Israel on Monday named 26 Palestinian prisoners to be freed this week under a deal enabling U.S.-backed peace talks to resume, although Palestinians said these had been undermined by newly announced plans to expand Israeli settlements.
Some Israelis reacted angrily to the scheduled release on Tuesday or Wednesday of the long-term Palestinian prisoners.
“Shame on the government and shame on the prime minister and his supporters,” Zvia Dahan, whose father, Moshe Becker, was killed while tending his orange grove in Israel in 1994, wrote on Facebook. One of Becker’s three killers is to be freed.
The 26 prisoners are the first of a total of 104 Israel has decided in principle to free as part of an agreement reached after intensive shuttle diplomacy by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to renew talks for Palestinian statehood.
‘No matter how many settlers you put out there, the Palestinians are having more babies than the Israelis,’ former US president says
Former US president Bill Clinton on Monday night urged Israel to work toward a two-state solution with the Palestinians, saying that he had never heard a credible alternative that would enable Israel to remain a Jewish and a democratic state. “No matter how many settlers you put out there [in the West Bank], the Palestinians are having more babies than the Israelis as a whole,” Clinton said, and thus demographics were working against Israel.
Clinton was answering questions after a speech at the Peres Academic Center in Rehovot in honor of President Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday celebrations, which continue Tuesday through Thursday with Peres’s Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.
FOR years, conventional wisdom has held that as long as Israel faces the external challenge of Arab — especially Palestinian — hostility it will never come to terms with its internal divisions. The left has sometimes used it as an argument: we must make peace with the Palestinians so that we can set our house in order — write a constitution, figure out the public role of religion. Others have viewed the threat as almost a silver lining keeping the place together: differences among Israeli Jews (religious or secular, Ashkenazic or Sephardic) are so profound, the argument goes, that if the society ever manages to turn its attention inward, it might tear itself apart.
Back in Tel Aviv for a recent visit a year after ending my tour as Jerusalem bureau chief, I was struck by how antiquated that wisdom felt. At a fascinating and raucous wedding I attended and from numerous conversations with a range of Israelis, I came away with a very different impression. Few even talk about the Palestinians or the Arab world on their borders, despite the tumult and the renewed peace efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been visiting the region in recent days. Instead of focusing on what has long been seen as their central challenge — how to share this land with another nation — Israelis are largely ignoring it, insisting that the problem is both insoluble for now and less significant than the world thinks. We cannot fix it, many say, but we can manage it.
The wedding took place near Ben-Gurion airport, where a set of event halls has gone up in the past seven years, including elaborate structures with a distinct Oriental décor of glistening chandeliers, mirrored place mats and sky-high ceilings with shifting digital displays. The groom’s grandparents emigrated from Yemen; the bride’s came from Eastern Europe, an example of continuing and increasing intermarriage between Sephardim and Ashkenazim.
The music was almost entirely Middle Eastern in beat, some of it in Arabic, some of it religious. The hundreds on the dance floor, many staying until dawn singing along with arms gesticulating, came from across a range of political, geographic and religious spectra — from miniskirted to ultra-Orthodox modesty. Frumpy settlers in oversize skullcaps mingled with Tel Aviv metrosexuals in severe eyewear. Some women hugged you; others declined to shake your hand. Everyone was celebrating. No one, especially the Orthodox rabbi who presided over the ceremony, mentioned that the young couple had been living together for more than three years. Some talked politics with me. No one mentioned the Palestinians.
In the shadow of two purported Israeli attacks in Damascus, it is clear that the Syrian Army has not been seriously preparing for war against Israel for quite a while.
For nearly four decades, generations of IDF fighters have been training in the Golan Heights to push back a Syrian attack. For 39 years, since the end of the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli-Syrian front has remained calm. Now, in the space of four months, three air-strikes around Damascus have been ascribed to Israel, and the Syrian cannons which supposedly target Israeli bases and villages in the Golan are silent.
Where are the masses of artillery, the ballistic missiles, armored divisions and commando battalions? Every foot-soldier in the Golani Brigade learns to recite the details of the Syrian order-of-forces in enemy-recognition lessons and reservists acquaint themselves with their positions for the day it comes.
Of course, the last two years of civil war has significantly degraded the Syrian Army - but to the extent that it has lost any capability of responding, even symbolically, to the Zionist enemy’s bombardment of their capital city?
