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Archive for June, 2013

KERRY FAILS IN BID FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN SUMMIT

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

KERRY FAILS IN BID FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN SUMMIT
by Ryan Jones (Israel Today News)

Israeli minister: We have no more land to give

US Secretary of State John Kerry is currently on the last leg of his latest round of Middle East shuttle diplomacy, and looks to have fared no better than in his previous visits.

Just a few days ago, there was talk of Kerry announcing, and possibly even hosting on the spot a four-way summit between himself, Israel, the Palestinians and the Jordanians before his return to Washington.

But those hopes were put to rest as Kerry emerged from his Sunday morning meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Kerry said both he and Abbas agreed progress had been made, but that issues remained to be worked out – diplomatic-speak for the fact that Abbas continues to refuse to meet the Israelis without preconditions.

Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the evening before in Jerusalem. Cabinet minister Gilad Erdan later told Channel 2 News that Abbas’ continuing intransigence had already been made known to Israel, and that the two sides are no where near as close to restarting negotiations as the media has been suggesting.

At Sunday’s cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu reiterated that he remains ready to meet with Abbas at a moment’s notice, and that Israel is not the one holding up the resumption of peace talks.

In order to calm Israeli fears that the Jewish state could be strong-armed into joining negotiations on suicidal Arab terms, Netanyahu added that no agreement will ever be signed with the Palestinians without first going to the Israeli public for a referendum.

Demonstrating what can only be described as a lack of understanding for what democracy really is, Abbas has in the past decried Israel’s insistence on a referendum as an obstacle to peace.

EGYPT PROTESTERS GATHER TO CALL FOR MORSI’S OUSTER

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

EGYPT PROTESTERS GATHER TO CALL FOR MORSI’S OUSTER

Thousands of Egyptians demanding the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist President are gathering at Cairo’s central Tahrir Square at the start of a day of massive, nationwide protests many fear could turn deadly.

Sunday marks the first anniversary of President’s Mohammed Morsi’s assumption of power as Egypt’s first freely elected leader.

Thousands of Morsi’s supporters have staged a sit-in since Friday in an eastern Cairo district not far from the presidential palace, the focus of protests later on Sunday to demand his ouster.

The youth group leading the campaign to force Morsi out said it had collected more than 22 million signatures from Egyptians who want the president to go. It was not possible to verify the claim. Morsi’s supporters have questioned the authenticity and validity of the signatures.

There is a sense among opponents and supporters of Morsi that Sunday’s rally is a make or break day. The opposition feels empowered by the petition, known as Tamarod, or Rebel, but it offered no proof regarding the figures. If verified, it would mean that nearly double the number of people who voted for Morsi a year ago are now calling for him to step down.

“Honestly, if (Sunday) is not a game changer, we might all just pack up our bags and leave,” said Mahmoud Salem, a prominent blogger known by his blog’s name Sandmonkey and a vocal critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails.

While violence is likely in such a tense atmosphere, Salem said it would not play out in favor of Morsi supporters because they will be outnumbered.

“They have alienated everybody,” he said. Even if no violence breaks out, Salem said civil disobedience is expected in a movement designed now to “save the country.”

Morsi’s supporters, on the other hand, question the petitions, saying his opponents are led by members of the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak who are trying to orchestrate a comeback and are instigating violence.
“Today and tomorrow will be the real birth of this nation,” said Hani Salaheddin, a presenter on the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated TV station Misr 25, predicting that Sunday will bring an end to the questioning of Morsi’s mandate.

“Tomorrow is the end of every corrupt person,” he said, as the slogan “legitimacy (of the ballot box) is a red line,” appeared on the screen.

Already, clashes across a string of cities north of Cairo over the past week have left eight people dead, including an American and a 14-year old, and hundreds injured. Clashes broke out outside offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and its party in at least five different governorates, and rival protests turned into violent confrontations.

Highlighting the nervousness over Sunday’s protests, President Obama said the U.S. is working to ensure its embassy and diplomats in Egypt are safe after the 21-year old American was killed in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city. He urged all parties to refrain from violence and the police and military to show appropriate restraint.
Adding to the tension, eight lawmakers from the country’s interim legislature announced their resignation Saturday to protest Morsi’s policies. The 270-seat chamber was elected early last year by less than 10 percent of Egypt’s eligible voters, and is dominated by Islamists who support Morsi.

A legal adviser to Morsi also announced his resignation late Saturday in protest of what he said was Morsi’s insult of judges in his latest speech.

With a sense of doom hanging over the country, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi last Sunday gave the President and his opponents a week to reach a compromise and warned that the military would intervene to prevent the nation from entering a “dark tunnel.”

Morsi had called for national reconciliation talks but offered no specifics. Opposition leaders dismissed the call as cosmetics. Exchange of accusations was running high Saturday, in a rivalry that has increasingly been portrayed by Morsi supporters as an attack on Islamists in power.

The Tamarod youth movement claimed its petition is evidence of what it says is widespread dissatisfaction with Morsi’s administration, and has used the signature drive as the focal point of its call for millions of people to take to the streets to demand the President’s ouster.

