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June 20, 2014: Prayer and Positive Energy

That is what that amazing woman Rachel Frankel, mother of Naftali, is asking of all of us.

Rachel Frenkel

Credit: Channel 2 news

Not coincidentally, this dovetails with what I wanted to ask today as well.

Investing energy in anger about the boys’ kidnapping, focusing on fear for them and other negative thoughts is not constructive in terms of what we are all seeking.  The nature of the energy that is put out into the world does make a difference. And what is needed now – in addition, of course, to prayers! – is positive energy. Send the boys feelings of love. Picture them safe. Mentally hug them. Reassure them.

This truly helps, my friends.  Spread the word. 


Last night, seven more Palestinian Arabs were arrested in an IDF sweep in Arab areas of Judea.  One of those arrested was Omar Abu Aysha, the father of Amer Abu Aysha, who has been missing since the kidnapping and has been named as a  likely abductor.

Some 190 sites were searched.


The IDF is looking at ways to prevent future abductions by taking such actions as installing both cameras and better lighting at intersections where hitchhiking takes place.

”We will create a more robust military presence in the hitchhiking stops, which will hopefully deter future kidnappings,” said Lt. Col. Shimon Peretz, deputy commander of the Judea Brigade.


Prime Minister Netanyahu announced at today’s Cabinet meeting that he is going to take steps to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement of Israel. 

One is tempted to say, “Mazel tov.  What took so long?”  It has been apparent for some time that this group is affiliated with and fronts for Hamas.  Its head, Sheikh Raed Salah, is in and out of prison because of his activities.

What finally did the trick it seems, is the demonstration held in the northern Israeli Arab village of Umm al-Fahm (which is at the heart of Islamic Movement territory) on Friday against the IDF operation to find the kidnapped boys.  In fact, there were calls, in fact, for further kidnappings, and rocks were thrown at police.


We have been subjected in the last few days to a barrage of rockets from Gaza – 12 just over the weekend.  What happened last night is that a rocket hit a plastic factory in Sderot, causing it to burst into flames and ultimately injuring four persons.

Israeli firefighters extinguish a burning factory hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on June 28, 2014 at an industrial zone in the southern city of Sderot. The previous day two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were killed in an Israeli air raid after a bomb exploded near troops manning Israel's security fence.


Israeli firefighters extinguish a burning factory hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on June 28, 2014 at an industrial zone in the southern city of Sderot. The previous day two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were killed in an Israeli air raid after a bomb exploded near troops manning Israel's security fence. (photo credit: AFP/David Buimovitch)
Credit: AFP/David Buimovitch

The Air Force retaliated, hitting several sites in Gaza last night and this morning:

“The strikes targeted a weapons factory in the northern part of the strip, another weapons facility and a “’error center’ in central Gaza and six sites in the southern strip, three of them concealed rocket launchers, the IDF said.

“Direct hits were confirmed on all sites.”

The number of rockets launched from Gaza in June was 4.5 times the number in May.  And Hamas Deputy Leader Moussa Abu-Marzouk has admitted that Hamas is doing nothing to stop the launching of those rockets.

Thus is attention being given to a link between the kidnapping and the rocket launching.


All the expected pronouncements – from, for example, Minister of Defense Ya’alon - have been forthcoming regarding the fact that we won’t tolerate rocket attacks on our people.  Netanyahu, for his part, is saying that, “We are prepared to widen our operation in Gaza, should the need arise."

But I caution, “should the need arise” is the operative phrase. There has been a bit of troop movement, but this all may be saber rattling. If our intention to go into Gaza is taken seriously, and the rockets stop, we won’t go in.  Whether we should anyway is another discussion. 

Lieberman suggests it’s time to seriously consider taking back Gaza.


Some tentatively good news: Martin Indyk has resigned as special envoy to the “peace talks.”  He is going to return to his former positions at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC, as vice president and director of foreign policy.

This signals that the government has a significantly reduced hope of achieving a negotiated peace between Israel and the PA, and, if we are lucky, it means less pressure will be put on us. 

But – naturally – this does not mean we are home free.  State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said that Indyk would continue to “work closely with the secretary on these issues from his position at Brookings.”
While a permanent replacement for Indyk would not be named now, Frank Lowenstein, who had been part of the “team,” would act in his stead on a temporary basis.”
Harf elaborated (emphasis added): “We’re in a pause right now. The secretary and the president, certainly, are still committed to trying to make progress here. While the direct negotiations have taken a pause, our efforts behind the scenes to work with both parties to get them back to the table are ongoing.

”It’s challenging, certainly, but we’re still in discussions and we’re still in negotiations talking to them about how they could do that.”
Oh joy.
What makes the situation more problematic, and disturbs me far more than Indyk does, is the willingness of certain Israelis to go along with this.
There is, of course, Tzipi Livni, who was chief negotiator during the recent talks. Now she gushes about how committed Indyk was ta the peace process, how he understood the importance of it to Israel – and how “we will continue to act” in this spirit.
And our president-elect Ruby Rivlin.  In a speech to journalists three days ago, he praised a condemnation of the kidnapping by Abbas, and said he saw this as “an opportunity to restore trust between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, if it can ever happen.”

I found this terribly worrisome and began to wonder if he was taking “president’ lessons from Peres.  First, it’s impossible to “restore” trust unless it previously existed, and it never has.  And then - in light of the Fatah Facebook page that celebrated the kidnapping and statements by other members of the PA questioning whether there really was a kidnapping - he waxed far too enthusiastic about a pro forma statement that Abbas really had to make.


It’s pretty easy to see what’s coming down the road: Abbas will break off from Hamas, and will be heralded as a moderate and a hero for doing so.  The fact that Abbas funds terrorists in our prisons and incites like crazy against us will be forgotten.  He will be embraced, once again, as a “partner for peace.”  And unless I’m very much mistaken (and oh how I pray that I am!) our prime minister will be on board at some level, talking about his readiness to go to the table again.  Ever the willing player.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 04:19PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 27, 2014: Information Revealed

