July 26, 2018

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

In first, ‘Palestine’ to head bloc of 134 nations at UN

The “State of Palestine” will reportedly preside next year over the largest bloc of developing nations at the United Nations.

Palestine — which is not a member state of the UN but has observer state status — was chosen to head the so-called Group of 77, a consortium now consisting of 134 nations that often speaks in one voice at the UN General Assembly, starting January 1, 2019, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

“We will be negotiating on behalf of 135 countries,” Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour told the paper, including his own delegation in the count.

The group was originally founded in 1964 with 77 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Thailand and India. Over the years it has grown to include countries such as South Africa, Qatar, Cuba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Singapore, and Angola. It represents some 80 percent of the world’s population.

Egypt currently holds the group’s presidency until December 31.

The Foreign Ministry in Israel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon expressed misgivings about the move.

“The goal of the Group of 77 originally was to facilitate the economic advancement of underdeveloped nations,” he told The Times of Israel. “It is unfortunate that it will now become a platform for spreading lies and incitement. This will not promote the G-77’s goals, and encourages the Palestinians to not engage in negotiations for peace.”

The UN General Assembly in 2012 voted overwhelmingly in favor of granting Palestine “non-state observer status.” Three years later, the GA also voted to allow the Palestinian flag to be raised outside the UN’s iconic building on New York’s East River.

Israel and the US were among the few countries opposing these moves, arguing that unilateral moves ostensibly advancing Palestinian statehood were counterproductive to efforts to reach a lasting peace agreement.

Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador, hailed the fact that his delegation will soon preside over one of the largest blocs as a diplomatic success.

“They’re still denying we are a state,” Mansour said, referring to Israel and the US. “We walk like a state. We quack like a state. Therefore we are a state.”



Syria says response to fighter jet’s downing ‘will come soon enough’ — report

A Syrian official warned Tuesday night that his country will respond “soon enough” to the IDF shooting down a regime fighter jet after it entered Israel’s airspace, according to a Lebanese news site.

“Damascus is in no hurry to enter a war with Israel,” the unnamed source told El Nashra, but added that “the response to the downing of the jet will come soon enough.”

The official claimed Israel supports “terrorist centers” in southern Syria and shot down the jet to stop the regime’s operations against them.

The first step of the Syrian response would be to complete operations against those centers, he said. Afterwards “the direct response to the Israeli forces will come at the appropriate time.”

The third part of the response would be to “foil any attempt to push Syria’s allies away from the (border) area.”

Israel said it shot down the Sukhoi-model jet with a pair of Patriot missiles Tuesday after it entered some two kilometers inside Israel territory in the Golan Heights. The plane crashed inside Syria, reportedly killing its pilot.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Israel tried to contact the pilot several times but received no response, and so proceeded to intercept.

According to the Ynet news site, Russia protested Israel’s actions, with officials claiming the fighter had not breached Israeli airspace as Jerusalem has claimed. Israel subsequently provided them with a clear radar image proving its assertion, the report said.

The Kan public broadcaster reported that Israel had warned Moscow of the potential of military “spillover” into Israel as the regime’s forces continue to advance against rebel forces in the border area.

Kan reported that the IDF has filed a complaint with UNDOF, the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights, over the jet incident. Though Israel believes the fighter pilot likely made a navigational error while carrying out bombing runs against rebel-held areas, officials still view the incident as a serious breach of Israeli sovereignty, it said.

The IDF is on “elevated alert” along the northern border because of the fighting on the Syrian side of the fence, military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.

Danon said Israel seeks “no escalation in the region” but will protect its border.

“Israel will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty — not from Syria, not from Gaza, not from any other enemy that threatens our security,” he said.

Syrian rebels surrendered their last pockets in the southwestern Quneitra and Daraa provinces last week, leading thousands of opposition fighters, their families and other civilians to evacuate to the rebel-held province of Idlib in northern Syria.

On Tuesday, government forces reached the border fence where a UN peacekeeping force is deployed at the edge of the Golan Heights for the first time since 2011, when an uprising swept through Syria against President Bashar Assad.

Minutes before the reported downing of the jet, Syria’s state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV was broadcasting footage from the fence demarcating the UN buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. A UN observer post could be seen just on the other side of the fence. The camera showed an Israeli post 400 meters (440 yards) away.



Western Wall stone that fell near worshiper removed with crane

A stone block that dislodged from the Western Wall in Jerusalem earlier in the week, plunging to the ground where it narrowly missed a praying woman, was removed Wednesday.

