(JTA) — Israel will not object to a planned 5 percent cut in the annual military aid package from the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said.
Under the sequester, the across-the-board cuts mandated by 2011 legislation, Washington is set to cut more than $150 million from the annual $3.1 billion package to Israel.
According to the Maariv daily, Netanyahu instructed Israeli officials in Washington not to ask the U.S. government for an exception from cuts.
“Israel did not seek an exception,” Maariv quoted Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, as saying. “We are willing to share in the burden.”
The planned cuts will likely affect Israel’s ability to purchase advanced F-35 stealth fighters, according to the report, 19 of which were supposed to be delivered in 2016.
Because of budgetary cuts in Washington, the Pentagon has slashed production of the F-35s, from 2,500 to 1,200 planes, thereby making each fighter more expensive.
The cuts are also expected to affect future joint military exercises between the two countries, Maariv reported.
Apparently unaffected is some $220 million President Obama has budgeted for the short-range Iron Dome missile defense system, which Israel claims successfully repelled more than 90 percent of rockets launched by Hamas in last November’s Gaza Strip war.
Appropriators in the U.S. House of Representatives have approved that sum, as well as an increase to $270 million of Obama’s $173 million request for missile defense cooperation programs separate from Iron Dome.
Less than a month after he was sworn in, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Thursday abruptly submitted his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas.
PA officials in Ramallah said Abbas would decide in the coming hours whether to accept the resignation.
Hamdallah, who until recently was president of An- Najah University in Nablus, offered his resignation even though Palestinians were still publishing advertisements in the media congratulating him and his new ministers.
A source close to Hamdallah said he submitted his letter of resignation to Hussein al- A’raj, director of the PA president’s bureau.
The source attributed the move to a power struggle between Hamdallah and his two deputies – Muhammad Mustafa and Ziad Abu Amr – who were appointed by Abbas.
“The prime minister feels that his deputies have been encroaching on his powers,” the source said.
After submitting his resignation Hamdallah left his office in Ramallah alone and drove in his private car to his home in the village of Anabta, east of Tulkarm.
A senior PA official told the Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency that Hamdallah had not clashed with Abbas. The real dispute was between Hamdallah and his two deputies, the official said.
On Thursday evening, senior PA officials headed from Ramallah to Hamdallah’s home to persuade him to withdraw his resignation.
Another PA source said that Hamdallah, whom Abbas appointed on June 2, quickly found himself in the same situation as his predecessor Salam Fayyad.
“Hamdallah discovered that the Palestinian Authority president wants him to serve as a yes-man with no powers,” the source explained. “Abbas wanted a prime minister who would play no role and only carry out orders from the president’s office.”
Abbas’s decision to appoint two deputy prime ministers with expanded powers to the new government was the first sign of the PA president’s intention to curtail the powers of Hamdallah.
Some Palestinians pointed out that the real prime minister was Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Muhammad Mustafa, who also serves as the director of the PLO’s Palestine Investment Fund.
Mustafa was initially reported to be Abbas’s favored candidate to replace Fayyad. It remains unclear why Abbas finally preferred Hamdallah over Mustafa.
“Hamdallah quit because he was lacking any authority,” said Palestinian political analyst Hani al-Masri. “He discovered that he was just another employee with the rank of prime minister. He had two deputies who were in charge of the political and economic portfolios.”
Masri said the swift resignation was an indication of the deep crisis plaguing the PA’s political system.
Muhammad Dahlan, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a former PA security commander, said he was not surprised by Hamdallah’s decision to resign.
Dahlan, often described as an arch-enemy of Abbas, said the resignation showed that the PA leadership in Ramallah was determined to “reproduce the same mistakes.”
Dahlan predicted that any new prime minister would also fail as long as Abbas refused to share powers with anyone.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH | Associated Press
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The Palestinian president and his Fatah movement on Wednesday signaled a tough line on talks with Israel, casting new doubt on U.S. efforts to revive long-stalled negotiations.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is returning to the region next week, his fifth attempt this year to bridge wide gaps between the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the ground rules for talks.
Abbas has said he won't negotiate unless Israel stops building in settlements on war-won lands or accepts its 1967 lines — before the capture of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in a Mideast war that year — as a starting point for border talks. The Palestinians claim all three areas for their future state.