Late yesterday, Israeli security released the names of the two men who are believed to be the abductors of the three kidnapped boys.
Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, residents of Hevron, have been missing since the kidnapping.  They always prayed in the same mosque and informants in that neighborhood reported on their absence (which, at the time, I noted).  Their wives were extensively interrogated and their homes have been thoroughly searched several times.
The two are members of Hamas.  As is often the case, Hamas involvement has been a family affair for them: Marwan Kawasme’s uncle, Abdullah Kawasme was the commander of Hamas’s military wing in Hebron until he was killed in a battle with SWAT officers in 2003; while Amer Abu Aysha’s brother, Zayd, a Hamas member, was killed in a battle with Israeli soldiers in 2005, and his father, Omer, served time in Israeli prison because of Hamas involvement.
Abu Aysha’s mother said that if her son is involved in the kidnapping, she is proud of him.
It is believed that they were in the car when the boys were abducted and are now in hiding.  This does not necessarily mean they are any longer with the boys, who may have been turned over to other Hamas operatives.
There is no explanation as to why this information, which the security forces have had since the beginning, is being released now.  But what this does is make clear that there indeed is direct Hamas involvement, just as Netanyahu has insisted.
The other news about the search for the boys came Wednesday night, not long after I had posted.  It represented a reversal of an announcement from the day prior:  There was going to be no slow down in the operation after all, decided the Security Cabinet - not with regard to going after Hamas or taking care not to offend during Ramadan, or anything else.  Full speed ahead.  A welcome announcement.
What precipitated this reversal is not clear, although it is speculated that a presentation the three mothers gave in the Knesset – where they were received with enormous empathy – may have had something to do with it.
Bat-Galim Sha'ar, mother of Gilad, in an emotional speech, implored the government not to curtail efforts. The message delivered was that the mothers had full confidence in the measures being taken to find their sons, as long as they were done without slowdown.
מח"כות לבנים
Credit: ArutzSheva
The original announcement about the slowdown had said the operation against the Hamas organization in Judea and Samaria would be curtailed – as it was just about exhausted, while the search for the boys would continue unabated.  But truth to tell, it’s difficult to draw a meaningful line between the two.  Any Hamas operative picked up, for whatever reason, might end up providing meaningful information.
And, indeed, after the slow down was reversed, overnight on Wednesday there was a sweep in the Hevron area and 10 were arrested.
A decision was made Wednesday night, as well, to block the Palestinian Authority monthly transfer of funds to terrorists incarcerated in Israeli prisons.  The longer the term of incarceration, the greater the larger the monthly “stipend.”
It was with reason, then, that Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi, on Thursday, applauding this decision, called Abbas a “mega-terrorist” for his financial support of imprisoned terrorists.
“In May, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman addressed the subject of Palestinian prisoners being paid stipends by the PA, noting that some 5,000 security prisoners are paid more than NIS 7,500 a month each.

“’Abbas, who whines about the PA’s finances, pays large stipends to prisoners convicted of murder and those who tried to become suicide bombers,’ Lieberman told the MKs. ‘The prisoners are given three times as much as Palestinian policemen.’” (Emphasis added)


It is now time to turn to my Shabbat preparations, once more with a prayer in my heart that when I return to write again, the boys will have been found.

Shabbat Shalom to one and all.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Friday, June 27, 2014 at 07:12AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 26, 2014: Agonizingly Slow

Three kidnapped Israeli teens, from L-R: Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16. (photo credit: courtesy)

The days move on, and still no word on recovery of the kidnapped students, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shayer and Naftali Frenkel.  The IDF continues to operate on the assumption that they are alive and hidden somewhere in Judea and Samaria (most likely but not necessarily in the Hevron area) - although Chief of Staff Benny Gantz confessed yesterday to growing worry.  We’ve got hundreds of soldiers combing the area, but what an incredible task it is.  I wrote recently about the huge number of hiding places – caves, dry wells, underground tunnels, etc. etc. – that have been discovered and searched.  But all it takes is one hidden place that has not been uncovered. 
The part of the IDF operation that has focused on weakening Hamas will be slowing down, in accordance with a Security Cabinet decision.  This is said to be because the bulk of what could be achieved with this operation has already been “exhausted”: monies confiscated, terrorists taken into custody, weapons factories dismantled, over 60 Hamas institutions in Judea and Samaria shut down, etc. 
But I also have the impression, from several media sources, that the fact that Ramadan begins this Saturday has something to do with the slowdown.  During this Islamic month, devout Muslims fast from sunup to sundown.  There was apparently a feeling in the Cabinet that major disruptions in PA areas during this time would be particularly resented – with spiraling violence that might get out of control, and that it would not play well internationally. 
We might have a discussion about whether these factors should be relevant, but we’ll leave this for the moment.  One senior IDF official cited by Israel National News insists that Ramadan is not an issue.
No matter the slow down that may be implemented in a couple of days, things were still hopping last night, when 17 more terrorists were apprehended. Two of them were Palestinian Authority parliamentarians, apparently Hamas-associated.  There are conflicting reports on their names.
The search for the boys will continue unabated – both in terms of combing the area and on-going intelligence efforts.
IDF forces in Operation Brother's Keeper
Credit: Flash90
Yesterday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said:  “...this continues to be the No. 1 mission, in which we are investing the best of our resources...[it is] only a matter of time until we get to the kidnappers and the kidnapped youth.  We are in the right direction. We will eventually solve the mystery...”  (Emphasis added)
My own sense of this situation, my friends, tells me that praying for the boys is a matter of greatest importance.  Please, don’t stop.

Yesterday, the mothers of the three boys went to Geneva, to testify before the UN Human Rights Council, to plea for action on behalf of their sons and to raise world consciousness about the situation.  They were invited by UN Watch, which surrendered time for them.  Rachel Frankel – mother of Naftali - spoke, and what a brave woman she is:
“Mr. President, it is wrong to take children, innocent boys or girls, and use them as instruments of any struggle. It is cruel. This council is charged with protecting human rights. I wish to ask: Doesn’t every child have the right to come home safely from school?

“We just want them back in our homes, in their beds. We just want to hug them again.  Thank you, Mr. President.”

Iris Yifrach – mother of Eyal, and Bat-Galim Shayar – mother of Gilad, sat with her.
Human Rights Voices has put together a video that begins with Rachel Frankel’s testimony, and then moves to UN attitudes towards the kidnapping and towards Israel.  Not an easy thing to see.  But watch it, please!
You will note that one individual after another refers to the boys as “settlers.”  That somehow justifies crimes against them. But in point of fact – while they study in Judea and were abducted there - they are not “settlers.” 
On Monday, the Security Council had discussed, but failed to come to an agreement on, condemning Israel for operations in Judea and Samaria, as had been proposed by Russia. The US balked at language that named Israel directly, while Jordan wanted language stronger than “deploring.” 
Jordan: I am very mindful of the exceedingly precarious position of the king, who undoubtedly doesn’t sleep well at night.  And I know that he has to demonstrate a tough line against Israel, as radicals are breathing down his neck.  Yet, at a purely visceral level, sometimes it’s difficult not to feel impatient with Jordan’s stances.
Compare the Jordanian “tough” position in the UN with this new item:
“Jordanian sources say kingdom's cooperation with Israel has only increased as situation in Iraq has deteriorated amid ISIS offensive.”,7340,L-4534226,00.html
But this, of course, is supposed to be done quietly.
More about ISIS below.
Netanyahu, relying on intelligence that has not been made public, is very certain indeed that Hamas is responsible for the abductions.  But there has still been no public declaration of responsibility, and no public demands have been released.
Breaking silence for the first time, Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas politburo, gave an interview with Al-Jazeera in Gaza, in which he claimed that he has no information on the boys.  He refers to as soldiers, because kidnapping soldiers is presumed to be less reprehensible.  He explained that the political and military wings of Hamas are separate, and that the military wing does not wait for word from the politburo before deciding to act.  This comment was made in response to Israeli security speculation that a speech he gave recently might have been a coded approval for the kidnapping.
But whether Mashaal and the politburo gave orders or not, it is difficult for me to believe that they have no idea if their people are the ones who acted. 
All Mashaal would say was: “...if there will be a confirmation that a Palestinian group is behind the kidnapping – we should applaud and take off our hats to them." If the kidnappers were listening, they might have interpreted this as praise for their efforts and caution to stay strong.
He "blesses the hands of those who kidnapped them, since the Palestinian prisoners should be released from the Israeli prisons," he further said – thereby attributing motive to that about which he claims to know nothing.,7340,L-4533751,00.html
Just days ago I referred to the fact that over 50 terrorists released from prison in the Gilad Shalit trade have been rearrested in on-going IDF operations.  Now it seems this was specifically at the order of Prime Minister Netanyahu.  This was his response to the May arrest of Ziad Awad for the terrorist murder of Baruch Mizrachi on the eve of Pesach, outside of Hevron.
Awad’s home is scheduled for demolition (pending court approval) as an additional form of punishment. The government hopes to reinstate this practice as a matter of course, as was done from 2001 to 2004. The goal was not simply reprisals, but deterrence: If terrorists knew their entire family would suffer, it was thought, it might make them think twice before carrying out their attacks.