Authorities used a crane to lift and move the stone, estimated to weigh over 100 kilograms, to the adjacent area of the Mughrabi Gate into the Temple Mount.

Hadashot TV news reported that in the coming days the rabbi of the Western Wall, the two chief rabbis of Israel, and the rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem will hold discussions on what to do with the stone, which, due to its history, is considered a sacred object.

One option is to return the block to its place, if possible.

The stone tumbled Monday morning onto the egalitarian prayer platform, near Robinson’s Arch. The rock, whose fall was captured by security camera footage, landed very close to a female worshiper there, damaging the platform on which she was praying but leaving her unscathed.

Officials blocked public access to the prayer platform, but is was later reopened.

Checks are still underway to find out why the block suddenly fell from its place. The Israel Antiques Authority is of the opinion that the stone’s fall was due to natural causes. Teams of experts are planning to use ultrasound and other means to further investigate the incident.

Amit Ram, an archaeologist from the Jerusalem division of the IAA, assessed that water seepage, roots from bushes or trees on the other side of the wall, or just the result of bearing the weight for so long may have caused the stone to dislodge.

Ram also noted that a water gutter had been carved into the wall beneath the place where the stone was positioned, apparently loosening it.

“The IAA sees the event as a wake-up call, and even an opportunity,” he said. “Tomorrow another stone can fall in any site in the Old City, and we think it is time to carry out a thorough treatment of all the archaeological sites in the city.”

The work, he said, should be done as soon as possible, while “taking into account the religious sentiments.”

The mixed prayer area, Ram said, should be reopened for use in the coming weeks. He noted that as a general rule, the Western Wall is checked for safety once or twice a year. However, a much more comprehensive assessment should be carried out, he urged.

The Western Wall is revered by Jews as a remnant of a wall supporting the Second Temple complex, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

The area below the prayer platform is littered with other large hewn boulders, apparently remnants of the wall pried loose by the Romans during the Temple’s destruction 2,000 years ago.



Canada: Israel’s role in rescuing white helmet volunteers ‘indispensable’

Israel’s role was “indispensable” in saving the lives of the White Helmet rescue workers and their families, Canada’s Deputy Head of Mission Anthony Hinton told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“From Canada’s perspective, Israel’s role was indispensable… there was no way to save these Syrians without Israel’s coordination, collaboration and leadership,” Hinton, who was acting ambassador during the operation, said in a telephone interview.

“The IDF were the ones who made it happen on the ground,” he stressed.  While the original plan had been to bring the 800 White Helmets and their families directly to Jordan, in the end only 98 White Helmet rescue workers and 324 of their family members crossed into Israel from southern Syria on Saturday night and were then bused into Jordan.

A report by Canada’s Globe and Mail on Tuesday said that one of the group’s leaders, Raed Salah, met with Canada’s Istanbul-based special envoy to Syria Robin Wettlaufer, and pleaded to mobilize a rescue effort to save them before it was too late.

What followed was an unprecedented operation that was in the works for two weeks after Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland approached her NATO counterparts on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11.

According to Hinton, both Israel and Jordan were approached right away and did not hesitate to play a role in the operation, which lasted several hours in the dark of night.

Nimrod Barkan, Israel’s ambassador to Ottawa, told The Globe and Mail that when he was approached by Freeland “there was no disagreement. We saw eye-to-eye with her.”

Israel’s military said the “exceptional humanitarian gesture” came following the request of the Canada, the United States and European countries and in accordance with the directives of the political echelon.

While Israel’s role in rescuing the Syrian White Helmets was applauded across the international community, an official statement released by the group on Monday failed to acknowledge Israel’s role in the rescue.

“Israel’s actions speak loud and clear,” Hinton said. “Without their role in this operation we would not have been able to save their lives.”

Reconciliation deals negotiated between the regime and rebels in southwestern Syria offered a truce to fighters and civilians, but no truce was being offered to White Helmet workers or anyone affiliated with them.

“The White Helmets have been heroic and very committed to saving lives of civilians during the civil war in Syria and their owns lives are at risk right now. They are viewed by Russia and the regime as terrorists because they have documented the atrocities of the regime,” Hinton told The Post.

The White Helmets feared their fate if captured, saying in the statement that the “trapped volunteers… would otherwise have faced detention or death at the hands of the Syrian regime and its ally Russia.”

“The targeting of the White Helmets by the Syrian regime has been systematic and well documented,” adding that 251 volunteers have been killed since the group’s formation.

