FM Liberman: Ultimately, the aim of all Islamic terror is one and the same: the destruction of Western civilization. Hence, just as we cannot negotiate with ISIS, we cannot negotiate with Hamas
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman met on Wednesday evening (17 September 2014) in Washington D.C. with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Minister Liberman told Secretary Kerry that Israel deeply appreciates America's support during Operation Protective Edge and that the Israeli leadership and people know that the United States is Israel's greatest friend. FM Liberman asked Secretary Kerry to have the State Department's travel warning to Israel changed in the wake of the end of Operation Protective Edge, so that American citizens will know that there is no reason not to visit Israel, and they will not be in any danger.
FM Liberman told Secretary Kerry that Israel supports the United States in its efforts to form a broad international front against ISIS, and stands ready to help in this task should it be asked, taking into consideration the sensitivities of the states taking part and the needs of the United States.
Minister Liberman noted that the war against terror, in all its forms, is the most important taks of the free world today. We cannot differentiate one form of terror from another. The Hamas terrorist activities against Israel and against the people of Gaza are no different from the terror of ISIS. The difference is only semantic and in the media approach adopted by the organizations. Ultimately, the aim of all Islamic terror is one and the same: the destruction of Western civilization. Hence, just as we cannot negotiate with ISIS, we cannot negotiate with Hamas. As long as Hamas rules in Gaza, there will not be peace or security. Anyone who seeks to advance an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must bring an end to the rule of terror within the Palestinian Authority.
FM Liberman also told Secretary Kerry that the need to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state is part of the same struggle, because Iran is the number one exporter of terror in the world. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, the world will be a much more dangerous place and the Middle East will enter a nuclear arms race that will convulse the region even more than today. The world powers must stand firm in their negotiations with Iran and continue the sanctions, because there can be no compromise with terrorism.
FM Liberman meets US Secretary Kerry in Washington
Ahead of the upcoming holidays (24 September-17 October), the National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau offers the following updated travel warnings.
There is – at this time – an increasing potential threat as a result of the recent Operation Protective Edge during which there were many demonstrations at Israeli embassies and consulates around the world. There has also been an increase in anti-Semitic incidents. These trends are likely to continue during the holiday period.
In the wake of the 4 May terrorist attack at the Jewish museum in Brussels, there is concern over additional attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, especially in Western Europe, by global jihad elements (including ISIS), specifically by fighters returning home from Syria and Iraq.
The global terrorist campaign by Iran and Hezbollah continues to threaten Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, especially "soft" targets, i.e. tourists and Jewish symbols (rabbis, community leaders, Chabad houses).
Please note that a severe travel warning remains in effect for the Sinai Peninsula (see below).
It is unlawful for Israelis to travel to Syria, Iraq (including Iraqi Kurdistan), Iran, Lebanon, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
There are very high concrete threats regarding travel to the aforesaid countries as well as Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan and Somalia. It is recommended that the public avoid all visits to these countries. Any Israelis present in these countries are advised to leave immediately.
There are high concrete threats regarding travel to Algeria, Burkina-Faso, Djibouti, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Pakistan, Togo and Tunisia. It is recommended that the public avoid visits to these countries. Any Israelis present in these countries are advised to leave as soon as possible.
There are basic concrete threats regarding travel to Bahrain, Egypt (see below for Sinai), Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. It is recommended that the public avoid visiting these countries.
There are continuing potential threats regarding travel to Azerbaijan, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman and Turkey. It is recommended that the public avoid non-essential visits to these countries.
There are very high concrete threats regarding travel to southern Thailand (from the Krabi-Thammarat line to the Malaysian border), the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, Chechnya (in Russia), the northern India state of Jammu and Kashmir (except for the Ladakh area), the Sinai peninsula and northern Nigeria (above 10 degrees north latitude). It is recommended that the public avoid visits to these regions. Any Israelis present in these regions are advised to leave as soon as possible.
There is a high concrete threat regarding travel to eastern Senegal. It is recommended that the public avoid visiting this region. Any Israelis present in this region are advised to leave as soon as possible.
There is a basic concrete threat regarding travel to Kenya (Nairobi and the coastal strip). It is recommended that the public avoid visiting these areas.
Travelers and tourists are called upon to exercise due caution at all times.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Sunday, 14 September 2014), met with an Israel Bonds leadership delegation and said:
"ISIS and Hamas and al-Qaeda and al-Nusra and Boko Haram and Hezbollah, supported by Iran - they're branches of the same poisonous tree. It's the same ideology with minor nuances. What's the great difference between ISIS and Hamas? The great difference, supposedly, between ISIS and Hamas is that those, the former lop heads off and the others shoot people in the head. We have been notified today of another act of savagery from ISIS and I send our condolences to the people of Britain. We understand what kind of barbarism they face. We also understand that we have great tasks for defending our country as a result of these dangers that are enveloping our region. We need a very strong defense. We need a strong army, but we also need a strong economy. And the balance of the two is one of the great tasks that we have before us and I intend to have both: A strong defense and a strong economy."
Following is an excerpt from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks this evening (Sunday, 14 September 2014), at Tel Aviv University, at the 4th International Cybersecurity Conference:
"Thanks to the responsibility with which we have led the Israeli economy in recent years Israel has not reached the places that many Western economies – which used to be stronger than ours – have reached, and we must continue this responsible policy.
The State of Israel needs a responsible budget that answers the security threats directed at us and which will not adversely affect the Israeli economy. We need funds for Iron Dome in order to deal with ISIS in the east, Hezbollah and Al Qaida in the north and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the south. The billions that we decided to invest in the economy, or to be more precise, in defense in recent years, saved the Israeli economy. The billions that we invested in thousands of Iron Dome interceptors enabled the Israeli economy to continue to function during the recent campaign and prevented the flight of investments from Israel. The billions that we invested in the fence in the south completely blocked illegal migration into the State of Israel as well as the jihadists from Sinai, which was a clear threat to the economy, society and state.
I remember that there was criticism of the seemingly excessive expenditures that we were investing in defense and I do not want to think what would have happened to the Israeli economy, to the State of Israel, if we hadn't made these investments. Now, in the face of new and growing threats in our region, we need to significantly increase the defense budget, with additional billions, and this is important, many billions.
I think that it is within our power to meet all of these challenges as long as we do so responsibly and do not lead Israel into an out-of-control deficit, with an out-of-control international overdraft.
Our challenges are many. They include the highest threat, the nuclearization of Iran or its ability to produce nuclear weapons in a short time, terrorist threats and an additional threat – the threat of delegitimization. And this threat will, unfortunately, not only feed off a global campaign but from elements within our midst.
I would like to make it clear that refusal of any kind deserves the fullest condemnation. The political use that was recently made, including the voicing of baseless accusations, is unacceptable. The IDF, in all of its units, is the most moral army in the world. It carries out the missions that we assign to it in the best way possible in order to guard the security of the State of Israel.
I would like to say, in this forum that, based on my many years of familiarity with Unit 8200, I know that the baseless accusations that have been made recently will not harm its very important work on behalf of the security of the State of Israel and I say to them – carry on."
Photo : GPO/Avi Oyahon
A violinist undergoing brain surgery to suppress tremor symptoms at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center returned to playing the violin for the first time in twenty years - while the surgery was being performed
Musician patient plays the violin during brain surgery.
A monumental event took place this week in the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center operating room. Naomi Elishuv, a professional violinist, formerly with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Givatayim Conservatorium of Music (in greater Tel Aviv), granted the surgical team a private performance while undergoing deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery to suppress her essential tremor symptoms, a condition that she suffered from for 20 years.
"My greatest love was playing the violin, but unfortunately, until today, I have had to make do with teaching. My tremor prevented me from playing professionally, and this was very difficult for a woman such as myself, who was used to playing her entire life," Elishuv explained before she entered the operating room.
Professor Yitzhak Fried, the Director of Functional Neurosurgery, who operated on Elishuv this morning, explained the procedure.
"We implanted and positioned a brain pacemaker with electrodes in the area of the brain disturbance, which emits impulses to suppress the tremor that was disturbing Elishuv's daily functioning. The operation was performed under local anesthesia. In order to place the electrode in the optimal location, we wanted her active participation in real-time, so we asked Elishuv to play the violin during the surgery. During the procedure, she did not feel pain because these areas of the brain do not feel pain.
Fried continued, "In the first phase, before the operation, I did stereotactic planning, which enabled me to identify the exact optimal brain location, within millimeters. That is where I implanted the electrode.
"The surgery was performed via a minute hole in the skull, through which the 1.3-millimeter electrode was inserted. The electrode was implanted precisely in the thalamus region of the brain, and more specifically, in the ventralis intermedius nucleus – or VIM – which is one of the brain's movement centers. In the second phase of the procedure, we did an electrophysiological mapping of the cells in the area of the disturbance, which gave us an indication of the precise problem location. I performed electrical stimulation in the center of the disturbed area and asked Elishuv to report any side effects caused by the stimulation. And, indeed, when we activated the stimulation in the exact location, we found that the tremor disappeared and Elishuv continued to play Mozart—with great emotion, but without the tremor or side effects," Fried remarked enthusiastically.
"I could not continue any longer in my 20-year tremor state; I can't wait to return to normal life," Elishuv said excitedly. "I want to play, sign my name, and drink tea without spilling it, and I am only sorry that I just now discovered this surgery," Elishuv summed up.
Prof. Fried adds, "This is the first time that I have operated on a patient who played an instrument during surgery, and I am so pleased that we had the opportunity to enjoy a private concert from a most talented and honorable musician. I hope that Elishuv will return to performing and that many more people will delight in her talents."
Photo :Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center
THE WHITE HOUSE
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON ISIL
THE PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda's leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We've targeted al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We've done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.
Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We can't erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. And that's why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL – which calls itself the "Islamic State."
Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not "Islamic." No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria's civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.
In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. And in acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists – Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.
So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East – including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners – including Europeans and some Americans – have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.
I know many Americans are concerned about these threats. Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then, we've conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq. These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. These strikes have also helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. And that's why I've insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.
Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.
First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we're hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.
Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces. Now that those teams have completed their work – and Iraq has formed a government – we will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission – we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We'll also support Iraq's efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL's control.
Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria's crisis once and for all.
Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into – and out of – the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.
Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.
So this is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity. And in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: We stand with people who fight for their own freedom, and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.
My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL, but I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.
Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved – especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America's core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.
My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks six years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks, through the pain we felt and the grueling work required to bounce back, America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.
Our technology companies and universities are unmatched. Our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it's been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day – and that makes me more confident than ever about our country's future.
Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples' right to determine their own destiny. It is America – our scientists, our doctors, our know-how – that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria's declared chemical weapons so that they can't pose a threat to the Syrian people – or the world – again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future.
America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia – from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East, we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform – pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service-members who support our partners on the ground.
When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here's what one of them said: "We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people."
That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety, our own security, depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation and uphold the values that we stand for – timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.
May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Wednesday, 10 September 2014), met with Bank of Israel Governor Dr. Karnit Flug ahead of the launch of the new NIS 50 note and told her at the start of the meeting, "In order for this note to retain its value, we must guard both security and the economy. I very much appreciate your seriousness and professionalism and of the Bank of Israel staff in maintaining the stability of the Israeli economy. This is one of our two missions. We must increase the security budget due to Operation Protective Edge and guard the economy, and these items meet in the deficit which we can control and which will not topple us. This will be our policy and thus we will act, together."
Bank of Israel Governor Dr. Flug replied, "I am pleased to hear these remarks and I thank you. The new NIS 50 note bears the likeness of Shaul Tchernikovsky. It is unique both in its design and in its security technology, among the most advanced in the world. I thank the Prime Minister for supporting the process and am pleased to present the new NIS 50 note to the citizens of Israel."
For years, M, a 14 year old boy from Gaza, had suffered from kidney failure. Recently, the youth's doctor informed his family that without a transplant, the boy's life would be at great risk. Exacerbating his condition, M's blood also coagulated too easily, reducing the chance of a successful transplant. Against all odds, with the donation of a kidney from his sister, Rambam doctors saved the boy's life.
To stay alive, patients who suffer from kidney failure require a transplant. When that problem is intensified by excessive blood coagulation, they need a great deal of luck too.
One such patient was 14-year old M. He urgently needed a kidney transplant, but his blood condition had obstructed all blood vessels in his groin except the one vein through which he received dialysis. This significantly lowered chances for a successful transplantation.
Doctors explained to M's family that it was only a matter of time before the final vein would also clog up, preventing dialysis and greatly threatening the boy's life. To save him, his sister decided to donate a kidney.
Eight years ago, the boy had received a kidney donation from his brother, but the transplant, performed in Egypt, failed immediately. In light of this situation, Rambam doctors made it clear to the family that M's chances for success were especially low. Despite this, his sister insisted upon the donation.
Considering the state of M's blood vessels, the doctors were faced with a great challenge. In a regular transplant, doctors remove the donor's kidney and then connect it to the recipient's blood vessels. In M's case, the doctors feared they wouldn't find healthy blood vessels that could feed the transplanted kidney.
As a result, the doctors worked 'in reverse': first, they operated on M and checked for useable blood vessels. Finding a few, they then removed one of his sister's kidneys and transplanted it in within M.
To compensate for all the blocked veins, M's body had developed a system of bypass veins. Shortly after surgery, it became apparent that this collateral network could not stand up to the demands of the transplant.
Two hours after leaving the OR, the youth was returned there. Examinations revealed that all vascular connections performed by Rambam doctors were working, but M's own blood vessels were not sustaining the transplanted kidney.
The Rambam medical staff had never been confronted with such a situation before. "It was a nightmare scenario," said Dr. Ran Steinberg, head of Pediatric Surgery. To solve the problem, the doctors implanted a synthetic connector between the vein exiting the kidney and the one that exits the liver.
This innovation worked and M's body was able to function with the new kidney. After an eight-month stay in Rambam, the boy recently went home to Gaza, and will return for periodic check-ups.
"There are no words to describe the excitement of triumphing in an impossible situation. Not everyone believed we would succeed," said Dr. Steinberg. "As soon as M started to recover, our doctors' smiles returned. M is a great kid and he will be able to enjoy the regular life of any child his age."
Photo is available at this link:
"Without a diplomatic process, without a real vision for the direction of the State of Israel, this operation will be yet another round of fighting."
"The world is undergoing rapid change...This is a moment of opportunity and we should take advantage of it to separate from the Palestinians and establish relations with the Arab world."
"The real war today is between the sane and the insane. Radical Islam is out of control. It is as dangerous for Abu Mazen and for the moderate Arab states as it is for us."
Operation Protective Edge was longer than the Second Lebanon War, more violent than Operation Cast Lead and had a higher number of casualties than Operation Pillar of Defense. But it wasn't different to them in substance. Without a diplomatic process, without a real vision for the direction of the State of Israel, it is yet another round of fighting. There have been others before, there will be others after.
That is something we cannot accept. It isn't acceptable for the residents of southern Israel. It doesn't provide us with the security we deserve. The social and economic strength of the country was damaged. The approach that says there can be no rehabilitation of Gaza without demilitarization was put to one side with the claim that it's impossible to achieve.
This is a moment of opportunity and we should take advantage of it to separate from the Palestinians and establish relations with the Arab world.
The role of the leadership is not to delay and delay. There won't come a moment when all the problems will suddenly be solved. There won't come a moment when everything will solve itself. We need to reach a regional solution and within that framework create a demilitarized Palestinian state – including a disarmed Gaza – alongside the State of Israel. A solution will include strict security arrangements as well as normalization and cooperation with the moderate Arab states including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.
Anyone who thinks it is a vision that is too far reaching should read the words of the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud Al-Faisal on August 21st. At the peak of the operation in Gaza he called for coexistence with Israel, the end of hatred towards the Jewish state and he placed the responsibility for the conflict squarely on Hamas.
I have no illusions about the Arab world. They don't love us. They see us as a foreign insert in the Middle East. But the struggle has changed. The real war today is between the sane and the insane. Radical Islam is out of control. It is as dangerous for Abu Mazen and for the moderate Arab states as it is for us. In a break from the past, they are saying it loudly and clearly.
Operation Protective Edge cannot end with a temporary ceasefire during which we sit and wait for the next time they begin firing at us. Instead, we must first return our relations with the United States to what they were. They continue to support us, militarily and diplomatically – from "hellfire" missiles to vetoing resolutions at the UN Security Council. But the moment is getting near when they will have enough of waking up in the morning and hearing that we annexed 1000 acres in Gush Etzion and published tenders for hundreds of housing units without even notifying them. I support strengthening the settlement blocs but in my conversations with sources from other governments I hear the same thing again and again, "this isn't how friends behave."
Instead of fighting with them, we should recruit them and work towards a regional conference in which we explain to the world that Israel's security will always be in Israel's hands, but we are ready to separate from the Palestinians and be part of the coalition against Islamic terrorism.
From the disconnected fantasy of a 'new middle east' to a new alliance of shared interests, I prefer an alliance of interests. We are not looking for friendship and fellowship with the Palestinians, but a diplomatic solution which will allow us to achieve the demilitarization of Gaza and the creation of a joint front with the Arab world against the insanity of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
This hasn't happened because after each of the past operations we ensure that following the military stage, we acted upon a clear diplomatic vision. We came, we fought, we won and then we wasted that victory.
Terror creates death and destruction, but it cannot defeat us. Terror didn't defeat us even after the deaths of 1,178 in the Second Intifada. We have the strongest military in the Middle East, we have accurate intelligence like never before and we must pursue the heads of terrorist organizations wherever in the world they are and bring them to justice. We must also set out on a far more determined fight against the sources of funding for terror. If we can cut off their funding, they will not be able to re-arm and their ability to operate will be limited.
Terror in English means fear, if you want to talk about fear then fear the economics, the social, the enduring sense of suffocation of Israeli citizens who serve in the reserves, pay their taxes and ask themselves 'where is this all going?' That can be the the only success of the terror aimed towards us, the fissure that is causing within us.
Because the truly worrying thing is the steady erosion; the erosion of our relations with the United States. The erosion of the public discourse. The erosion of our trade relations. Look around you. Look at Egypt, look at the Arab World, and look at Eastern Europe. Terror exists everywhere but what tears countries apart is when the economy is damaged and society loses its internal unity.
The dominant thesis of the past years, of many in the political system, is that the fear from Hezbollah, from Hamas, from Iran is the glue that holds together Israeli society. In the absence of a genuine dialogue on values, the only thing that connects us all is the fact that we are all paranoid together.
To defeat terror we need to do two things: The first is to arm, to prepare and to never diminish our state of readiness. To remember that there are actors with whom we can never negotiate except through the barrel of the gun or better still the optic sight of a guided missile.
The second thing is to set forth the alternative. To build a coalition of sanity. To create the regional table in which we are a part of the fight against terror and our intelligence is part of the regional effort against the Islamic State, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda. A diplomatic solution will create an alternative to the anarchy which allows Hamas to flourish. As part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, recognized by the international community including the Arab states, Hamas will become the rebellious actor in a legal government, and that government will have to deal with them.
The diplomatic process is stuck. The regional conference is the only idea currently on the table. The Prime Minister must know this; if he goes to a regional conference he will receive strong political support from us which will allow him to deal with the restrictions being placed upon him by the extreme right.
We are after a long and complex military operation and before a budget which we need to pass. The two are connected. A diplomatic process is also an engine of economic growth which will bring investors from across the world, open new markets and bring economic opportunities which all Israelis will benefit from. On the other hand, if someone thinks that I will pass a budget which once again damages the middle class in the service of diplomatic paralysis – then they don't understand why I entered political life.
We have the opportunity to bring to the Knesset and the government a budget which does not include tax increases, which will provide opportunities for growth, increase the disposable income of the middle class, increase support for those at the lowest end of the socio-economic spectrum, create a real process of support for small businesses, bring down the cost of housing and jumpstart industry. This is a good start but diplomatic paralysis will force us to continue to choose between security and economy, and it will lead us to have less security and a weaker economy.
We are faced with a threat and an opportunity. We must face the threats but we cannot allow the opportunity to slip through our fingers. We must take advantage of it and secure diplomatic accomplishments which will secure long the achievements of the military conflict for the long term, bring security to the residents of the south, create new alliances between us and the Arab world and create for Israel a future which its citizens can understand and truly believe in.
President Reuven Rivlin, this morning (Sunday, 7 September 2014), at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, met with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende and told him at the start of their meeting, "I would like to welcome you once again to our state and to the region. We appreciate very much your concern and your idea to come to us once again and the appreciation goes with the understanding that you are very much worried about the situation with the people of Gaza."
President Rivlin added that, "The reconstruction of Gaza is one of our interests as much as it is of the all the free world. The rehabilitation and reconstruction of Gaza should go along with the demilitarization of Gaza because otherwise we can see the next round in no time because the Hamas people once again will spend all the money that the whole world is trying to help them with in order to reconstruct Gaza, and will put it into military aims and the ability to attack Israel once again. We can come to a dead-end once again and we could find ourselves in a very, very serious situation." The President concluded his remarks by saying, "I very much appreciate the idea that you are trying to help all those people who need humanitarian help."
Norwegian Foreign Minister Brende thanked President Rivlin for his kind words and said, "I know that this has been a very difficult summer for Israel. I was here in July and I saw this. It has been tough on Israel and tough on the Palestinian people." He added, "I know now that there are important negotiations on a more permanent ceasefire and the conditions in Gaza under Egyptian leadership and I think that this is important." The Norwegian Foreign Minister also said, "We cannot discuss the Israel and Palestinian situations without looking at in a broader context," and referred to ISIS and the situation in Iraq.
Below is a copy of a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by Gila and Doron Tregerman, the parents of the late Daniel Tregerman, who was killed in a Hamas mortar attack on his kibbutz (Nahal Oz).
For UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon
My name is Gila, I am an Israeli citizen, and I am a resident of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the border with Gaza.
A week ago, we lost our elder son, Daniel 4.5 yrs old, which was killed by a mortar shell, fired from Gaza into Israel deliberately.
I address you after your announcement to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to establish an international investigation Committee to investigate "Israel's crime" in the recent fighting in Gaza.
About us: Doron and I were married five years ago and we have three amazing kids: Daniel 4.5 yrs, Yoval 3.5 yrs and Uri 4 months old. We were a happy family. We lived in Kibbutz Nahal Oz near Gaza, and found ourselves constantly debating whether not to abandon Nahal Oz and move to another location, quieter, safer, far from rocket fire from Gaza, and far away from the alarms.
Then came the threat of terrorist tunnels, which Hamas members dug from Gaza to Israel under our home to hurt us. At night we heard noises and voices digging beneath us. Thus, in the last six months our children slept with the window closed and locked. We were afraid that they will be kidnapped from us.
Can you imagine our life, Mr. Secretary-General? How do you live in constant fear of mortar shell and terrorists emerging from tunnels?
Then, last Friday [August 22], Daniel was killed. All the precautions that we have taken have failed. Daniel, 4.5 yrs old, was killed in our House, while playing with Yoval in a tent built indoors and not outside, because it's dangerous. He was killed from a mortar shell that was shot by terrorists from Gaza, he died in our hands. Daniel died in front of his little sister and his best friend Yoval, 3.5 years old; he died in front of Uri, only four months old and right before our eyes, his mother and father.
We failed. We couldn't protect our beautiful and talented baby. Daniel was killed from a mortar shell that was fired by Hamas members from an elementary school for boys in Gaza City. It wasn't a stray shell. It wasn't accidental death. From that school terrorists fired deliberately to the kibbutz to murder civilians — children, women, old people. This time they also achieved the goal. Daniel was killed almost immediately. Daniel's father, Doron, covered him with a blanket while crying bitterly and we escaped from home with two small children, leaving our precious son behind, in order to protect them from bombings who continued to explode around the house. Yoval, Daniel's sister saw the terrifying sight and understood that something terrible happened. It is unbearable to watch that little child staring at the wall, in overwhelming silence with teardrops from her eyes.
This week, while the "shiv'ah"(Jewish ritual of mourning) at Doron's parents home, we heard of your decision to appoint an international investigation Committee to investigate "Israel's crime" in the recent fighting in Gaza. You informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu half an hour after our Daniel was killed, perhaps while he was lying dead in our living room, covered in a blanket.
The investigation Committee will examine the "crimes of Israel" during the fighting. The investigation Committeeis not asked to investigate how terrorists shoot out of U.N buildings and schools.
The Committee is not asked to investigate how inside buildings of the United Nations and in hospitals in Gaza terrorist infrastructure flourish and maintain over time, or how from these places terrorist left for activity aimed against innocent people.
It wouldn't investigate how Hamas is abusing the Palestinian people, and how its members impose on residents of Gaza, even on children, digging tunnels aimed only for terrorism against Israel.
It wouldn't investigate how after these excavations carried out under duress and in slave-like conditions, the Hamas murdered the diggers, even the children, just to be sure they won't be able to pass information to Israel.
Why are you silent? Does your silence indicate consent with the abuse of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people?
The answers to these questions will remain unknown.
And I want to ask you, Sir:
Are you and the U.N does not see the links that make up the global terrorism picture?
The terrorists units, fully equipped and full of hatred that attacked us in our homes, are the same units that kidnapped 43 UN observers in Syria; They are the same units that decapitated innocent people in Syria and Iraq; those unites crashed aircrafts into crowded buildings in 2001 in New York; those unites threaten the essence of democratic life, and life itself, in Europe, in the United States and anywhere on the plant.
Let me tell you some more about the history of our lives here, on the border with Gaza. My husband's parents, Doron, also live near the border fence and three and a half years ago a Qassam rocket exploded and destroyed their home.
Up until a few years ago they had good relations with the residents of Gaza. They hired workers from Gaza to work in their fields and Paulina, Daniel's grandmother, drove them home – to Rafah, every evening after work. They use to invite each other for weddings and other celebrations and often traveled to Rafah or Gaza to enjoy life at cafes there.
All that ended when Hamas rise to power and ordered the civilians who worked in Israel, to kill their Israeli employers; otherwise, Hamas would hurt their families. Daniel's grandparents used to tell us this, longing and hoping that the good proximity will resume. They even found ways to maintain contact with their friends from Gaza during the mortar shell. Like the parents of Doron and their friends from Gaza, we want to live in good proximity, in peace and security. It is our hope that our neighbors, the people of Gaza will be able to live peacefully in their homes and build and develop their beautiful country. We believe that the vast majority of the people on this plant do not want to see the sights of blood, tears and fire of the radical Islam movement, but to live peacefully, enjoy kid's laughter, wait for a better tomorrow.
We do not seek the people responsible for our Daniel's death.
We only wish your response and your voice against this crime and the crime Hamas committed against their own people.
Gila and Doron Tregerman
Parents of Daniel (RIP), Yoval and Ori
Nahal Oz, Israel
Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris wore a yellow Star of David badge, like the ones worn by Jews rounded up in the northern city during the Second World War, on Thursday for his swearing-in ceremony.
Boutaris pinned the badge to his jacket amid protest by leftists against the presence of Golden Dawn MP Artemis Matthaiopoulos on the municipal council. Mathaiopoulos gained 7.7 percent of the vote when he stood for Thessaloniki mayor in May's local elections, helping Golden Dawn elect two councillors.
Protesters exchanged chants and insults with Golden Dawn supporters who sat in the opposite public gallery at the municipal council. Boutaris pleaded with both sides to calm down.
"The municipal council is not a coffee house or a soccer stadium," said Boutaris, who prevailed comfortably in May's elections, winning 58.1 percent of the vote in the second round to secure a second term.
His decision to wear the yellow badge carries significant symbolism as almost 90 percent of Thessaloniki's Jews were killed during the Second World War after being transported to Nazi German concentration camps, leaving only some 10,000 survivors.
Following the war in Gaza, mutual interests between Israel and moderate Arab countries create an historic opportunity for a broad regional diplomatic initiative
On 3 September 2014 the Knesset Caucus for Regional Cooperation, headed by MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) held a unique conference on the diplomatic horizon following the war in Gaza. It focused on new prospects to promote peace and regional cooperation.
The conference was carried out in cooperation with Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies and Molad – the Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy.
It took place at the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (Tel Aviv University) with the participation of Members of Knesset, as well as prominent public figures, scholars, analysts, and journalists.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), head of the Knesset Caucus for Regional Cooperation: "The diplomatic horizon promised by Netanyahu is a charade. Netanyahu knows that there is an extraordinary opportunity for a broad diplomatic move in the Middle East, in cooperation with all moderate countries. Such an opportunity may not repeat itself. Alas, Netanyahu is not interested in this opportunity, and is doing whatever he can to jeopardize it, for the sake of his own political survival. By doing so, he is prioritizing narrow political considerations over vital national interests.
"Israel should respond favorably to the Arab Peace Initiative and join forces with the moderates. The reality in the Middle East produces both opportunities and threats. Netanyahu insists to maintain a status quo that does not exist anymore, and by doing so he increases the threats. Another round of violence, in Gaza and perhaps also in the West Bank, is therefore only a matter of time. It might happen sooner rather than later".