Netanyahu has rejected the Palestinian demands, saying there should be no pre-conditions — though his predecessor conducted talks on the basis of the pre-1967 lines, and the international community views the settlements as illegal or illegitimate.
Abbas briefed Fatah leaders on Wednesday. In a statement after the meeting, Abbas adviser Nabil Abu Rdeneh said Fatah supports Abbas in his positions and "affirmed its rejection of the pressures on Abbas and the leadership," an apparent reference to the Kerry mission.
Both Abbas and Netanyahu are waiting for Kerry to present the proposed U.S. terms for renewing talks. It's not clear what they are and if Kerry will present them during his upcoming visit.
Abu Rdeneh's statement suggested that Kerry failed to persuade Netanyahu to relent on a settlement freeze or accept the pre-1967 frontier as a baseline, saying that Abbas is being pressured to return to talks on Israeli terms. The statement also suggested there was no agreement on the release of veteran Palestinian prisoners by Israel — floated in the past as a possible goodwill gesture to bring Abbas to the table.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table immediately.
"It seems that the Palestinians still insist on reaching the last stage without bothering to go through chapter one, two and the rest," he said. "There are no shortcuts, and the only way to start negotiating is at the beginning, which means just start negotiating. It's as simple as that."
The U.S. State Department said Kerry would be in the Jordanian capital of Amman and Jerusalem from June 27-29 for talks on renewing negotiations.
Earlier Wednesday, international Mideast envoy Tony Blair said Kerry's mission may be the last chance for an Israeli-Palestinian deal.
He said that the "window of opportunity will be open for only a short period of time."
"We must go through it together," he said in a speech in Jerusalem. "If not, the window will close and could close forever. Time is not our friend. This is urgent. This is now. This is the time for statesmen, not politicians."
Later Wednesday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met Abbas, the latest of several foreign diplomats trying to persuade Abbas to resume negotiations.
Abbas aide Nabil Shaath said before that meeting that Abbas has told visitors, including the foreign ministers of New Zealand and Canada, that they should instead appeal to Israel to change its position.
Palestinian officials have said they nonetheless fear being blamed by the international community for a possible failure of Kerry's mission. In Wednesday's meeting, Fatah asked four leading members to devise a plan "to face the Israeli campaign to put the blame on us," Shaath said.
Associated Press writer Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, contributed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel will not accept Iranian uranium enrichment at any level.
"We cannot accept anything less than the total cessation of all enrichment of nuclear materials at all levels, removal from Iran of all enriched nuclear material, closure of Iran's illicit nuclear facilities," Netanyahu said during a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.
"Until Iran meets these demands, pressure must be stepped up and Iranian nuclear program must be stopped. Period."
Netanyahu warned against the new Iranian President Hasan Rowhani, saying that his strategy is to calm the international community while quietly advancing the nuclear program.
"He is the author of a document – you could call it talk and enrich - that is, talk and continue to enrich uranium. For nuclear weapons. He wrote this in the book. He said that by calming international community, Iran is able to steadily move forward in its nuclear weapons program. We cannot allow Iran to play this game. We cannot let Iran ride out the clock."
Netanyahu made the comments after several statements by the U.S. government and the European Union wishing to continue talks with Iran on its nuclear program. The talks between Iran and the six world powers stopped in April
Earlier Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Iran is willing to halt its 20 percent enrichment of uranium, which has been a key concession sought ininternational negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.
That is the highest level of enrichment acknowledged by Iran and one that experts say could be turned into warhead grade in a matter of months.
In an interview with the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA that was released by the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, Lavrov said that "for the first time in many years" there are encouraging signs in international efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute.
He said Iran has confirmed that it is ready to halt production of uranium-enriched to 20 percent. He did not give details, but said the sextet of international negotiators should make "substantial reciprocal steps."
Meanwhile, on Monday the UN nuclear agency chief said Iran is making "steady progress" in expanding its nuclear program and international sanctions do not seem to be slowing it down.
Yukiya Amano's comments underlined the difficult challenges facing world powers in seeking to persuade the Islamic state to scale back nuclear activities they suspect could be used to make atomic bombs, a charge Tehran denies.
The surprise victory of moderate cleric Hasan Rowhani in Iran's presidential election last Friday has raised hopes for an easing of tension in the decade-old nuclear dispute.
