Period: Februrary 2016


AFP - January 2, 2016 - The Vatican signed the accord in June, just over two years after the Roman Catholic Church recognised the Palestinian territories as a sovereign state (AFP Photo/Filippo Monteforte) Vatican City (AFP) - The Vatican's first accord with the Palestinians -- an agreement that Israel has attacked as counter-productive to the Middle East peace process -- has come into force, the Holy See announced Saturday. The accord was signed in June, just over two years after the Roman Catholic Church recognised the Palestinian territories as a sovereign state in February 2013. The accord covers the operation of the Church in areas of the Holy Land under Palestinian control but its significance has been seen in broader terms as a symbol of growing international backing for a Palestinian state.
"With reference to the Comprehensive Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine, signed on 26 June 2015, the Holy See and the State of Palestine have notified each other that the procedural requirements for its entry into force have been fulfilled," a Vatican statement said. "The agreement... regards essential aspects of the life and activity of the Church in Palestine, while at the same time reaffirming the support for a negotiated and peaceful solution to the conflict in the region." In June, the Vatican hailed the agreement, which includes provisions to protect the rights of Christians, as a model for other Arab and Muslim states in their relations with Christian minorities facing increasing persecution in the Middle East. Israel attacked the accord as premature and counterproductive to efforts to get the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations with the Jewish state.
The Vatican's recognition of the state of Palestine -- joining dozens of others -- followed a November 2012 vote in favour of recognition by the UN General Assembly.
The Church has had diplomatic relations with Israel since 1993 but has yet to conclude an agreement on Christian rights there. Negotiations on the subject have been running since 1999 but have repeatedly run into deadlock over the status of Jerusalem.

Pontiff to meet with Rome’s chief rabbi, solidifying interfaith relations that started with John Paul II’s visit 30 years ago
By Ruth Ellen Gruber Pope Francis addresses the crowd during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican on November 18, 2015. (AFP/Andreas Solaro)
JTA – When Pope Francis crosses the Tiber River to visit Rome’s Great Synagogue on Sunday, he’ll become the third pontiff in history to do so. But his 1.5-mile journey to the towering Tempio Maggiore shows that what was once unthinkable is now the norm.
“Our meeting,” Rome Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni told the Catholic newspaper L’Avvenire, “aims to convey a very topical, important and urgent message — that belonging to a faith, a religion, should not be a cause of hostility, hatred and violence, but that it is possible to build a peaceful coexistence, based on respect and cooperation.”
John Paul II’s visit 30 years ago marked a dramatic watershed in Catholic-Jewish relations. By crossing the threshold of the Tempio Maggiore, warmly embracing Rome’s then-chief rabbi, Elio Toaff, and famously referring to Jews as Christianity’s “older brothers,” the Polish-born pontiff broke down barriers that stretched back nearly 2000 years.
The visual impact alone of the pontiff and the chief rabbi embracing sent out a powerful message of reconciliation.
Formal dialogue between Catholics and Jews had begun only two decades before Pope John Paul II’s visit, with the Vatican’s 1965 Nostra Aetate declaration that repudiated the charge that Jews were collectively responsible for killing Jesus, stressed the religious bond between Jews and Catholics and called for interfaith contacts.
For centuries before that, as Brown University historian David Kertzer wrote in his 2001 book, “The Popes Against the Jews,” the Vatican “worked hard to keep Jews in their subservient place — barring them from owning property, from practicing professions, from attending university, from traveling freely.” Jews were confined to ghettos and often subjected to expulsions, forced conversions and other persecutions. In Rome, the Great Synagogue stands where the papal rulers kept Jews confined to a crowded ghetto until 1870.
John Paul made fostering relations between Catholics and Jews a cornerstone of his papacy.
“What he did was to assert that one could not be a Christian without recognition of one’s roots in the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, a longtime participant in Catholic-Jewish dialogue and a former vice president of the World Union of Progressive Judaism.
Pope Benedict XVI, who had been a key advisor to John Paul and an architect of his theological policy, followed John Paul’s lead. But Pope Benedict lacked his predecessor’s charisma, and some of his policies strained relations with the Jewish world.