Dr. Nimrod Goren, head of the Mitvim Institute: "Israel indeed has new opportunities and a diplomatic horizon in light of recent developments in the Middle East. However, their implementation requires a different Israeli foreign policy, one that prioritizes peace and regional belonging. Israel should agree to negotiate with the Palestinian unity, which Netanyahu called to boycott. Israel should also respond favorably to the regional incentives for peace, which it has officially ignored so far – the Arab Peace Initiative and the more recent EU offer for a Special Privileged Partnership. Without progress towards peace, Israel's standing in the region and in the world is likely to further deteriorate."
Mikhael Manekin, Executive Director of the Molad Center: "Operation Protective Edge was a strategic failure that could have been foreseen in advance. It proved once again the collapse of Netanyahu's conflict management paradigm. Netanyahu believes that the conflict should not be resolved, but rather can be managed for years with relative quiet. Due to the failure of this paradigm, the Israeli left should introduce an alternative paradigm, which will deal with the Israeli public's hopes and fears."
MK Zehava Galon, Chairperson of Meretz: "There is currently no partner for peace in the Israeli government. The Prime Minister is trying to manage the conflict, but in reality – the conflict manages him. The agreement which Netanyahu signed with Hamas should be introduced to the public, in order for us all to understand what lies ahead."
MK Omer Bar-Lev, Labor: "Are we currently facing an opportunity for an Israeli-Palestinian final-status agreement or only for an arrangement regarding Gaza, to be reached with Abbas with the backing of Hamas and other Palestinian fractions. There is consensus within the Israeli society regarding the need for a Gaza arrangement. There is no border dispute there, and there is a strategic opportunity for dismantling and demilitarization Gaza in return for building a sea port and an airport there. Israel should move in that direction, utilizing new regional alliances."
Prof. Elie Podeh, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Mitvim Institute: "Operation Protective Edge triggered changes in the Israeli public opinion. The Israeli public is currently more willing to accept that Mahmoud Abbas is a partner for peace. The looming threats over the region should bring Israel closer to those Arab countries with which it has joint interests. In that regard, the Arab Peace Initiative is a key to Israel's future in the Middle East. Even Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said in the past that the Arab Peace Initiative is an existential threat for Israel, seems today to acknowledge its importance."
Attorney Dov Weisglass, former adviser to Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert: "The peace plan that Ehud Olmert proposed as Prime Minister is acceptable by the Palestinian Authority's leadership. This plan did not lead to a peace agreement due to domestic Israeli politics. Abbas and former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad confronted the threat of Hamas terror from the West Bank in a broader and much more significant manner than did Israel. Should the Israeli public be aware of this information, it can ignite a process leading to political change."
Gen. (Ret.) Gadi Zohar, head of the Council for Peace and Security: "Regional cooperation will not be possible as long as Israel does not address the Palestinian issue. The Israeli left should introduce real solutions to existing security concerns, and such solutions are within reach."
Pope Francis to Shimon Peres:
"We must join forces and act with resolve against the growing threat of terror. Terrorism is the enemy of all religions."
Shimon Peres to Pope Francis:
"Terror organizations justify beheadings with passages from the Quran. We must form an international coalition against terror."
Shimon Peres and Pope Francis met today for a special working meeting at the Vatican. Pope Francis and former President Shimon Peres met following Operation Protective Edge and in light of the security crises unfolding in the Middle East as well as the escalating threat posed by terrorism in the region. Shimon Peres opened the meeting by updating Pope Francis on the grave terror activities Hamas attempted to execute in Israel during the course of Operation Protective Edge. "Hamas' use of schools, hospitals and mosques as launching pads, and its use of human shields, are opposed to all religious beliefs", Peres said underscored that does not target innocents but said that nevertheless "the war on terror is painful and harms innocents on both sides".
Former President Peres outlined the security situation in the Middle East, apprising the Pope of the severe escalating trends of terror in the region, the rise of the Islamic State in Syria, and the threat of Al-Qaeda forces on Israel's northern border. The two leaders discussed the urgent need to take action against terror, incitement, discrimination, and poverty.
Pope Francis noted that "in view of the rise of terror, we must join forces and act with resolve against the growing threat of terror which is an enemy to all religions". Peres replied that in order to lower the flames of terror organizations in the Middle East, we must form a united international front: "Today the Arab world recognizes the growing threat of terror as we do, as well as the extremist activities of the Islamic State and the Islamic Jihad. There are common interests for cooperation between Israel and the Arab world. The Arab world can join forces with Israel, the United States, and the European Union, in the united front against terror in which religious leaders play a pivotal role, led by Your Holiness. Terrorists do not hesitate to use religion for the benefit of the atrocious crimes which they carry out. They take passages from the Quran and justify beheadings and slaying of women and children. We must put an end to it."
The Pope reiterated his support for interfaith cooperation, asserting that faith leaders have a central role in the war on terror and against the use of religion to justify acts of terror. The Pope added that terror violates the freedom of faith and harms all religions.
Excerpt from PM Netanyahu's Remarks at an Event Marking 40 Years since the Establishment of the Israel Police Anti-Terrorist Unit
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Thursday, 4 September 2014), addressed an event marking 40 years since the establishment of the Israel Police Anti-Terrorist Unit. Following is an excerpt from his remarks: "I would like to send condolences to the family of Steven Sotloff who was murdered by ISIS in an act of appalling brutality. Steven was murdered because for the terrorists he was a symbol of the West – the same culture that extremist Islam wants to eradicate. Extremist Islam sees Israel, the US and the free world as partners in liberal democracy, which it would like to see gone from the world. I think that there is the beginning of a certain waking up and today many people around the world understand better than in the past that the threats to Israel are the same threats to them and that whoever does not nip these threats in the bud will, in the end, find them in their own house."
Prime Minister Netanyahu also spoke to the commanders of anti-terrorist units from other countries who had come for this evening's event and told them that we are all fighting the same war. To the personnel of Israel's Anti-Terrorist Unit, the Prime Minister said, "I know that we can count on you. On behalf of all Israelis, thank you."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Thursday, 4 September 2014), mourns the passing of comedy icon Joan Rivers: "Joan Rivers brought laughter to millions around the world and was proud of her Jewish heritage and a vocal supporter of the State of Israel. We will miss her deeply and we send our heartfelt condolences to her family."
About Joan Rivers
Joan Alexandra Rosenberg[ (née Molinsky; June 8, 1933 – September 4, 2014), known by her stage name Joan Rivers, was an American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and television host, best known for her stand-up comedy, for co-hosting the E! celebrity fashion show Fashion Police, and for starring in the reality series Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Bestalongside her daughter Melissa Rivers.
Rivers first came to prominence in 1965 as a guest on The Tonight Show, a pioneering late-night program with interviews and comedy, hosted by Johnny Carson, whom she acknowledged as her mentor. The show established her particular comic style, poking fun at celebrities, but also at herself, often joking about her extensive plastic surgery. When she launched a rival program, The Late Show, he never spoke to her again. She went on to host a successful daytime slot, The Joan Rivers Show, which won her a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host. Her satirical style of humor, however, by focusing on the personal lives of celebrities and public figures, was sometimes criticized. She also authored 12 best-selling memoir and humor books, and provided comic material for stage and television. As an actress, Rivers was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play in 1994 for her performance as Sally Marr in Sally Marr...and her escorts.
Rivers died on September 4, 2014 following serious complications—including cardiac arrest—during a procedure on her vocal cords at a clinic on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
The meeting will take place in the context of the serious security crisis in the Middle East, the increase in terror attacks across the region and the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations
Former President Shimon Peres will depart tomorrow (Thursday 4rd September) to Rome for a special meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican. The meeting will take place in the context of the end of Operation Protective Edge and the increase in terror attacks across the Middle East.
During the meeting, which will take place at 09:30 (10:30 local time in Israel), Shimon Peres will update Pope Francis on the latest situation between Israel and the Palestinians after the end of Operation Protective Edge and the ceasefire between the two sides.
Pope Francis and former President Peres will also discuss ways to progress the cause of peace in the Middle East and the necessary response to the wave of terrorism in the region which uses religion as justification for its violence and extremism.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Monday, 1 September 2014), met with US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and US Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) and told them:
"We're closely following the events on the Golan Heights where al-Nusra terrorists have kidnapped UN peacekeepers. What we see is that al-Nusra, Hamas, Hezbollah – backed by Iran, al-Qaeda and these other terrorists groups are basically defying all international norms, breaking them whether in Lebanon, in Syria or in Gaza.
And I think the UN would do itself a great favour if instead of the automatic Israel bashing, they actually turn their attention and their investigative committees against these terrorists who trample every norm on which the UN was founded.
I think this is a common effort that all of us have to make against these Islamist terrorist groups that threaten our societies and our civilization.
I know that this is part of your common position and I welcome it. It helps that Israel, the United States and the other civilized countries stand together against this grave threat to our future.
And in that spirit, I welcome you here, as friends and as allies in a common battle."
US Rep. Rohrabacher replied
"Mr. Prime Minister, we recognize that Israel is the one force for stability and one force for a long term peace for this region. The rest of the region is awash in tyranny and injustice and gangsterism and terrorism that's coming from the top, from these people that are running the various organizations, radical Islamic organizations. They are not just a threat to you, they are a threat to the peace of the world and the security of the United States.
So we are very, very proud of this tough stand that you have taken and you can count on us."
US Rep. Meeks added:
"Let me just add that you are our friend as we are your friend, and we will stand together.
And I will tell you, though sometimes in Congress we have our differences, but if there's one thing that we concur on, whether we be Democrats or Republicans – and we are a bi-partisan delegation – we come together in support with our friends, our only true friend in the Middle East, and that's Israel. And we want to make sure that you know we will always stand side by side, because we understand that what affects you affects us.
And in that spirit, we come in cooperation to say we're looking to continue with that great relationship moving forward and working together as friends and as brothers, and sisters, actually."
Former President Shimon Peres kicked off the "Soccer Peace Schools" program with 80 Israeli and Palestinian children from Sderot, Sha'ar Hanegev and the West Bank
"You, children from southern Israel and the West Bank, symbolize the hope for peace after a very difficult summer"
Over 500 children from Israel and the West Bank will take part in the Soccer Peace Schools this year at over 24 schools
One week after the ceasefire came into effect, Israel's 9th president Shimon Peres, opened the annual Peres Center for Peace 'Soccer Peace Schools' program in southern Israel with 80 children from the Sderot, Sha'ar Hanegev and the Palestinian town of Yatta in the West Bank. The children play in joint soccer teams and take part in a special education program for peace. Shimon Peres was accompanied by the Head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, Alon Schuster, and the two presented soccer balls to the team captains to mark the opening of the program.
Former President Shimon Peres blew the opening whistle of the game and said, "Soccer isn't played one against the other but one alongside the other. You, children from southern Israel who play soccer with Palestinian children symbolize the hope for peace and the hope for all of us to overcome any challenges. You have all had a very difficult summer and today you are opening a new year which I hope will be a year of sport and dialogue. On this pitch there is a soccer school which is also a school for peace for all peoples."
Alon Schuster turned to the children and added, "You were children who were raised into this situation, and we can remind you that it's also possible to live differently, I am proud of you and wish you luck with your training."
Issa, the coach of the Palestinian children expressed his pride and excitement to be the coach of a joint team, "I'm excited to see you after months in which we were unable to meet. I hope that on this pitch we can begin something new, that we can go back to enjoying playing soccer together."
Through the Peres Center for Peace Twinned Peace Soccer Schools project children, aged 6-16, participate in a comprehensive 'peace education through sport' program that combines athletic training with unique peace education activities, allowing participants to get to know the "other," learn one another's languages, break down barriers, and develop friendships based on trust and mutual understanding.
The first practice took place today following a very difficult summer, during which the groups could not engage in such activities. Despite the political tensions, the Israeli and Palestinian children came together to play side-by-side. In addition to the soccer practice which took place today in Kibbutz Dorot, over 500 Israeli and Palestinian children from throughout Israel and the West Bank will come together for soccer and peace education activities in the framework of the Twinned Peace Soccer Schools program this year.
Photos – Efrat Sa'ar
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Shai Piron, this morning (Monday, 1 September 2014), opened the 2014-2015 school year by meeting with first and second grade pupils at the New Amit Torani School in Sderot and the Mevoim School in the Merhavim Regional Council () area.
At the New Amit Torani School in Sderot, Prime Minister Netanyahu told the pupils: "Be good friends with each other and be hungry for knowledge. This is what distinguishes us and gives our people special strength. We are the People of the Book and today the people of the tablet as well. We hold on to our heritage and also the future. Study the Bible, our heritage, math, computers and science. Our heritage and the future go hand in hand. Be hungry for knowledge on behalf of the People of Israel, the State of Israel, the Land of Israel, yourselves and your families. We will take care to give you knowledge and security."
Education Minister Piron added: "Today, as you start first grade, I would like to give you an assignment, not homework. Look around. Think about who has fewer friends, look around and ask who made fewer trips over the summer. This is an assignment for each of you. If during the year a child does not come to school because he is sick, don't forget to call him. Treat your teachers with respect. When you talk to each other in the yard, don't forget to talk nicely. Our greatest test is not how we behave in wartime but how we behave in times of peace. Our true test is the test of morality, identity and treating each other properly."
Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi told Prime Minister Netanyahu: "I do not think that Sderot has ever had so many visits by a prime minister in such a short time. Mr. Prime Minister, we rely on you and very much appreciate the weight of the responsibility that you took upon yourself in leading this operation along with the Defense Minister and the Chief-of-Staff. We won a great military victory and a great civilian victory. We thank you for your partnership with Sderot and the close attention which proves that Sderot, the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and the State of Israel are important."
At the Mevoim School in the Merhavim Regional Council area, Prime Minister Netanyahu told pupils: "I know that you did not have as nice a summer as you had planned. I hope that during the upcoming holidays you will have time to relax, play and be with your families and friends. Be friends with each other. Be good children for your parents and be excellent pupils. Have a safe and successful year. Together we will continue the momentum of development because this is the strongest response to our enemies. They thought that they could drive us out of here. We are building up, and will build up, this country and this part of it."
Merchavim Regional Council Chairman Shai Hajaj told Prime Minister Netanyahu: "On behalf of the residents of Merchavim, I would like to thank you, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and your ministers for the determination and the prudence that you showed during Operation Protective Edge. His was a difficult campaign, militarily and diplomatically, and you ran it, along with the Defense Minister and the Chief-of-Staff, with great wisdom, sensitivity and vigor. The first day of the school year is a holiday for us and symbolizes the return to routine. With us here today are the Education Minister and the Education Ministry District Director; this is the time to commend them for the productive cooperation and the desire to help open the school year. The poet Yehuda Amichai wrote: 'It's sad to be the Mayor of Jerusalem. It is terrible. How can any man be the mayor of a city like that? What can he do with her? He will build, and build, and build.' And if that is how it is for the Mayor of Jerusalem, what will the prime minister of the entire State of Israel do? He will build, and build and build. We rely on you Mr. Prime Minister. Here as well you must show leadership and determination and the wisdom that you have shown in security matters. We are excited to host you here in Merhavim on our festive day. May we all have a quiet, productive and meaningful school year."
In recent weeks, Israel has fought for its home. While the IDF shined in the field, the diplomatic front had its ups and downs. In light of increasing anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment globally, a group of young Jews from all over the world decided to improve Israel's image. Last week they came to Rambam to learn about – and spread – the Israeli spirit.
A delegation of 36 people from 24 nations arrived last week at Rambam to participate in an international seminar for young Jewish leadership. All aim to be future leaders of Jewish communities worldwide.
The participants, selected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, included doctors, lawyers and academics, as well those in high tech, the public sector and communications.
The foreign ministry, which maintains close ties with Rambam, organized the visit. The ministry holds several such seminars yearly, and 'graduates' go on to support Israel through various activities.
At Rambam, the visitors met doctors who participated in altruistic activities abroad, the hospital's multi-cultural staff and patients. They toured the world's largest underground emergency hospital, in Israel's largest medical center.
"I am from a country that doesn't sympathize with Israel," said Bolivan-born Ruben Iberkleid, "So it is heart-warming to see the wonderful activities at Rambam." Sanaz Meshkinfam, born in Iran and now living in LA, added, "Rambam symbolizes everything in Israel." Here you can see how medical teams work toward humanitarian goals, not just in Israel but throughout the world. This makes you want to be a part of it."
Meet Israel's friends from around the globe
While Hamas fires rockets, and ISIS beheads unbelievers, the Kurds build the second non-Arab state in the Middle East
The month of June 2014 will be remembered as a turning point in the annals of the Middle East, as two new entities might emerge from the ruins of the century-old entity that was once modern Iraq. The trigger for the dramatic change was the melting down of the Iraqi army in its encounters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Kurdish army, the Peshmerga. In a matter of a few days ISIS captured important cities in the Sunni heartland including Mosul, the second-biggest city in Iraq. No less important was the success of ISIS in taking hold of strategic assets such as banks, oil and gas depots, refineries, airports, and American-made heavy weapons that the Iraqi army had abandoned without a fight. ISIS' success was so swift that by the end of June it declared the establishment of the Islamic State encompassing parts of Syria and Iraq. In certain ways the ISIS onslaught reminds one of the Mongol attack in 1258, when the Abbasid army collapsed instantly and abandoned Baghdad.
For their part the Kurds managed within a few days to take control of the oil-rich Kirkuk region and start administering it. However, in spite of the simultaneity of the Kurdish and ISIS moves, the two entities are far apart from each other in nature, composition, and approach and are now engaging in border warfare. A comparison between the Kurds and ISIS will help define which course the international community might be advised to take in the region that was formerly known as Iraq.
The Kurds in Iraq, who represent some 20 percent of the Iraqi population (6 million out of a population of 30 million), had already begun their state-building and nation-building process by the early 1990s, and by June 2014 they already had their de facto state. While conventional wisdom had it that a Kurdish entity in Iraq would be a source of instability for the entire region, reality on the ground has proved the opposite over the last decade, during which autonomous Kurdistan has proved to be the most stable, prosperous, peaceful, and democratic part of Iraq. By contrast, it was the Sunni-Shia divide that emerged as the major cause of instability for Iraq and the entire Middle East, with its latest incarnation in the war between the Shii government in Baghdad and the Sunni jihadists of ISIS. Accordingly, the declaration of an Islamic state in Syria and Iraq has caused panic among Arab and non-Arab Sunni states such as Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, which are as wary of Iraq turning into ISIS-stan as much as into Shiistan.
By contrast, Kurdistan has played a positive role in the region. While paying the requisite lip service to the cause of Iraqi territorial integrity championed by the United States, many Arab countries as well as Turkey and Iran did not hesitate to turn Kurdistan into a major business and political partner. These states' pragmatism and realism had told them that the specter of another non-Arab, non-Turkish, and non-Persian entity in the region pales against the real dangers emanating from their Arab and Sunni brethren. Paradoxically enough, the country that went the farthest in embracing the Kurdish entity was also the one that had been the most vociferous against it: Turkey, which has become the midwife for a Kurdish state in Iraq with oil and gas as foundations for a strategic partnership that Turkey seems to see as a stabilizing force on its own borders.
The most extraordinary Turkish move was the deal it cut with Iraqi Kurdistan for allowing the passage through its territories of two independent Kurdish oil pipelines and one gas pipeline that allow the export of oil independently of Baghdad. The 50-year term of this agreement was indeed revolutionary, and all three parties—Turkey, Iraq, and the Kurds—were aware of its far-reaching significance, namely to help define a pathway by which Kurdish economic independence could metamorphose into political independence. Baghdad's attempts to stop Turkey from putting this project into effect were to no avail: The final blow came when the Kurds started last month to sell oil independently. It might not be mere coincidence that Turkey approved this Kurdish move almost simultaneously with the Kurdish takeover of Kirkuk. Indeed, according to an article by Soner Cagaptay published in al-Majalla in July, Turkey even went so far as to encourage the Kurds to take control of the oil capital.
History has taught us that when certain dynamics are set in motion it is very difficult to stop them: The Kurdish thrust toward independence seems to be a case in point in spite of the latest setback, which will be discussed below. The changing approach among Middle East experts and world media regarding such a possibility is also worth noting. Whereas for the greater part of the 20th century the Kurdish issue was totally eclipsed by the Palestinian problem, at the turn of the 21st century things have changed, and there is now an explosion of studies and reports on the Kurds many of which express sympathy with the idea of an independent Kurdistan. This new approach is extremely important for encouraging Kurdish politicians to go the extra mile while also offering legitimacy to such a move if and when it takes place.
The international community too is moving slowly but surely toward accepting the reality of an independent Kurdish state. According to a report published by the Kurdish outlet Rudaw in July of this year, the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates were among the countries that have told Kurdish officials they would show understanding in case the Kurds declare independence. In a recent development the European Parliament also gave a tacit nod to Kurdish independence. The Kurds' inching toward independence received a further boost in early July when regional President Massoud Barzani called for a referendum on Kurdish independence to take place in the coming months.
However, the sudden attacks by ISIS, which started on Aug. 3, appeared to have checked Kurdish momentum. The Kurds now had to cope with multiple challenges: fighting ISIS with inferior military equipment along their new common 1,035-km-long border; struggling with Baghdad over various political, economic, and strategic issues; coping with an economic embargo imposed by Baghdad because of the oil dispute; and accommodating hundreds of thousands of Christian, Yezidi, Kurdish, and even Muslim Arab refugees fleeing nearby territories held by ISIS. Still this setback may turn to be another opportunity for strengthening Kurdish solidarity and national feelings and getting outside support. The U.S. bombings of the ISIS forces while raising Kurdish morale also sent home the message that if worse came to worst and Iraq cannot remain united the United States might give the green light to a Kurdish state.
At this point it is impossible to know if these developments have postponed or accelerated the goal of Kurdish independence. One thing is certain: With the Iraqi state having lost its common unofficial borders with Kurdistan when it relinquished them to ISIS, the world will now be better off if there is a strong Kurdish state to contain the jihadist danger, which has gone from strength to strength over the past six months. All in all, the war that the Kurds are conducting now against ISIS might turn to be their war of independence even as it also saves the region from falling even deeper into chaos and bloodshed.
How should Israelis and Jews approach the idea of an independent Kurdish state? I argue that if there is one state that should support the idea of an independent Kurdistan in Iraq it is Israel, for various moral, political, economic, and strategic reasons. Morally speaking, the Kurds of Iraq were oppressed and persecuted by all Iraqi governments, culminating in the genocide campaign launched against them by Saddam Hussein at the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. No less than 180,000 Kurds perished in that campaign for the sole reason of being non-Arabs and for seeking to preserve their different identity and their right to self-determination. It is therefore only natural for Israel, whose founders had experienced similar traumatic experiences, to lend its support to a Kurdish state.
Indeed, the affinities between these two small non-Arab nations, both of which have been denied the legitimacy to have a state in a region that the Arabs define as belonging solely to them, go a long way back. These relations, which started in the 1960s and have gone on intermittently until today, have been advantageous for both parties. The Kurds gained military, technological, and humanitarian support while Israel gained access to intelligence. The Kurds also helped Jews who were fleeing from Iraq. However, both parties chose to keep these ties secret because of the expected negative reaction of the surrounding countries.
On the political level, the idea of another non-Arab state coming into existence in the Middle East sends a powerful message to the world and the people of the region that the right to statehood should not be the prerogative of Arabs, Turks, and Persians alone. Just as the international community has been outspoken in its support for a Palestinian state, the same yardstick should be applied to the Kurds. Interestingly, Palestinians do not accept this truism. Rather than showing solidarity with the Kurds, Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, who is acting relentlessly for a Palestinian state, recently came out against the Kurds' right to establish a state of their own. Yet the Kurdish entity has already proved its viability much more than the Palestinian entity ever has.
No less important for Israel is the strategic benefit of a Kurdish state that is stable, prosperous, and more secular and democratic than surrounding countries, and that may act as a bulwark against the terrorist, radical, and destabilizing forces that are becoming rampant in the region. The emergence of ISIS in Iraq, if not contained, may endanger Israel as well.
With regard to the possible stance of a Kurdish state toward Israel one may safely assume that it will be friendly to the Jewish state. For one thing, the Kurds will need the sympathy and support of another non-Arab state in the international arena. For another, the Kurds have never been in conflict with Israel nor were they exposed to anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish indoctrination, nor do they harbor anti-Israeli feelings the way the Arab population does. Indeed, rarely did we hear vitriolic attacks or anti-Israeli propaganda from their leaders or from the Kurdish population at large. In a recent opinion poll that asked Kurds which country could be trusted to support Kurdish independence, 56.3 percent said Israel, 8.2 percent Turkey, and 4 percent the United States.
Against this background one wonders why is it that until very recently Israel did not come out publicly in support of the Kurds. The most pertinent explanation is that the Kurds themselves were wary of such an Israeli move because they feared being accused of betraying Iraq and the Arab cause. Nor was Israel willing to put itself at loggerheads with the United States, which has been consistently and systematically against the establishment of a Kurdish state while pursuing the elusive goal of a unified Iraq. Israel had also to take into consideration the reaction of the Arab world, which was filled with conspiracy theories regarding the role of the so-called "Zionist entity" in the breakup of Arab states and the formation of new statelets on their debris. Israel was also very eager not to antagonize Turkey, which during the 1990s was the Kurds' nemesis and Israel's best ally.
Due to the sea-changes in the region all these considerations have undergone paradigmatic change. Although hard facts are missing one may assume that as the Kurdish leadership was accelerating its efforts for declaring independence it had itself approached Israeli leaders to grant their public support to such a move, which might be of crucial importance vis-à-vis the United States. This may explain the fact that the three most important Israeli leaders, namely Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former President Shimon Peres, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman came out publicly last June almost in tandem to support the establishment of a Kurdish state. The most outspoken was Netanyahu who declared: "We need to support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. They deserve it."
These declarations seem also to signal that Israel and the United States are no longer on opposing poles regarding the Kurdistan project especially after the blitzkrieg of ISIS and the U.S. realization that Kurdistan could be an important factor for containing the jihadist onslaught and maybe even saving Baghdad. In a talk at the end of June at the Washington Institute, Falah Mustafa Bakir, the de facto Kurdish foreign minister, maintained that the Kurds are seeing from the United States "a growing recognition of Iraq's new reality, and a corresponding change in attitudes toward the Kurdish past and future." For his part, President Barzani stated to Rudaw on July 6, 2014, that the United States would not "block Kurdish independence." Indeed, President Barack Obama's New York Times interview with Thomas L. Friedman last week signaled a turning point in the American approach toward this Kurdish entity.
With regard to Arab countries, as much as they blame Israel for promoting the breakup of Arab countries, the truth is that the collapse of such states as Sudan, Libya, Syria, or Iraq was home-made. Similarly, while blaming "Zionists" for encouraging the formation of what some refer to as a "second Israel," many of the Arab countries have developed strong ties with the Kurdish entity. A Kurdish official, Adnan Mufti, stated that these countries would "accept the reality of a Kurdish state." So, the formation of a "second Israel" will, in a way, take the onus from the first one and form a bulwark against radical and destabilizing forces in the region emanating either from states like Iran or terrorist organizations like ISIS or Hamas.
As for Turkey the assumption was that Israeli ties with the Kurds would be fatal for its relations with Ankara. As it turned out it was the Palestinian problem and Turkey's support for the terrorist organization Hamas that was the cause for a major rupture. Nor can Ankara lecture Israel on ties with the Kurds when unlike Hamas they are pursuing the goal of statehood peacefully. Moreover, Turkey's own U-turn vis-à-vis the Kurdistan Regional Government and the emergence of potential common economic interests, namely the need to find buyers for Kurdish oil, may change the picture on the Turkish side. When last June Baghdad attempted to prevent Turkey and the Kurds from selling oil independently from the Iraqi central government Israel came to their aid by buying Kurdish oil. If it does not remain episodic, such a move may form a backbone for a triangular cooperation among Turkey, Israel, and the Kurds, since Israel, which is not at a risk of litigation by Baghdad, may thus solve acute problems for the Turkish-Kurdish partnership while itself benefiting from steady flow of oil. And even if not there are many common economic interests that can be developed bilaterally between Israel and the Kurds.
Iraq today is a failed state. The more time passes the more each of the three main constituencies—Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds—reinforce their unique identity and pursue their own very different political agendas, and no external force, not even the United States, can keep them together. In such circumstances, if and when Kurdistan declares independence, Israel should have no dilemma in siding with a moderate, tolerant, pro-Western, and stable entity against a hostile ISIS-stan and Shiistan. Even though Kurdistan might not forge a formal alliance with Israel, its very existence could stem the jihadist and extremist storms that are blowing across the Middle East and threatening to tear it apart.
Ofra Bengio, Senior Research Associate at the Moshe Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, is the author of The Kurds of Iraq: Building a State within a State and editor of the forthcoming Kurdish Awakening: Nation Building in a Fragmented Homeland.
Photo : Kurdish soldiers with the Peshmerga keep guard near the frontline with Sunni militants on the outskirts of Kirkuk, an oil-rich Iraqi city, on June 25, 2014. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
"Operation Protective Edge cannot end with this ceasefire. The ceasefire is the beginning of the second stage of the operation, the diplomatic stage that will lead to the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. In September the Donor Countries will meet and it cannot be that money from the entire world will be sent to Gaza without Hamas being disarmed and the Gaza Strip demilitarized. We will lead a regional conference which will aim to bring in the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, to reach a deal on the principle of demilitarization for rehabilitation. If Hamas wants to rebuild Gaza then they must understand that they need to disarm."