Rowhani pledged on Monday to be more transparent about Tehran's atomic work in order to see sanctions lifted but he also said Iran was not ready to suspend its enrichment of uranium. "
Hamas has deployed a 600-man military force in the Gaza Strip that operates 24 hours a day in order to prevent rocket fire at Israel, a senior Arab source told The Times of Israel on Monday.
Since Egypt — with the election a year ago of President Mohammed Morsi – stepped up its involvement in Gaza and began to pressure Hamas to not allow rocket fire, the Islamic organization has diligently worked to keep the peace in Gaza, even when that came at the price of confrontations with smaller Islamic groups such as the extremist Salafists, the source said.
Thus, Hamas has established a special force to “safeguard public order” that numbers around 600 gunmen and operates mostly along the Gaza-Israeli border.
The past few months have seen a dramatic decline in the number of rockets fired at Israel as compared to a year ago, a trend that has been confirmed by Israeli security sources. According to Israeli figures, since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November, some 20 rockets or mortar shells have been fired into Israel, compared to about 150 over the same period last year.
At the same time, there has also been a drop in the number of weapons smuggled into the Gaza Strip, due to Egypt’s efforts in the Sinai Peninsula and the prevention of smuggling from Libya.
The Egyptians have fielded a relatively large force to fight terror cells operating in the Sinai and to prevent the smuggling of “game-changing” long-range missiles. Still, Israel claims that the Egyptian activity is insufficient to dismantle terrorist infrastructure in the peninsula, despite being a significant improvement over the days of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who during his rule did not conduct major operations against terrorists in the Sinai.
Over the last few days, a delegation of senior Hamas officials has been holding consultations in Cairo, sponsored by the Egyptian government. According to Arab media reports, Morsi gave special permission to three Hamas men wanted by Egyptian security to join the proceedings.
Egyptian security forces, including 24 senior officers, have been deployed around the Intercontinental Hotel in Cairo where the Hamas delegation is staying, fearing demonstrations by secular activists who oppose Hamas due to reports that the Islamic group has attempted to intervene in Egyptian politics and has been involved in attacks on Egyptian soil, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.
Meanwhile, Cairo has apparently deployed a considerable military force in the Sinai Peninsula, especially around Rafah, el-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, in anticipation of potential demonstrations and riots on June 30,the date chosen by the “National Salvation Front,” the umbrella opposition group, to stage massive nationwide protests.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Applications of pro-Israel groups for tax-exempt status are routinely routed to an antiterrorism unit within the Internal Revenue Service for additional screening, according to the testimony of a Cincinnati-based IRS agent.
Asked whether Jewish or pro-Israel applications are treated differently from other applications, Gary Muthert told House Oversight Committee investigators that they are considered “specialty cases” and that “probably” all are sent to an IRS unit that examines groups for potential terrorist ties.
Muthert, who served as an application screener before transferring to the agency’s antiterrorism unit, was interviewed in connection with the committee’s investigation into the IRS’s discrimination against conservative groups. As a screener, Muthert flagged tea-party applications and passed them along to specialists for further scrutiny.
sked by investigators whether “all pro-Israel applicants went to the terrorism unit,” Muthert responded, “Probably . . . foreign activity, pro-Israel — if it is any type of foreign activity, it will go to the antiterrorism area.” Screeners like Muthert must consult the list of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Treasury Department office that enforces economic and trade sanctions, and “the terrorist list . . . because a lot of organizations will create charities to funnel the money to terrorist countries.” In further questioning, Muthert was more categorical, saying that pro-Israel groups get “not so much additional scrutiny, just more procedures.”
“More review?” an investigator asked.
“Clearly, correct,” Muthert responded.
The IRS’s practices as described by Muthert touch on a political debate that has been raging in the United States and Israel since 2009. That’s when Washington Post columnist David Ignatius noted that opponents of Israeli settlements were fighting against tax exemption for groups that raise charitable contributions for organizations that support Israeli settlements. “Critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns,” Ignatius wrote.
On March 27, 2009, the day after Ignatius’s article appeared, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) filed a spate of administrative complaints with the Treasury Department and the IRS, alleging that pro-Israel groups raising funds for settlements in the West Bank were supporting “illegal and terrorist activities abroad.” Later that year, in October, the ADC said that it was waging an ongoing legal campaign against the IRS for what the ADC regarded as violations of the tax code by some pro-Israel groups.