Israeli PM says proposed barrier would also solve problem of Hamas tunnels from Gaza, but plan already has critics in his own cabinet
Binyamin Netanyahu has announced his intention to “surround all of Israel with a fence” to protect the country from infiltration by both Palestinians and the citizens of surrounding Arab states, whom he described as “wild beasts”.
The Israeli prime minister unveiled the proposal during a tour of the Jordan border area in Israel’s south, adding that the project – which would cost billions of shekels – would also be aimed at solving the problem of Hamas infiltration tunnels from Gaza, a recent source of renewed concern. He called the border project a part of a “multi-year plan to surround Israel with security fences to protect ourselves in the current and projected Middle East”.
Describing the need for new walls and fences on Tuesday, Netanyahu said: “In our neighbourhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts. “At the end of the day as I see it, there will be a fence like this one surrounding Israel in its entirety. We will surround the entire state of Israel with a fence, a barrier.” Netanyahu said the Israeli government was also examining ways of sealing gaps in the existing separation wall that runs along large areas of the occupied West Bank.
That separation wall – ordered to be built at great cost by former prime minister Ariel Sharon – was originally credited with a drop in the number of violent attacks by Palestinians in Israel, not least suicide bombings, a key feature of the second intifada in the first few years of this century.

February 12, 2016 - By: JNi.Media - Israeli agricultural facility
Russia and Israel are about to sign a free trade agreement in the very near future, Russian Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergey Levin told TASS on Friday after talks with his Israeli counterpart.
“We’ve discussed the prospects of forming a free trade zone, which the government plans to put on paper within the shortest period of time,” Levin said, adding that the issue had also been discussed at a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich.
Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel confirmed his intention to go ahead with the plan very soon.
The two sides agreed on reciprocal purchases of agricultural products, setting up joint ventures and the introduction of agricultural high-tech, Levin said. Russia would like to increase its sale of wheat, beef and eggs to Israel, while Israel, a world power in agricultural technology, is ready to share its expertise with its Russian trade partners.

February 15, 2016 - An official in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs slammed Facebook and YouTube for rejecting repeated requests to automatically intercept content that could lead to assaults against Jews, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Monday.
Akiva Tor, head of the Foreign Ministry’s World Jewish Affairs and World Religions Bureau, expressed his dismay during a speech before a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Sunday.
“Facebook and YouTube are hiding behind the First Amendment of the US Constitution,” Tor said. “They are American companies, and whenever we contact them [about this issue], we are told to complain about individual posts, because they cannot prevent content from being uploaded.”
“Why are these companies, which are capable of sending specific ads to target audiences any time they want, incapable of blocking content that calls for causing physical harm to Jews all over the world?” Tor asked. “Why is such content tolerated? … Israel, France and the EU all feel that incitement on Arabic social media sites leads to [violence against Jews]. So why is it continuing?”

We’re talking to Tehran, but it’s not friendship, says chancellor, with Netanyahu at her side, in response to Times of Israel question
February 16, 2016 - By Raphael Ahren - German Chancellor Angela Merke and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu talk prior to a lunch as part of a one day governmental meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. (AP )
BERLIN — Germany will not normalize its relations with Iran unless or until it recognizes Israel, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday.
Merkel was answering a question from The Times of Israel at a joint press conference alongside visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Asked about the apparent rush by Germany to rebuild relations with the regime in Tehran, Merkel answered: “We made very clear — the federal government, all parties that make up the coalition — that there cannot exist normal, friendly relations with Iran as long as Iran doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
She said that this had been made plain to Iran at every relevant opportunity: “In all conversations [with Iranian counterparts], my ministers, and I myself if applicable, have made this clear.” She said that while Germany and Iran were indeed now in contact with each other, the ties could not be described as friendship given Iran’s hostility to Israel. “There is difference between friendship and talking to each other,” she declared.

Nasrallah threatens to bomb chemical facility, kill thousands of Israelis. Head of Lebanese terror group says strike on Haifa amonia storage facility would have impact similar to nuclear attack
February 16, 2016 - By Tamar Pileggi - Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks during a rare public appearance, in the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon in November 2013.
Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel. - Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday insisted that although his group isn’t currently seeking war with Israel, it could defeat the Jewish state in a future conflict by targeting Haifa’s ammonia storage tanks, resulting in massive fatalities.
Dismissing recent reports of a possible outbreak of hostilities with Israel, Nasrallah said deterrence established by the terror organization in the first and second Lebanon wars was keeping Israeli aggression at bay.
“Israel’s psychological warfare is of no use against us,” he said in a speech that was broadcast by the Lebanese Naharnet news site.
As an example, Nasrallah said Israel “feared” the group’s cache of rockets capable of striking the ammonia facilities in Haifa, an attack that he said would result in casualties equivalent to those that would be caused by a nuclear attack.
He quoted an unnamed Israeli official to the effect that a strike on the northern city’s ammonia storage tanks would cause tens of thousands of fatalities. “This would be exactly as a nuclear bomb, and we can say that Lebanon today has a nuclear bomb, seeing as any rocket that might hit these tanks is capable of creating a nuclear bomb effect,” he said, adding that Hezbollah, which has reportedly lost many of its men in the Syrian civil war, was continuing to boost its capabilities.