The Syrian government criticized the evacuation as a “criminal operation” that “exposed the true nature of the organization known as the White Helmets.”



Abbas doubles down on martyrs, prisoner’s payments

“We will never stop paying the families of the martyrs and the prisoners, despite the efforts to prevent us from doing so,” said Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

He vowed that he would not cut payments to families of terrorists despite an Israeli law punishing his government for doing so.

Abbas warned that “even if we only have a penny left, we are going to first put it toward these payments.”

The Knesset recently enacted a law on to financially penalize the P.A. for paying stipends to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and their families. The law allows Israel to withhold various tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians as a means of pressuring the P.A. to stop this practice, which has been referred to as “pay to slay.”

Israel has long pushed for the Palestinians to halt the stipends and has said the practice encourages violence. Among the beneficiaries are families of suicide-bombers and other terrorists involved in deadly attacks.

The stipends total approximately $330 million, or roughly 7 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s $5 billion budget in 2018.

Abbas’s statement on Tuesday was made at a meeting with activists promoting the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Abbas said the prisoners of those who “martyred” themselves for the Palestinian cause were the stars of the struggle against Israel, and that’s why they and their families must remain a top priority.

Abbas recalled the late Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat’s decision to establish an organization to take care of families of prisoners, saying this was one of the first things he did as a Palestinian activist. Abbas went on to award released prisoners honorary medals.



Inflating Palestinian refugee numbers?

Members of Congress are demanding to see a report that could change the entire Middle East political picture by answering one simple question: Has the attempt to produce a solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem been predicated on inflating the number of Palestinian refugees?  And in addition, has the answer been hidden to fuel a multi-billion dollar political agenda, one which gives the Palestinians the upper-hand in peace negotiations?

The report was compiled under the Obama administration in 2015 but was immediately classified. According to a report in the Washington Free Beacon published in January, that report is still being kept under wraps by the State Department. A Freedom of Information Act request, a lawsuit, and a letter from 51 members of Congress to Donald Trump have all tried to convince President Trump to declassify the report. U.S. lawmakers are demanding to see it due to the implications concerning the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The report is all of five pages long and its basis is simple. In normal parlance, a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country and cannot return because of persecution, war or violence. When Israel declared itself a nation in 1948, an estimated 700,000 Arabs fled the newly-formed state. Approximately 750,000-850,000 Jews either fled or were expelled from Arab countries at around the same time, although they were absorbed into Israel.

When the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was established in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, the definition of ‘refugee’ was expanded to include all patrilineal descendants of any Arab that had lived in Israel for at least two years prior to being displaced by Israel’s War of  Independence in 1948. As a result of this open-ended inherited refugee status, the number of Palestinian refugees has grown and UNRWA now claims there are an estimated 5.3 million registered patrilineal descendants of the original “Palestine refugees.”

According to the report in the Washington Free Beacon, the report hidden away by the State Department determines the number of Palestinian refugees who personally fled Israel as per the normal definition of the term ‘refugee,’ at around 20,000.

It has also been criticized for prolonging the UNRWA’s raison d’etre and swelling its pool of recipients. UNRWA is a big business. It is the United Nations’ largest agency. It is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and its recipients receive more than twice the per capita aid of any other refugees. The UNHCR formed in 1950, is the main organization through which the world’s other refugees are aided. The UNHCR has a specific mandate to aid its refugees to eliminate their refugee status by local integration in current country, resettlement in a third country or repatriation.

By remaining under the auspices of the UNRWA, the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is artificially prolonged. The Palestinian Authority insists on the right of return for all 5.3 million of UNRWA Palestinians as a precondition to negotiations. This would be demographic suicide for Israel, a country of 6.5 million Jews.

To prevent this, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu recently called for UNRWA to be abolished and for the Palestinian refugees to fall under the auspices of the UNHCR.

U.S. lawmakers are demanding to see the report because they have their own questions concerning UNRWA. The U.S. has given an estimated $4.8 billion to UNRWA since 1950.

Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-TX) told the Free Beacon that access to the report was necessary for Congress to provide oversight for American taxpayers.

“UNRWA lashes out against America and engages in anti-semitic incitement. Hamas terrorists use UNRWA facilities to target Israeli civilians,” Cruz was reported as saying. “The American people deserve to see this reported State Department assessment, so Congress and the administration can have a transparent and productive debate about America’s role in the organization.”