Mahmoud Badr, a Tamarod leader, told reporters Saturday a total of 22,134,460 Egyptians have signed the petition. He did not say whether there had been an independent audit of the signatures. Badr blamed Morsi supporters of dragging the peaceful movement toward violence to “terrorize” the public and avert a mass turnout in the streets.
On Tamarod’s Twitter account, the movement appealed to supporters to gather in every street in their hometowns instead of converging to the main rallies planned in Tahrir square and outside Morsi’s palace.

At a press conference organized by Morsi supporters late Saturday for their members killed in recent violence, organizers showed multiple videos of previous protests where violence raged, showing images of attacks on the Brotherhood offices and blaming “paid thugs” for it. “Tamarod are thugs,” the crowd chanted at the conference held at the pro-Morsi sit-in.

Assem Abdel-Maged, leader of the formerly militant Gamaa Islamiya group, told the crowd that the Tamarod campaign was a “crusader war” against Islamists, led by extremist Christians to liberate Egypt from Islam. He added that his supporters collected 26 million signatures in support of Morsi. “The issue now is war,” he said. “Sunday’s march is decisive.” Morsi’s supporters have long doubted the validity and authenticity of the collected signatures. “How do we trust the petitions?” asked Brotherhood member Ahmed Seif Islam Hassan al-Banna. “Who guarantees that those who signed were not paid to sign?” But opponents of Morsi say the petition has already served its purpose, dealing a symbolic blow to Morsi’s mandate and putting in stark terms the popular frustrations with an administration that critics say has failed to effectively deal with the country’s pressing problems, including tenuous security, inflation, power cuts and high unemployment.

In a statement ahead of the protests, opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei said massive turnout is expected Sunday, calling for it to be peaceful and civilized. He called on Morsi to listen to the masses, and accept early elections.

“All of Egypt should go down tomorrow to say that we want to go back again to the ballot box,” ElBaradei said in his recorded message sent to reporters. “We gave (Morsi) a driving license but he couldn’t drive the car.”
He added: “We all feel the country is collapsing, not because the President is from the Brotherhood … But because the ruling system has failed completely.”

On Saturday, Morsi met with the defense and interior ministers to review preparations to protect the protesters and vital state facilities during Sunday’s demonstrations. The focus of Sunday’s protests is Morsi’s Ittihadiya palace in Cairo. As a precaution, the President and his family are reported to have moved into the Cairo headquarters of the Republican Guard, the branch of the army tasked with protecting the President and presidential palaces.
With expectations of violence running high, the military has dispatched troops backed by armored personnel carriers to reinforce military bases on the outskirts of cities expected to be flashpoints.

In Cairo, additional forces were deployed to military facilities in the suburbs and outlying districts. Army troops are also moving to reinforce police guarding the city’s prisons to prevent a repeat of the nearly half dozen jail breaks during the chaos of the 2011 uprising.

Many Egyptians fear the new round of unrest could trigger a collapse in law and order similar to the one that occurred during the 2011 revolt. Already, some residents have increased security around their homes, erecting metal fences and installing barbed wire. Residents in some of the residential compounds and neighborhoods to the west of the city are reporting gunmen showing up to demand protection money or risk being robbed.

The police have stepped up patrols on the outskirts of the city, ostensibly to prevent weapons and ammunition from coming into the city to be used in case of an outbreak of violence. The army is advertising hotlines for civilians to call if they run into trouble.

ISRAELIS WILL GET A CHANCE TO VOTE ON ANY PEACE DEAL

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

ISRAELIS WILL GET A CHANCE TO VOTE ON ANY PEACE DEAL
by Maayana Miskin (IsraelNationalNews)

Israelis will get a chance to weigh in on any planned peace deal with the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Sunday during the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“There won’t be a diplomatic agreement that endangers Israel’s citizens, and I believe – I think it’s vital – that any agreement, if we reach one, will be brought before the people,” he declared.

“Israel is prepared for immediate negotiations, with no preconditions,” Netanyahu said.

“We are not putting any obstacles in the way of renewed talks toward a permanent agreement and a peace deal between us and the Palestinians,” he continued. However, he added, “There are things we will strongly insist on during the talks themselves, primarily security.”

Netanyahu recently held a round of meetings with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is trying to get Israel and the PA back to the negotiating table.

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that he is willing to hold negotiations at any time, with no preconditions. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas continues to insist on several preconditions, including a complete Jewish construction freeze in Israeli communities east of the 1949 Armistice line.

AMERICANS KNOW THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION HAS FAILED

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

AMERICANS KNOW THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION HAS FAILED
by Eliran Aharon, Maayana Miskin (Arutz Sheva News)

United States leaders realize that the so-called “two-state solution” has failed, former Yesha Council head Danny Dayan declared following a round of meetings with senior U.S. officials.

Dayan spoke to Arutz Sheva after speaking to several high-ranking leaders. In his latest trip to America, he has been “places where no official representatives of Yesha [Judea and Samaria] have ever been,” he said.

Dayan will also meet with high-ranking figures in the American media.

Regarding U.S. pressure on Israel to mollify the Palestinian Authority, Dayan said, “If there is any pressure, I didn’t feel it. I on the contrary feel a wish to reassess American policies in the Middle East.”

MK Yoni Chetboun of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) faction made similar remarks on Sunday morning. Chetboun reacted to visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks in meetings with Israeli and PA leaders.

