwan Abboud said the city was a “disaster area” and the scale of the damage was “enormous.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared Wednesday would be a national day of mourning for the victims, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Other countries, including the U.S., U.K., Turkey, Jordan and Iran have all also offered their assistance to Lebanon in the aftermath of the blast.

The article was published on Haaretz


Israel says Hezbollah tried to breach its northern border; IDF warns against further provocations

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it exchanged fire with fighters from the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese frontier on Monday.

The Israeli army said troops foiled a Hezbollah attack by 3 or 4 men who infiltrated a few metres over the Blue Line that separates Israel and Lebanon. It added there were no casualties among Israeli forces.

“Hezbollah should know it is playing with fire”, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Both Netanyahu and defence minister Benny Gantz warned the governments of Syria and Lebanon that they would be held responsible for any attacks against Israel coming from their territory.

Hezbollah carried out the operation against Israeli soldiers in the disputed Shebaa Farms area, media quoted a witness as saying. The area is occupied by Israel and claimed by Lebanon. The United Nations regards it as part of Syrian territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israeli forces have been on alert along the border in anticipation of Hezbollah retaliation for the killing of one of its members in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria last week.

In a statement on Monday, Hezbollah denied its forces had tried to infiltrate the Lebanese-Israeli frontier or that it had engaged in clashes in the Shebaa Farms area. The group said that the incident was “one-sided” and that Israeli forces had “moved nervously on the ground” due to a heightened state of alert.

“If Israel decides to go to war with us, then we will confront them, and the 2006 War will be the model for our response”, Hezbollah’s deputy chief Naim Qasim said in response.

The article was published on New Europe


130 schools now closed; 17,605 staff, students in quarantine for virus

More new diagnoses in Tel Aviv than Jerusalem since Friday, despite more testing in capital; death toll rises as three more people succumb to COVID; 2,474 people currently infected with disease, including 111 new cases

The Education Ministry said on Sunday that 130 schools and kindergartens have been closed due to staff and students contracting the virus in the past 10 days – 24 of them since Saturday.
Additionally, 17,605 students and staff members are now in quarantine, an increase of 1,282 since Saturday.
So far, 352 students and staff members nationwide have been diagnosed with the virus in the current wave, including 22 over the past 24 hours.
The Health Ministry also said that more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Tel Aviv than Jerusalem since Friday, with 46 new cases in the coastal city as opposed to 37 in the capital.
The ministry also reported that over the past five days, some 13,000 tests for the virus were conducted in Jerusalem, while at the same time, only about 3,600 were carried out in Tel Aviv.
According to the ministry’s data, 111 new COVID-19 patients have been diagnosed, with the total number of cases rising to 17,863.
Three more patients have died from virus-related complications, bringing the total number of fatalities from the disease up to 298.
There has also been a climb in the number of people requiring respiratory assistance, with 23 patients currently using ventilators.
The number of daily recoveries has declined over the past few days, with only 26 registered on Sunday, while the number of active patients has risen by 283 to 2,474.
Health officials said Sunday that they fear a new outbreak is taking place in Jaffa, where 10 people have so far been diagnosed with the virus in recent days.
The article was published in Ynet

EIB signs collaboration with Israel Innovation Authority and €50 million financing agreement with Pluristem to develop therapies for COVID-19 and other unmet medical needs

  • European Investment Bank (EIB) backs Pluristem with €50 million of financing, which will help the company to advance the clinical development of its cell therapies and address a number of severe medical conditions
  • The deal is the first Israeli-European project guaranteed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe, a joint initiative of the EIB and the European Commission
  • The signature was announced in the context of a Memorandum of Understanding, by which the EIB and the National Technological Innovation Authority of Israel have agreed to cooperate in the globally emerging field of bio-convergence

Today, the European Investment Bank and the Israel Innovation Authority signed a cooperation agreement to jointly pursue investment opportunities in the domain of bio-convergence in health. The intersection of biopharma, information technology and engineering is an important building block in supporting global public health goals. The agreement, initiated by kENUP Foundation, aims at deepening the links between Israel and the EU, fostering innovation in the region, closing investment gaps and jointly assuming global leadership in the area of bio-convergence. Ultimately, it is set to benefit Israeli and European citizens and corporations.

In the context of this Memorandum of Understanding, the EIB is supporting Pluristem through its German subsidiary Pluristem GmbH, with a venture debt loan of €50 million. Pluristem is a regenerative medicine company with a focus on novel biological products. The company uses cells derived from placentafor the development of product candidates for the treatment of severe medical conditions such as infections, inflammation, ischemia, muscle injury, haematological disorder or acute radiation syndrome. It has recently extended its activity in response to the coronavirus pandemic and treated several COVID-19 patients with acute respiratory failure under the “compassionate use” programme, a treatment option which allows the use of unauthorised medicine for severely ill patients.

The financing will support Pluristem’s research and development in the EU, notably its regenerative cell therapy platform. It will also allow the company to push its advanced clinical pipeline towards marketing. Pluristem will receive the financing in three tranches, subject to the achievement of pre-agreed clinical regulatory and scaling up milestones. The first tranche will consist of € 20 million. The company is the first Israeli-European business to benefit from a guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial centre-piece of the Investment Plan for Europe, in which the EIB and the European Commission are working together to mobilise investment in the EU.Pluristem was previously funded by the Israel Innovation Authority.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The Investment Plan for Europe has a strong track record of supporting ground-breaking research and development in the health sector. Pluristem is carrying out highly innovative and crucial work in the fight against coronavirus, now boosted by financial backing from the EU.”

“Today’s signatures show that we are successful when we stand together,” said Ambroise Fayolle, EIB Vice-President in charge of innovation. “Israel is home to a thriving scene of innovative startups, which dominate the high-tech industry. Pluristem is an excellent example of Israeli-European cooperation and EIB support for them is particularly timely, as it will allow the company to develop a treatment for the most vulnerable COVID-19 patients. Working together often saves time and resources – in this case it has the potential to save lives.”

Dr Ami Appelbaum, Chairman, Israel Innovation Authority and Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy and Industry, explained: “Israel views bio-convergence as its next economic growth engine. This innovative approach serves as an engine to find efficient, diverse and ingenious approaches to health problem solving. It integrates biology with engineering, AI, physics, computation, nanotechnology and material science in order to address unmet needs in numerous industries, including health, agriculture, energy and defence. The collaboration between the European Investment Bank and the Israel Innovation Authority provides a unique opportunity to advance this area providing companies with various financing opportunities from early stage to growth. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads globally, it is of vital importance to employ cutting edge technological innovation with global outreach to provide the much needed relief the world is looking for.”

EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret said: “A coordinated global response is needed to fight COVID-19, and the EU is launching a worldwide pledging marathon precisely to ensure that the world works together to find safe, effective and affordable treatments, diagnostics and vaccines. Today’s important agreement with the EIB will help to develop promising treatment for coronavirus, and is yet another achievement of the EU and Israel, strengthening our cooperation in research and innovation. We thank Israeli researchers for their efforts, and look forward to continued joint work for the benefit of all.”

Pluristem CEO and President Yaky Yanay stated: “Pluristem would like to thank the EIB for its financial support and its commitment to finding an effective treatment for life-threatening medical conditions, among them complications associated with COVID-19. Our company’s mission of harnessing the power of regenerative medicine to improve the wellbeing of an aging population has become more urgent than ever, as we work tirelessly to develop a treatment for COVID-19 complications while advancing our portfolio of products in advanced stage trials to treat a number of indications that may positively impact on global healthcare systems. We are honoured to become the first Israeli-European company to benefit from a guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments.”

Background information

The European Investment Bank is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investments in order to contribute towards EU policy goals. The EIB also supports investments outside the EU.

About the Israel Innovation Authority

The Israel Innovation Authority, responsible for the country’s innovation policy, is an independent and impartial public entity that operates for the benefit of the Israeli innovation ecosystem and Israeli economy as a whole. Its role is to nurture and develop Israeli innovation resources, while creating and strengthening the infrastructure and framework needed to support the entire knowledge industry. The Israel Innovation Authority provides a variety of practical tools and funding platforms aimed at addressing the dynamic and changing needs of the local and international innovation ecosystems.

About the Investment Plan for Europe

The Investment Plan for Europe is one of the EU’s key actions to boost investment in Europe, thereby creating jobs and fostering growth. To this end, smarter use is made of new and existing financial resources. The EIB Group is playing a vital role in this investment plan. With guarantees from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the EIB and EIF are able to take on a higher share of project risk, encouraging private investors to participate in the projects. To date, the projects and agreements approved under EFSI are expected to mobilise around €478 billion of investments and to benefit over 1 million small and medium-sized companies throughout the EU.

About Pluristem

Pluristem is a leading regenerative medicine company developing novel placenta-based cell therapy product candidates. The company has reported robust clinical trial data in multiple indications for its patented PLX cell product candidates and is currently conducting late stage clinical trials in several indications. PLX cell product candidates are believed to release a range of therapeutic proteins in response to inflammation, ischemia, muscle trauma, hematological disorders and radiation damage. The cells are grown using the company’s proprietary technology and can be administered to patients off-the-shelf, without tissue matching. Pluristem has a strong intellectual property position; a Company-owned and operated GMP-certified manufacturing and research facility; strategic relationships with major research institutions; and a seasoned management team.

About the EIB-IIA MoU

The Memorandum of Understanding between the EIB and the Israel Innovation Authority recognises the shared commitment to deepening the links between Israel and the EU, to foster innovation in the region, to close investment gaps and to jointly assume global leadership in the area of bio-convergence. The Israel Innovation Authority is a reliable partner for the EIB in view of its broad technical and sector expertise and its well-established relationships with relevant industrial and public players. At the invitation of kENUP Foundation, the EIB and the Innovation Authority convened a series of meetings between October 2018 and January 2020 to discuss future common endeavours. In addition, the EIB has identified a number of innovative smaller companies supported by the Innovation Authority with investments in Israel and in Europe, which are promising counterparts for EIB equity-type operations.

Safe Harbour Statement

This press release contains express or implied forward-looking statements within the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and other U.S. Federal securities laws. For example, Pluristem is using forward-looking statements when it discusses that the proceeds from the EIB financing will help it advance the clinical development of its cell therapies and address a number of severe medical conditions, as well as support its research and development of its regenerative cell therapy platform in the EU,  and allow it to push its advanced clinical pipeline towards marketing, that the cooperation agreement between the EIB and the Israel Innovation Authority is set to benefit Israeli and European citizens and corporations and that the agreement with the EIB will help to develop a promising treatment for coronavirus. While the EIB and Pluristem have executed the loan agreement, there is no guarantee that Pluristem will achieve the milestones necessary to receive any or all of the three tranches. These forward-looking statements and their implications are based on the current expectations of the management of Pluristem only, and are subject to a number of factors and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements. The following factors, among others, could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements: changes in technology and market requirements; Pluristem may encounter delays or obstacles in launching and/or successfully completing its clinical trials; Pluristem’s products may not be approved by regulatory agencies, Pluristem’s technology may not be validated as it progresses further and its methods may not be accepted by the scientific community; Pluristem may be unable to retain or attract key employees whose knowledge is essential to the development of its products; unforeseen scientific difficulties may develop with Pluristem’s process; Pluristem’s products may wind up being more expensive than it anticipates; results in the laboratory may not translate to equally good results in real clinical settings; results of preclinical studies may not correlate with the results of human clinical trials; Pluristem’s patents may not be sufficient; Pluristem’s products may harm recipients; changes in legislation may adversely impact Pluristem; inability to timely develop and introduce new technologies, products and applications; loss of market share and pressure on pricing resulting from competition, which could cause the actual results or performance of Pluristem to differ materially from those contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Except as otherwise required by law, Pluristem undertakes no obligation to publicly release any revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. For a more detailed description of the risks and uncertainties affecting Pluristem, reference is made to Pluristem’s reports filed from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The article was statement was published on the European commission website


The Israeli Inventions That Lessen The Healthcare System’s Burden

Israeli innovation has been enlisted in the battle against Covid-19. Here are six technological inventions helping health personnel in their fight against the pandemic

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has shed an unflattering light on the faults of the global healthcare systems, from China to Italy, and posed a myriad of new challenges to both healthcare professionals and researchers. Governments, including that of Israel, have called on tech companies to enlist in the battle against the outbreak. In reality, many medtech and biotech companies have already started working to alter their technologies accordingly.

In Israel, both industry veterans and young startups have jumped into the fray, allocating resources and manpower in an effort to find new solutions that could ease the strain on the overburdened healthcare system. Calcalist has taken a closer look at some of the most prominent ones.

Discover the virus in seconds: the AI that identifies the virus with a simple CT scan


Israeli-American RADLogics Inc. is a software analytics company that specializes in visual analysis of medical scans using AI and has a research and development center in Tel Aviv. The company’s products were one of the first in its category to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Its tools are used to detect early signs of medical issues such as lung cancer.Around two months ago, use of RADLogics’ products in China started revealing novel findings; something small and patch-like in the lungs of patients. Very quickly, medical professionals identified the patch as a phenomenon unique to coronavirus patients. More surprising was the fact that it was also found in asymptomatic carriers. The findings echoed a study published in China, which looked at around 1,000 patients and found that CT scans indicated the presence of the virus in 48% of people who were found negative in the regular test.

The information RADLogics’ system provided in China helped the company adjust its products for the specific identification of coronavirus, and now it offers a new identification avenue for the virus and claims it can provide results within seconds instead of hours. The company said the test can be done using existing CT machines quickly and noninvasively, and that the results can help doctors prioritize ventilators. The company’s coronavirus-specific systems are already used in China and Russia, and according to RADLogics will soon come into use in Europe. In the U.S., the system is currently undergoing advanced approval.

Blood tests in seclusion: a portable, AI-based device can perform a full blood count in minutes


Tel Aviv-based Sight Diagnostics Ltd. developed a device that enables quick blood tests and blood counts—a required part of the diagnosis protocol for every fever illness. While current technologies require the sample to be sent to a lab and processed by a technician, Sight’s device, which uses AI and machine processing tools, is portable and does not require prior knowledge to operate. It also provides results in minutes rather than hours or days.
These abilities make the device ideal for quarantined coronavirus patients. Last week, the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer announced it will use the device to treat patients in isolation. Sight expects more clients to join in the next few weeks.

To treat severe cases: developing antibodies from patients who have recovered


Veteran biopharmaceutical company Kamada Ltd. has in recent days turned its attention to developing coronavirus antibodies. The company is collecting blood and plasma from Israelis who have recovered from the virus, and using a purification process to achieve a specific concentration of antibodies for treating serious coronavirus cases. The company emphasizes that it is not a vaccine, but rather an expensive, one-off treatment for severe cases.
Like a vaccine, however, the development process is lengthy, meaning the product will not be available anytime soon. Kamada has successfully developed serums for the treatment of rabies and zika, and is currently working with health authorities to create an expedited avenue for coronavirus treatment.
Remote experts: a system that enables consultation with a remote control center

Predictive care startup Clew Medical Ltd. developed an algorithm that collects data from emergency care monitoring devices and alerts the medical team to any deterioration in a patient’s condition. As the healthcare system becomes more and more burdened, Clew’s technology could point out a patient in danger 6-12 hours before their condition starts to worsen, enabling caregivers to prepare in advance.
The system can also monitor patients in remote wards, transmitting information to a central control room staffed by experts who can then provide guidance to endpoint teams. In this way, small hospitals and makeshift care units can benefit from the support of experts.
Clew’s system is currently in investigative use in U.S. hospitals. The company told Calcalist its use in Israeli hospitals currently dealing with the virus is being considered.
Monitoring patients in home-quarantine: a contactless system that monitors breathing

Israel-based company EarlySense Ltd. has developed a non-invasive patient-monitoring system already in use in nursing homes and hospitals. The system has been approved in both the U.S. and Europe. The company’s contactless monitoring platform, which looks like a cutting board, is placed under the mattress and takes stock of a patient’s /vitals around the clock, 100 times a minute.
The system specializes in analyzing chest movements, dividing them into separate categories of breathing patterns that are then used to identify changes in a patient’s condition. The fact that the system is not attached to patients and can provide alerts remotely makes it ideal for preventing the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus, the company said, and it is already in use at Sheba. The company stated the system can also be used to track asymptomatic carriers in home-quarantine.Identify the most vulnerable: the study that looked into what makes some people more resistant to the virus

Tel Aviv-based Geneyx Genomex Ltd. developed a cloud-based genetic data bank that is used by universities and research institutes to identify genetic risk or resistance factors for various medical conditions. The company is now conducting a study that will compare severe and mild coronavirus cases to find out whether certain genetic mutations increase or decrease response to the virus.

Currently, hospitals in Israel, China, and Italy have signed on as participants in the study, and Geneyx intends to partner with other hospitals that are currently treating coronavirus cases, providing them with a collaborative data management system. After enough samples have been gathered, cases will be categorized—for example, according to the severity of symptoms—and the DNA sequencing process will start. The company also intends to create a database that will map sensitivity to the virus, to give caregivers a predictive advantage.
The article was published on Calcalis tech

In surreal scenes, Knesset sworn in 3 members at a time amid virus crisis

‘Give this people a government,’ pleads president in speech to near- empty chamber; Likud’s Tzachi Hanegbi arrives to take oath despite exposure to suspected COVID-19 patient

In a surreal ceremony, the 23rd Knesset convened on Monday in the shadow of the COVID-19 outbreak, with its 120 lawmakers inducted in batches of three to avoid the spread of the virus and its leaders giving their usually festive opening remarks to an empty hall.

President Reuven Rivlin opened the parliament swearing-in with an address to the only three lawmakers present — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

In his speech, Rivlin implored the political parties to resolve their differences and form a coalition, putting an end to the deadlock that has left the country without a functioning government since December 2018.

Earlier in the day, Rivlin had given Gantz first shot at forming a government, after the Blue and White leader picked up recommendations from 61 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers. But it remained unclear whether Gantz could successfully do so without Netanyahu’s Likud.

After three consecutive elections, Rivlin said Israelis are “exhausted” by politics.

“We are looking forward to the day-to-day, the routine, when we will all return to what we have in common, our shared fate that is expressed so clearly in the current crisis,” he said, referring to the outbreak of the virus.

The president pleaded with the political leaders to compromise.

“Politics is far from perfect. But politics is meant to be the art of the possible. Often, politics needs to be the art of compromise… At the heart of democracy lies the understanding that what often creates the requirement for compromise, to make deep and painful concessions, is the will of the people itself,” he said.

Rivlin continued: “The current political crisis is very real, very deep and is breaking us in two. And we still have no other choice, because we have no other people and no other country. In democracy, we may be able to replace the leadership, but we cannot replace the people. Not some of it, not one half of it and not the other half of it. We were destined to live together.”

Edelstein, who on Sunday blocked an attempt by Blue and White to replace him as Knesset speaker, also told the president, Netanyahu, and Gantz that an emergency unity government must swiftly  be formed.

“The plenum is empty, but with us are the millions of citizens who badly need an emergency government,” said Edelstein.

After Edelstein, Netanyahu and Gantz took their oaths, the other lawmakers were brought in, three at a time and in alphabetical order, to be sworn in.

The Knesset guard administered fever checks for those entering parliament.

According to Channel 12, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi was asked not to attend after being exposed to the husband of a coronavirus patient, who is also suspected of having contracted the virus.

But Hanegbi entered parliament nonetheless. Hanegbi later said he stayed in his office after arriving at the Knesset and kept a distance from other people when he was sworn in. After taking his oath, he left the Knesset.

Along with Blue and White MKs Ram Ben-Barak and Alon Shuster, Hanegbi had been at an agricultural conference where a man whose wife is confirmed to have the virus was present. Neither Ben-Barak or Shuster was at the swearing-in ceremony.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Austrian parliament urges chancellor clamp down on Hezbollah

Call for EU to reassess how to deal with terrorist entity regarding security of Israel


Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ Is Headed to Europe

Czech Republic is acquiring Israel’s famed ‘Iron Dome” Multi-Mission Radar in an agreement signed earlier this month. The agreement between the Israel Ministry of Defense and Czech Ministry of Defense will see at least eight ELM-2084 radars operational in Czech Republic in coming years as part of the country’s enhanced Mobile Air Defense Radar program.

This is an important $125 million sale because it represents Israel’s inroads into eastern Europe, especially the Visegrad Group of countries that are becoming increasing allies of  Jerusalem. This includes Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. The radars will be delivered between 2021 and 2023 ad they will be interoperable with NATO command and control. The deal was in the works for years.

Prague joined NATO in 1999 and the Bush administration wanted to base interceptors and missile defense radar in Czech Republic. The deal was signed in 2008 but cancelled by the Obama administration as part of the administration’s reset with Russia in 2009 and other changes in policy. Czech Republic refused an offer to base early warning radar in the country in 2011 and went looking elsewhere.

By 2016 it appeared to have signaled that Israel’s radar was its favored choice. Although media reports had indicated that the previous negotiations with the US were about fears of Russian missiles, the larger picture was that Prague needed to modernize its air defense.

Israel’s Iron Dome, which uses the radar Czech Republic is acquiring, has been key to defending the country successfully since the 2012 war and been racking up more successes in the last two years as more than 2,600 rockets were fired by militants in Gaza. The US has even looked at the system for short range air defense (SHORAD).

Iron Dome is one of  Israel’s multi-layered radar that was developed with US support, including the David’s Sling and the Arrow. David’s Sling is similar to the Patriot system. The radars have air surveillance and air defense capabilities. Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries in Israel makes the radar which was sold to Czech Republic.

Czech industries will conduct thirty percent of the procurement locally.

In Israel the agreement is seen as part of a close and strong relationship between the countries. Director of Israel’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT), Brig. Gen. (Ret.), Yair Kulas  said he applauded the agreement.

“Today is monumental for the State of Israel due to the history of  Czech support for the State of Israel, since its establishment 70 years ago. This agreement will deepen and strengthen the cooperation and relations with our Czech partners. It is an expression of confidence in the capabilities of the Israeli defense establishment and defense industries and highlights the significance of Israeli technology in the face of the threats shared by the international community. We hope to see this agreement opening the door for further cooperation with our Czech partners and with additional NATO states.”

IAI VP and CEO of ELTA, Yoav Tourgeman said that the “MADR program expands the global use of the ELM- 2084, known as the ‘Iron Dome’ system radar, which currently includes over 100 systems contracted worldwide (including NATO countries). We are proud and honored to supply the best combat proven multi-mission radar to the Czech armed forces. These radars will propel forward the Czech Air-force capabilities and enable to confront the most advanced aerial threats. We believe that the MADR program will pave the path to additional cooperation between the Israeli and Czech defense industries.”

Seth J. Frantzman is a Jerusalem-based journalist who holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a writing fellow at Middle East Forum. He is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East (forthcoming Gefen Publishing). Follow him on Twitter at @sfrantzman.

The article was published on The national Interest


Delegitimization of Israel: The Acceptable Face of Anti-Semitism

Yesterday afternoon, and speaking to a standing room only Committee room in the European Parliament courtesy of our Co-sponsors Anna Michelle Asimakapolou MEP, Anna Fotyga MEP and Traian Basescu MEP. The Minister, joined by the EU’s Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting anti-semitism Katharina Von Schnurbein, and again by Secretary Carr and Rabbi Margolin outlined their concern at the rise of antisemitism and at rooting out the boycott movement as fundamentally anti-semitic. There followed a q&a with a distinguished audience of parliamentarians, diplomats and Jewish leaders and orgnasiations from across the continent.


Party leaders across spectrum have common message as they cast ballots: Go vote!

Party leaders turned out early Tuesday to cast their votes in Israel’s second national election of the year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrived at their Jerusalem polling station to cast their vote in the Israeli elections Tuesday.

בנימין נתניהו מצביע בקלפי בירושלים

Vying for a fifth term the prime minister said this is a very close election and called on citizens to come out and vote.

This is the second election held in Israel in less than six months after Netanyahu, who is hoping for an unprecedented fifth term in office, failed to form a coalition government after the April ballot.

His Likud party then pushed through a law to dissolve the Knesset, thereby avoiding a situation in which President Reuven Rivlin could task another party leader with coalition building.

The head of the Blue and White Party Benny Gantz voted close to his home in Rosh Haayin, near Tel Aviv.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz casts his vote (Photo: Tal Shahar)

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz casts his vote (Photo: Tal Shahar)
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The former army chief wished Israelis good luck in the elections as he arrived at the polling station flanked by supporters.

Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the right-wing, secular Yisrael Beytenu party – who could emerge as the kingmaker of the elections – voted with his wife at his home in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.

Liberman urges all Israelis to vote, calling it “a civic duty.”

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman and wife Ella (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman and wife Ella (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Shaked also called on citizens to vote and claimed there are up to 30% voters still undecided.

Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked (Photo: Shuel Davidpur)

Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked (Photo: Shuel Davidpur)

In the city of Sderot, near the Gaza border, Labor-Gesher chief Amir Peretz told supporters as he arrived to cast his ballot, that every vote counts and everyone should vote.

Labor leader Amir Peretz ( Photo: Avi Roccah)

Labor leader Amir Peretz ( Photo: Avi Roccah)

Voter turnout may be the deciding factor in these elections though it is expected to be low.

The article was published on Ynet


Poll: Israel’s foreign relations are a success

Most Israelis think that Israel has succeeded in its diplomatic activities in the US, Europe and the Arab countries.

A public opinion poll conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute ahead of the elections to the 22nd Knesset examined how the public sees the outgoing government’s performance on major foreign policy issues.

