Sundown April 15 – Sundown April 16 2013
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 | Israel Today Staff
Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit and increased American pressure to restart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday stressed that he has never abandoned his willingness to help establish a Palestinian Arab state.
In 2009, Netanyahu delivered a speech at Bar-Ilan University in which he made his first public statement of support for a Palestinian state as the outcome of the peace process.
Speaking to Jewish leaders in Jerusalem on Monday, Netanyahu said he stands by that policy.
“I believe that a framework to peace (with the Palestinians) is what I outlined in my speech in Bar-Ilan University – two states for two peoples: A demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state,” said Netanyahu.
Unfortunately, continued Netanyahu, it has been impossible to negotiate this outcome in good faith because “time after time” the Palestinian leadership places unacceptable preconditions to even returning to the negotiating table.
Of course, even if talks were to be restarted, the current Palestinian leadership has already made abundantly clear that it will never recognize Israel as the rightful and natural homeland of the Jewish people, nor will it agree to be demilitarized.
Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Saturday told Israel’s Channel 2 News that this is all just diplomatic speak for the sake of public consumption.
“Anyone who thinks that in the center of the diplomatic, political and social tsunami that is shaking the Arab world it is possible to get a magical solution of comprehensive peace with the Palestinians does not understand,” said Lieberman.
“It is impossible to solve the conflict, it needs to be managed,” he concluded.
More than 30 Knesset members show up for inaugural weekly Bible study session initiated by new centrist party Yesh Atid, which has called for all Israelis to both learn the Bible and serve the nation
Friday, February 22, 2013 Israel Today Staff
We have already reported several times on Benjamin Netanyahu’s revival of the Prime Minister’s Bible Study group in Israel. Now the Knesset is getting in on the trend with the establishment of its own weekly sessions of scriptural enlightenment.
The initiative came from one of the new Knesset parties, the centrist Yesh Atid, which fields both secular and religious lawmakers.
Despite running an election campaign that emphasized an end to army exemptions for and exaggerated welfare payouts to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sector, and subsequently being labeled anti-religious by ultra-Orthodox leaders, Yesh Atid has since the election been the most outspoken party about getting more Israelis to study the Bible.
Tuesday’s Knesset Bible study was led by Yesh Atid lawmakers Rabbi Shai Piron, Rabbi Dov Lipman and Torah scholar Dr. Ruth Calderon. More than 30 Knesset members attended the inaugural session.
“Seeing MKs and staff members from ultra-Orthodox through secular studying Torah together showed the beauty of the environment we are creating in this new Knesset,” Lipman told the Times of Israel.
There is a growing sense in Israel that the Bible needs to form the basis of the state’s culture and policies, but that the ultra-Orthodox must not have a monopoly on the biblical interpretation of what it means to be Jewish.
Thursday, December 27, 2012 | Elizabeth Blade – http://www.israeltoday.co.il
On Sunday, several foreign and Israeli news outlets reported that the radical Gaza-based group Hamas was preparing to take over the West Bank, determined to oust the current Western-backed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
According to reports, the Islamists were emboldened by their recent war with Israel and the alleged victory that followed.
Militants claimed that Israel failed to cripple their ability (and will) to launch attacks against civilian targets, with some going as far as to suggest that Hamas left the battleground if not victorious, then at least stronger diplomatically. The movement was also encouraged by the absence of a full-scale ground invasion that could easily have toppled the Hamas regime.
To add insult to injury, Israel’s government agreed (as part of the ceasefire deal) to eliminate the so-called “no man’s land”, a buffer zone beyond Israel’s security fence along the Gaza border. The removal of this cordon sanitaire not only left the Jewish state more vulnerable to attacks by Hamas and other terrorists, but will also invited “publicity stunts” by various non-governmental organizations under the direction of Hamas.
Israel Won, Hamas Was Defeated
Nevertheless, there are some who view the recent Israeli operation as successful, and who insist that it was Hamas that suffered defeat.
Prof. Hillel Frisch, an expert on Palestinian and Islamic politics from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, says Operation Pillar of Cloud achieved maximum deterrence. “It has been the first time since 2001 that [Hamas] ceased all fire. They marked the end of the war on the national calendar and declared it a holiday, but the truth is that they were defeated.”