The following year, in 2010, a New York Timesreport observed that “donations to the settler movement stand out because of the centrality of the settlement issue in the current [American-Israeli] talks and the fact that Washington has consistently refused to allow Israel to spend American government aid in the settlements.” The article quoted State Department officials complaining about the American dollars flowing to Israeli settlers. “It’s a problem,” a senior State Department official told the Times. The implication was that it may be wrong to grant tax-exempt status to groups devoted to causes that undermine administration policy. Relying on information in the Times article, the left-leaning advocacy group J Street called on the Treasury Department to investigate whether pro-Israel organizations collecting tax-deductible gifts for schools, synagogues, and recreation centers in the West Bank had broken the law by supporting certain Israeli settlements.
Throughout this debate, whether pro-Israel groups have been receiving additional scrutiny from the IRS has remained unclear. But in 2010, after the pro-Israel organization Z Street applied for tax-exempt status, the IRS sent it requests for further information. Z Street sued the IRS in October 2010, claiming it was targeted merely for being connected to Israel. According to court documents, an IRS official told the group that its application was delayed because it was assigned to a “special unit” to determine “whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”
Certainly, charities based in the United States have funneled money to Israeli charities that are controlled by terrorist groups in Israel. But those charities have not been of a pro-Israel bent. The most-high profile case is that of the Holy Land Foundation, the Texas-based charity whose employees were indicted in 2004 for using the group as a front to provide material support to Hamas.
The policy that the applications of pro-Israel groups be examined by the IRS’s antiterrorism unit was instituted “probably years ago,” according to Muthert in his testimony. That testimony leaves unclear whether the news coverage in 2009 and 2010 prompted the scrutiny to which groups like Z Street say they have been subjected, or whether every nonprofit group whose application indicates it may engage in foreign activity, regardless of the country, is put under the microscope.
According to Muthert, it’s the latter, and he denies that pro-Israel applications are treated differently from those of other groups that claim they plan to engage with foreign countries. “It has to do with money laundering and things, because a lot of organizations will create charities to funnel the money to terrorist countries,” he explained. “So it is not so much Israel. It is just foreign countries.”
— Eliana Johnson is media editor of National Review Online.
Syrian rebel group that twice abducted United Nations peacekeepers near the Israeli border in the past three months stole several UN vehicles, a UN Peacekeeping spokesperson acknowledged to The Times of Israel — including at least two sophisticated armored personnel carriers.
An Israeli expert warned that the sophisticated UN-marked vehicles could be used in surprise border attacks on IDF targets.UNDOF reported in itsquarterly report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that on March 6, a supply convoy carrying 21 UN personnel was waylaid by Syrian rebels near the village of Jamlah, near the Israeli border. After several days in captivity the Filipino peacekeepers were released unharmed, but, as of the writing of the March report, their four vehicles were “yet to be recovered.”
Video footage uploaded by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, the Syrian rebel group that claimed responsibility for the March 6 hijacking, showed the hijacked vehicles, which included a UN-marked Renault water tanker and two RG-31 Nyala armored personnel carriers.
The RG-31 Nyala is a South African-made, mine- and IED-resistant eight-metric-ton behemoth capable of carrying up to 10 men, and has a price tag of approximately $670,000, according to analyst estimates. According to a Canadian news report from 2005, the Nyala is “virtually indestructible” and is “designed to be able to resist twosimultaneous blasts from anti-tank mines.”
UN Peacekeeping spokesperson Josephine Guerrero confirmed to The Times of Israel, however, that not only were the four vehicles missing from March’s kidnapping, but that “a number of vehicles were taken during the March and May incidents involving the detention of UNDOF peacekeepers [emphasis added].”
She didn’t specify how many vehicles were stolen during the May 7 incident, during which four more Filipino peacekeepers were taken hostage by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade. (Evidently, in the latest May 15 kidnapping of UNTSO peacekeepers on the Israel-Syria border, only the soldiers’ personal effects were “looted,” according to the UN, and no military hardware was stolen.)
Guerrero also refused to verify the types of vehicles stolen by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, or confirm the authenticity of the rebel videos, which clearly showed the rebels taking control of two RG-31 Nyalas.