“One government official explained that Israel ‘hopes to level the playing field’ and provide economic deterrents to counteract the economic inducements the PA has put into place for those carrying out terrorist acts. (Emphasis added)

“’On the Palestinian side you have a whole package of incentives to carry out terrorist attacks, such as if we arrest the terrorist, their families get a generous allowance from the PA.’ the official said.

“He added that this created an absurdity whereby as much as PA President Mahmoud Abbas may have condemned the recent kidnappings of the three teens, if their kidnappers are imprisoned their families will get a generous benefit package form the Palestinian Authority.”

Other actions against Hamas are to be put in place as well, such as limiting visits to Hamas prisoners to the minimum required by international regulations.


Turning back briefly to the situation in Iraq:
The lightning movement of ISIS across large swaths of Iraq has generated some serious concern in the Israeli government.  For there are some specific implications:
“Israel’s national security leadership watched as Iraqi security forces, trained over the course of five years by the US military, ‘literally left their shirts on the ground and fled’ when faced with a fight,’” a senior security officer told the JPost.
The Israelis are extrapolating from this situation to offers made by the US last year, to train Arab troops who would replace the IDF in the Jordan Valley.  How can we trust this? is the question being asked.  If Iraqi troops cannot defend Iraq, how can we expect Arabs to defend Israel against other Arabs.  Well, it would be preposterous.
It seems incredible to me that the government should refer to this disastrous situation in order to make the point about the need for us to stay in the Jordan Valley.  Our position should be that we are not leaving because it’s ours, and that our policy is that we defend ourselves.  Period.  Even if the Iraqi forces trained by the US had conducted themselves well, these principles would still adhere.
I’d like to come back to issues of Arab motivations in fighting – a complex issue – at some other time.  But I mention here that there are PA security forces that have been trained and armed by the US as part of a most foolish and short-sighted policy. And we here are mindful of the fact that they may yet turn this expertise, and the weapons that were supplied to them (to fight terrorism, you should understand), against us. There are precedents for this.
Reader Robert S. questioned my recent statement that in the current situation in Iraq, as in Syria, there are no good guys. What about the Kurds? he asked.  I told him that indeed, the Kurds were good guys, but that they were not competing for the takeover of Iraq, or Syria. They seek, rather, to establish Kurdistan, which requires slicing off one small portion of northern Iraq, as well as sections of Turkey (most substantially), Iran, and Syria. 


Credit: axisoflogic
Kurdistan is going to happen. And it will be good for Israel. See here:
One more issue to return to in greater depth.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 12:44PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 23, 2014: Awful and More Awful

The Middle East, with the singular exception of a stable, prosperous, democratic Israel, is in a state of turmoil and transition – with enormous violence and instability the norm.  We are seeing Sunni-Shia tensions, increasing radicalism, and the break down of borders. And the situation is only growing more severe and more convoluted.  One of the most serious aspects of the current scenario is that it is devoid of good guys.  It’s simply a question of who is less problematic, less dangerous for Israeli and Western interests, and sometimes that’s a hard if not impossible call. 

We’ve seen this in Syria for some time: Assad is a vile dictator, with no concern whatsoever for the lives of his own people and a solid alliance with Iran.  While many of the rebels arrayed against him are jihadists who are seeking a cross-border caliphate that is a lethal proposition.

Today we see it as well in Iraq with the brutal onslaught of ISIS there.  A ruthless Sunni, jihadist, al-Qaeda off-shoot (now a rival of al-Qaeda) that began in Iraq, ISIS established itself in Syria after the civil war began, becoming a significant rebel force there.  Now it is moving against the regime of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shia-dominated government - traveling across swaths of Iraq with lightening speed, taking territory and towns in the north and west of Iraq, and approaching ever closer to Baghdad.

Yesterday, the post of Turaibil, at the Iraqi border with Jordan was taken by ISIS, presenting a threat to the stability of Jordan.


ISIS is commonly referred to as an acronym meaning Islamic state in Syria and Iraq.  But the Arabic - al-Sham - could just as well refer to “the Levant” (the eastern Mediterranean), which means that Lebanon and Israel are also in its sites, as is Jordan.  Sometimes it is referred to as ISIL.


With all of this however, there is yet another a serious problem to be confronted: Iran, which is Shia, is attempting to influence events in Iraq to its benefit. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised Maliki Iran's full support just days ago.
As well, Iran provides assistance to Shiite militia in Iraq.  All of this strongly suggests the possibility of Iran achieving control in or undue influence over Iraq.

This rings loud bells in Jerusalem.  One of the main reasons there has been Israeli opposition to Assad, in his struggle against jihadist rebels, is because he is an Iranian puppet.  Were Iran to move into Iraq in a significant way, it would create an Iranian arc of influence that stretched from Iran itself through Iraq and through Syria to our border.  And it would simplify the shipment of armaments from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.


Thus it is greatly worrisome to the Israeli government that the US seems to be reaching out to Iran, to achieve some sort of joint understanding to limit ISIS.  Not only would this give Iran undue influence in Iraq, it might cause the US to even further weaken its position in nuclear negotiations.  That is, Iran’s price for controlling ISIS – which the US is very eager to see controlled - might be greater nuclear latitude.  A real nightmare.
Prime Minister Netanyahu gave an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday advising the US that, “When your enemies are fighting one another, don't strengthen either one of them." Weaken them both, he said.  He addressed his serious concerns about the possibility of allowing Iran nuclear weapons: "Iran could come out with nuclear weapons capability — it would make everything else pale in comparison."  (Emphasis added)


At our northern border with Syria (on the Syrian Golan) there is a considerable rebel presence.  Yesterday, an anti-tank missile was shot from Syria into Israel, hitting a civilian vehicle.  Two people were wounded and a teenage boy, Muhammad Karaka, an Israeli Druze from the village of Arrabe, was killed.  His father, Fahmi is a contractor who works in the area for the Ministry of Defense.