The Iranians, Barack Obama’s special friends and partners, have erected a simulated mosque representing the Mosque of Omar on the Holy Mount in Jerusalem. This is now their place to play war games and train for taking Jerusalem and destroying every Jew. This is happening right now while the world is totally involved in our own security questions. Such an event in Iran should shake the entire world but Paris and Brussels are so gripping, it is hard to think about little Israel.
Iran has been the primary sponsor of the terrorists and their many attacks for decades. ISIS may appear to be separate from Iran but we will soon know that this is totally untrue. Obama’s administration is so inept and biased toward Iran that truth does not exist. Both Iran and ISIS are totally committed to the birth of a worldwide caliphate. The West must be subjected to their dream and our president has no ability to see the truth.
We are entering the very last stages of the end times in which Israel will be a “cup of trembling” to the whole world. We may have thought this worldwide emotion had already peaked. If so, we were wrong because it has only just begun. The victories of the war in Iraq have served to enflame the emotion of every enemy of Israel. Several months ago I said that the war to liberate Iraq was more for Israel than for America or anyone else. No, I do not believe that President Bush or his advisors believed that or even considered it. It was a sovereign thing; the prophetic action of our God who has already written the script in Biblical prophetic truths contained in Scripture.
It’s breathtaking to sit in the earthly audience, even to help others look upon the prophetic stage, and to watch our God fulfill every nuance of His Holy Book. Israel will be hated, not because our God wants them hated, but because they through their own unbelief and evil ways have laid a foundation for judgment. As that judgment is acted out, it will cause their God that loves them and who has a plan for them to become angry towards their enemies and to start the process of their redemption. Apostle Paul said it better than I could ever say it, “For God hath concluded them (Israel) all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.” (Romans 11:32)
Zechariah prophesied of this very day, and he painted a clear picture for us to read. You can see the emotion of God Himself as He called for this day and prophesied, “…the burden of the Word of the Lord for Israel.” (Zechariah 12:1) It did not please the heart of God to announce their terrible time of suffering. God, the Father speaks these kinds of truths because He is perfectly just, and because His chosen must pay for their unbelief and sin just as justly as the wicked pay. He always draws a contrast between holy things and the profane with every aspect of His Word. Listen as the Holy Spirit speaks the Word of God by Zechariah. “The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” (Zechariah 12:1-3)
Not only will Israel be hated by the unbelieving world; but also, those professing faith in the same Bible. Suicide bombers will continue to strike. There is no way to stop the terror that will reign until the Rapture and the seven years of wrath are complete. Jerusalem, the holy city loved by God Himself, will continue to be “trodden” down from within by angry Gentile terrorists and fanatic Islamics. No one can change the Word of God. Not even God Himself will alter His words spoken by His prophets. He said, “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89)
Isaiah spoke to the fact of Israel’s sorrows until the Day of the Lord should come. “Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out.” (Isaiah 51:17) They must drink the last dregs and then wring them out to the last drop. But, as they finish their hour of sorrow, God will step forth to punish those that added to their sorrows and failed to rightly divide the truth of His love for them. Isaiah made this very plain. “Thus saith thy Lord the LORD, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again: But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over.” (Isaiah 51:22-23) You can see in those last words the very compromise of the Israelis toward the Palestinians occurring right now. Notice the words that sound like those of these deceased Arafat and his followers, “Bow down, that we may go over” and when they do, “and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over.” As much as it breaks my heart to say it, their sorrows are not over yet. Woe to the person, the national entity, or the religious crowd that trashes the Jewish people because their sufferings are not yet complete.