“This is of concern to UNDOF and the Mission is working to recover them,” Guerrero added. Neither she nor Secretary General Ban’s spokesman Farhan Haq specified how the UN planned to retrieve the vehicles. The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade ignored Times of Israel queries about the vehicles believed to be in their possession.
Professor Efraim Inbar, director of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Stategic Studies, said that while the vehicles didn’t confer a game-changing strategic advantage to the Syrian rebels, they were a platform by which the Yarmouk Brigade could launch potentially deadly surprise attacks against IDF positions along the border.
Such a maneuver would hark back to tactics employed last August, when Sinai-based terrorists launched a sneak attack on an Egyptian army base located near the Gaza Strip and the Israeli border. The attackers killed 16 Egyptian soldiers, hijacked an armored vehicle and careened the juggernaut through the Israeli border crossing. Speeding nearly a kilometer into Israeli territory, the stolen vehicle almost reached a nearby kibbutz, but was stopped in its tracks by a last-ditch airstrike.
In response to inquiries about the possible threat the trucks may pose to soldiers on the Israeli border and nearby communities, an army spokesperson stated that “the IDF is fully confident in its ability to defend Israel’s borders.”
According to a military source, the IDF has strict procedures regulating the entry of UN vehicles from Syria into Israeli territory. The source said that the IDF coordinates with UNDOF, “who inform us in cases when UN vehicles are stolen or go missing in Syria, and we use the details they give us” to deny red-flagged vehicles entry via the Quneitra border crossing.
The IDF source wouldn’t absolutely confirm or deny such coordination with UNDOF regarding the vehicles snatched this spring by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade.
Syrian civil war analyst Eliot Higgins of the Brown Moses blog said that the RG-31s would provide the rebels with a secure platform for smuggling arms, fuel or other contraband near the area where the Israeli, Syrian and Jordanian borders converge.
Though the trucks wouldn’t be a major offensive weapon, Inbar, the Begin-Sadat Center expert, suggested that their loss may have dealt yet another blow to the increasingly fragile morale of international peacekeepers on the Golan Heights.
Amid frequent raids on United Nations personnel and near-constant violence between rebel forces and those loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, UNDOF peacekeeping soldiers are said to be growing increasingly concerned about their personal safety and the effectiveness of their mandate. The UNDOF peacekeepers, drawn from the Indian, Austrian and Philippine militaries, are licensed by the UN Security Council to observe the ceasefire lines separating Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights. They are lightly armed, carrying sidearms and occasionally M-16s, but are not allowed to intervene in the event of third-party violence.
Both Manila and Vienna have expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation on the Israel-Syria border, and officials from both countries have suggested that morale among the peacekeeping forces is understandably low.
Philippine Ambassador to Israel Generoso D. G. Calonge, who has seen 25 countrymen abducted and liberated by Syrian rebels in the past few months, recently said that Philippine soldiers stationed on the Syrian border are likewise “disappointed” by the devolving situation.
A journalist who recently visited UNDOF’s headquarters told The Times of Israel that Austrian soldiers may be eager to sign up for the mission, but they are growing disheartened by their inability to do anything except defend themselves from direct assault. (Despite this, only a handful have returned to Austria out of concern over the growing violence, according to the Austrian newspaper Kurier.)
With the intensification of hostilities along the Israel-Syria border, the Austrian force’s “main task changed from reporting to stay safe themselves,” the reporter said. Deputy UNDOF commander Brig. Gen. Stefan Thaller was said to tell Austrian Defense Minister Gerald Klug during the latter’s recent visit to Camp Faouar that UNDOF’s mission “is only to report to New York [the UN secretary-general's office], and that’s it.”
An UNDOF spokesperson refused to comment on the status of morale among UNDOF troops, and rejected repeated requests to interview force commander Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha about the sit
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
May 22, 2013
The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a resolution affirming America's firm opposition to Iran's nuclear ambitions, and pledging full support for Israel in the event of an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
The chance to slam Iran’s government and speak up for Israel brought a rare moment of complete bipartisan unity to the Senate. Republican Lindsey Graham was a lead sponsor of the resolution.
“If that day ever comes where Israel has to take military action, to our friends in Israel: we will be there with you every step of the way diplomatically, economically, and, yes, militarily. And to the Iranian people: we would love to have a better relationship with you. To the Iranian regime: you are one of the biggest evils on the planet. And we will stand up to you. We will stand by our friends,” Graham said.