So far there has been no response to the two strikes that occurred over the weekend, just as there was no response to the bombing in January. While as a precaution, an Iron Dome battery has been deployed to the north, it seems that Israel is not expecting retaliation. How else could one explain Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sticking to his plan of spending five days this week on a working visit to China?
The question of why the Syrians have not responded joins another query that has been being asked for many months now, actually for nearly two years: How come, despite tens of thousands of desertions and armed uprisings throughout the country, reinforced by thousands of Jihadist fighters from around the world, entire units of the Syrian Army are still intact and fighting to keep Assad’s regime in place? Israeli intelligence officers who confidently announced in 2011 that Assad had only a few weeks left have, long ago, given up predicting his downfall.
The Osprey is finally spreading its wings for the rest of the world.
Pentagon sources say the U.S. has negotiated a deal with the Israelis to sell the first ever V-22 Osprey transports to a foreign country. The tilt-rotor aircraft - marketed for its ability to take off and land like a helicopter and fly fast like an airplane - generated negative attention during its initial testing and development as what critics called an unsafe and unreliable vehicle.
But improvements to the Ospreys impressed the Marine Corps, which will soon use it as the primary medium-lift helicopter for all it’s troop transport missions. And the V-22 has proven itself on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The purchasing agreement between the U.S. and Israel will be a key component of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s upcoming tour of the Middle East. “It’s a significant achievement, and the timing of this trip is appropriate,” a senior defense official says. “Secretary Hagel wanted to make sure to travel to Israel very early to finalize parts of this agreement and talk through it.”
This agreement, the official added, is one of the most “significant and complex and comprehensive which we’ve seen.”
Mr. Obama was expected to tell the Palestinians that the creation of a Palestinian state remains a priority for his administration.
He was not bringing a new plan to relaunch peace talks, but in meetings with the Palestinians and a speech to Israeli students later in the day, he was to appeal to both sides to halt unilateral actions that make negotiations more difficult.
Those troublesome actions include continued construction of Jewish housing settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians and repeated Palestinian efforts to achieve recognition at the United Nations in the absence of a peace agreement.
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama reaffirmed the unwavering U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and noted there had been no fatal attacks on Israelis from the West Bank, which is controlled by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
That calm has not extended to Gaza, which is run by the militant Islamic Hamas movement.
As Mr. Obama began his program Thursday, Israeli police said militants in Gaza had fired two rockets at the southern town of Sderot.
One of the rockets exploded in the courtyard of a house in Sderot early in the morning, causing damage but no injuries, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. The other landed in an open field. Sirens wailed in Sderot shortly after the 7 a.m. rocket attack, forcing residents on their way to work or school to run to bomb shelters.
President Barack Obama arrived in Israel on Wednesday without any new peace initiative to offer disillusioned Palestinians and facing deep Israeli doubts over his pledge to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
Making his first official visit here as president, Obama hopes to use the trip to reset his often fraught relations with both the Israelis and Palestinians in a choreographed three-day stay that is high on symbolism but low on expectations.
He was met at Tel Aviv airport by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres after Air Force One stopped next to a huge red carpet laid out down the tarmac.
Obama will hold lengthy talks with Netanyahu later in the day, with the two set to hold a news conference at 8:10 p.m. (6:10 p.m. ET). He will travel to the occupied West Bank on Thursday to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
U.S. officials say Obama will try to coax the Palestinians and Israelis back to peace talks. He will also seek to reassure Netanyahu he is committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear bomb and discuss ways of containing Syria’s civil war.
Samira Ibrahim, a 2013 recipient of the State Department’s International Women of Courage Award, has been promoting deeply antisemitic messages on her twitter feed, the Weekly Standard reported.
Ibrahim, an Egyptian political activist who TIME Magazine named one of the 100 most influential people of 2012, has been making highly offensive statements on twitter such as this one following a terror attack in Burgas, Bulgaria which killed 5 Israelis: “An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news.” in an equally disturbing tweet she said, “I have discovered with the passage of days, that no act contrary to morality, no crime against society, takes place, except with the Jews having a hand in it. Hitler.”