77% of respondents thought that the State of Israel was successful in its relations with the US, while only 12% thought it failed. 47% of respondents said that relations with Europe are also successful and 33% thought that the policy vis-à-vis the EU has failed.

On the issue of relations between Israel and Arab states, 46% of respondents say that government policy was successful and only 35% think it failed.

When asked about Israeli-Palestinian Arab relations, only 17% think government policy was successful and 65% thought it was unsuccessful.

The poll also found that 12% of those surveyed preferred to see Yair Lapid as Foreign Minister. He is followed by Binyamin Netanyahu with 9% and far behind them is Naftali Bennett with 4%, Gideon Sa’ar with 4%, Avigdor Liberman with 3.5%, and Yisrael Katz with 3%. However, 40% of the respondents replied that they did not have a clear opinion as to who should serve in that role.

Another question that arose in the survey was about the decline in the status of the Foreign Ministry and whether it was detrimental to Israel’s national security. 26% answered that there was no decline in the status of the ministry, and 9% claimed that there was a decline, but this did not compromise national security. A similar number stated that even if there was a decline in the status of the ministry, it has done very little damage to national security. Another 30% opined that alongside the decline in status, there has also been a great deal of devaluation of national security.

The article was published on Arutz 7


Uranium traces found at Iran ‘atomic warehouse’: diplomats – Gulf tensions

The International Atomic Energy Agency is investigating the particles’ origin and has asked Iran to explain the traces. But Tehran has not done so, according to the diplomats.

Sunday, September 8

Traces of uranium found at secret warehouse

Samples taken by the UN nuclear watchdog at what Israel’s prime minister called a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran showed traces of uranium that Iran has yet to explain, two diplomats who follow the agency’s inspections work closely say.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is investigating the particles’ origin and has asked Iran to explain the traces. But Tehran has not done so, according to the diplomats, stoking tensions between Washington and Tehran.

In a speech a year ago Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vehemently opposed the deal, called on the IAEA to visit the site immediately, saying it had housed 15 kg (33 lb) of unspecified radioactive material that had since been removed.

Reuters first reported in April that the IAEA, which is policing the nuclear deal, had inspected the site – a step it had said it takes “only when necessary” – and environmental samples taken there were sent off for analysis.

Israeli and US media have since reported that the samples turned up traces of radioactive material or matter – the same vague language used by Netanyahu.

Those traces were, however, of uranium, the diplomats said – the same element Iran is enriching and one of only two fissile elements with which one can make the core of a nuclear bomb.
One diplomat said the uranium was not highly enriched, meaning it was not purified to a level anywhere close to that needed for weapons.

“There are lots of possible explanations,” that diplomat said. But since Iran has not yet given any to the IAEA it is hard to verify the particles’ origin, and it is also not clear whether the traces are remnants of material or activities that predate the landmark 2015 deal or more recent, diplomats say.

The IAEA did not respond to a request for comment.
Iranian officials were not available to comment.

US will continue to impose sanctions

The United States will continue to impose sanctions on whoever purchases Iran’s oil or conducts business with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and no oil waivers will be re-issued, a US official told Reuters on Sunday.

“We will continue to put pressure on Iran and as President (Trump) said there will be no waivers of any kind for Iran’s oil,” said Sigal Mandelker, US Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Mandelker added that Iranian oil sales have taken a “serious nose dive” because of US pressure.

Detained British tanker may be released ‘soon’

Iran may soon release a detained British tanker after the completion of legal steps, state television reported on Sunday.

“I hope the procedures will be completed soon and this tanker will be released,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told the station.

The state television also reported that Mousavi said an Iranian tanker “has gone to its destination” and “the oil has been sold.

“The Adrian Darya oil tanker finally docked on the Mediterranean coast ..and unloaded its cargo,” IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, as saying.

Iran says Europe failing to save nuclear deal

The head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the European Union has so far failed to carry out its commitments under the 2015 deal, which promised relief from trade sanctions in return for curbing the country’s nuclear program.

Salehi said the EU “was supposed to fill the vacuum” in enforcing the deal, but “unfortunately they could not.” He said compliance with the deal is not a “one-way road.

“Unfortunately the European parties have failed to fulfil their commitments…The deal is not a one-way street and Iran will act accordingly as we have done so far by gradually downgrading our commitments,” said Salehi said, speaking after meeting the acting head of the US nuclear watchdog (IAEA), Cornel Feruta.

“Iran will continue to reduce its nuclear commitments as long as the other parties fail to carry out their commitments.”

Feruta, Zarif meet 

Feruta, also met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday who said Iran’s reduction of commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal were allowed under the accord, according to reports by the semi-official Fars news agency.

Zarif said that Iran was acting under paragraph 36 of the accord, Fars reported. Iranian officials say the paragraph allows one party to the deal to cut its commitments if others do not live up to theirs.

Feruta reiterated that IAEA would carry out its verification activities in a “professional and impartial” manner, Fars added.

The IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors will discuss Iran at a quarterly meeting that begins on Monday.

The article was posted on TRT world


Israeli judoka Sagi Muki wins gold at World Championships

‘I never stopped believing,’ says gold medalist who dominated throughout under 81kg competition, besting Belgium’s Matthias Casse in final to become Israel’s first male world champion; Egyptian competitor refuses to shake his hand after their quarter-final match

Sagi Muki celebrates his gold medal win in Tokyo (Photo: Getty Images)

Sagi Muki celebrates his gold medal win in Tokyo (Photo: Getty Images)
A few minutes later, he stepped onto the winners podium at the Nippon Budokan Arena in Tokyo and sang along as the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva” played.

Judoka Sagi Muki and his coach Oren Smadja hold the Israeli flag after his World Championship win (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

Judoka Sagi Muki and his coach Oren Smadja hold the Israeli flag after his World Championship win (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

The 27-year-old is the first Israeli male to win the prestigious title. This is his first world title after having won gold twice at the European Championships in 2015 and 2018.

Sagi Muki holds up his gold medal at the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

Sagi Muki holds up his gold medal at the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

The Netanya-born athlete faced six opponents on his journey to the gold medal and showed complete dominance after beating most of them by Ippon. His Egyptian quarter-final opponent Mohammed Abdelaal refused to shake his hand after having lost their match.

Sagi Muki during his winning final match (Photo: Reuters)

Sagi Muki during his winning final match (Photo: Reuters)

After the competition, the new world champion told reporters in Tokyo that he never lost faith he could win, but conceded that his semi-final bout “was a very hard fight.”

“I came close to losing but I gave it everything and I never stopped believing. I’m glad I managed to keep up the pressure,” he said.

“This is my first time (as world champion) and it’s a very special moment for me,” he said. “I finally did it. It was a tough day.”

Israeli judoka Sagi Muki wins the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Reuters)

Israeli judoka Sagi Muki wins the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Reuters)

Muki also paid tribute to his fellow Israelis who travelled to the compeition to support him and his teammates.

Sagi Muki's parents watch as he wins the gold medal in Tokyo (Photo: Yair Sagi)

Sagi Muki’s parents watch as he wins the gold medal in Tokyo (Photo: Yair Sagi)

“Judo is the most successful sport in Israel and every medal creates a great fuss,” he said.

Sagi Muki after his win (Photo: Reuters)

Sagi Muki after his win (Photo: Reuters)

“A lot of Israelis came to Tokyo to encourage the team and I’m glad I could them happy.”

A delighted President Reuven Rivlin took to Twitter to congratulate Muki, writing: “Your achievement makes us so proud and teaches us that hard work, humanity and a hand always extended in peace can conquer the greatest heights.

“Congratulations on your gold medal and thank you for the pride you bring us all as Israelis,” he wrote.

The article was published on Ynet


EU Ambassador ‘appalled’ by news of attack

EU Ambassador to Israel sends condolences to family of terror victim as MKs from across the spectrum express outrage.

Knesset members from across the political spectrum responded Friday to a terror attack which left a young woman dead and her father and brother wounded.

In the attack, terrorists threw a homemade explosive device thrown at Israelis hiking near the Ein Bubin spring near the Binyamin-region town of Dolev.

MK Nir Barkat (Likud), said: “The attack near Dolev is further proof of the Palestinian Authority’s policy of hate-filled incitement that causes this continued downward spiral. I pray for a speedy recovery for the wounded and trust that our security forces will quickly capture those responsible.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) said that he is praying for the recovery of those injured, adding: “This criminal terror attack demands a harsh response. I am convinced that our security forces will reach those who committed this attack. They will try to hurt us and we will build, develop, and strengthen the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.”

Har Hevron Regional Council Head Yochai Demeri said: “The escalation in the security situation demands an appropriate response. This chain of events shows a trend, and dragging our feet is not a solution. Deporting the murderers’ families together with applying sovereignty in Area C are the first steps and we are obligated to take them.”

“Terror draws encouragement from its successes and anyone who does not stop the terror attacks in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria should not be surprised by incidents occurring in city centers. Terror will not deter us, and we will continue to hike everywhere – in Jerusalem, Dolev, Nahal Oz, the Golan, and Tel Aviv, because their motivation to murder Jews needs no reason. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims.”

Yisrael Beytenu Chairman MK Avigdor Liberman said: “The terror attack in Binyamin is a stinging slap on the face for the Netanyahu government of submission, which continues to abandon the security of the State of Israel’s citizens in favor of paying bribes to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority so that there will be quiet until the elections.”

“A government which stops repairs on the dangerous road near the Gaza border because it’s out of money, but on the other hand begs Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to accept 2 billion shekels ($569,180,000), is not worthy of the public’s trust. At this difficult time, my heart is with the victims and their families, and I support the IDF and security forces, who are currently hunting the terrorists.”

Tzachi Dickstein, chairman of the Samaria Settlers’ Committee, said: “This is the second terror attack in the past twenty-four hours which has harmed innocent civilians. The facts speak for themselves: Removing the checkpoints is an ongoing mistake. We must immediately replace the road checkpoints and the security around the villages in order to give residents back their security and in order to prevent the next attack.”

“The lives of Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria are a thousand times more important than the convenience of terrorists on the road and later in the Israeli vacation houses they are jailed in.”

Binyamin Regional Council Head Yisrael Gantz, aho arrived at the scene of the attack together with the Council’s professional staffs, said: “We will not allow terror organizations to deter us from hiking in nature and enjoying the views and springs of our land. It’s time the government of Israel woke up and initiated, instead of just being dragged, and send a message of strength, courage, and security, so that those attackers know that they can no longer easily attack hikers who are coming to relax at springs.”

“I expect the Prime Minister to ensure the safety and security of Judea and Samaria’s residents and stop promising to apply sovereignty, and do it instead.”

In addition, European Union Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret tweeted: “Appalled by the news of the heinous attack on a father and his children in the West Bank this morning. My thoughts and condolences are with victims of this despicable act.”

The article was published on Arutz 7


Slain student Dvir Sorek, 18, had a ‘heart of gold,’ teachers say

Off-duty soldier remembered as talented musician who always thought of others; father mourns ‘kid with light in his eyes’ who would befriend the marginalized

Dvir Sorek, a yeshiva student enrolled in a program combining Torah study with military service, left his seminary in the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz Wednesday to head to Jerusalem to buy books — a gift for a teacher.

The 18-year-old, whose birthday is next week, never returned.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, his body was discovered on the side of a road leading into the settlement, riddled with stab wounds. He was not in uniform at the time of his death, the army said. Authorities were treating the killing as a terror attack.

“He was found clutching the books that he’d bought,” Rabbi Shlomo Wilk, the head of the Migdal Oz seminary Machanayim, said Thursday morning, as word of Sorek’s murder was met with shock and sadness by those who knew him.

“He was an amazing man, very sensitive, smart, modest, who fused wisdom and quiet… This is a man who at the beginning of the year saw an Arab walking around the area with a donkey that looked unwell, sick, so he offered to buy the donkey. He bought it, treated it, and sent it away,” Rabbi Sarel Rosenblatt, who taught Sorek, told Channel 12 news.

“I wanted him to be a man of standing in Israel, who would contribute a lot of his light to Israeli society, and his light was taken from us,” he added, describing him as a “sensitive man with a heart of gold.”

Another teacher, Rabbi Yossi Fruman, said his trip to Jerusalem to buy a gift for his teacher “very much defined him.”

“He always thought about how he can express his gratitude. He returned to Jerusalem with the books on him,” he told the Kan public broadcaster. Some media outlets identified the book as Israeli author David Grossman’s latest novel.

He was the son of Yoav Sorek, the editor of the conservative HaShiloach journal, published by the Tikvah Fund.

On Thursday afternoon, Sorek described his son as “a kid with light in his eyes,” adding that “whoever didn’t know him missed out, he used to help the weak around him who were in need of a friend.”

“Our Dvir was sweet,” a tearful Sorek told reporters outside his home. “Two months ago he had a karate exam and he didn’t get a high grade because his teacher said he performs the movements well, but lacks ‘murder’ in his eyes. Now someone with murder in his eyes has taken him.

“We received a gift for almost 19 years — for that gift we are grateful, we will carry the pain from now on,” he said.

“He loved everyone and everyone loved him. He was a symbol of the love of mankind,” his uncle, Menachem Borenstein, told Army Radio, describing his nephew as a “tzaddik,” or righteous man.

Sorek’s grandfather, Rabbi Binyamin Herling, an educator and Holocaust survivor, was killed in a terrorist attack on Mount Ebal in the West Bank in October 2000.

A resident of Ofra, Sorek’s hometown, described him as a “good kid” and “talented musician” who loved nature, in an interview with Army Radio.

Authorities have launched a wide-scale manhunt for the attackers.

Initial findings indicated that Sorek was not killed where his body was found, but may have been abducted elsewhere, stabbed to death and then left along the road outside Migdal Oz.

He will be buried in Ofra on Thursday night at 8 p.m

The article was published on The Times of Israel


YOUNG ACTIVISTS ATTEND BOOT-CAMP TO FIGHT ANTISEMITISM IN EUROPE

EJA chairman: With rising antisemitism directly linked to rising anti-Zionism, the stakes have rarely been higher

A boot-camp for 50 young European activists aimed at fighting antisemitism and anti-Zionism was hosted earlier this week in Brussels by the European Jewish Association (EJA).

Partnering on the event with the Europe Israel Public Affairs and the European Center for Jewish Students, the boot-camp was the first step in “building a Europe-wide network of young and engaged activists,” the EJA said in a statement on Tuesday.

Activists and budding activists who attended came from countries as far as the Ukraine and Iceland, as well as the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.

“The participants represent the first draft of a new ‘officer corps’ of young activists, who will go back to their countries and advocate for Israel, build local armies and effectively counter anti-Zionist and antisemitic narratives, and will be regularly briefed and trained on best practice and campaigns from Brussels and from Israel, as well as sharing knowledge and supporting each other,” it explained.

EJA chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said in a statement following the event that the boot-camp “was an intensive course in advocacy.”

“Across Europe, with rising antisemitism directly linked to rising anti-Zionism, the stakes have rarely been higher,” he explained. “We wanted to inspire, to show these brave young activists that they are not alone, that there is support and to help them build networks, not only for mutual support, but for best practice in countering these antisemitic narratives.”

He added that this boot-camp “is the start of a long journey for these young ‘soldiers,’ and one that will help them lead, encourage and inspire others in the months and years ahead.”

The boot-camp included engagement and classes with experts in these fields, including speakers from StandWithUs, the Strategic Affairs Ministry and the media, including experts from The Guardian newspaper and Euronews.

According to the EJA, “participants got stuck into the basics of lobbying and media relations, whilst Swedish Israel advocate Saskia Pantell shared top tips on best practice and winning on social media.”

Participants also took part in a gala dinner event, in which they heard from Holocaust survivor and president of the Jewish Forum in Antwerp, Regina Suchowolski-Sluzny.

They also viewed videos that highlighted both good and bad interviews, and segments from Palestinian children’s television shows.

The article was published on The JPost


SUMMER BOOTCAMP: PRO-ISRAEL AND COUNTER-ANTISEMITISM

Brussels 8 July. A triumvirate of Brussels-based Jewish and Israel advocacy groups have begun building a Europe-wide army of young and engaged activists, beginning with a Bootcamp that began on Sunday and concluded today (Monday 8 July).

The intensive two-day course from Europe Israel Public Affairs (EIPA) with partners European Jewish Association (EJA) and the European Centre for Jewish Students (ECJS) brought young activists and want-to-be activists to the European Union’s capital from Iceland to Romania and everywhere in between.

With expert speakers from StandWithUs, the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs, and media  experts from the Guardian newspaper and Euronews, participants got stuck into the basics of lobbying and media relations, whilst Swedish Israel advocate Saskia Pantell sharing top tips on best practice and winning on social media.

A gala dinner took place where participants heard from holocaust survivor and president of the Jewish Forum in Antwerp, Regina Suchowolski-Sluzny and watched videos of good and bad interviews and Palestinian children’s tv segments versus Kazakhstan’s infamous Borat.

The participants represent the first draft of a new “officer corps” of young activists, who will go back to their countries and advocate for Israel, build local armies and effectively counter anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic narratives, and will be regularly briefed and trained on best practice and campaigns from Brussels and from Israel, as well as sharing knowledge and supporting each other.

EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said in a statement after the event:

“Our Bootcamp was an intensive course in advocacy. Across Europe, with rising antisemitism directly linked to rising antizionism, the stakes have rarely been higher. The picture from the youth in Scandinavia was particularly shocking. We wanted to inspire, to show these brave young activists that they are not alone, that there is support and to help them build networks, not only for mutual support, but for best practise in countering these antisemitic narratives.

“The bootcamp is the start of a long journey for these young “soldiers”, and one that wil help them lead, encourage and inspire others in the months and years ahead.”

 


Nechama Rivlin, wife of Israel’s president, dies at 73

Mrs. Rivlin underwent lung transplant in March after suffering from pulmonary fibrosis for many years; family thanks people of Israel for their ongoing concern for her health after her operation

Nechama Rivlin, the wife of President Reuven Rivlin, died Tuesday at the age of 73, a day before her 74th birthday.

A statement from the family Tuesday said: “The Rivlin family wishes to thank the people of Israel and religious leaders who have continued to be concerned about Nechama’s welfare, who have sent letters and children’s drawings to the hospital and the President’s Residence and who have prayed for her recovery every day, every hour.”

Details of the funeral have yet to be released.

She was a popular first lady who focused on the arts, the environment and children with special needs, and was a trusted adviser to her husband throughout his long political career as a Likud lawmaker and later president.

Nechama Rivlin was born in 1945 in Tel Mond, a farming community. She began studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1964, and in 1970 met her husband at a party. They were married a year later, and have three children.

Mrs. Rivlin suffered from pulmonary fibrosis for years. In the past year, her condition deteriorated to the extent that she required an oxygen tank at all times.

In March, she underwent a lung transplant at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, receiving the organ of 19-year-old Yair Yechezkel Halbali, who drowned in Eilat days earlier. Nine days after the transplant, she underwent another surgical procedure to support the transplant.

The president did not leave his wife’s bedside during her stay in hospital. In great pain, Mrs. Rivlin had to learn to breathe again. During the rehabilitation process, the medical team created the illusion of her still being attached to an oxygen tank, while in reality she was spending several hours breathing on her own. When she learned of their trick, she was incredulous.

At the beginning of May, Mrs. Rivlin’s condition worsened, leaving her suffering from severe shortness of breath and exhaustion. The president, who was on a state visit to Canada at the time, immediately decided to cut short his trip and retu

the article was published on Ynet


German Parliament Deems B.D.S. Movement Anti-Semitic

BERLIN — The German Parliament on Friday became the first in the European Union to pass a symbolic resolution that designates the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or B.D.S., movement against Israel as anti-Semitic.

The nonbinding vote said the campaign to boycott Israeli products, along with the movement’s “Don’t Buy” stickers, recalled “the most terrible chapter in German history” and revived memories of the Nazi motto “Don’t buy from Jews.”“The pattern of argument and methods of the B.D.S. movement are anti-Semitic,” the resolution stated, vowing not to fund any organizations that question Israel’s right to exist, call for a boycott of Israel or actively support B.D.S.B.D.S., which was inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, has had several recent successes. In 2018, nearly two dozen artists pulled out of a music festival in Israel. Most recently, the B.D.S. movement has called on artists and fans to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest because Israel is the host.The resolution, which mentioned “growing unease” in the German Jewish community as anti-Semitism has increased, was brought to Parliament by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union party and its Social Democratic coalition partner, as well as the liberal party and the Greens.Crime statistics published by the German Interior Ministry on Tuesday showed that anti-Semitic crime and hate crime rose by 20 percent last year. The report found that nine in 10 anti-Semitic offenses were committed by people on the far-right.

The Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee said in a statement Friday that it “rejects all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism” and condemned what it called an “anti-Palestinian, McCarthyite and unconstitutional resolution passed by the German Parliament.”“We call on people of conscience in Germany and beyond to defend the sanctity of universal human rights and freedom of expression by protecting the right to B.D.S.,” the statement read. “The academic and cultural boycott of Israel is strictly institutional and does not target individual Israelis.”There were other critics, too. Some 60 academics signed an open letter, saying the motion formed part of a worrying trend of “labeling supporters of Palestinian human rights as anti-Semitic.”
It said the mixing of the B.D.S and anti-Semitism was supported by “Israel’s most right- wing government in the history” and formed part of a strategy to delegitimize any attempt at international solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel congratulated Parliament, known as the Bundestag, on its “important decision to recognize B.D.S. as an anti-Semitic movement and that it is forbidden to support it.”“I particularly appreciate the Bundestag’s call on Germany to stop funding organizations that work against the existence of the State of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu said, “I hope this decision will lead to concrete action, and I call on other countries to adopt similar legislation.”Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of the Israeli Parliament, tweeted: “Thank you #Bundestag! For the courageous and important decision! BDS is a dangerous, antisemitic movement. You are the first, but many others will follow in your footsteps.”Germany’s Jewish organizations also welcomed the vote.The far-right Alternative für Deutschland had put forward a separate motion on Friday that called for a ban of the B.D.S. movement.One of its lawmakers, Jürgen Braun, said his party was the real friend of Israel in the German Parliament. “Anti-Semitism comes from the left and from Islam,” he said.The AfD abstained in the vote.The Left Party also said it rejected the B.D.S. movement, but it refused to back Friday’s motion. In its own motion, the party called on the government to support efforts to find a peaceful two-state solution in the Middle East.

Ther article was published on The New York Times


Gaza ceasefire apparently in place after violent flare-up that claimed four Israeli lives

Army lifts all restrictions on communities bordering Hamas-ruled enclave following days of heavy fire that saw more than 700 rockets launched at southern, central Israel; 23 Palestinians also killed; mobilized IDF troops still deployed along border
Palestinian officials said an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire agreement was reached with Israel on Monday to end a recent surge of border violence, which saw some 700 rockets fired by Gaza militants into Israeli territory, the bloodiest fighting between the two sides since a 50-day 2014 war.
There was no official ceasefire announcement from either side, but the intense fighting over the past two days appeared to come to a sudden halt in the early morning hours, and Israeli military later said it lifted all protective restrictions on residents in southern Israel. Nevertheless, IDF troops continue to mass at along the Gaza border in preparation for a possible renewal of hostilities.
In the latest round-up of border fighting, which erupted over the weekend, Palestinian militants fired more than 700 rockets into Israel, killing four Israeli civilians, the first Israeli fatalities from rocket fire since 2014 Operation Protective Edge. The Israeli military responded with airstrikes on some 320 targets inside Gaza, which Palestinian medical officials say killed 23 people. IDF said most of those killed in their strikes were militants.

“The ceasefire understanding will begin Monday 04:30,” a Palestinian official familiar with the agreement said. A second Palestinian official confirmed that a deal was reached, as well a TV station belonging to Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist rulers.

The Israeli military confirmed its decision Monday morning, saying: “As of 7 a.m., all protective restrictions in the home front will be lifted.” Schools and roads had been closed, and residents had been encouraged to remain indoors and near bomb shelters as intense rocket fire pounded the area.

Sources in the Gaza Strip say the Palestinian factions are committed to the ceasefire as long as Israel fulfils its part of the agreement reached. Sources added that Hamas has received guarantees from the Egyptian mediators that Israel will transfer to Gaza millions of Qatari financial aid and open the border crossing for entrance of goods and humanitarian aid to the Strip. Israel, for the their part, apparently said the renewal of any type of border violence will affect the term of the agreement.

Egyptian mediators had been working with the United Nations to broker a ceasefire. Under past Egyptian-brokered deals, Israel has agreed to ease a blockade of Gaza in exchange for a halt to rocket fire.

The latest fighting broke out after Palestinian militants accused Israel of not honoring an earlier ceasefire deal from March.

The article was published on Ynet

New Knesset sworn in, Rivlin urges coalition to be ‘ honorable winners’

The president called on MKs to put political strategy behind and ‘clean the dirt’ after elections season; with traditional ceremonies, 120 Knesset members declared their commitment to the State of Israel

Israel’s 21st Knesset was ceremoniously sworn in on Tuesday afternoon, including its 49 new members, while President Reuven Rivlin urged for unity and mutual respect.

Rivlin spoke at the opening ceremony and criticized the heated campaigns that preceded the April 9 elections, and pleaded MKs to put aside all differences, stop slamming their political rivals and have clean and honest debates which he called “the only thing that gives this home (of ours) a right to exist, and its status as a Jewish and democratic country a strong base.”

“We’ve been through a rough campaign season. We’ve slammed others and got slammed ourselves,” said the president. “Enough now. We must rise above, put our swords aside and clean the dirt. Political strategy can no longer be the only the sole compass.”

Rivlin addressed both the coalition and the opposition and shared from his experience on both sides. “It is a great right to serve the people from the opposition, as much as it is a great responsibility,” said the president.