The expert added: “After realizing that their tactics of shooting rockets into Israel was no longer working, Hamas decided to pursue other, to their mind, more effective means of harassing Israel, one of which was staging mass demonstrations near the [security] fence.”
Indeed, two days after the sides agreed to a ceasefire on November 21st, a group of 300 Palestinians approached the fence in the southern Gaza Strip and held a violent disturbance along the border. The army had to use force to disperse the crowds, killing one Palestinian and injuring several others. Another Palestinian was killed in similar developments several days later.
Hamas Won, Israel Failed
Others, such as Dimitri Diliani, spokesman for Abbas’ Fatah movement, insisted Israel had utterly failed in the recent Gaza conflict.
“Compared to other Israeli wars [where the country achieved measurable results], the recent operation was not fruitful. It failed to achieve the goals declared by the government, mainly to cripple Hamas’ ability to launch rockets into the state of Israel,” said Diliani.
Referring to Hamas’ victory claims, Diliani agreed that although the Palestinian people were dealt a severe blow (the amount of military and civilians losses on the Palestinian side was much higher), they did create the sense of succeeding to defeat the powerful Israeli army on a moral (or even psychological) level.
“In a way, it is a victory for all Palestinian people suffering at the hands of the Israeli occupation [sic],” the Palestinian official continued. “At the same time, Hamas has been trying to take the credit for all the achievements to itself, which is fundamentally wrong, considering the many political factions within the Strip that participated in defending Gaza during the Israeli aggression.”
Friends in High(er) Places
Frisch tried to explain the motivation behind Hamas’ bold bragging: “Hamas allows itself such liberties because it feels backed by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.”
Referring to the recent apparent nosedive in Hamas-Egypt relations, Frisch noted, “On the one hand, it might look as if Egypt chose to scrap its ties with the terrorist organization. On the other hand, Egypt is trying to reassure Hamas that the cool-down in relations is only temporary. After achieving their ultimate goal of establishing theocracy, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood will start bolstering Hamas again.”
According to Frisch, Hamas understood that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood first had to take care of business at home without overly alarming the international community. “Morsi thus compelled Hamas to accept a complete ceasefire, something that Hamas refused to do since it began launching rockets in 2001.”
However, Egypt is far from being the only country to support the militant group. It is no longer a secret that Hamas is also backed by Iran (main weapons’ provider) and the Gulf states (particularly Qatar).
Encouraged by Hamas gains, the Abbas regime decided to move ahead with its own battle against Israel, this time on a diplomatic level. At the end of November, Abbas approached the United Nations’ General Assembly asking the international body to upgrade his government’s status from “entity” to “observer state.” The request was granted with 138 members (out of 193) voting in favor.
But was Abbas motivated by a genuine desire to change things? Experts seem to be divided.
“The UN bid gave the Palestinians the feeling that a Palestinian state would soon come into being,” said Frisch. “The Palestinian Authority doesn’t enjoy much credibility in the West Bank,” added the expert suggesting that the move was aimed at boosting Abbas’ popularity.
Gatestone Institute, an international policy think tank, echoed this view, stating that Abbas’ UN drive was “… the last chance for Mahmoud Abbas to remain in charge. In recent weeks he has been phoning around the foreign ministries of Europe explaining that if they don’t back him this time in the non-state statehood bid, then it is all over and all we have to deal with is Hamas…”
Diliani disagreed, stressing that the move was dictated by the desire to pursue peace, freedom and justice.
“It actually nullified the Israeli right-wing agenda to expand settlements under the pretext of land disputes,” he charged. “UN recognition provided Palestinians the tools to defend themselves from Israel’s settlement activity or targeted killing.”
Although the upgrade didn’t change things on the ground, the UN’s overwhelming support did embolden Abbas, who was given a green light to pursue additional unilateral measures instead of sitting down for talks with Israel that could translate into painful concessions on both sides.
In Israel, however, most experts and top brass disregarded Abbas’ move saying it was insignificant.