…Ibrahim has not just limited her discourse to Jews but to America as well. The Standard reports: “As a mob was attacking the United States embassy in Cairo on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, pulling down the American flag and raising the flag of Al Qaeda, Ibrahim wrote on twitter: ‘Today is the anniversary of 9/11. May every year come with America burning.’ Possibly fearing the consequences of her tweet, she deleted it a couple of hours later, but not before a screen shot was saved by an Egyptian activist.”
The State Dept has removed her from the official list of honorees and released a statement “”After careful consideration, we’ve decided that we should defer presenting this award to Ms. Ibrahim this year so that we have a chance to look further into these statements.”
After using the excuse that her Twitter account was hacked she posted another hate tweet.
In her first public comments in response to the decision of the State Department, Ibrahim tweeted “I refuse to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America regarding my previous anti-Zionist statements under pressure from American government therefore they withdrew the award.”
That should just about do it. Cancel the investigation and tell her to take her hatred somewhere else.
Why Israel Has No Newtowns: It’s the Jewish state’s gun culture, not its laws, that prevents mass shootings
Why? In the days since 27 innocents, most of them children, were murdered in a Sandy Hook school, all have been asking that question, trying to make sense of an ultimately senseless act. Simpler minds insisted that anyone who has ever argued in favor of anything but the absolute abolition of firearms was complicit in the murder of innocent children, while more astute thinkers tried to look past their indignation and heartbreak in search of sensible policy alternatives. Not surprisingly, they often ended up looking to Israel, a nation, went the argument, whose citizens are heavily armed yet rarely use their guns to shoot each other. This, more than one report noted, was due largely to Israel’s surprisingly strict gun-control legislation: assault rifles are banned, registration is necessary, and a whole system of checks and requirements is in place to keep weapons out of the wrong hands. A popular statistic spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter: Only 58 Israelis were killed by guns last year, compared with 10,728 Americans.
It’s a compelling story. It’s also wrong: There’s much that we can learn from Israel when it comes to firearms, but it’s the state’s gun culture, not its gun laws, that keeps its citizens safe.
Let us, for the sake of argument, put aside the fact that nearly all Israelis serve in the army, and that virtually all soldiers are armed with semiautomatic weapons that they carry on their person at all times, even when back home on vacation. Most men continue to enjoy this unfettered access to arsenals for the duration of their service as army reservists (at least a few weeks out of each year until they’re 45). If we disregard the glutton of guns facilitated by the Israel Defense Forces, we are left with strict-sounding laws that require anyone who wants a firearm license to register with the government and meet a list of seemingly stringent conditions.
AS THE latest war between Israel and the Palestinians threatened to spiral out of control, the airspace over Egypt’s capital, Cairo, seemed almost as crowded with envoys and grandees as Gaza’s with drones, bombs and rockets. On November 21st, a week after the violence intensified with the Israeli assassination of Hamas’s military commander, diplomacy seemed to prevail, as a ceasefire was agreed.
After at least 140 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, had been killed, along with five Israelis, the Gazan rockets stopped firing at Israel and the Israelis stopped pummelling Gaza from the air, sea and land. No one believed that large-scale violence between Palestinians and Israelis would cease for ever. But there was huge relief, across the region and the wider world, that this time round it had not been a lot worse.
Among others coming and going were the UN secretary-general, the American secretary of state and the foreign ministers of Turkey and Germany. But the real bargaining took place behind closed doors at the headquarters of General Muhammad Shehata, Egypt’s intelligence chief. There, in separate rooms, the Egyptians haggled with a legal adviser to the Israeli prime minister, and with representatives from Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs Gaza, and a smaller, more radical Palestinian faction, Islamic Jihad.
Most notable for their lack of diplomatic input were the Palestinians’ globally recognised leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who hopes to win enhanced observer-state status for Palestine next week at the UN, and unusually, at least to begin with, the United States. However, Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, cutting short an Asian voyage with her president, Barack Obama, was later credited with persuading Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, to stay his hand. Egypt’s new Islamist president, Muhammad Morsi, emerged for the first time as the key regional peacemaker, prodding his ideological brethren in Hamas into giving an assurance that they would stop firing rockets at Israel.
Everyone knows that a single impetuous action deemed by one side to flout the agreement could set the cycle of tit-for-tat violence spinning again. The bombing of an Israeli bus in Tel Aviv on November 21st, wounding a score of people, momentarily threatened to scupper the deal. All the same, there were high hopes that a breakthrough has been achieved.