Tuesday, November 25, 2014
‘All citizens should enjoy equal rights,’ says State Department
spokesman; ADL calls planned legislation ‘unnecessary’
BY LAZAR BERMAN November 24, 2014, 11:16 pm | The Times of Israel|
The State Department said Monday that the US expects that Israel “continue [its]
commitment to democratic principles,” as debate over Israel’s controversial nationstate
In a Monday press briefing, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said, “The United States
position, which is unchanged, has been clear for years – and the President and the Secretary [of
State] have also reiterated it – is that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state in which all citizens
should enjoy equal rights.”
The nationstate bill, which has seen multiple drafts but awaits the drafting of a final government
proposal expected to be presented in the Knesset next week, would enshrine in a constitutional
Basic Law Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.
Meanwhile, the AntiDefamation League’s Abraham Foxman said in a statement that the debate
over Israel’s Jewish and democratic character “undermined the settled nature of this essential
element of Israel’s national identity. Attempts to further codify this concept in the Basic Laws are
wellmeaning but unnecessary. It is troubling that some have sought to use the political process to
promote an extreme agenda which could be viewed as an attempt to subsume Israel’s democratic
character in favor of its Jewish one.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday afternoon that he was determined to pass the
bill, even if he does not have the backing of his entire cabinet.
“It is important to exhaust the channels of dialogue, and I am ready to give this dialogue a chance,”
he said during the weekly Likud faction meeting. “I am determined to pass this bill with or without
agreement. It is very important for securing the future of the nation of Israel, in the Land of Israel,
in the State of Israel.
“The principles that I am advancing give expression to Israel being the national Jewish state, and
only that, while protecting rights.”
Asked if elections are in the offing after coalition parties Hatnua and Yesh Atid expressed
opposition to the proposal this week, Netanyahu said laconically, “Time will tell.”
Coalition leaders decided on Monday to delay a preliminary vote on two drafts of the proposed bill
by one week, as some ministers vowed to continue to oppose the measure even if it meant their
jobs — and the future of the coalition.
Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov initially proposed the weeklong delay, which was backed by the
Jewish Home party at a meeting of coalition leaders in the Knesset Monday.
The decision came just hours after Justice Minister Tzipi Livni reiterated her intention to fight the
bill, and challenged the prime minister to decide whether he was willing to break up his coalition
over the measure.
“This bill will not pass because we are not ready and I am not prepared to be a fig leaf for
something so problematic,” Livni told the Ynet news site on Monday. “And if it goes [to a vote, as
had originally been scheduled] on Wednesday, I will not let it pass and will not compromise
regarding its wording.
“The prime minister will have to decide whether he will fire ministers in his government and topple
his coalition over their opposition to a law that goes against a Jewish and democratic Israel,” she
said. “If he wants elections over this, no problem.”
The bills originally slated for the Wednesday vote will not become law, as the cabinet voted on
Sunday to incorporate them into a future government bill after they pass the preliminary vote. In
essence, the different versions were slated to receive the Knesset’s initial nod, and then be
replaced by an agreedupon government version drafted by the prime minister and Attorney
General Yehudah Weinstein.
On Sunday, cabinet ministers approved a twopage document containing 14 principles that a
future government bill will be based on. While guaranteeing Israel’s democratic character, the bill,
a softened version of the other proposals, would reserve the right of national selfdetermination
within the boundaries of the state of Israel to Jews alone.
Monday, November 24, 2014
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he would continue to advance the "Jewish state bill" while maintaining the rights of all Israel's citizens.
The vote has caused a crisis within Netanyahu's coalition, with Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni vowing not to vote in favor of the bill despite the cabinet's approval of the measure on Sunday.
Earlier on Monday, a Knesset vote on the bill, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, was delayed until next week.
Speaking at a Likud faction meeting, the prime minister said that it was important to advance the bill, which aims to cement the Jewish nature of the state in law, even if he does not have the agreement of everyone in his coalition.
He added, however, that he would enable there to be dialogue in order to reach a compromise on the bill.
During the heated discussion of the bill in the cabinet on Sunday, Livni said to Netanyahu: “The elephant in the room is that you want us” – Hatnua and Yesh Atid – “to vote against this so you can fire us.”
If a minister votes against government policy, it is akin to him or her resigning, and the prime minister can fire him or her.
