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Archive for May, 2014


Saturday, May 31st, 2014

By Caroline B. Glick (Jerusalem Post Article)

On June 10 the Knesset will elect President Shimon Peres’s successor. As he departs the President’s Residence at the end of June, the media will provide saturation coverage of his final days and tell us over and over that Peres is the greatest statesman in Jewish history. His personal gravitas is Israel’s single most important asset in the world, they will say as they warn of our bleak future without him.

The upcoming Peres-is-a-Superhero festival will just be the latest of the narcissistic, tasteless celebrations of this man, always choreographed expertly by Peres and his retinue of media groupies.

Like his 80th and 85th birthdays, Peres’s 90th birthday celebration went on for a month. As the serving President, his last two month-long benders cost the taxpayers millions of shekels and broke the budget of the President’s Residence.

All were replete with international celebrity guests like Nelson Mandela, Bono and Bill Clinton whom the press drooled over.

Hyperventilating reporters paused between drinks to mournfully note that after Peres leaves office, the parties will end and the A-listers will stop visiting.

And that’s the problem with Peres’s showboating. It’s always been all about him, never about us.

Peres’s popularity among the jet-setters never translates into international support for the State of Israel. Israel is but a prop for him – a means of securing the continued support of the beautiful people.

Actually, it’s worse than that. Peres’s international popularity has always grown in indirect proportion to Israel’s. The more Hollywood stars he adds to his collection, the worse Israel’s international isolation.

This makes sense. Ever since Peres became the architect of the phony peace process with the PLO in 1993, the world outside has used its embrace of him as a means of hiding its hostility to Israel.

Governments that adopt anti-Israel positions, and individuals who condemn us regularly, use Peres, whom they lionize as Israel’s “elder statesman,” to falsely represent their hostile behavior as proof of friendship.

Hence the likes of Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan could show up at Peres’s birthday parties, get their pictures taken with him, and then turn around and bash Israel as the chief obstruction to peace in the Middle East.

Hence Yasser Arafat could “show his commitment to peace” by meeting with Peres hours after his henchmen carried out heinous crimes, like the lynch of IDF reservists in Ramallah in 2000, or the massacre of Israeli teenagers at the Dolphinarium discotheque in Tel Aviv in 2001, and so deny the government the ability to retaliate.

Peres is beloved by the media and the rest of the leftist elites, and despised by much of the public, for his role in engineering the fake peace process with the PLO.

Some 1,500 Israelis lost their lives because of his initiative. Israel’s international standing, which was reaching new heights with the end of the Cold War, has in the intervening years plummeted to previously unknown depths.

Peres sent his emissaries to Oslo to negotiate with senior PLO terrorists in breach of Israeli law, and without the knowledge, let alone the authorization, of his boss, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It was arguably the worst strategic blunder in Jewish history.

Yet, as he exits the President’s Residence, embracing the PLO will not be the worst or the most catastrophic mistake of his career.

In the fullness of time, compared to his latest debacle, Peres’s initiation and maintenance of the Oslo process will be but a footnote in his career as Israel’s most illustrious subversive.

Peres’s most significant legacy will be the nuclear arsenal he leaves behind.

No, not Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal that Peres’s flaks eagerly claim he is solely responsible for developing.

Peres’s legacy will be Iran’s nuclear arsenal.

For years, many Israelis as well as Israel’s supporters in the US, the Sunni Arab states in the Persian Gulf and even the French have been scratching their heads wondering why Israel hasn’t struck Iran’s nuclear installations yet.

Over the past few months, we received our answer.

The ongoing police investigation into allegedly illegal conduct by then-IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has revealed the source of Israel’s paralysis.

Apparently led by Peres, the triumvirate of security chiefs serving between 2008 and 2011 – Ashkenazi, then-Mossad director Meir Dagan and then-Shin Bet director Avi Dichter – colluded to undermine Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s and then-defense minister Ehud Barak’s legal authority to order Israel’s security forces to take action against Iran.

