Pro-Israel News

Date:
Monday, September 22, 2014

09/22/2014 16:38 | The Jerusalem Post|

The Israel Navy will operate off any "enemy coast" to safeguard Israel, navy chief Adm. Ram Rothberg vowed on Monday, during a memorial ceremony held at sea by sailors from the newest submarine, the INS Tanin, for the personnel of the INS Dakar, which sank 270 miles off the coast of Haifa in 1968. 

"We will guard, protect, and act in any enemy coast, and fight bravely for the navy and the state of Israel," Rothberg said. 

The ceremony, held over the spot where the INS Dakar sunk to the bottom of the sea, was also attended by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. "Here, in the heart of the Mediterranean, we lower the anchor and stop to meet a new naval power on its way to its home port on the Israeli coast," Gantz said, referring to the INS Tanin. 

"Without a doubt, this power, operationally and strategically, is very important for Israel, the IDF and the navy," he added. "More than four decades passed since INS Dakar's last voyage... Although the threats have changed, and today you have the most modern equipment, the most advanced technologies, and the most quality means, the mission remains the same mission that the INS Dakar personnel were sent on,  and the responsibility is the same. To protect the Israeli coast, sea waters, and working with all of the IDF's branches to achieve the relevant goals."

Verses from the Book of Psalms were also read at the memorial. 

Israel’s fourth submarine, the INS Tanin, is en route to the navy’s Haifa base after leaving its German shipyard earlier this month. 

The first of the navy's second generation Dolphin class submarine, the INS uses air independent propulsion technology to stay submerged for longer than older Dolphin-class vessels.

“Despite being conventional, its propulsion system allows the INS Tanin to stay underwater for many days, making it more covert,” a naval source said in September. “The fuel cells on board this submarine significantly extend its ability to be underwater without the need to resurface.”

A fifth submarine, the INS Rahav, is expected to arrive at Haifa Port in six to seven months, and a sixth submarine will join the fleet by the end of the current decade, the officer said.

There are some 50 submarine personnel on board the INS Tanin, which left Germany to embark on a voyage spanning more than 7,500 kilometers, most of which it spent underwater. 

The INS Tanin is set to arrive at a specialized dock built by the navy at Haifa, which allows for the advanced submarines to be kept separately, secretly and in a convenient manner. The dock allows for flexibility, and enables the submarines to be on call 24 hours a day.
The new submarines will bring with them many unique capabilities, such as lengthy intelligence gathering.

Lt.-Cmdr. Y., who was commander of the navy’s submarine school until his retirement last week, told The Jerusalem Post earlier this month, “Submarines bring a level of intelligence to Israel that cannot be achieved by other units.”

“Drones that fly in the air can be shot down,” he said. “But a submarine can stay in enemy territory for weeks, and no one knows it’s there. It can lurk off coastal regions without any problem at all. The level of intelligence this brings is not heard about by the public. All of our operations build on past operations.”

Date:
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Foreign minister tells John Kerry that Jerusalem is ready to lend a hand
against group, though it is aware of regional sensitivities of coalition
members
 