Minister Lapid also addressed the situation in southern Israel and said, "The residents of southern Israel cannot continue to live this way. The Finance Ministry and the State of Israel are committed to supporting the communities around the Gaza Strip and throughout the south. The children need to go to school and they all need to rebuild their lives and their homes. It is our responsibility to help them and that is what we are working towards."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon (Thursday, 28 August 2014), in Be'er Sheva, met with mayors and council heads from the south and told them:
"Together we will strengthen the residents of the south. I would like to send my condolences to the families. The blood of civilians has been spilled here alongside that of soldiers, and civilians have been wounded alongside the soldiers who have been wounded, and we send wishes for a quick recovery, and condolences to the families, on my behalf, that of the Government of Israel and that of all Israelis.
The effort that the people of my office are making is designed to solve the problems and create possibilities. My commitment to the south is very deep. You know and see this and it is very deep for the security of Israeli citizens wherever they are. You share in this great effort, I want to thank you, including for the cooperation between us. The region in which we live is stormy and we are here in a single boat with many others from the region and the world.
We were in a complex 50-day struggle against one of the terrorist organizations – Hamas – that is supported by a major power – Iran – and by a major financial power – Qatar.
Hamas was hit very hard and there is here a military achievement of the highest order, as well as a diplomatic achievement because they dropped all of their demands. They acceded to the same Egyptian ceasefire proposal that we were ready to accept directly at the outset without time constraints and without any of the conditions that they set. They got to this point the hard way. They kept testing us and every time we struck them but the last time, given this accumulation of blows, they were persuaded.
Last week they violated a ceasefire again and they thought that they could wear us down and I told them that instead of wearing us down they would be hit very hard and even their terrorist buildings were toppled and their senior commanders were hit.
We stood together throughout the campaign and I very much appreciate your stand and your support and now let us stand together on the things that we need to do for the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and the other communities in the south. On Sunday, we will submit a major aid package for the residents of the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and – later on – a general assistance package for the entire south.
I would like to thank the citizens of Israel and I would also like to thank the security forces, IDF soldiers, ISA personnel, police, firemen, MDA personnel and all the volunteers; this spirit will bring us to better places and there are challenges that yet await us."
Be'er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovitz said, "The job of all of us is to give the government and the IDF the time needed to make the right decision, the military decision, the diplomatic decision. Our job is to prepare the public for any scenario. This is how we acted."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Wednesday, 27 August 2014), at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, issued the following statement:
"Upon the establishment of the ceasefire (), I can say that there is a major military achievement here, as well as a major diplomatic achievement for the State of Israel. Hamas was hit hard and it did not receive even a single one of the conditions that it set for a ceasefire, not even one. As Prime Minister of Israel, I hold the supreme responsibility for the security of Israel's citizens and this is what guided my colleagues – Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz – and I during each stage of Operation Protective Edge (). I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the cooperation and the joint work for the security of Israel's citizens.
From the first moment we set a clear goal: The goal was to strike hard at Hamas and the terrorist organizations and in so doing bring prolonged quiet to all Israeli citizens. I can say that Hamas was indeed hit very hard. First of all, we destroyed the network of attack tunnels that it built over the years. I would like to make it clear that we introduced the ground force for this goal. When the mission was completed, when the IDF reported to us that this mission had been completed, we pulled the force back in order to deny Hamas the possibility of killing our soldiers or abducting them, goals that it very much aspired to.
We continued to attack from the air. Approximately 1,000 terrorists were killed, including senior terrorists, very senior terrorists from among its top command. We destroyed thousands of rockets, rocket launchers, rocket production facilities and other weapons, arsenals, command and control positions, hundreds of command positions, hundreds. We also foiled, of course, attempts by Hamas to attack us by land, sea and air. Above all, thanks to Iron Dome, we foiled hundreds of attempts by Hamas to kill very many Israeli civilians. This was achieved, inter alia, thanks to a decision I made as Prime Minister, in my previous term, to equip the State of Israel with thousands of interceptors which, of course, blocked the murderous aerial assault by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.
The blow that Hamas has now taken is unprecedented since it was founded, a very hard blow. I must say that it also took a diplomatic hit. See, Hamas set conditions at the outset for a ceasefire. We accepted the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire, already in the first days, unconditionally and without time constraints whereas Hamas set conditions. It demanded a seaport – it did not get one. It demanded an airport, it did not get one. It demanded the release of the Shalit prisoners, those who were released in the Shalit deal whom we returned to prison following the murder of the three youths, it did not get this. It demanded Qatari mediation, it did not get it. It demanded Turkish mediation, it did not get it. It did not receive any condition. It demanded further conditions. It demanded the rehabilitation of the institutions that we dissolved in Judea and Samaria, it did not get this. It demanded salaries and money from us, it didn't get them. It did not receive any of the conditions that it set.
We agreed at the outset to one thing – to carry out the humanitarian rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, with supervisory mechanisms and oversight abilities in our hands. This is in order to prevent the entry of weapons or materials that could be used to produce weapons. We have always agreed to this but we did not agree to accept any of Hamas's conditions and the fact is that this ceasefire was achieved without the conditions that it set.
Moreover, I think that Hamas is also isolated diplomatically. We received international legitimacy from the global community. First of all, we received 50 days for very strong action against the terrorist organizations. This was substantial. I think that we also instilled in the international community the fact that Hamas, ISIS and Al Qaida and other extremist Islamic terrorist organizations are members of the same family. We also instilled the understanding that the long-term goal is the demilitarization of Hamas and the terrorist organizations, the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. All of these are important achievements alongside the realignment of regional forces in the Middle East. The regional change of moderate forces in the Middle East is creating a possible diplomatic horizon for the State of Israel. I think that it contains within it new possibilities for our country. We will certainly try to advance these possibilities in a responsible and prudent manner as we have done up until now.
Will we achieve our goal for prolonged calm? I think it is still too early to say but I can say that the harsh blow that Hamas and the terrorist organizations have taken, as well as our ability, via border controls, to prevent their rearming increase the chances that this goal will be achieved.
I can say that Hamas was surprised by two major things. One, in recent days it was surprised by the strength of our response to the violation of the most recent ceasefire. It thought that we would give in in the end to its conditions – and we did not give in. It thought that it could wear us down. You remember that I told it that it would not wear us down but would instead be hit very hard. I would like to take this opportunity to say that if it resumes firing, we will not tolerate sporadic firing at any part of the State of Israel and how we have responded up until now – we will respond with even greater strength. We are prepared for any possibility.
The second thing that surprised Hamas, Israeli citizens, is your splendid unity. I must say that it simply did not correctly appreciate the unity and strength of the people, and it is a splendid unity. It is the unity of civilian volunteers who helped the heroic IDF soldiers by sending packages, going to every point in person, of the rescue and voluntary organizations such as Magen David Adom and the other organizations, of the kibbutz movement that hosted residents of the south, of the local council heads who also volunteered to do this, and of ordinary citizens who went from place to place including hospitals to help our wounded heroic soldiers.
Our marvelous soldiers – during our visit to an air force base today (), the Defense Minister, the Chief-of-Staff and I, I told air force personnel – air and ground crews – what I say to all IDF soldiers: The entire nation owes you its deep gratitude. Your stepping up, your heroism and your dedication, all of these were decisive in the campaign and made major contributions to our present diplomatic and military achievements.
One soldier told me, on one of my visits to the south, would that this unity which gives us so much strength as we go to fight the enemy, would that this unity could continue even after the fighting is over. And I say would that it could, amen, because this is a basic part of our national resilience.
And on behalf of all of you, on behalf of this unity, I would like to send my best wishes for a quick and complete recovery to our wounded soldiers. I visited them, not all of them, but as many as I could, and I was impressed by their strength of spirit. I was impressed by the public's and their families' great love for them. Everyone of them is dear to me just as every one of our fallen soldiers is dear to me. And their families, I know their loss and the depth of their pain and sorrow, to the families this evening I say the words that we read a few weeks ago in the haftarah (), [from the prophet Isaiah (40:1; )], 'Comfort you, comfort you, My people.' And comfort may be taken in the strong and united nation that stands here on it land, the Land of Israel, and which is determined to defend our state, the State of Israel, with your support, with your splendid unity. We acted just as we promised all through the operation – with level-headedness and responsibility, with foresight broad enough to ensure your security, citizens of Israel."
Following is Prime Minister Netanyahu's response, in English, to a question from the press:
Question: "If you could just elaborate on the diplomatic horizon for peace that you have mentioned earlier and within that vision, there the potential for the resumption of peace talks?"
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "I think that there is a realignment of forces in the Middle East. Everybody can see that. The realignment is based on the common concern with the dangers posed by radical Islamic terrorists who are sweeping the region with a ring of fire. And many understand that this is a danger to them. As we understand, it's a danger to us. And many certainly begin to view Israel less than the full, or an enemy than a potential ally in this common battle.
What I'd like to explore is to see if we can translate this understanding of our common challenges into cooperation in common opportunities, and yes including the pursuit and development and achievement of a peace between Israel and our Palestinian neighbors. This obviously cannot happen with the likes of Hamas, who are committed to our destruction. Everybody says you make peace with an enemy. That's true. But you make peace only with an enemy who decides to go to peace. That's the most important and fundamental distinction. An enemy who wants to destroy you is not a candidate for peace. An enemy who says I want to put down, I want to end the hostilities, I want to take a new beginning, make a new start, give a new future for our children and our grandchildren, well that's somebody that we can make peace with. And I hope that we'll achieve this."
This morning, a 2.600 kg healthy Syrian baby was born at the Ziv Medical Center in Zefat, while in recent days, a number of rockets were fired from Syria and Lebanon in the direction of the Galilee and the Golan Heights. The pregnant mother-to-be, who lives in the Syrian city of Quneitra, was brought by the IDF to Ziv last night. Her cute baby girl, who was born this morning, was welcomed to the world in Ziv's Neonatal Department by the nurse in charge, Esther Ambar, a resident of Kibbutz Ein-Zivan in the Golan Heights, on the Israeli side of the border.
The birth was the first for the Syrian mother aged 25. She was brought to Ziv while already in labor, with ruptured membranes (breaking of water). She told the medical staff that the fighting continues in the Quneitra area and the situation is extremely tough: "my pregnancy was very difficult. Because of the war there is a shortage of food and there are no health and birthing facilities. I knew that I was already in my 40th week and that the birth was imminent and there was no one who could help me. I heard from relatives and friends that Syrian casualties are transferred to Israel where they receive good care.
Despite my fears, as soon as I felt contractions I requested assistance in getting to the border in order to get medical aid. The Israeli army picked me up at the border and transferred me to the hospital. I was anxious and afraid, but the Israeli nurses and doctors treated me with sensitivity and respect and the delivery went well. I am very happy that I came here, they are treating me nicely and taking care of me and my new baby." Said the Syrian mother.
Esther Ambar, the nurse in charge of the Neonatal Department at the Ziv Medical Center, received the Syrian baby following her birth and is taking care of her warmly. Esther, who lives on Kibbutz Ein-Zivan on the Golan Heights, which only a few days ago was shelled by rockets from Syria says: "We live in a strange reality. On Sunday we ran to our bomb-shelters when at half past one in the morning we heard the siren and a number of rockets hit the ground close to the kibbutz, yesterday a number of mortar bombs were fired on this area and today we delivered a Syrian baby whose mother arrived from the region from which we were fired upon. We hear and see the fighting in Syria daily and we know that the population there is in great difficulty. We have already treated a number of mothers and babies from Syria and we do so with devotion and love. Ordinary people are not interested in wars, the Syrian mothers who reach us relay stories of the difficulties they experience in their country and speak about their hope for peace and a better future for their children. Their gratitude is moving and we wish that this will be a bridge to a dialogue between us and them and a hope for peace and quiet in the region" said Ambar.
This is the 7th birth of a Syrian baby at the Ziv Medical Center and a stream of Syrian casualties continues to be brought by the IDF for treatment. To-date, 353 Syrians have been treated at the Ziv Medical Center and 12 are still hospitalized in different wards in the hospital.
Ziv's web-site: http://www.ziv.org.il
UNITED NATIONS AUG. 24, 2014
THE hostilities in Gaza between Israel and Hamas persist and the diplomatic war at the United Nations continues, also without resolution. While there is no shortage of opinions on the way forward, the most obvious solution is strikingly absent — the need to disarm and isolate Hamas, the radical Palestinian Islamist group.
Since Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, Hamas has dragged us into three rounds of major assaults, and more than 14,800 rockets have been fired into Israel by the group or its proxies. The discovery of dozens of tunnels packed with explosives, tranquilizers and handcuffs that end at the doorsteps of Israeli communities should be enough to convince anyone that Hamas has no interest in bringing quiet to Gaza or residing alongside Israel in peace.
It says a great deal that Hamas's former Arab backers, which historically have included Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, long ago abandoned the terrorist group. Only a few nations still stand by Hamas. Among the most prominent is the tiny Persian Gulf emirate Qatar.
In recent years, the sheikhs of Doha, Qatar's capital, have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Gaza. Every one of Hamas's tunnels and rockets might as well have had a sign that read "Made possible through a kind donation from the emir of Qatar."
Sitting atop 25 billion barrels of crude oil reserves and enormous natural gas reserves, Qatar has the highest gross domestic product per capita of any country in the world. The emirate is known for international shopping sprees that have included the funding of six American university campuses in Doha, the purchase of the iconic Harrods department store in London, and ownership of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club.
For many years, the gas-rich gulf peninsula tried to avoid attracting attention lest it found itself in the same situation as oil-rich Kuwait, which was invaded by Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces in 1990. About 10 years ago, however, Qatar changed tactics. To ensure the country's survival, the ruling House of Thani has spent extravagantly on increasing Qatar's presence and prestige on the global stage.
Today, the petite petroleum kingdom is determined to buy its way to regional hegemony, and like other actors in the Middle East, it has used proxies to leverage influence and destabilize rivals. Qatar's proxies of choice have been radical regimes and extremist groups.
In pursuit of this strategy, the gulf state is willing to dally with any partner, no matter how abhorrent. Qatar has provided financial aid and light weapons to Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria, and a base for leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban.
The emirate has also used the Arabic service of Al Jazeera news network to spread radical messages that have inflamed sectarian divides. In the early days of the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera's coverage of popular uprisings earned the network millions of new followers and solidified its status as a mainstream global news network. Qatar capitalized on this popularity by advancing its own agenda — namely, using the Arabic network to promote the views of extremists who were undermining the region's more pragmatic elements. In particular, Qatar's open support for the Muslim Brotherhood angered its gulf state neighbors. In March, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Doha in protest.
This hasn't stopped the Persian Gulf monarchy from serving as a Club Med for terrorists. It harbors leading Islamist radicals like the spiritual leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who issued a religious fatwa endorsing suicide attacks, and the Doha-based history professor Abdul Rahman Omeir al-Naimi, whom the United States Department of Treasury has named as a "terrorist financier" for Al Qaeda. Qatar also funds a life of luxury for Khaled Meshal, the fugitive leader of Hamas.
Mr. Meshal's uncompromising stance — he has vowed never to recognize Israel — has long been an obstacle to reaching a peace deal. But behind Hamas, Qatar is pulling the strings. According to a report last week in the pan-Arab daily newspaper Al Hayat, Qatar even threatened to expel Mr. Meshal if Hamas accepted Egyptian proposals for a long-term cease-fire in Gaza. All because Doha wants a starring role in any cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel.
It is time for the world to wake up and smell the gas fumes. Qatar has spared no cost to dress up its country as a liberal, progressive society, yet at its core, the micro monarchy is aggressively financing radical Islamist movements. In light of the emirate's unabashed support for terrorism, one has to question FIFA's decision to reward Qatar with the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar's continued sponsorship of Hamas all but guarantees that, whatever happens in this round of hostilities, the terrorist group will rearm and renew hostilities with Israel. The only way forward is to isolate Hamas's last major backer. Given Qatar's considerable affluence and influence, this is an uncomfortable prospect for many Western nations, yet they must recognize that Qatar is not a part of the solution but a significant part of the problem. To bring about a sustained calm, the message to Qatar should be clear: Stop financing Hamas.
Ron Prosor is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.
Published in The New York Times
A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 25, 2014, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Club Med for Terrorists.
Senior Hamas commanders Mohammed Abu Shamaleh and Raed Al-Attar were killed in an Israeli air strike near Rafah in the Gaza Strip early this morning.
Mohammed Abu Shamaleh was the senior Hamas commander in the southern Gaza Strip and oversaw and commanded the terror campaign in the southern Gaza Strip. Born in 1974, he joined Hamas in the early 1990's along with Muhammad Deif and Raed Al-Attar.
Most notably, Abu Shameleh and Al-Attar orchestrated the 2006 attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing in which two IDF soldiers were killed and IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was captured.
Abu Shameleh was most recently involved in the July 17 infiltration of 13 Hamas operatives through an offensive tunnel into southern Israel, near Sufa. He was also involved in killing an Israeli soldier in 1994 in Rafah and for several tunnel attacks in 2004 in which six soldiers were killed and ten wounded. In May 2008, he directed an attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing, using booby-trapped jeeps and wounding 13 soldiers.
Raed Al-Attar, the Hamas commander in Rafah, was one of the architects of the construction of cross-border assault tunnels into Israeli territory, both in the Rafah area and throughout the Gaza Strip. Attar was responsible for overseeing all terror activity in the Rafah region; orchestrating complex attacks, constructing offensive terror tunnels which infiltrated into Israeli territory and designing terror attacks via the Sinai Peninsula. His role in the Hamas terror apparatus was to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip and oversee the terrorist capabilities recruiting and arming in the Rafah region.
Attar was also responsible for the murder and abduction of Lt. Hadar Goldin during Operation Protective Edge, and the Rafah brigade under his command was involved in other incidents during the campaign in which IDF soldiers were wounded.
In 1994, Attar was involved in a shooting which killed an Israeli soldier on the Egyptian border. In 2002, he planned a deadly attack on an Israeli post near Kerem Shalom in which four IDF soldiers of the Bedouin desert patrol unit were killed.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, Israel has respected numerous ceasefires, most of them humanitarian lulls for the benefit of the residents of Gaza. Prior to the 10-13 August ceasefire, Hamas violated every ceasefire.
Israel had to act in Gaza in self-defense to hostilities initiated - and prolonged - by Hamas. In clear violation of international law, Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza fired approximately 3,500 rockets, indiscriminate weapons that target Israeli civilians. Tunnels dug from Gaza were used to carry out terror attacks inside Israeli territory.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, Israel has respected numerous ceasefires. Most of these were humanitarian lulls for the benefit of the residents of Gaza.
Prior to the 10-13 August ceasefire, Hamas violated every ceasefire and humanitarian lull. Even a lull initiated by Hamas was promptly violated by the terrorists themselves.
Hamas also violated the 15 July ceasefire initiated by Egypt and supported by most of the international community, including the Arab League. Israel accepted this ceasefire. Had Hamas accepted it as well, Israel would not have had to start its ground operation and a full 90% of the fatalities in this conflict would have been avoided. This same ceasefire was accepted later by Hamas on 5 August.
Following is a chronology of Hamas' violations of the ceasefires:
15 July: Israel accepted the ceasefire initiated by Egypt and stopped all fire at 09:00. However, terrorists fired more than 50 rockets at Israeli communities. Only after six hours of continuous rocket attacks did the IDF respond.
1 August: Israel accepted the UN/US proposal for a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire beginning 8:00 Friday (1 August). Hamas violated the ceasefire an hour-and-a-half later when, at approximately 09:30, an attack was executed against IDF forces. Hamas terrorists, including a suicide attacker, fired at the IDF forces. During the attack, two IDF soldiers were killed by Hamas fire and Israel suspects that Second Lt. Hadar Goldin was kidnapped during the exchange of fire and dragged into a tunnel. (He was declared dead on 3 August based on forensic evidence found in the tunnel).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Tuesday, 20 August 2014), at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, issued the following statement:
"First, I would like to personally turn to the IDF soldiers and commanders, to the bereaved families who lost their dear ones in Operation Protective Edge, to the wounded who are recovering in hospital, to the residents of communities close to the Gaza Strip, to the residents of the Negev, the greater Tel Aviv area, Jerusalem and the coastal plain, and to all citizens of the State of Israel.
I would like to commend you and to thank you for the steadfastness and extraordinary unity that the citizens and soldiers of Israel have shown during the past weeks. I want you to know that the ultimate responsibility for your security and peace is mine, as Prime Minister. I am concerned for the security and peace of all Israelis, both the sons that we have sent to the front and the families that are strong and determined in the home front.
Our goal is that the residents of Kerem Shalom, Sderot and the other communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, Ashkelon and Tel Aviv will be able to sleep quietly and that the children of Ofakim, Netivot, Ashdod and Be'er Sheva won't have to run to the protected areas at school.
Along with my colleagues, especially Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who is currently attending a memorial ceremony for IDF soldiers, we are taking all measures to complete the campaign and achieve the goals that we set for ourselves: The restoration of quiet and security for you all. We are doing this in full cooperation, with sagacity, responsibility and determination, and thus shall we continue until the goal is achieved.
One consideration stands before me – the good of the State of Israel. And this consideration is the only one that guides my decision-making, as well as that of the Defense Minister and the Chief-of-Staff, no other object, no harsh words from either the Right or the Left, and I condemn all harsh words, and no other interests, only the responsibility for the security and peace of all Israelis. Accordingly, I will continue to act with determination, responsibility and sagacity.
Operation Protective Edge has not ended, not even for a moment, because this is a continuing campaign () and I am not speaking only about recent weeks. Our struggle against the terrorist organizations is long and has continued for many years – against Hezbollah, Al-Qaida, Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza, which is part of an Islamic terrorist network the newest member of which is a murderous gang, another terrorist organization, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and it has also attacked Lebanon.
In recent weeks we have hit Hamas very hard on the battlefield. All of the networks that it built in order to attack us have been foiled.
First of all, we prevented – via Iron Dome – attacks by thousands of rockets against our communities. We have killed hundreds of terrorists. We have destroyed thousands of rockets and launchers. We broke up the network of assault tunnels that Hamas built over the years in order to launch simultaneous attacks against our communities and we foiled all of its attempts to attack us from land, sea and air.
This is the harshest blow that Hamas has taken since it was founded. And I remind you that we have already dismantled its capabilities in Judea and Samaria and blocked its attempts to carry out a coup. We did all this before and during the operation. We have hit Hamas very hard. We are determined to continue the campaign by all means for as long as it takes. We will not stop until we have assured full security and a quiet life for the residents of the south and for all Israelis.
Hamas thinks that it can wear us down. It is mistaken. The Israeli people are strong. Instead of attrition, Hamas will be crushed – its infrastructures, terrorists and commanders.
Our policy toward Hamas is simple: If they fire, they will be hit, and not just hit but hit very hard. And if Hamas does not understand this today, it will understand it tomorrow. And if not tomorrow then the day after tomorrow because in the Middle East, one needs not just military power but stamina and patience.
My grandfather came here in 1920, here to Jaffa. Several months after he came here, thugs burst into the Jewish immigration office in Jaffa and murdered Jews, in this area, including the well-known author Yosef Haim Brenner (; see also ). This was almost 94 years ago.
Since then we have been fighting against terrorism – with considerable success. In this time we built our state, developed our cities, developed our economy and created a magnificent army.
Our spirit has not fallen, not even for a moment. On the contrary, it has grown, as has our unity, and we must continue to maintain our internal unity, as well as the courage and resilience of the nation and the home front.
All of these are vital components of our national strength. All of these are foundation stones as we fulfill the mission we have set for ourselves – restoring quiet and security, and I would like to add, in light of the very dramatic changes taking place in our region, not all of them negative, I also add achieving a new diplomatic horizon for the State of Israel."
Speech by Finance Minister Yair Lapid at Platform 17, Holocaust Memorial Site, Berlin 20th August 2014
The Holocaust causes us all to ask of ourselves the same question: What would I have done?
What would I have done if I was a Jew in Berlin in 1933, when Hitler rose to power? Would I have run? Would I have sold my house, my business? Removed my children from school in the middle of the year? Or would I have said to myself: it will pass, it is just momentary madness, Hitler says all these things because he is a politician seeking election. Yes, he's anti-Semitic, but who isn't? We've been through worse than this. It's better to wait, to keep my head down. it will pass."
What would I do if I was a German in Berlin on the 18th October 1941, when the first train left this platform, heading East and on it 1,013 Jews - children, women, the elderly - all destined for death.
I don't ask what I would have done if I was a Nazi, but what would I have done if I was an honest German man, waiting for his train here? A German citizen the same age I am now, with three children like mine. A man who educated his children on the values of basic human decency and the right to life and respect? Would I have remained silent? Would I have protested? Would I have been one of the few Berliners to join the anti-Nazi underground? or one of the many Berliners who carried on with life and pretended that nothing was happening?
And what if I was one of the 1,013 Jews on that train? Would I have boarded the train? Would I have smuggled my 18 year old daughter to the northern forests? would I have told my two sons to fight until the end? Would I have dropped my suitcase and started to run? Or would I have attacked the guards in the black uniforms and died an honorable, quick death instead of dying slowly of hunger and torture?
I think I know the answer. I think you do too.
None of the 1,013 Jews departing for their deaths fought the guards. Not them and not the tens of thousands who followed them from this place. Neither did my grandfather, Bela Lampel, when a German soldier took him from his home late at night on the 18th March 1944. "Bitte", said his moher - my great-grandmother Hermine - to the German soldier. She slowly got down on her knees and hugged the soldiers boots. "Bitte, don't forget that you also have a mother." The soldier didn't say a word. he didn't know that from the bed, hiding under the duvet, my father was looking at him. A Jewish boy of 13 who overnight became a man.
Why didn't they fight? That is the question that haunts me. That is the question that the Jewish people have struggled with since the last train left for Auschwitz. And the answer – the only answer – is that they didn't believe in the totality of evil.
They knew, of course, that there were bad people in the world, but they didn't believe in total evil, organized evil, without mercy or hesitation, cold evil that looked at them but didn't see them, not even for a moment, as human.
According to their murderers, they weren't people. They weren't mothers or fathers, they weren't somebodies children. According to their murderers they never celebrated the birth of a child, never fell in love, never took their old dog for a walk at two in the morning or laughed until they cried at the latest comedy by Max Ehrlich.
That's what you need to kill another man. To be convinced that he isn't a man at all. When the murderers looked upon the people who departed from this platform on their final journey they didn't see Jewish parents, only Jews. They weren't Jewish poets or Jewish musicians, only Jews. They weren't Herr Braun or Frau Schwartz, only Jews.
Destruction starts with the destruction of identity. It is no surprise that the first thing done to them, when they arrived at Auschwitz, was to tattoo a number on their arm. It is hard to kill Rebecca Grunwald, a beautiful, fair haired 18 year old romantic, but Jew number 7762 A is easy to murder. Yet it remains the same person.
75 years later, do we know any more? Do we understand more?
The Holocaust placed before Israel a dual challenge:
On the one hand it taught us that we must survive at any price, and be able to defend ourselves at any price. Trainloads of Jews will never again depart from a platform anywhere in the world. The security of the State of Israel and its citizens must forever be in our hands alone. We have friends, and I stand here among friends. The new Germany has proven its friendship to Israel time and again, but we must not, and we cannot, rely on anyone but ourselves.
On the other hand, the Holocaust taught us that no matter the circumstances we must always remain moral people. Human morality is not judged when everything is ok, it is judged by our ability to see the suffering of the other, even when we have every reason to see only our own.
The Holocaust cannot be compared, and must not be compared, to any other event in human history. It was, in the words of the author K Zetnik, a survivor of Aushwitz, "another planet." We must not compare, but we must always remember what we learnt.
A war like the one we fight today, which looks likely to continue and which the civilized world - whether it wants to or not - will be a part of, causes the two lessons we learnt from the Holocaust to stand opposite one another.
The need to survive teaches us to strike hard to defend ourselves.
Our moral test is not taking place in a sterile laboratory or upon the philosophers' page. In the past weeks the moral test put before us has taken place during intense fighting. Thousands of rockets were fired at our citizens and armed terrorists dug tunnels next to kindergartens with the aim of killing or kidnapping our children. Anyone who criticizes us must ask themselves one question: "What would you do if someone came to your child's school with a gun in their hand and started shooting?"
Hamas, as opposed to us, wants to kill Jews. Young or old, men or women, soldiers or civilians. They see no difference, because for them we are not people. We are Jews and that is reason enough to murder us.
Our moral test, even under these circumstances, is to continue to distinguish between enemies and innocents. Every time a child in Gaza dies it breaks my heart. They are not Hamas, they are not the enemy, they are just children.
There for Israel is the first country in military history that informs its enemy in advance where and when it will attack, so as to avoid civilian causalities. Israel is the only country that transfers food and medication to its enemy while the fighting continues. Israel is the only country where pilots abandon their mission because they see civilians on the ground. And despite it all, children die, and children are not supposed to die.