According to a Haaretz report on Wednesday, between 2008 and 2011, the four men leaked plans and discussions of possible Israeli strikes on Iran to the media in order to prevent them from being carried out. The four men opposed an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations and stridently rejected any Israeli operation not coordinated with the US.

Ashkenazi and his associates are being investigated by the police for crimes associated with criminal insubordination to Israel’s elected leadership.

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein ordered the police probe in January after information unearthed by the media and by the State Comptroller’s Office raised strong suspicions of a conspiracy led by Ashkenazi to usurp the powers of the government.

According to media reports of the investigation, the police have discovered tape recordings of numerous telephone conversations between Ashkenazi and Peres. According to Channel 1 and Haaretz, Peres’s attorney requested that Weinstein prohibit the publication of the details of phone conversations.

Haaretz’s report didn’t specifically state that the conversations in question related to actions by Peres and the security chiefs to prevent military operations against Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

But the same day the report appeared, Amir Oren, Haaretz’s senior commentator, published an article praising Peres for preventing Israel from attacking Iran.

Oren wrote, “Peres’s involvement in blocking the Iranian adventure (i.e., a military attack against Iran’s nuclear installations) is… the most important action he took as President.”

As Amnon Lord wrote last December in Makor Rishon, Peres’s role in the security chiefs’ conspiracy to prevent Netanyahu and Barak from ordering a strike against Iran’s nuclear installations was to provide “pseudo-constitutional and pseudo- moral support” for their unlawful subversion.

The four men were very likely not acting by themselves.

Lord argued that the Obama administration was a fifth partner in this criminal conspiracy.

The US was represented in its efforts by the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen. Mullen visited Israel almost every month during this period and constantly praised Ashkenazi’s leadership publicly.

As Lord noted, these trips were reciprocated by Ashkenazi and then-Military Intelligence commander Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin who flew regularly to Washington.

For the Americans, Lord wrote, the point of cultivating these ties was “to influence the IDF’s high command and cut it off from the political leadership of Israel.”

In the case of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, as in the case of the phony peace process, Peres’s motivation, like that of Ashkenazi, Dichter and Dagan, was clear and crass. He wanted power.

The facts already established by the Ashkenazi et. al. conspiracy probe reveal that from his earliest days as chief of staff, Ashkenazi was preparing the ground for a post-IDF run for Prime Minister.

His will to rule distorted his perception of his place in the chain of command. Instead of viewing Netanyahu and Barak as his commanders, as the law stipulates, he saw them as his political rivals, and behaved accordingly.

As for Peres, he had been searching for a leftist politician who could defeat Netanyahu. Ashkenazi was his knight in shining armor.

This is why Peres launched a public campaign after Ashkenazi retired in 2011 to give Ashkenazi immunity from the law requiring military personnel to wait a year between their retirement from the service and their entrance into politics.

Leaking top secret information about internal discussions and plans related to military attacks on Iran is a treasonous act. If, as seems likely, the probe reveals collusion between the four men and the Obama administration, that would represent another act of treason.

But leaving treason aside, the questions still arises: How could these men, who were charged with protecting the state from its enemies, act as they did? There are plenty of ways to gain political power. Why would they try to advance their political fortunes by undermining Israel’s ability to prevent Iran – which has made our annihilation its declared goal – from acquiring nuclear weapons? The tragedy of Israel is that under the guidance of narcissists like Peres, Israel’s elites have over time adopted his overweening sense of entitlement and his puerile view of the world. Encouraged by Peres and others like him, men like Ashkenazi, Diskin and Dagan view Netanyahu as a usurper. He comes from the wrong side of the ideological and social tracks.

By daring to get elected and reelected, Netanyahu, they believe, is taking away what is rightfully theirs. And so, as they see it, he deserves no respect. Their job as public servants is to either topple his government or make it impossible for him to govern, or both.

This sense of entitlement is made worse by a provincial and childlike view of the world where actions have no consequences, threats are in our heads, and lunch is always free.