BY JOSHUA DAVIDOVICH September 18, 2014, 8:12 am |The Times of Israel| 
 
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman pledged Jerusalem’s support for American efforts to
fight Islamic State jihadists in the region, saying in a meeting with US counterpart John
Kerry late Wednesday that Israel was engaged in the same kind of battle against
Palestinian group Hamas.
The powwow between the two in Washington came a day after Kerry wrapped up a several-day
swing through the Middle East and Europe to garner support for a coalition to thwart the Islamic
State terror group, which has seized wide swaths of land in Iraq and Syria and heightened
terror alerts throughout the world.
Liberman told Kerry that “Israel supports the US and backs its efforts to create a wide
international front in the war against the Islamic State, and is available to the US should it ask
for help in this battle,” according to a statement from Liberman’s office.
The statement also noted that Israel was “keeping in mind sensitivities within the lineup of
countries that are taking part and in coordination with US needs,” a reference to a number of
Arab countries that have vowed support for the effort.
Israel is expected to take a silent role, if any, in the fight against the jihadist group. Earlier in the
month, Reuters reported that Israel had secretly been providing the US with satellite photos of
Islamic State positions, which were then scrubbed of any features that could identify their
origins and passed on to other countries in the region.
On Sunday, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel was unlikely to take a direct role
against the group, though if Jordan asked, it would step in.
Liberman also compared Islamic State to Hamas, the Gazan terror group Israel fought a bloody
50-day war against over the summer, telling Kerry that the battle against terror was the most
important one faced today.
“At the end of the day Islamic terror has one goal — the destruction of Western civilization,”
Liberman said according to his office, adding that only the terminology and methodology
between Hamas and Islamic State differed.
He also said that Israel should not negotiate with Hamas, despite the fact that Israel is set to
enter into indirect talks with the group in Egypt over a long-term ceasefire in Gaza.
The statement was an echo of earlier claims by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the
two groups are “separate branches of the same poisonous tree.”
However, it runs counter to the assessment of a senior IDF officer, who said Wednesday that
whereas Islamic State could not be talked to, Hamas and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah can
both be negotiated with.
“They want an uncontested religious rule, and they are opposed to anything modern or liberal,”
the officer said of the Islamic State.
The military intelligence officer said Wednesday that Israel would likely assist the global effort
against the Islamic State group if asked, but maintained that the jihadists did not pose an
immediate threat to the Jewish State
“If Israel has intelligence on IS targets in Syria, and we are asked to hand it over to the global
coalition against the organization, I believe we will do it,” the officer told Hebrew media.
During the meeting, Liberman asked Kerry to lift an American travel warning for Israel, telling
the secretary of state that there is no danger to visitors’ security since the end of the summer
military campaign in Gaza.
Adding that Israelis thought of the US as their greatest ally, Liberman also reiterated Israel’s
stance on nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers, including the US, asking Kerry to
remain firm in the talks, slated to restart Thursday, and to keep the sanctions regime in place.
 
Date:
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
BY ELHANAN MILLER September 17, 2014, 4:54 pm ||The Times of Israel| 
 
Refusing to compromise on core elements of its military nuclear program, Iran is forcing
world superpowers to choose between “a bad deal and no deal,” Israel’s Minister of
Intelligence said on Wednesday.
Yuval Steinitz returned last week from strategic meetings with US deputy secretary of state
William Burns and undersecretary of state in charge of Iran talks Wendy Sherman, which he
said were “open and candid.” He will be leaving on Saturday night for further talks with
Washington as nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of superpowers resume
on Friday.
While Iran has made some “cosmetic gestures on secondary issues” during the last round of
talks which ended with no agreement in July, it has shown no flexibility on two of the core
international demands pertaining to its nuclear program: the dismantling of centrifuges used for
the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade level, and the closure of the heavy water plant in
Arak, part of Iran’s plutonium nuclear track.
“Israel is deeply concerned. We feel that negotiations are going in the wrong direction,” Steinitz
told journalists in Jerusalem. “The two alternatives now seem to be a bad deal or no deal.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no good deal on the table.”
The minister’s comments reflected growing Israeli skepticism regarding the international
community’s ability to reach a deal with Iran effectively deterring it from realizing its nuclear
ambitions. Asked by Channel 2 about the IDF budget, Israeli Air Force commander Amir Eshel
said on Sunday that Israeli fighter jets could theoretically be dispatched to Iran “tomorrow.”
Steinitz said that a “bad deal” would be one which does not significantly extend Iran’s “break
out” period for producing a nuclear bomb — currently estimated at between nine and 18 months
— while rolling back international sanctions which have cost Iran $100 billion year.
“The Iranians are getting almost everything but giving almost nothing,” he said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his chief nuclear negotiator Mohammed Javad Zarif
may have softened their tone toward their interlocutors, but their positions in negotiations have
remained essentially that same as those of their predecessors, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and
Saeed Jalili, he declared.
“On the core issues, there are no differences,” he said.
A bad agreement would allow Iran to maintain a large number of its nearly 20,000 centrifuges
(9,000 of them currently active) in its territory, tempting the Islamic Republic to go nuclear at a
later stage despite international objection.
“Sooner or later Iran will dash for a bomb, like North Korea did, if the breakout time is one year.
The temptation to do so will be very great,” he opined.
Allowing Iran to maintain its centrifuges and their infrastructure would also spark a regional
arms race among “problematic” states including Algeria, Sudan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia which
will insist on similar prerogatives, Steinitz asserted based on Israeli intelligence.
While the Obama administration is correct to target the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — which
Steinitz said is striving to establish “a second, Sunni, Iran” — the international community must
not allow the war on terror to come at the expense of curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Iran should remain first priority,” he said, expressing fear that international crises such as the
situations in Ukraine and Syria may prompt the superpowers to “clear the table and close the
Iranian file” through a hasty, unsatisfactory agreement.
“From our point of view, no deal is by no means a failure,” Steinitz stated, directing his
comments at US decision-makers. “In a sense, it’s a kind of success. It means standing up for
your principles and not sacrificing global security.”
“No deal is an opportunity to increase pressure [on Iran] and get a better deal in the future,” he
concluded.
Date:
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF September 15, 2014, 1:20 pm |The Times of Israel| 
 