February 8, 2016 - Worthy News - Israel-Palestinian Conflict
(Worthy News) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will come to Israel in the next few weeks in a new effort to restart a diplomatic process with the Palestinians, Channel 2 reported Saturday evening. The TV report predicted that Kerry would seek to revive some kind of “limited political process,” even though the White House announced last year that it did not believe a permanent accord could be attained in the remaining period of the Obama presidency. The report suggested that, in the absence of significant progress, the Obama administration might seek “to impose” some kind of accord in the final months of the Obama presidency — after a new US president has been elected, and before President Barack Obama steps down. [ Source ] ”

January 11, 2016 - Likud party officials set to convene on Monday to discuss implications of having only one candidate in the leadership race • Voters may be allowed to cast blank votes • "We must let the party members exercise their democratic right," Likud member says.
Mati Tuchfeld. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be the only candidate on the ballot when the Likud party holds its leadership election on Feb. 23. The deadline for joining the primary race was on Sunday, and Netanyahu was the only candidate to officially file papers.
The party's Central Election Committee was set to convene on Monday to discuss the implications of having only one candidate for the leadership. Some party members have floated the idea of scrapping the election entirely. But another idea, which appeared to be gaining traction, was to let voters cast an empty white slip as a protest vote, although blank votes will have no impact on the final results. In any event, the committee was poised to move the election up to early February.
Netanyahu has asked the Likud's election officials not to cancel the election, and on Sunday, Likud members said voting was a key component of selecting a party leader.

January 13, 2016 - By YAAKOV LAPPIN - The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force must retain control of its positions on Mount Hermon on the Syria-Israel border, since their capture by Sunni terrorist factions, or by elements from the radical Shi’ite axis, would form a “severe threat to IDF posts” in the area, a former senior military official warned.
In a paper published in recent days at the Institute for National Security Studies, where he is a senior research fellow, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Assaf Orion said the IDF would have to “respond accordingly” if UNDOF’s border posts on Mount Hermon in Syria fall to radical elements. Between 2010 and 2015, Orion headed the Strategic Division of the IDF’s Planning Directorate, and had previously spent two decades in Military Intelligence’s 8200 signal intelligence unit.
UNDOF was originally created in 1974 to separate the IDF from the Syrian military. Today, however, after the Syrian military’s withdrawal from the border with Israel, UNDOF mainly acts as a communications channel between Israel and the Assad regime, reducing escalations following cross-border incidents, whether deliberate or accidental, Orion said.
Israel should weigh new steps to grant UNDOF relevancy in its new chaotic environment, at a time when an array of Syrian rebel groups control the border area with Israel, and the Assad regime lost the monopoly of military means in the area, he added. The core goal of preventing war between Israel and Syria is no longer relevant, Orion said.

Friday Church News Notes, January 1, 2016, David Cloud - Jewish immigration to Israel continues at a rapid pace. Fear of growing anti-semitism in Europe and other places, combined with economic incentives, is driving the immigration from a human perspective, but from a biblical perspective it is a fulfillment of prophecy. For the second consecutive year, the largest group has come from France. A total of 7,238 French citizens immigrated to Israel in 2015 under the Law of Return ("France is Israel's largest source of aliyah," The Times of Israel, Dec. 22, 2015). This is 10% more than 2014, which was the highest number from France since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Some 19,000 French Jews have immigrated since 2012. Jews continue to return from Russia as well, numbering more than 11,000 in the last two years. Nearly 3,000 per year emigrate from the United States. "And he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off! Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O my people, and bring you into the land of Israel" (Ezekiel 37:11-12).

January 21, 2016 By Ruthie Blum - Overall Best Countries Ranking U.S. News & World Report
Israel is among the world’s most powerful countries, according to a new study published in U.S. News & World Report on Wednesday.
Ranking #8 out of 60 in the “power” category, Israel scored below the US, Russia, China, Germany, the UK, France and Japan in the study, which was developed by WPP and the Wharton School, in consultation with U.S. News.
But the Jewish state emerged as more powerful than Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Canada, Iran, Australia, India, Italy and Pakistan, among a long list of others. “Power” – one of nine sub-categories — was defined by the study as “a leader, economically influential, politically influential, strong international alliances, strong military.”
Israel scored lower on the “Overall Best Countries Ranking,” reaching #25 out of 60 – behind Russia and ahead of Greece — with Germany being #1. The authors of the study explained the results and methodology:
Behind a country’s wealth and success are the policies that create possibilities, the people that drive the effort and the history that shapes the environment and perspective. Globalization has expanded a country’s presence beyond its physical borders, and the 2016 Best Countries rankings seek to understand a nation’s worth beyond hard metrics.
The 2016 Best Countries report and rankings are based on how global perceptions define countries in terms of a number of qualitative characteristics, impressions that have the potential to drive trade, travel and investment and directly affect national economies. Sixty nations were measured in the inaugural report. Countries were ranked according to a set of 65 attributes presented in a survey of more than 16,000 people from across the globe.