Credit: Alarab

The missile seemed to have come from a rebel area, or an area that is contested militarily. But Israel has determined that the government of Assad is responsible, and late last night launched attacks on nine Syrian military sites, with at least 10 Syrian soldiers killed.,7340,L-4533314,00.html

There is no substantial change in the search for the kidnapped boys. The operation continues apace. 

One of the things I have found interesting about the intensive search being done for the boys in Judea and Samaria (largely in the Hevron area) is the uncovering and exploring of hidden places: caves, dried wells and cisterns, tunnels and other excavated places.  The goal, of course, is to find the students, who may be hidden in such a place. 

But the secondary result of this exploration is to locate hidden terrorist supplies and weapons laboratories, as well as to expose secret places where fugitive terrorists might hide (or, in some cases, were hiding).  I heard a news report a few days ago about a hidden excavation under a house that was uncovered and turned out to be large enough (and was apparently sufficiently well stocked) to provide hiding for many weeks.  There are tunnels dug under washing machines and stoves.  The mind boggles a bit at the complex labyrinth of hidden places that has been set up and drawn upon as part of the terrorist infrastructure.

See: for descriptions and a video about two-thirds of the way down.


Then there are the “forked tongue” proceedings of Mahmoud Abbas.  He’s playing both ends against the middle, as is his usual practice.  He feels constrained by world opinion to condemn the kidnappings (all such condemnations clearly insincere).  He must attend to this world opinion because funding for the PA is contingent upon positive attitudes towards the PA in the international community.  But at the same time, he feels constrained by the Palestinian Arab street and his relationship with Hamas to condemn Israeli efforts to find the boys: we are causing unrest, provoking another intifada, doing collective punishment, etc. etc. 

The recent statement by Amin Maqboul, member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, reflects this situation.  The Palestinian street, he says, “overwhelmingly” supports the kidnappings, if the goal is to secure the release of prisoners.  While Abbas “sometimes makes statements that are unacceptable to our people. But the purpose [of these statements] is to spare the Palestinian people the dangers of Israeli aggression and reactions of the international community.”


Khaled Abu Toameh has written about unrest in the PA streets directed at Abbas and the PA:
“What happened in the center of Ramallah on the morning of June 22 could signal the beginning of an uprising, or intifada, against the Palestinian Authority [PA].

“The incident began when hundreds of angry Palestinian youths attacked the headquarters of the Palestinian policy in the city in protest against ongoing security coordination between the PA security forces and Israel...

“The attackers were particularly furious with the Palestinian policemen who stayed inside their offices as Israel Defense Force soldiers entered Ramallah in the context of a manhunt to find three kidnapped Israeli youths.”


I note here that the resident of the White House has not deemed it necessary, to this day, to issue a clear and public condemnation of Hamas for the kidnapping.  Situations such as the one we are currently facing serve the role of exposing duplicity and true intentions.  What makes Obama’s silence all the more vile and reprehensible is that one of the boys – Naftali Frenkel - has US citizenship. The US government should be at the forefront of efforts to find him.

Mike Huckabee – former governor of Arkansas and talk show host - arrived in Israel yesterday.  And he provided a sterling example of how to be a mensch – a person who stands up and does the right thing.  For he immediately went to the Frenkel home to offer words of support and comfort.

"’Americans need to hear this story,’ he said. ‘This is an American citizen, this is one of us. And even if he wasn't – this should not happen to any young man or to any parent...’
“When asked by Arutz Sheva about the United States' call, last week, for ‘restraint on both sides,’ Huckabee said – ‘What's to restrain? What are the Israelis supposed to do? This to me is nonsense. The only restraint at this point is the restraint by whoever has these boys to do nothing to hurt them. G-d help those people if they touch a hair on these boy's heads... I think the Israelis have every right to say – and America should join this message – you touch that boy who's an American citizen and you will have hell to pay for it. That should be the only message we are sending right now.’”  (Emphasis added)

See a video of Huckabee saying this:


I close with this painful news, which has just been released, as a Shin Bet gag order has been lifted: In May, the Hamas terrorist Ziad Awad was arrested for the terrorist murder of Baruch Mizrachi on the eve of Pesach, outside of Hevron.  What a horrible scene that was – Mizrachi, his wife and kids were on their way to a seder.
Ziad has been charged with the murder; his son, charged as an accessory, has also been arrested.  It was the son who presented security personnel with the Kalashnikov rifle that was the murder weapon.  Ziad had told his son that, “whoever kills a Jew goes to heaven.” (Emphasis added)
The most horrendous part of this is that Ziad Awad was one of the terrorists released in the trade for Gilad Shalit
I have no words for this, my friends.
Please, read this whole story:


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 03:15PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 21, 2014: Hoping, Waiting, Praying...

Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)

When last I wrote, I expressed the fervent hope that by the time I posted again the kidnapped students would have been brought back alive.  Days have gone by since then, but, most regretfully, we do not yet have them home.  I can do no more here than report on what is transpiring, to the degree that we are privy to information.

The mood of the nation is somber, watchful.  But what shows clear is a spirit of unity - Israel is with the boys and their families, in prayer, in thought, and in written word.  The Operation that is being conducted to find the boys and bring them back is called Operation Brothers Keeper, which tells us something as well.

We see prayers for them in different locales at different times, including...

A prayer service at the Kotel last Sunday, attended by some 25,000 people.

Praying for the kidnapped teens at the Western Wall.
Credit: Olivier Fittousi

Special services at the Mekor Chaim Yeshiva, where two of the boys study:

Israeli seminary students take part in a special prayer in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kfar Etzion June 15, 2014, for three teenagers that were abducted. Two of the teenagers studied at the seminary. Israel said on Sunday Hamas militants had abducted three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank, warning of "serious consequences" as it pressed on with a search and detained dozens of Palestinians.  (Credit: Reuters)

Credit: Reuters

A prayer rally in Talmon, hometown of Gilad Sha’ar, which was attended by both Chief Rabbis.

And in many synagogues last Shabbat and this.


Lest you think it is only members of the religious community who are praying...

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, on visiting the family of abducted Gild Sha’ar, confessed that:

"I haven't prayed for six years. Since the bar mitzvah of my son I haven't been in a synagogue. When the story of your sons broke, I looked through the entire house searching for my grandfather's siddur [prayerbook]. I sat and prayed."

And it has been revealed that Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar has begun to observe Shabbat and attend Torah lessons.


It is not my practice to quote outgoing president Shimon Peres, but he was on to something when he observed:

“Three families like this can lift up a nation to heights previously unknown, and I’m not exaggerating.  It’s been several days that Israel is different, unified, joined, praying, fighting.”