“It turns out that Kerry, too, understands that there is no chance of establishing a Palestinian state,” he declared.

The time has come for “an alternative to the two-state idea, something that will bring stability to the region,” he said.

Releasing terrorists, as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has demanded, will not only not bring stability, but will do the opposite, he warned. Freeing prisoners in an attempt to coax Abbas into returning to the negotiating table “will encourage terrorists and those who send them,” he said.

MIDEAST BOILS AS SYRIAN WAR INTENSIFIES

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

MIDEAST BOILS AS SYRIAN WAR INTENSIFIES
By David Dolan

Israeli officials generally welcomed the American announcement during June that the superpower has begun sending light weapons to rebel fighters battling to topple the Syrian Assad regime. This came after the Obama Administration finally confirmed earlier reports from London, Paris and elsewhere that the embattled regime has used deadly chemical nerve agents against its own people on several occasions. However concerns were expressed once again by politicians and pundits in Jerusalem, as they were in Washington and elsewhere, that some of the American weapons might end up in the hands of Muslim terrorist groups linked to Al Qaida who are fighting alongside more moderate Sunni Muslim Syrian forces and Muslim fighters who have come from all over the world to join the battle. The Kremlin condemned the US decision while beefing up Russian naval forces patrolling in the region. Russian officials joined Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in warning that some of the new weapons may eventually be used to attack targets in Europe and elsewhere.

Israeli military and political leaders continue to keep a close eye on the warfare raging in neighboring Syria, mainly via pilotless drone surveillance aircraft monitoring the situation on the ground. This comes as regional and international news reports said the Assad regime has been turning the tide of battle in its favor in recent months, mainly due to the substantial military support it is receiving from heavily armed Shiite fighters streaming in from Iran and Lebanon. Reports said some 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards are on their way to Syria to buttress others already operating in the divided Arab country.

Thousands of Hizbullah militiamen are also known to be fighting alongside Assad’s troops in the blood-soaked country. Growing participation in the conflict by the Shiite Lebanese force was highlighted during the month as a major battle near the Lebanese border was won by regime forces with the active support of Hizbullah fighters. This prompted the Palestinian Hamas movement to issue a statement demanding that Hizbullah leaders immediately pull their combatants out of Syria to focus instead on the decades-old jihad war of annihilation against Israel. The Arab League also called upon Hizbullah to cease its operations inside Syria. As the carnage continued in the torn Arab country, fierce clashes erupted once again in neighboring Lebanon between supporters and opponents of Bashar Assad and his mainly Alowite regime.

In Jordan, American military forces were significantly strengthened during June in a show of support for the pro-Western Hashemite government. News reports said many thousands of US soldiers are now positioned in the small Arab country that shares a long border with Israel. This comes in the face of a growing flood of refugees fleeing the conflict, with the number of dead now put by the United Nations at over 93,000. Some human rights groups believe the actual number is much higher than that.

Despite the mid June election of a relatively moderate candidate to become Iran’s next president, Israeli officials warned that the Islamic state’s nuclear development program and policies are mainly determined by Iran’s overall clerical leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. While speaking at the Auschwitz death camp site in Poland during the month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again pledged to do everything in his power to prevent another holocaust from slaughtering the Jewish people living in Israel.

Israeli leaders kept a close watch on dramatic developments in Turkey during June, as anti-government protests spread to many parts of the Muslim country. Protestors are demanding social changes from the hardline Islamic government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Edogan. Heavy police action to quell the disturbances was widely condemned by human rights groups around the world. Meanwhile in Muslim Brotherhood-ruled Egypt, reports said many Christians are dealing with increasing harassment from extremist Muslim groups seeking legal prosecution of Christians accused of blasphemy against the Islamic religion.

For the first time in two months, Palestinian rockets were fired several times at Israeli civilian centers during June, this time striking first near Ashkelon and later on in other areas around the Gaza Strip. Although no casualties were reported, IDF officials closed a crossing point into the Palestinian coastal zone as a result. This came as the Palestinian Authority, governing Arab population centers north and south of Jerusalem, signed a new economic agreement with Israel. At the same time, officials announced that Israeli-collected PA tax revenues, which have been withheld from the PA ever since Mahmoud Abbas declared unilateral Palestinian statehood at UN headquarters in New York in September, 2011, will now be released to the PA.

OBAMA ARMS SYRIAN REBELS
It is rare for this monthly Israel news summary report to begin with developments emanating from outside of the explosive Middle East. However over the past few months, Israeli government officials and the local media have spent much time discussing US President Barrack Obama’s dilemma over whether or not to arm Syrian rebel forces to aid their over two year struggle to oust the Syrian Assad regime from power. However it has now been revealed that the American leader had already decided two months ago to send “light” weapons to selected opposition fighters. Senior administration officials told media outlets that following a year of internal debate inside his government, Obama decided in late April to arm the rebels, although to what extent is still not clear. Some Arab media reports said in late June that anti-aircraft and anti-tank portable rockets have already reached rebel fighters battling in the strategic city of Aleppo in the north of the country. The announcement of the potentially crucial policy change came in mid-June, made in a brief statement given by a junior White House official. He said the Obama Administration had determined “with high certainty” that some of Assad’s chemical weapons had been used on more than one occasion against rebel fighters and Syrian civilians in the vicinity of heavy battles taking place across the country. News reports said the latest known deployment occurred during the second half of May in the capital city of Damascus.