November 9, 2015 By Jeffrey Heller and Matt Spetalnick - WASHINGTON - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday that he remained committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as they sought to mend ties strained by acrimony over Middle East diplomacy and Iran. Meeting Obama for the first time since the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu said he backed a vision of “two states for two peoples,” but maintained that any Palestinian state must be demilitarized and recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, a condition Palestinians have rejected.
Patching up relations could help smooth the way for a new 10-year U.S. military aid package, which Obama told Netanyahu he wanted to get a “head start” on negotiating. Israel, Washington’s chief Middle East ally, is seeking a record $5 billion a year, according to U.S. congressional sources. A senior Israeli official confirmed that figure and said a U.S. delegation would visit Israel next month to discuss details of an aid package. Obama and Netanyahu, who have a history of testy White House encounters, showed no outward sign of tension, looking cordial and businesslike as they held their first face-to-face talks in 13 months.
The meeting was clouded by Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks that have Israelis on edge at a time when Obama has concluded that a peace deal is beyond reach during the final 14 months of his presidency. Obama condemned the latest wave of Palestinian violence and backed Israel’s right to defend itself, but said he wanted to hear Netanyahu’s ideas for lowering tensions and “how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are met.”

The bedrock of U.S. diplomacy on the conflict for decades, could satisfy the Obama administration’s desire that he clarify his position after he appeared to backtrack on his pledge during a hard-fought re-election campaign earlier this year.
“I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace,” Netanyahu told reporters allowed in at the start of talks with Obama. U.S.-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014. The eruption of violence between the two sides last month has made an end to that bloodshed a more immediate priority. The Obama-Netanyahu meeting was widely seen as an effort to move beyond differences over how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and tensions over U.S.-led nuclear diplomacy with Iran. [...]
The meeting was seen as an important step in negotiations for a new U.S. defense aid pact, which could help burnish the right-wing prime minister's security credentials, challenged by the violence at home. Israel receives $3.1 billion from the United States annually and is seeking a total of $50 billion over a decade for the next package, congressional officials have told Reuters. One U.S. official predicted the sides would settle for an annual sum of $4 billion to $5 billion.
Obama’s tangible support for Israel’s security could help deflect accusations from Republican presidential hopefuls that he and any Democratic successor are less pro-Israel than they profess to be. "The security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities, and that has expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds," Obama said.

January 15, 2016 - By Waking Times - Vic Bishop, Staff - Our reality is carefully constructed by powerful corporate, political and special interest sources in order to covertly sway public opinion. Blatant lies are often televised regarding terrorism, food, war, health, etc. They are fashioned to sway public opinion and condition viewers to accept what have become destructive societal norms.
The practice of manipulating and controlling public opinion with distorted media messages has become so common that there is a whole industry formed around this. The entire role of this brainwashing industry is to figure out how to spin information to journalists, similar to the lobbying of government. It is never really clear just how much truth the journalists receive because the news industry has become complacent. The messages that it presents are shaped by corporate powers who often spend millions on advertising with the six conglomerates that own 90% of the media: General Electric (GE), News-Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS. Yet, these corporations function under many different brands, such as Fox, ABC, CNN, Comcast, Wall Street Journal, etc, giving people the perception of choice.