The three proposed versions of Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People – which were authorized by the coalition with 15 in favor and six opposed – declare Israel to be the site of self-determination exclusively for the Jewish people. Netanyahu’s version avoids some of the more controversial sections of the two similar private member bills, such as the status of Arabic or settlement construction.
“Jewish state bill” drafts by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and by MKs Yariv Levin (Likud), Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) had been scheduled to go to a preliminary vote in the Knesset Wednesday, until the agreement was reached to delay the vote. Then, the bills will go to a Knesset committee, where they will be combined in accordance with Netanyahu’s draft.
All three versions of the bill reinforce “Hatikva” as the national anthem, the state symbols, use of the Hebrew calendar and the Law of Return, and call to grant freedom of access to holy places and protect them.
Friday, November 21, 2014
11/21/2014 02:43 | The Jerusalem Post|
Congressional appropriators pen letter to Palestinian Authority president warning him that aid predicated on PA commitment to countering incitement of violence against Israelis.
WASHINGTON Top congressional appropriators told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Congress “remains committed” to conditions for continued funding of the PA, including controlling incitement.
“This aid is predicated on the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to countering terrorism and pursuing a comprehensive peace with Israel,” said the letter sent Thursday signed by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the chairman of the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the committee and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of its foreign operations subcommittee.
“US law also clearly stipulates that the Palestinian Authority must act to counter the incitement of violence against Israelis in order to continue receiving US assistance,” the letter said, adding: “We remain resolute in our commitment to these conditions.”
The United States grants the Palestinian Authority about $500 million in assistance annually.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Abbas of stoking tensions in Jerusalem in recent weeks that have resulted in a number of fatal terrorist attacks, including this weeks attack on a synagogue which killed five people.
“The use of degrading images in Fatah or PA produced media as well as inflammatory language used by you and other Palestinian leaders undermine the objectives of our support and threaten to further destabilize an already highly volatile situation,” the letter from the lawmakers said.
Abbas condemned this week’s synagogue murders but has also accused Israel of “declaring war” for temporarily shutting down the Temple Mount, a site holy to Jews and Muslims.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Security Council finally speaks up on synagogue terror; Prosor says it ‘breaks silence on Palestinian violence only after Israelis slaughtered’
BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF AND AP November 20, 2014, 2:11 am | The Times of Israel|
UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council condemned “in the strongest terms” the “despicable” terrorist attack at a Jerusalem synagogue that killed four worshipers and a police officer Tuesday.
“The members of the Security Council expressed their condolences to the families of all those who have died and sympathy to those injured and to the Israeli people,” the statement read.
Wednesday’s statement also urged all sides to work immediately to restore calm as tensions rise between Israelis and Palestinians.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said in response that it was “disappointing that only once Israelis are slaughtered at prayer, the Security Council remembers to break its silence on Palestinian violence.”
“Now, after the international community has understood that the Palestinians have crossed all red lines, and in order to stop the bloodshed, [the world] must stop awarding Palestinians prizes and stop supporting unilateral actions [like recognizing a Palestinian state],” Prosor said.
Palestinian terrorists Uday and Ghassa Abu Jamal, cousins from East Jerusalem’s Jabel Mukaber neighborhood, on Tuesday burst into a crowded synagogue in Har Nof during morning prayers with meat cleavers and gunfire, killing four people and critically wounding a police officer who later died of his injuries, in a brutal attack that lasted several minutes.
Earlier Wednesday, thousands including Israeli President Reuven Rivlin attended the funeral of Zidan Saif, the Druze policeman who succumbed to his wounds late Tuesday night after a gunfight with the two terrorists at the synagogue. Saif, 30, was the first officer on the scene of the attack in Har Nof.
On Tuesday, hours after the deadly attack, Rabbis Aryeh Kupinsky, 40, Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, and Kalman Levine, 50, were laid to rest. The three were buried at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in a joint funeral.
Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 59, was buried earlier in the day.
Last week, Prosor issued a scathing critique Security Council’s silence following multiple terror attacks against Israelis over the past month.
“Every day Israelis are coming under attack. Every day the crowds of violent Palestinian rioters grow larger,” Prosor wrote in a letter to the UN body. “And yet, this institution has not uttered a word to denounce attacks against Israelis. Ignoring incitement and terrorism is similar to supporting terrorism.”