All regional Sunni Muslim Arab governments, including Egypt, warmly welcomed the US decision. Naturally enough, both Iran and its Lebanese surrogate Hizbullah militia force denounced the move, claiming it was taken at the behest of the “Zionist enemy.” However the truth is that Israeli officials have very mixed feelings about the decision, even though they publicly endorsed it. While realizing that the downfall of the Assad regime would significantly weaken the dictator’s main allies, Iran and Hizbullah, it could also easily leave an extremist Sunni Muslim fundamentalist government ruling in Damascus—not exactly a welcome prospect in Jerusalem.

WORLD REACTIONS
Israeli President Shimon Peres was assigned the task of taking the leading role in commenting on the American arms issue, indicating to some pundits that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud party colleagues are less than enthused by it. As one Israeli commentator put it, most feel that it is “better to deal with the devil we know (Assad) than the devil rising up on the horizon.” Speaking at a special celebration in Jerusalem to mark his 90th birthday, Peres strongly endorsed Obama’s decision to arm some of the Muslim rebel fighters. Echoing former US Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, the veteran Israeli politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner has long been pointing to the immense suffering of the Syrian people as frequent armed clashes rattle the Arab country, saying the West must do much more to help halt it. However Israeli and other military analysts point out that arming the rebels will probably only intensify the battles, at least in the short term, which will probably in turn only add to the large civilian refugee exodus from Syria. Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey continue to be the main destinations for the war refugees, significantly adding to growing political and social unrest in all three countries.
Another serious concern in Israel is that the US and its NATO allies might get bogged down in yet another prolonged regional conflict, leaving the White House less time and energy to focus on the main regional threat to Israel’s safety and even its very existence, Iran’s nuclear program. Many Israeli analysts noted that opinion surveys in the United States show a majority of Americans are against direct involvement in the Syrian war, noting its outcome would probably be no more satisfactory to the US in the long run than is the case today in violence-plagued Iraq.

While endorsing the American decision at the annual G-8 summit meeting in Northern Ireland, British Prime Minister David Cameroon cautioned that he is “as worried as anybody about elements of the Syrian opposition who are extremists, who support terrorism and who are a great danger to our world.” However French President Francois Hollande countered that the West “cannot allow Russia to continue to deliver weapons to the Bashar Assad regime when the opposition receives very few and is being massacred.”

ASSAD CONDEMNS REBEL ARMS DECISION
The embattled Syrian dictator himself quickly joined the fray over the White House announcement, telling a German newspaper that Obama and his NATO counterparts “will regret” arming rebel forces. He warned that “if the Europeans deliver weapons, the backyard of Europe will become terrorist targets and Europe will pay the price for it.” Noting that Islamic Mujahadeen fighters had been armed and trained by the US and its allies when they were battling invading Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the late 1970s, including Osama Bin Laden, Assad added that foreign “terrorists will gain experience in combat and return (to their host countries) with extremist ideologies.”
Similar warnings were issued by the Kremlin after Russian officials made clear they fully intend to fulfill their previous contracts to sell highly advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile batteries to Damascus. Speaking to a Russian television network on June 19th, Foreign Minister Sergey Lasrov vowed the Kremlin will carry on with the delivery of the sophisticated weapons to Assad despite Western fears this may make it difficult, if not impossible, to enforce any no fly zone imposed upon Syria by the United States and other NATO member countries. He added that the NATO plan to send weapons to Syrian rebel groups would allow such weapons to fall into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaida affiliated group that military experts say has been the most effective of all opposition forces fighting to bring down the Assad regime. Israeli officials are especially concerned about Russia’s delivery of S-300 missiles to Syria, noting they possess the ability to target IDF helicopters and warplanes flying inside Israeli airspace.

Syrian and Russian leaders also warned that actively arming Syrian Sunni Muslim forces risks further stoking the sectarian divide that continues to intensify in many parts of the Middle East. The Palestinian Hamas movement, partially armed by Iran, made a similar point during the month. It issued a statement in Gaza City asking its longtime ally, Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, to immediately withdraw his heavily armed fighters from Syria. The statement asked Hizbullah leaders “to keep your weapons pointed at the Zionist enemy, mainly because their involvement in Syria has contributed to an increase in sectarian polarization in the region.” Lebanese Sunni Muslim and Maronite Catholic leaders made similar calls during June, with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri warning that Lebanon could soon be plunged into full-scale civil war if Hizbullah forces remain active in Syria. This came as fresh armed clashes broke out in Tripoli and other locations between Sunni Muslim supporters of the rebel fighters and their Shiite opponents. Underling this point, sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunni Muslims in Iraq escalated during June, described as the most violent month in the country since US forces were withdrawn from the Arab country that also borders Syria. Hundreds of people were killed as each community launched violent attacks upon the other, including the bombings of mosques and other public buildings.