Here in Europe, and elsewhere in the world, people sit in their comfortable homes, watching the evening news, and tell us that we are failing the test. Why? Because in Gaza people suffer more. They don't understand - or don't want to understand - that the suffering of Gaza is the main tool of evil. When we explain to them, time after time, that Hamas uses the children of Gaza as human shields, that Hamas intentionally places them in the firing line, to ensure they die, that Hamas sacrifices the lives of the young to win its propaganda war, people refuse to believe it. Why? Because they cannot believe that human beings - human beings who look like them and sound like them - are capable of behaving that way. Because good people always refuse to recognize the totality of evil until it's too late.
Time after time we ask ourselves why people in the world prefer to blame us when the facts so clearly indicate otherwise. Across the world fanatic Muslims are massacring other Muslims. In Syria, in Iraq, in Libya, in Nigeria more children are killed in a week than they die in Gaza in a decade. Every week, women are raped, homosexuals are hung and Christians are beheaded. The world watches, offers its polite condemnation, and returns obsessively to condemning Israel for fighting for our lives.
Some of the criticism stems from anti-Semitism. It has raised its ugly head once more. To those people we say: we will fight you everywhere. The days when Jews ran away from you are over. We will not be silent in the face of anti-Semitism and we expect every government, in every country, to stand shoulder to shoulder with us and fight this evil with us.
Other critics, perhaps more enlightened in their own eyes, prefer to blame only us for what happens in Gaza because they know we are the only ones who listen. They prefer to focus their anger upon us not in spite of but because we are committed to the same human values which Hamas rejects – compassion for the weak, rationality, protection of gay people, of women rights, of the freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Let us not fool ourselves. Evil is here. It is around us. It seeks to hurt us. Fundamentalist Islam is an ultimate evil, and like the evil which came before it learnt how to use all our tools against us: Our TV cameras, our international organizations, our commissions of inquiry and our legal system. Just as terror uses rockets and suicide bombers, it uses our inability to accept that someone would sacrifice the children of their people just to get a supportive headline or an eye-catching photograph.
Standing here, in this place, I want to say clearly – that the leaders of Hamas, an anti-western, anti-Semitic terrorist organization cannot be safe while they continue to target innocent civilians. Just as every European leader would do, just as the United States did with Osama Bin Laden, so we will pursue every leader of Hamas.
This is the evil which we all face and Israel stands at the front. Europe must know, if we will fail to stop them, they will come for you. We must do everything to avoid suffering and the death of innocents but we stand in the right place from which to say to the entire world: We will not board the train again. We will protect ourselves from total evil.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, this evening (Monday, 18 August 2014), at Ashdod Navy Base, held a security meeting at the conclusion of which the Prime Minister said:
"Together we are conducting this complicated campaign with determination and responsibility. We are ready for any scenario – the Israeli team in Cairo has been instructed to insist on Israel's security needs and the IDF is prepared for very action strong action if fire is resumed. In the stormy Middle East one needs a combination of strength and patience. The IDF has considerable strength and the Eternal People has proven that it does not fear a long road. It could yet take time and one must be patient and determined. The combination of persistence and strength will assist us in achieving the goal of this operation – quiet and security for all Israelis."
Defense Minister Yaalon said: "Operation Protective Edge is not over. As we promised, we will not stop until we bring quiet and security. We are prepared for the results of the discussions in Cairo whether it brings quiet or if someone tries to challenge us with escalation. The IDF is prepared and ready to respond strongly to any development. Hamas will not drag us into a war of attrition and if it tries it will be struck very hard."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon (Monday, 18 August 2014), in Sderot, met with representatives of the various youth movements that volunteered to work with local children in the shelters during Operation Protective Edge. Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi also attended the meeting.
The young volunteers told the Prime Minister about their work to strengthen the residents of Sderot and its environs via educational, social and cultural activities that they held for children as well as other projects such as making packages for soldiers, visiting wounded soldiers at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, visiting women whose husbands had received emergency call-up orders and visiting bereaved families.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "The public's resilience, and yours, gives us considerable strength to use considerable strength. We are in the midst of a diplomatic campaign and in a diplomatic campaign, one needs the same thing – one needs much strength, patience, persistence and wisdom as well. And we are in a combined military-diplomatic campaign in which our unity and our steadfastness are what will be victorious. This is what must be understood – much patience is needed here. In the Middle East in which we live it is not enough only to be strong, [and] we are strong, we must also have patience. We do, in abundance, and it is you who prove it. The Eternal People do not fear a long road and the citizens of Israel, and you among them, prove this."
Sderot Mayor Davidi thanked Prime Minister Netanyahu for the government's support and backing for Sderot: "I see the warm embrace and the commander's spirit; all government ministries have lined up alongside Sderot and are coming to see how they can be of assistance. The IDF and you have defended us; you sent the IDF to defend us, and we hope that anyone who so much as thinks of harming our children will be struck very hard."
Finance Minister and member of the Security Cabinet, Yair Lapid, addressed Israel's relations with the United States this afternoon and said, "This is a worrying trend and we cannot allow it to continue. Our relations with the United States are a strategic asset that must be maintained. Last week I spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to thank them for the emergency funds which they transferred to Israel for the Iron Dome. Sometimes we just need to say thank you and ensure that our important relations with the United States remain strong."
Jewish Agency Brings Dozens of Teens from Embattled Areas of Ukraine to Special Summer Camp in Israel
Ukrainian Immigration to Israel Triples Since the Beginning of 2014
JERUSALEM – The Jewish Agency for Israel has brought dozens of Jewish teenagers from the embattled areas of Ukraine to a special summer camp in Israel, thanks to funding from the Jewish Federations of North America and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. At the same time, there has been a significant increase in the number of immigrants to Israel from southeastern Ukraine, as well as in the number of inquiries to Jewish Agency representatives regarding immigration to Israel.
Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky said: "I grew up in southeastern Ukraine at a time when our lives were devoid of Judaism and Zionism was a dirty word. Today we at The Jewish Agency are able to help children in that same region connect to Jewish life and strengthen their ties to Israel. This is important not only from a Zionist perspective, but from a humanitarian perspective, as well. The Jewish Agency stands ready to assist Jews anywhere in the world. Today we are fulfilling that sacred mission in Ukraine and we will continue to do whatever we can to ensure that Jews are safe and secure no matter where they are."
Some 40 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 from Donetsk and other embattled areas of Ukraine are currently participating in the ZMAN.IL summer camp, located on Kibbutz Kalia near the Dead Sea. During their time in Israel, they will tour the country, be immersed in Israeli culture, and learn about Jewish history. Daniel, one of the campers, who recently fled Donetsk with his parents and siblings, spoke about the difficult situation he left behind and said: "I finally found peace and quiet in Israel."
At the same time, Jewish Agency representatives are working intensively to provide individuals who wish to immigrate to Israel with immediate assistance. Since tensions flared in May, some 400 individuals have been rescued from the embattled areas and brought to Israel thanks to Christian organizations and the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk. The new immigrants were flown to Israel via Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and Kiev.
According to Jewish Agency figures, the number of new immigrants from Ukraine has more than tripled since the beginning of the year, reaching some 2,000 individuals by the end of July, compared to 600 during the equivalent period in 2013.
The most significant increases have been noted amongst immigrants from southeastern Ukraine. From the beginning of 2014 through the end of July, 509 individuals immigrated to Israel from Odessa (compared to 108 last year – a 371% increase), 666 from Kharkov (compared to 151 last year – a 341% increase), 338 from Dnepropetrovsk (compared to 93 – a 263% increase), 114 from Simferopol (compared to 41 – a 178% increase), and 305 from Kiev (compared to 201 – a 52% increase).
Jewish immigration from Ukraine is being organized by The Jewish Agency in partnership with various Israeli government ministries—including the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—and organizations such as EZRA, and with the support of the Jewish Federations of North America and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
PHOTO: Jewish teenagers from embattled areas of Ukraine enjoy a Jewish Agency summer camp experience in Israel.
Photo by Emanuel Shechter.
SWC, Jewish leaders meet with UN Secretary General; accuse UN agencies of anti-Israel bias
"We are deeply frustrated with the one-sided narrative that is being presented by the United Nations" — Rabbi Marvin Hier
UNITED NATIONS — Aug 13, 2014, 5:04 PM ET
By TRENTON DANIEL Associated Press
Leaders of major Jewish organizations on Wednesday accused U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of being one-sided in his handling of the crisis in Gaza.
A delegation of 11 Jewish organizations met with the U.N. chief to express their concerns, presenting a letter that listed what they said were 19 violations of international law by Hamas that have gone ignored, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group with an office in New York.
Chief among their demands was a need for the U.N. to investigate rocket attacks by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, on Israel's civilian population, and Hamas' use of U.N. schools. Rockets were found in three empty U.N. schools during the conflict.
"We are deeply frustrated with the one-sided narrative that is being presented by the United Nations," Hier said by phone, following the near-90 minute meeting with Ban
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: "The secretary-general reiterated that he fully understands Israel's legitimate security concerns but also stressed the need to show restraint in their actions in Gaza so as to avoid civilian casualties."
"He also reminded them that he has, on many occasions, condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas into Israel as well as the tunnels," Dujarric said in a statement. "The secretary-general told them that the nightmare of the last four weeks has been a terrible reminder that only a negotiated political settlement can bring security and peace to Israelis and Palestinians alike."
Ban has taken a tough stance on Israel, especially on the deadly attacks on U.N. schools that have been sheltering civilians. But he has also repeatedly demanded that Gaza stop firing rockets at Israel and blamed Hamas for violating an earlier cease-fire.
Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to extend the current cease-fire for five days to allow time for more indirect negotiations, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The truce had been set to expire at midnight.
Ban spent six days in the Middle East in July and countless hours on the phone with Israeli, Palestinian and other leaders trying to broker an end to the fighting.
The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, which operates independently of the secretary-general, recently appointed a panel to investigate human rights violations related to the Israel and Hamas fighting.
The Anti-Defamation League, one of the Jewish groups that attended the meeting with Ban, called the panel a "farce" with an outcome that is "all-but ordained."
Hier said the delegation was particularly concerned about a statement Ban made on Tuesday, when he said that the "fighting has raised serious questions about Israel's respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality." Those principles of international law require distinguishing between civilians and combatants, and responding proportionately to an attack.
Palestinian and U.N. officials say more than 1,900 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, the majority of them civilians. In his statement Tuesday, Ban noted that 459 Palestinian children were among the dead. On the Israeli side, 67 people have died, all but three of them soldiers.
Israel's critics say its reprisals for the rocket attacks are excessive. Israel says it does everything it can to avoid civilian casualties and blames Hamas for using civilians as human shields.
"When that is expressed by the person who heads up the United Nations, I think, frankly, it emboldens Hamas and other groups like it, to continue to take a strategy that uses human shields," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon (Wednesday, 13 August 2014), met with New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Following are their statements:
Prime Minister Netanyahu:
"Governor, I want to welcome your delegation to Israel. It's a pleasure to see you all here, especially at this time. I just said to you that the first thing I want you to do is to send warmest regards to your father. I remember him fondly from my days in the UN. At that time in the UN, I had to address the question of the constant attempts to force a moral asymmetry on the world or a false symmetry on Israel. That's what you do in the United Nations if you are the ambassador of Israel. And I remember how strongly, firmly and clearly Governor Cuomo, Mario Cuomo, stood with Israel at the time and this is a tradition that continues with you and your delegation.
I want to thank you for coming here, for standing clearly with Israel, representing the American people and the people of New York, and also representing the rejection of this false symmetry that is, has made. Just as you wouldn't put America and ISIS on the same moral plane, you'd never put Israel and Hamas on the same moral plane. Remember that Hamas celebrating 9/11; they celebrated the murder of thousands of innocent people, including thousands of New Yorkers. They celebrated! They were standing on the roofs cheering while all the people of Israel grieved with the United States. When the United States killed Bin Laden, they accused the United States and condemned the United States of committing crimes. This tells you where Hamas is and Israel is on the other side.
Hamas continues to do these horrible things that ISIS does: They persecute Christians, they persecute gays, they persecute women, they basically reject modernity and there are a terrorist tyranny that is imposed on their people. And where their people reject being used as human shields, you know what they do, Governor? They execute them. This is the kind of moral divide that is evident today in the world, and on one side you Israel and the United States representing democracies committing to human rights, committing to a real future for our people; and on the other side, you have the likes of ISIS and Hamas, Islamist tyrannies that have no inhibition and pursue their grisly creeds and their grisly deeds.
I thank you for coming here and standing on the right side of the moral divide."
New York Governor Cuomo:
"Thank you. Thank you very much. Well, Prime Minister, it's our pleasure. We know that you're going through a very difficult time right now and Israel is going through a very difficult time. And that is precisely why we're here: Because we want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel, we want to stand in solidarity with you. The delegation that has come forward is unprecedented in some ways. We have both sides of the legislature, the Assembly and the Senate. It's a bipartisan delegation. We have business representatives, [unclear] leaders, and we all wanted to come as one, in solidarity, in unity, to say to Israel: We understand the situation you're in, we understand what you are facing and we support your right, your leave to defend your people against terror.
The United States has always been a strong ally of Israel on many, many levels. As New Yorkers, we have many connections, family connections, cultural connections, historic connections, so our relations go very deep. And I speak for all New Yorkers when I say: We stand in solidarity with Israel. The fight that you fight is the fight against terror. Unfortunately in New York, we've had a rude awakening to the pain and suffering that terror can cause in 9/11. So we have a special sensitivity in our hearts for what you're going through now.
We wish you peace, everyone hopes that the killing will stop and we can get to a place of peace. I know that's your hope. You've been quite articulate and eloquent on the subject, but we understand that Israel must defend itself. The discovery of these tunnels I find very troubling indeed. It shows the extensive approach of the enemy, the constant rocket fire and the Iron Dome is successful, but it must stop and we understand that also. So, we pray for peace. We stand with you in defense."
The David InterContinental Tel Aviv hotel has been awarded Israel's Leading Business Hotel for the second time at the Grand Final Ceremony of the 2014 Word Travel Awards at the Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso in Athens, Greece.
ABOUT DAVID INTERCONTINENTAL® TEL AVIV
Member of the Security Cabinet and Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, has put forward a diplomatic initiative for the demilitarization of Gaza and the transfer of control to the Palestinian Authority
Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, is leading a diplomatic initiative to involve the world powers and moderate regional actors in the demilitarization and rehabilitation of Gaza through an international conference which will include the United States, Russia, the European Union, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid, a member of the security cabinet, is leading a diplomatic initiative in the past few days to demilitarize Gaza and the transfer of authority in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority while maintaining Israel's strategic security interest. The initiative calls for an international conference hosted by Egypt and to include the United States, European Union, Russia, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Israel and moderate Arab states including Saudi Arabia.
The initiative also calls for the involvement of states which will provide economic support for the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip and the creation of projects which will lead to long term economic cooperation in the region. The principle aim of the conference is the demilitarization and rehabilitation of Gaza and the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip with support from the international community.
Finance Minister Lapid said that Operation Protective Edge cannot, and will not, end without a diplomatic front. Without a diplomatic process any attempt to find a solution will simply begin the countdown to the next outbreak of violence. Only a diplomatic process can make stability possible and create the foundation for a future solution.
The conference will be based upon two tracks – one which will outline the principles of the agreement to demilitarize and rehabilitate the Gaza Strip and return the Palestinian Authority to Gaza. That track will include representatives from Egypt, Israel, the US, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and representatives of the Quartet.
The second track will focus on the economic aspects for the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip and the creation of economic ties between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world. The track will include Norway, the United Nations, the United States, the Quartet, World Bank, Canada, Japan, Russia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia.
The four aims of the conference will be:
The return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza
Cofix Takes Over the White City, with a new 7th branch opening in Tel-Aviv
The café chain includes 23 locations throughout Israel
The newest branch is located at Dizengoff 91, Tel Aviv
• A new expanded menu features a variety of drinks, coffee,freshly-squeezed juices, baked goods,sandwiches and additional items from the chain's summer menu
including: flavored ice drinks,ice cream, and more.
• Cofix CEO Chaim Aharon announces: "Our intention is to open additional locations in Tel Aviv with the goal of reaching 20 branches spread across the city."
What a revolutionary concept !!! every for 5 shekel.
Minister of Finance and Chair of Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, delivered a statement today addressing the current situation
Earlier this weekend Minister Lapid spoke with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and sent letters to thank senior members of the US Senate and House of Representatives who secured the passing of legislation to provide funds for the Iron Dome:
"These have been difficult days facing an enemy who cared neither for the lives of our civilians or its own, consistently choosing death over life. The people of Israel deeply appreciate the support of the United States Senate during Operation Protective Edge"
In a statement this afternoon, Minister of Finance, Yair Lapid, said, "We have accepted ceasefires five times and five times Hamas broke the ceasefire and went back to doing what it does which is firing rockets and trying to kill our children while tying its own children to the altar and using them as human shields. The world must ask itself this, why is that Hamas won't renounce terror? In order to get peace and rehabilitation Hamas only needs to do one thing and that is to renounce terror, why is it that they don't?"
Minister Lapid addressed the situation in southern Israel and said, "Israel has a responsibility to protect its citizens. The Government of Israel will do everything, diplomatically or militarily, to secure peace and calm for the citizens of the south." He continued and said, "To Deif and his gang I want to say clearly; just as the United States did not rest until it found Bin Laden and eliminated him, we will find you and bring you to justice for what you have done to the children of Israel and of Gaza."
Over the weekend, Minister Lapid thanked senior members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, who worked to secure additional funds for the Iron Dome system. Minister Lapid spoke by phone with Senate Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid and thanked him for the support which he described as yet another symbol of the depths of friendship and strategic relations between Israel and the United States.
In the letter sent to the leaders of the Senate and the House, Minister Lapid wrote, "I'm writing to thank you for your support for which provided a further $225 million in support for the Iron Dome Missile Defense System which has proven crucial in our ability to defend ourselves against the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza. "
Addressing relations between Israel and the United States he wrote, "This bill symbolizes once again the depths of friendship and strategic relations between our two countries. The people of Israel deeply appreciate the support of the United States Senate during Operation Protective Edge. These have been difficult days facing an enemy who cared neither for the lives of our civilians or its own, consistently choosing death over life." Minister Lapid concluded and wrote, "We must now begin to look forward and implement the demilitarization of Gaza as part of a process of economic growth and development which will benefit the people of Gaza and the people of Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Thursday, 7 August 2014), was interviewed on American Fox News, German ZDF and French CANAL + iTele.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told Fox News: "What you have right now is this terrific conflagration in the Middle East. You have ISIS taking swaths of Iraq and Syria. It's now pushing into, right close to Lebanon and perhaps into Jordan. That's very, very dangerous and ISIS is basically a sister movement of al-Qaeda. You have Hezbollah, radical Shiites fighting radical Sunnis; you have Hamas; and you have in Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and in North Africa a plethora of Islamist terrorist groups. Now, look, they're all fighting among themselves, but they all agree that once they destroy, vanquish their Muslim moderates who are there who don't share their views and they behead them and do horrible things to them. And then they have to get to Israel, which is the Western country in the region...but we're the Small Satan. For all of them, you're the Great Satan. The radical Shiites are backed by Iran. The radical Sunnis have various backers and so on, and these people fight among themselves who'll be the king of the hill. But one thing they agree on, it's going to be an Islamist hill and it's going to be a world dominated by their unforgiving creed, their violent ideology which rejects modernity, rejects human rights, rejects, puts women as chattel, all minorities are subjugated or eliminated. I mean, it is a terrible, terrible world view with these competing sects who want to enforce it on the rest of humanity, those of humanity who will be left alive. A good portion will be destroyed. Now, this is the danger: that you have 21st century weapons with early medieval doctrines here, wedded together. And this is a great danger for the world. Israel is on the front line facing this terrible force and should be given support and who is the world supporting? Is it supporting Hamas, this, a terrorist tyranny of the worst kind, that is cruel to not only to us, but to its own people? Or is it supporting this vibrant, beleaguered democracy, Israel, that is trying to legitimately defend itself? And I think everybody should ask themselves that question, because by supporting Israel, you're supporting yourself."
Prime Minister Netanyahu told ZDF: "Hamas is part of a movement, an Islamist movement that wants to reconstruct an Islamic dominion without human rights, without plurality, women as chattel, no rights for minorities, for gays, you name it. They either don't exist or they should be executed. This kind of unforgiving creed has anti-Semitism as part of its horrible doctrine. And that, when we see that spreading in parts of Europe, we're grateful when we see strong leaders like Angela Merkel, and some others in Europe, stand up forcefully against this anti-Semitism. I think that's, we need support for Israel, but also the fight against anti-Semitism, and the liberal values that we all share. Support for the liberal values that we all share."
Prime Minister Netanyahu told CANAL+iTele: "It's not Israel's battle. It's your battle. It's the battle of France, because it's the same battle. If they succeed here, if Israel's the one that's blamed here and not the terrorists, if we don't stand together, then this terror plague will come to you. It's just a question of time. It will come to you, it will come to France."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Thursday, 7 August 2014), met with International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer and told him:
"You can have thousands of reports like that, that shows that what the terrorists are doing is what I told you a year ago. You know, every one of these civilian deaths is a tragedy; we regret every single one. We do not target a single civilian (). And when we met here a year ago, I said to you that Hamas is committing a double war crime: It is both targeting civilians and hiding behind civilians, including UN facilities which are not only rocket storage sites, but rocket launching sites and mortar launching sites. So Israel has every right to defend itself, and we are obeying the rules of war, the international code. And those who are responsible for all these tragic civilian deaths are Hamas and Hamas alone."
Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that Israel makes every effort to aid civilian non-combatants in Gaza and added:
"You may know, we've put in about 2,000 trucks during the fighting, during the humanitarian ceasefires which we kept and Hamas violated. We've opened a field hospital which Hamas – right next to Gaza in order to assist the wounded, the Palestinian wounded. Hamas prevents people from coming in. We're fixing fuel lines, electricity lines for Gaza during the fighting, water supply – during the fighting, as best as we can. Hamas has been the one that's been deliberately stopping that, so it's actually a triple thing that they're doing. They're not only firing on our civilians, not only hiding behind their civilians and accruing as much civilian deaths as they can pile up, because that's what they want for the PR game against Israel, but also I think that they've done something else and that's to prevent and refuse humanitarian assistance that Israel itself offered for their own people. And I think when you put it all together, you understand that there is a deliberate strategy here and that is to have Hamas – Hamas – inflict as much civilian damage as they can on their own people as part of a deliberate strategy to try to have Israel accused in international public opinion.
Now, if international law and the international code basically surrenders to this policy and to this tactic, what it means is that terrorists that are embedded in dense urban populations are firing rockets at neighboring countries, democracies like Israel, and then get Israel or the democracies to be accused when it takes legitimate action against them, that means that democracies and the law-abiding states are absolutely defenseless. What is at stake here is not merely Israel's ability and legitimate right of self-defense; it's the ability of all civilized countries and all democracies to defend themselves because this test case is not only about Israel. What happens here will happen for everyone. Now it may seem farfetched to you, but it's not. This will be everywhere, everywhere you have radicalized Islamic terrorist communities and movements, you will have this phenomenon. The issue here is not merely Israel's right of self-defense, but the right of self-defense of all civilized countries against this barbarism."
AS PART OF THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY ACTIVITIES IN THE SOUTH AS A RESULT OF OPERATION PROTECTIVE EDGE: THE AGENCY FOR SMALL AND MID-SIZED ENTERPRISES IN THE MINISTRY OF THE ECONOMY INVITES E-COMMERCE PLATFORMS TO HELP BUSINESSES IN THE SOUTH AND BENEFIT FR
In order to assist small businesses in the south that have been affected as a result of Operation Protective Edge, the Agency for Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises in the Ministry of Economy invites e-commerce platforms to promote on their websites goods and services of businesses in the Gaza periphery and within the 40 kilometer zone - and benefit from free advertising exposure in a campaign the Agency is spearheading.
The agency directive has just been published on its Hebrew-language website (sba.economy.gov.il), is directed at e-commerce platforms and price comparison websites, encouraging them to increase consumer accessibility and therefore extra sales to those small and mid-sized businesses located within the area in the south that has been designated "a special situation in the home front".
Those e-commerce platforms that receive approval from the Agency for Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises will then benefit from exposure - free of charge - within the framework of a radio and internet advertising campaign to be launched by the agency. The advertising campaign will direct viewers and listeners to a dedicated landing page on the agency's website where all the relevant e-commerce platforms will be promoted.
Agency for Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises Director Ran Kaviti: "The objective of this campaign is to assist small businesses by advertising their products and services and thereby generating increased sales. This will help them overcome the significant drop in sales they have experienced as a result of Operation Protective Edge. We call on e-commerce platform entrepreneurs, managers and owners to submit their applications and receive help from the agency so that, together, we can reach every home in Israel and strengthen the small businesses in the south economically and commercially."
THE DIRECTOR OF EMPLOYMENT AT THE MINISTRY OF ECONOMY PRESENTS A NATIONAL PROGRAM FOR DEALING WITH THE EXTREME SHORTAGE OF MANPOWER IN THE HI-TECH INDUSTRY
Director of Employment Regulation & Senior Deputy Director General at the Ministry of Economy Michal Tzuk today submitted to the Minister of the Economy the conclusions of the inter-ministerial steering committee on dealing with the shortage of skilled manpower for the hi-tech industry * The committee formulated a long list of recommendations with the goal of reducing the gap between the demand for skilled and high-quality workers in the fields of science and technology, and the current supply in the employment market *
Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett: "Israeli innovation is an inseparable part of our national strength. Israel's economic strength and image depends, among other things, on it being a groundbreaking innovative power, providing mankind with technological solutions for cyberspace, security, defense, agriculture, water, energy, medicine, safety, etc. However, Israeli hi-tech suffers from a flaw, and that flaw is extremely significant – the shortage of skilled manpower required for technological professions. The great potential for employment and growth is not realized because companies have problems in finding high-quality, skilled employees. Not enough young people are studying mathematics and the sciences; there are not enough Arab and ultra-Orthodox graduates in technological fields, which is a shame. Hi-tech knows how to employ everyone, and needs more and more talented employees. Therefore, this report comes exactly at the right time, and its test will be in how it is implemented."
This morning the inter-ministerial steering committee, headed by the Director of Employment Regulation & Senior Deputy Director General at the Ministry of Economy, submitted to the Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett its conclusions on dealing with the shortage of skilled manpower for the hi-tech industry, which suffers from a serious shortage of high-quality academic graduates in engineering, computers, and science. While there are some 7,000 new positions in the hi-tech industry annually, the education system produces around only 6,600 graduates each year with the potential to study engineering and sciences, and a large percentage go on to study other fields. While the demand rises, the number of students for the subjects in demand has stagnated.
In light of the importance of the issue to Israeli finances, labor market, industry, and the economy, a committee deliberated over the last year on formulating a range of tools which would provide solutions to the stagnation in the number of students in the innovative industries, and bring about an increase in the supply of candidates to be employed in the many positions – most carrying high salaries – offered to high-quality graduates.
Representatives of many bodies participated in the inter-ministerial committee, including: The Office of the Director of Employment in the Ministry of Economy, the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy, the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister's Office, the Budget Department in the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education, the Planning and Budgeting Committee at the Council for Higher Education in Israel, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, the fund and unit for Guidance for Ex-Servicemen in the Ministry of Defense, the IDF, the Israeli Employment Service, the National Cyber Bureau, and various representatives in the fields of industry, employment, and development of human resources.
Amit Lang, Director General of the Ministry of Economy, noted that: "Every day we witness the effects of the lack of professional manpower on the Israeli economy in general, and on its hi-tech industry in particular. The difficulty experienced by the technology companies in finding expert employees in science, engineering, and computers, has a direct effect on the economy's ability to export goods and services in the technological industries. Therefore, we attribute great importance to strengthening the professional and academic training in fields which enable their graduates to acquire a profession for life, while also providing solutions to the needs of industry and the economy. We are currently working on the formulation of a government resolution which will establish a team, led by the Ministry of Economy, to implement the important recommendations of the report. We will continue to work – together with all the partners in the government, academia, the private sector, and the Third Sector – to increase the supply of scientists, engineers, practical engineers, and computer science graduates, and we will create growth impetus to provide solutions for the needs of the economy, alongside high-quality job placements with high salaries appropriate for skilled employees in the relevant fields."
Director of Employment Regulation & Senior Deputy Director General Michal Tzuk noted that: "The hi-tech industry is a primary growth engine for the Israeli economy. However, the shortage of available and skilled manpower is an obstacle to the development of the hi-tech industry. Finding skilled and high-quality manpower, available and accessible for employment, is a prime requisite to continue strengthening and developing the industry, and we will work to realize and implement the recommendations so that they will begin to be implemented during the 2015 budgetary year."
Main Committee Recommendations
Dealing with two major issues:
In the short term, the committee recommends steps including:
In the medium term, it is recommended to do the following, including:
In the long term, the committee recommends:
There is only one way to achieve sustained quiet in Israel and build a peaceful and prosperous Gaza. Hamas must be disarmed. Gaza must be demilitarized. And the international community must divorce itself from the romantic notion of Hamas as 'freedom fighters'.