The letter came last Monday, November 10, 2014, on the same day that two people died in separate terror attacks. IDF soldier Almog Shiloni, 20, of Modi’in died of his wounds following hours of attempts to stabilize his condition after a Palestinian terrorist stabbed him in Tel Aviv. Hours later, Dalia Lemkus, 26, was killed in a separate terror attack near the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut. She was run over and then stabbed in the neck and died at the scene.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle blame Fatah leadership for creating fertile ground for Jerusalem attack
The Times of Israel |
WASHINGTON — In a town rife with partisanship, Republicans and Democrats alike flocked to condemn Tuesday’s terror attack in a Jerusalem synagogue. Several prominent members of both the House and Senate called out the Palestinian Authority leadership — and specifically Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — for creating a fertile environment for the deadly assault which left four worshipers and one police officer dead.
The Republican Jewish Coalition offered its condolences to the victims and prayers for peace “to all Israelis confronting the scourge of vicious terrorism.” RJC National Chairman David Flaum called in a statement for “American policy-makers to offer appropriate support and solidarity at this solemn moment.”
The group complimented Secretary of State John Kerry, who quickly issued an unequivocal condemnation of the attack. They raised an eyebrow at incitement in recent weeks by Palestinian leaders and placed “a heavy measure of responsibility for this horror on a Palestinian leadership that has tacitly and explicitly encouraged terrorist violence.”
“We urge members of the Obama administration to adhere to this standard of moral clarity in all their statements and actions during the difficult days ahead,” Flaum concluded.
The National Jewish Democratic Council also issued a statement condemning the attack, and noting that “the attack, taking place as it did so far from the neighborhood in which the terrorists lived, represents a premeditation that was encouraged by incitement from within their community.”
Without specifically mentioning any actors, the NJDC called on “all people and nations to repudiate these actions and to isolate anyone responsible for encouraging violence against innocent civilians.”
Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle echoed and reinforced Kerry’s critique of the Palestinian Authority leadership for failing to stem the increasing tide of violence, and some members of both parties explicitly put blame for inflammatory statements on the shoulders of Abbas.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) complained via Twitter that “the murder of four rabbis in Israel was caused by Hamas, Mr [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, & the Palestinian Authority’s reckless incitement of Palestinians.”
In a message personally signed for additional impact, Schumer called on Abbas to “take immediate action to de-escalate the dangerous polarization.”
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, condemned the attack, describing it as “yet another example of the Palestinian Authority’s campaign of incitement to violence against Israelis and Jews.” Royce called on the Palestinian authority to “officially and publicly — in English, Hebrew, and Arabic — condemn this attack, and reject its perpetrators. Every PA-condoned attack leads Palestinians further down the path of despair.”
Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) echoed similar sentiments, describing the attack as “heinous” and asserting that “Palestinian leadership can and must do more to end terrorist attacks perpetrated against innocent Israelis.”
Boozeman emphasized that he will “continue to support Israel’s right to defend its citizens.”
Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives hours after the attack, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) placed blame for the attack on “the supreme leader of Iran” who she accused of encouraging Palestinians to launch attacks against Israelis.
“This is another example of Iran’s dangerous meddling in order to attack our US interests and Israel,” Ros-Lehtinen complained. The Florida representative renewed calls first heard after the formation of a Palestinian unity government this spring to cut off all US funding for the Palestinian Authority.
The unity government was formed together with Hamas, although there are no Hamas representatives who hold ministerial positions in the current administration.
Likely Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a lengthy statement following the attack, in which he wrote that the four worshippers killed were “not victims of a senseless tragedy, they were deliberately targeted in a carefully-planned attack.”
“The Palestinian terrorists, incubated in a culture of violence and hate, were intent on killing Jews and they singled out men of deep religious faith who would not be armed to ensure maximum casualties. Their despicable actions have been hailed as ‘heroic’ by Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Fatah that are actively inciting these attacks,” he complained.
Cruz called on the US to issue an “unequivocal statement of solidarity, a recognition that America is not a disinterested bystander in this battle.” Like Ros-Lehtinen, Cruz framed the Tuesday attack as part of a common struggle “against the terrorists who have declared war on both our nations.”