This has, without question, been the case because of how the families of the kidnapped boys are conducting themselves: with extraordinary faith and courage.

Here you see all three sets of parents, with Racheli Frankel, mother of Naftali Frenkel, declaring:

“We feel deeply embraced by the entire Jewish nation, which accompanies us throughout the day, which gives us so much support. We ask that the prayers continue… That’s it, all we want is to hug our children. Eyal, Gil-ad, Naftali, we love you, we miss you, be strong, be strong!”


Racheli Sprecher Frankel, mother of kidnapped Israeli youth Naftali, speaks to the press outside her house on Tuesday, June 16, 2014. She is flanked by the parents of two other teens kidnapped with her son, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90

Naftali Frenkel’s uncle, Yishai, had words that brought a bit of comfort yesterday, in a radio interview:
“Of course I can't tell you anything, but I can say that the indications we're receiving - on the basis of intelligence and not just religious faith - is that the boys are alive.
"In defense of the security system, it's important to say that almost from the start of the incident, there have been representatives in each of the families' homes 24/7. The immediate family of course know more than what's going on in the media."


IDF operations against Hamas are two-fold in purpose at this point. 

First, of course, are the efforts to find the boys and bring them safely home.  I’ve written already about the arrests and interrogations, the searches, the gathering of intelligence, all of which continue and intensify.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel “knows more than we knew a few days ago,” but cautioned that patience is necessary.


At the same time, actions are being taken to seriously weaken Hamas, in order to reduce its capacity to take over in Palestinian Authority areas in Judea and Samaria.  What is currently happening is the one of the largest counter-terrorism operations since Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 during the second intifada.  Over 300 Hamas “activists” have been taken into custody.  More than 50 prisoners released in the trade for Gilad Shalit have been picked up and will be returned to prison because of their involvement in terrorism.

At the same time, Hamas institutions are being closed and money and weapons are being seized. 

Ten IDF brigades are involved in this major effort, but the approach is still restrained in order to avoid inflaming the Arab population of the area or causing numerous Arab casualties.  Already, however, there are reports of growing resistance, and army clashes with Palestinian Arabs in Jenin, Bethlehem and Bir Zeit. As the operation continues, the likelihood of armed clashes increases.

Yaakov Lappin, writing in the JPost, refers to speculation as to whether the kidnapping was instituted by the local Hamas in Hevron, or as the result of orders from Hamas’s military wing in Gaza, Izz ad-Din al-Kassam Brigades. Security sources have noted, as well, a recent speech by Hamas politburo head Khaled Mashaal, in Doha, that may have been a coded green light for kidnapping Israelis.


In the process of this operation, there is the hope, as well, that Hamas can be delegitimized in the eyes of the world, which was, as the JPost’s Herb Keinon points out, beginning to accept this terrorist entity as a legitimate political player.  The US and the EU had already agreed to support a unity government that had Hamas backing.  Then, down the road would have come PA elections, with Hamas moving into place as a major player, and the world finding a way to legitimize this.  The goal here is to expose the nature of Hamas in a manner that will make this scenario considerably less likely.

Avi Dichter, former head of the Shin Bet, has observed that Gilad Shalit was kidnapped shortly after a Fatah-Hamas unity government was formed in 2006, which parallels the current kidnappings shortly after another unity government has been formed.  He does not see this as a coincidence.


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Posted on Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 06:15PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 16, 2014: The Struggle Goes On

This is not an uncommon refrain for me these days:  This posting must be short because other considerations are pulling at me.  I did want to follow through a bit more about the search for the three kidnapped students.  But, unfortunately, the very same matter that has my attention today may prevent me from posting again until later in the week.  Please God, let there be good news to post!
What we are seeing now is:
[] Israel is squeezing Hamas in order to force the release of the boys.  There have been multiple arrests of Hamas affiliated people – including some significant persons within Hamas - done in the course of the search in the Hevron area. And Israel is considering harsher actions, such as expulsions.
[] Netanyahu, for the first time in over a year, contacted Abbas and asked him to help with finding the boys.,7340,L-4530951,00.html
[] Abbas condemned the kidnapping, but also condemned the actions that Israel is taking against Hamas.
[] In a very strange turn of events, the military arm of Abbas’s Fatah party has claimed “credit” for the kidnapping. They want “thousands” of prisoners released, their announcement says.  There would really be huge implications in this, but their claim does not really mean they have the boys.  Lots of groups claim lots of things, and Israeli intelligence, which fingers Hamas, is excellent.
See this interesting piece that suggests that Hamas’s action in the kidnapping tore the unity government apart, and Abbas knows it.
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Posted on Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 02:13PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 15, 2014: Real but Painful Progress

A couple of very significant pieces of information have been uncovered in the extensive IDF/Shin Bet operation for the rescue of the three kidnapped students (emphasis added):
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened Sunday morning's cabinet meeting with dramatic revelation over the kidnapping of three Israeli yeshiva students, saying that the Islamist terrorist group Hamas is behind the kidnapping, and vowing ‘serious consequences.’

“This morning I can say what I was unable to say yesterday before the extensive wave of arrest of Hamas members in Judea and Samaria.

’Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas – the same Hamas that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] made a unity government with; this has severe repercussions...’

“According to Palestinian media outlets affiliated with Hamas, IDF forces have already raided hundreds of houses in Hevron, Jenin, Ramallah and other cities.

“Officials said that more than 80 Hamas members were arrested overnight as part of the investigation into the kidnapping. Those detained include members of the so-called ‘unity government’ between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

“At least one of the terrorists arrested by IDF forces was apparently Hassan Yousef, a senior Hamas official.”


Reports have it that two Palestinian Arabs from Hevron who are associated with Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, are being sought. They have been missing since Thursday.

I know that low level, i.e., grassroots, intelligence is being drawn upon to the maximum in this operation. The IDF and Shin Bet have intelligence sources in Arab communities, which are being tapped regarding information about anyone who has been inexplicably absent.  I make the assumption that this is how information was acquired on the two who are being actively sought.

The wives of these men were detained and questioned as to the whereabouts of their husbands.


Now, later in the day, additional information has been released (emphasis added):
“A senior IDF official told reporters Sunday afternoon that in the army's estimation, the three kidnapped teenagers taken Thursday night by still-unidentified captors are still alive, and are being held somewhere in the Judean Hills.
“We are not acting blindly and without guidance,’ the official said.  ‘The IDF is thoroughly familiar with Hamas’ infrastructure in Hevron. Those involved in the kidnappings were prisoners in Israeli institutions and were released,’ which gave Israeli authorities insights and information on their terror activities.”


The IDF is in process of setting up a blockade of Hevron.  No one is being let in or out of the city.

IDF forces setting up concrete barricades at entrance to Hebron,7340,L-4530610,00.html

“A senior General Staff source said on Sunday that in terms of professionalism, the kidnapping is of the highest level.  According to him, the IDF estimates that the abductees were not transferred to the Gaza Strip or to the Sinai, ‘but we are prepared for that option.’  He added that ‘we are employing all the special units and means to locate them.’”