Winston Churchill, one of the great architects of this institution, is remembered for his remarkable ability to perceive danger long before the rest of the world had woken up to the fact. In 1935, four years before World War II, Churchill criticized the international community for standing by as Germany rapidly rearmed. In his words: "The family of nations suffered from a want of foresight, an unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, and a lack of clear thinking and confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong."
The international community is once again facing the severe lack of foresight and unwillingness to see. Every day we are confronted by stories of radical Islamic terrorism: ISIS is purging Iraq of Christians, Boko Haram has kidnapped school girls in Nigeria, Al-Shabab gunmen are raiding fishing villages on the Somali coast. And yet this Assembly does not utter a word. It can only muster its outrage when Israel acts to defend its citizens.
The double standards are absolutely appalling. In Iraq, over 1,600 people were killed in July. In Libya, clashes between rival militias killed 200 people last month. In Nigeria, Boko Haram has slaughtered nearly 3,000 people this year. It may just be me, but I didn't hear the Arab group rally to condemn these atrocities. Instead, this group gangs up against the only democratic nation in the Middle East that is defending its citizens from the totalitarian forces threatening every enlightened country in this Assembly.
It might be too much to ask you to stand on our side in this battle between civilization and barbarism. But at least have the decency to swallow your selective outrage as Israel wages war against the extremist groups, seeking to eradicate the values that we all hold very dear.
Israel is on the frontline of the war against radical extremism. The battle we fight today is the same battle that you all will fight tomorrow. Hamas, like ISIS and al-Qaeda, shares a disdain for democracy, a contempt for modernity, and a willingness to target innocent civilians.
And yet, some of you have abandoned the only democracy in the Middle East standing against the tide of terrorism. What does this say about your values? What does it mean for the next generation? This institution is being held hostage by some in this Assembly who are the worst human rights abusers.
The Arab nations, backed by some members of the non-aligned movement, may have the numbers, but they don't have the morals. They use the majority to convene special sessions, issue condemnations, and push through resolutions demonizing Israel. In fact, I won't be surprised if the Arab states pass a resolution saying that the terror tunnels were actually simply an irrigation system, and that the rockets were nothing more than shooting stars.
Few nations have the courage to admit that Hamas is committing a double war crime, targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians. Fewer still have the courage to admit that Hamas is willing to see its own children killed so it can build sympathy for its cause. By not vocally and unequivocally condemning Hamas, you are condemning another generation of Israelis and Palestinians to further suffering.
There is only one way to achieve sustained quiet in Israel and build a peaceful and prosperous Gaza. Hamas must be disarmed, Gaza must be demilitarized. And the international community must divorce itself from the romantic notion of Hamas as 'freedom fighters'.
Seventy years ago Winston Churchill bemoaned what he saw as the inability of mankind to act until the emergency comes. Today I am here to issue a warning: Stand with Israel and stand against terror before it is too late, before the danger lands on your doorstep and self-preservation strikes its jarring gong
Thank you Mr. President.
Prosor: "The international community is once again experiencing a severe lack of foresight. Every day, we are confronted by stories of radical Islamic terrorism. ISIS is purging Iraq of Christians. Boko Haram has kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria. Al-Shabaab gunmen are raiding fishing villages on the Somali coast.
There is only one way to achieve sustained quiet in Israel and build a peaceful and prosperous Gaza. Hamas must be disarmed. Gaza must be demilitarized. And the international community must divorce itself from the romantic notion of Hamas as 'freedom fighters.' "
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Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Magen David Adom (MDA) Director General Eli Bin, senior MDA officials and a delegation of residents of communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, several of whom are MDA volunteers, today (Wednesday, 6 August 2014), at the MDA station in Ashdod, met with International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer.
The residents discussed their fears and concerns, stemming from the threat of rockets or terrorist attacks, during Operation Protective Edge. MDA International Dept. Director Yoni Yagodovsky briefed ICRC President Maurer on MDA's work during the operation () including efforts to transport chronically ill residents of the Gaza Strip to treatment in Israel. "To our regret, in the Gaza Strip, they agreed to transfer only five patients despite our offers to help," Yagodovsky said.
Justice Minister Livni told ICRC President Maurer, "I know that you have come from Gaza where you were exposed to not easy sights. Israel has Iron Dome but the fact that we have it does not mean that it is possible to live without fear. We sought here to share with you some of the feelings of Israelis who live the threat of missiles and tunnels and to show you our military activity so that you will realize that we are acting in accordance with international law. As a decision-maker, I know that I cannot allow citizens to live with this fear and I respect your desire and intention to offer humanitarian assistance."
705 Foreign Journalists from 42 Countries were Dispatched to Israel during Operation Protective Edge
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, the Government Press Office (GPO) has dealt with 705 foreign journalists from over 42 countries who came to cover the events. During the Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, 303 foreign journalists came to Israel. The journalists joined and reinforced the existing crews regularly working in Israel, who number approximately 750 journalists.
Upon the conclusion of the operation, the GPO accumulated testimony by foreign journalists regarding harassment by Hamas activists regarding the carrying out of their assignments. Journalists said that during their coverage of the fighting they received threats and – in several cases – were the victims of violence that included destruction of their equipment because they had documented criminal activity by Hamas such as the launching of rockets from the heart of civilian areas.
At the onset of the operation, the GPO opened a media and information center in Ashkelon and held weekly tours, briefings and press conferences with Cabinet ministers and government and military officials. Journalists noted that their meeting with Col. (ret.) Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who briefed them on the challenges of urban and guerrilla warfare, assisted them in understanding the complexity of the current violence.
At Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, journalists met and spoke with wounded IDF soldiers and with Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were being treated in Israel. Before the end of the operation, journalists toured the IDF field hospital at Erez Crossing, which received and treated approximately 50 wounded. During the tour, the journalists witnessed the violation of the ceasefire by Hamas and heard the many explosions in the area. As the journalists observed the delivery of humanitarian aid via the Kerem Shalom Crossing, they noted the scope of the humanitarian assistance, which included medicine, medical equipment, food, clothing and fuel. In the past month, approximately 1,500 trucks with humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip.
GPO Director Nitzan Chen said, "During 29 days of stubborn fighting and constant threats to the home front, the GPO worked to provide information and service to the foreign media and to present them with the whole picture of Israel."
Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement and answers to questions at his press conference this evening (Wednesday, 6 August 2014):
"The rectangle that you see in the center is the UNRWA's Shahada al-Manar elementary school for boys (see photo: < http://www.pmo.gov.il/MediaCenter/Events/Pages/eventjer060814.aspx>). That's the thing that you see there in reddish color and you see right around that four mortars fires. Five mortars are fired. One mortar fired. One mortar fired. Right around that school. It's very important to see that and to understand what kind of conditions our forces are facing from Gaza.
Here's a terror tunnel near a school (see photo: < http://www.pmo.gov.il/MediaCenter/Events/Pages/eventjer060814.aspx>). You see the big building to the right of the arrows? That's a school. You see civilian houses in a distance of a few meters, a mosque literally touching the school, civilian houses around it. This is where the terror tunnels are dug, and may I say that in many places the terror tunnels were dug from homes. From homes. From inside the homes. So, that is an example again of the use of civilian areas both to fire rockets at our civilians and to dig the terror tunnels for the death squads to reach our people, kidnap and kill them.
I expect, now that the members of the press are leaving Gaza, or some of them are leaving Gaza, and are no longer subjected to Hamas restrictions and intimidations, I expect we'll see even more documentation of Hamas terrorists hiding behind the civilian population, exploiting civilian targets. I think it's very important for the truth to come out.
The goal of Operation Protective Edge was and remains to protect Israeli civilians. That means to protect our people from roughly 3,500 rockets, three thousand five hundred rockets, that Hamas and the other terrorist groups have fired on our cities, on our towns, on our civilians, on our children in the last month. The goal of this operation was to protect our people from the threat of terror tunnels built to send death squads into Israel, to commit terrorist atrocities against Israel's civilians, to kidnap and to kill.
Israel deeply regrets every civilian casualty, every single one. We do not target them; we do not seek them. The people of Gaza are not our enemy. Our enemy is Hamas; our enemy are the other terrorist organizations trying to kill our people. And we've taken extraordinary circumstances and measures to avoid civilian casualties. The tragedy of Gaza is that it is ruled by Hamas – a tyrannical and fanatical terror group that relishes civilian casualties. They want civilian casualties. They use them as PR fodder. So it's not that they don't want them; they want them. And they pretty much say so. Indeed Hamas has adopted a strategy that abuses and sacrifices Gaza's civilians. They use them as human shields; they endanger them and deliberately increase the death toll. They fire their rockets at Israel from schools, from hospitals, from mosques. You've just seen that. From urban neighborhoods, and right next to schools where journalists are staying. You can discover that for yourself.
Of course nearly everyone says that they support Israel's right to defend itself, and we appreciate those who say this. But there are those who refuse to recognize or to let Israel exercise that right. They would allow Hamas to attack with impunity, because they say they're firing from schools or from mosques or from hospitals and Israel should not take action against them. That's obviously a mistake. It's a moral mistake. It's an operational mistake. Because that would validate and legitimize Hamas's use of human shields, and it would hand an enormous victory to terrorists everywhere and a devastating effect to the free societies that are fighting terrorism.
If this were to happen, more and more civilians will die around the world, because this is a testing period now. Can a terrorist organization fire thousands of rockets at cities of a democracy? Can a terrorist organization embed itself in civilian areas? Can it dig terror tunnels from civilian areas? Can it do so with impunity because it counts on the victimized country to respond as it must, as any country would, and then be blamed for it? Can we accept a situation in which the terrorists would be exonerated and the victims accused?
This is the issue that stands not only before the international community today regarding Israel; it stands before the international community with a wave of radical terrorists that are now seizing vast cities, civilian populations and doing exactly the tactic that Hamas is doing. That's exactly what ISIL is doing, what Hezbollah is doing, what Boko Haram is doing. What Hamas is doing is what is al-Qaeda is doing. And the test now is not merely the test for the international community's attitude towards Israel – an embattled democracy using legitimate means against these double war crimes of targeting civilians and hiding behind civilians. The test is for the civilized world itself, how it is able to defend itself.
Israel accepted and Hamas rejected the Egyptian ceasefire proposal of July 15th. Now I want you to know that at that time, the conflict had claimed some 185 lives. Only on Monday night did Hamas finally agree to that very same proposal, which went into effect yesterday morning. That means that 90%, a full 90% of the fatalities in this conflict could have been avoided had Hamas not rejected then the ceasefire that it accepts now.
Hamas must be held accountable for the tragic loss of life. It must be ostracized from the family of nations for its callous abuse of civilians, and Hamas must be prevented from rearming as part of Gaza's general demilitarization. That is the sure way to guarantee that this conflict will not repeat itself. And I'm very glad that Secretary Kerry and others have put forward the need to demilitarize Gaza. This is a long-standing Palestinian obligation yet to be fulfilled. Setting anew this long-term goal is important for Israel, it's important for the people of Gaza and for all of us who want to see an end to the violence and an end to the suffering.
Every civilian casualty is a tragedy. A tragedy of Hamas's own working. I think the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel put it best when he said, Hamas is engaging in child sacrifice. And this is something for which it must be held accountable. For the sake of all our children, it must not be allowed to get away with this."
Question: "[Inaudible] I wanted to ask: You mentioned the Israeli [inaudible]. That was before the ground operation, before the tunnels [inaudible] and I wanted to ask, will you therefore, if Hamas had accepted the ceasefire at that stage, the tunnels would not have been dealt with and I wanted to ask therefore, people are asking, was it a strategic goal, was it the goal of this operation, was Israel kind of improvising, was there a strategic plan here or were you [inaudible].
And a second question if I may, we've seen since the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdair, since the West Bank operations, since the Gaza operation, they are rioting, attacks [inaudible] violence in Jerusalem, riots in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and I just wondered if there is concern at the spread of the violence [inaudible]."
PM Netanyahu: "Thank you. We started dealing with the tunnels – first of all, we were going to deal with the threats posed from Gaza either by military means or by diplomatic means – one of the two or both. We began dealing with the first tunnel before the Egyptian initiative. I don't know if you're aware of it, but we had information about an impending attack from one terror tunnel and we took action before we had the air attacks on our, before we had the air attacks on Gaza in response to their rocketing attacks. We actually dealt with one tunnel.
If we could have dealt with the rest of the tunnels through the Egyptian proposal, which had an immediate ceasefire as we have now, and both sides could raise the topics and specifically the issue of security would be released. That was mentioned there. When we said security, we meant obviously that we would bring up the question of the tunnels: could we deal with it through non-military means and the other threat against Israel – and that's preferable. As it turned out, Hamas rejected this and therefore we had to deal with them in military means. So we addressed the other tunnels, in addition to the one we had already addressed with military means by doing the, by actually going in.
That first tunnel was struck from the air. We didn't know that it achieved the result and it's very hard to achieve that result from the air. You either achieve it by agreement or you achieve it by actually going in to the other side, finding the points of origin of the tunnel or a point of origin, identify the trajectory of the tunnel and then dismantling it, destroying it through various means. And that's basically what we did. If we could have done it diplomatically, fine. If not, we did it militarily and the army just told us that they completed this activity and then we went out. We went in to deal with the tunnels; we went out after we finished dealing with the tunnels.
[Regarding the Jerusalem question] Well, obviously we're concerned. We hope that everyone, everyone will work now to calm the situation. That has been our goal from the very beginning in Jerusalem, everywhere, in the Palestinian areas. We don't need to see loss of life there anymore than we want to see it on the Gaza front. I want to make sure that – you mentioned the Temple Mount – so I want to make sure that everyone understands that Israel respects and will continue to respect the status quo on the Temple Mount. We know that there are arrangements there, including the traditional role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and we are not about to change it."
CNN: "Prime Minister, [unclear] for CNN. First of all, the IDF has suffered the largest casualties yet in any Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We understand 61 soldiers killed, three civilians. We've seen more than 1,800 people killed in Gaza, 900 or almost 1,000 of which are civilians, estimated. Do you really feel that your actions, Israel's actions were proportionate? And were you using the appropriate precision weapons even if Hamas is using them as human shields?"
PM Netanyahu: "Why don't you ask the first question? Let me answer that, then you can ask the second question. Why don't we do that? So first of all, the answer to both your questions is yes, I think it was justified, I think it was proportional and that doesn't in any way take away from the deep regret for, we have for the loss of a single civilian. We've gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that they have civilian casualties, as you've just seen. Now, let's imagine your country – it could be any country, could be the US, could be Britain, could be Germany, France, India, you name it. Let's imagine your country attacked by 3,500 rockets. Your territory is infiltrated by death squads. What would you do? What would you demand that your government do to protect you and your family? You'd demand that and you'd be right because security, protecting the people, is the first obligation of any government. But what if the rockets are fired from civilian areas? And the tunnels come from schools, from mosques, from private houses where civilians live? Should you then not take action?
Do the terrorists have immunity because of the fear that some civilians will unfortunately get hurt?
Let me tell you what I think disproportionality is: It's not acting to defend your people and giving the terrorists a license to kill. I think that's disproportionate and that's wrong.
Financial Times: "Thanks very much. Mr. Prime Minister, are you prepared to give Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority a leading role in the post-war order in Gaza? And if so, can you talk about that, specifics, including policing the borders?"
PM Netanyahu: "We have cooperated and are cooperating with the Palestinian Authority on matters that you raised. There are other matters as well, and the answer is that we are cooperating with them and are prepared to see a role for them.
PM Netanyahu: "We're dealing with that right now. I think it's important in the reconstruction of Gaza, in assuring the humanitarian aid and also the security questions that arise, that we have these discussions and the cooperation with them. And in fact, the ceasefire was coordinated, among other things, with them. It came from Egypt, but they were aware of it and they were speaking to, for the factions, as you know.
As far as the humanitarian aid, since I mentioned it: You know, we've given 2,000, we've passed roughly 2,000 trucks of humanitarian aid during the last month or so in which this conflict raged. We even gave humanitarian aid – most of these trucks came during the fire. A lot of them came during the ceasefire, the humanitarian ceasefire that Hamas refused to recognize for its own people. It's quite amazing. We have to do the ceasefire, the humanitarian ceasefire efforts when Hamas doesn't do it so we even sometimes, many times actually, unilaterally called ceasefire humanitarian pauses, which they didn't recognize, but we put in the trucks. We opened a field hospital right on the Gaza passage, in the Erez Crossing on our side, and we called Palestinians who have a problem with hospitals that were being used by Hamas as terrorist sites, as command centers, as firing posts, and we said, okay, we'll open a field hospital and we did on our side. And you know what Hamas did? It prevented and warned Palestinians not to go there. Well some of them straggled through somehow and we dealt with them. And we are now dealing with our people to address the fuel, throughout the conflict, fuel, electricity stoppages and so on.
So Israel is going all out on humanitarian effort, and we're prepared to do more and we think more should be done. We just hope that Hamas will start caring for its people and stop preventing humanitarian aid for them, stop sacrificing them as human shields, stop shooting them when they protest because that's what happens when people protest and they say to Hamas, "What have you done to us?" Well, they just execute them. Just as they prevent journalists from putting out the full truth and journalists, justifiably are concerned. I can understand that.
And Hamas, Hamas does incredible things, just incredible things. There is a report – it's not my report, it's the Journal of Palestinian Studies in 2012. Note the year. It's a few years ago and they've since, they've done more things. Hamas officials, according to the Journal of Palestinian Studies, reported that at least 160 children had been killed digging the tunnels. There is something fundamentally wrong here. Hamas is sacrificing its people, sacrificing its children and it should not be allowed to get away with it. These are tragedies. The loss of a single child is a tragedy. The loss of mothers, women, families, is a tragedy. But this tragedy should be put squarely where the responsibility for it belongs. The responsibility for this tragedy belongs with Hamas. It's a deliberate strategy."
Washington Post: "Mr. Prime Minister, you mentioned Secretary Kerry's comments supporting demilitarization of Gaza. I'm wondering if you also support what he said about the need to think bigger now, to use the Cairo talks as an opportunity to think more broadly about a two-state solution and if so, what will Israel do to move in that direction?"
PM Netanyahu: "First of all, I had a very good conversation with John, with Secretary Kerry today. We work very closely with him and with the US Administration, with President Obama, throughout this operation and before. And there are reports of the substance and the tone of our relationship that are distorted. They don't capture the essence of the common values that bind our societies together and bind our governments together. And I appreciate the support that the United States has shown for Israel's right to self-defense and the appropriation that I asked for, for an additional 225 million dollars of support for Iron Dome. I think these are all very important things for which the people of Israel are deeply grateful and I want to express that. I think the Secretary's statement on demilitarization as a strategic long-term goal is very important. I think he's right that there are opportunities now, perhaps opportunities that we have not seen before with a realignment of important parties in the Middle East to be able to fashion a new reality, one more conducive to the end of violence, to the establishment of calm, a sustainable peace or at least a sustainable quiet which can lead to other things. That is yet to be seen, but that is a goal I think worthy of exploration and pursuit. That's my goal."
"We warmly welcome the announcement of a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and call on all parties to respect its terms. There must be an immediate end to the loss of civilian lives. The firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip must stop.
We commend all efforts, particularly those of Egypt, to broker this deal and hope that this can be extended into a lasting ceasefire.
We call on the parties not to miss this opportunity.
We reiterate that the European Union stands ready to contribute to a comprehensive and sustainable solution meeting the legitimate security, humanitarian and socio-economic needs of the Israeli and Palestinian people."
PM Netanyahu Commends the IDF and ISA for Completing the Neutralization of the Terrorist Tunnels in the Gaza Strip
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the IDF and the ISA on completing the work of neutralizing the terrorist tunnels in the Gaza Strip. The Prime Minister said:
"This was a complicated operation carried out by heroic soldiers under difficult combat conditions. I would like to commend IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, GOC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Sammy Turgeman, commanders, soldiers and ISA personnel all of whom had the fighting spirit that led to very impressive results.
The operation struck at a strategic network that Hamas had invested great effort in over the years. These tunnels would have enabled Hamas to kidnap and murder civilians and IDF soldiers by launching simultaneous attacks from the many tunnels that penetrate our territory.
As I said at the onset of the operation I said that there is no guarantee of 100% success but we did the utmost in order to achieve the maximum.
At this time, I would like to send condolences to the families who lost their dear ones in this important operation in defense of the citizens of Israel. I speak to all of them and tell them that their sons fell in a battle that could not be more just. The entire nation embraces them."
At a security discussion yesterday at IDF Southern Command headquarters ( http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/MediaCenter/Events/Pages/eventpikuddarom040814.aspx ) with the participation of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, IDF Chief-of-Staff Gantz and GOC Southern Command Turgeman, Prime Minister Netanyahu was informed that all of the tunnels which were located and discovered during Operation Protective Edge had been destroyed.
Up to Date Figures – Operation Protective Edge
3,356 rockets fired at Israel
Prior to the operation, the IDF estimated the Gaza rockets arsenal at approximately 10,000 rockets. 1/3 of which were fired at Israel, and an additional 1/3 was demolished by the IDF.
597 rockets were launched from civilian facilities abused by terrorists (18%)
4,762 terror sites struck across the Gaza Strip:
Eliminating Mission - Gaza tunnel network
750- 1,000 militants targeted
In addition, 159 suspected terrorists have been questioned by Israeli security forces, 25 of which are currently imprisoned.
1,856 trucks of Humanitarian aid supplied to Gaza, carrying 40,550 tons
82,201 IDF Reserve Duty Personnel
IDF forces in the Gaza Strip found a Hamas manual on "Urban Warfare," which belonged to the Shuja'iya Brigade of Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades. The manual explains how the civilian population can be used against IDF forces and reveals that Hamas knows the IDF is committed to minimizing harm to civilians.
Throughout Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has continuously used the civilian population of Gaza as human shields. The discovery of a Hamas "urban warfare" manual by IDF forces reveals that Hamas' callous use of the Gazan population was intentional and preplanned.
This Hamas urban warfare manual exposes two truths: (1) The terror group knows full well that the IDF will do what it can to limit civilian casualties. (2) The terror group exploits these efforts by using civilians as human shields against advancing IDF forces.
In a portion entitled "Limiting the Use of Weapons," the manual explains that:
The soldiers and commanders (of the IDF) must limit their use of weapons and tactics that lead to the harm and unnecessary loss of people and [destruction of] civilian facilities. It is difficult for them to get the most use out of their firearms, especially of supporting fire [e.g. artillery].
Clearly Hamas knows the IDF will limit its use of weapons in order to avoid harming civilians, including refraining from using larger firepower to support for infantry.
The manual goes on to explain that the "presence of civilians are pockets of resistance" that cause three major problems for advancing troops:
(1) Problems with opening fire
Lastly, the manual discusses the benefits for Hamas when civilian homes are destroyed:
The destruction of civilian homes: This increases the hatred of the citizens towards the attackers [the IDF] and increases their gathering [support] around the city defenders (resistance forces[i.e. Hamas]).
It is clear that Hamas actually desires the destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure, knowing it will increase hatred for the IDF and support their fighters.
Why Shuja'iya is Important
It is also of no small importance that this manual belongs to the Shuja'iya Brigade. The IDF fought a major battle in the neighborhood of Shuja'iya, which had been turned into a terrorist stronghold. The discovery of this manual suggests that the destruction in Shuja'iya was always part of Hamas' plan.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the IDF has uncovered dozens of terror tunnels in Gaza. The threat that these tunnels pose to Israel's civilian population would not be tolerated by any other nation. Here are answers to the most important questions about these tunnels.
1. What exactly is the "tunnel threat"?
Hamas' tunnel network is in fact a vast underground city with dozens of access points located throughout Gaza. Hamas uses these tunnels as weapons caches, bunkers, command centers and a concealed transportation artery for terrorists and weapons, including rocket launchers.
Some of these tunnels lead directly from Gaza to Israeli communities near the border, enabling terrorists to infiltrate, kidnap and attack Israeli civilians. The residents of southern Israel live in constant fear knowing that, at any time, a terrorist could emerge from a tunnel near their house and abduct or murder their neighbors or children.
2. Where does Hamas build these tunnels?
Hamas exploits the Palestinian population of Gaza by building tunnels beneath densely populated areas. Many times, the tunnels' access points are hidden between schools, mosques, hospitals and other civilian buildings. The terrorist organization deliberately embeds its terrorist infrastructure inside civilians neighborhoods, knowing that the IDF is reluctant to strike civilian areas.
The tunnels openings sometimes lead beyond the Gaza border, into Israeli territory. Many tunnels have been found in close proximity to Israeli communities.
In three recent incidents, squads of Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel through such terror tunnels. The latest incident took place on July 28 when terrorists infiltrated Israel via a tunnel near Nahal Oz. Their goal was to attack an Israeli community near the border. IDF soldiers thwarted the attack and killed one of the terrorists.
On July 17, heavily armed terrorists climbed out of a tunnel near the Israeli community of Sufa, a few kilometers from the Gaza border. Four days later, terrorists wearing full IDF uniforms infiltrated Israel through a different tunnel. IDF forces killed the terrorists and discovered that they were wearing suicide vests. Their goal was to massacre Israeli civilians.
3. How can Hamas afford to build tunnels?
While new houses and other civilian structures go unbuilt, Hamas has invested millions of dollars and other resources in building and operating its massive tunnel network.
Every month, Israel transfers construction materials into Gaza intended for civil projects. These materials are co-opted by Hamas for tunnel construction. Since January 2014, 4,680 trucks carrying 181 thousand tons of gravel, iron, cement, wood and other supplies have passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza.
With these supplies, Hamas could have built houses, hospitals, schools and libraries. It could have built infrastructure to improve the quality of life for the residents of Gaza. Instead, it elected to expand its underground terrorist city.
4. How does the IDF confront this threat?
IDF ground and aerial forces operating along the security fence and inside Gaza conduct meticulous searches for the tunnels and their access points. The tunnels are well hidden, often beneath civilian structures or open areas.
Each tunnel uncovered is carefully mapped and examined before its demolition.
The IDF is committed to eliminating all threats aimed at harming Israeli civilians. The threats posed to Israelis by Hamas' network of infiltration tunnels are unthinkable. That is why we will not stop in our mission to locate and neutralize them. Hamas, as the authority in the Gaza Strip, is accountable for all acts aimed at harming Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Thursday, 31 July 2014), made the following remarks at the start of the Cabinet meeting:
"The IDF is continuing to act with full force across the Gaza Strip (). IDF soldiers are completing the neutralization of the terrorist tunnels. These tunnels would have enabled Hamas to abduct and murder civilians and IDF soldiers via simultaneous attacks from many tunnels that penetrate our territory. We are now dismantling this ability.
I said at the start of the campaign: There is no guarantee of 100% success, just as Iron Dome does not provide a complete answer, but the IDF actions have impressive results in the field and these actions are continuing at full strength even now.
As of now, we have neutralized dozens of terrorist tunnels and we are determined to complete this mission, with or without a ceasefire, and therefore I will not agree to any proposal that does not allow the IDF to complete this work which is important for the security of Israel's citizens.
Hamas has taken harsh blows from the IDF and ISA. We have struck hard at thousands of terrorist targets: Command centers, rocket arsenals, production facilities, launch areas and hundreds of terrorists have been killed. These achievements and the neutralization of the tunnels are only the first stage in the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. The US, the EU and other important elements in the international community have accepted our position and I must say that this was not an easy thing to achieve but we did it together, with hard work.
I would like to express my deep appreciation to the soldiers and commanders of the IDF who are fighting in the field with extraordinary heroism. I would like to express special appreciation to IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
We are working around the clock, shoulder to shoulder, sagaciously and responsibly, for the people of Israel. Naturally, we cannot share with the public all of the information and all of the considerations at our disposal. We have an orderly plan and we are acting accordingly.
On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I would like to send condolences to the bereaved families. I speak with them daily, with the parents and family members who have sacrificed what is most precious to them on behalf of our country. I have spoken with dozens of families. My wife and our sons have visited many families as well. I tell them with a heavy heart that their sons have fallen in the most just of campaigns – guarding our common home.
I would like to say to the citizens of Israel: You serve as examples. Your resilience in the face of our enemies is impressive. It causes deep appreciation around the world. I must say that your strong stand is a national force multiplier that enables us to conduct this campaign in a sagacious and responsible manner, in a way that will give the best possible results for the State of Israel and its people.
A unified leadership is important for the success of the campaign and it is very important for the people of Israel. Unity among the people gives us the strength to continue our hard and responsible work. I have no doubt that this unity provides additional strength to our soldiers who are fighting on the ground. And yet there is a minority among the public which, precisely at these times, chooses to take a more extreme position on this or that side. I say to you: Do not harm the special unity that we have. Mind your words and be careful with your deeds. And, more than anything, government ministers must serve as personal examples for the public at large. At this time, the nation expects all of us, especially government ministers, to unite behind the goal. When our soldiers are fighting the enemy and endangering their lives on behalf of us all, we owe them this. The more we are united, the stronger we are."