For a number of members of Congress, the attack landed closer to home when the three US-born victims had ties to their districts. Kansan Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KS) noted that Rabbi Kalman Levine was a graduate of the Kansas City-area Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, and that Rabbi Moshe Twersky was the uncle of a faculty member at the same Jewish school.
Twersky’s son, Rafael, is a rabbi in Lakewood, NJ – a fact noted by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“To have disorder and terror interrupt the calm of morning prayers is deplorable and sickening to the core. No words of comfort can provide solace to the four bereaved families who have lost loved ones, all of whom were rabbis,” wrote Menendez Tuesday. “I stand alongside the Twersky family and Lakewood community during this period of mourning.”
Menendez, like many others, called for a “forceful response from President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.” The senior senator from New Jersey said that Abbas’s “words of condemnation are welcome, but must be followed up by a sincere demonstration of leadership” and advised him to “use every tool at his disposal to deescalate this worsening situation in Jerusalem and guide the Palestinian people to reject violence and promote peace.”
“Tensions are understandably running very high today in Jerusalem and I urge all parties to refrain from further acts of violence,” Menendez concluded. “Too many innocent lives have been lost and too much blood has been spilled during these recent months and it must end.”
Congressional calls against alleged Palestinian incitement were echoed by an AIPAC policy memo released Tuesday, in which the pro-Israel organization noted that terror attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank were “on the rise” and noting that Tuesday’s attack “followed months in which Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders used vitriolic language to inflame tensions, especially over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”
AIPAC noted the ambivalent PA response, pointing out that “while Abbas issued a statement condemning the attack, he also demanded an “end to invasions of al-Aqsa Mosque” and that fellow Fatah leader Tawfiq Tirawi, a Fatah Central Committee member, justified the attack as “a reaction to the recent crimes of the occupation.”
The AIPAC memo documented a serious of speeches by Abbas denying Jewish legitimacy in Jerusalem, while also listing a series of steps that it says Israel took to try to de-escalate rising tensions.
Along with calling for strong PA statements against terror and incitement, the AIPAC memo pointedly noted that US law predicates funding for the PA on evidence that it is “acting to counter incitement of violence against Israelis and is supporting activities aimed at promoting peace, coexistence, and security cooperation with Israel.”
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
US secretary of state calls Netanyahu to offer condolences, blames Palestinian ‘days of rage’ ; UN official calls terror attack abhorrent
BY AP, AFP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF November 18, 2014, 11:10 am | The Times of Israel|
US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned a Jerusalem terror attack that left four people dead Tuesday morning, calling on Palestinian leaders to halt incitement.
Kerry telephoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer condolences following the gruesome killing spree by Palestinian assailants at a Jerusalem synagogue, while other world leaders also expressed horror at the attack.
Kerry, in London for talks on Iran and the Middle East, called the assault an “act of pure terror and senseless brutality” and called on the Palestinian leadership to condemn it “in the most powerful terms.”
Police said two attackers from East Jerusalem entered the synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood shortly after 7 a.m. and began attacking worshipers at morning prayers with a gun, a meat cleaver, and an ax. Both terrorists were killed by police.
Kerry blamed the attack on Palestinian calls for “days of rage” and said Palestinian leaders must take serious steps to refrain from such incitement.
Netanyahu told Kerry that “this is a direct result of [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's] incitement. This is a despicable murder in a holy place.”
Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders earlier pointed the finger at Abbas and the Palestinian leadership for the attacks.
The European Union’s envoy to Israel Lars Faaborg Andersen wrote on Twitter that he was “horrified by and utterly condemn the despicable terror attack on worshipers in Jlm synagogue that left 4 dead and 4 badly injured.”
The United Nation’s special envoy to the region, Robert Serry, said in a statement he “abhorred the attack this morning on a synagogue in West Jerusalem. There can be no justification whatsoever for these deliberate killings, which he strongly condemns.”
He called on all sides to work to calm tensions in the region.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was in Israel on Sunday, lamented the attack, saying he hoped it would serve as “a loud wake-up call” that the current situation could quickly spiral out of control.
“That houses of worship are becoming scenes for deadly attack on innocent believers is a terrible crossing of a line in an already extremely tense situation,” he said in Kiev.