PEACE CONFERENCE ON THE CARDS?
American, European Union and Russian leaders all expressed verbal support for an international peace conference proposed by the United Nations to try to end the Syrian conflict, which the UN says has left at least 6,000 Syrian children dead since March 2011, along with over 85,000 adults, many of them Syrian soldiers and opposition forces. An unknown number of foreign fighters have also reportedly been killed since then. The conference is supposed to be held at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva sometime in July, although an exact date has not yet been worked out. After calls were again made at the G-8 summit for Bashar Assad to immediately leave his presidential post, Russian Foreign Minister Lavov said the Kremlin will block all demands at the projected peace conference for the Syrian dictator to step down. Political analysts said it might prove difficult, if not impossible, for disparate rebel factions to unite enough to speak with one voice at such a conference. Criticism of the proposed UN parlay came from some American and other Western politicians, who noted it might end up giving legitimacy to both Assad and his Iranian and Hizbullah cronies, along with terrorist groups allied with Al Qaida. At any rate, with Russia pledging to continue its unwavering political and military support for Assad and his regime, a desirable outcome for the West seems nearly impossible to achieve. The chances that the significant roadblocks will be cleared away appeared to be slim to none after President Obama held frosty talks about Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G-8 summit. Analysts said US-Russian relations are at their lowest level since the Cold War ended in 1991.
As the UN tries to arrange a Syrian peace conference in Switzerland, the Kremlin continued to build up its military forces in the region. Saying it has a “strategic interest” in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which is not far from Russia’s southern border, Moscow announced it is sending additional warships to patrol off of the Syrian coast. Media reports said some 12 additional naval vessels were being rushed to the region. The American CNN news network reported in early June that the Kremlin is employing three amphibious ships to carry heavy weaponry to Syria. The report said the Pentagon had monitored the loading of the ships with weapons at an undisclosed Russian naval facility just before they set sail for the Syrian port of Latakia, which regularly hosts Russian naval vessels. The report said it is likely that S-300 anti-aircraft missile batteries have been included in the shipments.

PA IN CRISIS
The Palestinian Authority government was plunged into crisis in late June when newly appointed Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (whose last name means “praise Allah” in Arabic) suddenly submitted his resignation to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Until he was appointed Prime Minister late last month, Hamdallah has served as the President of An Najah University in Nablus. Israeli leaders had welcomed his appointment, saying he was relatively moderate in his political positions compared to some other men that Abbas was said to have been considering for the post.

Palestinian media reports said that Hamdallah had decided to call it quits after realizing that he was only a puppet official, with Abbas actually calling all of the shots. They said the real power in the PA Prime Minister’s office was being wielded by two deputies who were also appointed by Abbas, Muhammad Mustafa and Zaid Abu Amr. The reports said the two men were bypassing Hamdallah after taking daily instructions directly from Abbas.

The resignation came just one week after Israeli Finance Yair Lapid met with his PA counterpart to sign a new economic cooperation agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Lapid said that it was very important for the two governments to work together to promote economic projects that can benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian people. As part of the pact, Israel agreed to release hundreds of millions of shekels that it has collected at border crossings for the PA. Many Palestinian goods arrive at Israel’s Ashdod port not far from the Gaza Strip before being trucked to PA zones of control, with port tax revenue being divided between Israel and the PA. The Netanyahu government decided in 2011 to halt the flow of money after Mahmoud Abbas ignored Israeli pleas to desist from declaring unilateral Palestinian statehood at the United Nations in September of that year. Israeli leaders pointed out at the time that the Oslo peace accords signed by the PA and Israel in 1993 preclude unilateral actions by either party to resolve the long-running conflict between them.

Just before American Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Israel in late June in order to pursue his attempts to get the moribund peace process off the ground once again, the PA issued a warning to Washington not to exert pressure to attend the proposed peace talks unconditionally. Abbas and his political cronies continue to insist that Israel halt all home building in the disputed territories before such talks can resume. They also want Netanyahu to outline what the final border with a Palestinian state would look like, something Israel says can only be determined via negotiation. PA leaders say they will not sit down with their Israeli counterparts unless Netanyahu agrees in advance to evacuate at least most of the Jewish communities located on land claimed by the PA. They also demand the release of all Palestinian prisoners serving time in Israeli jails before the proposed talks can take place.
Israel’s new Economic and Trade Minister, Naftali Bennett, raised a firestorm when he stated mid month that “the idea of creating a Palestinian state has come to a dead end.” Bennett heads the Jewish Home party, which received strong support in last January’s Israeli elections from many Jewish voters living in the disputed communities. A few days before he spoke, Likud party member and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon told Israel Radio that the Netanyahu government will never agree to the creation of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 border, which he noted was merely the ceasefire line from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that was initiated by several Arab countries with the support of local Palestinian leaders. Commenting on Danon’s statement, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said during a speech in Washington that a plan put forward by the Arab League several years ago, which some want to see as the basis for renewed negotiations, was nothing more than “spin.”
Soon after Bennett spoke, Palestinian Authority leaders issued a statement warning that his words may “completely close the door in the face of American efforts to resume peace talks.” The statement then added a thinly veiled threat of resumed Palestinian violence if the talks do not get going once again. It said “The Palestinian people possess all legitimate options in the context of our right to resist the Israeli occupation and get rid of it forever.” Some Israeli analysts said this may have also been a reference to support for Iran’s declared goal, openly supported by Hamas, to destroy the Jewish state.