With the Jewish High Holidays approaching, Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau
emphasized to travelers Monday the growing risk of attacks against Jewish targets
in Western Europe by jihadists, including from the Lebanese Hezbollah group.
“Following the attack against the Jewish Museum in Brussels (May 4), there is concern of
further attacks against Israelis and Jews throughout the world, particularly in Western Europe,
from global jihad operatives (including the Islamic State), mainly from ‘graduates of Syria and
Iraq’ returning to their home countries,” the Counter-Terrorism Bureau said in a press release.
Security experts have been warning for much of the past year that European citizens fighting
alongside jihadists in the Middle East pose a major threat in their home countries. Those fears
were exacerbated last week when a French journalist held hostage for months by extremists in
Syria identified one of his captors as Mehdi Nemmouche, a Frenchman suspected of later
killing four at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May, saying the militant had taken sadistic delight
in mistreating prisoners.
Based on the testimony of four French reporters who were kidnapped by IS and held captive by
Nemmouche, French daily Liberation reported Monday that the returned IS fighter planned “at
least one attack in France, in the heart of Paris, which would be at least five times bigger than
the attacks in Toulouse.” The attack would allegedly have taken place on Paris’s iconic Champs
Elysees boulevard on July 14, the French national holiday marking the beginning of the
revolution.
And on Sunday, France estimated that at least 930 citizens or residents of France are involved
in jihadist activities related to Syria or Iraq.
In addition to the relatively new threats emanating from Iraq and Syria, the Counter-Terrorism
Bureau also reiterated that the “global jihad campaign of Iran and Hezbollah continues to
present a threat to Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide, particularly soft targets,” such as Israeli
tourist destinations and Jewish symbols.
The press release specifically listed Chabad, an international religious Jewish organization with
missions all over the world, which was targeted in 2008 by a terror attack in Mumbai, India.
India’s Ministry of Home Affairs advised Israelis on Wednesday to be alert when traveling both
alone and in groups, as well as when taking part in gatherings in Indian cities and tourist sites.
The ministry added that it would seek to heighten security for Israelis traveling in India.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, has been blamed by Bulgarian authorities for a 2012 bus bombing in the
eastern Bulgarian resort town of Burgas, which killed six people, including five Israeli tourists.
The Counter-Terrorism Bureau also maintained its warning against traveling in the Sinai
Peninsula based on the recent activity of jihadist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has
claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Egyptian security and civilian murders.
Date:
Monday, September 15, 2014
BY RAPHAEL AHREN September 15, 2014, 1:28 pm |The Times of Israel| 
 