“I was in Jerusalem only a few days ago and could feel how tense the atmosphere there is,” Steimeier added. “What has now happened is a tragedy. I hope that this is now also a loud wake-up call. The tensions can quickly lead to a violent outburst. Mixing the many unresolved issues in this region with ‘religious confrontation’ gives this already serious conflict another dangerous dimension.”
Officials from Sweden, which recently officially recognized Palestine as a state, condemned the attack and called for an end to the violence.
Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad hailed the attack, saying it was in reaction to the death of a Palestinian bus driver. An Israeli autopsy had established Monday that the driver committed suicide, a finding rejected by his family.
“Hamas calls for more operations like it,” a spokesman for the group said in a statement.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed support Sunday for the US fight against Islamic State militants, but cautioned against any softening toward Iran.
“We want them both to lose. The last thing we want is to have any one of them get weapons of mass destruction,” Netanyahu said in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation.
His comments came shortly after IS claimed the beheading of another Western hostage, US aid worker Peter Kassig, along with that of 18 men described as Syrian soldiers.
In an undated video, a masked black-clad jihadist seen standing above a severed head says: “This is Peter Edward Kassig, a US citizen of your country.”
Netanyahu expressed support for US President Barack Obama’s leadership of a coalition against IS and said, “We’re with all the American people who understand the savagery that we’re all up against.”
IS “has to be defeated and it can be defeated,” he said.
But Netanyahu portrayed the situation as a “global conflict” against militant Islam, not just Sunni-based IS and al-Qaeda but also Shiite Iran-backed Hezbollah.
“We want them both to lose,” he said, insisting: “Iran is not your ally. Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy.”
The United States and other Western powers have been negotiating with Iran to limit its nuclear program, with a November 24 deadline for a deal fast approaching.
Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s opposition to any agreement that leaves Iran with a residual capacity to enrich uranium, and urged tougher sanctions on Tehran as an alternative to a deal.
“The alternative to a bad deal is not war. The alternative to a bad deal are more sanctions, tougher sanctions, that will make Iran dismantle its capacity to make nuclear bombs,” he said.
Friday, November 14, 2014
BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF AND AFP | November 13, 2014, 10:57 pm | The Times of Israel |
The trilateral meeting in Amman between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the recent surge of violence in Jerusalem ended Thursday evening, with Kerry issuing a statement praising the sides for their commitment to reduce tensions surrounding the Temple Mount.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah a-Sissi was updated on the meeting by phone, according to a report on Israel Radio.
The top US diplomat said Netanyahu had “strongly reaffirmed his commitment to uphold the status quo on Temple Mount,” while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, with whom Kerry met earlier in the day, restated his “commitment to non-violence and to restoring calm” in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not attend a meeting among Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Kerry said it was “not the right moment” for Abbas and Netanyahu to meet.
Kerry said Abbas told him would do “everything possible to prevent [further] violence.”
“We must create a climate where we can move forward in a positive and constructive way,” Kerry said at a press conference with the Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh following the summit.
“There is an urgent need to address these greatest tensions, and an imperative need to uphold the status quo at the Temple Mount,” he said, adding that the sides must take “take affirmative steps to prevent violence and incitement.”
However, Kerry said that it was not the right time for Israel and the Palestinians to come together to renew talks.
Kerry also praised the “enormously constructive role of Jordan in trying to resolve these challenges.”
He said Israel and Jordan, which has custodial rights at the Temple Mount, had also agreed to take steps to “de-escalate the situation” in Jerusalem and to “restore confidence”.
A senior Israeli government official told The Times of Israel that Netanyahu spoke about the urgent need to stop the incitement that was leading to the violence — incitement promoted by radical Islamists and by Palestinian Authority officials.
Netanyahu further told Kerry and Abdullah that a diplomatic process was important but did not go hand in hand with the irresponsible incitement against Israel, the source said.
The prime minister said the dissemination of false information about an alleged change to the status quo on the Temple Mount must be stopped, and that the Arab press was publishing reports that were out of touch with reality
Judeh said Kerry was “now attempting to repave the way for coming back to negotiations and to stop unilateral actions and measures” — a key point for Jordan which is interested in seeing a new process that would lead to the renewal of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, which broke down in April. Abdullah reportedly conveyed this message to Kerry during the meeting.
Jordan’s foreign minister also said that Amman would review its decision to recall its envoy to Israel based on Israel’s implementation of its commitments to restore calm, according to Haaretz.