Peres and the security brass have repeatedly argued that Iran’s nuclear program is a US problem, not an Israeli one, and that Israel can trust President Barack Obama to take care of it for us.

It doesn’t matter to them that Obama has made clear by word and deed that Israel cannot trust him on Iran. The same men who think the worst of Netanyahu and will stop at nothing to prevent him from making the decisions for which he was elected, take everything Obama and his advisers say at face value.

In Peres’s case, he’s been pretending away the consequences of his own actions for 20 years. His narcissistic, sociopathic view of the world has blinded him to the devastating outcome of his embrace of the PLO. And now that it is obvious that the US will do nothing to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Peres behaves as though there is no cause for concern.

In his meeting earlier this month with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Peres scoffed at the mounting danger of a nuclear Iran with his signature inanity, saying, “President Obama said the US shouldn’t be the policemen of the world and I agree. The US should be the peacemaker of the world.”

This sort of self-indulgent gibberish is devastating for the country. Now, as Iran’s nuclear advance appears all but unstoppable, Israel requires sober-minded leaders who measure their success by how their actions benefit Israel. If Peres really does exit the scene at the end of next month, perhaps we will finally get them.

Caroline B. Glick is the author of “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.”


Friday, May 30th, 2014

by Benny Toker, Ari Yashar (IsraelNationalNews)

Egypt’s former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi may have won the presidential elections, but former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Tzvi Mazel told Arutz Sheva that Sisi will have a hard time putting the country in order.

“Egypt is a poor country, with 85 million residents. Every half year another half a million babies are born there, and every year 800,000 residents join the mass of job seekers; the financial situation is very difficult,” reported Mazel.

Without support from the West, Mazel says Sisi will have a rough time rehabilitating the Nile state which was rocked by the 2011 “Arab Spring,” and recently by clashes between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. Former President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted last July.

“At this stage, Europe and also (US President Barack) Obama have turned a cold shoulder on Sisi, claiming that he held a military coup and suspended the elected President; that’s a serious problem,” remarked Mazel.

The Egyptian public is liable to start a new revolution at any time if the situation remains unstable, according to Mazel.

“Egypt has a security problem with the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi established an elite counter-terror unit. Now he’s the new hope and the people will let him work, but you need to remember that the people lost its fear of the regime, and if Sisi will act like a dictator, they may take the streets again,” said Mazel.

Indeed the Muslim Brotherhood called for demonstrations in the streets on Friday following the election. As far as acting like a dictator, Sisi has already warned that he will not give journalistic freedom. Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik in March said that the elections will be rigged for Sisi, adding he had decided to take himself out of the running.

Regarding the peace treaty with Israel, Mazel opined that Sisi would preserve the status quo.

“In a series of interviews before the elections he said that the peace with Israel is stable, and that despite all the challenges, the peace is accepted by the Egyptian people and that it’s important for us to work together for the prosperity of Egypt,” the former ambassador noted.

Sisi in those interviews stated that there was a chance for “true peace” if Israel adopts the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which demanded Israel withdraw from Judea and Samaria at which point the Arab states would supposedly recognize it.

In the same interview Sisi said he would be willing to change the peace agreement with Israel.


Friday, May 30th, 2014

by Ari Yashar (Arutz Sheva News)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyau reportedly met with the heads of Judea and Samaria authorities and admitted to freezing construction in the region, due to pressure from the American administration.

In the night-time meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, whose details were reported on Friday by journalist Ariel Kahane of Makor Rishon, nearly all the leaders of the regional councils were present, as well as Dani Dayan, Chief Foreign Envoy of the Council of Judea and Samaria, and Ze’ev Haver, the chaiman of the Amana housing organization.

Netanyahu acknowledged that American demands led to the cancellation of high planning council meetings of the IDF’s civil administration that manages the Judea and Samaria region.

The Prime Minister reportedly requested that the Housing Ministry freeze new construction projects in Judea and Samaria earlier in the month, despite the collapse of peace talks, and despite the fact that he chose to release jailed terrorists instead of freezing building as a condition of the talks.