Following the remarks by Defense Minister Yaalon and IDF Chief-of-Staff Gantz, Prime Minister Netanyahu added: "The IDF is a moral army without peer. It is vigorously fighting an enemy whose brutality is without peer. It tries, as much as possible, to avoid harming civilians. We in the leadership think about the soldiers. Every IDF soldier is precious to us. At this time, on behalf of the entire government and people of Israel, I would like to send my best wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded. We know your bravery and your desire to rejoin your comrades. I have visited some of them. Right now, their doctors are their commanders but we know that they are led by the spirit of the entire nation."
Israel expresses its deep disappointment with the hasty decision of the governments of El Salvador, Peru and Chile to recall their ambassadors for consultations. This step constitutes encouragement for Hamas, a group recognized as a terror organization by many countries around the world.
Operation Protective Edge Day 17 – Summary of Events Since the beginning of the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge, IDF soldiers have uncovered 31 tunnels used for terror, 11 of which were subsequently destroyed by IDF forces. Throughout the morning, the IDF has targeted approximately 90 terror activity sites in Gaza. Among them were concealed rocket launchers and surveillance posts. In the early morning hours, IDF soldiers detained 2 militants who were identified emerging from an access shaft of a tunnel used for terror. In a separate incident, soldiers identified a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt in the southern Gaza Strip. The soldiers fired at him, confirming the threat neutralized. Subsequently, the force located 2 tunnel access shafts adjacent to the scene. Attached is a map specifying the locations of several of the tunnels uncovered by IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip during the course of Operation Protective Edge. Later on, armored forces identified a squad of armed militants and fired at their direction, confirming a hit. Also today, militants fired anti-tank missiles at IDF soldiers from within the Al-Wafa hospital compound, injuring 4 IDF soldiers, one of them severely. The soldiers responded with fire, killing 2 militants. In order to eliminate the threat posed to the soldiers' lives, IAF aircraft targeted both the structure and another site nearby which was used as a weapon storage facility and a terror command post. In the past few days, the area surrounding the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun has turned into a battlefield, therefore prompting the IDF to insist those present to evacuate it. Furthermore, the IDF authorized a humanitarian time window for evacuation between 10:00-14:00 IDT earlier today. Hamas prevented the civilians from leaving it and once again used their infrastructure and international symbols as human shields. In the course of the afternoon, several rockets launched by Hamas from within the Gaza Strip landed in the Beit Hanoun area. From initial inquiries done about the incident, during the intense fighting in the area, militants opened fire at IDF soldiers from the school area. In order to eliminate the threat posed to their lives, they responded with fire toward the origins of the shooting. The IDF is still reviewing the incident. Furthermore, according to the COGAT Spokesman, the UNRWA claims that Israel prevented the safe evacuation of the school in Beit Hanoun are unfounded. It should be emphasized that during recent days, COGAT has been maintaining close contact with representatives of the UNRWA, the ICRC, and Palestinians in Beit Hanoun. COGAT made every possible effort to ensure the safety of local residents by evacuating them from the area, which has been marked by intense fighting and Hamas rocket launching towards Israel, including from the vicinity of such facilities. It should be further emphasized that following this contact, the humanitarian window was authorized.
Operation Protective Edge Day 17 – Summary of Events
Since the beginning of the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge, IDF soldiers have uncovered 31 tunnels used for terror, 11 of which were subsequently destroyed by IDF forces. Throughout the morning, the IDF has targeted approximately 90 terror activity sites in Gaza. Among them were concealed rocket launchers and surveillance posts.
In the early morning hours, IDF soldiers detained 2 militants who were identified emerging from an access shaft of a tunnel used for terror.
In a separate incident, soldiers identified a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt in the southern Gaza Strip. The soldiers fired at him, confirming the threat neutralized. Subsequently, the force located 2 tunnel access shafts adjacent to the scene.
Attached is a map specifying the locations of several of the tunnels uncovered by IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip during the course of Operation Protective Edge.
Later on, armored forces identified a squad of armed militants and fired at their direction, confirming a hit.
Also today, militants fired anti-tank missiles at IDF soldiers from within the Al-Wafa hospital compound, injuring 4 IDF soldiers, one of them severely. The soldiers responded with fire, killing 2 militants. In order to eliminate the threat posed to the soldiers' lives, IAF aircraft targeted both the structure and another site nearby which was used as a weapon storage facility and a terror command post.
In the past few days, the area surrounding the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun has turned into a battlefield, therefore prompting the IDF to insist those present to evacuate it. Furthermore, the IDF authorized a humanitarian time window for evacuation between 10:00-14:00 IDT earlier today. Hamas prevented the civilians from leaving it and once again used their infrastructure and international symbols as human shields. In the course of the afternoon, several rockets launched by Hamas from within the Gaza Strip landed in the Beit Hanoun area. From initial inquiries done about the incident, during the intense fighting in the area, militants opened fire at IDF soldiers from the school area. In order to eliminate the threat posed to their lives, they responded with fire toward the origins of the shooting. The IDF is still reviewing the incident.
Furthermore, according to the COGAT Spokesman, the UNRWA claims that Israel prevented the safe evacuation of the school in Beit Hanoun are unfounded. It should be emphasized that during recent days, COGAT has been maintaining close contact with representatives of the UNRWA, the ICRC, and Palestinians in Beit Hanoun. COGAT made every possible effort to ensure the safety of local residents by evacuating them from the area, which has been marked by intense fighting and Hamas rocket launching towards Israel, including from the vicinity of such facilities. It should be further emphasized that following this contact, the humanitarian window was authorized.
www.IDFblog.com | @IDFSpokesperson | fb.com/idfonline
On Day 15 of Operation Protective Edge, the communities of southern Israel are still under attack by rockets from Gaza, and KKL-JNF is continuing to offer children and families from the south a range of activities that provide a brief respite from the tense security situation.
Thanks to a donation from Friends of JNF Australia, a group of 60 children and teenagers from Moshav Tekuma, which is situated very close to the border with the Gaza Strip, were able to take a three-day break in northern Israel and enjoy a variety of activities offered by KKL-JNF guides and instructors.
"We get up in the morning and we know that we're going to spend all day sitting indoors and never going outside, because we're afraid to go out and our parents want us to stay inside. Sitting at home is actually all we've been doing so far in this summer vacation," says 16-year-old Hallel Aron as she describes the sudden transition from the tension of the south to the tranquility of an excursion in the north. "At home, we hear explosions from Gaza twenty-four seven, and when the alert sounds we have fifteen seconds to get to the nearest shelter. Now that I'm here with all my friends in a place where there are no alerts or bombings, it's really enjoyable and relaxing," she said.
Hallel's father Alon Aron, Moshav Tekuma's supervising representative for the trip, explained that the excursion was designed to give the children a few days' respite from the problematic security situation they have constantly had to cope with. "We're exploring natural surroundings, visiting beautiful places and splashing around in the water – and this is just the break we need," he declared.
Read more about the respite trip to the North for children from the Gaza Border community of Tekuma
Under the instructions of the Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau, the Tourism Ministry is operating a situation room headed by Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi. The minister holds consultations with the Foreign Minister and the Transport Minister, in order to offer solutions to the hundreds of tourists whose flights have been canceled, in order to ensure that no tourist will be left without accommodation. Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau "The skies over Israel remain open thanks to the foreign airlines who continue their scheduled flights into the country. We are in close contact with the Federation of Israeli Tourism Organizations in order to provide urgent solutions to people and businesses in the tourism industry. I have instructed ministry personnel to ensure that every tourist in Israel receives a response."
The Director-General receives constant updates from Israel and overseas and holds regular consultations with tourism industry figures in order to minimize the damage to tourism to Israel. As such, the Director-General briefed ministry employees on the current situation and instructed them to provide solutions to all those tourists stranded without accommodation following the cancellation of their flights. Halevi also spoke today with foreign airline representatives, who informed him that they are taking full responsibility for the situation that has developed and they are taking care of those tourists whose flights were canceled. The Tourism Ministry is providing accommodation vouchers for those tourists whose airlines are not providing them with accommodation.
24 hour hotline for tourists in Israel
Thousands of tourists are currently in Israel at the present time. The Tourism Ministry has opened a 24 hour hotline to ensure that any tourist whose flight was canceled is not left without an accommodation solution. Tourists who experience difficulties as a result of the current situation are invited to contact the offices at Ben Gurion airport, which is manned 24 hours a day: 03 9754260.
Increased flights into and out of Israel
Israeli carriers El Al, Arkia and Israir continue to operate as normal in order to provide an answer for passengers on other carriers. 22 foreign airlines continue to fly into Israel as scheduled, including British Airways, Aeroflot and Ukrainian Airlines which operate several flights a day. Today, 209 flights will operate at Ben Gurion airport, with 132,000 arrivals and departures (not including flights arriving in Ovdah airport near Eilat from noon today). It should be noted that since the onset of Operation Protective Edge until yesterday (July 22), all foreign airlines continued to fly into Israel as scheduled with the sole exception of one foreign airline that suspended its operation for one week. As things stand at the moment, it would appear that several foreign airlines intend to recommence operations to Israel.
Preparations for the "day after"
At the same time, the ministry is working in all aspects related to the cessation of the operation, in order to stimulate as swift a recovery as possible for tourism in Israel. Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi noted that "tourism in Israel has experienced similar crises in the past and has known how to deal with them. We believe that the Israel tourism product is unique and attractive and we are already preparing for a broad marketing campaign that will launch 'the day after'. "
Working around the world
The 19 Tourism Ministry offices around the world are working on a special footing, providing airlines, travel agents, church and community leaders with information about the current situation and preparing the groundwork for a tourism recovery as soon as the security situation ends.
Czech Airlines is constantly monitoring events in the Middle East and is evaluating the
despatch of the individual flights every day according to the current situation. The
company is in close contact with the security forces of the Czech Republic and Israel
and also with colleagues from operational units at the airport in Tel Aviv. According to
the current information available to Czech Airlines, the situation at the airport in Tel
Aviv is normal and is no different from the situation of the preceding weeks or months.
Under the existing conditions, Czech Airlines will continue to operate regular flights to
Tel Aviv, and the company is not currently planning to cancel any flights to Israel. On
the other hand, the safety of air traffic is the priority for Czech Airlines. Should there be
a significant deterioration in the security situation in Israel, or a ban on operation from
the part of Czech or European authorities, Czech Airlines is prepared to react to the
situation as appropriate, to respect the decision and halt traffic to Tel Aviv.“
I came to thank you for the privilege you granted me to serve our country and its people for the past seven years. There is no greater privilege. Thank you.
Israel, this small country, became a truly great state.
I know of no other country on the face of the earth or throughout history, which amazed and surprised so much.
Gathering in its people. Making its wilderness bloom. Resurrected from the ruins, surviving a terrible Holocaust. Fighting back in seven wars. Bringing a language back to life. Respecting its traditions and adopting modernity.
And at the same building a country which continues to develop.
A country which carries values and practices democracy.
A country without natural resources, which utilized instead the resourcefulness of its people. Our human resource is far more precious than wells of oil or mines of gold.
A country which was established upon a historical core and became an outstanding state in the new scientific world.
A country of song. A country of literature. A country which seeks peace day and night.
I leave the presidency without parting from my faith. I will continue to serve my country as a deep believer that Israel is an exemplary state.
We are a people that experienced unimaginable agony. And we are a people that reached the lofty heights of human achievement. We made great efforts. We paid a heavy price.
We will never forget our brothers and sisters who perished in the Holocaust. We will remember those who fell in battle, who brought new life to a redeemed people.
Israel was born as a precedent and created precedents. Despite being small in number among the nations, our people carried a faith as great as any. The first to rebel against prejudice was Moses.
A nation that rebelled against Pharaoh. That smashed idols. That shattered illusions. A nation that walked through the desert to reach its home, its destiny.
We climbed the mountains and came down with the tablets, with the Ten Commandments which became the foundations upon which our nation was built and which were adopted by Western civilization.
We continue and will continue with this great legacy. There are still idols to be smashed, slaves to free, lives to save and justice to uphold. There is still a world to fix.
Even if we remain the minority among the nations. Even if we serve as a target for evil – we will not deviate from our moral heritage.
Challenges are not invited. They occur spontaneously. That is how the current challenge occurred. I did not imagine that in the last days of my presidency I would be called upon, once more, to comfort bereaved families. Tears in their eyes. And faith in their hearts.
I did not imagine that it would happen again, after we were hit with rockets which were intended to harm innocent civilians. And after we uncovered tunnels meant to kill, intended to penetrate into the heart of civilian communities and fire at mothers and children. We must alert the world to the madness of the terrorist threat.
Terrorism aims to spill our blood. And leads to blood being spilled among its people. Never has such a minority torn apart the fabric of whole societies. So cruelly sent children to serve as shields for its crimes.
Hamas has once again put hundreds of thousands of the citizens of Gaza in harm's way, into a field of fire.
The terrorists have transformed Gaza, which is over 3000 years old, into a man-made tragedy.
We left Gaza of our own free will and even helped to rebuild it. Unfortunately, it was taken over by fanatical terrorists, who uprooted the structures for rehabilitation and wasted them on a machinery of terror and murder.
Israel is not the enemy of the people of Gaza. The opposite is true, Israel built the Erez Crossing to open a gateway to Gaza. We did not open fire. We returned fire when fired upon.
We fought the terrorists to bring peace to our people. They were also cruel to their own people, taking food away from babies to fund terror. They sowed death and they reaped death.
They forced their children to serve as human shields, and sent them into the fire. I say it again, I say it clearly, the Arabs are not our enemies. The policy of murder is the enemy. It is also the greatest danger to the Arab World.
Hamas fired but it cannot answer two simple questions. What is the reason for the fire? Gaza is not occupied, and when they don't fire it is open.
Secondly, what do they want to achieve? You can accomplish things without fire and you lose them when you open fire. For 68 years terror has been harming its people. It has never been victorious. It brought only darkness to its people and destruction to its land.
Terror has no answers and does not draw the right conclusions. Israel will be victorious over terrorism because we search for peace and we are just in defense of our home.
Israel will win because of the IDF. Because of its excellent commanders and dedicated soldiers. There is no other army like the IDF. Its power is great. Its equipment is advanced. Its values are clear.
The country is proud of its army. The people love the army. The nation trusts it.
Nobody had to explain a thing to them. They knew the reality. By themselves. They moved towards battle even before the call to the front lines came. They volunteered for dangerous missions and fought like lions. Fast but not reckless. They carried the legacy of our forefathers and the bravery of youth.
Their hearts were filled with love for their families, for their country, for their people.
The parents educated and the boys exceeded the expectations of the country.
I visited communities which had been bombed. Communities which created wonderful societies and plowed new fields.
I met the founders surrounded by fruit trees. And children who advocate for freedom and brotherhood. They are all aware of the danger. But convinced of our ability to overcome it.
Members of Knesset,
Allow me to say from upon this stage – there are none like them.
I will add, Israel's strength is drawn from its unity. A unity of a nation which fights and builds. A nation of good citizens, who enlist when they are young and volunteer for reserve duty long after.
Israel is a nation that dwells alone. But we have friends. In America and in Europe, in Asia, in Australia and in Africa. I am grateful to them.
It is difficult to understand how across the world in the streets and the squares protesters come out in support of terrorists and condemn those who defend themselves. They hold signs aloft without providing an answer to terror. They encourage and incite violence.
It is also hard to fathom how a council which bears the words "human rights" in its name, decided to establish a committee to investigate who is right. Is it the murderers or those who refuse to be murdered?
If the right to life is not the first right among human rights, what is the value of other rights? The terrorists try to restrict the freedom of air traffic. We must not submit to them. Governments must paralyze the terror and not suspend the flights. In countries governed by law, the sky should be open and the terrorists stopped.
Members of Knesset,
There is no place to doubt our victory. We know that no military victory will be enough. There is no permanent security without permanent peace. Just as there is no real peace without real security.
There is no chronological order when it comes to our founding principles.
I remember when experts used to say that Egypt will never sign a peace treaty with us. That Jordan will never agree to peace with Israel before Syria does so. That there will never rise a camp against terror among the Palestinians. That never will Arab leaders raise their voices for peace and against terror, in their own language and not just in English, in Arab countries and not just in Europe. Arab leaders that condemn kidnappings and are open to land swaps. Arab leaders that are for two states while one of them is clearly the State of Israel which is a Jewish homeland in its nature and in its constitution.
There was never an expert that could have predicted that one day the Arab League which engraved upon its flag the three "No's" of Khartoum, would publish an initiative which refutes them all, and would instead suggest a proposal of its own for a path towards peace, not only between Israelis and Palestinians but with all Arab countries. Even if we cannot accept this proposal in its entirety, we cannot ignore its value.
As Ben Gurion said: "There are no experts for the future, only experts for the past." Indeed, the future requires believers, not necessarily experts. The future is built. Not inherited from prophets. In order to secure the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, Israel adopted the solution based on two states for two peoples. A Jewish state – Israel. And an Arab state for the Palestinians.
Members of Knesset,
I have come to bid you farewell as a citizen, as a man whose dream is still alive. As a man who has learned from experience that the greatness of Israel's reality is greater than the dream which begot it at its dawn.
I am taking leave of my position as President, but not from my duty as a citizen. I was a President who loved his people. As of now, I am a citizen in love with my people.
I will not give up my right to serve my people and my country. And I will continue to help build my country, with a deep belief that one day it will know peace.
That Israel will uphold social justice and will raise its eyes to the realized dream of its prophets. That Israel will continue to be Jewish in its legacy and democratic in its practices. That it will safeguard freedom of speech and freedom of research.
That it will continue to excel in its scientific level on a global scale. That it will be a moral country. A country which will practice equality for all its citizens – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Bedouins, and Circassians. So we promised in our Declaration of Independence. So we proclaimed in our book of laws. So we practiced upon the commands of our authorities.
The social vision of the prophet Amos, as the political vision of the prophet Isaiah, are our guiding lights.
During my visits to the many unique and diverse corners of Israel, I entered each place with an explorer's curiosity and returned with a heart full of pride.
I discovered everywhere, and every time, hardworking people, endless talent, wonderful children and surprises which cannot be described.
Therefore, as I leave my official position I will remain a citizen filled with hope.
Hope for a better future. Hope for peace. Hope that the dream of today will create an exemplary reality. When I return and meet the beauty and strength of the State of Israel, I find myself shedding a tear. Maybe excited slightly more than my younger friends. Because throughout my years I witnessed the entire incredible journey, and the miracles of Israel.
Alongside David Ben Gurion I saw it fighting for its life. With few resources but endless dangers.
And today, I see her standing strong. Secure. Flourishing. Successful in every field. I see my country promising an exciting future for our sons and daughters.
Friends, Reuven Rivlin, the next elected President of Israel,
I wish you success, that you should serve the nation in your positive way, as you already do. With your great heart. With your face full of light. You already have what is expected from a president. I am sure you will succeed in our way and strengthen the future of the State of Israel
Members of Knesset,
The nature of parliamentary democracy is ongoing, passionate debate. This is democracy. This is how it should be. If I may, particularly in these days when we must stand united, in these difficult days in which they eyes of the nation are on its leaders, on you. Please – do not lessen the debate. It is the essence of democracy. And it must remain. But do it with mutual respect, with a sense of shared destiny and with great respect for the Israeli public, like which there is no other. They are worth of nothing less from their representatives.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
"The children are smiling again"
On July 17th, 2014, day 11 of Operation Protective Edge, twenty families from Shlomit, one of the Halutziot communities situated on the Negev's border with the Gaza Strip, set out for a respite weekend at KKL-JNF's Lavie Field and Forest Center in northern Israel. This welcome break was made possible by donations from KKL-JNF's Friends in Australia. "Suddenly we feel like people leading normal lives," said the families.
Twenty families from Shlomit, a community situated near the border with the Gaza Strip, left for a weekend of peaceful activities in natural surroundings at KKL-JNF's Field and Forest Center at Lavie, far from the terrors of the rocket fire they have been enduring. This respite weekend was made possible thanks to donations from KKL-JNF's Friends in Australia.
"We have a wonderful community in Shlomit, but this isn't an easy time for us," said 24-year-old mother of three Tamar Ratzon. "In Shlomit we can't go outdoors at present, as we have only fifteen seconds to reach a protected area from the moment the warning sounds. This trip is a wonderful change of atmosphere, and that's very important for the children – and for us adults, too. Ever since we left on this excursion we haven't heard a single air raid warning or explosion of a falling rocket."
With the support of its Friends throughout the world, KKL-JNF offers all year round respite activities for residents living near the Gaza Border and in the rest of southern Israel. During this tense period when an unceasing hail of rockets and missiles is pouring down on southern Israel – and elsewhere in the country, too – KKL-JNF is making a special effort to organize respite excursions and group hospitality at a variety of sites. Apart from enjoying outdoor activities, the visitors are also given the opportunity to gather their strength in preparation for coping with the security situation once they return home.
"Throughout this weekend we rest, calm down and gather our strength so that we can go back home, back to the world we live in, and continue to cope with what's happening to us," said 27-year-old Hila Halevi, who is the mother of two children.
Read more about the respite trip for families from Shelomit in the South to Lavie in the North
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Wednesday, 23 July 2014), while en route from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, where he is due to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry, went to Ben-Gurion International Airport to welcome former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Following are excerpts of their remarks.
Prime Minister Netanyahu:
"Michael, you are a welcomed guest on any day, but especially on this day, to come here as a true leader, a true friend and as a man of standing and truth. And the truth is, that you wanted to demonstrate by coming here, is that this airport is open. You can fly in and out of Israel. We protect this airport. There's no reason whatsoever for the mistaken FAA decision to instruct American planes not to come here. I think you're proving it by coming here. Where I stand, the Prime Minister of Israel, where you stand, anybody can stand. I think this decision only rewards the Hamas terrorists for nothing. You can fly in and out of Israel and I hope that the FAA rescinds this decision as soon as possible."
"Thank you. Let me just say that every time I come here, I'm reminded of history, of where my family comes from, of freedom and democracy. This is the only democratic country in this part of the world, a true democracy where everybody has a chance to express themselves and practice the religions that they want to practice in the ways they want to. In terms of coming here, if – I would argue that Ben-Gurion Airport is probably the safest airport in the whole world to fly in and out of. This is a country that's been threatened since its existence back in 1948, when the United Nations created this country as a homeland for the Jews. And Israelis know what it is to keep people safe and in terms of that also."
Photo Haim Zach GPO
Israel is deeply concerned by the uncovering of Hamas rockets in UNRWA schools.Once uncovered, UNRWA returned the rockets to Hamas instead of handing them over to Israel.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Libemran met a short while ago (23 July 2014) with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
FM Liberman told the Secretary General that Israel is deeply concerned by the uncovering of Hamas rockets in UNRWA schools. These schools were set up in order to provide education to the children of Gaza, and instead they are providing cover for rockets meant to kill children in Israael. FM Liberman also protested the fact that once uncovered, UNRWA returned the rockets to Hamas instead of handing them over to Israel, noting that this is unacceptable.
FM Liberman said that the Middle East is currently in the midst of a huge tsunami - not because of what is happening in Gaza, but because of events in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. This reality is not reflected in some of the United Nations bodies, such as the Human Rights Council, where such states as Cuba and Venezuela approve resolutions condemning Israel. We have not seen any condemnation of the murder of 3,000 Palestinians in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. This was not discussed at any international forum, or even by the Palestinian Authority itself, added FM Liberman. This is part of the hypocrisy of the international community. FM Liberman told the Secretary General that he expects him to act against these anti-Israeli resolutions which are put forward in the UN institutions and today in Geneva.
After the operation ends, said FM Liberman, we must find a mechanism that will ensure that the materials that enter Gaza will in fact be used for humanitarian purposes, and not as we see today, when for example the cement was used to build fortified terror tunnels instead of houses for the people.
FM Liberman meets with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Photo : Yossi Zamir
President Peres criticized Qatar's funding of terrorism and said, "Qatar does not have the right to send money for rockets and tunnels which are fired at innocent civilians. Their funding of terror the must stop. If they want to build then they should, but they must not be allowed to destroy."
President Peres also addressed the suspension of flights to Israel and said, "I regret that airlines have suspended flights. The real answer is not to stop flights but to stop the rockets. If airlines will submit to terror then they invite more rocket fire and a greater danger not just here, but across the world."
President Peres issued a call to the UN Human Rights Council and said, "I call upon the council to condemn terrorism, especially of Hamas, in the strongest terms. Standing for human rights for all and standing against terrorism are one and the same. We reject the idea of appointing a committee to decide who is right and who is wrong. Terror is a danger to the world and the fight against it is global. No country will be immune to the threat of terror if we don't fight it together."
President Peres went on to address the situation in Gaza and said, "Every country has the obligation to protect itself against attacks and attempts to kill innocent civilians. No state in the world would be willing to accept rockets fired at its mothers and children from the sky and terrorists emerging from tunnels to kill innocents for no reason and with no justification. Instead of investing in education, in healthcare and in building a future for Gaza, Hamas wasted millions on tunnels and rockets. The people of Gaza are not our enemies. Gaza could have become a center of trade but Hamas turned it into a center of terror. The people of Gaza could have been given hope but instead Hamas brought them destruction. Hamas built an infrastructure of terror beneath schools and kindergartens. They use hospitals to launch attacks. They hide in houses and use their children as human shields. Mr. Secretary-General, they even use your UNRWA schools to store their rockets. The behavior of Hamas is a criminal act against their own people and ours. The death of innocent civilians pains me personally and it pains our people. We sanctify life, every life. Hamas glorifies death and they are the ones responsible for the deaths in Gaza. We must say clearly – terrorism will never bring peace. The way to peace is through negotiations, dialogue and compromise. "
President Peres ended by saying, "I salute our soldiers who are fighting to protect our home and our children. I salute our citizens who stand firm in the face of this threat. And I thank our friends who have stood by our side. A just and democratic society will win. We shall continue to pray for peace, we shall continue to work for it day and night."
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, "I have been compelled to visit Israel once again on an urgent mission of peace and solidarity. This is my third such urgent mission during the last five years. The violence must stop now and we must immediately start dialogue which addressed all the root causes which have already been identified, discussed and negotiated for a long time. We don't have time to lose. Solidarity with Israelis on the rocket fire, solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza under massive assault as the international community strives for a ceasefire in Gaza. I know there is rockets continue to threaten Israeli civilians and disrupt normal life. I have repeatedly condemned it and will continue to do so. There is a deep pain and anguish at the loss among Palestinians. As Secretary-General of the United Nations I will not be silent in the face of this tragedy.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon added, "Whatever the obstacles, Israelis and Palestinians share a common future and they need hope for political progress and economic prosperity. A future of two states living side by side in peace and security. That's the vision of the two state solution."
Photo Mark Neumann
As the IDF continues its operation to dismantle terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, Hamas continues its inhuman tactics against Israeli and Palestinian civilians. On a daily basis, Hamas commits war crimes and ignores threats to human life in Gaza.
Hamas routinely violates international law. The terrorist organization doesn't stop at targeting Israel civilians with rockets, it also puts Gaza's civilians in the line of fire and uses them as human shields.
The IDF launched Operation Protective Edge to combat Hamas' rocket fire and its use of tunnels to attack Israelis. Throughout the operation, Hamas has shown its true face, committing war crimes against Israel and endangering its own people. Here are just a few examples:
Firing rockets at the civilian population
Since July 8, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations have fired over 1,840 rockets at Israel. This rocket fire is aimed at civilians. It targets Israeli cities and communities, with the objective of killing civilians.
Hamas has fired rockets at Israel's largest cities, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. The organization does not distinguish between military targets and civilians. It sees the entire Israeli population as a legitimate target.
Directing civilians to act as human shields
Hamas officials urge civilians in Gaza to act as human shields. Palestinians are ordered to stand on the roofs of houses used for terror. This tactic endangers human lives for the sake of protecting terrorists from IDF strikes.
When the IDF warns residents of an impending airstrike, Hamas urges Palestinians to stay where they are, despite the danger to their lives.
Attempted massacres in Israeli communities
On Saturday, July 19, a squad of Hamas terrorists climbed out of a tunnel near the Israeli community of Sufa, a few kilometers from the Gaza border. The terrorists, who were heavily armed, planned to enter a Kibbutz and carry out a massacre. IDF forces stopped the infiltrators and prevented the terror attack.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, today (Tuesday, 22 July 2014), made the following remarks at the start of his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
"Welcome Secretary General. You're most welcome in our country Israel.
We very much appreciate your sincere intentions to put an end to the violence in the region.
As you know, we are engaged now in the 15th day of Operation Protective Edge which was actually initiated by Hamas, its provocations of rocket launches on our civilians and it has been deteriorated and now we are trying to stop it by all means - to stop the violence. Unfortunately we have here in the Gaza Strip a terror entity led by Hamas with other terror factions, violating international law and order and international law, by using rockets and all kinds of terror targeting deliberately our civilians and using their own civilians as human shield. This is a challenge for us, myself as the Defense Minister and the Israel Defense Forces how to confront and stop this kind of terror.
We do our utmost to avoid civilian casualties, but it is almost impossible in this populated area in Gaza which is used by Hamas as a launching pad for rockets and of course as a base for the terror offensive.