And so my friends, keep praying that this operation will be a success and the boys can be rescued alive!


Hamas has labeled Netanyahu’s accusation “stupid” – a misdirected attempt to weaken the unity government.


On the surface, there are reports of PA security cooperation with regard to the search for the boys. But I remain, with solid reason, completely mistrustful of Abbas’s intentions.

Fatah, Abbas’s own party, put out on their Facebook page an obscene cartoon representing the three Jewish students as rats:

While Palestinian Media Watch has identified a vile cartoon celebrating the kidnapping that appeared in the Palestinian Authority’s daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida :

Never, ever, trust them.


There ought to be severe repercussions, indeed, as our prime minister put it, in response to what is now being assumed is a Hamas kidnapping.  And I do hope that Israeli action against Hamas in Gaza will be very severe.  Doubly is this the case as rockets continue to be launched from Gaza during this time - a “drizzle,” as it is sometimes called, but even one is too much.  We know where their headquarters are, and their leaders.

I hope even after this kidnapping issue is resolved, arrests of Hamas-affiliated persons in Judea and Samaria will be stepped up, as well, and that all perks will be denied Hamas members in our prisons.  I want to see it made it made very difficult to impossible for Hamas to operate.

We are facing radical jihadists all around us.  Standing strong, very very strong, is the only reasonable response.


However, “ought to be” is the operative word here.  There is often a wide gap between what should happen and what actually does happen.

Netanyahu said, in his statement this morning, that:

”Those same elements in the international community that said that the Palestinian agreement with Hamas would advance peace now see the true results of this union.”

My cynical response is, “Yea, sure.”  The international community finds a way to ignore or rationalize all sorts of totally unacceptable Palestinian Arab behavior when it suits its own aims.  This will be no different.  Will the governments – including the US government – that had said they will “work with” the new unity government now refuse to do so?  Please, do not hold your breath. 

Unless I am missing something, there has been no condemnation of the kidnapping by Obama.  Which is fairly incredible. 

“Canada has firmly condemned last week’s Palestinian Authority terrorist kidnapping  of three teenage boys but U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to say a word about the attack — even though one of the hostages is an American citizen.”

Kerry was heard from.  He said he was very concerned for the students’ safety, which is not the same thing as condemning the kidnappers. 


One result of this incident that we can expect is a furious reluctance here in Israel to ever again releasing terrorists from our prisons in any sort of deal.  If the evidence for not doing this was not strong enough before, it stares us in the face now. 

Today Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made a statement on Army Radio:

“There will be no releases for those Palestinian terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons - not as a 'gesture' and not for any other reason.”

While Tourism Minister Uzi Landau declared, “We must use an iron fist against these terrorists and not provide them with rewards for kidnapping Israelis.”


The most incredible statement released today came from Jonathan Pollard, who is in abysmal health and is denied clemency by Obama.  It said:

”In the depths of Gehinom [roughly, hell], Jonathan Pollard is davening [praying] for the safe return of our 3 boys who were kidnapped on Thursday by a blood-thirsty Palestinian terrorist cell. Jonathan urges everyone to drop what you are doing and to pray urgently for the immediate rescue and safe return home of our kidnapped boys, alive, healthy and unharmed."


Jonathan Pollard
Credit: AP
Amen v’amen!   After the boys are brought home safe, let us direct our prayers to the release of Jonathan Pollard.

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Posted on Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 01:29PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 14, 2014: National Anguish

Motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat)

And fear.  And fury.  And a terrible sense of déjà vu.

Late Thursday evening, three boys disappeared. 

They are Eyal Yifrach 19, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Gilad Sha’ar, 16. 

At this point in time, it’s impossible to piece together full information, especially as some details are being withheld.  Two are students in Makor Chaim yeshiva high school in Kfar Etzion, which is in Gush Etzion, and the third is a student in Shavei Hevron yeshiva in Hevron.  It is being reported that Naftali Frenkel has American citizenship as well as Israeli – which should be of interested to US authorities.  All three, I am assuming, were headed out from their residential places of study for Shabbat.
To the best of my understanding, they were last seen before midnight Thursday at a junction in Gush Etzion frequently used by hitchhikers.  Hitchhiking is not an uncommon practice in Israel.  They were picked up – that much is clear.  One of the boys sent an emergency message via his cell phone before it went dead; signals from all three of the boys’ phones were cut off. 

It is believed that they wanted to head to the Jerusalem area, but were brought into the area of Hevron.  An incinerated stolen car was found in the Hevron area; there is suspicion that this may have been the car that was used for picking up the boys.   


Tonight Prime Minister Netanyahu, after meeting with key security personnel, made a clear and unequivocal statement:  “Our boys were kidnapped by a terrorist organization. There is no doubt about that.”

He said that this is the result of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, and that he held the Palestinian government responsible.

While he did not – certainly would not - elaborate, it is clear that authorities are factoring into their considerations recent demands for the release of Palestinian Arabs from Israeli prisons, and calls by Palestinian Arabs to kidnap Israelis in order to secure prisoners’ release in trade.  I reported very recently on multiple plots that had been hatched by Arabs in prison, calling upon associates on the outside to carry out such kidnappings.


Abbas, speaking for the PA, not only denied any involvement, he offered to be of assistance.  What else could he say at this juncture?  But we can see how the PA assists:

”Fatah and Hamas activists on Saturday called on Palestinian shopkeepers and businessmen in Hebron to destroy any CCTV footage that could be used by the IDF to locate the three missing yeshiva students.
“The activists posted their call on social media networking, especially Facebook and Twitter, after IDF soldiers reportedly confiscated some security cameras from a number of businesses and homes in Hebron as part of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the students.
“Eyewitnesses said that Fatah activists in Hebron confiscated some security cameras to prevent the IDF from laying its hands on them.” (Emphasis added)
In Gaza, people celebrated the kidnappings by handing out candy.  Hamas criticized Abbas for his offer to help.


There is a massive police and IDF search for the boys underway in both the Gush Etzion area and the Hevron area.  It has been in operation for many hours, and is expected to go on for some time.  There seems to be some concern about the boys being smuggled into Jordan or elsewhere, and so roadblocks have been set up.  As well, people are being taken into custody and questioned intensively.  This is a process that, hopefully, will ultimately shed light on the situation: someone who is interrogated mentions a name, that person is brought in and interrogated....


In synagogues all over Israel, tehillim (psalms) were said for the boys today.  Tonight there was a prayer service for them at the Kotel and elsewhere.

Wherever you are, I ask that you also pray for them:
Eyal ben Iris Teshura

Ya’akov Nafatali ben Rachel Devorah

Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim


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Posted on Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 07:14PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 12, 2014: Dark Clouds

Credit: NOAA


In my last posting I wrote about “rays of light,” and indeed they do exist.  But I would be remiss indeed if I were to convey a simple-mindedly optimistic message.  The somber truth is that we are facing down some exceedingly tough situations.