Israel’s new ambassador to Egypt, Haim Koren, on Sunday presented his credentials to
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at his palace in Cairo, allowing Koren to officially
contact Egyptian government officials in his capacity as Israel’s diplomatic representative.
Koren, whose appointment was approved by the cabinet in December, has been stationed in
Egypt since May 11. He stayed in Cairo during most of the 50 days of fighting during this
summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. According to international diplomatic protocol, an
ambassador is legally restricted from reaching out to government officials before handing
a letter of credence to the host country’s head of state.
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem declined to comment on what Koren and Sissi discussed
during their encounter.
In light of Koren’s friendly reception in Sissi’s presidential palace, Israeli diplomatic officials said
they hoped Cairo would now follow suit and return its ambassador to Israel. Egypt recalled its
envoy to Tel Aviv, Atef Salem, in late 2012 in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza,
mere weeks after he had presented his credentials to the Israeli president, and never sent him
back.
Fluent in Arabic, Koren is the former director of the Cairo embassy’s political planning division.
The Israeli embassy in Cairo was ransacked by an angry mob in September 2011. It has not
been reopened since but some embassy staff returned to Cairo in 2012 and began working
from an unofficial location. In the unrest that followed the ouster of former Egyptian president
Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, Israel reduced the number of its diplomatic staff posted to
Cairo, but has begun building up its presence in the city more recently in light of the
relative calm.
On March 12, a homemade bomb exploded near the former embassy building.
Official relations between Jerusalem and Cairo have been relatively warm since Sissi took
power on June 8. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-president Shimon Peres
congratulated him after his election victory, hailing the importance of the Israeli-Egyptian peace
treaty.
During Operation Protective Edge, Sissi and Netanyahu reportedly maintained close ties,
speaking frequently and at length about ways to end the hostilities. Jerusalem is said to have
been very pleased with the role Egypt has been playing in the efforts to reach a ceasefire, given
the Sissi government’s animosity to Hamas.
 
Date:
Friday, September 12, 2014
BY RAPHAEL AHREN September 11, 2014, 7:16 pm |The Times of Israel| 
 