We will show you later on all kinds of tools used by Hamas; how they launch rockets from schools, mosques, neighborhoods and so forth, and the way that they use now underground tunnels trying to attack our civilians and communities around the Gaza Strip, which is a relatively new challenge, which we have to stop as well.
I hope in this visit you will have a better understanding of the challenges ahead of us. Israel is a democracy and a member of the United Nations and we look forward to the international support in the way that we believe that this threat should be confronted. We are ready and determined to continue this operation until we stop this wave of violence against our civilians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Tuesday, 22 July 2014), at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, made the following remarks at his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
"Mr. Secretary, I appreciate the fact that you came here and that you took time to see what we've just shown you. I think it's clear that Israel is doing what any country would do if terrorists rained down rockets on its cities and towns – hundreds of rockets, day after day, week after week. In addition, as I've shown you, Hamas has dug terrorist tunnels under hospitals, mosques, schools, homes, to penetrate our territory, to kidnap and kill Israelis.
Now, in the face of such wanton terrorism, no country could sit idly by. It would exercise its right, inherent and legitimate right of self-defense as we are doing, and act decisively to end the threat to its citizens. This is what Israel is doing. We did not seek this escalation, Mr. Secretary. We accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. I don't need to remind you it was a proposal that was supported by the UN, by the Arab League, by the United States, by Europe. Hamas rejected it. We accepted the humanitarian ceasefire proposal that the UN proposed afterward. Hamas rejected that. We accepted the ceasefire proposal of the Red Cross in Shejaia. Hamas rejected that, twice. I think the international community must take a clear stand; it must hold Hamas accountable for consistently rejecting the ceasefire proposals and for starting and prolonging this conflict. The international community must hold Hamas accountable for its increasing and indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians. And the international community must hold Hamas accountable for using Palestinian civilians as human shields deliberately putting them in harm's way, deliberately keeping them in harm's way.
Mr. Secretary, we have made every effort and will continue to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. We are targeting Hamas terrorist targets. We've just shown you these targets, embedded in civilian areas, embedded in mosques, embedded in hospitals, embedded in agricultural schools. Hamas is embedded in there in order to sustain civilian casualties, because they know that we will have to protect our citizens; that we have to act against their targets. So they are committing a double war crime: both targeting our civilians and hiding behind their civilians. And they want, I repeat: They want more civilian casualties, whereas we want no civilian casualties at all, and we're taking the utmost pain to minimize that. I think the people of Gaza, and that's become absolutely clear to the world, are the victims of the brutal Hamas regime. They are holding them hostage and they are hiding behind them.
You know, Mr. Secretary, the international community has pressed us to give cement to Gaza to build schools, hospitals, homes. And now we see what has happened to those deliveries of cement. They have been used to dig tunnels next to a kindergarten, not to build a kindergarten but to build a tunnel that penetrates our territory so that Hamas can blow up our kindergartens and murder our children. They've used for a long time our willingness to try to keep civilians at a minimum. They've been using them to keep on firing at us. We have even opened up a field hospital, Mr. Secretary, to help Hamas civilians, and Hamas is preventing civilians of Gaza from going to our hospital. I believe that you understand this. I believe that you understand that it is the right of every state to defend itself. And Israel will continue to do what it needs to do to defend its people.
Mr. Secretary, this is not only our right; this is our duty."
A situation assessment took place as part of Operation Protective Edge in Tel Aviv today with President Peres, Defense Minister Yaalon, Chief of Staff Gantz and the members of General Staff
A situation assessment took place today as part of Operation Protective Edge with President Peres, Defense Minister Ya'alon, Chief of Staff Gantz and the members of General Staff. As part of the assessment President Peres was briefed by the Head of the Intelligence Directorate, Commander of IDF Southern Command and Head of the IDF Operations Directorate.
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Gantz said, "This is an operation which proves our combined work, every person sat around this table is a full partner to this ongoing battle. We are pained by the losses but have no doubt that we are in the right direction to achieve the aims set by the political leadership and we are committed to continuing in our mission to bring quiet and security to the citizens of Israel. Mr. President, you planted the flowers which we enjoy today and you worked tirelessly for the people of Israel. On behalf of the IDF, its officers and soldiers, I salute you."
Defense Minister Ya'alon said, "The soldiers and officers who we are meeting are professional and committed. Our forces are fighting an enemy which disappears between civilians. Mr. President, you are completing your term but I know you will never retire your sense of mission.
Following the briefing President Peres said, "Supporting the bereaved families at this time gives me strength. We are meeting a young generation, unfortunately after they fell in battle, and learning how wonderful they are. I don't remember a period of such solidarity between citizens and soldiers, between soldiers and parents. This is our victory of humanity. I am concluding my service but beginning my reserve duty. From my experience I can say that I don't recall a military command that instilled such faith in the people. I leave here with great pride. As a citizen of Israel I thank you from the depths of my heart."
Photo Credit – IDF Spokesperson's Unit
The area of Sejaiya (in the northern Gaza Strip) is one of Hamas' major terrorist strongholds which serves as a central launching point for rockets aimed at the civilian population in Israel.
In addition, this major terrorist stronghold includes a large rocket hide-out and weapons' manufacturing facilities. Also in the area are approximately ten terror tunnels leading to Israeli territory, constructed for the purpose of carrying out terrorist attacks against Israelis.
Hamas deliberately located its terrorist infrastructures in the midst of the civilian population of Sejaiya. Hamas' activities violate various rules of international law, including Article 58 of the Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits locating legitimate military targets "within or near densely populated areas."
Prior to starting operations near Sejaiya, the IDF engaged in extensive efforts to warn uninvolved civilians in the neighborhood. It issued many warnings to the civilian population there during the past three days, through the use of flyers, phone calls and announcements in the Arabic media. Israel asked the civilians of Sejaiya to evacuate to specified safer areas for their own protection.
Left: Hamas Ministry of the Interior repeats the call to Gazan residents not to heed the IDF's telephone warnings to immediately evacuate their houses, describing the phone calls as psychological warfare against the Gazan population (Facebook page of the Gazan ministry of the interior, July 15, 2014).
Hamas is preventing the civilian population from evacuating the neighborhood. It is using the civilian population as human shields to protect Hamas terrorists and their illegal activities. Even now, Hamas continues to call upon civilians - from the mosques, the streets and through the media - not to evacuate.
These activities by Hamas clearly violate the laws of armed conflict which strictly forbid directing the movement of civilians to shield military targets from attack (Article 51(7) of the Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions).
In order to meet the humanitarian needs of the population of Sejaiya, Israel approved a medical-humanitarian ceasefire today in the area between 13:30-15:30 Israel time (20 July). Israel then extended the ceasefire by two hours (until 17:30) for the benefit of the civilians there.
Israel again called on the population to evacuate the area within this timeframe for their own safety. Israel gave instructions to move westwards towards Gaza City, beyond the Salah a-Din route.
Hamas continued to fire, violating the humanitarian ceasefire again, clearly demonstrating its disregard for the lives of the civilians of Sejaiya.
Israel regrets any harm to uninvolved civilians, but it is Hamas that bears full responsibility for the damage to Sejaiya and the suffering of its residents. Hamas both embedded its missiles and other military targets among the civilians population and then ordered the civilians to remain and act as human shields. Its war crimes and violations of basic morality should be widely condemned by all persons of conscience.
"I thank FM Mushikiwabo, who came here at this time in order to understand the vastness of the challenge which we in Israel are facing." Rwanda currently holds the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council.
Foreign Ministers Liberman and Mushikiwabo visited the situation room at the regional council, observed the Iron Dome missile defense system in action, met with soldiers at Kibbutz Zikkim, and visited a home damaged several days ago at Netiv Ha'asara.
FM Liberman said in the course of the visit that he attributes great importance to the visit of FM Mushikiwabo, particularly given Rwanda's current position on the Security Council. It is very important that she sees with her own eyes what is happening here. "The Israel Foreign Ministry is working to maximize diplomatic credit in order to enable the IDF to complete its mission," said FM Liberman. "I thank FM Mushikiwabo, who came here at this time in order to understand the vastness of the challenge which we in Israel are facing."
FM Liberman added, "Beyond the diplomatic importance of the visit by Rwandan Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo, we came to support the IDF soldiers, who are the most humane and bravest army in the world. They are doing everything to defend the State of Israel, while maintaining their moral values. We are committed to doing everything to strengthen our soldiers and provide them with the best conditions to complete the tasks entrusted to them."
Photo Foreign Ministers Liberman and Mushikiwabo at Kibbutz Zikkim
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon (Monday, 21 July 2014), at an IDF base in the south, held a security meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and GOC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Sammy Turgeman.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "The IDF is making progress in the field according to plan and the operation will be expanded until the goal is achieved – restoring quiet to the citizens of Israel for a long period. The achievements in the fighting in the field are outstanding. I am impressed by the operation to hit the tunnels; it is achieving results beyond what we expected. On behalf of the people of Israel, I tell all the soldiers in the field that we are proud of their strength of spirit and that we pray for their well-being. A military campaign is a complex thing and it has difficult moments. I am certain that together, united, we will reach the goal."
President Peres to the son of Major Greenberg, Ori aged 12:
"As president I am here to say, on behalf of the entire nation, that we are eternally grateful and incredibly proud to the sons that fell in battle to protect our citizens."
The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, visited bereaved families who lost loved ones during Operation Protective Edge. At the beginning of the visits President Peres addressed the current situation and said, "We have only option, to be victorious and avoid a massacre of in the communities around Gaza through the terror tunnels. Through one of the tunnels a group of terrorists came into a kibbutz, their aim was to kill as many of the members as possible. It's another brutal attack without reason or purpose. It could have been a great tragedy. We aren't interested in any wars; we don't consider the people of Gaza our enemies. I saw the pictures from Gaza and they are terrible but the ones that can stop them are the terrorists in Gaza, Hamas are responsible. When a ceasefire was suggested we agreed. It is in their hand to stop the bloodshed. These visits are a sad moment for us and it is an indescribable feeling to have children like this who are ready to sacrifice their lives out of conviction that they were going to prevent the loss of life on both sides."
President Peres first paid his condolences to the family of Staff Sgt. Banya Rovel who told the president that, "Banya loved his country and was committed to serving it, he was a hero and a leader, he was named after one of King David's heroes in the bible. We wanted him to be a hero, but not like this."
Upon entering the home of Major Greenberg, President Peres hugged his widow Sagit and the three children and said, "You father was a hero who risked his life and fought like a lion. You should be proud of him. I can say on behalf of the entire nation that we salute your father and we are grateful to him." President Peres then turned to Ori, aged 12, and said, "I heard you speak yesterday at your father's funeral, I could hear your father through your voice, full of love and dedication – these are the values which strengthen the State of Israel." At the end of the visit President Peres said, "This is visit full of sadness, I am seeing the strength of Israel. I have no doubt that Israel will be victorious. If not for Amotz and his fellow soldiers, if not for the IDF uncovering the tunnels then we would have paid an even higher price."
The family of Eitan Barak told President Peres, "Eitan instantly connected with everyone, he loved everyone, he was modest and sensitive." Eitan's father added, "I always wanted to meet you Mr. President but I never thought it would be like this." President Peres said to the family, "I am so proud to sit here, I am so proud of your incredible son, an unstoppable man."
Photo Credit: Mark Neiman/GPO
Summary of Today's Events
Several offensive tunnels were uncovered during the ground phase of operation "Protective Edge":
· An offensive tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip that had 4 access points to it- one in Israel, one blocked, and 2 others in the Gaza Strip. During the detonation several secondary explosions were identified, suggesting it contained explosives. One of the access points in Gaza was uncovered inside a house. The tunnel was 1.2 KM long.
In addition, the IDF along with the ISA targeted today the head of the Hamas observation alignment in the Gaza Strip.
IDF Spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner: "Since the beginning of the ground phase of the operation, the IDF has exposed 14 tunnels headed towards Israel, all intended to infiltrate Israel and carry out terror attacks. It's like the 'Underground', the 'Metro' or the 'Subway'. These tunnels are all connected. I would describe it as 'Lower Gaza'."
Photos and video items:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Sunday, 20 July 2014), spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron and thanked him for his support of Israel's right to defend itself.
Prime Minister Netanyahu updated Prime Minister Cameron about the IDF operation against Hamas's terrorist tunnels which have been dug into Israeli territory in order perpetrate large-scale terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. He emphasized that Israel had accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, the UN request for a humanitarian ceasefire and the Red Cross humanitarian ceasefire proposal, whereas Hamas rejected the Egyptian initiative and violated both the UN request and the Red Cross request.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told Prime Minister Cameron that the international community must work toward the demilitarization of Gaza and pointed out that Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization that is sacrificing the residents of Gaza as human shields while Israel is making every effort to avoid hitting Gaza residents.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Sunday, 20 July 2014), at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, issued the following statement:
"The heart of the entire nation is with the families of the fallen. We feel your pain. We bow our head to your sons who fell so that we can continue living here. On behalf of the Government and the entire People of Israel, I would like to express the deep pain that we feel. We send our condolences to the parents, children, spouses and families of the IDF soldiers who have fallen in defense of the State of Israel.
I would like to say to you that there is no war more just than that in which your sons and ours heroically fell. We will complete the mission that we have begun. We will restore quiet and security to the south, the center and the entire country.
On behalf of all of you, citizens of Israel, I would like to send best wishes for a quick recovery to all the wounded soldiers. I believe that each one of us knows someone who is participating in the campaign, and mutual guarantee is also the secret of our strength. We must be strong in difficult days such as today as well as those that are likely to come. We are in a war for our home. Our forces are currently active in the field; they are operating professionally, with determination, great strength, great firepower and great strength of spirit.
Soldiers of the IDF, I would like to tell you that the citizens of Israel are behind you and are praying for your welfare.
To the dear families, I would like to say that I am aware of your concern, we all share it. We are doing our utmost to secure the lives of our citizens and of our soldiers.
Israel did not choose to enter this campaign but from the moment it was forced on us, we will carry it out to achieve the goal of restoring quiet to Israel's citizens for a prolonged period while inflicting a significant blow on the infrastructures of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza. We are not deterred and we will continue to act as necessary. The current operation is necessary to for the security of Israel's citizens.
More tunnels were discovered during last night's action, tunnels that are added to the many others we have found, some of which had already reached Israeli territory. Hamas invested years of work and vast capital in them in order to perpetrate large-scale terrorist attacks and carry out abductions. We found handcuffs and sedatives. There is no question here. This was a strategic network for Hamas in which it had installed fortifications, electricity, cables, all in order to infiltrate, carry out large-scale attacks and kidnap.
The threat of the tunnels is not new to us. We have foiled several attempts in the past to perpetrate attacks through them, but the current operation is much broader in scope. This carries considerable risks but it is vital because if these tunnels had not been discovered, the results could have been much worse. Tunnels like those we have exposed recently could have been opened in our communities, inside kindergartens or dining halls and the results could have been deadly.
This indeed was Hamas' plan, and we are acting against it. Just as I said at the outset of our operation against the tunnels, there is no guarantee of 100% success, but we are doing our utmost to attain the maximum, and I must say that the results that IDF soldiers have achieved thus far in the field are above predictions and beyond expectations.
In the days before we commenced ground action, we were engaged in building the diplomatic and military infrastructure for it and we did this in several areas simultaneously. First of all, we acceded to the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire and also to two additional proposals, the UN proposal for a humanitarian ceasefire and the Red Cross ceasefire. These measures, along with the personal talks we held with many world leaders, built the diplomatic infrastructure thanks to which we are currently receiving international credit for the operation. This can never be taken for granted; it must be invested in.
We have received the recognition of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France and many other important countries of Israel's right to defend itself and of our right to restore quiet and security to our communities and our citizens. A short time ago, I spoke again with US President Barack Obama and I thanked him for America's support of Israel at this time.
Given our acceptance of the ceasefire, it cannot be claimed that it is Israel which has chosen escalation; therefore, it is Hamas that is responsible for the results of its aggression. We are making every effort not to harm the residents of Gaza, whereas Hamas is making effort so that the residents of Gaza are harmed. We regret every injury to innocents but insofar as they are harmed, Hamas – and Hamas alone – is to blame.
Hamas built two strategic networks to attack the State of Israel: Rockets and tunnels. The IDF has significantly struck at both. IDF action, both defensive and offensive, has neutralized the effectiveness of the rockets. Hamas thought that by means of this network it could break our home front, and of course Iron Dome has intercepted most of the rockets it has fired at our cities. We have invested considerable capital in it and it is proving itself.
Also, the air force has attacked and is attacking; it has destroyed missile launchers and many rocket production facilities in the Gaza Strip. Of course, the IDF is still carrying out this mission. Regarding the tunnels, the current operation has significantly damaged Hamas's underground offensive capability against the State of Israel.
I would like to express deep appreciation to all soldiers and commanders taking part in the fighting, including the reservists who have left family and home behind and joined the campaign. I would like to express special appreciation for IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz who is leading the IDF. He asked just now to be with the men in the south, and the Defense Minister and I of course let him. We wish him, and the commanders and soldiers of the IDF, all of the success which we know the people of Israel need.
Along with the Chief-of-Staff and the Defense Minister, we are working together for the same goal and purpose. We are working shoulder-to-shoulder, according to an orderly and methodical plan, in the current battle against terrorism, which is part of our historic campaign against the terrorism that has been trying to attack us since the establishment of the state. In every battle and in every campaign, there are complex and difficult events, as there have been in this one; however, the military operation is proceeding as planned and it will be expanded as necessary – until quiet returns to Israel's citizens.
At the outset we knew, and I also said, that this could be a long campaign but from the history of our people we know a simple truth – the eternal people do not fear a long road. We are proud of our heroic soldiers. With the Almighty's help, and theirs, we will succeed."
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge more than 1,663 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel; approximately 1,247 rockets out of which hit southern, central, and northern Israel. An additional 346 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome active air defense system. Of the recorded 160 rockets that were launched at Israel since the beginning of the ground phase, ~ 33% of the rockets were launched from the northern Gaza Strip,~ 24% from Gaza City, ~24% from the Deir al- Balah District, ~10% from Khan Yunis, and ~8% from Rafah.
IDF forces struck over 2,300 terror targets across the Gaza Strip, including 1,137 strikes meant to cripple terrorists' rocket launching capabilities, 92 training bases and militant compounds, 52 weapons storage and manufacturing facilities, and 270 targeting on tunnels used for terror purposes.
Attached is a video item showing IAF strikes on tunnels used for terror purposes. To download the item, right-click here, and "save as".
Operation Protective Edge, which began on the night of July 7, entered a ground phase on the night of July 17, at approximately 22:00, intensifying IDF efforts to restore the quiet and strike a blow at Hamas and other terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.
Attached is a video item showing the IDF's ground forces on the first night of ground operations (early Friday morning, July 18) within the Gaza Strip. To download the item, right-click here, and "save as".
Since the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge began, the IDF targeted 310 terror activity sites, including 112 command and control centers, 95 rocket launching capabilities and 13 tunnels with 31 opening points to them across the Gaza Strip.
Up-to-date ISA intelligence alerted the IDF that terror organizations in the Gaza Strip intend to strap explosives to animals and send them in the direction of ground forces. Yesterday evening, there was at least one such attempt, in which a donkey suspiciously began to approach forces. The forces engaged the donkey and it exploded at a safe distance, whereas no injuries were sustained by the IDF as a result. This cruel incident is the most recent attempt by Gaza terror organizations to make such an abominable use of animals as explosives couriers, whereas other attempts have been carried out over the years (more information available on the IDF Blog:
During overnight ground operations, three soldiers were injured in the southern Gaza Strip when an explosive device was detonated against forces at the scene. An additional three soldiers were injured in the northern Gaza Strip when a terrorist opened fire at them. The soldiers returned fire and identified a hit.
PM Netanyahu Meets with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Speaks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Saturday, 19 July 2014), met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and told him at the start of their meeting, "I don't think the international community should create any kind of symmetry between a democracy legitimately acting in its own self-defense trying to avoid civilian casualties and a terrorist organization that deliberately targets millions of innocent civilians. I know it's not the position of France and I think it shouldn't be the position of anyone in the international community."
Prime Minister Netanyahu also spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and told him about the missiles that were found at a UN school in Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Hamas is hiding rockets in schools and firing them at Israeli schools and noted that Hamas is using schools, residences, mosques and hospitals in order to launch rockets at Israeli civilians. He added that since Hamas is using innocent civilians as human shields for its terrorist activities, it is responsible if civilians are inadvertently hit.
Pope Francis spoke to President Peres this morning and asked to deliver a message of coexistence, moderation and peace to all the citizens of the region in light of the current security situation
Pope Francis spoke to President Peres this morning and asked to deliver a message of coexistence, moderation and peace to all the citizens of the region in light of the current security situation
Pope Francis to President Peres:
"Actions on behalf of fanatics don't leave us anywhere; it's true that many innocents suffer and pay with their lives, but we have to move forward and insist on this path of prayer for peace"
President Peres to Pope Francis:
His Holiness Pope Francis spoke to President Peres earlier today and conveyed a messaged of coexistence, moderation and peace to the citizens of the region in light of the security situation. President Peres thanked Pope Francis who his involvement and concern and said, "Right now there is fire, we are trying to do as much as we can to lower the flames because we do not consider the people of Gaza as enemies. I know that the people of Gaza themselves didn't decide on this situation that they find themselves in. There is a small group of fanatics who are the cause of suffering in Gaza. Our operation is aimed to bring an end to two killing methods – the rockets from the sky and the tunnels from under the earth. We have discovered two tunnels which were supposed to enable them enter into the heart of civilian life and kill indiscriminately. Fortunately we discovered it on time and prevented the murder. Right now the main thing we are doing is to put an end to these tunnels and we are trying to see how to limit the confrontation, particularly with regard to the rockets which they fire at our civilians. I hope it will not be a long lasting operation and I can assure you that our people are careful and will continue to be very careful not to cause damage and death to innocent peoples. We shall continue to search for a road to peace in spite of the fire and in spite of the failure to have a ceasefire because finally the solution must be political and not just military."
His Holiness Pope Francis said to President Peres, "This is a painful moment; I am convinced that God brings us together in prayer for peace, and please allow me to say it's a prophetic gesture which in some ways will mark the future path. It's true that actions on behalf of fanatics don't leave us anywhere; it's true that many innocents suffer and pay with their lives. But we have to move forward and insist on this path of prayer for peace. I believe in prayer, in the power of prayer and I believe in the hearts of men who are working for peace. I ask God for a quick solution and a political solution. I'm close to you with my prayers and thoughts.
President Peres thanked Pope Francis for his efforts for peace and said, "I thank you for your efforts for peace. The three meetings that I have had the pleasure to participate in have left a lasting impression. I know that there is still a long way and I know there are difficult situations but like on many occasions, crises may give birth to peace and a better time. Your visit in Israel and our prayer in the Vatican had an unexpected impact on many people and I believe it planted a small tree of hope in the hearts of many, which we have to continue and develop.
Pope Francis thanked President Peres and said, "I thank you for everything that you do Mr. President and I ask Gold to bless you very much. That he accompany you on the path of peace and please feel my presence close to you as a brother and as a friend."
Photo Credit: Koby Gidon/GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Friday, 18 July 2014), made the following remarks at the start of the special Cabinet meeting:
"This is the tenth day that Israel's cities have been under terrorist attack. The IDF is operating against Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip from the sea and air, and now on land as well. Last night, our forces commenced a ground operation in order to strike at the terrorist tunnels that run from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. I remind you that it was through such a tunnel that Hamas terrorists infiltrated into our territory yesterday morning in order to perpetrate a large scale attack against Israel's citizens. The IDF successfully thwarted this terrorist act.
Because it is not possible to deal with the tunnels only from the air, our soldiers are now doing so on the ground. Even here there is no guarantee of 100% success, but we are doing our utmost in order to achieve the maximum. To our sorrow, a soldier has already fallen and – on behalf of all the ministers – I send condolences to his family. I am certain that I speak on behalf of all Israelis.
My instructions, and those of the Defense Minister, to the IDF, with the approval of the Security Cabinet, are to be ready for the possibility of a significant expansion of the ground operation, and the Chief-of-Staff and the IDF have prepared accordingly. Last night's operation came after Israel agreed to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal and to the UN initiative for a humanitarian truce. In both cases, Hamas continued firing. We chose to commence this operation after we had exhausted the other possibilities, and with the understanding that without action, the price that we would pay would be much greater.
Even before we embarked on Operation Protective Edge, I spoke with major world leaders. I explained to them the impossible situation the State of Israel was facing and our need to defend our people. Since then, through constant, methodical diplomatic and media activity, we have been creating the international space – which is not self-evident – so that we can take systematic and strong action against this murderous terrorist organization and its terrorist partners. Naturally, there are considerations and facts that I cannot reveal to the public; these are complicated considerations that include, at the same time, many fronts and arenas in Israel and around the world. However, the supreme consideration that guides us is to restore the security to Israel's citizens and to restore quiet to the country.
The IDF is a moral military without peer; it does not aspire to harm any innocent person. We are operating only against terrorist targets and we regret any inadvertent civilian casualties. It is the terrorist organizations – which attack our cities and our civilians and use their civilians are human shields – that bear the responsibility for casualties among non-combatants.
Now I know that in such campaigns, global public opinion always receives a distorted picture of the campaign. This is unavoidable. But, unlike in the past, this time there are many in the international community who understand that it is Hamas – and Hamas alone – that is responsible for the victims. This is important for the State of Israel.
I would like to appeal to you, citizens of Israel. A terrorist war has been forced upon the state and this time as well, we will meet the challenge. Your steadfast fortitude gives us the ability and the time to take strong action against our enemies, and we are all proud of you. And again, I must ask that you strictly follow the instructions of IDF Home Front Command. I think that, today, it is hardly necessary to say how important this is, and I know that you understand this.
I have met with the commanders who are leading the IDF operation, uncommonly brave, determined and motivated commanders, with strong values. I am impressed by the motivation of our soldiers, both conscripts and reservists, and their desire to take part in the campaign. They understand that their mission is to defend Israel's citizens. Our fighters all know that they are fighting for the most just of goals – the defense of our shared home. At this time, we are all united behind the soldiers and commanders of the IDF. And I know that I speak for all of us as we support them in their mission and pray for their welfare.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening, spoke with US President Barack Obama. During their conversation a siren was heard as a result of missile fire from Gaza to Israel and the Prime Minister explained that this was the reality in which millions of Israelis have been living recently.
Netanyahu & Obama Photo by AP.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today, spoke with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and asked him to publish photographs showing the munitions that were hidden in a UN school in Gaza and which were discovered yesterday. The Prime Minister added that Hamas conceals ammunition in schools and fires it at schools in Israel.
Today at 2:30 p.m. in Jerusalem: New Immigrants from France to Receive Israeli ID Cards, Become Citizens of Israel
Today at 2:30 p.m. in Jerusalem: New Immigrants from France to Receive Israeli ID Cards, Officially Become Citizens of Israe
JERUSALEM – 430 new immigrants from France will receive their Israeli ID cards and officially become citizens of Israel at a festive ceremony in Jerusalem later today (Thursday, July 17). The event, which is being organized by The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, will take place at the Ramada Hotel at 2:30 p.m. and will be attended by Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver, Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky, and Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yafo and former Chief Rabbi of Israel Yisrael Meir Lau.
The 430 new immigrants from France arrived in Israel last night (Wednesday, July 16) aboard two special flights organized by The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption. Most of the new arrivals are families, including 195 children and teens and 18 babies. Dozens of the new Israelis will be moving to the southern cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, and the rest will live in communities throughout Israel. Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver and Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky were on hand to welcome the new immigrants home.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said: "France may not have won the World Cup, but you are champions when it comes to Aliyah – immigration to Israel. Your Aliyah is the best answer to our enemies' rockets. More than 1,000 new immigrants from around the world have arrived in Israel during Operation Protective Edge. Today, 430 of you came from France. Not a single one of these new immigrants canceled or postponed his or her arrival. Welcome to the family."
Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver said: "You, dear friends, are the answer to the complicated security situation we are experiencing these days. Since the start of the operation, more than 1,000 new immigrants have come home, and that is proof of the fact that the State of Israel is the one and only home of the Jewish people. Every immigrant strengthens us as a people and a state. Aliyah is our national Iron Dome."
2014 has seen a dramatic increase in Aliyah (immigration to Israel) from France and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and The Jewish Agency expect more than 5,000 French Jews to immigrate to Israel by the end of the year. 3,289 French Jews immigrated to Israel in 2013, compared to 1,917 in 2012 – a 60% increase. That trend is continuing in 2014, with approximately 2,600 French Jews arriving in Israel during the first six months of the year, compared to 812 during the equivalent period in 2013. This dramatic increase is due, in part, to a special plan developed by the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and The Jewish Agency to encourage Aliyah from France and ease French Jews' integration into Israeli society. The plan includes efforts to strengthen Jewish identity amongst French Jewish youth, expand Israel experience programs, remove bureaucratic barriers to employment in Israel, and boost the number of Jewish Agency shlichim (representatives) in France.
PHOTO: Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver pose with a family of immigrants from France that arrived in Israel this evening. Photo by David Salem.