In the meeting the Prime Minister did not deny having giving the order to freeze construction, but claimed to the representatives of Judea and Samaria residents that he wasn’t aware of the results of his actions on the region.

“Defender of the settlements”

Nevertheless, Netanyahu reportedly termed himself “the defender of the settlements” in the meeting, claiming to have blocked strong international pressure against a Jewish presence in the region.

US President Barack Obama’s administration demanded “not one brick, not one house” in Judea and Samaria according to Netanyahu, a demand the Prime Minister said he was able to hold off.

In recent meetings with the American administration, Netanyahu reports being told to stop not only the publication of construction bids, but also the early stages of planning. While Netanyahu did not say directly, he hinted to having acceded based on his approach of maintaining a high level of cooperation with the Obama administration.

“Not even a lightpole can be built”

The Judea and Samaria regional leaders who met with Netanyahu leveled sharp criticism over the decision to stop the high planning council meetings, a move they said led to a de facto freeze of the region’s development given that without the council’s order, even “a lightpole for a soldier guarding at a post can’t be placed.”

They added that not even educational facilities can be built under the current status, which wasn’t the case in the freeze four years ago that Netanyahu initiated.

“Every change on the ground, even the smallest, requires the permission of the outline plan anew. If the council doesn’t meet, even the tiniest changes can’t get permission. That doesn’t allow preparation for the next school year or anything else,” one of the regional leaders said at the meeting.

Another leader added that without building, the local authorities don’t receive any construction fees, which greatly harms the budgets of the regional councils.

In response, Netanyahu claimed he wasn’t aware of the full impact of his orders to stop the council meetings, and promised to find a solution in the coming days.

The regional leaders pressed that building continue, saying that otherwise the status quo will be of construction freeze with any building becoming a deviation from the norm.

“If this will be the reality, the external pressures will be many times as strong,” the leaders stated. After the meeting they met with representatives of Netanyahu’s office to brainstorm solutions to the situation.


Thursday, May 29th, 2014

by Elad Benari (IsraelNationalNews)

Partial results indicate that Egypt’s former army chief, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, is headed for a big victory.

According to Reuters, Sisi’s campaign said Wednesday night that the popular candidate had captured 93.4 percent of the votes with 2,000 polling stations counted. Judicial sources said he had 89 percent with 3,000 polling stations counted.

Sisi’s only rival, Hamdeen Sabahi, was on 2.9 percent according to the Sisi campaign, while the judicial sources put Sabahi on 5 percent. The rest of the ballots were deemed void.

The partial results came 90 minutes after polls closed after three days of voting.

Turnout was 44.4 percent of Egypt’s 54 million voters, according to the judicial sources quoted by Reuters.

The results are hardly unexpected, as Sisi was expected to win the election with an overwhelming majority.

Sisi gained favor among Egyptians after he ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi last July.

The two-day vote was originally due to conclude on Tuesday but was extended until Wednesday evening to encourage greater turnout.

Fireworks erupted in Cairo when Sisi’s results began to emerge. His supporters waved Egyptian flags and sounded car horns on the crowded streets of the capital, reported Reuters.

The Muslim Brotherhood has rejected the poll, describing it as an extension of the army takeover. The group, loyal to Morsi, was outlawed by the military as a terrorist group and saw around 1,000 members killed in a security crackdown.

Hundreds of Islamists have been placed on trial and some have been sentenced en masse to death since Morsi’s ouster.

Sisi has declared that the Muslim Brotherhood was “finished” in Egypt and would not return if he is elected.


Thursday, May 29th, 2014

by Tova Dvorin (Arutz Sheva News)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat spoke at the special Jerusalem Day ceremony Wednesday, honoring 47 years since the reunification of the Holy City.

“Jerusalem was unified 47 years ago and it will never be redivided,” Netanyahu said. “Since that day, Jerusalem has developed; it is prosperous and flourishing.”