Israel is doing its part in confronting worldwide jihadist terrorism, though not all of its
efforts are known to the public, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday,
expressing Jerusalem’s full support for the American-led offensive against the Islamic
State organization unveiled Wednesday.
In a major foreign policy address, Netanyahu warned of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, saying
this would cause the “ultimate terror.” Efforts to weaken Sunni terrorists should not result in
strengthening Shiite radicalism, he urged.
The Islamic State, also known as IS and ISIS, is similar in ideology and strategy to Hamas,
Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and other radical Islamist terrorist groups,
Netanyahu said at a conference in Herzliya. “These groups must be fought. They must be rolled
back and they must ultimately be defeated. That’s why Israel fully supports President [Barack]
Obama’s call for united actions against ISIS.”
All civilized countries should stand together in the fight against the radical terrorism currently
sweeping the Middle East, Netanyahu added. “And we are playing our part in this continued
effort. Some of the things are known; some of the things are less known.”
The threat posed both by Sunni and Shiite radicalism has led “many Sunni Arab states” to
reevaluate their relationship with Israel, he said. “They understand Israel is not their enemy but
their ally in the fight against this common enemy. I believe that presents an opportunity for
cooperation and perhaps an opportunity for peace.”
But the struggle against Sunni radicalism should not lead the world to neglect the threat of
Shiite extremism, the prime minister warned, referring to proposals to have Iran support the
global coalition against IS. “They’re two sides of the same coin. We don’t have to strengthen
one to weaken the other. My policy is: Weaken both.”
The greatest threat to world peace, Netanyahu said, would be a nuclear-equipped Iran. “You
would see things you never imagined could be possible,” he said, describing a scenario in
which the regime succeeded in obtaining nuclear weapons. “Horrors you couldn’t even
contemplate come to fruition. The ultimate terror. A terrorist regime with the weapons of the
greatest terror of them all. We must not let that happen.”
Speaking at a conference organized by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism,
Netanyahu said all Islamist organizations terrorizing the Middle East are “branches of the same
poisonous tree,” presenting a clear danger to the peace and security of the world. “It’s important
not to let any of these groups succeed anywhere. Because if they gain ground somewhere,
they gain ground everywhere. And their setbacks are also felt everywhere.”
These terror groups all operative according to the same
tactics, the prime minister said. First they rain terror on
their own people, and then on the rest of the world.
“We’ve seen this before,” he said, and then made a
reference to the Jewish people’s fate during World War
II. “There’s a master race; now there’s a master faith.
And that allows you to do anything to anyone, but first of
all to your own people, and then to everyone else.”
Effectively confronting Islamist terrorism requires sophisticated weaponry, “but above all it
requires, I believe, clarity and courage,” the prime minister said. “Clarity to understand: they’re
wrong, we’re right. They’re evil, we’re good. No moral relativism there at all. These people who
lop of heads, trample human rights into the dust, are evil. And they have to be resisted. Evil has
to be resisted.”
Eventually, militant Islam will be defeated and disappear from the stage of history, Netanyahu
added. “Because it’s a grand failure. It doesn’t know how to manage economies and it cannot
offer to the young people to which it appeals any kind of future.” It may take a long time, but
“I’m confident that militant Islam will perish. But we must not allow anyone to perish with it
before it goes down,” he said. “That’s our task.”
 
Date:
Thursday, September 11, 2014
BY SPENCER HO September 11, 2014, 11:09 am |The Times of Israel| 
 
US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro expressed confidence Thursday that Israel and
the US could work together in the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group.
Shapiro’s comments came hours after US President Barack Obama laid out the US’s plan to
battle the terror group, including expanding airstrikes to Syria and mustering support from
regional partners.
“There is no doubt that every nation has something to contribute to this effort, including Israel,”
Shapiro told Israel Radio. “There is always close and full cooperation with Israel against mutual
threats… I am sure our intelligence services will continue this cooperation when it comes to [IS]
just as they have against other threats.”
Shapiro also said that “we will make an effort to arrange a meeting” between President Barack
Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a Netanyahu visit to the US after the
Jewish New Year.
Netanyahu is scheduled to fly to New York on September 27 for the United Nations General
Assembly and return before the Yom Kippur holiday on October 3.
On Wednesday, Obama called for a “systematic campaign of airstrikes, hitting IS targets as
Iraqi forces go on the offensive.” He said American bombers would not hesitate to hit IS in Syria
as well as Iraq.
The speech marked a major US escalation, despite Obama having devoted much of his
presidency to pulling America out of wars in the Middle East and avoiding new foreign
entanglements.
Obama also said the US would work with allies, including Sunni Arab states in the region, to
“degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism
strategy.”
“Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our
intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign
fighters into – and out of – the Middle East,” he said.
While Israel is unlikely to directly participate in any military operations against IS, Jerusalem
has already provided the US with intelligence and satellite images on Islamic State positions, as
well as information on Westerners joining its ranks, to assist Washington in its ongoing
operation against the Islamic State, according to a report by Reuters, citing an unnamed
Western official.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Tuesday called for world intelligence agencies to work
together against the Islamic State jihadist group.
Date:
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Defense minister says Israel gathers intelligence ‘of very good quality
and we share it with our allies’
 
BY AFP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF September 9, 2014, 1:15 pm |The Times of Israel| 
 