European Council 16.7.14
10. The European Council is following with great concern the continued violence in Israel and
11. The tragic events of the past days highlight the urgent need for all parties to work towards a
12. Israelis and Palestinians need to make the strategic choice of peace in order to allow their
For the entire European Council conclusions
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Remarks at the Start of his Meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Wednesday, 16 July 2014), made the following remarks at the start of his meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini:
"Madam Minister. It's a pleasure to see you in Israel. We've had better days and we'll have better days. But I appreciate the fact that you're coming on this day to Israel It's an expression of solidarity that I see from Prime Minister Renzi, from many world leaders. They understand our battle against Hamas terrorists, who are seeking to fire rockets on our cities. They killed an Israeli citizen yesterday, but they're targeting millions of our citizens, directly targeting them with rocket fire which is a war crime, and also using their own civilians as human shields – another war crime. We've been trying to find a solution to this problem. Yesterday I accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. This was a proposal that was endorsed by the UN Secretary General and by the Arab League. Israel accepted the ceasefire, Hamas rejected it. We held our fire for six hours, and during that time Hamas continue to barrage our cities with rockets. Hamas thus shut the door to a diplomatic solution and it therefore bears the sole responsibility for the continuation of the violence. It's responsible for the civilian deaths, the innocent deaths of Palestinians that it uses as human shields, and it's responsible for the deaths of Israeli civilians and the terror rocketing of Israeli civilians. I believe that all members of the international community should unequivocally condemn Hamas for these crimes. I believe that all members of the international community should unequivocally support Israel's right to defend itself. None of the countries that I know would adopt a different position, and therefore I appreciate the support of many world leaders, including you, for Israel's right to defend itself. And Israel will continue to do so until peace and quiet are restored. This is our right; this is our duty; we will act by it.
Italy has one advantage over us. It has sea from three sides. But imagine that your cities of Rome, Florence and Milan were rocketed indiscriminately by a terrorist group next to you. You wouldn't accept it. And you'd fight back. And that's what Israel is doing. We're fighting back. Those who are firing at us are not seeking a political solution. Those who are firing at us are seeking the disappearance of Israel, the destruction of Israel. And so for them we have one answer: we will fight you and we will defeat you. That is something that we are committed to do. And I think that's important for peace. I think that the most important thing vis-à-vis Gaza is to ensure that Gaza is demilitarized from rockets and from the attack tunnels that Hamas is seeking, is building into Israel. This is an important part of the long-term solution but in the immediate moment, Israel has to take the actions to defend its citizens as any normal country would against terrorists who are committing double war crimes of targeting civilians and hiding behind civilians. I think this is a standard that all responsible members of the international community should condemn. I know you do."
Photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO.
PM Netanyahu's Statement at the Start of his Meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Tuesday, 15 July 2014), made the following statement at the start of his meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier:
"Foreign Minister Steinmeier, welcome. You're a great friend of Israel and an important statesman of Europe and the world and I appreciate deeply the fact that you are coming here at this particular time and this particular date. As you know, Israel has accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, a goal that was and remains putting an end to rocket fire from Gaza on our cities, providing the citizens of Israel with the peace and quiet to which they are entitled. I know that you know that no country would sit idly by while its civilian population is subjected to terrorist rocket fire. Israel is no exception. If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal, and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease, and that appears to be the case now, we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation to protect our people. For this we have kept full support from the responsible members of the international community. I want to thank the many world leaders including yourself who unequivocally condemn Hamas for the rocket fire on Israeli cities and for the clear-cut support for Israel's right to self-defense. So, in that spirit of friendship, welcome to Israel, welcome to Tel Aviv."
National Public Diplomacy Directorate and Masa Israel Journey join forces to establish joint public diplomacy war room; Masa participants from around the world join effort to present Israel's case to the world using social media
JERUSALEM – Masa Israel Journey and the National Public Diplomacy Directorate within the Prime Minister's Office have launched a joint effort to raise awareness of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in both traditional and new media. The goal of the effort is to show that Israeli civilians are under attack from Hamas in the Gaza Strip and explain to the world that Israel embarked on a defensive operation under the banner, "Israel Under Fire."
Volunteers from several Masa programs have contributed their time out of a desire to show the world what is really happening in Israel and out of a sense of attachment to the country. The volunteers are helping translate materials into their native tongues, adapt the messaging to their specific national audiences, and contribute their own unique perspectives based on their experiences in Israel. They post on Facebook and Twitter, respond to falsehoods, expose Hamas lies, share explanatory YouTube videos, and attempt both raise awareness and challenge the discourse on social media.
Volunteers are conveying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's primary message in this conflict: "The difference between us and Hamas is that we use rocket defense systems to protect the people of Israel, and they use the people of Gaza to protect their rocket arsenal." The prime minister has been emphasizing this point in media interviews and in conversations with world leaders and it has gone viral thanks, in part, to the volunteers' social media efforts.
Masa Israel Journey, a partnership between the Government of Israel and The Jewish Agency for Israel that is currently celebrating its tenth year, brings Jewish young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to experience life Israel for 5-10 months on 250 unique programs aimed at strengthening their Jewish identity and connection to Israel. Some 86,000 Jewish young people have participated in Masa programs thus far. Masa participants have contributed approximately one million volunteer hours to Israeli society, in areas such as education, at-risk youth, immigrant absorption, strengthening underprivileged neighborhoods, and so on.
Sarah Hayum, a 21-year-old Masa participant from Luxembourg volunteering in the public diplomacy war room, said: "I saw how the international media is treating the situation in Israel and Gaza. My Facebook feed was full of pro-Palestinian claims against Israel. I couldn't just stand by. I needed to do something and show the world—to the extent I can—how wrong they are."
Masa Israel Journey CEO Liran Avisar Ben Horin said: "This is a critical partnership for all those taking part in the public diplomacy war room, particularly at a time like this, when the other side is fighting us on social media in an effort to win hearts and minds. The Masa volunteers' immediate mobilization is praiseworthy and I thank them for giving of their time out of a true sense of belonging. This is what true love of Israel, and Zionism, look like."
Photos by Oded Fromovitz for Masa Israel Journey.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Tuesday, 15 July 2015), made the following statement at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv:
"This morning, I convened the Security Cabinet. We decided that Israel would respond positively to Egypt's proposal for a ceasefire (). I said then that if Hamas and Islamic Jihad did not accept the Egyptian ceasefire and continued to fire at Israel's cities, I – along with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon – would order the IDF to take strong action against them – and this is what we did this afternoon (). The air force bombed many terrorist targets in Gaza and these attacks will continue.
Hamas chose to continue the campaign and it will pay for this decision. Whoever tries to attack the citizens of Israel, Israel will strike at him. When there is no ceasefire – our answer is fire.
This campaign has several fronts – the operational front, the diplomatic front and the home front. We are acting on all these fronts simultaneously, in a level-headed and sagacious manner, and with the benefit of experience. All of this is to create maximum freedom of action for the State of Israel and the IDF in order to protect you from rocket fire, tunnel attacks and attacks by other means.
It would have been preferable to resolve this by diplomacy and we tried to do so when we acceded to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. But Hamas left us no choice but to broaden and intensify the campaign against it. This is what we will do until we achieve our goal – the restoration of quiet for Israel's citizens while inflicting a significant blow on the terrorist organizations.
These are moments in which decisions must be made with equanimity and patience, not in haste. I am determined to do the right thing and I know that you rely on me and on us to ignore the background noise and concentrate on the main task – guarding your security and your lives.
We will do everything so that you and the State of Israel may quickly enjoy renewed quiet."
President Shimon Peres conducted a diplomatic work meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Federica Mogherini
President Shimon Peres conducted a diplomatic work meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Federica Mogherini
Foreign Minister Mogherinir:
"My visit is to support the effort to reach a ceasefire and immediately restart talks in a dynamic and creative way to end this conflict."
"We know we have to pay attention to the risk of anti-semitism"
The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, conducted a diplomatic work meeting this morning with the Foreign Minister of Italy, Federica Mogherini, during which they discussed the ongoing security situation. President Peres welcomed Foreign Minister Mogherini and said, "It's a clear situation today, because Egypt offered a ceasefire. Israel accepted it. The Arab League accepted it. The only one that refused and continues to fire is the Hamas. We're trying to defend our own people, as we must, and we're also trying hard not to hit innocent people in Gaza."
President Peres told the Foreign Minister of the ongoing efforts by the IDF to reduce civilian casualties, " There is a zone from which most of the rockets are being fired and we issued a warning to the people to leave instead of becoming victims of the policy of Hamas which tries to protect their rockets with civilians. Our choice is to do what we can to minimize civilian casualties and we are permitting the arrival of food and other essential supplies including medication."
President Peres thanked Europe for its support and said, "Europe and the US took a clear stance against the one-sided, unreasonable and cruel policy of Hamas. I think Hamas will meet its end because no-one will continue to support terror, and that will be the best news for the people of Gaza. At the same time we shall continue to look for ways and opening to renew the political negotiations but we would like to see a permanent peace instead of ongoing terror. This time Hamas is isolated, justice has a clear majority."
Foreign Minister Mogherini thanked President Peres and said, "It's a visit we planned weeks ago but is even more important in these days, first of all to get a closer insight into the dynamic and also to show our concern. My visit in Ashdod yesterday showed me the strong physical and psychological pressure, on the people. As a mother I understand very well the pressure and the tension there and at the same time the number of civilian victims in Gaza is extremely worrying. I think it's in the interest of the Israeli and Palestinian people, especially in Gaza, to stop this. All that we can do to support a ceasefire will be done, not only Italy but also in coordination with the other European countries and the United States. I hope that these difficult days will come to an end soon. My visit is to support this effort to reach a ceasefire and immediately restart talks in a dynamic and creative way, to end this conflict."
The Foreign Minister continued and said, "The region is tense and there is the risk of radicalization in the Arab world and also in Europe, where we know we have to pay attention to the risk of anti-semitism, especially in these days."
Photo Credit: Mark Neiman/GPO
"Moving and Inspiring": Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky Visits Rocket-Battered Southern Israel, Conveys Solidarity and Support of World Jewry
"Moving and Inspiring": Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky Visits Rocket-Battered Southern Israel, Conveys Solidarity and Support of World Jewry
Jewish Agency Fund for Victims of Terror extends financial assistance to families affected by rocket attacks; Sharansky visits damaged home with shelter built by Jewish Agency subsidiary, presents family with financial assistance; Sderot, Ofakim mayors thank Jewish Agency and world Jewry for support
JERUSALEM – Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky yesterday (July 10) visited southern Israel, which has borne the brunt of rocket attacks from Gaza in recent days, in order to express the solidarity and support of world Jewry toward the region's residents. Sharansky toured The Jewish Agency's Ibim Immigrant Absorption Center, where he met with both staff and new immigrants living in the line as fire, as well as the cities of Sderot and Ofakim, where he met with the local mayors along with staff and volunteers from various Jewish Agency programs serving the region's residents. He also presented a local family with financial assistance from The Jewish Agency's Fund for Victims of Terror, which is families across southern Israel cope with the immediate aftermath of rocket attacks.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said: "It is both moving and inspiring to feel the mighty fortitude of the people of southern Israel—both immigrants and native Israelis—and the powerful solidarity of world Jewry, which draw upon and strengthen one another. The Jewish Agency is proud to serve as a conduit of positive energy between the Jewish world and the people of Israel's south and we will continue to do whatever we can to support the local residents during this trying time."
Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi said: "At this complex time, expressions of support and solidarity from Jews around the world are a ray of light. We are happy that The Jewish Agency has accompanied the city of Sderot for so many years, through thick and thin. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky's visit, especially now, is proof of that commitment and of the saying, Kol yisra'el arevim zeh la-zeh – all Jews are responsible for one another. Hamas wants death and we want life; it wants darkness and we want light. The city of Sderot's answer is to bring hundreds of students and young families so that the city continues to develop and grow."
Ofakim Mayor Itizik Danino said: "Like its neighbors in southern Israel, Ofakim is under direct attack from terrorist groups in Gaza. It is deeply moving to receive expressions of support and solidarity from the entire Jewish people in Israel and abroad. I am grateful to Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky for his visit to Ofakim and for his assistance in building fortified shelters in apartments built during the 1990's. The Jewish Agency has long been a loyal partner of the city of Ofakim and today we received further proof of this longstanding friendship."
During his visit to Sderot, Sharansky visited Svetlana Fumin and her daughter Evelina, immigrants from Russia whose home was seriously damaged by a rocket from Gaza last week. Svetlana and Evelina had entered their fortified shelter—constructed by The Jewish Agency's sheltered housing subsidiary Amigour—upon hearing the Red Alert incoming rocket warning, and emerged from the attack unharmed. Amigour subsequently repaired the rocket damage with the assistance of the Ministry of Finance's Property Tax Department, and the family returned to their home yesterday, the day of Sharansky's visit. Visiting the family's newly refurbished apartment, Sharansky presented Svetlana and Evelina with financial assistance from The Jewish Agency's Fund for Victims of Terror. Svetlana and Evelina Fumin thanked both The Jewish Agency and its subsidiary, Amigour, for their support during the family's ordeal. Sharansky's visit to Sderot was interrupted by a Red Alert, and Sharansky observed the Iron Dome rocket defense system's interception of a rocket from Gaza.
The Jewish Agency's Fund for Victims of Terror provides families affected by rocket attacks and other acts of terror with $1,300 in immediate financial assistance to help them address their needs in the wake of the attacks. It is sustained by donations from the Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod-UIA, and other donors. The assistance is presented to the families by Jewish Agency representatives in the field, in coordination with local authorities and the National Insurance Institute. Families across Israel's south have been provided with financial assistance from the Fund in recent days. In addition to the immediate aid, the Fund for Victims of Terror extends significant supplemental financial assistance of up to $8,300 to families recognized as victims of terror by Israeli authorities.
Amigour, The Jewish Agency's sheltered housing subsidiary, has been tasked by the Government of Israel with the responsibility of constructing fortified shelters in Israeli homes within immediate rocket range of Gaza. All of the private shelters in Sderot – some 5,000 in total – were constructed by Amigour and every home in the town is now protected thanks to the company. 3,500 shelters have been constructed in neighboring towns and communities and Amigour is currently in the process of building an additional 1,400 shelters in the region. The Jewish Agency contributed NIS 44 million ($14.6 million) for this purpose.
PHOTO: Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky presents Svetlana and Evelina Fumin, whose Sderot home was damaged by a rocket from Gaza last week, with financial assistance from The Jewish Agency's Fund for Victims of Terror.
Photo by Yifat Mualem.
President Shimon Peres, today (Thursday, 10 July 2014), addressed the security situation at an event at the President's Residence and said, "Israel underwent another night in which millions of our citizens were under the threat of rocket fire. It is a few nights now that mothers, with children in their arms, can't sleep because of the fear of another siren. We will protect our children and will not allow anyone to harm them. We must say clearly that the State of Israel won't rely on luck; we are prepared and ready for any scenario in order to protect our civilians. We are a united front in the face of this danger; we will not consent to being victims."
President Peres continued and delivered a clear message to Hamas, "We do not wish to see innocent people killed or injured, but it is Hamas who endangers the citizens of Gaza by firing from deep within civilian areas."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon (Wednesday, 9 July 2014), held security consultations, at IDF Southern Command headquarters in Be'er Sheva, along with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and GOC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Sammy Turgeman.
Following the consultations, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "We have decided to further increase the assault on Hamas and the terrorist organizations in Gaza . The IDF is prepared for all possibilities. Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing at Israel's citizens. The security of Israel's citizens is our primary consideration. Our military is strong, the home front is steadfast and our people are united. This combination is our response to the terrorist organizations that want to attack us.
We are all united in the mission to strike at the terrorist organizations and restore quiet. The operation will be expanded and will continue until the firing at our communities stops and quiet is restored. I ask that the public continue to listen to the instructions from IDF Home Front Command http://www.oref.org.il/894-en/Pakar.aspx
– they save lives. On behalf of Israel's citizens, I thank all IDF soldiers and ISA personnel who are participating in the operation."
It is important that world leaders condemn the ongoing rocket fire by Hamas and other terror groups towards Israeli population centers, and take action to dismantle the Hamas terrorist infrastructure.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman today (Wednesday, 9 July 2014) dispatched a letter to foreign ministers of countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations in which he detailed the background and events leading to Operation Protective Edge:
As you are probably aware, Israel this week began a military operation in Gaza, in response to ongoing Hamas rocket fire. The latest round of rocket fire began June 12th, the day that three Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered. The Hamas shooting escalated significantly June 30th, even before the bodies of the teens were found and before the murder of a Palestinian youth, which was condemned sharply by the entire Israeli leadership, and whose murderers are already held in custody.
Hamas is a recognized terror organization, motivated by the most radical ideology, including a charter that calls for the murder of all Jews. Hamas is responsible for 80 suicide bombers that have killed nearly 1000 Israeli civilians. Hamas has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Japan and Egypt. This group seeks to establish an Islamist state characterized by human rights violations, violent repression of minorities, women, and non-Muslims.
Remarks by PM Netanyahu, DM Yaalon, IDF Chief-of-Staff Gantz and GOC Air Force Eshel after the Security Cabinet Meeting
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, and GOC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel made the following remarks today (Wednesday, 9 July 2014) after the Security Cabinet meeting:
Prime Minister Netanyahu:
"We are in the third day of Operation Protective Edge. While the campaign has gone as planned further stages yet await us. We have struck hard at Hamas and the terrorists and as long as the campaign continues we will strike at them harder. I would like to thank the IDF, ISA, and the security services for their professional, dedicated and precise actions, and express the appreciation of all Israelis. They are making every effort to avoid hitting civilians and innocents are hit it is because Hamas is maliciously hiding behind Palestinian civilians.
As of now, the IDF, ISA and other security services have successfully foiled many attempted attacks against Israeli citizens but a tough, complex and complicated campaign yet awaits us. Therefore, I call on all Israelis to continue to show the strength that you have shown in these days and hours. This civilian fortitude is a main component of our ability to continue operations until we finish the work of restoring quiet and security to Israel's cities. The most important thing for us, for all of us, is to guard the lives of all Israelis and we are all working together to this end."
Defense Minister Yaalon:
"We are in the midst of Operation Protective Edge. As of now, we have hit Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip very hard. Hundreds of targets have been destroyed including the homes of militants, government institutions, launchers, rockets and other war materiel. Dozens of terrorists have been killed and we are continuing to strike at Hamas and make it pay a heavy price for everything it has done in recent days.
This is an opportunity to express appreciation to the IDF; the IDF has been active on land, sea and air, in both offensive and defensive efforts. The IDF has impressively succeeded in intercepting the rockets being launched at the State of Israel and in thwarting the terrorist organizations' malicious intentions to perpetrate attacks, both by sea and in other ways.
But this is also the opportunity to express appreciation to the residents of Israel. I have visited several local councils and, indeed, the stamina of the public is an important component in our ability to continue the operation. But the public must also act properly; this is part of our ability to avoid casualties. The public must listen to instructions from the IDF Home Front Command. We will continue with this operation until we reach the desired result – the cessation of firing and the lifting of the threat to Israeli citizens and soldiers."
IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gantz:
"The IDF is monitoring what is happening in all sectors – in the north, center and south. After the conclusion of Operation Brother's Keeper, we moved on to Operation Protective Edge in the south and this time we are dealing with Hamas and the other terrorist organizations that are trying to attack deep into Israeli territory by land, sea and air.
We will continue to follow the directives of the political echelon. We will continue to monitor the intelligence reality. We will continue to act patiently and with sagacity. We will attack wherever it is necessary to attack, we will defend wherever it is necessary to defend, and we will attack and defend on land, sea and air. We will use all of our intelligence, command and control, and logistical capabilities. All in all, we are operating well in all sectors. Southern Command, Home Front Command and the Air Force are making maximum efforts. We will continue to act. We will rely on the patience of the public and must ask that it follow the instructions of IDF Home Front Command in order to minimize damage as much as possible. We will continue to take determined action until we reach our goals. At this stage, I would like to commend our citizens and the actions of our forces."
GOC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Eshel:
"The Air Force is taking both offensive and defensive action: Offensively, with the praiseworthy cooperation of Southern Command, the Intelligence Branch and the ISA. The intelligence agencies are providing excellent intelligence for the Air Force's operational activity. We have dropped hundreds of tons of ordnance and bombs on terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip, in a very complicated environment in which civilians are being used as human shields and we are trying to avoid hitting civilians as much as possible. Until now the results have been very good and we are continuing the effort.
Defensively, Air Force personnel in Iron Dome and other capabilities are making great efforts in the fight against the rockets being launched in all directions. Until now the results have been good, most rockets are being intercepted and are not causing damage; a minority of them are hitting in settled areas. Nothing is 100% but these soldiers are professionals and are doing their work in a level-headed and determined manner, in short timeframes. Making the necessary decisions is very, very complicated and as of now there has been great success.
We will continue both offensive and defensive efforts until we reach the goals set by the political leadership. The entire Air Force is involved in this effort, both offensively and defensively, and we will succeed."
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on Declaration of 'Special Situation' in the Homefront
Remarks by Defense Minister Yaalon on the Declaration of Special Situation in the Homefront
Defense Minister Yaalon, today (Tuesday, 8 July 2014), concluded discussions on recent developments with GOC Homefront Command Maj.-Gen. Eyal Eisenberg and Defense Ministry Director General Dan Harel. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Defense Minister declared a 'special situation' for the homefront in cities and communities situated between 0-40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip.
During the discussion the Defense Minister said:
"We are preparing for action against Hamas, which will not end within a few days. Hamas has led this round of violence so it can target and damage our home front. There is a need for breathing room. The proper behavior and actions of the civilian population, including following Homefront Command instructions and proximity to shelters, is a crucial component in our ability to prevent civilian casualties. In the last few hours we have launched powerful strikes and hit tens of Hamas targets; the IDF is continuing its strikes to exact a heavy price from Hamas. We will not tolerate rocket fire on Israel cities, and we are preparing to expand the operation with everything at our disposal to strike Hamas.
I would like to express my support of southern Israel's residents and heads of the regional councils, who have demonstrated leadership and responsibility."
Since June 12, at least 240 rockets have been fired at southern Israel from Gaza, aimed deliberately at civilian targets. IDF commences Operation Protect Edge against Hamas.
Since June 12, southern Israel has been the target of ever-increasing rocket and other terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip, aimed deliberately at civilian targets.
Update: At least 80 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza on Monday, July 7.
Since the beginning of the year, Gaza terrorists have fired more than 450 rockets towards Israeli citizens. The attacks have sent thousands running into bomb shelters, threatening millions of Israeli lives. In order to restore quiet to the region and stop Hamas terrorism, the IDF has commenced Operation Protective Edge.
Since Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, Hamas has continued to arm itself with vast amounts of weaponry and is currently in possession of 10,000 rockets. Hamas deliberately and systematically exploits Palestinians and uses them as human shields when firing at Israel. Over 3.5 million Israelis are currently living under the threat of rocket attacks. No nation would accept this reality.
Although Israel's Iron Dome Missile Defense system stops some of the attacks, most rockets are capable of reaching Israel's biggest cities. More than half a million Israelis have less than 60 seconds to find shelter after a rocket is launched from Gaza into Israel. Many have only 15 seconds.
Monday, June 30 saw a sharp escalation in rocket fire, with the intensification in attacks beginning in the morning, prior to the discovery of the boys' bodies. That day, Hamas itself fired rockets.
These rockets have injured Israelis, damaged cars, homes and property. On Thursday morning (3 July) a rocket hit a nursery school and rockets burned two factories in Sderot to the ground (28 June).
In addition to the rocket attacks, Palestinians have carried out cross-border attacks from Gaza. A terrorist armed with a grenade infiltrated an Israeli village (22 June) and Israeli forces were attacked on 28 and 29 June.
Hamas controls the Gaza Strip since 2007 and bears responsibility for the rocket attacks.
In combined efforts of both aerial and naval forces, the IDF targeted overnight approximately 50 terror sites and targets across the Gaza Strip, commencing operation 'Protective Edge' – aimed to retrieve stability to the residents of southern Israel, eliminate Hamas' capabilities and destroy terror infrastructure operating against the State of Israel and its civilians.
Among the targets are 4 activity sites utilized by Hamas operatives who are responsible for numerous rocket attacks and were involved in various terror activities against the State of Israel.
The activity sites that were targeted were utilized by the following operatives:
Ei'ad Sakik, a Hamas terrorists in Gaza, involved in rocket terrorism against the State of Israel.
Abdullah Hshash, a Hamas terrorist in Rafah, involved in rocket terrorism against the State of Israel during the past few weeks and in the past as well.
Samer Abu Daka, a Hamas terrorist in Khan Yunis, involved in terrorist activity against the State of Israel.
Hassan Abdullah, a Hamas terrorist in Khan Yunis, involved in rocket terrorism against the State of Israel during the past few weeks.
The IDF targeted dozens of terror sites across the Gaza Strip, including concealed rocket launchers, launching infrastructures, a weapon storage facility, training bases, terror tunnels' shafts and further targets.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF Spokesman: "In the past weeks, residents of southern Israel were forced into an unbearable reality – a situation they haven't encountered in these scales since November 2012. In light of these circumstances, the IDF commenced operation 'Protective Edge'. We are determined to lay a significant blow on Hamas' terror capabilities and infrastructure, eliminate any threat on Israeli sovereignty emanating from the Gaza Strip and restore stability to the southern region. Terrorists perpetrating the aggression against Israel have a personal price to pay and will bear the consequences of their actions."
Hamas has dramatically upgraded its weapons stockpile, placing millions of Israeli civilians at risk.
In response to incessant rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, the IDF has begun Operation Protective Edge. The operation's goal is to target Hamas terrorists operating from Gaza.
Hamas, the ruling entity of the Gaza Strip, is responsible for most of the attacks on Israeli population centers. Since Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, the terrorist organization has increased the size and strength of its rocket arsenal. It currently possesses 10,000 rockets and mortars, including long-range rockets such as the Fajr-5. While Hamas continues to attack Israel, it turns a blind eye to other terrorist organizations responsible for rocket fire.
Just four months ago, the IDF intercepted the Klos-C, an Iranian shipment of advanced weaponry destined for the Gaza Strip. The shipment was intended for Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in Gaza. The organizations use advanced weaponry to attack the Israeli civilian population.
Since the beginning of 2014, Gaza terrorists have fired more than 450 rockets at innocent Israeli civilians. Rocket fire endangers more than 3.5 million people – about 40% of Israel's population. The threat facing Israel is intolerable, and the IDF is determined to stop it.
Following the siren in Tel Aviv and instructions from IDF Home Front Command http://www.oref.org.il/894-en/Pakar.aspx
the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality has moved to working in a state of emergency and has opened all of the shelters for the public. The full list can be found at:
In addition, a GPS-based map of public shelters can be found on the municipal app DIGITEL (in Hebrew.)
Until IDF Home Front Command orders otherwise, all events are taking place as usual, including summer camps and other municipal public activities.
The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality is working in full cooperation with the security forces and is ready to respond to any need in a state of emergency.
Preparedness in Tel Aviv:
Over the last few years the Municipality has invested over NIS 20 million in upgrading the public shelters system. In addition, the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality expanded the underground shelters network by adapting 70 underground parking lots in the total size of 850,000 sqm to fit security requirements and serve as shelters in times of need, adding an additional 850,000 sq. meters that can accommodate a total of 800,000 people.
In the service of the public in Tel Aviv there is a wide variety of shelters including: private home shelters, joint apartment buildings shelters, educational facility shelters and 241 public shelters across the city.
A very special event called "Amir's Folder of Love" took place last week at Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Hey. The event commemorated the life and tragic death of Amir Karten, son of musician Emanuel Karten.
Three hundred people from all over Israel attended the event and twenty well-known musicians volunteered to perform. Among these included guitarist Chen Banyan with fiancé Shahar singing a selection of opera pieces, singer Michal Tal, world renowned guitarist Yaron Hasson and singer Uzi Fuchs. Singer, musician and entertainer Dani Ben Israel energized the audience with a performance that received a standing ovation. The event was produced by Shuki Shtzuv and documented by Hagit Farber, producer for Arutz 2.
At the age of 17, Amir was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in the foot caused by an inherited p53 gene mutation. Following a year of treatment, Amir entered remission. Despite the challenges of a compromised foot, Amir traveled the world, undertook challenging jeep trips, climbed mountains, crossed deserts and lived life to the fullest. He obtained two academic degrees in chemistry, secured a job at Teva and later built a home with his wife Mika and son Yanai.
At the age of 29 when Mika was pregnant with their second son, Amir's cancer returned. Despite his courage and determination, Amir succumbed to the disease and died shortly after in 2011.
The cancer-linked P53 genetic mutation previously caused the death of Amir's older sister Karen in 1983 at the age of 7, and later claimed the lives of their mother Ronit (Emanuel's first wife) as well as that of her brother.
Amir's life and spirit continues through his father's project "Amir's Folder of Love." The project, filled with love, optimism, music and compassion, organizes musical performances in kibbutzim throughout Israel, arranges jeep trips and promotes the composition of songs in Amir's name.
All revenues and proceeds are donated to the oncological department of Tel Hashomer Hospital.
Photo by Emanuel Kerten