For starters, there is Hezbollah.  I’ve been reporting for some time about the difficulties of this jihadist terror group. Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, lost considerable support amongst the Lebanese when it started sending its fighters into Syria to battle alongside Assad’s troops.  Suddenly, they were killing other Arabs instead of killing Jews as they are “supposed” to do.  This rendered them considerably less popular, especially, when Syrian rebels, angry at being targeted by Hezbollah fighters, began shelling at Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon. 

Then there is the fact that some 350 Hezbollah fights have died in the Syrian civil war.  And there is the inability of the Assad regime, up to its neck in fighting, to attend to supplying Hezbollah with weaponry, transported over the border into Lebanon.

Add to Hezbollah’s current challenges the fact of Israeli deterrence. Hezbollah "knows what will happen if it gets into conflict with us, and that this will set Lebanon back decades," IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said just days ago at the Herzliya Conference.

The impression one has, then, is of a Hezbollah that would be exceedingly reluctant to take on Israel.   “Hezbollah is deterred,” concluded Gantz.

However, there is a huge “but” here.  For Gantz also said, "there are maybe four of five countries (in the region) with more fire power than Hezbollah. They have a tremendous fire power which covers all of Israel."  According to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, there are roughly 100,000 missiles and rockets in Hezbollah’s arsenal.

Worrisome, to be sure.  And according to some reports, there is concern in the Israeli military that for the first time, Hezbollah, which has been training for this, might take the battle into Israeli territory.


This does not mean anything will happen tomorrow.  Nor is there ultimately any concern about the Israeli military besting Hezbollah forces.  Hezbollah has placed a large portion of its arsenal in civilian areas, but Israel has let it be known that it will have to go after those arsenals nonetheless.  Were there to be war, action from the air would be swift and fierce, of necessity.

See Air Force Chief Major-General Amir Eshel on this:
"Our ability today to attack targets on a large scale and with high precision is about 15 times greater than what we did in the (2006) war," Eshel said.  He indicated intense fighting was necessary to keep the duration of the conflict short "because the more protracted the war, the more missiles we'll be hit with here".
As well, there would likely be a speedy ground action.

Reassuring.  However, with all of this said, complacency with regard to this situation is not advised.


I cannot revisit this subject, even now, without expressing my fury at then prime minister Ehud Olmert and then foreign minister Tzipi Livni.  It didn’t have to be this way.  Olmert – who vacillated terribly - was unwilling to see the 2006 war in Lebanon to a successful conclusion, which would have meant taking out Hezbollah.  And Livni bragged about her part in setting up UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for UNIFIL to stop Hezbollah from re-arming.  Trust the UN to protect us. Right... 


As to Syria, reports out of the Herzliya Conference indicate the civil war shows no signs of abating. 

Israel truly is between a rock and a hard place with regard to a Syrian policy.  For some time, it was felt in many quarters here that the greatest danger was Assad, because of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis.  The problem is that a very large part of the rebels (80% by some estimates) are jihadists, who have their eye on Israel next.  For this reason, the presence of rebel forces at the border of the Golan is carefully monitored. These are not Syrian nationalists fighting for a better Syria. They have international aspirations with regard to a caliphate – a Middle East, at the very least, united under Islamic law. What is more, a good number of the rebel fighters have come from beyond Syria (many are Europeans, but some Arabs who are Israeli citizens have gone to fight).

See this report by Ari Soffer on the Syrian rebels:

“Although the Syrian opposition is primarily comprised of Sunni Muslims (Syria's majority population), rebel battalions are far from ideologically homogeneous. They range from Al Qaeda to the Muslim Brotherhood, and from privately-funded Salafist brigades to groups still ostensibly committed to a secular Syrian state...”


And lastly, there are Hamas and smaller Islamists groups in Gaza.  In addition to the 100,000 rockets and missiles said to be in the possession of Hezbollah, it is estimated that the Gaza groups, most particularly Hamas, have another 70,000.  This according to Itai Brun, director of research in the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence branch, among others.

Yesterday afternoon, a rocket was launched from Gaza into southern Israel.  Israel responded with an airstrike late last night that took out 33-year-old Mohammad Awwar, who had al-Qaeda connections.  He has participated in many terror attacks, said the Shin Bet, and was planning more.
And here I must ask a question: Would we have hit Awwar last night if there had not been a rocket launched?  If he was known to be planning additional attacks – and his whereabouts were known – how long would we have waited?

Be that as it may, the position of Israel right now is that Abbas, as head of the unity government, has responsibility for the rocket, must take over Gaza, and eliminate the rocket cache. 

While the US does not hold the PA responsible, unity government or not. Said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said: “we acknowledge the reality that Hamas currently controls Gaza.”


A grim posting – even without mention of the jihadi (ISIS) takeover in parts of Iraq and Syria, with threats to Jordan imminent.
Or what’s happening with Iran.

The obvious must be stated here: We are seeing the fruits of Obama policies.  Matters did not have to be so grim.


Let’s end with an item (multiple items, really) that are upbeat and informative: From israel21c, 18 Israeli inventions that could save your life:


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 04:47PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 10, 2014: Rays of Light

More and more it seems, the nations of the world are arrayed against us:  Israel is criticized for not accepting a Fatah-Hamas unity government, for building in Judea and Samaria, etc. etc.  But there is one turn-around that, while modest, is significant.

The government of Australian Prime Minister “Tony” Abbott (pictured) “has ruled out using the term ‘occupied’ when describing Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, prompting suggestions about a shift in Australia's foreign policy.”

Australian Prime Minister-elect, Tony Abbott claims victory in the 2013 Australian Election in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 7, 2013. (Lisa Maree Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

Credit: Getty

“The government on Thursday delivered a statement to clarify its stand on the controversial question of the legality of settlements after the issued flared up at a [Australian] Senate hearing the night before.

"’The description of East Jerusalem (sic) as “occupied” East Jerusalem is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful,’ [Attorney General George] Brandis told a Senate estimates hearing [speaking for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop].

"’It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian government to describe areas of negotiation in such judgmental language.’"


This does not mean that Australian policy now considers Judea and Samaria irrefutably Israeli, but, rather, that it acknowledges that Israel may have a legitimate claim, which must be resolved in negotiations.  And it’s a giant step in terms of fairness.

The shift in attitude began with Julie Bishop, who on a visit here in January famously said:

“I would like to see which international law has declared them [the settlements] illegal.”

In light of this apparent shift in policy, the Australian foreign ministry has taken hits from a host of countries that are “shocked” that anyone could fail to see eastern Jerusalem (there is no such place as “East Jerusalem”) and Judea and Samaria as anything but “occupied.”  This goes, by the way, for some members of Australia’s Senate as well.

And the Palestinian Arabs, who are considerably threatened by such a position?  Saeb Erekat, the PLO chief negotiator, wrote that “diplomatic recognition of the situation created by the attempted annexation of our capital is a flagrant violation of international law.”

Sigh... they rarely make a statement without evoking a non-existent “international law.”