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Tuesday called for world intelligence agencies to
work together against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.
“In order to stop and overcome the Islamic State, we have learnt since 9/11 that there must be
cooperation between intelligence agencies from across the free world, a sharing of experience
and operational cooperation,” he told Israel Radio.
The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group is at the forefront of a sweeping assault that has overrun
swaths of Iraq and holds significant areas of territory in neighboring Syria.
US President Barack Obama on Friday called for a broad coalition to defeat the IS jihadists and
he is to chair a key UN Security Council session on the threat on September 24.
Asked about the proposed international coalition, former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin
indicated Israel would likely share its intelligence with its allies.
“The intelligence that we gather in the Middle East — which deals with threats from Iran,
(Lebanon’s Shiite) Hezbollah, what’s happening in Syria, terrorist organizations in Sinai and the
Gaza Strip — is of very good quality and we share it with our allies,” he told the radio.
Reuters, citing an unnamed Western official, reported Monday that Israel had provided the US
with intelligence and satellite images on Islamic State positions, as well as information on
Westerners joining its ranks, to assist Washington in its ongoing operation against the Islamic
State.
Israeli spy satellites were said to have greater access to the region, allowing the US to “fill out
its information and get a better battle damage assessment” in the aftermath of its airstrikes, the
diplomat said, according to the report.
Last week, Yaalon adopted a recommendation by the Shin Bet internal security agency and
designated both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades as an
“illegal organization” under Israeli law.
The move allows for legal measures to be taken against both organizations as well as anyone
found to be supporting or financing them.
Last week, IS released a video showing the beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff, who also
reportedly held Israeli nationality, in the second such execution of a US journalist within a
fortnight.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades is a Lebanese jihadist group linked to Al-Qaeda which
periodically claims rocket fire on Israel.
Date:
Monday, September 8, 2014

By TOVAH LAZAROFFGIL HOFFMAN

09/07/2014 21:47  |The  Jerusalem Post |

The US and Israel are fighting a common battle in the Middle East against the same terrorist forces linked to radical Islam, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said while visiting Israel last week.

“One thing we hope Americans understand. The enemies of Israel are the enemies of the US. Whether it’s the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas – all are branches from the same evil tree,” he said.

He called on supporters of the Jewish state to join him on October 5 for a “Stand with Israel” rally his America Takes Action organization is co-sponsoring in Washington DC together with Concerned Women for America. The rally will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. in Upper Senate Park.

“Most of us get it. We know who the good guys are, we know who the bad guys are. We want all of America to understand,” Huckabee said and added that Israel was America’s one true friend in the region.

Huckabee issued his call as he stood in Gush Etzion along with MK Danny Danon (Likud) and regional council head Davidi Perl.

Danon said that a strong show of support from Americans at the rally was important for Israel and would make an impression on the Obama administration.

“We always hear criticism coming from the White House and the United Nations. I know there is a majority in the US that supports Israel,” Danon said.

Huckabee noted that they stood close to where Hamas kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers in June. Their deaths, he said, were part of the larger conflict with radical Islam, whose extremist followers threaten to kill those who do not follow their interpretation of the religion.

Huckabee, who is a strong supporter of Israel and often visits the country, also expressed his support for a new plan to build a fifth Jewish city in Judea and Samaria, named Gva’ot.

Last week, Israel drew international and Palestinian condemnation when it reclassified close to 400 hectares from survey land to state land, an initial first step toward building that project.

The reclassification marked the end of a civil administration investigation into the land’s status which determined that none of the parcels in question was private Palestinian property. Palestinians have argued that the land belongs to five area villages.

There is now a 45-day objection period.

Danon, who met Huckabee at a lookout point by the Gva’ot property, said that US Secretary of State John Kerry should come to Gush Etzion to see the situation for himself before criticizing the land reclassification.

When “Palestinians build in Hebron, it is legitimate. But it is also legitimate that Jews will build neighborhoods in Gush Etzion,” Danon said.

The international community is incorrect when it charges that Israel expropriated the land, he said, because it already belongs to the Jewish homeland.