Rivlin cited Menahem Begin, who was the opposition leader for several terms before he became prime minister, and told the crowd that during the swearing in of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in 1963, Begin gave everybody a lesson about the important role of the opposition.

“He (Eshkol) must know that we aspire to move him and his colleagues to the opposition, and it isn’t only our right — it is our duty,” cited the president.

To the opposition Rivlin said they must be “honorable winners.”

“You are not in the opposition, you have been holding the reins of power and leadership for a long time now,” said the president, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 5th term in office.

“It is your duty to stop trying to finish off you rivals, let go of the victimhood, and reign with respect and love over all the different kind of citizens who live here,” Rivlin concluded.

After all 120 MKs stood up and declared their commitment to serve, the national anthem, Hatikva, was sung by all but the Arab parties, who did not participate and left the hall.

 

The article was published on Ynet


Dutch parliament adopts motion to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority as long as it rewards terrorists

THE HAGUE—The Dutch Parliament has voted a motion calling on the government to cut 7% of Dutch funding to the Palestinian Authority.

MP Kees van der Staaij, from the Christian Reformed Political Party (SGP), had submitted a proposal to stop the financial contributions to the Palestinian Authority (PA), as long as it continues to reward terrorists.

The cut of 7% was chosen after monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) provided the parliament with documentation showing that the PA spends 7% of its budget on payments to terrorists in jail and to families of killed terrorists (“Martyrs”).

The Dutch motion is binding unless the PA stops these payments.

Van der Staaij came to this motion after a conversation with terror survivor Kay Wilson. She pointed out that the Palestinian Authority indoctrinates Palestinians with hatred and that terrorists are rewarded by the PA for their crimes.

The PA recently added four new families of terrorists to its growing terror rewards payroll. One terrorist shot a pregnant woman, forcing an emergency delivery, but the newborn son died a few days later. Another terrorist murdered two of his Israeli coworkers. The other two terrorists were killed while attempting to kill Israelis. The families of the four terrorists will now receive monthly allowances for life.

In July 2014 following a previous presentation by PMW to Dutch MPs, the parliament voted 148-2 to cut funding to the PA if it continued paying salaries to terrorists. However, the cut never happened because the PA deceived Western donors by closing the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs and claiming the payments were made by the PLO from non-donor money.

When PMW exposed the PA fraud, in 2016, the international community was outraged. This led to the US Taylor Force Act, in March 2018, which conditions most of US aid to the PA, and to the Australian government’s decision, in July 2018, to cut all its direct aid to the PA. This is the first time since PMW exposed the PA’s deception in 2016 that a European country has legislated to cut funding because of the PA’s payments to terrorists.

The article was published on EJP


Human Shields, Complex Realities of the Modern Battlefield.

Child killer, organ harvester, Nazi, Occupier, blood thirsty murderers. These are just some of the words some people use to describe the soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces.

As a pro-Israel advocacy group here in Brussels, you would quite rightly expect us to take a completely different view.

And we do. We support the Israel Defence Forces, for any number of reasons. And we find the insults thrown at them disgusting and reprehensible, particularly as those accusing them have no idea what they are talking about, nor the reality on the ground for these brave men and women.

So, when the opportunity came, EIPA was delighted to partner with My Truth, an organisation of serving IDF reserve soldiers who wanted, like us, to inform and share their stories.

The “Human Shields” project of My Truth, which we presented to the European Parliament this week, describes the cynical use made by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups, of their civilian population as human shields. “A terrorist who throws a grenade under the cover of small children, or women who stand in the line of fire to absorb the fire themselves are few examples of the human rights violations committed by the terror organizations,” says Avihai Shorshan, My Truth’s director.

“We want to tell the whole world who are the real war criminals in this conflict. We must put an end to the slanders and lies being levelled against our soldiers around the world,” he added.

Our event, kindly sponsored by EPP MEP Ramona Manescu and Socialist MEP Andi Cristea, was aimed at getting an understanding beyond the clichés and emotional rhetoric. 

None of us really know what goes on in a conflict, and thank goodness most of us will never have to.

We may agree or disagree with the conflict, but what isn’t up for debate are the experiences in dealing with human shields, with an enemy that doesn’t respect basic humanity, and that put their own citizens in the way of harm cynically and deliberately.

We were delighted to see a packed room, where parliamentarians including senior figures like Victor Bostinaru and Fulvio Martusciello attended and spoke freely, underlining that the EU must do more to counter the terrorist narratives.

A lively question and answer session followed with EU diplomats and members of the European External Action service, for the first time, having the opportunity to ask soldiers directly of their experiences instead of getting filtered news.

EIPA would like to thank Gilad Segal, Eli Bogdan, Lital Shemesh and Avihai Shorshan for having the courage and tenacity to address the European Parliament, an institution that is often behind many ill-informed resolutions and positions on Israel on the realities faced by an enemy that doesn’t adhere to the most basic and common moral or legal conventions.

It is our firm intention to work with My Truth again again after the European Elections so they can give their testimonies again to a new generation of parliamentarians and their staffers from across the EU Member States.


Israel’s first lunar lander launched into space from Florida

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Thursday night carrying Israel’s first lunar lander on a mission that if successful will make the Jewish state only the fourth nation to achieve a controlled touchdown on the moon’s surface.

The unmanned robotic lander dubbed Beresheet – Hebrew for the biblical phrase “in the beginning” – soared into space from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 8:45 p.m. EST (0145 GMT Friday) atop the 23-story-tall rocket.

Beresheet, about the size of a dish-washing machine, was one of three sets of cargo carried aloft by the Falcon 9, part of the private rocket fleet of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s California-based company SpaceX.

The rocket’s two other payloads were a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

Beresheet was jettisoned into Earth orbit about 34 minutes after launch, followed 15 minutes later by the release of the two satellites, according to a SpaceX webcast of the event.

In addition to a textbook launch and payload deployments, SpaceX scored yet another success in its pioneering technology for recycling its own rockets.

Just minutes after blastoff, the Falcon 9’s nine-engine suborbital main-stage booster separated from the upper stage, flew back to Earth and landed safely on a drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean more than 300 miles (483 km) off the Florida coast.

As seen from the launch site, the distant glow of the returning booster rocket was visible in the sky just as the moon appeared over the horizon. The spectacle drew cheers from mission control engineers.

The encouraging moment came on the eve of a key hurdle for SpaceX to clear in the company’s quest to help NASA revive its human spaceflight program.

On Friday, NASA is expected to decide whether to give its final go-ahead to SpaceX for a first, unmanned test flight on March 2 of a new capsule the company designed for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

FROM EARTH TO THE MOON

Beresheet is slated to reach its destination on the near-side of the moon in mid-April following a two-month journey through 4 million miles (6.5 million km) of space.

A flight path directly from Earth to the moon would cover roughly 240,000 miles (386,242 km), but Beresheet will follow a more circuitous route.

If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft’s gradually widening Earth orbit will eventually bring the probe within the moon’s gravitational pull, setting the stage for a series of additional maneuvers leading to an automated touchdown.

So far, only three other nations have carried out controlled “soft” landings on the moon – the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

Spacecraft from several countries, including India’s Moon Impact Probe, Japan’s SELENE orbiter and a European Space Agency orbital probe called SMART 1, have intentionally crashed on the lunar surface.

The U.S. Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon – the only ones yet achieved – between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more robotic landings combined by the Americans and Soviets. China made history in January with its Chang’e 4, the first to touch down on the dark side of the moon.

Beresheet would mark the first non-government lunar landing. The 1,290-pound (585-kg) spacecraft was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $100 million furnished almost entirely by private donors.A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Israel’s first spacecraft designed to land on the moon lifts off on the first privately-funded lunar mission at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Beresheet is designed to spend just two to three days using on-board instruments to photograph its landing site and measure the moon’s magnetic field. Data will be relayed via the U.S. space agency NASA’s Deep Space Network to SpaceIL’s Israel-based ground station Yehud.

At the end of its brief mission, mission controllers plan to simply shut down the spacecraft, according to SpaceIL officials, leaving Beresheet as the latest piece of human hardware to litter the lunar landscape.

The article was published on Reuters


Leaders of Visegrad Group, Most Pro-Israel Nations in EU, to Meet in Jerusalem

Leaders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland will meet in Jerusalem in February for the next Visegrad Group summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to strengthen their alliance with Israel.

This will be the first time that a Visegrad Group summit is held outside of Europe.

The four leaders—Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki, Slovakia’s Peter Pellegrini, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and the Czech Republic’s Andrej Babis—will meet on Feb. 18-19 in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu already attended the Visegrad Group summit in Budapest in 2017, during which he criticized the EU’s policy towards Israel.

The Israeli premier has been fostering closer ties with the Visegrad Group countries in order to advance pro-Israel issues at the EU level.

“The Visegrad Group is one of the sub-alliances that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is developing in the EU to neutralize what he views as an anti-Israel bias from Brussels,” wrote The Jerurusalem Post.

Both the Czech Republic and Hungary  blocked any EU resolution to condemn the controversial move decided by US President Donald Trump.

The Visegrad Group (also known as the “Visegrad Four,” or simply “V4”) reflects the efforts of the countries of the Central European region to work together in a number of fields of common interest within the all-European integration.

Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have always been part of a single civilization sharing cultural and intellectual values and common roots in diverse religious traditions, which they wish to preserve and further strengthen.

The article was published by the Algemeiner


New IDF chief Aviv Kochavi takes office

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi becomes the Israel Defense Forces’ 22nd commander; ‘To defend our national home, we need a sobered outlook, a fit military force, the willingness to use that force, discretion and determination,’ says Kochavi.

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi entered the office of the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff on Tuesday morning in the beginning of a new era.

The 22nd IDF chief started his day with a ceremony at the Kirya IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he received the rank of lieutenant general from Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“‘I swear.’ This is what I called out alongside my fellow soldiers in front of the Western Wall, which was for us a wall of support and protection. It has been 2,000 years, and this wall of protection has expanded and become the Israel Defense Force. I swore in front of generations of soldiers and became another link in the chain of generations that come each in turn to defend the state,” the new IDF chief Kochavi said.

“‘I swear,’ every soldier calls out, and packs into these two words the relinquishing of the private for the national. The national home is a wonderful creation like no other in the history of nations, but it is planted in a region that for religious and national reasons is trying to reject its natural roots. To defend our national home, we need a sobered outlook, a fit military force, the willingness to use that force, discretion and determination,” he said.

To his predecessor Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Kochavi said, “In this spirit, Gadi, the IDF acted under your leadership and has repeatedly proven its abilities as the defender of the borders and the interior, using its long arm to destroy any threats. During your tenure, the IDF bolstered its units and increased its preparedness. I stand at the head of the military and on behalf of all of its soldiers and commanders, I thank and salute you.”

Concluding his remarks, Kochavi went back to his sworn oath at the beginning of his service in the IDF. “Like every soldier in his swear-in ceremony, I vowed at the time to dedicate all of my efforts to defending the homeland. Now, as the head of the General Staff, while I have national security and the good of the state before me, I make a new vow. There is much work to be done, good luck to us all,” Kochavi said.

Eisenkot summed up his own service in his remarks. “At the end of 40 years of service and four years as the IDF chief, I conclude a path that became my life’s mission,” he said.

Describing his objectives as IDF chief, Eisenkot said he sought to leave behind “a fit, prepared and powerful military that bolstered its strength with wisdom and determination.”

To Kochavi, Eisenkot said, “Proudly I seek to pass on to you the command over the most precious asset of our nation—the Israel Defense Forces. The command over the military is passed on today to you, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, a commander worthy like no other to stand at the head of the Israel Defense Forces.”

“The military I give to you today is advanced and remains true to its roots and spirit. Over the many years in which we worked together in the field and in the General Staff, it has been my privilege to get to know you as a commander with immense fortitude and leadership and command abilities. Your determination and extensive experience will be dedicated in full to bolstering the IDF’s preparedness and strength, maintaining its character and values, and nurturing the pride in the heart of its soldiers.”

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Netanyahu began his remarks by thanking Eisenkot for his 40 years of service.

“Over the past four years, we have dealt with great challenges: the changing fronts in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and other places. But there has also been on main element facing us: Iran and its terror proxies. We acted responsibly and with discretion to stop those who seek to harm us from growing stronger,” Netanyahu said.

“All of the actions we’ve taken in recent years to build up the IDF’s power were meant to bolster the military’s readiness and achieve one goal: victory in war. And the stronger we are, the more we increase the chances of peace,” he said.

Netanyahu boasted about the warming ties with Muslim nations, saying that “Thanks to our intelligence, operational and technological capabilities, our ties with the Arab world are growing stronger than ever before. Leading Muslim nations are getting closer to us. They realize we’re not their enemy, but a vital ally to lean on. By growing our military, our economy and our diplomacy, we have turned Israel into a rising world power.”

Eisenkot, he said, was a part of it as he met with his counterparts from Arab nations.

“Lt. Gen. Kochavi, you have a red beret on your shoulder, which symbolizes the special spirit of the Paratroopers: the steadfastness, the order ‘after me,’ and constantly striving for excellence,” he said.

“As an experienced military leader, you will now carry the grave responsibility of ensuring that the IDF fulfills its missions,” Netanyahu said. “The objective is clear: To ensure our superiority over our enemies and to increase the qualitative edge we have over them. First, we’ll work to bolster our offensive capabilities even more. We will ensure we have a crushing fist to attack our enemies with, both close and far.”

Concluding his remarks, the prime minister said that “if we are prepared to defend our country with all of our might, we might not have to fight an all-out war. And if we do, the IDF will handle this challenge, as will the citizens of Israel who will be united, and together we will ensure Israel’s eternal existence.”

Kochavi and Eisenkot will later travel to Jerusalem to visit the National Hall of Remembrance on Mount Herzl and the Western Wall, and then have lunch at the President’s Residence. After that, Kochavi will join the IDF’s General Staff for a toast and a goodbye from Eisenkot at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv, including an honorary guard for the outgoing IDF chief.

Kochavi, who was born in 1964, grew up in Kiryat Bialik. He is the second of the three children of the late Riba, who was a physical education teacher, and Shaul, a shop owner.

He began his IDF service in the Paratroopers’ Brigade, excelled at infantry officers’ course and went on to serve as the commander of the 101st Battalion, the commander of the Paratroopers’ Brigade, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate (MID), the GOC Northern Command, and the deputy IDF chief. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a master’s from Harvard University.

The article was published on Ynet


Knesset voting on dissolving parliament, paving the way for April 9 elections

Lawmakers expected to pass law in all three readings on Wednesday, setting the stage for a three-month campaign leading up to the national poll

Three and a half years after its first sitting following the 2015 elections, the 20th Knesset is set to come to an end on Wednesday as lawmakers vote on a bill to dissolve parliament and set new elections for April 9.

A day after government ministers approved pushing ahead with the move, the Knesset will be host to a frantic series of committee debates and votes on the bill to dissolve parliament in an attempt to complete work on the move by the end of the day and officially start the election campaign for the 2019 election.

According to the decision of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, the bill — which is expected to pass by a large margin — will face all three plenary readings on Wednesday in an accelerated legislative move reserved for emergency measures.

The first business of the day therefore began at 9.30 when members of the Knesset House Committee gathered to pass a motion allowing the dissolution bill to be pushed through the Knesset in one day and not be subject to the six-week waiting period that regular legislation normally faces after being proposed

Following the unanimous vote in favor of the motion, the bill now faces a first plenary debate and vote currently scheduled for 11 a.m. If the vote passes, the bill will return to the House Committee for final deliberations before once again being sent back to the plenum.

In the plenary’s second session, the bill faces two separate votes: the first on each of the two clauses in the bill, and the second on the bill as a whole. If the final vote passes with even a simple majority of 1-0, the Knesset will automatically disperse.

The first clause of the no-frills bill states the 20th Knesset will “dissolve itself ahead of elections,” and the second sets the date, agreed upon by coalition and opposition parties, for April 9th.

While the bill is not expected to face opposition, it could be held up by the head of the Knesset House Committee, MK Miki Zohar, who on Tuesday called for delaying the dissolution of the Knesset, arguing that lawmakers need more time to pass essential legislation before the elections and suggesting that he will use his position to block the bill.

Zohar cited two laws he said needed to be passed before the Knesset dissolves — his own bill to limit access to pornography online and a proposal by Likud MK Amir Ohana to ease access to the Israeli bar exam.

While elections have traditionally been held at least 90 days after the dissolution of the Knesset, by law, there is no minimum waiting period. If the Knesset votes to dissolve Wednesday, it will leave 105 days until elections, while immediately freezing any bills working their way through the Knesset.

Given the 15-day cushion, Zohar said there was no need to rush the bill to dissolve parliament and prevent legislative work from continuing.

“The Knesset must serve the State of Israel and not the politicians,” he said, telling his colleagues to “open up your calendars and set the date accordingly.”

Zohar, an acolyte of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has proposed and overseen a number of controversial pieces of legislation. said that the parliament should remain in full swing until the last possible opportunity, which falls on January 9.

According to Knesset bylaws, as chairman of the committee which would oversee the preparation of the bill, Zohar could in theory hold up the proposal indefinitely with no obligation to hold a vote within any specified time frame.

Speaking at Wednesday morning’s committee meeting, Zohar said that he agrees with the date of the national poll, but thinks the Knesset should wait to officially call elections.

“The date has been agreed upon by all factions and I support it,” he said at the opening of the debate. “But there are tax laws that are very important to those who sent us here and we can finalize the legislation on a number key issues.”

Coalition chairman David Amsalem, however, said that the bill to dissolve parliament would be passed in all three readings Wednesday and other legislation would be passed during special recess sessions that can be called during the election campaign.

Netanyahu on Monday called the early elections for April, setting the stage for a campaign clouded by a series of corruption investigations against the long-serving Israeli leader.

With the Likud leader holding a commanding lead in the polls, all eyes are on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and whether he will decide before the elections on whether to press charges against the longtime leader on a series of corruption allegations.

A first major round of polls on Tuesday found that Netanyahu is the strong favorite to win the upcoming race, though he is not hugely popular among voters.

The polls found that most Israelis do not think Netanyahu should be the next prime minister, though even fewer think any one of his rivals should be. In Israel’s multi-party system, however, even middling support is usually enough to win the premiership.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Israeli anti-drone system used to re-open London’s Gatwick Airport

Costly, humiliating shutdown continues, after another drone is spotted amid unsuccessful police manhunt.

Another drone sighting forced London’s Gatwick airport runway to close again on Friday, as the 3-day long saga continues.

Police were still unsuccessfully looking for perpetrators in a disturbance that grounded flights in the second-busiest airport in the United Kingdom on Wednesday and Thursday, although British media favored the option of a lone-wolf environmentalist attack.

The airport has been in an ongoing dispute with its neighbors and environmental groups about expansion.

Planes were suspended on Wednesday night after a member of staff spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) above the runway.

More than 110,000 had been affected by the closure, in one of the busiest weeks of the year.

Gatwick was only able to re-open after military reinforcements were brought in on Thursday.

They came with technology that was used to defeat ISIS in Syria, which the Daily Mail identified as the Israeli-made Drone Dome.

It uses radar technology to spot a drone, and a frequency jammer in order to cut the vehicle from its pilot, and bring it down to the ground softly.

The UK purchased six of the system, unveiled in 2016, in August for Middle-East operations, at a cost of close to US$ 3.3 million each.

Drone Dome is manufactured by government-owned Rafael Systems, which has specialized in cutting-edge weapon interception systems.

– Potential catastrophe –

Aviation chiefs are going to be on a steep learning curve to counter the security threat posed by drones after the costly and humiliating shutdown of Gatwick.

The fear is that if a drone smashed into a passenger plane or was sucked up into one of its engines, its highly flammable lithium battery could cause a catastrophe.

In 2016, the European Aviation Safety Agency logged 1,400 drone incidents in Europe, up from 606 between 2011 and 2015.

Deputies in the European Parliament approved EU-wide regulations on the use of drones, but still need formal approval from European ministers before taking effect.

But finding high-tech solutions to the drone threat in airport presents particular challenges, says Lucas Le Bell, founder of the start-up Cerbair that specialises in tackling the drone problem.

The noise levels at airports, the security requirements and the saturated level of communications make the task much harder.

His team is working on isolating the frequencies used to control drones, so they can not only detect and locate the devices but take control of them.

Elsewhere in France meanwhile, Mont-de Marsan airbase in the southwest has been working on a more low-tech solution.

The airforce, inspired by a similar experiment in the Netherlands, has been training golden eagles to search and destroy the intruders.

But that system still needs work: earlier this year, one of the eagles attacked a girl after mistaking her vest for the enemy.

The article was published on I24 website


Operation Northern Shield Could Reshape Israel’s Northern Front

The recent discovery of Hezbollah’s invasion tunnels has removed a critical component of the organization’s — and Iran’s — plan for war against Israel. The discovery robbed them of the ability to surprise Israel through an offensive (under)ground assault into Israeli territory, which was to be a central element in creating a shock to the Israeli psyche and challenge to the country’s security. Israel’s aggressive measures are compelling Hezbollah and Iran to reassess their perception of the entire conflict.

In addition, the raids have again embarrassed Iran and its proxies because they exhibit Israel’s superior level of intelligence, following the exposure of Iran’s nuclear archive.

The question right now is to what extent Israel will succeed in leveraging this intelligence disclosure to turn the situation on the northern border to its advantage, with an emphasis on the following objectives:

1. Teaching Lebanon and the international arena that Hezbollah, as an Iranian proxy, is not the “shield of Lebanon,” but in reality a huge danger to that country. Hezbollah is developing strong offensive capabilities against Israel from within Lebanese civilian facilities, and is even working beyond the international border (inside Israeli territory) to serve Iranian interests only. Hezbollah acts in a manner that is a clear violation of Israeli sovereignty and justifies a sharp Israeli response that will cause harm to the country of Lebanon and its citizens. Israel’s recent activity should also be presented as an Israeli effort to prevent damage to Lebanon. The ones putting Lebanon in danger are Hezbollah and Iran, while the one who is looking after it is Israel.

2. Increasing the deterrence against Iran and Hezbollah so that they will be reluctant to continue their attempts to find new ways to threaten Israel, such as improving the accuracy of their rockets and building infrastructure on the Golan Heights.

3. Educating Europe that any attempt to differentiate between the military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah is ridiculous. Does anyone really believe that a handful of rebellious, diligent Hezbollah terrorists decided independently to dig a complex system of tunnels, which demanded so many resources and extended into Israeli territory? It is amazing to see how the Europeans have confirmed the existence of the tunnels and expressed their support for Israel’s right to destroy them, yet refuse to blame Hezbollah and acknowledge that there is no distinction between the military and political wings of the organization. A change in the European position would lead to a significant shift in Hezbollah’s ability to manipulate the Lebanese system, and would penalize it with the heavy and appropriate price they should pay for their violation of Israeli sovereignty.

4. Encouraging UNIFIL to finally implement UN Resolution 1701, asserting that only the Lebanese army is allowed to operate in southern Lebanon, and to make use of the extension of its mandate that it received in 2016. So far, UNIFIL has confirmed the existence of the tunnels, but it has refrained from asserting that Hezbollah has thereby significantly violated Israel’s sovereignty.

5. Intensifying focus on Iran’s role as the master dictating Hezbollah’s activities. It is clear that the buildup of Hezbollah’s forces, especially since the Second Lebanon War, including the invasion tunnels, is intended to serve Iranian purposes and enable Iran to strike at Israel.

The high media profile that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot have given to this operation is intended to influence international, Israeli, Arab, Lebanese, and Iranian opinion. However, it needs to be accompanied by diplomatic activity to achieve these objectives. The problem is that European cynicism is creating a significant obstacle to realizing these goals, and the tense relationship between the United States and Europe is eroding the power of American leverage in this regard.

The article was published on The Algemeiner


EU condemns Hamas’ death sentences

European Union condemns sentencing of six Gazans to death for “collaborating” with Israel.

The European Union (EU) on Tuesday condemned the sentencing of six Gazans to death for “collaborating” with Israel.

A military court in Hamas-run Gaza on Monday sentenced six people, including a woman, to death by hanging over the alleged spying for Israel. In total 14 people were sentenced for “collaborating with the occupation”.

The heads of EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah said in a statement quoted by the Xinhua news agency that they strongly reject the death penalty, no matter what the circumstances are.

“The abolition of the death penalty contributes to the protection of human dignity and to the progress and development of human rights,” said the statement, which denounced the death sentences as “cruel and inhumane.”

The EU statement added that “death penalty does not constitute a deterrent to criminal conduct and constitutes an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.”

It called on Hamas rulers in Gaza “to refrain from executing any death sentence against the prisoners.”

Hamas regularly claims to have captured “Israeli spies”, and many times it tries them and sentences them to death.

In theory all execution orders in the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) territories must be approved by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in Ramallah and who imposed a moratorium on executions several years ago.

Hamas no longer recognizes Abbas’ legitimacy, and has in the past emphatically declared that the death penalty in Gaza can be carried out without his consent.

In October, the group claimed to have exposed and arrested a Palestinian Arab who had worked as an intelligence agent for Israel for 15 years.

In March, the group claimed it had arrested a local man who had been working as a “spy” for Israel and who intended to convince Gazans not to take part in a violent protest march along the Gaza-Israel border.

Last April, the group hanged three men accused of collaborating with Israel in the killing of senior Hamas commander Mazen Faqha.