Reform Movement head warns work still ahead after historic compromise agreement; ultra-Orthodox lawmakers lambaste measure, MK calls Reform Jews ‘clowns’
By Agencies and Times of Israel staff January 31, 2016 - Activists and members of liberal streams of Judaism celebrated a “historic” compromise officially allowing mixed-gender non-Orthodox Jewish prayer at the Western Wall Sunday, even as ultra-Orthodox and religious nationalist lawmakers came out strongly against the move. Anat Hoffman, who has been at the center for the struggle for a space as head of the Women of the Wall group, which advocates for increased female prayer rights at the site, called the agreement “groundbreaking.” “After years and years of insisting that we have an equal place for prayer, after enduring campaigns of abuse against us, and being encouraged by a wave of Jewish support from across the globe, we have accomplished this extraordinary first step,” Hoffman said in a statement released by the Reform Movement.
Obama wishes Peres well after heart attack
Obama voiced his appreciation to the elder statesmen for his friendship over the years, a statement from Peres’s office said.
“I was lucky to be treated by a dedicated medical team that worked around the clock, not only to open and improve my artery but to improve my heart,” Peres told the US leader. “I left hospital stronger than I entered.”
Peres praised Obama’s use of diplomacy to tackle international crises. “Diplomacy is always the preferred route over war and violence and you proved that through diplomacy you can reach one-of-a-kind agreements,” he said. “Your immeasurable contribution to citizens of the world will live for many years.”
Peres also thanked Obama for fighting to address climate change and for championing the cause of science during his tenure as president.

Party to hold formal vote next month even after nobody registers to challenge PM as head of Likud
January 11, 2016 - By Tamar Pileggi - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be the sole contender for the Likud party leadership in next month’s primaries, the party’s elections committee announced Monday. Some 100,000 eligible Likud primary voters will have the choice of two tickets: one in support of Netanyahu, and one blank ticket signifying an abstention. The committee unanimously agreed to go ahead with the February 23 vote, even after no challengers announced their candidacy by the Sunday deadline. The vote, a formality in the absence of other candidates, will cost an estimated NIS 4 million ($1 million). [email]

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt calls to close mosques that preach radical Islam, block extremists from social networks.
February 1, 2016 By Arutz Sheva Staff - A statement issued by the Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt called to close the mosques of radical preachers and imams and prevent them from accessing social networks. "I believe that the 21st century has reverted back to the religious wars of the Middle Ages. The rise of Daesh (Islamic State) happened 15 years after the September 11 World Trade Center attack when Islam has become a major threat to democracy," said Rabbi Goldschmidt. He called on governments worldwide to fight the extremist Islamic indoctrination by closing mosques where hate speech echoes, to arrest imams who preach incitement against other religions and prevent their access to social networks in order to stop them from spreading to their inflammatory doctrine.
"There are extremist aspects in many religions, especially Islam. The fascist extension of Islam, Daesh (ISIS), is part of Islam and must be addressed. We must recognize that we have entered into a religious war, as was routine in the middle Ages. If we very clearly define what Islamic extremism is, it will be easier for the intelligence services around the world to keep track of those who constitute a threat to western values, isolate them and make sure that threat is not increasing," added Rabbi Goldschmidt.

February 6, 2016 - Ban Ki-Moon - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. – “I feel guilty, ashamed of the lack of progress,” Ban said at a Chatham House think tank event in London, AFP reported.
“Basically it’s up to the leadership of Israel and the Palestinians to put an end to the conflict,” he added, emphasizing that he is “not working for a particular country or a particular policy, but for the people in the region.” Ban drew widespread criticism late last month for saying regarding the current wave of Palestinian terrorism that it is “human nature to react to occupation.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Ban of “stoking terrorism” through those comments. But the U.N. leader doubled down on his statement in a New York Times op-ed titled, “Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Israel.”

February 5, 2016 - – The Israeli Public Security Ministry on Thursday issued 304 firearm licenses to former members of the IDF’s anti-terrorist unit, Duvdevan. The decision was made in light of the dramatic rise in terrorism across Israel in recent months, and as part of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s stated policy of easing the criteria for carrying a firearm. “Issuing gun licenses to former Duvdevan members is a sensible step due to the security realities, and it will enhance our response capabilities in cases of possible terrorist attacks,” Erdan said.
“There is a pressing need for far more trained civilians in the streets, who can save lives,” he added.
Duvdevan representatives who met with Erdan and employees of the ministry’s firearms department thanked them for expediting the licensing process. One former Duvdevan member said after the meeting, “We have a background in fighting terror, and we want to take part and contribute to the security of the state as caring citizens.” Since the beginning of October 2015, more than 15,000 civilians have submitted requests for firearm licenses, compared to 3,000 in the same time period last year.