“I would invite Secretary Kerry to come here and see what we are talking about. [On] vacant land in the heart of Israel, we want to build another Jewish neighborhood,” Danon said.

Date:
Friday, September 5, 2014
 
September 5, 2014|7:54 am |The Christian Post| 

A Christian leader in the Holy Land has said that a "two state solution" for Israel and Palestine is the only way to achieve long-term peace in the region as the truce held out a second week; but another warned that reconciliation between the two societies remains a far away goal.

"It would be wonderful to see two states developed as this is the only way to keep lasting peace and for Islamic radicalism to be contained," Munir S. Kakish, chairman council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land, told The Christian Post in an email on Thursday. "A two state solution is good for both Israel and Palestine."

The long-term ceasefire agreed on by Israel and Hamas last week was brokered by Egypt and made in the hopes of stopping the fighting, which began in July and killed over 2,200 people, mostly civilians.

Israel targeted terror tunnels and Hamas sites across Gaza that were used to launch rocket attacks on Israeli territory, and accused the Palestinian militants of hiding out in residential areas and using people as human shields.

Hamas, on the other hand, blamed Israeli aggression for the high death toll, and said that a heavy economic blockade on Gaza had made life there extremely difficult.

"They want a meaningful ceasefire to end the seven years of blockade and travel restrictions that make Gaza one large prison. They want a deal to make life livable," Kakish told CP in a previous interview. "The West did not address the problems in the Gaza strip. The blockade, travel restrictions, economic disaster, lack of any healthcare have all created a condition where life is not acceptable."

report by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development added that even before the beginning of the violent conflict in July, Gaza's local economy was "in a state of total collapse" due to the blockade and previous military operations between Israel and Hamas in December 2008 and November 2012.

Liran Dan, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said last week that the terror tunnels had been destroyed, and despite the partial lifting of the Gaza blockade, Hamas failed in its goal to open a seaport and airport.

Some Israeli newspapers, such as Maariv, called the outcome of the conflict a "draw," Voice of America noted.

"Both have gained. Psychologically, Hamas has broken the idea that Israel can win wars. Also, the borders have been opened to bring in food, gas, and other materials that are badly needed. Neither side reached their initial goals. So far Hamas is not happy with the borders as they are not wide open, but they are claiming victory in the wake of destruction. Time will tell about airport and sea port," Kakish said on Thursday.

"Israel gained by destroying many tunnels but did not accomplish long term peaceful borders and disarmament of Gaza."

A ministry director of a group working to bring Israelis and Palestinians together told CP on Friday that, despite the long-term truce, reconciliation between the two societies is still a long way off.

"I don't think our societies are moving toward reconciliation, not only among Israelis and Palestinians, but also because there are many internal divisions within Israeli society and Palestinian society that need to be dealt with. Also, while this remains, both communities will continue to experience the economic pull of the conflict," said Salim J. Munayer, the director and founder of Musalaha Ministry of Reconciliation.

He added that if the fundamental issues behind the conflict are not addressed, namely "security, recognition for both Israelis and Palestinians and an end to the occupation for the Palestinians," then the violence is bound to flare up again.

"From my point of view, peace is the best means for there to be security as well as economic security," Munayer said.

Kakish agreed that war could erupt again in the future. He added that Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization are unlikely to agree that the PLO should rule Gaza.

"With their PLO soldiers of about 1,000 on each border, the unity government will collapse. This is what Israel wanted all along. Israel knew that the PLO rule in a unity government will not last. Both parties, PLO and Hamas, are working hard and arguing how best to work together as Palestinians," Kakish said.

"PLO leadership and the Palestinians are fed up with no solutions. Israel showed weariness and weakness in her latest wars with Hisballah and Hamas. This gave momentum for [PLO Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas to propose his latest proposals — ask for a Palestinian state with a deadline to end Israeli occupation."

He added that Abbas could use Palestine's upgraded status at the U.N. to take Israel to the crime courts if the terms are not agreed, while Israel could do the same with Hamas.

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