The article was published on Arutz 7


“Totally Unacceptable”: EU Slams Iran’s Rouhani for Calling Israel a “Cancerous Tumor”

The European Union slammed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s reference to Israel as a “cancerous tumor,” calling the description “totally unacceptable,” The Times of Israel reported Monday.

“President Rouhani’s remarks bringing into question Israel’s legitimacy are totally unacceptable,” a spokesperson for the EU said in an official statement. “They are also incompatible with the need to address international disputes through dialogue and international law.”

The statement further said that the EU “reiterates its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to current and emerging threats in the region.”

Similarly, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted, “I strongly condemn the recent unacceptable statements by President Rouhani relating to Israel. It is absolutely unacceptable when Israel’s right to exist is questioned or Israel’s destruction is being urged.”

“Because of our historical responsibility, the decisive combat against all forms of anti-Semitism and the support for Israel are especially important to us. For Austria, Israel’s security is non-negotiable,” Kurz added.

Rouhani had made the remarks in a speech Saturday addressing the 32nd annual International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran. Throughout the speech, the Iranian president inveighed against the United States and Israel, saying, “We will win against Zionism and the US if we become united.”

In an early section of the speech, Rouhani said, “One of the most important effects of World War II was the formation of a cancerous tumour in the region.”

He then elaborated, “They deployed a power in the region that completely obeys the West in regional matters,” and added, “They formed the fake Israeli regime and killed and displaced the historical nation of Palestine.”

Germany’s Foreign Office also issued a statement rejecting Rouhani’s remarks and condemned them “in the strongest possible terms.” The statement further asserted that “Israel’s right to exist cannot be called into question and is non-negotiable.”

In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that Rouhani “has once again called for Israel’s destruction.” Referring to Rouhani’s references to Israel as a “cancerous tumor,” and a “fake regime,” Pompeo charged that “such statements inflame tensions in the region by seemingly calling for war.”

“At an international conference on Islamic unity, Rouhani also encouraged Muslims worldwide to unite against the United States,” Pompeo continued. “This is a dangerous and irresponsible step that will further deepen Iran’s isolation.”

The secretary also observed that the current Iranian regime “has badly represented” the people of Iran, and that “the people have suffered under this tyranny for far too long.”

The article was published in The Tower


Iran’s great nuclear deception

New details are revealed about the Mossad’s special operation to seize Iran’s nuclear archive, including a rare glimpse into Tehran’s classified documents: secret tests, a plan to manufacture the first 5 nuclear bombs, and even a photo of proud Iranian scientists outside a nuclear facility. This is the story of how Iran tried to deceive the world… and almost got away with it.

In the middle of the last night of January 2018, Mossad agents broke into a secret vault on the outskirts of Tehran, while their commanders watched from afar. The agents encountered an unexpected problem, a “rich people problems,” according to a person familiar with the details of the operation.

The large room contained 32 huge Iranian-made safes, each 2.7 meters in height. The safes were loaded onto heavy container-like installations, on wheels that can carry massive weight.

The documents were secreted behind two different doors—a heavy iron door inside the facility and another iron door equipped with an alarm system and cameras at the facility’s exterior wall.

This is where the Iranian Ministry of Defense decided to keep one of the greatest secrets of the Islamic Republic. In fact, only a handful of people in Iran even knew that the Iranian nuclear archive was inside this warehouse, in the heart of a sleepy suburb in the capital.

But it did not remain a secret.

The agents knew how to disable the alarm system and break through the iron doors, but they also knew they did not have time to break into all the safes. They would have to make do with less than ten, and look for three types of folders: those containing Iran’s correspondence with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); those detailing the construction of nuclear sites and acquisition of nuclear equipment; and most importantly, those detailing the design and production of the nuclear warhead (which has never been completed).

But then, inside the safes’ room, agents found something else, besides folders: CDs, piles of them—a massive amount of DVDs and computer discs, most of them unmarked.

So what the hell were they going to do now? Should they ignore the potential secrets these CDs may hold? Or take a calculated risk with a new variable that might complicate the operation? The agents received an explicit order from the command room: take everything, including the CDs.

At one minute to five in the morning, the agents left the warehouse. When the break-in was discovered, about 12,000 Iranian security personnel went on the pursuit in an attempt to figure out who stole the nuclear archive from under their noses.

In the end, despite the unexpected piles of CDs, all of the material was extracted from Iran, and no one got caught. The Iranians could only guess who was behind the heist, but until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s famous press conference on April 30, they didn’t know for sure what really happened to “the filthy secrets of the Iranian regime,” as dubbed by Mossad director Yossi Cohen.

A few weeks later, when the material arrived in Israel, dozens of translators, experts and analysts—assisted by Persian speakers from Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate’s (MID) Unit 8200—started digging through the piles of material. It was then that it became clear how important was the decision to risk everything and take the CDs.

The written material comprises of 114 folders, containing more than 55,000 pages, of which 8,500 were handwritten documents, many of them authored by senior government officials, and some by nuclear personnel who died in operations attributed to the Mossad.

But the biggest surprise was the massive amount of information stored in the 182 disks. A Mossad case officer told me he would have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for one CD like this.

The Iranians documented everything: the equipment, the construction of secret plants and sites, the experiments, detailed presentations on the project’s progress, goals and stages, and even themselves, during nuclear experiments.

The bottom line is clear: it was a mega-scam, a state-level deception, in which senior Iranian officials and hundreds of others have taken part for years.

For two decades, Iran denied having a military nuclear program. But the contents of the safes tell a different story, a completely different and undeniable account: for years, Iran has been engaged in a covert nuclear project aimed at producing five nuclear bombs, with a yield of 10 kilotons each. And this was only stage one.

According to a Western intelligence source, “over the years, we have seen all sorts of programs, but we have not always understood their overall context. Until we saw these documents, we didn’t really understand how projects that were part of AMAD (the secret project’s code name—RB) were translated into secret projects under the Ministry of Defense, or open projects with a hidden agenda within SPAND (the later, public name, of the project—RB). The material Israel had obtained solved these mysteries.”

“The sweeping Iranian denial “is really comical at this point,” the source added.

The documents don’t just expose the Iranians’ deceit. It also demonstrates the weakness of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which Iran signed and the IAEA failed to enforce.

The archives show that under the UN agency’s nose—despite repeat warnings, the information obtained by the Mossad and other espionage agencies, and media exposés—Iran has succeeded in conducting a secret military nuclear program over a long period of time (and Israel claims Tehran continues to do so even today).

Iran continues to deny everything even now; claiming the entire story of the seized archive is fabricated and serves an Israeli-American agenda aimed at canceling the nuclear agreement. This response was to be expected. What might have been less predictable is the lukewarm international response to the material uncovered in the Israeli operation.

The reactions ranged from claims the material was “old news” to assertions it does not uncover any “smoking guns” to prove Iran is currently violating the nuclear agreement.

But if the Islamic Republic is not violating or planning to violate the agreement, why keep such a detailed archive allowing Iran to resume its nuclear effort from where it left off (assuming they actually stopped)?

For many years Israel, the United States, France, Britain and Germany have been collecting intelligence about the Iranian nuclear project. Some of this material has been handed to the IAEA over time in the hopes it would provoke an appropriate response. The intelligence gathered was classified by the IAEA into 12 different topics— referred to as “the PMD,” the acronym for “Possible Military Dimensions”— each depicting research, production or other experiments related to the bomb.

Over the years, Iran has vehemently denied dealing with any of these topics. The condition for signing the nuclear agreement was that Iran would make a full disclosure of its progress in each of the 12 PMD issues. Before signing the agreement, Yukiya Amano, the Japanese diplomat who heads the IAEA, promised senior Israeli officials, according to their testimony, that “he will never sign the deal” before receiving satisfactory answers on all 12 topics.

At the end of 2015, Amano published a report practically accepting the Iranian denial of ever having a military nuclear project. Now, in light of the material discovered by the Mossad, it appears his report was based on false information.

The intelligence uncovered in the operation was revealed to the Americans, the Chinese, the Russians, the French, the British, the Germans, and of course to IAEA officials.

With the exception of the US (and, of course, Israel), it seems the world wasn’t floored by the discoveries, and Amano himself has kept quiet.

This is despite the fact that the sensitive material includes documentation of advanced stages of practical field research, experiments and timetables for the production of an atomic bomb and its adaptation to the warhead of the long-range Shahab ballistic missile.

Holger Stark, the deputy editor of the German Die Zeit newspaper, contacted the IAEA in Vienna for a response. The agency refused to comment.

Quite a lot has been written about the Mossad operation. However, media reports in Israel and abroad dealt less with the archive itself, and more with the difficult questions it poses.

Here is a glimpse into the secret intelligence gathered from Iran’s safes room. These are the facts; the questions they raise are for the world to answer.

The scientists

So what is this “Iranian nuclear archive” that Mossad agents managed to transport thousands of kilometers, all the way to Israel?

Iran’s secret military nuclear program began to take shape in 1992 or 1993, when the Iranians became interested in acquiring technologies for the production and operation of centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Tehran acquired much of its knowledge from Pakistan’s nuclear project director, Abdul Qadeer Khan, and later from other elements, some of them Chinese.

The first centrifuges were designed at a site called Damāwand. Israel warned the international community about the construction of the nuclear enrichment facility, so Iran decided to dismantle it and build another one in its stead.

This was the site that would later become well known, the Natanz nuclear facility. In internal Iranian documents, the site was called “Kashan,” and it houses an increasing number of centrifuges.

At first, Israel was alone in its intelligence campaign against Iran. The intelligence it brought to the attention of IAEA and Western countries was greeted with indifference. Even the United States failed to act at first, and didn’t recognize the authenticity or the importance of the material the Mossad collected on Iran. Only at a later stage, when intelligence ties with Israel strengthened and additional information about Kashan was brought to their attention did the Americans start to act.

Meanwhile, the Iranians secretly set up their military program to produce an atomic bomb, entitled “The AMAD Project.”

Who gave the orders? This is one question the archive answers unequivocally: the Iranian leadership. The material does not include direct instructions from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who, after strongly denying that Iran has a nuclear program, apparently made sure his name will not be tied to the project. Nevertheless, the archive contains, without doubt, documents signed by the defense minister at the time and current Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani.

And he’s not alone. “The plan was approved by the Cognitive Sciences and Technologies Council,” the header of one document states. This is a codename for the senior group of executives who manage Project AMAD, which included the president at the time, Mohammad Khatami; then-head of the Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rouhani (the current Iranian president); then-Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani; and the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) at the time, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh.

So what is the purpose of the AMAD Project? The answer to this question too can be found in the archive. According to the material obtained in the Mossad operation, the Iranian plan is to produce five warheads with a yield of 10 kilotons each, and develop the ability to assemble these warheads on the Iranian-made Shahab 3 missile.

Incidentally, nuclear experts who examined the documents say that the Iranian leaders’ plan lays out far more extensive infrastructure than what is needed to produce “only” five bombs.

The making of a nuclear bomb and the ability to launch it is a very complex project that requires a state effort and coordination between all Iranian army and intelligence forces.

One particularly colorful presentation, which was discovered in one of the CDs, shows the complexity of the Iranian nuclear project. According to the presentation, the plan is based on a joint effort of various Iranian bodies: the Intelligence Ministry, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (including its Aerospace Force), and the Quds Force—the Guards’ secret unit, which is currently waging war with Israel at the Syrian border.

The documents mention time and again the person who is both the manager and the brains behind the nuclear program—Prof. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. The nuclear archive includes countless documents with Fakhrizadeh’s signature, including documents addressed to him, or approved by him.

For example, one letter addressed to Fakhrizadeh, dated January 19, 2001, and written by the director of the explosive mechanism developing team, delineates a long list of features needed to fit the mechanism to the rest of the nuclear bomb (which is comprised of numerous parts). Fakhrizadeh thanked the director at the bottom of his letter and gave him further instructions.

According to foreign media reports, Israel considered Fakhrizadeh as a preferred target for intelligence gathering, and even seriously considered harming him, especially during the tenure of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and the late Mossad director Meir Dagan. Since Fakhrizadeh is still alive, the assassination plan has yet to materialize. It appears Olmert decided to halt the operation, and so Fakhrizadeh’s life was spared. If the former prime minister is indeed behind such a decision, there are those who to this day believe it was a mistake.

However, someone—Iranian intelligence sure it was the Mossad—was able to reach various Iranian nuclear scientists whose names appear in the seized documents.

In his handwriting, Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, a senior nuclear program official, inscribes a long technical document to Fakhrizadeh, who replied at length.

Dr. Abbasi-Davani is the Chair of the physics department at Tehran’s Imam Hossein University and a key figure in Iran’s nuclear program. On November 29, 2010, his colleague Majid Shahriari was assassinated.

An assassin on a motorbike tried to kill Davani as well by attaching a bomb to his car window while he was driving, but Davani managed to escape at the last minute and survived. Iran’s president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appointed Davani as his deputy to show his appreciation for the doctor’s “contribution to the Islamic Republic and for his courage.”

One may feel some discomfort when diving into the piles of Iranian documents, since there’s something eerie about them. For example, the radical state’s dream of creating weapons of mass destruction becomes an orderly and meticulous timeline in Microsoft Project, including information on the program’s budgets, personnel, experiments, and more.

At times, the nuclear documents receive a more personal flair. For instance, in one of the archive’s CDs, agents found “selfie” photos of an Iranian nuclear expert, the heavyset Dr. Mahdi Tranchi, wearing protective goggles and posing for the camera at the “Taleqan 1” nuclear test site.

What happened to all this effort? All those people, information, and experience gathered? Did they all just disappear?

The nuclear sites

It was not only the people who worked on the Iranian nuclear project that the documents expose. They also expose the places and sites where the nuclear plot was devised, some of which were new discoveries for the Israeli intelligence community (“I wish I had this information in real time,” said a former Israeli intelligence chief when exposed to the material), including nuclear experiment sites, uranium mines located across the country, tunnels (dug to cover up their real purpose), and more.

According to the material, the Iranians were looking for an underground nuclear testing site. It goes without saying that to conduct such an experiment, they needed to first build a bomb, which the Iranians have not yet done.

Furthermore, a nuclear experiment does not depend solely on scientific ability, but mostly on the decision of the political leadership. An underground experiment would have certainly been detected by the West. Such a test would essentially constitute a declaration by Tehran that it had indeed developed a bomb.

In the meantime, until the Iranians develop a nuclear bomb, the Iranians are getting ready, and according to the documents they have already examined various possible sites and even attempted to detonate small explosives deep underground to test the ground, its durability and their own ability to record the measurements of the explosion at that location.

The Israeli intelligence community also discovered new information about some known nuclear sites. For example, the site in Fordow, near the city of Qom, is well hidden at the heart of the mountain, and is extremely resistant to bombs.

The Israeli, French, and American intelligence communities exposed it in 2010, but the archive’s documents established its importance as part of the Ghadir Project (another code name for the Iranian secret nuclear program).

Another example of the scale of the Iranian fraud can be found in the Taleqan testing facility, located in an area called Parchin. IAEA reports raised serious suspicions about the site, but Iran’s denials made it difficult to substantiate these suspicions.

The IAEA demanded that its inspectors be allowed to visit the site, but the agency’s requests have been repeatedly denied. When the IAEA threatened to accuse Iran of violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, its inspectors were allowed to enter Parchin months later, only to discover that the site had been cleared, and everything in it was carefully removed from the area.

What was there before? One of the crucial steps to building a nuclear bomb is the development of an explosion mechanism that will create critical mass. In the past, Western intelligence agencies circulated sketches of the experiment sites used to build the explosion mechanism. Photos of the site taken by the Iranian scientists look exactly like the sketches.

The Iranian nuclear archive proved how much these sketches were in line with reality: it was an accurate record of the sites, bunkers, test tanks, and equipment that Iran has denied, and still denies using in Parchin / Taleqan, or anywhere else in Iran for that matter.

The experiments

The archive material contains many drawings, presentations, written documents, and photographs. Not just technical images, but also photographs of the nuclear scientists themselves. The scientists must have felt they were a part of Iranian history. Most probably none of them imagined that his pictures would ever find their way to Israel.

Many of these photographs record the nuclear experiments. Iran has denied for years that it is conducting experiments on all PMD topics. For instance, Iran has claimed it did not have any neutron detection equipment, but an archive presentation shows otherwise (with colorful text explaining its uses). Apparently the equipment is located next to the Parchin explosives test site.

In the next slide, dated February 2002, there is a description of the nuclear experiment with an exact record of the DU3, the scientific term for the neutrons’ source, whose collision with nuclear fuel atoms creates a chain reaction that ends with an atomic explosion.

The archive’s documents also reveal that at a nearby site, the Iranians built another tank for testing high explosives; this time with flash X-ray equipment surrounding it. This equipment made up of a sophisticated camera of sorts that can record, with a precision of nanoseconds, the moment of detonation to guarantee that all explosives go off at the same time. This is critical for making explosive lens: a simultaneous explosion of several charges around the fissile material—for example, enriched uranium at a level of 90%—will start a nuclear fission chain reaction.

A special contract signed by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and Tehran’s Defense Ministry lays out the transfer of part of the enrichment project from the organization to the ministry, in order to produce highly-enriched uranium at a military level of 90%.

The cover-up: the Dark Side of SPND

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, and Tehran feared they were next in line; at the same time, the “National Council of Resistance of Iran,” an Iranian opposition group, published material on the Natanz nuclear facility that led to harsh criticism and sanctions against Iran.

The Iranians were worried and so the Scientific Council decided to make some changes and close the AMAD Project, only to reopen it under a different name. This development was interpreted differently by Israel and the United States. The latter determined that closing the AMAD Project brought the nuclear program to a halt. Israel, on the other hand, claimed that it’s an Iranian scam, and that the two projects are one and the same.

The documents from the archive show that Israel was right. These documents record how the general decision to close one project and reopen another became a complex bureaucratic process in August and September 2003.

The purpose of all this was to deceive the world and develop a project that will continue where the AMAD Project left off. The new project was titled “the SPND Project,” and unlike its father, AMAD, which was entirely secret, SPND has two sides: the overt and public side, which allows the Iranians to claim the nuclear program is meant for peaceful purposes (medicine, etc.), and the covert side, which allows Iran to continue developing nuclear weapons.

SPND, by the way, is still active today.

“Following new instruction by the honorable Minister of Defense (Ali Shamkhani—RB), intensive meetings of Project 110 technical committee (one of the main projects of AMAD—RB) were held in order to accommodate the activities to the instructions. In the new outline, the work would be divided in two: covert (secret structure and goals) and overt (regular structure),” reads one Iranian document.

What would the covert part include? For example, the documents show that the secret SPND project will include the nuclear testing facility Sareb-1, the warhead integration facility Sareb-2, and Sareb-3, the facility for the production of a nuclear warhead for Shahab 3 missiles.

According to the documents, all management personnel and 70% of the entire workforce are to transfer from “AMAD” to “SPND.” The scheme was meticulously planned: the documents include a letter written by Abbasi-Davani, to the project’s chief, Fakhrizadeh, on March 3, 2003: “We must make a distinction between overt and covert activities.”

One of their colleagues wrote on January 9, 2003: “Overt activities are those that can be explained as part of something else, and not as part of the project (to produce an atomic bomb) itself, so we have an excuse to do them.”

Dr. Masoud wrote in March 2003: “Neutron research cannot be considered ‘overt’ and must be covert. We have no way of rationalizing this activity (neutron research) as related to defensive measures. Neutron operations are very sensitive and we cannot explain them.”

Dr. Mahdi Tranchi, the ‘selfie’ enthusiast, wrote: “Let there be no mistake—the manpower of the overt and covert parts will not be reduced. The whole operation will not be reduced, and every sub-project will oversee both the overt and covert parts.”

And so the Iranian project continued from 2004, under SPND, until the signing of the nuclear agreement in the summer of 2015.

At some point, a senior American source told Yedioth Ahronoth, the countries negotiating the nuclear agreement with Tehran decided to “let the past go, even though everyone knew very well that the Iranians were lying, and focus on the future. It was clear to everyone that after the spiritual leader said there was no military project, he would never take it back and admit he lied. The risk was losing the entire deal because insisting on the 12 PMD topics would have led to the collapse of the negotiations.”

After the nuclear agreement was signed, two parallel axes were in play. In one, Iran submitted some material, which led to an IAEA report on the PMD in December 2015. This report, which in effect ignores the questions left open, enables implementation of the nuclear agreement.

In the other, Tehran began to do everything in its power to hide everything it had on its nuclear program. This was unlike other cases of complete nuclear disarmament. Both South Africa and Libya, for example, truly ended their nuclear programs: they either destroyed all the information, so there was nothing left of their archives, or deposited everything they had—their knowledge, documents, and experience, to IAEA inspectors.

The Iranians did the exact opposite: they collected information from countless sites, including private archives and all the material of the AMAD Project, and gathered it it in the Defense Ministry’s archive.

Since the agreement gives the IAEA the right to visit any suspicious site (Tehran currently denies that they have agreed to visits at military sites), the Iranians feared the Defense Ministry archive might also be a target for inspection. So in February 2016, the Iranians moved the archive to an obscure site in a remote suburb of Tehran. The facility is almost entirely unguarded, and therefore does not attract attention. Even the people guarding the facility don’t know what it is that they are protecting.

The break-in

Israeli intelligence had been tracked the “AMAD archive” closely, and had been meticulously planning the operation since early 2017. One Mossad agent responsible for planning the operation said it was “Ocean’s Eleven Style.”

In most Mossad operations of this type, the agents usually infiltrate a building, photograph the material inside, and leave unnoticed. This time, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen decided the material must be physically seized. The reason is twofold: to limit the time agents had to spend inside the building, and to prevent Iran from spreading disinformation and claiming the documents are forged. In this manner, Israel could expose the documents to the scrutiny of the international community.

Over the course of two years, hundreds of people from all branches of the Mossad participated in the operation, and fewer than two dozen agents took part in the break-in itself.

The operation team in Israel did not sleep for several nights, during which the agents gathered inside Iran to prepare the equipment and scope out the area.

Then, on the evening of January 31, the agents entered the vault. When the operation ended and all agents were out of danger, Cohen called Netanyahu and informed him of the operation’s success.

And it was, indeed, a success: The agents retrieved about half a ton of intelligence material that is worth its weight in gold. There has been very few times in the history of intelligence services since World War II when one agency has been able to obtain so much of the enemy’s secret intelligence material at once.

“Israel didn’t sign the JCPOA. The Mossad didn’t sign the nuclear agreement,” Mossad Director Cohen said in a closed forum. “I have one agreement, with the people of Israel, in which I commit not to allow the Iranians to have a nuclear bomb. That’s it.”

But like everything else, politics got in the way here as well. Since the operation, various claims were made in Israel and abroad against the way the material was presented.

Some believe the documents from the archive justify Netanyahu’s claim that the nuclear agreement is a bad deal based on lies.

A Western intelligence source that was exposed to the material summed it up thus: “The nuclear archive is in fact an effort made by the Iranian Ministry of Defense to preserve the knowledge achieved in the ‘AMAD Project’ from 1998 to 2003, and to hide it from the international community, especially from the IAEA, for possible future use.”

Others, on the other hand, claim these documents prove how close Iran was to producing a nuclear bomb, and so the existence of an agreement that freezes the program and puts the SPND Project under close supervision is a good idea.

The article was published on Ynet


Netanyahu to meet Austrian chancellor, attend anti-Semitism conference in Vienna

During his visit to Israel this summer, Kurz expressed remorse for Austrian participation in Nazi crimes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to fly to Vienna later this month to meet with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, in what will be the first official visit to Austria by an Israeli premier in more than two decades.

“It is my distinct pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu for an official visit to Austria!,” Kurz tweeted Wednesday.

Netanyahu will hold a bilateral meeting with the Austrian leader and attend a “conference on the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism” hosted by Kurz on November 21-22.

Netanyahu’s forthcoming visit to Vienna will be the first trip to Austria by an Israeli prime minister since 1997, when Netanyahu visited the country during his first term.

Member of parliament Martin Engelberg, a member of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s center-right Austrian People’s Party (OVP), announced the Israeli premier’s planned visit earlier Wednesday during a pan-European conference on anti-Semitism in Brussels.

“[Netanyahu] is going to come to Vienna in two weeks, and there will be a summit, a quite high-ranking summit…on fighting anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, also including BDS [the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement] and protecting and securing Jewish life in Austria and in Europe,” Engelberg told i24NEWS.

Ties between Israel and Austria have strengthened over the past year, despite the inclusion in Kurz’s coalition government of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), which has a past stained by frequent anti-Semitic incidents and instances of Nazi propaganda.

Israel’s foreign ministry has maintained a “boycott” of the Freedom Party ministers, who preside over the foreign and defense ministries, since they joined Kurz’s government late last year government, instead conducting all governmental matters through lower-level civil servants.

But it appears the Israeli government is eager to maintain good relations with Austria, as the reaction paled in comparison with that in 2000, when the Freedom Party first joined a coalition government and Israeli authorities withdrew the Ambassador from Vienna.

The Austrian chancellor visited Israel in June and met with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.

“It’s a very clear sign of the close friendship not only between Israel and Austria, but also on a personal level between the Israeli prime minister and our Austrian chancellor,” Engelberg said of Netanyahu’s planned reciprocal visit.

Engelberg told i24NEWS that it was the “right” of the Jewish community to decide to boycott ministers of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), but noted that nonetheless, “the relationship between Austria and Israel has never been as close as it is now.”

He added that “nobody is pressing” Israel to change its policy regarding FPO ministers.

“Austria is a member of the European Union…and whether or not the Israeli government has contact with Austrian ministers of the Freedom Party does not really bother us,” he said.