Netanyahu committed, in his remarks, to keep focused on Jerusalem’s future – despite international and leftist pressure to undermine its importance.

“We meet here every year in order to ensure that this prosperity will be even greater, that the construction will be even broader and that it will flourish even more,” he said “We are committed to a rebuilt, greater and developing Jerusalem as a historical mandate of the Jewish People.”

Several left-wing MKs – particularly from Meretz – have voiced criticism over an initiative to make Jerusalem Day a national holiday. Netanyahu fired back at the criticism, stating that the day has a high level of historical significance.

“I have heard that there are those who would like to cancel today as a national holiday,” Netanyahu noted. “I say that this is not just a national holiday; this is a historic, national miracle. The Jewish People will always see to the rebuilt and greater Jerusalem.”

“Jerusalem is the soul of Israel”

Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, also spoke at the Jerusalem Day ceremony, where he placed an emphasis on the unique role of the city in Jewish and Israeli identity.

“The first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, said that ‘if there is a soul to Israel – Jerusalem is the soul of Israel’,” Barkat noted. “Jerusalem has become once again, in recent years, not only Israel’s soul – but Israel’s beating heart.”

“Jerusalem is once again becoming increasingly relevant to the people of Israel,” he added. “The Zionist movement is back again in Jerusalem, where young people are taking responsibility for the direction and influence of the Jewish people in the future.”

“We can see that young people are beginning to believe in Jerusalem again,” the mayor reflected. “The polls reflect that Jerusalem is a city where the residents are most satisfied in this country.”

“On this note, I can say today that more than ever, each of us can say with pride: I am happy to be a Jerusalemite on Jerusalem Day.”


Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

by Elad Benari (Arutz Sheva News)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday night that Jerusalem is the heart of Israel and, as such, will never be divided again.

Netanyahu made the comments in a speech he gave at the annual Jerusalem Day celebrations at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva.

The celebration at Mercaz Harav is traditionally attended by the important figures of Religious Zionist rabbinic and political leadership. This year the dais included, among others, Economy Minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzchak Yosef, Former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Dep. Minister of Religion Eli ben Dahan and well known rabbis, including Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hevron, Rabbi Dov Lior.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, in his words, mentioned that at the annual Jerusalem Award ceremony he had just attended, three out of the twelve recipients were graduates of Mercaz Harav.

“I feel at home in Merkaz Harav Yeshiva”, said the Prime Minister, “it seems like home to me, because my grandfather knew Rabbi Kook zts”l well and because I knew Rabbi Avraham Shapira zts”l, father of the present dean, very well and respected him greatly.”

The yeshiva dean, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, told the Prime Minister that his insistence on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is a source of pride, reminding him that Netanyahu’s good friend and advisor, Uri Elitzur z”l, was also a Mercaz graduate.

“Those who remember Jerusalem immediately after the Six Day War, it was not a small village nor a large city…and today Jerusalem is a huge city,” said Netanyahu.

“Jerusalem is Yad Vashem, Jerusalem is Herzl’s burial place and the Mount of Olives, where my grandparents are buried, as is Menachem Begin,” he continued.

“And Jerusalem is also Mount Zion and Mount Moriah and the Western Wall, Jerusalem is Israel’s eternity, it is our heart, and we are guarding our heart – the heart of the nation. We will never divide our heart,” declared Netanyahu.

“I am here tonight to rejoice with you in the joy of Jerusalem, and I’m here to strengthen your hands for your diligence in the study of Torah,” Netanyahu told the many students and rabbis who were present.

“I want to congratulate you with a happy holiday for Jerusalem and for the entire people of Israel,” he concluded.

This year marks the 47th year since the unification of the 3,000-year-old capital of the Jewish people, which occurred in the 1967 Six Day War and which is celebrated on Jerusalem Day.

Also speaking at the Mercaz Harav celebration on Tuesday night was Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who promised that there will be no more construction freezes in Judea, Samaria or Jerusalem.