“The American people deserve to see the numbers inside the State Department assessment,” Cruz  told Emily Benedek of Algemeiner last week, “so Congress and the Administration can have a transparent and productive debate about America’s role in the organization.”



Will all the world join to praise God?

In a manner that is meant to prepare the entire planet for receiving God on the Jewish New Year, a concert is due to be held in six weeks on the eve of the anniversary of the world’s creation, bringing together people from around the world to focus on Jerusalem.

The nascent Sanhedrin and the Mikdash (Temple) Educational Center are organizing the World Creation Concert due to be held on September 3 at the Jerusalem Archaeological Park – Davidson Center and the Hulda gates adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem. September 3 correlates to the eve of the 23rd day of the Hebrew month of Elul which, according to Seder Olam Rabba written by Rabbi Yose Ben Halafta in the 2nd Century CE, is the anniversary of the eve of the first day of creation, 5779 years ago. When Adam and Eve were created six days later, it was on the first day of Tishrei – Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year.

“We have arranged it so that anyone, anywhere in the world, can join in,” Mordechai Persoff who established the Mikdash Educational Center, told Breaking Israel News. “According to Jewish tradition, creation began at the even shtiya (foundation stone), the stone in the heart of the Jewish Temple that stood on the Temple Mount. This is the lowest common denominator, the time and the place that everything in creation has in common. We will all join together in song in a way that transcends religion and nationality, praising our Creator.”

Rabbi Hillel Weiss, spokesman for the Sanhedrin, initially conceived of the concert as a way to heal the world from the multitude of today’s global threats. As such, he has extended invitations to representatives from every nation including the Arab world and several people who would represent Iran.

“It is important that we transcend all borders and all boundaries in order to join everyone together in a universal prayer,” Rabbi Weiss said to Breaking Israel News. “This is not religious: it transcends religion.”

“For perhaps the first time in history, there are multiple threats that stand ready to end all of life and all of creation: the climate, earthquakes and volcanoes, wars that can destroy the world in a few moments,” Rabbi Weiss said. “This is precisely the time and place to bring everyone together in one song praising God. Jerusalem, whose name contains [the word] peace, is the only place this can happen. Every element in the Temple has a counterpart in creation and prayer at the Temple sustained creation. It was a House of Prayer for all Nations and since the Temple has been lacking, all of creation has suffered.”

In a manner reminiscent of the Jewish Temple, prayer will be segregated by gender with women and men praying separately.

Persoff suggested an image that illustrates how the concert could improve what he calls “global health.”

“It’s like a heart that is at the very center and when it is healthy, it sends this out to the entire body,” Persoff said. “Jerusalem has been covered in a diseased layer of lies and conflict. This is going to fix that, fix the heart and heal the world.”

The concert is quickly gathering interest from unexpected sources. Juan Orlando Hernández, the President of Honduras, has committed to attending the event. Marcos Yax, deputy of the congress of Guatemala, will represent his country at the event. While discussing it with Rabbi Weiss, he became very excited when they discussed the prospect of the Mayans singing praises to God from the mountains of his country as a unique part of this universal effort.

To facilitate the universal aspect of the concert, the organizers have arranged several different manners for people to participate. A limited number of tickets are available to attend in person. Several television stations around the world will broadcast the event live. If this is unavailable, people can obtain a link to the live broadcast for a small fee on the concert’s website.

But the most interesting option is available free of charge. People can sign up to be what the organizers refer to as “Points of Praise.” Individuals and organizations can sign up as representatives of a local group of like-minded friends and families who will gather and watch the live broadcast together online. Their goal is simply to have God be praised by all nations around the world.

Pastor David Decker, is an Evangelical Christian who has lived in Israel continuously since 1980, was appointed to organize the North American Points of Praise.

“This is an opportunity for all the nations to bring their unique rhythms and melodies together in harmony, with the Nation of Israel serving as the choirmaster,” Decker told Breaking Israel News. “The reaction has been overwhelming. Not only have several politicians reserved seats but Christian leaders have contacted us.”

He has already set up several dozen Points. People who are interested in setting up a Point of Praise need to contact Decker via the website.

“We need to connect with everyone to ensure there will be no attempts to pervert the event, to make a disgrace or try to turn it into an opportunity to proselytize or promote a specific religious belief,” Decker said. “Since the connection with the points will be two-way, we request that each person shows up identifying with the flag of their nation, as a representative of their nation, and not as a representative of their religion. To ensure this, I need to connect with each group personally.”