“I’m more interested that the Freedom Party really takes the right steps and we will charge them by their deeds, as we say,” Engelberg said.

During his visit to Israel this summer, Kurz expressed remorse at the American Jewish Committee’s conference in Jerusalem for Austrian participation in Nazi crimes during the Holocaust.

Engelberg said that over the past 30 years there has been a “strong decline” in what he called “classical anti-Semitism” in Austria, meanwhile claiming that levels of anti-Semitism in the country’s Muslim population were much higher than in the general population.

“We are talking about, according to the polls, a level of anti-Semitism [within the Muslim population] of 40, 50, or 60 percent sometimes, whereas in the general population we tend to come down from 30 percent to 10 percent,” he said, without citing from which polls he had drawn the figures.

Founded in 1956, the FPOe emerged from the short-lived Federation of Independents, launched after World War II by former Nazis who had been stripped of their voting rights.

The party, whose first chief was an ex-officer from the Waffen SS, also drew pan-Germanists — believers in unifying with Germany like in the Third Reich — and liberals fed up with the ruling centrist establishment.

The party rose to prominence in the late 1980’s under Joerg Haider, the charismatic but controversial son of a former Nazi party official, positioning itself as a formidable populist force thriving on xenophobic and anti-EU slogans.

Today, the part is led by Heinz-Christian Strache, a former member of a radical student fraternity who has a past stained by frequent anti-Semitic incidents and instances of Nazi propaganda.

Strache has dismissed former associations with neo-Nazi groups as youthful dalliance and has attempted to position himself as a vocal advocate and friend of Israel.

Strache has traveled to Israel a number of times and developed ties with representatives of the Israeli right. In one of his last trips, however, late Israeli President Shimon Peres had refused to meet him.

i24NEWS correspondent Polina Garaev contributed to this report.

The article was published on I24


Peter and Paul

Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Many of us know this expression, but not its origin from 16th-century England, when part of the estate of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Westminster was appropriated to pay for repairs to Saint Paul’s in London. That brief trivia titbit aside, the expression fits very well when it comes to EU funding of the Palestinians.

On Thursday afternoon, after much advocacy work from us at EIPA, and other groups such as the excellent Impact SE, the European Parliament budgets committee recommended a 15 Million Euro freeze in funding to the Palestinian Authority until it changes its school textbooks. Regular readers of mine will know that we at EIPA have done a lot of raising on this issue. It’s bad enough that many schools under Palestinian Authority control are named after terrorists who committed terrible atrocities, and that encourage pupils to emulate their life, but textbooks, funded in part by EU taxpayers, refer to Jews as liars, sinful, apes and pigs and utterly refuse to countenance the existence of the State of Israel. It doesn’t take much head scratching to figure out why the Palestinian population is completely unprepared for peace. How can they be when they teach their children, as part of the school curriculum to hate, and to believe in the falsehood that Israel is a fabrication, it doesn’t exist, and that martyrdom and resistance to the ‘occupation’ is the way forward?

So, when the news came out yesterday, our phones at EIPA HQ and whatsapp were running red. Is this true? Will the Commission accept the parliament’s recommendations? Finally, is the EU is starting to wake up?

Yes. Most likely (as under the co-decision procedure on budgets it can’t ignore parliament) And lastly, sadly no.

Sadly no? that’s a bit defeatist isn’t it? You and others actually got one of the EU institutions to put pressure on the PA and introduced conditionality on Aid, something that you have been banging on about for years now? Where’s the beef, Benjamin?

All fair questions dear reader. By the time you read this, it will be Strasbourg week (when the European Parliament decamps beside the Rhine to vote in plenary). On the agenda is UNWRA. As most of you know, the American administration cut its funding to the UN agency, which is unique as a refugee agency for exacerbating the very problem it is tasked to solve. Under its tenure UNWRA has seen refugee numbers rise from some half a million at its inception, to roughly 5 Million today. Think about it. That’s a bit like having a food aid programme that actually contributes to famine isn’t it?

Anyway, long story short, we knew what was coming. Late on Thursday, once the 15 Million had had its few hours in the news cycle, the office of Federica Mogherini announced that it was giving UNWRA 40 Million Euro to help bridge the gap in US funding to UNWRA.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. We might be stretching the analogy a bit here equating ourselves to the parishioners of St. Peters (and our Rabbis would probably have something to say about it too), but what sense does it make to cut PA funding in half on textbooks (good by the way, and long, long overdue), whilst simultaneously funding a UN body that keeps Palestinians trapped in a spiral of permanent refugee status, with little prospect of quality of life, under a terrorist dictatorship and which only underlines and compliments the very narratives that are expressed in the textbooks, and lead year after year to needless deaths, more hatred and more entrenchment?

Answers on a postcard please to EEAS HQ at Schuman Roundabout in Brussels if you figure that one out. Oh and post your answer in comments below please and spare my already raw scalp from further self-inflicted scratching abuse.

The Op-Ed was written by our director, Alex Benjamin and was also published in The Times of Israel


Netanyahu meets Egyptian president

PM meets with his Egyptian counterpart al-Sisi on sidelines of UN General Assembly to discuss regional developments and the situation in Gaza; only an Egyptian flag was put in the room; Egyptian spokesman: ‘the two stressed the importance of renewing cease-fire talks with Hamas.’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The two leaders met amid continued efforts of Egyptian intelligence to mediate a possible long-term ceasefire arrangement between Israel and Hamas.

Netanyahu’s talks with Sisi late on Wednesday focused on “regional developments”, the Israeli Prime Minister wrote on Twitter without elaborating.

A spokesman for the Egyptian president issued a statement saying that the two leaders “discussed the peace process, and stressed the importance of renewing negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis in order to form a comprehensive and just solution to the Palestinian problem.”

He added that resolving the problem would create a new reality in the Middle East, one “in which all peoples enjoy stability.” According to the spokesman, Netanyahu thanked al-Sisi for his efforts in fighting terrorism.

Netanyahu and al-Sisi met publicly for the first time in September of last year, also in New York. Last month, Ynet learned that the prime minister held a secret meeting with al-Sisi.

The information came from a foreign diplomatic source, but the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the matter.

According to Channel 10 News, the meeting took place on May 22 when Netanyahu flew with a small delegation of advisors and security guards. He stayed in Egypt for a few hours and participated in the breaking of the Ramadan fast before returning to Israel late at night.

Egypt plays an important role in a cease-fire talk between Israel and Hamas.

Last Saturday a delegation of senior Egyptian intelligence officials arrived in the Gaza Strip for a brief visit as part of Egypt’s effort to renew the internal reconciliation talks in Gaza as well as ceasefire negotiations with Israel.

The Egyptian intelligence officials who entered Gaza through the Erez Crossing met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for a “significant and crucial” meeting, Palestinian sources said.

“Egypt’s main interest is to reach an intra-Palestinian reconciliation in accordance with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s demand that he is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians with whom any understandings can be reached.

“Hamas, however, is interested in promoting a ceasefire agreement with Israel before an intra-Palestinian reconciliation is achieved, in order to take credit for easing the Israeli blockade over Gaza,” the Palestinian sources elaborated.

“Egypt views the dead end (in ceasefire talks with Israel) as pushing Gaza towards a dangerous military escalation on the border fence. Nevertheless, Egypt is not willing to promote calm only to please Hamas since it has bigger international and intra-Arab interests. Egypt will need to decide how to overcome this obstacle” the sources explained.

According to The Associated Press, after the Egyptian delegation left Gaza, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said their indirect cease-fire talks with Israel have halted. Abu Zuhri added that his Islamic militant group is escalating its protests in new locations along Gaza’s border with Israel.

Egypt has been working to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s dominant Hamas Islamist movement amid frequent violence along the Israel-Gaza border.

Since March, thousands swarmed the security fence as part of “The Great March of Return,” weekly protests.

Egypt and the United Nations have been working to mediate in order to avoid another large-scale round of violence.

Egypt was the first of a handful of Arab countries to recognize Israel under a 1979 peace treaty and the two countries maintain close co-ordination on security as well as energy ties.

On Thursday Israeli and Egyptian companies announced that they would buy into a pipeline that would enable a landmark $15 billion natural gas export deal to begin next year.

Netanyahu and Sisi convened for their previously announced talks several hours after US President Donald Trump said he wanted a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in what had appeared to be the clearest expression yet of his administration’s support for such an outcome.

But later on Wednesday Trump told a news conference that he would be open to a one-state solution if that was the preference of the parties themselves, a position he had previously stated.

The article was published on Ynet


EU consults with Israel and the Palestinian Authority on its engagement in support of the two-state solution

European Commission Director General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Christian Danielsson, and the Managing Director for Middle East and North Africa at the European External Action Service, Fernando Gentilini, will hold consultations this week with the representatives of the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the on-going review of modalities of EU engagement on the ground in support of a two-state solution.

The objective of the review is to ensure that all the modalities of the European Union’s engagement are as efficient and as effective as possible to advance the goal of a two-state solution, including in Gaza which, together with the West Bank, is an integral part of a future Palestinian state.

The EU remains firmly committed to the two-state solution as the only realistic and viable way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The EU has a close partnership with Palestine as its largest and most reliable donor, and with Israel as its biggest trading partner. The EU wishes to hear the views and perspectives on the review from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which benefit from the EU’s active engagement, and to raise and discuss with them any obstacles to peace and to the viability of the two-state solution.

Click here for the Press release


THE MONEY TRAIL The Millions Given by EU Institutions to NGOs with Ties to Terror and Boycotts against Israel An In-Depth Analysis

BREAKING NEWS SPECIAL – REPORT SHOWS HOW EU FUNDS ARE DIRECTLY SUPPORTING BOYCOTTS OF ISRAEL, AND WORSE…

The EU’s official position on Boycotting the State of Israel demonstrates in technicolour the murky side of consensus decision making. How do you reconcile the breadth of the political spectrum on this issue whilst keeping as many as possible in the tent? You concoct a phrase straight out of the newspeak playbook as a catch all. We paraphrase, but here is it:

“The EU is against all forms of boycott that seek to delegitimise, but BDS represents freedom of speech.”

Yes. It is an absolute crock of a sentence. With all the backbone of a jellyfish. But if you are going to construct such a crock, then it should at least be stuck to.

In breaking news this morning, solid and concrete data revealed for the first time in a detailed paper by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic affairs HERE:The Money Trail_English , shows that despite the catch-all lip service, the EU is directly and indirectly funding organizations – to the tune of over 5 million Euros, that promote, support and call for BDS activities. The paper list in detail where the millions were transferred to, directly from the European Union in 2016, to a number of organizations that promote delegitimization and boycotts against Israel. The information, sourced and freely available in publications and report on the websites of the EU and the recipient organizations themselves, also reveal that millions of Euros are coming to organizations through indirect financing through third parties.

According to the Ministry, “there is concern that European taxpayers’ money is finding its way also to those who maintain ties with terrorist organizations.”

As an example, one of the bodies that states that it enjoys direct EU funding is the Norwegian NPA (Norwegian People’s Aid). According to their own reports, in 2016 the organization received financial assistance from the EU amounting to 1.76 million euros. That same year, the organization published a report calling on financial institutions to withdraw their investments from companies operating in Israel.

The report also states that an American authorities investigation found that the NPA, which has also received American funding over the years, has links with terrorist elements. In 2012 and 2012, for example, the organization supported an empowerment project for Gaza youth, in which Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – which, ironically, were recognized as terrorist organizations by the EU itself – took part.

The study also shows that EU funds also come indirectly to PCHR (the Palestinian Center for Human Rights). Linked to the PLO, the organization calls on the international community to impose “sanctions on Israeli settlements,” to incriminate those with whom it maintains trade relations and to terminate the special wage agreements between the EU and Israel.

There isn’t space here to list all the organisations involved, suffice to say what we have listed is the tip of a particularly embarrassing iceberg for the ‘good’ ship EU.

“It is inconceivable that taxpayers’ money in Europe comes to organizations that promote boycotts against Israel, some of which are connected to terror organizations,” said Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan.

We at EIPA fully understand the Minister’s incredulity at the findings. However, as regular readers will know, the issue of conditionality has been a central theme of ours, and we long suspected that the opaque EU funding structures were open to misuse and were not being managed properly. Yes, that is quite an accusation to make. But this ground-breaking report allows us to repeat it with even more certainty. And the trouble with newspeak, is that it only works when everybody believes it….

 

 


I said Israel should be ashamed – now I am the one who is ashamed

On Tuesday Daniel Sugarman wrote an article on the clashes at the Gaza border. Today he acknowledges that he was wrong.

It’s never easy to say you’re sorry.

To admit you’re wrong. To announce publicly, “I made a mistake”.

But to apologise when that apology comes bound up with what is, perhaps, the most intractable conflict on earth, makes it a thousand times harder.

But that is what I am. Sorry.

A few days ago I wrote a column about the latest round of violence on the border with Gaza.

It was a cry from the heart. I love Israel. I have always loved it, and cannot envision a time when I will not love it.

But in my office, I sit near a television set. And on Monday, I saw the following, side by side.

On the left, in Jerusalem, I saw happy faces. Self-congratulatory faces. I saw the Prime Minister of Israel talking about how the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem was a big step towards peace.

And on the right, simultaneously, in Gaza, I saw tear gas, and smoke, and bullets.

And it was in this context that I wrote my piece, which was an extremely personal one. I wrote it in anguish. I wrote it making clear that I despised Hamas and all it stood for. But I also wrote the following:

“Every bullet Israel fires, every life Israel takes, makes this situation worse. There are ways to disperse crowds which do not include live fire. But the IDF has made an active choice to fire live rounds and kill scores of people. You cannot tell me that Israel, a land of technological miracles which have to be seen to be truly believed, is incapable of coming up with a way of incapacitating protestors that does not include gunning dozens of them down. But no. In front of the entire world, Israel keeps shooting, and protestors, including very young protestors, keep dying. You may tell me that Hamas wants these deaths, wants to create martyrs, wants to fill the hearts of the people of Gaza with rage against Israel because the alternative is for people to look at their lives in Gaza and rage against Hamas. But if you tell me that, why are you not asking yourselves why Israel is so willingly giving Hamas exactly what it wishes?”

I received a lot of praise for my piece, from people I admire greatly, as well as from a great many unexpected sources, including from within the Jewish community.

I also received a lot of criticism. I got called a traitor, and that most vile of all insults a Jew can bestow or receive, a “Kapo”.

People also wrote pieces in response. I was told that, as a Jew not currently living in Israel, my greatest worry was whether Starbucks would have almond-soya milk for my latte.

But the criticism I paid more attention to was from people who pointed out that it was absurd to deal in hypotheticals. I’d said that surely there must be a way the protestors could be stopped without shooting live ammunition at them – that Israel, with its incredible technological capabilities, must be capable of developing a way. That was a cry of anguish, but it was not an argument. If no such technology currently exists, then it was absurd of me to blame the IDF for not magically willing it into existence. The traditional crowd stopping technology would not have worked effectively. Rubber bullets are only short range. The same with water cannons. And with tens of thousands of people rushing the border, this would have been extremely unlikely to work effectively. The border would have been broken through. And then, without much of a doubt, a lot of people in Israel would have died.  That was, after all, Hamas’s stated aim.

But what really affected me the most was yesterday, when a Hamas operative went on television and claimed that, of the 62 people killed in the last two days, fifty were Hamas operatives. Islamic Jihad claimed three more, meaning that over 80 percent of the people who were killed while trying to breach the border were members of terrorist organisations whose direct aim is to bring death and suffering into Israel.

And I opened my eyes and saw what I had done.

I had fallen into the trap I had always been convinced I would not fall into. I had condemned Israel for defending itself.

There are things one can write about how Israel could have acted differently in the run-up to these attempts to charge the border. But I did not write about those in my original piece. I wrote that, by killing the Palestinians running towards them, the IDF was giving Hamas exactly what it wished for – martyrs for the cause.

I failed to acknowledge that, either way, Israel would be giving Hamas what it wanted. Shoot at those charging at you and Hamas would have its martyrs. Fail to shoot and Hamas would break through the barrier and bring suffering and death – its stated aim – to Israelis living only a few hundred metres away from that barrier. The march may have originally been, as it was declared to be, about Palestinians returning to the homes they had to leave 70 years before. But Hamas’s aim was far more straightforward – “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.”

I wrote in my previous article that Israel was a regional powerhouse, and that it was strong enough to take criticism from Jews in the Diaspora.

I still believe it is strong enough to do so. I just don’t believe that my criticism of it was valid. Given the circumstances, and the situation on the ground, I am at a loss in terms of coming up with a better solution. The choice was, quite literally, shoot at people running at you with the stated aim of killing you and your families, or fail to shoot and let them do it.

A few days ago I said I could not and would not defend Israel’s actions. Now, in the cold light of day, I could not and would not see how I would fail to defend them.

I said that Israel should be ashamed of its actions. But today I am the one ashamed.

The article was published in the Jewish Chronicle


INSIDE LOOK: HOW GAZA PROTESTERS ATTEMPTED TO BREACH THE BORDER FENCE

Over the past eight weeks, protesters in Gaza have altered their strategy as Israel has warned them to refrain from approaching the border fence.

Many questions remain about what led to the deaths of up to 58 Palestinians on Monday. One of the key issues surrounds how the protests are organized. Based on observation and discussions with sources close to the protests, the following presents a clearer picture of what has occurred over the last weeks, and attempts to paint a picture of how the May 14 protests unfolded.

Since the end of March, there have been mass protests along the Gaza border. These protests have been well organized and planned as part of an eight week “Great March of Return,” from the Palestinian Land Day on March 30, to the “Nakba Day” on May 15.

On May 14, the mass protests, which coincided with the US opening its embassy in Jerusalem and came a day before what was supposed to be the last day of the protests, resulted in 58 Palestinians killed and up to 2,700 wounded, according to Gaza-based Palestinian reports.

The protests have been organized around five locations next to Israel’s security fence. Over the eight weeks of demonstrations, protesters used a variety of different tactics and methods. For instance, protesters began lighting massive fires and burning tires during the second Friday, in early April.  Then they began launching burning kites to ignite Israeli farmland. They also tore down a section of barbed wire of one of the fences between Israel and Gaza on April 27. It was during this protest that a reliable source provided some insight into the methods employed by Hamas and the protesters.

The protesters have gathered every Friday with tens of thousands participating. At the very back of the protest, hundreds of meters from the fence, are tents and field hospitals, prayer areas and families. This is where some of the Hamas officials will show up in the morning or early afternoon to rouse the people and encourage them in their protest. Speeches will be made and prayers offered. It is well organized. Buses bring people to the protests. There are people selling food. There is even a macabre element of this, with protesters saying they’ll have a meal before they become “shahid” or a martyr at the front.

The masses of protesters who approach the actual fence are generally made up of young men and teenagers, including youth and children. There are very few women in the area closest to the fence. The protesters know how the Israeli security forces have been operating; they expect to be shot or are cognizant that this is a distinct possibility. There are ambulance teams and medics, as well as numerous spontaneous volunteers, ready to take away the injured, many of them shot in the legs.

As the young men burn tires, and others prepare Molotov cocktails or slingshots, some prepare kites to fly. The goal of the protesters is to get to the fence and, with select groups of young men who have brought wire cutters, to cut through. Most of them don’t make it this far, but some of them do.

Gazans who attempt to reach the main security fence first have to deal with other obstacles. There is a barbed-wire fence in sections to deter protesters from reaching the main fence. Israel has continuously warned since March that anyone approaching this kind of buffer zone would be shot. A section of barbed wire fence was torn down and dragged away in late April. The Palestinians cheered as they brought it back to the protest camp. A sign of victory.

According to reports, it takes about thirty seconds running between the barbed-wire fence and the main security fence.

But what happened in late April was not just the spontaneous chaos of rioters at the fence. Some of those wounded and killed by live fire, as shown on videos, have not been directly threatening the fence, but there are others groups whose sole purpose is to penetrate the fence.

The actual attempt to get closest to the fence and break through it has involved planning and coordination on the Palestinian side. Hamas members, unarmed but clearly directing some of the young men, are in the crowd. They watch for an area of burning tires and people, where the protesters have managed to get close to the fence or breach the first line of barbed wire.

Some of these professional activists are on motorcycles and they may come and go or drive along the line of protests or observe them from a high point. When they sense that a breach can be made, they gather together groups of young men, men who have prepared beforehand for the assault.

Like some kind of First World War charge of death, the young men then rush as a group toward the fence.

During the April 27 events, up to 700 men were reported by IDF spokesman Col. Jonathan Conricus to have assaulted the fence “in a way that we have not seen them assault it before,” according to a New York Times report.

An earlier Times report titled “300 Meters in Gaza: Snipers, Burning Tires and a Contested Fence,” summarized well the planning and details of the protests and confirmed later accounts.

Planning began ahead of the May 14 protests. Joe Dyke, the AFP correspondent in Gaza, wrote on May 10 that, at a “briefing to foreign media, Gaza head of Hamas told journalists today he would support thousands of Palestinians breaking through the border fence next week.”

On Sunday the IDF dropped leaflets on Gaza warning protesters to stay away from the fence. On May 14 Dyke, in Gaza, tweeted: “literally as the US embassy inauguration is beginning, loud speakers east of Gaza City are calling on protesters to prepare to seek to breach the border fence.”

By the end of the day, 58 had been killed.

The article was published in The JPost


NETANYAHU UNVEILS SECRET IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM

“Iran’s leaders repeatedly deny ever pursuing nuclear weapons,” said Netanyahu. “Tonight I’m here to tell you one thing: Iran lied.”

rime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a massive cache of secret documents, obtained in an exceptional Israeli intelligence operation this year, showing that Iran had developed a secret nuclear weapons program and that it lied when it claimed otherwise.

“Iran lied big time,” Netanyahu said at a dramatic press conference on Monday night in Tel Aviv that involved props and a slide show.

Netanyahu held a microphone and walked back and forth on the stage as if conducting a class.

To catch international attention, Netanyahu spoke in English as he described a massive Israeli intelligence coup by which some 100,000 documents – weighing around half a ton – were brought from Tehran to the Jewish state.

“In 2017, Iran moved its nuclear-weapons files to the Shorabad district in southern Tehran. Few Iranians knew where it was, very few, and also a few Israelis,” Netanyahu said. “From the outside the vault looked like a dilapidated warehouse. It contained Iran’s secret atomic archives locked in massive files.”

“A few weeks ago, in a great intelligence achievement, Israel obtained half a ton of the material inside these vaults,” Netanyahu said.

He explained that these included 55,000 pages of documents and another 55,000 files on 183 CDs.

The documents focused on the secret Iranian nuclear program that was developed from 1999 to 2003 called Project Amad. When Iran entered the 2015 nuclear deal, it denied that such a program existed.

Netanyahu made the presentation as part of his continued campaign against the deal. He said the documents proved that the deal itself was based on falsehoods and that Iran continued with its nuclear program after the deal was signed.

He spoke less than two weeks before the May 12 deadline that US President Donald Trump had set to decide whether or not to scrap the deal, which the US signed along with five other world powers: Russia, Germany, China, the UK and France.

Meanwhile, the Knesset gave the power to declare war to the security cabinet, instead of the wider cabinet. Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked have been pushing for the passage of the bill.

IN WASHINGTON, Trump lauded Netanyahu’s presentation.

“I don’t know if everybody has seen it, but I got to see a little bit of it, and that is just not an acceptable situation,” he said, referring to the nuclear deal.

“So we’ll see what happens, Trump said. “I’m not telling you what I’m doing. But a lot of people think they know, and on or before the 12th we’ll make a decision. That doesn’t mean we won’t negotiate a real agreement. It’s a horrible agreement for the US.”

Israel had known for years that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program from 1999 to 2003 called Project Amad, Netanyahu said.

“We can now prove that Project Amad was a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.

“Iran is secretly storing Project Amad material to use at a time of its choice to develop nuclear weapons.”

The project’s mission statement was to “design, product and test five warheads, each with 10-kiloton TNT yield for integration on a missile. You do not have to read Farsi to see ‘10 kiloton’ here,” he said.

“That is like five Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles,” Netanyahu said.

He showed a spread sheet that spoke of yellowcake production, centrifuge enrichment process, warhead project, simulation project and tests.

“Project Amad had the five key elements of a nuclear weapons program,” said Netanyahu.

This included designs for enriched uranium as well as the development of nuclear cores and photographs of a secret underground facility to produce these cores.

Israel found photographs of a system to build a nuclear implosion system and a map with five key testing sites in eastern Iran, Netanyahu said.

“We have many more such documents,” said Netanyahu.

There were also documents that showed how to integrate nuclear warheads on missiles, including for Shahab-3 missiles.

“Here is the warhead, here is the bomb,” said Netanyahu, pointing to different points on a diagram.

Iran is continually expanding the range of its nuclear-capable missiles and can reach Riyadh, Tel Aviv and Moscow.

“But they are working on far greater ranges,” he said.

“These files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it said it never had a nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said.

In 2003, Iran was forced to shelve Project Amad, but not its nuclear ambitions. It split its program into an overt program and a covert one that continued the nuclear work under the title of scientific knowhow development, Netanyahu said.

It continued this work in a series of organizations and in 2018 it is carried out by SPND, an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry led by the same person who led Project Amad – Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Netanyahu said.

Many of SPND’s key personnel worked with Fakhrizadeh on Project Amad, Netanyahu said.

The files Israel uncovered also dealt with the Fordow uranium enrichment facility, which Netanyahu said was designed from the start to be part of Project Amad.

“You will not be surprised that Iran insisted on keeping Fordow and the nuclear deal enabled it to do it. But Iran was required by the International Atomic Energy Agency to come clean about its nuclear program.