Three Palestinian rockets were fired at the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon on June 19th from the Gaza Strip. Fortunately they all landed in open areas around the city, causing no significant damage or injuries. It was the first rocket assault since an informal ceasefire was brokered by Egypt between Israeli and Hamas leader in April following a spate of rocket firings and IDF retaliation that month. Military analysts said the latest firings were probably ordered by Iran and carried out by one of its surrogate forces, probably the extremist Islamic Jihad Palestinian group.

NOT IMPRESSED WITH ROHANI
Israeli leaders said they were not terribly impressed by the election victory in mid-June of Hassan Rohani as Iran’s new President, replacing the notorious Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. One cabinet minister said that while Rohani would probably be better than his predecessor, almost anyone would have been. Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out that all six of Iran’s presidential candidates had been certified to join the electoral contest for the presidential office by supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei, meaning Rohani’s positions would not prove to be much different from the man who actually calls the shots in Iran. Speaking to his cabinet just hours after Rohani was named as the winner, the PM warned the international community that it “must not become caught up in wishful thinking and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program. We are not deluding ourselves. We need to remember that overall Iranian ruler Ayatollah Khamenei disqualified all candidates who were not in line with his extreme worldview. From among those whom he did allow, the one seen as least identified with the regime was elected. But we are still speaking about someone who calls Israel the ‘great Zionist Satan.’” Netanyahu was referring to a speech denouncing Israel given by Rohani during the election campaign.

During a press conference with visiting Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird later that same week, the Israeli leader noted that Rohani “has been very clear. He is the author of a doctrine. You could call it ‘talk and enrich,’ that is, ‘talk and continue to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.’” Netanyahu was speaking about a book authored by Rohani in which he advocated continued negotiations with the international community over Iran’s nuclear program, designed mainly to give a cover to the Islamic country while it carries on with its uranium enrichment program—a key component in the production of nuclear weapons.

Despite all the turmoil in the region, the Sovereign Lord continues to fulfill His ancient promise to the Jewish people that in the last days of this era He would “bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘give them up!’ and to the south, ‘do not hold them back. Bring My sons from afar and your daughters from the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 43:5-6).

THE TRAGIC DEFEAT OF THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

THE TRAGIC DEFEAT OF THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT BY THE USA SUPREME COURT
by David Lev (Arutz Sheva News)

Rabbi Yoel Schoenfeld, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills in Queens, New York, told Arutz Sheva that the decision Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), paving the way for greater acceptance of gay marriage, was a major step backwards for humanity that goes all the back to the Biblical Bila’am, whose donkey spoke to him.

“This is a generation as foolish and as silly as Bila’am was,” Rabbi Schoenfeld told Arutz Sheva. “When a donkey speaks to you, you don’t get into a conversation with it. You are supposed to take note that something extraordinary is happening.” Often, people see “wondrous” things, but just go about their business without taking note.

That was the attitude that Jews needed to take on the Supreme Court decision. “To live in a world of fantasy where two people of the same gender can be wed ignores the thousands of years that man has lived with a traditional marriage. The Supreme Court decided that anyone who believes that is bigoted,” Rabbi Schoenfeld said. The decision, he said, was a “wake-up call” for Jews and others who had faith in the traditional definition of marriage, that something was seriously askew today.

With the striking down of DOMA, a 1996 law that prevented gay couples from receiving nearly 1,000 benefits even if the state they lived in recognized their marriage, shows that “the world is upside down,” Rabbi Schoenfeld said. “It’s hard to understand how intelligent people people like judges could make such a decision. In a way, however, the decision was a reassuring one for Jews. “Our sages say that before the coming of the Messiah the world will see many strange things happening. Let us hope that this will be the final ‘detour’ off the path before the Messiah arrives.”

DEMOGRAPHY DOESN’T THREATEN THE JEWISH STATE!

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

DEMOGRAPHY DOESN’T THREATEN THE JEWISH STATE!
by Jeff Jacoby (The Boston Globe)

Israel is “running out of time,” Secretary of State John Kerry told the American Jewish Committee in Washington this month. A two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict must be reached soon or “the insidious campaign to de-legitimize Israel will only gain steam,” he warned. “Israel will be left to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic state, but it will not be able to fulfill the founders’ visions of being both at once.”

It’s an old refrain, erroneous but popular: Israel must make peace with the Palestinians — “peace” being defined as the creation of a 22nd Arab state — before high Arab birthrates turn the Jews into a minority in their own land.
In Jerusalem a few months ago, President Obama echoed the same claim. “Given the demographics west of the Jordan River,” he said, “the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.”

This so-called “demographic argument” may sound compelling, even ominous. But it rests on an obsolete stereotype of Arab women as baby mills, outbreeding their Jewish sisters at such a pace that it is only a matter of time before Jews are numerically overwhelmed on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.
In the 1960s, when the fertility rate for Israeli Arabs (9.2 births per woman) soared far above that of Israeli Jews (3.4 births per woman), that demographic challenge certainly seemed plausible. Yasser Arafat liked to say that the ultimate weapon in his arsenal against the Jewish state was “the womb of the Arab woman.” The Palestinian Authority has always understood the propaganda value of population data. As the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics began its first census in the West Bank and Gaza in 1997, the bureau’s director, Hassan Abu Libdeh, assured The New York Times that the results would amount to nothing less than “a civil intifada.” In 2005, the bureau predicted that Jews would be a minority in “historic Palestine” (i.e., west of the Jordan River) by 2010. Now it says the tipping point will come by 2020. Don’t count on it!