“There will be no more freezes, we will not accept delays and restrictions in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and we will continue to build in all parts of our country,” said Ariel.

“Jerusalem will not be divided again. Between the Jordan and the sea there will be only one state, and that is the State of Israel,” he declared.


Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

by Tova Dvorin (Arutz Sheva News)

Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) made a strong statement against annexing Judea and Samaria Tuesday, saying that “if Israel will annex settlement blocs, there will not be a government.”

“There is no other solution than two states for two peoples,” Lapid added. “You cannot build infrastructure in isolated communities that, in any case, will not be part of Israel in the event of a future agreement.”

Lapid pointed out that in recent months, he has succeeded in stopping funding to Judea and Samaria communities.

“The two-state solution involves things that will hurt us all,” Lapid justified. “Evicting 80 or 90 thousand settlers from their homes shakes us all.”

“It’s not just that the state will be different; each of us will have a different relationship with the government, the nature of the citizen-state relationship will change,” he insisted. “It will tear the largest rift in the state of Israel since the Yom Kippur War.”

Building funds for Judea and Samaria have become frequent headline news in Israel over the past several months, as money to the Ministry of Housing is allocated, then withdrawn, over and over again, while politicians fume.

In April, Lapid pulled funding once again to Judea and Samaria, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly instructed Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to cancel a planned hearing for building tenders in an abrupt about-face.

Meanwhile, far-left group Peace Now claimed that building in Judea and Samaria had quadrupled over the past year and derided Netanyahu for becoming “Prime Minister of the settlers.”

Yesha officials denounced the move and denied the validity of the report – noting that if the report were true, there would not be such an immediate need for more construction in Judea and Samaria.

Accusations of “lack of transparency” are common in Lapid’s decision making and have played a central role in budgetary discussions since as far back as early February.

Yesha Council officials, an unofficial federation of Jewish communities in the Judea-Samaria region, have categorically rejected the accusations and Globes published a full and detailed breakdown of the funds that were funnelled to Judea and Samaria.


Monday, May 26th, 2014

by Gil Ronen (Arutz Sheva News)

Jerusalem is growing and thriving, in all possible parameters, statistics released for the 47th Jerusalem Day show.

Central Bureau of Statistics data show that 88% of Jerusalem’s adult residents are pleased with their lives, and 64% think their lives will be better in the coming years.

While 75% are pleased with their place of residence and 51% are pleased with their economic situation, 70% of Jerusalem’s residents feel safe in the city.

Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel and continues to grow in all sectors. Education in the Zionist sector has been growing in the last four years, after 15 years of continuous decline. The combined religious Zionist and mamlachti (state/secular) Zionist school sector has grown from 58,908 pupils in 2010/11 to 62,941 pupils in 2013/14.

The number of first graders in the Zionist schools is expected to rise by 5% next year.

More students are eligible for ‘bagrut’ matriculation certificates: 76% in the religious-Zionist sector – up from 71% last year – and 69% in the mamlachti sector, up from 66% last year.

About 30,000 young people moved to Jerusalem in the last four years. In 2012, most of these – 51% – were aged 20-34, and came from greater Tel Aviv or greater Jerusalem. Most people who move out of Jerusalem into cities choose Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh, Modiin Illit, Bnei Brak and Beitar Illit. Other than Tel Aviv, all those cities have sizable hareidi populations, and the latter three are hareidi-majority, suggesting a significant proportion of those moving out are hareidi Jews seeking cheaper housing opportunities and space outside of the crowded capital.

About four million tourists slept in Jerusalem in 2012 – more than did so in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Jerusalem’s hi-tech industry yielded an income of almost 12 billion shekels, as opposed to 6.7 billion in Tel Aviv and 7 billion in Haifa.

CBS statistics indicate that 2013 had been a record year for the number of Jerusalem residential units whose construction had begun, and also in the number whose construction had been completed. Construction of a total of 3,442 housing units was started in 2013, breaking a 20-year record, and up from 2,470 in 2012, and 2,360 in 2011.