January 4, 2016 - Egypt has appointed Hazem Khairat as its ambassador to Israel, ending a three year vacancy in the post. The Israeli Foreign Ministry says Hazem Khairat arrived in Israel Friday, and immediately adopted his duties as Egypt's envoy. The new appointment follows improved relations between the two countries under President Sisi's administration. Both sides have agreed to cooperate in securing both the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula. Egypt had no ambassador in Israel since November 2012, when the then President Mohammad Morsi withdrew his envoy, in reaction to Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip at the time. The two nations later saw relations improve after Abdel Fatah al-Sisi became President of Egypt in 2014. The Israeli embassy in Egypt also reopened last September.

January 4, 2016 - A senior Israeli official called on Saturday night for the occupation of the Syrian capital Damascus based on the teachings of the Jewish holy book the Torah, Felesteen newspaper reported. During a TV show on the Israel’s Channel 2, Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Bezalel Smotrich said that Israeli borders are beyond the current borders and Jerusalem’s borders reach Damascus based on the Torah. Smotrich, member of the extremist Israeli party Jewish Home, suggested that Israel temporarily accept the current borders, which include the Golan Heights and the occupied West Bank, stressing that it has to work to achieve what was dictated by the Torah. Meanwhile, the MK reiterated that the extremist Israeli settlers who burnt the home of the Palestinian Dawabsheh family were not terrorists. He said such acts are only considered a kind of terror when they are carried out by the “enemies of the Jewish people who are Arabs”. He also called for the settlers’ leaders to control all the lands of the occupied West Bank, considering it Israeli land. In addition, he stressed that anyone who does not accept Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank “must be expelled from this land,” adding that there are 20 Arab countries which can be their destination. He went on to stress the importance of building a Jewish temple in place of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

January 29, 2016 - King David Hotel - Binyamin Netanyahu is the leader of Likud: the successor to the Irgun Zvai Leumi movement that consisted of political militants who carried out the first major terrorist bombing in the Middle East in which 92 innocent people were murdered. That was at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem (right) which also housed the headquarters of the British military authorities during the Palestine mandate. Now Netanyahu continues the tradition of violating international law by his authorisation for the building of yet more houses for Israelis on Palestinian land in a further attempt to thwart establishment of a Palestinian state in accordance with the will of the United Nations.
The UN Security Council is now considering a resolution by President Abbas of the PA that will define all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories as illegal under international law and to make the Israeli state subject to sanctions. Such a resolution is many years overdue. Full story:
Comment: Far-right activists spying on Israeli human rights community received funds from Netanyahu government.
In a step towards joining an Israel boycott, the US is now requiring goods originating from the West Bank to be labelled separately from products from the rest of Israel, following the European Union's crackdown on products from the disputed territories. And France is ready to recognise a Palestinian State as Israel refuses co-operation.

February 3, 2016 - By Dr. Dan Steinbock - Global Research - President Xi Jinping’s three-nation tour in the Middle East heralds a shift from US regime change to Chinese economic development. President Xi’s tour took place amid a perilous moment in the region. Saudi Arabia is struggling with the plunge of oil prices, rapidly rising debt and a war against Yemen. In Egypt, opposition is increasing against the perceived successors of President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade long rule. In Iran, sanctions have been lifted after decades of international insulation.
In one way or another, all three countries are also involved in Syria’s civil war, battles against the Islamic State and regional conflicts, along with Russia, the U.S. and European powers; the continuing Israel-Palestine conflict; and the economic and religious Sunni-Shi’a friction which contributes to regional rivalries, splits several Arab states internally and has been historically manipulated by foreign powers.
Xi’s tour signals a shift away from the “divide and rule” colonial legacies to economic development.
Economic development with Chinese characteristics
In his first stop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, President Xi met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. It was the climax of longstanding rapprochement. Saudi Arabia established diplomatic relations with China only after the Cold War in 1990. By the early 2010s, China supplanted the US as Saudi Arabia’s largest crude oil client. At the same time, bilateral trade has soared to $74 billion. China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trade partner. During Xi’s visit, Saudi Aramco and China’s Sinopec signed a $1.5 billion agreement for strategic cooperation. China also plays a role among Saudi Arabia’s military suppliers.