Diliani rebuked that position: “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is not interested in admitting defeat, especially at election time. That’s why he spreads this propaganda, trying to marginalize the importance of the Palestinian victory, when the truth of the matter is that Israel was dealt a severe diplomatic blow that exposed its international isolation as a result of the continuation of occupation.”
Hamas-Fatah Unity = Trouble For Israel
Although it is too early to tell whether the UN upgrade will result in significant changes, Abbas’ flirting with Hamas might. Recent reports suggested that a reunion between Fatah and Hamas (two staunch rivals) was on the horizon.
The Palestinian street seems to be favoring the move. Thousands took to the streets in the Gaza Strip to celebrate Abbas’ victory at the UN, whereas crowds in the West Bank rallied in support of Hamas, celebrating the fact that its rockets had struck as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
What could this potential union mean for Israel? Simply put: trouble.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders are already preparing for the next round of fighting with Israel, promising that “in the next war, Israelis will be forced to flee not only their homes, but the whole country”. Fatah is also reading itself for a possible confrontation, with some leaders calling for a new intifada [uprising] against Israel, especially in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
Can Israel Divide and Conquer?
But Frisch was skeptical. “I doubt that Fatah will ever want to reunite with Hamas. Abbas and those around him are scared of Hamas’ potential take-over the West Bank. Although many Palestinians don’t support Hamas, Fatah leaders are afraid of the organization’s strong desire to take control and the ruthlessness with which they are able to do so,” stressed the expert.
Diliani rebutted those allegations and claimed Hamas was too scared of Fatah’s growing popularity: “So far, Hamas has failed the people, they have proven to be incompetent to govern, let alone lead politically. Fatah and Hamas are not going to be united. Reconciliation is possible and highly desirable; unity is not. We might have serious disagreements on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that won’t prevent us from sitting down for talks.”
But if this reunion (or even reconciliation) does take place, will Israel be willing to negotiate with Hamas? Have Hamas and Fatah manage to tie Israel’s hands this time? Time will tell…
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 | Israel Today Staff
A leading analyst at Israel’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies says Western leaders are naive if they believe the Muslim Brotherhood has abandoned its quest to destroy Israel merely because of its leadership role in Egypt.
Dr. Liad Porat agreed with the assessment of many Western and Israeli leaders that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood overlords either won’t be able to or won’t desire to start a direct military conflict with Israel in the coming 10 years.
“The Brotherhood recognizes Israel’s military and technological advantage and doesn’t want to start a war,” wrote Porat.
But that doesn’t mean the Brotherhood won’t encourage and facilitate hostile activity directed at Israel.
“The possibility of a security threat emanating from Egypt in the near future cannot be dismissed,” noted Porat, especially considering the Brotherhood’s active efforts to demonize Israel in the eyes of average Egyptians.
Since its recent rise to power, the Muslim Brotherhood “has influenced the Egyptian street to think that Israel is no longer a stabilizing factor in the region,” Porat explained. “The Brotherhood has convinced the Egyptian public that a treaty with Israel harms Egyptian national security and threatens internal Egyptian stability.”
Just last month, as world leaders were praising Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi for his role in brokering a truce between Israel and Gaza-based terrorists, Morsi’s boss and the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, was reiterating that it was “obligatory” for all Muslims to wage jihad against the Jewish state.
And that brings us to Porat’s point, which is that the West has an opportunity to nip this threat in the bud years before it has the chance to blossom into violent conflict.
“America has an interest to financially assist Egypt as an actor that is still considered moderate in the Middle East,” concluded Porat. However, “it should look more closely at the Brotherhood’s true intentions before providing future aid.”
Failure to do so is almost certain to bring about the realization of fears that Egypt is transforming into a Sunni version of Iran’s Islamic Republic.
In his earthly ministry, Yeshua focused on comforting and healing the disabled of Israel; Shalva wants to give that same opportunity to Yeshua’s followers today
Monday, December 03, 2012 | Ryan Jones
A recurring theme of Yeshua’s earthly ministry was the comfort and healing of the disabled. He did this both as a sign for the unbelieving, and out of deep compassion for the afflicted. It is appropriate for those of Yeshua’s followers who love and support Israel to follow His example by likewise paying special attention to disabled Israelis.