Housing completions were similarly up in 2013, reaching 2,430 units, compared with 1,760 in 2012 and 1,360 in 2011.

Earlier this month, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat and Israel’s Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) hailed the record building in Jerusalem. Ariel said it was an important step towards making housing more affordable in the increasingly expensive capital.


Sunday, May 25th, 2014

by AFP and Arutz Sheva Staff

Pope Francis met with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem Sunday, in a historic meeting that saw Abbas accuse Israel of “Judaizing” Jerusalem.

During the meeting, Abbas insisted that Israel is “systematically acting to change Jerusalem’s identity and character, and strangling the Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims, with the aim of pushing them out.”

Earlier, Pope Francis addressed what he called “the State of Palestine,” according to Ma’an, calling Abbas “a man of peace.” In his speech, he called for a two-state solution and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict, which he deemed “unacceptable.”

“The time has come for everyone to find the courage… to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgement by all of the right of two states to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders,” he urged.

The pope also paused for several moments in front of a graffiti on the security wall in Bethlehem, bowing his head in prayer in front of a message proclaiming, “Pope we need to see someone to speak about justice. Bethlehem looks like Warsaw ghetto. Free Palestine.”

Pope Francis invited both Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres on Sunday to his home in the Vatican for a “heartfelt prayer” for peace.

“I wish to invite you, President Mahmud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace,” he said at the end of an open-air mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem.

“I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer,” he said. “Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace.”

According to the Washington Post, both Peres and Abbas accepted the invite Sunday afternoon.

Political or apolitical?

Although Francis himself has said it will be a “purely religious trip,” both Israel and the PA will be looking to use the visit to score a few political points.

The Vatican said the main reason for the visit was a meeting in Jerusalem with Bartholomew I, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, seeking to heal a nearly 1,000-year rift between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

But ahead of the trip, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin defended the Palestinian Arabs’ right to a “sovereign and independent” homeland and said he hoped Francis’s visit would lead to “courageous decisions” for peace.

Rabbi Sergio Bergman, a member of the Argentinian parliament and close friend of Pope Francis, reported in February that the pope intends to define himself as the “Che Guevera of the Palestinians” and support their “struggle and rights” during his visit.

It has been noted that the pope has been remarkably tight-lipped over the violent persecution of Christians in Bethlehem, instead choosing to condemn alleged Jewish “price tag” vandalism.


Sunday, May 25th, 2014

by Tova Dvorin (Arutz Sheva News)

The two Israelis killed in shooting attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium are Emanuel and Miriam Riba, 54 and 53, from Tel Aviv, authorities announced Sunday. The couple leaves behind two daughters, ages 15 and 16, according to Yediot Aharonot.

The Israeli Embassy in Brussels has contacted local police to ensure that the bodies will be flown to Israel for the funeral.

Neighbors were shocked to hear the news.

“She is a very educated woman and he was always very discreet,” a neighbor told Channel 2 Sunday. “Even though they were on shlichut (Israel advocacy mission) to Germany for several years, and only returned recently, we always had a great relationship – they always had a smile on their face.”

The Ribas were in Berlin on shlichut from 2007-2011, neighbors told Yediot Aharonot. Emmanuel worked in the Public Security Ministry since returning from Germany.

Another neighbor said he was shocked.

“They were on shlichut but never thought that something like this could happen – we talked every few days,” he said. “They were an intelligent, charming couple and it’s hard to understand that this could happen to them.”

The other victims included a French woman, 23, who was killed at the scene; another shooting victim, in critical condition, is Belgian.

A gunman entered Brussels’ Jewish Museum Saturday afternoon and began shooting, killing three people – including the two Israelis – and critically wounding another.

A national manhunt has begun for the shooter; local police are still looking for possible suspects, official announced Sunday morning, despite at least one arrest shortly after the shooting.

It was the first fatal attack on a Jewish center since the early 1980s in Belgium, home to some 40,000 Jews. Roughly half live in Brussels and the remainder in Antwerp.

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