Arafat’s boast notwithstanding, Palestinian women, like women throughout the Muslim world, are bearing far fewer children than they used to. Within Israel proper, the birth rate among Muslims has trended steadily downward and stands now at 3.5 children per woman. It is even lower for Palestinians in the West Bank —just 2.91, according to the CIA Factbook. In a 2012 survey by the Population Reference Bureau of family planning in the Arab world, 72 percent of married Palestinian women (ages 15 through 49) said they preferred to avoid a pregnancy. That was typical of the modern Middle East: The same survey showed most Jordanians (71 percent), Egyptians (69 percent), and Syrians (68 percent) felt the same way.

But while Palestinian birth rates have dramatically declined, Jewish birth rates in Israel have been heading up. Israel now has the highest fertility level of any modern industrialized nation. The fertility gap between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, a yawning 5.8 in the 1960s, is just 0.5 today. Defying longstanding conventional wisdom, writes former Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger, it is Israel’s Jewish population that is undergoing a remarkable surge, rising from about 80,000 per year in 1995 to 130,000 in 2012. (The annual number of Israeli Arab births has held steady at between 35,000 and 40,000).

It is easy to get tangled in debates over the statistics — Ettinger led a detailed demographic study that exposed serious flaws in previous projections — but the bottom line is that demography, far from being a looming liability for Israel, is a strategic asset. The 6.3 million Jews living in Israel and the West Bank represent 66 percent of the area’s population (not including Gaza, which Israel entirely relinquished to the Palestinian Authority in 2005). “Anyone suggesting that Jews are doomed to become a minority west of the Jordan River is either dramatically mistaken or outrageously misleading,” Ettinger argues.

Is the “peace process” worth pursuing? Would a two-state solution end the conflict? These demographic trends can’t answer such questions. What they can do is remove the artificial pressure on Israel to do something – anything – before the sword of Damocles falls. And maybe, just maybe, they can open a few eyes among those who have been waiting, like Arafat, for “the womb of the Arab woman” to put an end to the Jewish state. Israel, now home to nearly half of the world’s Jews, is a permanent fact of life in the Middle East. Any genuine peace process must start by accepting that reality.

NETANYAHU: “PEACE MUST BE ACHIEVED THROUGH NEGOTIATIONS”

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

NETANYAHU: “PEACE MUST BE ACHIEVED THROUGH NEGOTIATIONS”
by Elad Benari (Arutz Sheva News)

“Our goal is not just to enter and put a check mark to show that we’ve begun negotiations,” Netanyahu tells Georgian Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that peace with the Palestinian Authority can only be achieved through negotiations.

The comments came in the wake of reports that, after refusing to talk to Israel for three years, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has caved in to pressure from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and has agreed to meet Netanyahu.

Speaking during a meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said that “our fervent hope is for peace, a genuine peace that can be achieved only through direct negotiations without preconditions. We’re ready to enter such negotiations. I hope the Palestinians are too.”

He added, “I have to say that our goal is not just to enter and put a ‘V’ check the box to show that we’ve begun negotiations. Our goal is to persist in the negotiations, to engage in them consistently over a serious period of time in order to try to grapple with all the issues and come to an agreement that resolves the fundamental issues in the conflict.

“This will require time and determination and a systematic approach and I hope that this is what the Palestinians will have. That’s our approach. I hope it’s theirs too,” said Netanyahu.

He welcomed the Georgian Prime Minister to Israel, saying, “I’ve been looking forward to our meeting. It will be an important step in continuing the great relationship between Georgia and Israel. We want to expand this relationship in every way – in trade, in agriculture, in cultural exchanges, and I would say strengthening and building on the human bridge between our two societies. We have a very proud community of Jews that came from Georgia, that have been there for thousands of years, and in addition, we have the modern states that have a deep and instinctive friendship between us.

“We all want to see security and stability and peace in our area, and there are great challenges that come from Iran and from many other convulsions in our area. I look forward to talking to you about that as well.”

Georgian Prime Minister Ivanishvili said, “I’ve not had the opportunity to be able to pay an official visit to our friendly country. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude for inviting me to pay a visit to your country. You are quite well aware that the friendship between the Georgian and the Jewish people lasted for many centuries. We are obliged to live up to this friendship and to the centuries-old cooperation and friendship between our nations, and we have to establish ideal relations between our two countries.

“We really and genuinely love and appreciate the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and our country and our people are doing their best to make sure that our cooperation will reach this upper level and of course we stand ready to share the very vast experience you have in many fields, especially when it comes to agriculture and others,” he added. “We stand ready to cooperate within the framework of an intergovernmental commission and also if there will be mutual will and readiness; we are going to further deepen trade relations between our two countries and to sign the relevant documents in this regard.