Shalva, a unique Israeli organization dedicated to empowering handicapped children, has recognized this special love Christians have for the Jewish state and its people, and is reaching out for help.
Founded in 1990 by Kalman and Malki Samuels after their own son, Yossi, was struck blind, deaf and acutely hyperactive by defective vaccinations, Shalva is today “a leader in the field of disability awareness and intervention.”
Shalva boasts a wide array of programs providing care and assistance all the way from birth to age 21. But more importantly, Shalva has assembled a team that works tirelessly to create individual curricula fitting the needs of each child.
“At one-year-old, Miriam refused to eat solid food and was not gaining weight. She had a hard time participating in daily activities, at the day care and at home, and did not move around much,” Shalva speech therapist Talia Cole told Israel Today. “Miriam’s teachers and therapists met multiple times a week to brainstorm an intervention method, incorporating each of their therapeutic knowledge, to help Miriam overcome this obstacle. After months of hard work, Miriam now eats a variety of solid foods, is communicating, moving and getting chubbier by the day!”
Shalva also views as part of its mission taking some of the burden off those parents who have gone against the social grain by choosing life “despite a grim prognosis.”
“The staff at Shalva [has become] my own support system. They always are happy to see me, ask how I am doing and treat me like family,” said Dassie Corman, whose son, Ephraim, has Down syndrome.
It is a sad irony that Israel is home to such caring organizations as Shalva, while at the same time Israeli society all but expects mothers to abort children who will be born with “special needs.”
“Very few babies who are suspected of having a mental or physical disability are brought to term. In fact, 9 out of 10 babies with Down syndrome are aborted,” according to a statement released by Shalva. “Where the world would chose to terminate these lives, Shalva is an organization that celebrates these children…[in keeping with] the biblical command to regard the weak and the feeble.”
“It is very holy and very biblical to help those who are struggling or downtrodden,” Kalman Samuels told Israel Today. But as awareness in Israel (slowly) grows that disabled children also deserve life, Shalva has found itself in need of additional backing to expand its activities.
“We have hundreds of kids waiting to get into our programs who we cannot service. And there are hundreds beyond that in need of our services,” said Samuels, as he described the $46-million facility Shalva intends to build. “Insofar as the Christian community is very supportive of Israel, we believe they will also find us worthy of their support.”
Even before it has all the resources needed to operate at full capacity, Shalva is already giving back beyond its primary work with disabled Israeli children. When the McLean Bible Church in Virginia was looking to establish a similar ministry called Jill’s House, Shalva was there lend its expertise.
“Staff from McLean came to Shalva and trained alongside our professionals in order to replicate the work in their church,” said Samuels. “We visited on several occasions, they visited us, and they give us full credit for concept and training, which we provided free of charge.”
During a recent visit to Shalva’s Jerusalem center, President Shimon Peres summed up the situation well: “All those who criticize Israel should come to Shalva and witness the other side of Israel. The most noble, loving, and caring Israel. I am proud to be part of this Israel.”
To learn more about Shalva: www.shalva.org
“One day, a young Palestinian will raise the Palestinian flag over Jerusalem,” he vowed, “the eternal capital of the state of Palestine!”
By Chana Ya’ar
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Sunday promised someday the PA flag would fly over “Jerusalem, eternal capital of the state of Palestine.”
Thousands of people greeted Abbas rapturously upon his return from the United Nations, where the GeneralAssembly granted the PLO, representing the PA, upgraded status as a nonmember observer state.
“Raise your heads high, because you are Palestinians!” Abbas told the joyous crowd, waving PA flags in the PA capital of Ramallah, located in Samaria.
“You have proof that you are stronger than the occupation, because you are Palestinians… stronger than the settlements, because you are Palestinians.
“We were threatened with punishment and sanctions from various sides,” Abbas continued, in a reference to attempts by the United States and Israel to dissuade him from proceeding with the application.
“And if we had listened to those threats we wouldn’t have gone to the U.N.
“One day, a young Palestinian will raise the Palestinian flag over Jerusalem,” he vowed, “the eternal capital of the state of Palestine!”