March 3, 2011 - By Richard Allen Greene, CNN - Jewish groups and leaders around the world are welcoming a clear declaration from Pope Benedict XVI that the Jewish people are not collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped to soon offer his "deep appreciation" to Benedict for his "forcefully rejecting ... a false charge that has been a foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries."
"My fervent hope is that your clarity and courage will strengthen the relations between Jews and Christians throughout the world and help promote peace and reconciliation for generations to come," Netanyahu wrote in a letter to Benedict, which the prime minister's office made public.
A key Jewish envoy to the Vatican said the declaration - which she called "an excellent gesture" - shows that Benedict is "very committed" to the "deep connections between Christianity and Judaism" and to fighting anti-Semitism.
Lisa Palmieri-Billig, the American Jewish Committee's liaison to the Holy See, recalled a long conversation she had with Benedict in the 1990s, before he became pope, and said he made "overwhelmingly clear... the bond between Christians and Jews, the harmfulness of theological anti-Semitism."
"I know that this pope has been committed to all this progress that we have made" in Catholic-Jewish relations, said Palmieri-Billig. The pope says in a new book, due out next week, that the Jews are not to blame for the crucifixion of Jesus, underlining a key breakthrough in Catholic-Jewish relations

Netanyahu Responds With His Own Threat.
February 1, 2016 By Sharona Schwartz - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday night that Israel would take “much stronger” action against Hamas than it has in the past after recent threats from the Islamist group that it is preparing for a new military offensive. “Of course, if we are attacked from tunnels from the Gaza Strip, we will take very strong action against Hamas, much stronger than we took in Operation Protective Edge,” the Israeli leader said, referring to the round of fighting between Israel and Hamas two years ago.
“I do not suggest that anyone test us,” he added.
Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that fighters are working apace in Gaza to dig tunnels into Israel and test rockets with the aim of “liberation” of the land that comprises the state of Israel, including Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded with his own warning to Hamas threats that the group is working both above ground and below to prepare for new military action against Israel. (Amir Cohen/AFP/Getty Images)
“In eastern Gaza, heroes are digging tunnels underground, and in western Gaza, heroes above ground are conducting test launches of rockets,” Haniyeh said, according to a translation by the Jerusalem Post.
The Hamas leader said that militant groups were preparing for the next round of fighting with Israel “both above ground and underneath.”
Haniyeh delivered his remarks at the funeral of seven Hamas militants who were killed last week when the tunnel they were in collapsed, burying them alive. Hamas has used underground tunnels to smuggle goods and weapons as well as to launch attacks on southern Israeli communities bordering Gaza.
“On land and at sea, we will not stop until the liberation of the holy places [in Jerusalem],” he said.

February 1, 2016 - By Ali Waked - JAFFA, Israel – Gaza Islamists held a press conference on Saturday urging members of the Palestinian Authority security forces to follow in the footsteps of a Palestinian policeman who carried out a shooting attack against Israeli soldiers in the West Bank earlier that day.
They called on West Bank troops to “join the intifada” and “turn their weapons against the soldiers of the enemy.”
Islamic Jihad spokesperson Daoud Shihab said that the attack, which injured three – including two seriously – was a “heroic action that marks a watershed in the ‘Al Quds’ intifada that opened the door to a flow of similar attacks. On behalf of all the organizations, I call on the security troops to follow the example of the martyr Amjad Sukari and attack the Israeli occupation.”
Wishing to avoid calling on Palestinian Authority officials to take up arms, Fatah did not take part in the press conference. The movement accused Hamas of promoting unrest in the West Bank in a bid to drive a wedge between the PA and the population while preventing rocket fire from Gaza, fearing an Israeli retaliation.
The press conference was preceded by a memorial vigil for the terrorist, Amjad a-Sukari, 34, from Jamma’in. He was part of the Palestinian security forces and worked as the driver for Palestinian Attorney General Ahmad Hanoun in Ramallah.
“We admire the martyr’s heroic act,” said Hamas spokesperson Ismail Radwan. “Every Palestinian must take part in the intifada,” he said in a bid to send the Palestinian Authority a message.

Xi Jinping addresses Arab League in Cairo before planned visit to Iran, announces millions in aid to Palestinians.
January 21, 2016 - DPA - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday called for establishing a Palestinian state within the pre-1967-war borders amid efforts by Beijing to assert its economic and political clout in the Middle East.
Addressing the Cairo-based Arab League, Xi said the Palestinian problem "should not be marginalized."
"China supports the peaceful process in the Middle East [and] the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital being eastern Jerusalem," he added through an interpreter.
Xi announced 50 million yuan ($7.6 million) in aid for the Palestinians. The United States, an ally of Tel Aviv, have unsuccessfully attempted to break a long-standing stalemate in Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking. Tensions between the two sides have been growing in recent months after a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.





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