The Temple Mount — the holiest site in Judaism, and the third-holiest in Islam — has been a source of increased tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, tensions which have led to a number of violent clashes between security forces and Palestinian demonstrators, four terror attacks and an attempted assassination of a Temple Mount activist in just under a month.
Jews are allowed to visit but forbidden from praying at the contested site, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, but where it allowed the Muslim Waqf authorities to remain in administrative charge.
The summit in Amman commenced at 7:00 p.m., only hours after fresh clashes broke out in East Jerusalem, where Israeli police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse Palestinian demonstrators, who hurled stones and other objects at security forces in the city.
Earlier Thursday, Kerry met with Abbas for talks aimed at calming tensions in the region.
Kerry and a somber-looking Abbas embraced and had a brief whispered exchange as they met at the Palestinian leader’s hillside home in Amman, where US and Palestinian flags hung in front of a large nighttime photo of Jerusalem’s flashpoint al-Aqsa Mosque, on the Temple Mount.
Ahead of Kerry’s arrival, Abdullah met Abbas in Amman for talks in which he expressed his “total rejection” of Israel’s “repeated aggressions and provocations in Jerusalem,” a palace statement said.
Much of the unrest in Jerusalem has been fueled by settlement activity in the city’s eastern sector and by religious tensions at the Temple Mount compound. Abbas on Tuesday warned that the Palestinians will not allow Israeli extremists to “contaminate” the Temple Mount, and said that allowing Jewish prayer at the site would risk a global religious war.
“Keep the settlers and the extremists away from Al-Aqsa and our holy places,” Abbas demanded. “We will not allow our holy places to be contaminated. Keep them away from us and we will stay away from them, but if they enter al-Aqsa, [we] will protect al-Aqsa and the church and the entire country,” he said. It was unclear what church Abbas was referring to.
Israeli security forces have chased rioters who fled into the al-Aqsa mosque on several occasions, but Israel denied a claim last week that troops went deep into the mosque. Israeli forces say the Palestinians store rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails inside the mosque for use in violent protests.
Israel closed the Temple Mount for one day two weeks ago following the attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehudah Glick and the killing of his shooter during an arrest operation, a move that drew sharp condemnation from Palestinians, the Jordanian government and others.
Since the site opened again to Jewish visitors, several right-wing MKs have visited the site, contending that it is their democratic right to do so, despite a plea from for calm and restraint.
Netanyahu has repeatedly pledged not to change the status quo and allow Jewish prayer at the site.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Security officials say neither side wants escalation of hostilities around
BY AVI ISSACHAROFF AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF November 12, 2014, 4:48 pm | The Time of Israel|
Israel on Tuesday told the Palestinian Authority that it is not interested in an escalation of
hostilities with the Palestinians and that it intends to take steps to calm tensions.
The remarks were made during a meeting between high-ranking Israeli and Palestinian defense
officials amid weeks of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in and around
Central Command head Nitzan Alon and Civil Administration chief David Menahem met with
Palestinian officials, including West Bank preventative security chief Ziad al-Barih, intelligence
chief Majid Faraj, and Palestinian police chief Hazem Atallah.
The PA responded by sending Israel messages encouraging calm, but those present warned that
the PA would struggle to cope with the situation if Israel took steps to escalate the situation on the
ground, such as harm to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, confiscation of West Bank land for settlements or
settler harassment of Palestinians.
Israeli officials emphasized that Jerusalem has no intention of taking tough security steps, and
that its security forces will work to maintain quiet as much as possible. The Israeli officials also
reiterated statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the government has no intention
of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount.
After the meeting, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav
Mordechai spoke with Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh.
A senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel that the meeting was positive, and that it was
clear that the Israeli security establishment is interested in calming the situation. At the same time,
the Palestinian source said that he wasn’t sure that Israel’s political leaders shared this stance.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Thursday with US Secretary of State John Kerry in
Amman, Israel Radio reported. Abbas’s spokesman said that he would tell Kerry that Israel
crossed a red line, particularly on the Temple Mount and in Jerusalem, and that the Palestinians
are determined to pursue their plan to ask the United Nations Security Council next month to set a
date for the end of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
Abbas on Tuesday said that Jews have no right to “contaminate” the site, which is the third-holiest
in the Muslim faith — and the holiest in Judaism, as the site of two ancient Jewish temples — and
warned that a continuation of Israeli policies would lead to a “religious war.”