“This was an explicit condition for implementing the nuclear deal. In December 2015 the IAEA published its final assessment of the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. This was Iran’s chance to fully come clean to the IAEA. They could tell the truth,” Netanyahu said.
But instead, Iran denied the existence of a coordinated program and specifically denied the existence of the Amad plan, Netanyahu said.

He also showed photographic evidence that Iran conducted metallurgical work specifically designed for a nuclear device.

“This is just a fraction of the total material that we have,” Netanyahu said.

One has to ask, he said, “Why would a terrorist regime hide and meticulously catalogue its secret files if not to use it at a later date?”

“Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program, it continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons knowhow for future use,” Netanyahu said.

He played a tape of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad

Javad Zarif stating that Iran had never had a nuclear weapons program.

“Yes you did,” Netanyahu said. “And the atomic archive proves it.”

“In a few days’ time, Trump will make a decision of what to do with the nuclear deal. I am sure he will do the right thing for the US, for Israel and for the peace of the world,” he said.

FOR HIS PART, the US president acknowledged growing expectations that he will pull out of the accord by May 12. If the European powers fail to come up with “substantial” fixes to some of the agreement’s most controversial provisions, Trump says he will allow for nuclear sanctions to snap back into place, effectively withdrawing the US from the 2015 agreement by default.

Trump said scrapping the non-proliferation agreement would send “the right message” to North Korea in upcoming negotiations over its own nuclear work, given “new information” that had

 

come to light on Monday.

But if Trump is indeed preparing for a withdrawal next month, not all of his cabinet members are yet on board. Asked on Monday after Netanyahu’s speech whether he is satisfied the JCPOA can handle incidents of Iranian cheating, James Mattis, the US defense secretary, said “yes.”

Mattis met with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Liberman, last week in Washington, primarily on Iran policy, the two departments said.

The president also claimed the current deal “frees” Iran to develop nuclear weapons in seven years. The letter of the agreement commits Iran never to construct nuclear weapons – a pledge it originally made in joining the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in the 1970s. But Netanyahu’s point was that Iran’s commitments were based on lies, raising questions over whether their weapons program had ever ceased and over what sort of agreement with Iran would ever be considered of good faith.

The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehen

sive Plan of Action, put caps on Tehran’s enrichment of uranium that phase out between 10 and 15 years. As those “sunset clauses” are reached, Iran will be allowed to grow the size and efficiency of its program, installing advanced models of uranium-enriching centrifuges in place of decades-old technology, in greater numbers and at more facilities.

That will shrink the “breakout time” Iran would need to develop fissile material for nuclear bombs, should it make the political decision to proceed.

Trump wants a deal that will grant UN inspectors snap access to Iran’s military facilities, where much of their past nuclear weapons work took place; an end to their program

 on ballistic missiles, designed to deliver nuclear warheads; a permanent extension of the “sunset clauses”; and commitments from world powers to thwart Iran’s military ambitions across the Middle East.

NETANYAHU RECEIVED praise from coalition and opposition politicians after his presentation of Iran’s nuclear violations.

Deputy Minister Michael Oren (Kulanu) said Netanyahu presented impressive intelligence accomplishments for Israel. He said the international community must demand unlimited oversight over Iran’s nuclear program, including in closed military sites and prevent the development of Iranian ballistic missiles.

Former defense minister Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) said the evidence Netanyahu presented proved that Iran is obsessively seeking nuclear weapons. He said Israel must demand more inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites, the maintenance of Israel’s qualitative military edge, and immediately work to fix security flaws in the Israeli home front.

But Joint List MK Dov Henin called Netanyahu’s presentation an election speech.

“What were all of those empty binders, disks and English for?” Henin asked. “He merely warmed old noodles that were cooked years before the nuclear deal was signed.

 

A leader facing corruption charges was trying to persuade another leader facing corruption charges to inflame a conflagration whose price would be paid by the people who live here.”

Iran’s foreign minister said Israel’s accusations were “old allegations” that had been dealt with by the United Nations nuclear watchdog in the past.

“Pres. Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA to “nix” the deal. How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12. But Trump’s impetuousness to celebrate blew the cover,” Zarif tweeted.

Iranian state TV said Netanyahu’s

 accusations were propaganda.

“His remarks were not new… full of baseless accusations… and propaganda against Iran’s nuclear work,” state TV said.
Netanyahu spoke to Trump by telephone on Sunday and met in Tel Aviv with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Prior to the presentation, the security cabinet met.

On Monday, he spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the cache of docume

nts and promised to send professional teams to their countries to explain the material. Netanyahu also held a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and he plans to update the British and Chinese leaders as soon as possible.

Over on Capitol Hill, response to the presentation was muted. Senator Bob Corker, the Republican from Tennessee who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and who drafted the 2015 law that provides Congress with review powers over the nuclear deal, said Netanyahu revealed “nothing new” that was not known prior to the conclusion of the agreement.

The article was published on The JPost


Oportunitate istorică pentru leadershipul României în UE – recunoaşterea Ierusalimului drept capitală a Statului Evreu

Recunoaşterea Ierusalimului drept capitală a statului evreu ridică România din rândurile celei de 3-a Europa şi o plasează într-o sferă de influenţă şi de mediere atât între interesele americane şi Uniune, cât şi între Europa de Vest şi cea de Est.

România are şansa unică de a media cel mai spinos subiect de dialog, la ora actuală, dintre Uniunea Europeană si Statele Unite ale Americii printr-o înţelegere adecvată a provocărilor de securitate din Orientul Mijlociu, începând cu valul de proteste violente conduse de gruparea teroristă Hamas la graniţa cu Israel, şi dinamica generată de expansiunea agresivă a Rusiei în Siria, alianţa sa cu regimul de la Teheran, şi posibila retragere a trupelor americane din Siria.

Potrivit politicii externe a Uniunii, Ierusalimul, cel mai dificil subiect de negociat dintre cele 4, în urma unui acord final între cele două state, va deveni capitală atât a unui stat evreu, cât şi a unui stat palestinian.

Principiul de aur al procesului de pace de la Oslo, respectat şi mai târziu în celelalte runde de negocieri, „nimic nu este finalizat până când totul este finalizat“, respectiv cele 4 chestiuni (statutul Ierusalimului, graniţe – delimitarea unui teritoriu palestinian, refugiaţi şi securitatea statului Israel) au fost mereu luate la pachet. Această tehnică a fost utilizată cu precădere pentru a se încuraja negocierile directe, pentru a se evita unilateralismul şi internaţionalizarea conflictului prin acţiuni izolate ale celor două părţi beligerante.

Un sfert de secol mai târziu de la Oslo, cu precădere în ultimii ani, se manifestă una dintre consecinţele imediate ale eşecului comunităţii internaţionale de a facilita negocieri directe, unilateralismul palestinian, sub forma recunoaşterii statalităţii sale în forumurile internaţionale.

Recunoaşterea unui stat palestinian, potrivit cu rezoluţiile ONU 242 (1967), rezoluţia 338 (1973) si Acordurile de la Madrid şi Oslo, urma să fie rezultatul unor negocieri finale directe între cele două părţi. Cu toate acestea, în noiembrie 2012, Palestina obţine, în mod simbolic, recunoaştere prin acordarea statutului de stat observator non-membru al Naţiunilor Unite.

La rândul său, Parlamentul European în 2014 a votat o rezoluţie prin care recunoaşterea statului palestinian nu avea sa fie un rezultat al negocierilor directe cu Israel, ci în paralel cu acestea.

La fel de surprinzător, în anul 2016, iniţiativa Ministrului de Afaceri Externe francez, Laurent Fabius pentru procesul de pace include o clauză potrivit căreia, în urma celor trei ani de negocieri directe, comunitatea internaţională avea sa recunoască un stat palestinian independent de rezultatul negocierilor.

E important a se nota, prin adoptarea acestor poziţii cu privire la recunoaşterea statalităţii palestiniene în afara unui acord final cu statul evreu, parlamentele europene, şi state precum Suedia şi Slovenia în curând, sfidează în mod direct nu doar realitatea de facto dar şi politicile Înaltului Reprezentant Mogherini.

Deşi unii experţi au exprimat un grad ridicat de optimism potrivit căruia aceste „victorii“ ale Autorităţii Palestiniene pe plan intenţional vor conferi legitimitate domestică grupării din West Bank, aceasta continuă să eşueze în asumarea responsabilităţilor sale în Fâşia Gaza, unde Hamas a început vinerea aceasta a patra săptămână de atacuri şi infiltrări în Israel. Falimentul real al Autorităţii Palestiniene este cu precădere acela de a nu crea instituţii de stat care să sprijine şi educe o societate palestiniană pregătită pentru pace.

Urmărind să revigoreze procesul de pace israeliano-palestinian, Preşedintele Trump a optat pentru o strategie diferită de tradiţia negocierilor,  şi anume pentru a oferi subiectului cel mai controversat, respectiv statutul Ierusalimului, o abordare treptată şi independentă de celelalte subiecte.

Urmărind modelul american, decizia de a muta ambasada romană la Ierusalim nu aduce nici un prejudiciu statului palestinian, nici o violare a principiului soluţiei celor două state, potrivit căreia Ierusalimul de Est poate fi în continuare, în urma unui acord final cu Israel, capitala unui stat palestinian. Aceasta este o recunoaştere a unei realităţi de facto, Ierusalimul a funcţionat drept capitală a statului evreu din anul 1949, centru al  Knesset-ului, al Reşedinţei Prim Ministrului şi al tuturor ministerelor. Decizia nu aduce nici o modificare liniilor de armistiţiu de la 1967, deci nu stabileşte linii de demarcaţii între cele două parţi ale Ierusalimului.

În procesul de recunoaştere al Ierusalimului drept capitală a statului evreu, Preşedintele Klaus Iohannis trebuie sa coordoneze împreună cu liderul socialist Liviu Dragnea, şi diferiţi alţi decidenţi,  într-o manieră care să nu aducă prejudiciu relaţiilor bilaterale cu Israel, dialogului transatlantic şi care să preconizeze un liderat eficient al Preşedinţiei Consiliului.

De altfel, „consensul european“ vine de multe ori pe coridoarele de la Justus Lipsius cu costuri mari pentru cea de-a treia Europa, în timp ce angrenajul decizional prezintă toate caracteristicile unui mamut greoi lipsit de agilitatea necesară în epoca revoluţilor digitale.

În urmă cu aproape jumătate de secol, România a luat decizia curajoasă de a sfida ordinele blocului soviet şi de a menţine relaţiile bilaterale cu statul evreu asaltat în acel moment de armatele a  cinci state arabe vecine. Astăzi, României i s-a oferit încă odată oportunitatea de a lua o decizie care iese din tiparul prescripţiilor blocului comunitar şi de a-şi exprima suveranitatea prin mult aşteptata şi mult meritata recunoaştere a capitalei aliatului său Israel.

The article was published on Adevarul


EU Parliament calls to release Israelis from Gaza for first time

Diplomatic pressure of the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs caused the EU Parliament to significantly alter the motion for resolution submitted against Israel; final resolution corresponds with Israel’s stance about Gaza and describes Hamas as a terror organization.

The European Parliament on Thursday, in an unprecedented move, condemned Hamas and called for the release of the Israeli citizens and for the retrieve of the Israeli soldiers’ bodies held by the organization.

The original motion for resolution included severe condemnation against Israel, as well as a request for investigation at the International Criminal Court of Justice in Hague, determination that the IDF didn’t use proportional force, a call to reexamine Israel’s ties in the EU and an immediate establishment of a EU investigation committee to review latest events in Gaza.

The resolution was completely altered and many provisions were added which unusually correspond with the Israeli stand regarding Gaza.

According to the resolution adopted today, Israel is still condemned for shooting Gaza’s citizens and is called to end the siege, however, the use of disproportional force was not determined. In the resolution, the European Parliament, housed in Strasbourg, France, called for an investigation, but added it will be executed by a special team assembled by its Chief of Staff.

The remaining provisions in the original notion for resolution were left out. However, the resolution calls for the immediate release of Avera Mangistu and Hisham al-Sayed and for the retrieve of the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

The resolution also emphasizes that Hamas is a terror organization who transformed Gaza into an enclave focused on terror, withholds basic rights from its citizens, prevents the strip’s rehabilitation and continues to hinder the chance for reconciliation. It holds Hamas accountable for the assassination attempt of the Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and condemns the organization for acts of terror, rocket fire, infiltration attempts into Israel, tunnel diggings and use of citizens as human shields.

Moreover, the resolution determines that despite the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protests, the Gaza’s leaders must avoid incitement and ensure demonstrations wouldn’t be used for spreading terror.

Israel’s ambassador to the EU and NATO Aaron Lashno-Ya’ar expressed his content regarding the resolution. “Not only have we managed to extract outrageous and anti-Israeli elements from the resolution, but Hamas is also being criticized. The most important element for us is the explicit call for an immediate release of the Israeli citizen and the soldier’s bodies from Gaza.”

“The latter is a matter we continually raise to discussion with European bodies. It’s important that finally, for the first time, the European Parliament released a clear and unequivocal resolution regarding this matter,” he added.

Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee of the European Parliament Andres Wistesen said in a message to the press that he welcomes the decision, reiterating the parliament’s stance that that “Hamas is a terror organization” and called for the release of the Israeli citizens and return of the bodies held by it.

“Despite the resolution is not without flaws and that leftists continue in their struggle to blur the reality in Gaza, I’m pleased that the parliament’s European Conservatives and Reformists group tirelessly acts to make the voice of reason heard,” added Wistesen, taking the opportunity to congratulate Israel on its 70th Independence Day.

The article was published on Ynet


German FM: I will take part in the 70th anniversary celebrations

President Reuven Rivlin meets German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who says: Our countries have very special ties.

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday held a working meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

“We always appreciate and remember the deep commitment of the German government to Israel and the Jewish people,” Rivlin told his guest.

Maas thanked the President for the warm welcome and added, “Our countries have very special ties and I want to clarify this at the beginning of my term. As Minister of Justice, I visited Israel many times and shared joint initiatives with my colleague Ayelet Shaked.”

The Minister continued, “I was very pleased to accept our embassy’s invitation to take part in Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Germany has a genuine desire to take part in and assist in all the major issues that plague the world, and part of the reason for my visit is the desire to know what is bothering the citizens of Israel.”

The President and the Minister discussed at length the expansion of the Iranian threat in the region and the various possibilities available to the free world to respond to this threat. The President reiterated that the State of Israel would not accept a reality of an Iranian presence on its border and that the regional armament led by Iran places the entire region under real danger.

Maas made it clear that Germany would not accept Iran’s position calling for the destruction of the State of Israel and that Germany would not accept the existence of an Iranian nuclear program. The Minister stressed that the State of Israel’s concerns are taken seriously and responsibly in the face of the existing threats.

Germany has several times in the past taken a harsh stance regarding Iran’s treatment of Israel.

The previous German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said in 2016 that Iran could only have normal, friendly relations with Germany when it accepted the right of Israel to exist.

Following those remarks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani both cancelled meetings with Gabriel.

Gabriel made similar remarks during a previous visit to Iran, when he said that “questioning [Israel’s] right to existence is something that we Germans cannot accept.”

The article was published on Arutz 7


2 French consulate staffers suspected of smuggling Hamas arms

French driver and Palestinian guard employed by the consulate in east Jerusalem arrested on suspicion of using a vehicle with diplomatic plates to transfer weapons from Hamas in Gaza to the West Bank.

Two employees of the French Consulate in east Jerusalem—a driver and his security guard—were arrested by Israeli authorities last month on suspicion of using a vehicle with diplomatic plates to smuggle weapons from Hamas in Gaza to the West Bank, the Shin Bet said Monday.

The consulate’s driver, Romain Franck, a French national, is suspected of using his diplomatic vehicle to transport some 70 handguns and two assault rifles.

A Palestinian guard employed by French authorities, a resident of east Jerusalem, was also arrested in the case, as well as several Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were staying in the West Bank illegally.

Franck was part of a Palestinian network in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and east Jerusalem that smuggled weapons from Gaza to the West Bank through the Erez border crossing.

The French driver smuggled arms on several occasions over the past few months, while taking advantage of his diplomatic vehicle, which was subject to less stringent security checks at the crossing.

Franck received the weapons from a Palestinian resident of Gaza who works for the “French culture center” in the strip. Franck then took the arms to a Palestinian man in the West Bank, who in turn sold them to arms dealers.

The investigation found that Franck had a financial motive and was acting of his own volition and unbeknown to his superiors. The investigation also found that several of the Palestinians arrested in the case were also involved in the smuggling of money from Gaza to the West Bank.

The investigation was carried out in coordination with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and while keeping French authorities constantly updated.

A total of nine suspects have been arrested in the case so far. Indictments will be filed against six of them on Monday.

The French embassy in Israel said on Monday it was cooperating with Israel in the investigation. “We take very seriously this case … and we work very closely with the Israeli authorities on this matter,” said an embassy spokesman, who declined to comment further on the allegations against the staffer, a French citizen.

According to his Facebook page, Franck, who is from Lambersart in the north of France, arrived in Jerusalem in January 2017. “It’s the big day, starting to a new adventure.. Thank you for everything that accompanied me and supported in this new experience that begins!” he wrote at the time.

Later he posted many photos from the region, including from Petra and Aqaba in Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and the Jordan Valley.

An Israeli official called the incident “very grave,” but clarified it would not affect Israel’s ties with France. “We thank French authorities for the cooperation,” he said.

A senior Shin Bet official decried the “cynical exploitation of the immunity and privileges granted to foreign representatives in Israel to smuggle weapons… that could be used in terror attacks against Israeli citizens and security forces.”

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, also slammed the “cynical and never-ending exploitation of humanitarian aid and international aid by the terrorist infrastructure.”

“This event only clarifies the need for a strict policy on granting (entry) permits,” he continued. “International bodies are required to carry out internal inspections to ensure aid goes to the residents of Gaza and not to terror.”

French lawmaker Meyer Habib, who represents French nationals living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, said, “Unfortunately, this isn’t the first problematic affair the French Consulate in Jerusalem has been involved in. And even if only junior staff were involved, there is a feeling, unfortunately, that the consulate has actually become the French Embassy to the Palestinian Authority.”

The article was published on Ynet


NETANYAHU, IRANIAN FM SPAR AT MUNICH CONFERENCE

PM shows piece of downed Iranian UAV, warns Israel will act against Iran if it must • Zarif dismisses Netanyahu’s ‘cartoonish circus’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a speech at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, brandished a piece of the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle that Israel downed a week ago after it entered Israel’s airspace and warned Iran “not to test Israel’s resolve.”

Israel, Netanyahu said at the conference that was attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, “will act not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”

Zarif, who addressed the conference later in the day, dismissed Netanyahu’s presentation as a “cartoonish circus, which does not even deserve a response.”

Netanyahu, who said Zarif “lies with eloquence,” warned the conference participants that Zarif will “brazenly deny Iran’s nefarious involvement in Syria.”

“Iran also denies that it committed an act of aggression against Israel last week, that it sent a drone into our airspace to threaten our people,” Netanyahu said, pulling out the Iranian prop from behind the podium and holding it high up with one hand.

“Well, here’s a piece of that Iranian drone, or what’s left of it after we shot it down. I brought it here so you can see for yourself. Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should. It’s yours.”

Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to have ever addressed this prestigious conference, and the overwhelming majority of his 15-minute speech and 15 minutes of Q and A, dealt with Iran.

With former US secretary of state John Kerry, one of the key architects of the Iranian nuclear deal, sitting in the front row, Netanyahu ripped into the accord as he has done many times in the past, saying that the inspection regimen is completely insufficient, and that when the sun sets on the agreement in some 10 years’ time, the Iranians will have an “open highway” to build not only one nuclear device, but an entire nuclear arsenal.

To have nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said, “you need a gun, bullets, and gunpowder.”

The gun is the ballistic missiles that the Iranians are developing, unchecked by the nuclear deal and undeterred by UN Security Council resolutions, he said.

“They should be stopped and slammed with the most crippling sanctions to prevent them from continuing the development of these [nuclear] delivery systems, these guns,” he said.

Furthermore, the Iranians are hiding the “casings for the bullets” in military sites, which the nuclear deal has placed out of bounds to inspectors, he said.

And the third element – the gunpowder – is the enriched uranium, “which is the toughest thing to make for a nuclear weapon, because it is the most difficult to manufacture, requires big plants and precision engineering.” When the sun sets on the agreement, he said, Iran will be given “free rein to enrich uranium without limitations.”

Lifting Iran’s limitations on uranium enrichment should not be linked to a calendar, Netanyahu said, but rather to Iran’s behavior, which as a result of the deal has gotten worse and more aggressive in the region, not better.

Netanyahu predicted that the Iranians would “do nothing” if the nuclear deal is not either “fixed or nixed.”

FURTHERMORE, he said, the countries of the world would have to decide whether they prefer dealing with the US or with Iran, which – despite the fact that it has some 80 million people as compared to Israel’s 8.5 million – has an economy about the size of Israel’s.

“I think the time to stop them is now,” he said.

Netanyahu said that Iran, through nefarious moves in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, is trying to change the status quo in the region.

If they do change the status quo, he said, the rule he will follow is one established by the early Zionists when dealing with problems: “They said nip things in the bud, stop them before they get big. That’s basically what our policy is.”

Netanyahu also conveyed a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad, stressing that Israel’s decision to stay out of the Syrian civil war for the last six years, except to grant humanitarian aid to thousands of Syrians in Israeli hospitals, could change.

Assad understands that if he invites Iran to entrench itself militarily inside his country, he is challenging Israel, he said. “If Mr. Assad invites Iran in militarily, that changes our position. So that is up to Iran and to Mr. Assad.”

Zarif, in addition to dismissing Netanyahu’s presentation as a “cartoonish circus,” said the recent shooting down of an Israeli F16 after it bombed an Iranian site in Syria had shattered Israel’s “so-called invincibility.”

“Israel uses aggression as a policy against its neighbors,” Zarif said, accusing Israel of “mass reprisals against its neighbors and daily incursions into Syria, Lebanon.”

“Once the Syrians have the guts to down one of its planes, it’s as if a disaster has happened,” Zarif said.

“What has happened in the past several days is the so-called invincibility [of Israel] has crumbled.”

He accused the United States of using the conference to “revive hysteria” against Iran and denied that Tehran was seeking “hegemony” in the Middle East.

Zarif also poked at Netanyahu for his legal problems, saying, “Israel’s major problems are its years-long criminal occupation policies, and I’m not even talking about its corruption.”

Kerry, meanwhile, said at the conference that it was wrong to assume that Iran would obtain a nuclear weapon as soon as the scope of the deal ends.

“If your house is on fire, are you going to refuse to put it out because you are concerned it will light on fire again in 15 years? Or are you going to put it out and use the intervening time to prevent to ever catching fire again?” he asked.

Before addressing the conference, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, visited a memorial to the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes killed in Munich in 1972.

“There is [a] special meaning to the fact that we are standing at the place where 11 of our athletes were murdered just because they were Jews and Israelis. Millions were slaughtered here just because they were Jews,” he said. “The great difference is that we have a state and this state has acted, and is acting today, against terrorism and those who would destroy us.”

Netanyahu then led the members of his delegation in singing “Hatikva.”

The Article was published on The JPost


Israel halves plastic bag waste in the sea one year after new law on supermarket distribution

One year after the State of Israel introduced a law that required supermarkets to charge customers for the use of plastic bags use of the bags has dropped by 80 per cent, and bag waste found in the sea has halved, according to government sources. Such a rewarding news for UN Environment’s EU-funded SwitchMed project and its Israeli partners who have contributed to this success.

Big supermarkets must charge their customers at least 0.10 Israeli new shekels (about $US 0.03) for each bag, and must show the cost of the bags on the customer’s bill. Additionally, supermarkets must report the number of bags distributed to the Government, and proceeds of the sale go to the government to fund projects to cut air pollution throughout the country.

The law comes in part as a result of UN Environment’s SwitchMed’s work with the country to set up a National Action Plan on sustainable consumption and production.

A two-day policy workshop run by UN Environment’s EU-funded SwitchMed project entitled “Policy Tools for Circular Economy” held in Jerusalem in 2014 highlighted facilitated the formulation of the legislation by highlighting the lessons learnt from similar laws internationally.

Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection, MK Zeev Elkin, highlighted how successful the law has been by international standards. “We see 80 per cent reduction in plastic bags consumption in less than a year,” he said. “This is a success even in worldwide standards. For comparison, an 80 per cent reduction rate in the use of disposable bags at large retailers is the European Union’s target for 2020, for which five years of deployment have been given. I am proud of the Israeli public that understands the importance of reducing plastic bags waste and changed its behaviour so rapidly”.

The SwitchMed sustainable consumption and production programme aims to promote a switch by the Mediterranean economies towards sustainable consumption and production patterns and green economy, including low-emission development, through demonstration and dissemination of methods that improve resource and energy efficiency. It also seeks to minimise the environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of products and services and, where possible, to promote renewable energy.

The article was published at the EU Neighborhood Centre website


Does Europe Want Peace — or Political Relevance?

It looks like the EU is anxious to try and fill the US’ role as a peace mediator. From the EU External Action website:

Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini have decided to convene an extraordinary session of the international donor group for Palestine, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC).

There is an urgent need to bring all parties together to discuss measures to speed up efforts that can underpin a negotiated two-state solution.

Furthermore it is necessary to enable the Palestinian Authority to execute full control over Gaza, based on the Cairo agreement from 12 October 2017.

The meeting will be held in Brussels on 31 January 2018 at Ministerial level, hosted by the European Union and chaired by Norway.