What this shift does is provide a bit of hope.  If only some other foreign ministries were to take note.  Many, I recognize, are lost causes. But not all.

It provides a signal lesson as well: Where there is even a modicum of open-mindedness and willingness to learn on the part of diplomats, attitudes can be changed as facts are presented.

It is unlikely that it is a coincidence that in recent weeks there have been meetings between Israelis – presenting the case for Israel’s rights – and representatives of the Australian government.  Most significant was a meeting between Minister of Housing Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) and Australia’s ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma.  This was held in – shock! – eastern Jerusalem, where Minister Ariel has his office. And there was also a meeting held in Tel Aviv between Australian Embassy political attaché Bill Rhee,  and Ari Briggs, Director of International Affairs forh Regavim (and originally from Australia himself), Elie Pieprz from the Yesha Council foreign desk, and Jeff Daube, head of ZOA in Israel and my Legal Grounds co-chair.

We – all of us! – have to continue to make the case for Israel.

Another ray of light:  Ruby (Reuven) Rivlin  of Likud has just been elected by the Knesset to be the 10th president of Israel.

Credit: The Guardian

He won in a run-off vote against Meir Sheetrit of Hatenua, 63-53, after neither candidate, in a crowded field of would-be presidents, secured a majority the first time around.  I had scrupulously avoided reporting on the presidential campaign, as it was hardly one to do Israel proud.  The accompanying scandals and accusations, and political jockeying were not the sort of issues I choose to write about in the limited space of my postings.

From where I sit, Rivlin – who leans right and is opposed to a Palestinian state - is by far the best of the candidates.  A lawyer and member of a family whose roots in Jerusalem go back for several generations, he has served twice as speaker of the Knesset.  He wrote, before being elected, that:

’'”...the position [of president] is shaped primarily by the character of its incumbent and his cultural, historical, personal, and human identity. The president’s agenda is determined mainly by the goals he sets for himself.
“...I believe that the president, as Israel’s representative to the world at large, must also give thought to Israel’s role on the international stage.  Against the background of the criticism of Israel, it sometimes seems that we are neglecting our aspiration to be a ‘light to the nations’ in favor of the vital and unavoidable task of trying to explain ourselves and to fend off the efforts to eat away at the legitimacy of the State of Israel.  Israel’s strength lies in its human capital.  It can and must serve as a key player that contributes some of its cumulative experience and capacities to the rest of the world...
”The presidency is a sort of social compass whose nonpartisan character is its raison d’être. The ability of the president to be perceived as someone with whom all Israelis can identify depends on his ability to avoid being a party to debate...”
I say amen to this last: may he honor it throughout his presidency.  He began with the right tone, immediately after his election, by saying he was going to be a “man of the nation.”  The disparate elements of our nation badly need a figure who can tie us together.  We shall see...
It is with no regret that I bid goodbye to outgoing president Shimon Peres who maddeningly overstepped the bounds of his office time and again by making highly politicized and inappropriate statements that reflected a position far to the left of that of the government.  Although I will mention an enormous unease that exists in some quarters that Peres, out of office, will utilize his prestige to undermine the government and do even more damage.
Should Rivlin step out of his “man of the nation” role and espouse a public political position as president, at least we know he won’t go in the direction that Peres went. And we won’t hear him refer to Abbas as a “man of peace.”
Also semi-encouraging is the announcement last week by Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) that tenders have been published for building 1,500 new units in eastern Jerusalem, with 400 units in Ramat Shlomo, and in Judea and Samaria, with 700 units in the Gush Etzion towns of Efrat and Beitar Ilit, and smaller numbers of apartments in Ariel, Alfei Menashe, and Givat Ze’ev.
Building is good. Why this is only semi-encouraging is because the announcement was said to be a response to the PA involvement in the unity government.  What should be our right, and declared as such, is demeaned what it is presented as “retaliation.”
Needless to say, US Ambassador to Israel wasted no time in condemning this announcement of building. 
With the items above, I think we’ve covered the major “rays of light” at present. It would be foolish to expect too much at one time.
I alluded above to tensions within disparate parts of our nation, and we are seeing this in particular right now with the disputes within the governing coalition as to what should come next, now that the “negotiations” have fallen apart.  Some of the statements we’ve been exposed to are patently ridiculous. 
I refer in particular to what Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) has now proposed: “Israel should halt settlement construction deep inside the West Bank and in any case withdraw from areas that it does not expect to keep under a peace agreement. He said such moves would clear the way for a final agreement and negotiated borders with the Palestinians.”
How far removed from reality can he be?  A final agreement with Fatah, which is in a unity arrangement with Hamas?  Does he not realize how quickly Hamas would move into areas we withdrew from?
Netanyahu, for his part, responded that Lapid is demonstrating lack of experience – that proposing concessions without the promise of a return is foolish.  He’s correct of course. Not that our prime minister, for his part, has seriously grappled with the current situation or avoided statements that are troubling.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) is probably only a bit more realistic than Lapid at this point in suggesting that annexation of Area C begin. 
I go on record here, as I have in the past, as totally supporting Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. But I recognize that – unfortunately - neither the nation nor the government is ready to stand behind this move.  Not yet.  Which is why I co-chair the Legal Grounds Campaign: to promote the concept of Israel’s legal rights, and to continue to promote it until there has been a shift in the paradigm of thinking. 
If any part of Bennett’s proposal possibly makes sense right now, it is the annexation of Gush Etzion, as a starting point. This bloc just south east of Jerusalem that is home to 20 Jewish communities has a long history of Jewish settlement and sacrifice that pre-dates the State.  See:
To make the case for the Gush as intrinsically part of Israel is not difficult.
The prediction here at the moment is for continuing tensions amongst various factions of the coalition.

And what of the unity government?
At the Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said:
“Whoever hoped that the Palestinian unity between Fatah and Hamas would moderate Hamas is mistaken. Instead of the Palestinian Authority taking over Gaza, the signs are being more and more seen that the complete opposite is taking place, i.e., that Hamas is increasing its control in the Palestinian Authority areas in Judea and Samaria.”
This was entirely predictable.  It is what I’ve observed over the years: in shared ventures, Hamas always gains the upper hand over Fatah and further radicalizes Fatah. 
The prime minister also noted that Hamas is reiterating its intention to destroy Israel.  This is clearly the case, with Hamas retaining its “resistance” policy and its separate “resistance” forces in Gaza.
He then called upon the international community to “apply pressure” on Abbas to break with Hamas. And here is where he also departed from reality.  For the international community has already done their “hear no evil, see no evil” routine and agreed to support that unity government.  At this point, his calls constitute no more than “blowing in the wind.”  They will change nothing.
Netanyahu condemned support for the unity government at the beginning. 
Would that he had simply said now that it is greatly regrettable that the international community will not apply pressure upon Abbas, that failing to do so is a moral as well as diplomatic error, and that the community cannot expect Israel to adopt similar policies in this matter. Period.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
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