“And of course, the issue of the fight against terrorism is a matter of paramount importance, and Israel has been fighting against this phenomenon for many centuries and Israel is the very country that deserves real and lasting peace. We’ll try and do our best to continue cooperation and negotiations with the Prime Minister of Israel on the issues of the economy and I think we will manage and we will be successful in terms of further deepening and strengthening our cooperation.”

EGYPT BRACES FOR NEW REVOLUTION

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

EGYPT BRACES FOR NEW REVOLUTION
by Ryan Jones (Israel Today News)

Muslim Brotherhood seizes control of Egyptian military
How Bad Is Egypt’s New Constitution?

Most Egyptians have today come to the realization that the Muslim Brotherhood’s hijacking of their country’s pro-democracy revolution two years ago was not a good thing.

Next Sunday, June 30th, they might just set things straight when the burgeoning “Tamarud” (Rebels) presents its 15 million-strong petition demanding the resignation of President Mohammed Morsi.

“There is a sense that something very significant is about to happen with both fear and hope intermingled,” said Dr. Ashraf Ramelah, director of Voice of the Copts, an organization that seeks to highlight the plight of Egyptian Christians.

June 30 is the one year anniversary of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power, and the Tamarud have said enough is enough. In fact, the 15 million signatures collected by the group outstrips the 13 million votes Morsi received in the last election, and even then he had to resort to fraud, according to Ramelah.

The hope of the Tamarud is that Morsi will step down and that the courts will establish a constitutional assembly to manage the nation until fresh parliamentary and presidential elections can be held, in that order.

Of course, no one expects things to go so smoothly.

Already last week, Sunni Muslim mobs associated with the Muslim Brotherhood butchered a number of Shiite Muslims who allegedly opposed the regime. Arab media is predicting that next Sunday’s showdown will be even more bloody, as the Morsi regime orders police and military forces to step back, thereby allowing Muslim Brotherhood militias to have their way with the demonstrators.

“Islamic groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) are restless, ready to defend their President and willing to incite bloodshed,” explained Ramelah. “The Brotherhood could try to create terror in the hearts of the willful Egyptian people through an orchestrated killing spree in advance of the scheduled protest on June 30th.”

Noting the cooperation between the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and even Al Qaeda, Ramelah and others fear the Islamists “could potentially lead a bloodthirsty crowd from mosques after Friday prayers on June 28th to commit brutalities — spreading panic and a fatal blow to protest efforts.”

If they are to have any hope of success, Ramelah said the Tamarud must convince honest officers in the police and military to join their cause and arrest Muslim Brotherhood criminals. They must also be ready for a drawn out confrontation that could very well require tremendous sacrifice.

Another loser in this whole scenario would be the United States, which, according to Ramelah, is much resented these days by ordinary Egyptians for its previous assistance to the Muslim Brotherhood in its rise to power.

Ramelah reported that recently US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson approached Egypt’s Christian leadership in an effort to convince the community to stay out of the June 30th protests. Washington would appear at this point to have a vested interest in keeping the Muslim Brotherhood in power.

THREE WEEKS OF MOURNING BEGINS TONIGHT

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

THREE WEEKS OF MOURNING BEGINS TONIGHT
(Israel News)

“Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the LORD your God
when He led you in the way?” (Jeremiah 2:17)

Tonight at as the sun sets, the Jewish People will remember a tragic coincidence: on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz in both 586 BC and in AD 70, after a lengthy siege, the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Babylonians and the Romans respectively.

And in yet another remarkable coincidence, the First and Second Temples were destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC and by the Romans in AD 70 – three weeks later on the 9th of Av.

In Judaism, the breach of Jerusalem’s walls and the subsequent destruction of the
Temple is considered no mere coincidence. It was caused by rebellion and idolatry.

“And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them…. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.” (Deuteronomy 31:16-18)

The current walls that surround Jerusalem where built between AD 1535 and 1538 during the Ottoman Empire. Around 1000 BC, David and Solomon extended the original walls that were built by the Jebusites. Ezra and
Nehemiah rebuilt the walls destroyed by the Babylonians.

The Jewish People call the three-week period that begins tonight and ends on July 16 The Three Weeks or Bein ha-Metzarim (Between the Straits). (Lamentations 1:3)

To mourn the breach of Jerusalem’s walls and to begin the process of teshuvah (repentance), the Jewish People will not eat or drink from dawn to dusk tomorrow.

During the next three weeks, Orthodox Jews will limit celebrations—not carrying out marriages and avoiding other expressions of joy, such as playing musical instruments and reciting songs of praise.

Although this is a time of mourning, it is also a time of hope since Zechariah prophesied that the 17th of Tammuz would be transformed into a day of joy.

“The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.” (Zech. 8:19)

An Jewish man prays at the Western (Wailing)
Wall, the last remnant of the Holy Temple.

The 17th of Tammuz is a minor fast that carries the hope of a major promise:

On this day and throughout The Three Weeks, the Jewish People look forward to the coming Third Temple and the Messianic Era when the Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace) will reign in Jerusalem.

However, 99.9% of God’s Chosen Jewish People here in Israel do not yet recognize that Yeshua (Jesus) has fulfilled the Messianic prophecies as the suffering Messiah; and that when He returns to rule in Jerusalem, He will be coming as King Messiah.

“I have placed My chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on My holy mountain.” (Psalm 2:6)


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