The impression one gets from this is not that the EU particularly expects to gain any more traction towards peace than it has in the past 69 years. Instead, it feels like the EU sees an apparent vacuum created by the US — and wants to fill that vacuum by giving Palestinians more money, and by tacitly agreeing with them that Jerusalem belongs to them as a basis for negotiations.

In this case, peace isn’t the goal. In reality, the EU is using the conflict to make itself look more relevant.

Because if the EU wanted peace, taking Jerusalem off the table and admitting that the city is Jewish is the single most effective move that the EU could make towards pushing Palestinians to compromise — rather than insisting on acting like a victor that can impose its terms on the region.

The Article was Published on The Algemeiner


A BIG YEAR AHEAD: WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN ISRAELI POLITICS IN 2018

Will Netanyahu come in like a lion and leave like a lamb?

They say that March, the third month of the year, comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.

This is the third New Year’s Day for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since his election to his fourth term as prime minister in March 2015. The year ahead for Netanyahu is expected to come in like a lion, continue like a lion, and go out like a lion.

The developments that will make this year particularly ferocious for the prime minister include the criminal investigations of Netanyahu and his wife Sara, controversial legislation in the Knesset, and diplomatic developments set to be advanced in the year ahead by US President Donald Trump.

Perhaps such challenges would be less problematic for Netanyahu if he still had capable former coalition chairman David Bitan at his side. But Bitan has been neutralized by his own criminal investigations, in which he is set to be questioned by police a dizzying three times this week.

Bitan’s replacement David Amsalem is as despised in the Knesset corridors as Bitan is beloved. His ability to defend Netanyahu from his powerful and sensitive post will be hindered by his lack of grace, charisma, and ability to work well with people of differing views.

After yet another delay, the police are expected to recommend in March to indict Netanyahu for breach of trust and perhaps bribery in Case 1000, the “Gifts Affair,” and Case 2000, the “Newspaper Collusion Scandal.”

As Netanyahu and his associates constantly remind people, the police recommendations have no legal significance. Only Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit will decide Netanyahu’s fate, and if the police do not ask for more time, that will happen sometime by the end of 2018.

But when the police recommendations are leaked to the press, there will be tremendous pressure on Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to remove his Kulanu party from the coalition, as Ehud Barak threatened to do with his Labor Party when police recommended indicting Ehud Olmert.

Chances are that Kahlon will stay, and Netanyahu will succeed in passing up David Ben-Gurion to become the country’s longest-serving prime minister on September 23, 2018.

But there is always a chance that Netanyahu himself could initiate an election before then if he decides it would serve him tactically.

What could throw everything off is if the police decide at any given point to declare Netanyahu a suspect in the much more serious Submarine Affair, Case 3000. With all due respect to newspapers and cigars, if Netanyahu traded Israel’s national security for money for his confidant, that would blow the other two cases out of the water.

The Jerusalem Post’s legal correspondent Yonah Jeremy Bob reported on Friday that the Police Recommendations Law, which passed last week, is completely unclear about whether the police could issue recommendations about Netanyahu in Case 3000.

There are also investigations of Netanyahu’s wife Sara for alleged misuse of public funds, which could either make the political year even more intense or perhaps calm it down if she becomes the legal scapegoat who gets thrown in the fire while her husband is cleared of charges.

While the focus all year will remain on the probes, there will be controversial legislation in the Knesset almost every week when the parliament is in session. The most problematic politically for Netanyahu will be over matters of religion and state, where his coalition is especially divided.

But there will also be bills that will change how political campaigns are financed, the role of deputy ministers, and whether land in Jerusalem can be relinquished in a diplomatic agreement. And that’s just in the Knesset.

The Likud central committee and other party institutions will also be making decisions that could tie Netanyahu’s hands before talks with the Palestinians could potentially begin.

While the Palestinians are currently saying they will not negotiate with Israel as long as Trump is president and the US is the mediator, they will come under tremendous pressure to back down from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, and his American counterpart, Jared Kushner.

“Mr. President, for the first time in my lifetime – I see a real hope for change,” Netanyahu said himself when Trump came to his residence in Jerusalem.

If that happens, perhaps Netanyahu’s coalition could be unraveled from the Right or from within the Likud.

But then again, maybe Netanyahu will be able to tame all those potential lions and march into 2019 politically unscathed.

If that happens, he will definitely have what to celebrate a year from now.

The article was written by Gil Hoffman and was published on The JPost


Exhibition: From the Balfour Declaration to the Jewish Nation

EIPA in partnership with MEP Peter Niedermüller Péter hosted the opening of the photo exhibition “From Balfour Declaration to the Jewish Nation, a celebration of Israeli life through the lens of David Seymour/Chim”, featuring pictures of life in Israel in the early days of its statehood. MEP Lars Adaktusson (EPP, Sweden) commend the resilience of the Jewish nation in the face of adversity, and underlined the European responsibility of fighting anti-semitism and any form of delegitimization of Israel. The evening concluded with the lighting of the first candle for Chanukah.

 


EIPA applauds Trump decision on Jerusalem

Europe Israel Public Affairs applauds the decision of US President Donald Trump to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

The move comes after more than two decades after the adoption by the US Congress of Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Every 6 months the sitting American President would sign a waiver from that bill.

President Trump opened his historical address stating “It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done”

Czech Republic followed suit becoming the first EU country to break the bloc of Member States and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

EIPA Director Alex Benjamin observed that despite differences between EU and Israel over the 1967 imposed borders, and most vehemently over the settlements issue, more EU countries should consider acknowledging the de facto status of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. “We fail to see the reasons for High Representative Federica Mogherini ‘serious concerns’. The US announcement does not prejudge nor impose borders for Jerusalem, which are still subject to final status talks. It merely reflects the historical accuracy of the last five decades, during which Jerusalem functioned as Israel’s capital.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, EIPA Founder added “Historical evidence attests our Jewish presence in Jerusalem dating way back to 3000 years ago. Jerusalem has always been our home. It is about time state leaders catch up with history and acknowledge this indisputable fact.”


BREAKING NEWS: In unprecedented move 60 MEPs call on Mogherini to stop EU funds and isolate BDS movement

A cross party group of 60 Members of the European Parliament have urged the EU’s Foreign Affairs Chief, Federica Mogherini to marginalize, both financially and politically organizations such as BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment) that are increasingly becoming a virulent source in the spread of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism under the pretense of exercising freedom of speech and association.

The unprecedented initiative, spearheaded by representatives of the four major political groups, MEP Cristian DAN PREDA, MEP Ioan Mircea Pascu (S&D, Romania) and a Vice-President of the  European Parliament, MEP Petras Austrevicius (ALDE, Lithuania), MEP Arne Gericke (ECR, Germany) “calls upon ensuring that no public funds go to organizations calling for a boycott of the State of Israel, and to instruct agencies not to engage with companies, organizations or other entities involved with the BDS movement”. 

MEP Cristian DAN PREDA, foreign affairs coordinator for the largest political group, the European People’s Party, and co-initiator of the letter underlined  his party’s  opposition to calls for the suspension of the bilateral agreements with Israel  as some of his extreme left wing colleagues echo directly from the BDS playbook.   “It’s in the interest of this House, and of our citizens, to see an upgrade in the partnership agreement with Israel. We should not allow the current stalemate in the peace process to dictate the terms of our relationship with Israel.”

Swedish MEP and President of EIPA’S political Board Lars Adaktusson – a co- signatory – underlined that “the Union, and the Parliament, is in danger of being deemed irrelevant as a peace broker if it fails to address the incitement on its own soil against Israel.”  

Vice President of the European Parliament, Ioan Mircea Pascu concluded that  “boycotting strategic ties with Israel,  a leader in the intelligence and defence international community, may prove counterproductive to the common security interests  of both EU and Israel”.

The 60 signatories, among which are Chair of Security and Defence, MEP Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland), Vice-Preident Pavel Telicka (ALDE, Czech Republic), Dietmar Koster (S&D, Germany), Vice-Chair of Human Rights Beatriz Becerra (ALDE, Spain) urged their Foreign Affairs chief to “address the incitement to hatred and violence and discriminatory practice of calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel.”

Europe Israel Public Affairs Founder Rabbi Menachem Margolin welcomed the initiative of the 60 MEPs: “Israel sometimes feels misunderstood by Europe, and this leads to a further strain on the relations. The European Parliament takes pride in its diversity, and we are glad to see such a wide support for investment, rather than divestment from something that has been for more than 3 decades a mutually advantageous bilateral relation”.

 


NETANYAHU CONDEMNS ‘HORRIFIC’ ATTACK ON EGYPT

“Terrorism will be defeated more quickly if all countries act against it together,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement condemning the “horrific and criminal terrorist attack” in Sinai and sent condolences to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian people and the families of those murdered.

“Terrorism will be defeated more quickly if all countries act against it together,” he said.

Other Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum also condemned Friday’s attack and sent condolences.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke to Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat, and expressed his shock while asking the ambassador to express the sympathy of the Knesset and the people of Israel in the parliament in Cairo.

Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi party leader Naftali Bennett suggested a new world order is being created in which “the distinction is between terrorism supporters like Iran and ISIS and supporters of humanity.”

Bennett called for an international coalition to include Russia, Europe, the US, Israel and the Arab world, saying, “we have all been hurt by terror.”

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter: “We must all stand together in the fight against this indescribable evil.”

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon claimed that “the axis of evil had struck a heavy blow today in Egypt” and stated: “together we can defeat it.” Ya’alon said terrorism is a shared enemy for all people and states who favor peace and tolerance.

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog wrote in Arabic on his Twitter page expressing his condolences: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Egypt.”

Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz tweeted that the El-Arish attack is “a terrible human tragedy” and wished, on behalf of the people of Israel, “a quick recovery to those wounded and consolations to families of the hundreds of those killed.”

“This is the time for solidarity with the Cairo government and the people of Egypt. To increase [our] security cooperation and push back against those seeking to shake [our] regional stability,” Peretz said.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan expressed his deepest sympathies with the people of Egypt and called for a united front against radical Islamic terrorism.

MK Oren Hazan [Likud] called on Israel to send immediate humanitarian aid to Egypt and, using social media to address Netanyahu, reminded the prime minister: “After the earthquake, you offered humanitarian aid to Iran despite it being an enemy country and a terrorism exporter – it is, therefore, our moral duty to aid our neighbor [Egypt] with whom we have a peaceful relationship.”

 

The Article was Published on The JPost website


Victory against terror in European Parliament

EP President declares that terror representatives and former terrorists will no longer be allowed to participate in parliamentary events.

About two months after the participation of terrorist Leila Khaled as guest of honor at the European Parliament, President of the Parliament Antonio Tajani on Wednesday announced that representatives of terrorist organizations or former terrorists would not be allowed to participate in the Parliament.

The announcement came after a move led by MEP Anders Vistisen – accompanied by legal counsel Yifah Segal, director of the International Legal Forum (ILF) – who handed to the President a letter signed by 60 members of Parliament, quoting European Union laws and guidelines proving that Khaled’s visit violated them.

In his reply to MEP Vistisen and the Legal Forum, the President approved the laws and understandings mentioned in the letter and confirmed that there would be no further participation of terrorist representatives or former terrorists, as defined by the EU’s list of terrorist organizations, in the Parliament.

“The fact that the Popular Front (PFLP) has been on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations for years has not stopped factions in the European Parliament from hosting representatives of the organization in parliament, providing a respectable platform for disseminating its messages of hatred, violence, and anti-Semitism,” said Yifah Segal, director of the ILF.

“In the process in which we had the privilege of taking part, we wanted to demonstrate how this practice blatantly violates guidelines and rules of the EU itself. This important decision defines what sounds to the Israeli ear as obvious, but which has been possible until now without any sort of limitation in EU institutions,” she added.

The article was published on Arutz 7 website


How Sweden supports terror against Israel

Swedish aid to Plestinian Arabs is not peaceful, to put it mildly. Supporting anti-Zionist plays that turn history on its head for unsuspecting Western audiences and calling it aiding culture, is a way to make peace unattainable.

In Sweden there is an ongoing discussion about whether Sweden is funding Palestinian terrorism or not. The truth is that Sweden supports Palestinian projects and NGOs promoting terrorism and violence. By doing so Sweden is in fact guilty of encouraging violence and extremism in the Palestinian society.The Swedish aid is not peaceful and we need to protest how it has been misused.

For years Sweden has, unfortunately, been promoting violence by funding NGOs which encourage violent resistance to the Israeli presence in the Middle East.

In Jenin, a town in the Palestinian controlled part of the disputed territories in Samaria there is a theatre called the Freedom theatre (TFT). The theatre very actively promotes BDS against Israel, glorifies terror and takes part in campaigns aimed against Palestinians who choose peaceful co-existence with the Israeli society.

Sweden supports TFT with hundreds of thousands of shekels every year. According to the theatre’s annual report of 2015 the Swedish government  payed salaries and student grants to the staff at the theatre for about  NIS 152 083 and supported  TFT with NIS 204 449 in total in 2015. In 2016 TFT received NIS 244 000 from Swedish funds. The money is transferred through PPAN a Palestinian BDS network which has been given over NIS 8 million from generous Sweden since 2016. This money cover the  TFT’s performances in Jenin’s refugee camp. And last year over 12 500 Palestinian children and adults watched its performances.

So what kind of plays does TFT perform that would promote Sweden’s official peaceful goals with development aid? Are these plays about peace, building bridges between people or ending violence?

No, no and no.

’The Siege’ is the title of one popular play TFT recently has been touring with in Palestinian towns and in  the US.

The play is based on an event that took place between April 2 and May 10, 2002, during which 39 armed terrorists occupied the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, taking 200 civilians and 46 monks, even children, hostage. According to some testimonies the terrorists used pages in the Bible as toilet papers and kept the food in the church for themselves while the hostages starved.

The Palestinian terrorists booby-trapped the church with 40 bombs and threatened to blow the holy site up and kill the hostages. The terrorist later agreed to leave the church as they were promised to be sent to freedom in Europe and Gaza.

However in ’The Siege’ the terrorists are portrayed as action heroes defending their homeland.  Terrorists like Ibrahim Moussa Abayat contributed  their narrative to the script. He is also featured in the promotional video clip for the play.According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abayat was involved in shooting attacks and killings of several Israeli civilians. On the poster advertising the play an actor playing one of the terrorists is seen smiling posing with a rifle.

Another play TFT is performing is ’Return to Palestine’. The play centres around Jad, a Palestinian Arab, who grew up in the US. One day he travels to the ‘Palestinian territories’. According to the Palestinian Authority Maan News Agency in the end of the story Jad reaches the conclusion that the land needs blood and sacrifice for its survival and for a free life. In an interview with Maan News Agency, Shireen Jarrar, secretary of the board of directors of the Freedom Theatre, says that the play presents a very beautiful message to all expatriates. She also says that the message of the play carries an invitation to the Palestinian Arab expatriates to ”return and challenge all difficulties”.  The performance is funded not only by  Sweden but by the PA ministry of Culture.

‘Return to Palestine’? I call it an invitation to terror and violence as the main character of the play concludes that violence (blood and sacrifice) is the way forward.

Terror organizations like PFLP have met with TFT. In 2014 it met with the terror organization. During the meeting TFT staff revealed to PFLP that TFT not only graduates artists, it also graduates ”performing resistance fighters”. The younger generations in towns like Jenin who come to TFT shows will be encouraged to perform acts of violence and terrorism as TFT portrays Palestinian terrorism as heroic and its terrorists as poor victims.

Some prominent members of  TFT have a background in terror organizations.

Palestinian online newspaper Donia Al-Watan has interviewed the late TFT member Rabea Turkman,  who was a Fatah militant in the Al Aqsa martyrs’ brigades since the age of 16.

Al-Watan asked Turkman if the theatre is an alternative to armed struggle. His answer was that the theatre is not an alternative to armed struggle but a complement to that. He also added to his answer, that in all revolutions art has been a form of resistance, without denying armed struggle.

So TFT does not see its ”cultural resistance” as an alternative to armed activities, it is merely a complement to terror activities. The cultural resistance is not replacing the armed struggle  but rather serves as a tool to keep the people fed with the ideas of armed struggle and hostility towards Israel. In Europe and the US ”the Palestinian cultural resistance” has the goal to change our Western perspective of Palestinian terrorists from viewing them as terrorists to viewing them as victims, freedom fighters and heroes. The end goal is to make Israel lose support in Europe and the US.

Another member of the Al Aqsa martyrs’ brigades active in the theatre is one of its co-founders, Zakaria Al-Zubeidi. He is described in Palestinian media as a local leader of the Fatah armed wing.During the second intifada he was the terrorists’ bombmaker. But he is also the co-founder of the local branch of the Fatah armed wing in Jenin. TFT also reveals that Al-Zubeidi allegedly has been hiding 50 weapons. The theatre in addition to this states that staff, students, and board members have been arrested multiple times.

TFT also has cultural activities for children, which may look innocent on the surface. The ”soft” activities with small children however are there to create a positive image of TFT and to divert attention from TFT’s focus on graduating ”performing resistance fighters” and showing solidarity with terrorists.

TFT is just one of many many organizations Sweden is currently funding with millions of shekels from the Swedish tax payers’ money. Another organization is the anti-Semitic Miftah which until just recently made neo-Nazi material available on it’s webpage (now removed). Miftah has also been promoting violence in its contests for youths.Yet another organization Sweden funds is the Abu Dis Youth Club which honors acts of terrorism with championships and teams named after terrorists while hosting PFLP events inciting the youths to violence.

Sweden needs to wake up and realise that its foreign aid projects in the Palestinian territories are immoral and wrong. So on November 5I invite the Swedish tax payers to protest the irresponsible way in which Swedish development aid has been used. We will protest the government for inciting to violence with its destructive aid policy. For the very first time in history a demonstration against the Swedish government’s anti-Israel policies will take place in the heart of our democracy, outside the Swedish parliament.

May the truth liberate the Swedish people and ignite democratic resistance against Sweden’s immoral and destructive aid policy that creates terrorists instead of peacemakers.

Tobias Petersson is the director of Swedish think tank Perspektiv på Israel (Perspective on Israel)

The article was published on Arutz 7 website


London rejects Palestinian anti-Israel ad campaign

Palestinian delegation in London attempts to launch campaign claiming the Balfour Declaration brought about disaster for the Palestinian people in the form of the Jewish state, but the campaign is rejected by TfL.

The Balfour Declaration was a document signed in November 2, 1917, by then-British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, which declared Britain would “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

In preparation for the 100th anniversary of the historic declaration, the Palestinian delegation in London launched an accusatory campaign according to which “the declaration helped establish the State of Israel and led to the Palestinian disaster.”

The campaign includes posters with photographs of what is described as “the peaceful life of the Arab population in Palestine” before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, alongside photographs taken after the establishment of Israel that purport to show the “destruction and bereavement among the Palestinian people.”

The Palestinians planned to hang the posters at London Underground stations, where hundreds of thousands of people pass every day.

But Transport for London (TfL), the authority responsible for the transport system in Greater London, refused to allow the hanging of the posters on the grounds that the ads “did not comply fully with our guidelines.”

These guidelines bar “images or messages which relate to matters of public controversy or sensitivity.”

  “Palestinian history is a censored history,” Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, claimed. “There has been a 100-year-long cover-up of the British government’s broken promise, in the Balfour declaration, to safeguard the rights of the Palestinians when it gave away their country to another people. TfL’s decision is not surprising as it is, at best, susceptible to or, at worst, complicit with, all the institutional forces and active lobby groups which continuously work to silence the Palestinian narrative. There may be free speech in Britain on every issue under the sun but not on Palestine.”

The British Foreign Office denied Palestinian claims it was involved in the decision to disqualify the campaign.

The article was published on Ynet

European Commission to suspend all payments to Muslim Aid, OLAF examining issue

The European Commission intends to suspend all payments to Muslim Aid. The revelation comes after New Europe’s uncovering of over 14 million Euro of Humanitarian Aid financing to Muslim Aid, a UK-based charity that has among other things, been banned in Israel for fundraising for Hamas, an organisation recognised as a terrorist organisation by the European Union.

Responding to New Europe, a European Commission spokesperson confirmed that “the Commission has already notified Muslim Aid of its intention to suspend all pending payments and in line with contractual obligations is currently waiting for Muslim Aid’s reply to the suspension”.

Despite the fact that Israel considers Muslim Aid a fundraiser for Hamas, the European Commission clarified that, “The concerns regarding Muslim Aid of which the Commission has been informed of are not in any way related to allegations of financing terrorism.”

This suggests that the grounds on which the Commission has called for the suspension of funding to Muslim Aid is on different grounds. The Commission was vague – but told New Europe that “The Commission has taken measures to prevent EU taxpayers’ monies from being unduly spent or diverted.”

In a letter dated 22 September to New Europe, after our initial publications, the CEO of  Muslim Aid wrote that, “Our Charity is categorically not being investigated for terror ties or any misappropriation of funds.  It is therefore incumbent on you to remove your article from your website with immediate effect as it is wholly untrue.”

Muslim Aid has even more problems, as the European Antifraud Office, OLAF, told New Europe that they “are aware of reports regarding possible irregularities involving European Commission Humanitarian Aid managed by Muslim Aid.” As a result, OLAF is currently conducting a preliminary assessment as to whether or not to launch an in-depth investigation into Muslim Aid’s use of EU funding. The OLAF press office told New Europe that “OLAF fully respects the presumption of innocence.” If OLAF opens an investigation that concludes that there was mismanagement of EU funding by an organization, they could be called upon to return some or all of the funding previously received.

 

The Article was published on New Europe


European Parliament on Security situation in the Middle East

The European Parliament Committee on Security and Defencewill discuss the Security situation in the Middle East next Monday 25th September.

An exchange of views on the situation in the Middle East with a focus on US-Israel relations and perspectives is scheduled in the presence of experts including: 

  • Mr Marco Morettini, Deputy Head of Division for Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and Regional Policies, EEAS (European External Action Service)
  • Mr Reuel Marc Gerecht, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, U.S.
  • Mr Yossi Kuperwasser, Senior Fellow, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, former Director General of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Israel

 The debate will emphasize the need for a common strategy between the EU, US and Israel to implement talks on the peace process and setting up a common position for the security and stability of the Middle East.

HERE you can follow the live broadcast of the event from 3.00 P.M.


‘ROCK SOLID’: EUROPE-ISRAEL TIES ARE FLOURISHING, SAYS OUTGOING EU ENVOY

Faaborg-Andersen believes Israeli decision makers pay attention when the EU voices concern.

Lars Faaborg-Andersen left Israel at the end of August after a four-year stint as the European Union’s ambassador, lamenting the fact that, despite excellent bilateral ties, many Israelis still perceive Europe as a bastion of anti-Israel bias and antisemitism.

Europe-Israel relations are “rock solid,” he tells The Jerusalem Report, but the focus invariably is on the areas of disagreement, which account for no more than 15-20 percent of the relationship, in his estimation.

“I think it is kind of frustrating when we consider the track record we have of cooperation. And it’s not like we are at a standstill ‒ we are adding new areas of cooperation all the time, including most notably, I would say, anti-terrorism, which is a common threat to us and we have a lot to learn from each other,” he says.

“We have a lot to learn from Israel on many of the technical aspects of fighting terror and I think Israel might have something to learn from us on some of the social and political aspects of fighting terror, including issues such as deradicalization. So, I think, given the flourishing nature of our cooperation, it is frustrating to see us portrayed as being anti-Israel.”

In a farewell news conference in Tel Aviv, the Danish diplomat said there is not only a great misunderstanding on the part of Israelis over the role of the European Union, but also on EU policy and objectives.

Much of the friction concerns settlements as Brussels has been consistently critical of Israeli West Bank construction and insists that any agreement with Israel include a clause that excludes EU funding from reaching any Jewish community over the 1967 Green Line ‒ the West Bank, the Golan Heights or East Jerusalem. Indeed, Israel briefly suspended diplomatic discussions with the EU after Brussels decided to label goods imported from Jewish settlements.

Recently, there was tension over Israel’s demolition of a number of illegally built Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank, under full Israeli control, which had been partially financed by the EU or EU-member states.

Faaborg-Andersen doesn’t attempt to deny the differences of opinion, but stresses that they mustn’t overshadow the mutually beneficial bilateral ties that have an immense impact on Israel.

“Europe remains Israel’s biggest trading partner, the biggest partner in science and technology, the biggest partner in transportation and, maybe in the future, the biggest partner in energy,” he says. “Israel remains the EU’s most significant partner in the region. This is why we have some difficulty understanding the perception that the EU is anti-Israel.

“When you look at the facts it’s very different. There is also criticism that we are engaged in boycotting Israel. How can people get that idea to square with the fact that we have 32 billion euros in mutual trade every year? The EU is the single biggest public funder of science and research in this country. This doesn’t sound like a boycott to me.”

If Israelis were aware of the true nature of the bilateral relationship, he says their perceptions of Europe would change – also when it comes to antisemitism.

“Antisemitism in Europe is a phenomenon we are combating ‒ even more than Israel is ‒ and we are actually taking very determined steps to do something about it, including through cooperation with Internet providers and closing down websites that have antisemitic content, and we actually have good results on this.”

More than five decades of trade, cultural exchanges, political cooperation and a developed system of agreements have cemented bilateral relations. The 28-member bloc (soon to shrink to 27 after Brexit) accounts for about one-third of Israel’s total trade, and it was the EU’s 24th ranked trade partner globally in 2015.

Furthermore, Israel was the first non- European country to be associated with the EU Framework Program back in 1996, and its participation in the various cooperation programs since has been a success story giving added value to both sides. Israel’s participation in the Horizon 2020 program, signed in 2014, for instance, enabled thousands of Israeli researchers and entrepreneurs to cooperate with their European and international counterparts in cutting-edge scientific projects.