Kerry was set to arrive in Amman Wednesday to meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan. The two will
discuss the escalation of tensions in Jerusalem and the fight against the Islamic State group in
Syria and Iraq.
Kerry, fresh from nuclear talks with Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, is to spend two
days in Jordan before traveling on to the United Arab Emirates on November 14, the State
Department said in a statement late Tuesday.
Last week, heavy clashes raged at the Temple Mount compound as Israeli police faced off with
Palestinian stone-throwers, prompting Jordan to recall its ambassador in protest.
The US has issued repeated calls for calm in the region, with the State Department saying that all
sides need to do more to ease tensions.
Tensions over the Temple Mount have been simmering for much of the past several months, as
Palestinian Muslims have protested increased visits by Jews and calls by right-wing MKs to allow
Jewish prayer at the site, where it has been forbidden by Israel since 1967.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
In address to Jewish leaders, PM says ‘alternative to a bad deal is not
war’ but stronger sanctions
BY REBECCA SHIMONI STOIL November 12, 2014, 1:45 am | The Times of Israel|
WASHINGTON — Less than two weeks before the deadline for a nuclear deal with
Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned an American audience that the
US should not see Iran as a potential partner but rather as an “enemy of America.”
Speaking by video to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly on Tuesday
afternoon, Netanyahu asserted that Iran should be “confronted as an enemy.”
“The Islamic State of Iran is not a partner of America. It’s an enemy of America. And it should be
confronted as an enemy,” Netanyahu told the audience who were gathered for the conference’s
final plenary, using a play on Iran’s official moniker — the Islamic Republic of Iran — and the
Islamic State terrorist group.
Over the past few months, both the US and Iran have worked toward the common goal of
reducing Islamic State’s influence in Iraq — but the Obama administration denies that it has any
intention of engaging in military cooperation with Tehran. “Some have suggested that Iran can help
solve the problems of the Middle East. But Iran is not the solution. It’s the problem,” Netanyahu
Negotiations with Iran are limping into their final two weeks before the November 24 deadline to
reach a comprehensive agreement under the Joint Plan of Action. Earlier this week, US Secretary
of State John Kerry met with his Iranian counterpart in an effort to bridge a number of key gaps,
but on Sunday, US President Barack Obama acknowledged that the distance between Iran and
P5+1 member states’ negotiating positions remained large.
Israel has consistently pushed for negotiators to demand the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear facilities
that are capable of enriching uranium or plutonium that could be used to manufacture a nuclear
weapon. While negotiators have considered allowing Iran to maintain low-grade enrichment, the
fate of the plutonium facility at Arak remains one of the major sticking points.
“Our goal must be not merely to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons today. We must
also prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons tomorrow,” Netanyahu said. “Avoiding a bad
deal and maintaining strong pressure on Iran should be the policy of all responsible governments.”
“The worst thing that can happen is for the international community to agree to a deal that leaves
Iran as a threshold nuclear power,” he warned. “The alternative to a bad deal is not war. It means
giving sanctions, and even stronger ones, more time to work.”
Speaking a day earlier, one of Obama’s top Middle East policy advisers assured conference
attendees that the US would “only accept an agreement that blocks all of the potential paths to get
a nuclear weapon.”
Philip Gordon said that the US was still focused on reaching an agreement by the November 24
deadline, and that any deal made after that point would be less advantageous for Iran.
If no deal is reached by that late November date, and barring any further extension, the Joint Plan
of Action agreed upon in November 2013 will expire and the full force of US-led sanctions against
Iran will resume. Sanctions have been relaxed in concert with Iranian compliance with the terms of
the Joint Plan of Action, and recent months have seen a flowering of the once-stagnant Iranian
Both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have warned that should no deal be reached,
Congress is likely to try to impose additional sanctions against Tehran in an effort to pressure Iran
to return, cowed, to the negotiating table.
Although Netanyahu pressed Tuesday for additional sanctions, Gordon said that he was
concerned that such steps could endanger the cohesiveness of the international sanctions regime
currently in place. Gordon argued that the US had sanctions in place against Iran for almost three
decades with little impact, until the international community joined in the effort to pressure Tehran
regarding its nuclear program.