The resolution is an expression of the collective will of the Senate. It neither authorizes the use of U.S. military force, nor constitutes a declaration of war.
Democratic Senator Robert Menendez noted a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency saying that Iran has boosted its ability to enrich uranium with hundreds of new centrifuges.
“We seek full implementation of U.S. and international sanctions on Iran, and urge the president [Barack Obama] to continue to strengthen enforcement of those sanctions. I cannot emphasize enough my strong concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, and the extraordinary threat it poses - yes, to Israel, but very importantly to the United States of America,” Menendez said.
Iran has long insisted its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, arguing that Israel is the true threat to regional peace.
"The statements attributed to an Israeli intelligence officer do not represent the Israeli government's position," Netanyahu said, according to a source present at the meeting.
The prime minister stressed that Israel is not intervening in the Syrian civil war and is not taking a position concerning who should rule the country.
"I don't think there is anyone in Israel eager to take action" in Syria, Tzipi Livni, a member of Netanyahu's security cabinet and a former foreign minister told Army Radio on Sunday, hinting at concerns that any strike could provoke a wider conflict.
Livni also said that Israeli politicians ought to avoid taking sides. "Israel isn't popular in Syria. Therefore any such statement could only be used as ammunition by one of the sides to try and divert the debate or the violence toward Israel and that's the last thing we need," she said.
The Israeli official told the Times: "Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos, and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there."
According to the Times, the senior intelligence officer in the north of Israel said a weakened but stable Syria under Assad is not only better for Israel but for the region as a whole.
Another defense official was quoted saying it is more likely than initially estimated that Assad will remain in power.
“We originally underestimated Assad’s staying power and overestimated the rebels’ fighting power,” the source said.
By MAGGIE MICHAEL | Associated Press – Fri, May 10, 2013
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood staged an anti-Israel rally in Cairo on Friday, the first such protest by the main backers of President Mohammed Morsi since they rose to prominence in the wake of the country's 2011 uprising.
Emerging from weekly services at Al-Azhar mosque — the centuries-old seat of Sunni Muslim learning — demonstrators chanted "the people want the destruction of Israel" in protest of recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria and the detention of a Palestinian Muslim cleric.
At one point, leading Brotherhood member Mohammed el-Beltagy took the microphone and shouted: "we will repeat it over and over, Israel is our enemy." Others echoed the call, and one organizer whipped up the crowd in a chant urging the army to launch a war against Israel to "liberate Palestine ... from the sons of monkeys and pigs."
Since the revolt that deposed longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood — known for its anti-Israeli and anti-Western rhetoric — has largely avoided showing enmity to the West or its former foe on its eastern border.
Morsi himself has repeatedly stressed commitment to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, and won U.S. praise by brokering a cease-fire between Palestinian Hamas militants and the Jewish state just months after he assumed his post.
But both the Islamist president and his group have had a hard time melding their longtime anti-Jewish stance with new responsibilities since coming to power.
Earlier this year, Brotherhood heavyweight Essam el-Erian created a stir after calling on Egyptian Jews who fled the country to return, in what many saw as a sort of outreach to Israel. Shortly after the remarks however, an Egyptian TV program revealed older comments by Morsi, in which he described Jews as "bloodsuckers" and "pigs."
The revelations raised alarm among senior U.S. officials and reminded Washington of the Brotherhood's anti-American and anti-Israeli roots — a stance some fear the group could easily slide back into should it find it useful or necessary.
Morsi later distanced himself from the comments, saying he was quoted out of context and that he respects all religions. Such remarks are not uncommon in Egypt, where anti-Israeli, not anti-Jewish, sentiment is profound across the political spectrum.
The Friday protest centered on Israeli airstrikes in Syria that targeted alleged shipments of advanced Iranian missiles thought to be bound for Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Brotherhood official Yasser Mehres said.
The demonstrators were also protesting the Israeli detention of the mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, Mehres added in comments in the official newspaper of the Brotherhood's political party, Freedom and Justice. Hussein was held for several hours on Wednesday for questioning over disturbances at a holy site but released without charge.
The rally comes a day after Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Muslim cleric and Brotherhood ally, crossed to the Palestinian Gaza Strip to join a rally held by Hamas. At the rally, al-Qaradawi voiced support for militants who fire rockets at Israel and said the country has no right to exist.