More recently, the 2013 Open Skies agreement has opened up scores of European destinations for Israeli tourists with lowcost flights and turned Israel into a regional flight hub.

Faaborg-Andersen’s tenure in Israel included a war, elections and the frustration of ongoing diplomatic deadlock in attempts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

He warns that the breakdown of peace negotiations combined with ongoing settlement activity makes the prospects for a two-state solution increasingly impractical. The diplomatic deadlock, he warns, could have serious implications for Israel’s longterm security and Palestinian aspirations, creating a potentially dangerous reality that may be exploited by radical elements in the region.

The outgoing EU ambassador met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about 10 times during his four-year stint and the EU assumption is that the Israeli leader remains committed to the two-state solution, as he outlined in his policy speech at Bar-Ilan University in October 2013, although questions remain over what kind of Palestinian state he envisions.

Bilateral political cooperation thrives in a number of areas and includes ongoing efforts to ensure regional stability by bolstering Jordan and Egypt.

On the security front, Faaborg-Andersen acknowledges that Israel has provided real-time intelligence to European countries regarding the Islamic State threat. Two high-level Israel-EU anti-terrorism dialogues have taken place, and workshops have been held on deradicalization, terrorism financing and non-conventional terrorism, such as the cyber threat.

While sensitive to accusations of interfering in internal Israeli affairs, the ambassador has spoken out a number of times against Knesset legislation perceived either as damaging to peace prospects or anti-democratic. Two recent cases are the NGO transparency law that forced human rights groups that receive more than half their funding from abroad – including from European governments – to disclose it prominently in official reports and the law legalizing settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land.

Faaborg-Andersen believes Israeli decision makers pay attention when the EU voices concern.

“I’m sure because I know that Israel is taking into account the expected international reaction to various pieces of legislation that is put on the table in the Knesset. It was very clear during the whole discussion of the NGO transparency bill and, obviously, also when the issue of retroactive legalization of settlements on private Palestinian land was discussed.

“Of course, Israel is very attentive to what the international community thinks about what is going on here. So, I think it’s the duty of the international community, including on me as the representative of the EU, to let them know in advance what the likely reaction will be on such issues so they can take this into consideration. The worst thing would be if they weren’t aware that something would trigger a response. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called to the Knesset to discuss with different MKs exactly these issues. So, yes, indeed, I think people are listening.”

Faaborg-Andersen, who has returned to the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen awaiting his next assignment, has been replaced by Italian diplomat Emanuele Giaufret as the EU’s new envoy.


Combating 21st century terror: What Europe can learn from Israel

Spain, Finland, Russia: in the space of a few days, Europe is reminded, yet again, that terrorism – like the virus it is – kills brutally, indiscriminately and, critically, transnationally.

On Thursday, August 17, a van rammed into crowds of people in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas boulevard – a hub of tourism and social life. Thirteen were killed with dozens more injured. The atrocity was followed by a knife attack the very next day in the Finnish city of Turku, which killed two people and injured eight. Another knife attack, this time in the Siberian city of Surgut on the 19 August, injured eight. Islamic State has claimed responsibly for all the attacks.

In a democratic society based on liberal values it is impossible to stop every madman that wishes us harm. Sadiq Khan was criticised but right when he said that the threat of terror attacks was now ‘part and parcel of living in a big city’. If you want total security move to North Korea.

Recent terror ‘successes’, however, are more to do with state failings than terrorist brilliance. In too many countries counter-terrorism measures are still insufficient. And the reason is simple: We are fighting 21st century terrorism with 20th century methods. Nonetheless, more can, and must, be done. One country, above all, has the method and the solution: Israel.

This little country of eight million has been dealing with terrorism since the state’s inception 70 years ago. From airline hijackings to suicide bombers to stabbings, shooting and vehicle attacks, Israel has seen them all – and has adapted accordingly.

Pini Schiff, Israeli Former Head of Security at the Israel Airports Authority believes the most pressing change that Europe needs to make is at the intelligence level. ‘Both the U.K. and France, for example, have really professional agencies,’ he says, ‘but that is not enough. There is not enough communication between intelligence agencies across Europe, like there is between all branches of the Israeli security services. It needs to be a ‘one nation’ intelligence community.’

He’s right. The horrific attacks in Brussels in March 2016 that killed 32 people were, in part, enabled by the absurdity of a city with a population of 1.5 million having six police forces, which didn’t communicate properly with one another. This led to major intelligence failings. While an extreme case, this sort of senseless de-centralisation is what allowed the attackers to slip through and it is present (to far lesser degrees) across Europe

European countries must now come together as one to combat terror – be it far right or jihadist. Both Interpol and Europol are European-wide police agencies focusing on a wide array of criminal activities. In January 2016, the European Counterterrorism Centre was set up as an organ of Europol. It is clearly failing. It must become autonomous and receive increased funding.

Intelligence is the first level at which terror must be fought. But the war is now also on the streets. Urban centres are the new battleground. As an Israeli counter-terrorism official (who cannot be named due to the sensitivity of his work) told me: ‘simple things, like placing bollards and barriers at strategic points in major centres can almost eliminate the possibility of vehicle rammings’.

But the most important changes must come at the level of education. A principle problem with terror is that it forces us into ever more intrusive legislation. An educated public can relieve the burden. As the counterterrorism official explains: ‘In the 21st century we have witnessed the new phenomenon of the lone wolf: Someone not part of a cell, someone who doesn’t buy guns or explosives and is therefore much harder to track.’

If someone can now be radicalised just by going on the internet, what can be done? Well, for a start, in Israel, the police have a dedicated Facebook page where people can report terrorist content they find posted on social media, and, critically, all of which is checked. It has saved lives.

Combating the threat of the lone wolf – and avoiding more draconian anti-terror legislation – comes with greater public awareness.

‘If, for example, you see your neighbour going out at 3am every night or see him or her buying a lot of knives, or carrying a suspicious backpack. Look at Anders Breivik,’ the counterterrorism official concludes, ‘all the red flags were there before and no one did anything. People need the courage to speak up. Every tip can lead the authorities to something much bigger.’

The Op-Ed was written by David Patrikarakos and was published in blogs.spectator.co.uk


Security forces uncover Hamas terrorist payment network

Shin Bet and police forces uncover a Hamas payment network that provided financial assistance to the families of convicted terrorists, including the mother of a terrorist who carried out the kidnapping and murder of Sgt. Nachshon Wachsman in 1994; security forces raid homes of families, seize NIS 100,000 in cash.

Shin Bet and police forces uncovered a network of money transfers from Hamas to the families of convicted terrorists, including the mother of Tarek Abu-Arafa, who took part in the 1994 kidnapping and murder of IDF soldier Nachson Wachsman.

According to police and the Shin Bet, the financial transfers uncovered were managed by Hamas operatives from the Gaza Strip. The purpose of the transfers was to provide financial support to the families of terrorists with the intent of encouraging more terrorism.

Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman ordered the funds seized and overnight Monday, security forces raided the homes of families receiving funds from Hamas.

More than NIS 100,000 in cash was seized along with one vehicle.

The raids were carried out in Ras al-Amud, Beit Hanina, Isawiya and Wadi al-Joz in east Jerusalem.

According to security forces, other families of convicted terrorists include: Ahmad Fathi Abu Shaban, who carried out a stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station in 2015; Musab Razala, who stabbed two police officers near IDF Square in Jerusalem in 2015; Omar Saqafi who carried out a combined vehicular and stabbing attack in Jerusalem; Hassan Mahani, who stabbed two people in Pisgat Ze’ev in 2015, and many others.
The article was published on Ynet

DEPUTY MAYOR OF FRANKFURT SEEKS TO BAN ‘DEEPLY ANTISEMITIC’ BDS

The boycott movement targeting Israel is “deeply antisemitic and should have no place in Frankfurt,” the deputy mayor of Frankfurt said.

The deputy mayor of Frankfurt, Uwe Becker, submitted a bill on Wednesday that would ban municipal funds and space being used for activities that aim to boycott Israel.

Becker, a leading German political voice against antisemitism, said, “The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement with its messages uses the same language the National Socialists once used to express: ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’”

The boycott movement targeting Israel is “deeply antisemitic and should have no place in Frankfurt,” he said.

The proposed law would outlaw all public funding and space for the support of “antisemitic BDS activities.” The bill in Frankfurt, which has a population of nearly 733,000, would also urge private companies to refrain from commerce with BDS groups.

The deputy mayor spearheaded his Christian Democratic Union’s adoption of its anti-BDS platform at the party’s congress in 2016.

Becker said on Wednesday, “Frankfurt maintains, with its partnership with Tel Aviv, a special closeness to Israel and has continued to expand over the previous years this special relationship.”

The municipality said in a statement that Becker announced Frankfurt’s clear position against BDS in light of anti-boycott measures taken by other national and regional legislatures, including Munich’s.

Becker said BDS, at its core, is a movement that “delegitimizes the State of Israel and uses the method of a boycott to defame [Israel].” He cited BDS actions to intimidate artists who want to appear in Israel.

He also noted the boycott activities of “department store police” who stigmatize Israeli products in order to pressure stores to turn against the Jewish state.

Anti-Israel activists have over the years marched into stores in Bremen, Bonn and other German cities to single out Israeli goods for opprobrium.

Becker said his city is engaged for a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Last week, Becker wrote on his Facebook page: “With the rising terrorism in Europe, more and more people start to understand the situation that Israel has been facing since David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independence of Israel on May 14, 1948. This rising awareness should also open the eyes of the people in Europe to see that it is up to us to support Israel, as it is the only democratic country under the rule of law in the Middle East. Israel is the democratic bridge between Occident and Orient and is linked closely to our European values and virtues and way of life.”

He continued, “This year marks a decade of suffering for the people in Gaza. No, not from Israeli policy, as many people in Europe might think. No, people in Gaza suffer from a lack of freedom, from a lack of democracy, from the brutal rule of Hamas, which is betraying its own people and has been governing Gaza since Israel withdrew in 2005 and Hamas took over power in 2007 after fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The corrupt leadership of Hamas has received hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade, but the money has not gone to the people, but to the accounts of corrupt Hamas leaders and to the funding of terrorism and terrorist infrastructure in their fight against Israel.”

Becker further said that “there should not be any European tax-money funding terrorism. And as long as it is not possible to track where our tax money meant for the humanitarian aid in Gaza goes, we should freeze our financial support.”


Times of Israel Persian blogger arrives safely in Israel

Neda Amin, 32, who wrote regularly from Turkey for The Times of Israel’s Persian website, faced deportation, feared she would be sent back to Iran

Neda Amin, a Turkey-based, Iranian-born blogger for The Times of Israel’s Persian website, arrived safely in Israel on Thursday morning, and was met at Ben-Gurion Airport by Times of Israel editor David Horovitz.

Amin was being threatened with imminent deportation by Turkey. She feared that if no other country took her in, she would be sent back to Iran, where she feared for her fate.

After The Times of Israel alerted the Israeli authorities to her plight, government officials immediately responded and paved the way for her safe arrival in Israel.

“Thank you,” said Amin, over and over when she arrived, embracing Horovitz. “You saved me.”

Horovitz thanked all of the Israeli officials who had worked to ensure her well-being. “I’m proud to live in a country that responded so instinctively to help somebody who was in danger.”

“As soon as we brought Neda’s case to the attention of the Israeli authorities, everybody was helpful and professional,” he said.

Amin has blogged regularly for The Times of Israel’s Persian site, and has done some freelance work. “She feared for her life, and her work for the Times of Israel was apparently a factor, so I felt we had an obligation to ensure her well-being, and I am very grateful to all the Israeli officials to whom I turned for assistance for providing it, immediately,” said Horovitz. The officials at the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, he stressed, were particularly helpful.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who issued the visa for her entry into the country, tweeted Thursday: “Welcome to Israel!”

Amin had appealed to the United Nations in Turkey to protect her, noting that the UN previously designated her a refugee in 2015, and had also appealed to human rights organizations and others to intervene on her behalf.

The UN Watch NGO circulated a petition on Amin’s behalf, warning that she was “in grave danger should she be deported back to Iran.”

Amin, 32, left Iran for Turkey in 2014.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Members of the European Parliament slam attempts to glorify Palestinian convicted terrorists by the Palestinian Delegation

17 Members of the European Parliament, from across the political spectrum, pushed back hard on a far left initiative by fellow MEPS who extended an invite to relatives of convicted Palestinian terrorists to address the Delegation for relations with Palestine. 

In a letter addressed to the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Antonio Tajani, the 17 signatories wrote “We are utterly appalled with the understanding that our colleagues from DPAL, under the pretext of discussing, ‘the situation of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails after the hunger-strike’, are in fact offering a public platform to relatives of convicted terrorists”. 

The letter, sent by EIPA political board President and Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson, comes on the eve of the meeting in Strasbourg of Members of the European Parliament sitting on theDelegation for relations with Palestine (DPAL) and their guest speakers, Mrs. Fadwa Barghouti, wife of Marwan Barghouti,and Sumoud Saadta, daughter of Ahmad Sa’adat. 

The signatories conclude that the organizers of the hearing are blatantly ignoring “the Council Decision listing both the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PLPF) and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as terrorist organisations”.

“We, Members of the European Parliament, are seriously concerned with the message this forum sends to our constituencies amidst such turbulent times in Europe”. 

“Given that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves a wide range of issues, we encourage our colleagues, who choose to show their support for the Palestinian self-determination, to engage with Palestinian actors pursuing peace, and not with convicted terrorists.” 

Teodora Coptil, head of relations with the EU Institutions at EIPA : “With a newly formed Committee on Counterterrorism, the European Parliament should vehemently enforce its rejection of any form of incitement and hate speech, and discipline its Members who are offering an official platform to PFLP and Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade affiliates; such actions undermine the very core of European values and norms” 

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the founder of EIPA, added: 

“Can you imagine what the reaction would be had the family of Osama Bin Laden would be invited to the European Parliament to express the motivation and supposed rationale of their terrorist relative? It is unthinkable. 

Yet this is precisely what the Delegation for Palestine sought to do.  We welcome the MEPs initiative to quickly move and raise their objections at this abhorrent move. It is now up to the President to ensure that this doesn’t happen.”

To read the letter and list of MEPs please go to the following link:
Letter_regarding the meeting agenda of the Delegation for relations with Palestine

 


NETANYAHU ATTENDS FUNERAL OF LATE GERMAN CHANCELLOR HELMUT KOHL

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara, attended the funeral of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl at the European Parliament in  Strasbourg, France on Saturday.

Kohl died at the age of 87 on June 16.

The burial ceremony was also attended by world leaders including current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and former US president Bill Clinton.

The prime minister was reportedly asked to speak during the ceremony, but respectively declined due to the Shabbot observance.

Netanyahu thanked Merkel before the funeral for concluding procedures ahead of the signing of a memorandum of understanding for security assistance between both nations after Germany’s National Security Council reportedly approved the sale of three advanced submarines to Israel on Saturday.

According to the report, Israel will receive three more Dolphin submarines in a $1.5 billion deal with German shipmaker ThyssenKrupp.

Macron also told Netanyahu that he expects the premier to attend an event in Paris marking the 75 anniversary of Jewish expulsion from France scheduled in two weeks. Netanyahu along with Macron are both expected to speak at the event.

Following the late German leader’s death, Netanyahu praised Kohl’s “commitment to Israel’s security” during his tenure as chancellor, and expressed appreciation for his “empathy” for the Jewish state.

“His sympathy for Israel and Zionism is reflected in my many meetings with him,” Netanyahu continued, “and his position was always firmly in favor of Israel, which has been steadily present in Europe and in other international forums.”

epa06059220 Soldiers carry the coffin of Helmut Kohl at the European Parliament as world leaders gather for the European Ceremony of Honour for late former German chancellor Helmut Kohl in Strasbourg, France, 01 July 2017. Kohl, widely regarded as the father of German reunification in 1990, died on 16 June 2017 at his home in Ludwighshafen, Germany. He was the sixth chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1982 to 1998. EPA/PATRICK SEEGER

The article was published on The JPost


NETANYAHU TO ATTEND CENTRAL EUROPEAN SUMMIT

Jerusalem continues outreach to subregional groups.

Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to Budapest next month for a meeting with the heads of the four central European countries that make up the Visegrad group, as Israel continues to try to build relationships with various regional subgroupings around the world.

Netanyahu is expected to meet with the heads of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia at the summit on July 18-19.

This visit will come less than a month after Netanyahu met with the heads of Cyprus and Greece in Thessaloniki, with Israel having developed a close alliance with those EU countries. And in early May, Netanyahu went to Liberia to take part in a summit there of 15 West African states.

With Jerusalem’s relationship with the European Union often strained because of the Palestinian issue and the desire of some key voices in Brussels to link development of ties to that issue, Israel has adopted a policy of forging close ties with specific countries or groupings of countries inside the EU who are more sympathetic to Israel’s position and are also interested in having close bilateral relations.

For instance, the energy issue has bound Israel much closer to Cyprus and Greece, and the Visegrad countries find themselves interested in forging closer ties because of economic, security and energy issues as well. These countries forums, as well as inside discussions in EU institutions in Brussels.

The same dynamic is at work in Africa. With Israel having been boxed out of any formal status in the African Union, largely because of the opposition of South Africa and the Arab North African countries, it has made inroads instead with African organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States, or even ad hoc groupings, as Netanyahu did last July when he met the leaders of seven East African countries.

Netanyahu’s visit to Budapest will be the first visit there of an Israeli prime minister since the country emerged from Communist rule in 1989. He is expected to hold both bilateral talks with the leaders of each of the Visegrad countries, as well as a joint meeting as well.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto was in Israel in May. The V4, as the Visegrad group is known, is a political and cultural alliance aimed at facilitating the integration of the four countries in European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

Szijjarto told the Hungarian news agency MTI when he was in Israel that the three most important aspects of economic cooperation with Israel were in the areas of automobile navigation, water management and energy.

“The automobile industry provides the backbone of the Hungarian economy, and the future development of this sector of industry fundamentally determines the growth of the Hungarian economy,” Szijjarto highlighted.

Close cooperation with Israel could make Hungary the European center for the testing and development of self-driven vehicles, he said.

“Based on the buying up of certain companies, it has become clear that Israel will be one of the global centers for the development of [autonomous vehicles]. Israeli company NavNGo is one of the Hungarian government’s strategic partners, employs hundreds of GPS software engineers in Hungary and is one of the world leaders within the field of developing such software, and plays an extremely important role in making self-driven cars a reality,” he said.

Audi, Opel and Suzuki exports make up a huge percentage of the country’s overall exports, and Europe’s largest engine manufacturing plant is located in the country.

With regard to energy, the foreign minister – referring to Israel’s offshore operations – said: “Israel’s natural gas deposits could play a significant role in the energy security of Europe and Hungary. If extraction begins according to schedule in 2019-20, Hungary will have an interest in purchasing gas [either via a pipeline or in the form of liquefied natural gas] in view of the fact that we would like to purchase natural gas form as many sources as possible.”

The article was published on The Jerusalem Post


In first for Israeli author, David Grossman wins Man Booker prize

‘A Horse Walks into a Bar’ snags prestigious award; judges ‘bowled over’ by novel; winnings to be split with translator Jessica Cohen

Author David Grossman on Tuesday was announced as the winner of the Man Booker International Prize of 2017 for his novel “A Horse Walks into a Bar,” becoming the first Israeli writer to receive the prestigious award.

Grossman’s novel, translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen, is set in a comedy club in Netanya, focusing on an embittered comedian falling apart on stage.

“Thank you all. I will cherish this award and this evening,” Grossman said after receiving the prize at a ceremony in central London.

“I thank first of all my wonderful, devoted, translator, Jessica Cohen,” the 63-year-old author added.

The translator, Cohen, was born in England, raised in Israel and lives in Denver, and has translated Grossman as well as Etgar Keret, Rutu Modan, Dorit Rabinyan and others.

“David Grossman has attempted an ambitious high-wire act of a novel, and he’s pulled it off spectacularly,” said chair of the judging panel Nick Barley in a statement.

“‘A Horse Walks into a Bar’ shines a spotlight on the effects of grief, without any hint of sentimentality. The central character is challenging and flawed, but completely compelling. We were bowled over by Grossman’s willingness to take emotional as well as stylistic risks: every sentence counts, every word matters in this supreme example of the writer’s craft,” he said.

Grossman and Cohen will share the £50,000 ($64,000) award.

“This is only the second year that the Man Booker International Prize has been awarded to a single book, with the £50,000 prize divided equally between the author and the translator,” the award panel said in a statement.

Another major Israeli author, Amos Oz, was also nominated for the prize for his book “Judas.”

The other contenders were Argentine novelist Samanta Schweblin and her debut novel “Fever Dream,” French writer Mathias Enard’s “Compass,” Norwegian author Roy Jacobsen’s family epic “The Unseen,” and Danish novelist Dorthe Nors’ “Mirror, Shoulder, Signal.”

Since he started writing in the late 1970s after being fired from public radio following anger over his critical coverage, Grossman has won numerous Israeli and international awards.

His 1986 novel “See Under: Love” is seen by a number of critics as his masterpiece, delving into the Holocaust and the generation of Jews that followed.

His 2008 novel “To the End of the Land,” published after his son Uri who was killed fighting in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, contemplates the effects of war while portraying Israeli life.

Grossman’s works have been translated into more than 30 languages and he was also decorated with France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1998.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Israel said in talks with Egypt, EU in bid to avert Gaza electricity crisis

Government looking for ways to solve escalating situation, even as PM calls matter an ‘internal Palestinian dispute’ between Hamas, PA

Israel is in talks with Egypt and the European Union to head of an impending humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip amid an escalating dispute over electricity supply to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, according to a report on Wednesday.

Sources in Israel told the Israeli daily Haaretz that discussions were underway with Cairo and with European countries on ways to solve the power supply to the Strip, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to distance Israel from the situation by saying the matter was an internal Palestinian dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu’s comments came a day after the Israeli security cabinet decided Sunday night it would cut the amount of power it supplies to Gaza, at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who is seeking to ramp up pressure on Hamas, the ruling party in the Strip and his Fatah party’s bitter rival.

Egypt, meanwhile, which has tense relations with Hamas, has offered the terror group more freedom at its border and much-needed electricity, in exchange for it agreeing to a list of security demands, Arab media reported Tuesday.

The list of includes a demand that Hamas hand over 17 men wanted by Cairo on terrorism charges, more protection by Hamas at the border, the cessation of weapons smuggling into the Sinai, and information on the movement of militants into Gaza via underground tunnels, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported.

Gazans currently receive only three or four hours of electricity a day, delivered from the territory’s own power station and others in Israel and Egypt. In April, the PA told Israel that it would only pay NIS 25 million ($11.1 million) of the NIS 40 million ($5.6- 7 million) monthly bill. Israel currently supplies 125 megawatts to Gaza, around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.

The Israeli cabinet decision would see a reduction of about 45 minutes to the amount of time every day during which Gaza receives electricity, Hebrew media reported.

Hamas responded to the decision by saying it would have “disastrous and dangerous” results that could lead to an outbreak of violence.

Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was not seeking a confrontation with Hamas.

“The issue of electricity in Gaza is a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony to launch a major housing construction drive in the central Israeli town of Be’er Yaakov. “Hamas is demanding that the PA pay for the electricity, and the Palestinian Authority is refusing to pay. It is an internal Palestinian dispute.”

“In any case, I want to make it clear that Israel has no interest in an escalation [with Hamas] and any other speculation is wrong. But we have an interest in security, and our policy is clear on the subject of security and it won’t change,” he said.

The power cuts, as well as a number of other steps taken by the PA since last month, are aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the Strip, or begin footing the bill itself.

Both Israel and the PA charge that Hamas would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if it didn’t expend a large part of its resources on armament and preparation for future conflict with the Jewish state.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, took control of Gaza in 2007 after a violent conflict with the Fatah party. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

The enclave’s only power plant stopped running in April, after Hamas ran out of fuel and refused to purchase more from the Palestinian Authority over what it said were high taxes.

Egypt also provided a small amount of power to Gaza, but those power lines have been malfunctioning.

According to Major General Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, the Defense Ministry unit that administers civilian manners in the Palestinian territories, Israel currently supplies Gaza with 125 megawatts monthly — around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.

After the new decision is implemented, Israel will supply Gaza with only 75 megawatts a month.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Israeli government and Palestinian Authority agree to strengthen economic ties

Israel agrees to open Allenby Crossing for 24 hours a day, used by some 2.3 million people per year

The Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah agreed on Tuesday to strengthen economic ties between Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel.

Kahlon, along with the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories Major General Yoav Mordechai, held a meeting with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah in order to lay out a plan for economic and civil partnership.

During the meeting, which was the latest of a series of meetings between the two parties, Israel agreed to allow for the opening of Allenby Crossing on the Jordan-West Bank border for 24 hours a day within the coming months and, after 2018, for the crossing to be open permanently.

The opening of Allenby Crossing, which is controlled by the Israeli Airport Authority, will impact the some 2.3 million people who use the crossing each year, mostly Palestinians. The crossing is the only exit point for Palestinians between the West Bank and Jordan and is also used for the transfer of merchandise. Allenby Crossing is currently open on weekdays from 7:30am to 1:30am and on weekends, from 7:30am to 3:00pm.

Israel also agreed to allow the establishment of an industrial zone near the Tarqumiya crossing.

Both sides agreed to strengthen economic cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government moving forward. The meeting was conducted with the knowledge of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

The article was posted on I24news