Letters to the Editor: Harvey Weinstein, IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel, Pickles


Harvey Weinstein: Disgrace to Judaism

I picked up a recent copy of the Journal, which I always look forward to reading. However, when I saw the photo of Harvey Weinstein on the cover, I was stunned. His picture, if in the Journal at all, should be small and on the last page of the paper, declaring that he shamed himself, his family, and that he is a disgrace to everything Jewish. The cover of the Journal should have someone we respect and emulate, who lives an exemplary life and makes this world a better place. I am sure you can choose more wisely the next time you prepare the paper.

Marion Lienhard, Thousand Oaks


A New Look, New Direction for the Journal

Congratulations on the new format, type, layout and the change in focus.

The new parsha commentaries show the variety of possibilities in interpretation.

The political differences are best shown when focused side by side on a single topic. The expansion of writers gives voice to many other topics of interest.

Mazel tov!

Enriqué Gascon, Los Angeles

When I lived in Baltimore I told people I read their Jewish News and they responded by saying, “Honey, no one reads it, we just look through it.”

One cannot say that about our Jewish Journal.  Its content is rich, diverse, readable and good enough to be savored.  All of that in addition to learning new things, human interest stories, and opinions that do not require you to want to tear your hair out.  OK maybe a little hair-tearing.

Don’t you just love change?

Sherri W. Morr via email

The Journal’s profound new tone and writers continue to amaze. In “A Deeper Feminism (Oct. 27),” Karen Lehrman Bloch’s assertion that freedom requires “thoughtfulness, a need to recognize reality and human nature” is a breath of fresh air. Although Bloch considers herself politically neutral, the media are so predominantly leftist that she seems to speak for the right. Her observation that “Women are equal to men but … different,” and “We should take pleasure in the differences,” is a mature, common-sense response to the growing, misguided progressive dogma that there’s no difference between the sexes or that it’s all cultural indoctrination. She’s a real delight!

I’ve even started reading Marty Kaplan’s column again. For a while, he was just trashing President Donald Trump every week, but his fascinating Oct. 27 rumination, “When Bad People Happen to Good Art,” explores the age-old enigma of profound art created by immoral, self-indulgent people. I wonder if it struck Kaplan that all the abusive artists he cited are likely Trump-haters, and that every Weinstein associate and political crony is a Democrat. Is the contempt some leftists have for Christianity and traditional Judaism eroding their consciences? I’m not suggesting Republicans aren’t sinners, but unlike secularists they don’t just rationalize bad behavior away. I’d love to hear Kaplan’s thoughts on this.

Rueben Gordon via email

What a great editor’s note: “Can Jewish Journalism Aim to Please?” (Oct. 27)! Note, that reveals a great journalist’s mind! Mr. Suissa, you have found that “sweet spot” already. By asking questions, you provoke thought, and by remaining true to yourself, you avoid triggering anger. The three insights you write about are excellent ways to reach out to as many readers as possible.

I am not a Jew, but I really enjoy the Journal, now more than before, finding those insights applied on all the pages. In my opinion, it is impossible to please each and every reader, but it is fully possible and necessary for journalists to be true to themselves when reporting the facts. Then let the readers be the judge! That’s how we, the readers, will be challenged to open our minds to new ideas and to “look beyond our own customs and traditions.”

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Put the Brakes on Those GPS Satellites

Your interview with Barry Barish (“Barry Barish on His Nobel Prize — and Why He Never Wrote That Novel,” Oct. 27) contains an egregious error. He is quoted as saying that the GPS satellites travel at 1/4th of the speed of light. They actually travel at 14,000 kilometers per hour (kph) relative to Earth, which is 0.001 percent of the speed of light. The relativistic offset of the space-borne clocks is 38 microseconds/day relative to a stationary clock on Earth, which would cause an Earth-bound user to make a 14-centimeter position error.

As a mere PhD in engineering I hesitate to correct a Nobel Prize winner. I suspect the interviewer misunderstood him.

Myron Kayton via email


Israel’s Destruction of Hamas Tunnel

I would like to thank Aaron Bandler for the story he wrote on the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) destroying a tunnel built by Hamas (“IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel,” Oct. 30). I 100 percent agree with what Bandler wrote about what the IDF did. Not only did I agree with it but I also completely [endorse what] the IDF is doing. In this story, I discovered that the IDF destroyed a tunnel made by Hamas. The tunnel spanned from Khan Younis in Gaza toward Kibbutz Kissufim in Israel. The reason I agree with this is because Israel warned that Hamas digs over six miles of tunnel a month toward Israel and that members of Hamas can travel through the entirety of the Gaza Strip underground through their network of tunnels. So if Israel lets this continue to happen, then many will probably die.

Nathan Tabibi via email


Israel and the Politics of Pickles

In the column “We, the Pickles,” Shmuel Rosner discusses many things. For the most part, I agree with his statements, although he wrote that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meant that we all no longer care about the country or the people, but rather maintaining the government. But isn’t that what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing? No matter what Netanyahu does, the critics grumble. He does well and he gets no credit, but as soon as something bad happens, he is to blame. As I see it, if Netanyahu is just thinking about the government, he is doing the right thing to please the critics and the country.

Avner Shamtoub via email


The Cause and Cure for Terrorism

When terrorists attack, they tell us very clearly why they are killing (“8 Dead, 12 Injured in Manhattan Attack,” Nov. 3). They yell, “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) — a jihadi battle cry. Yet we ignore it. We wring our hands and lament. We send teddy bears to the victims. That will not stop the next attack.

What will stop Islamic terror is simple but not easy. Imams, Muslims — all who practice Islam — must begin citing the many specific passages of the Quran, the Hadiths of Muhammad and sharia law that tell their flock that jihad, killing infidels and Jews are holy acts, and then denounce these passages as wrong, despite their appearance in holy texts. Unless and until this happens, we will continue to have more deaths. This is not bias. This is common sense.

Not all who practice Islam will commit jihad but some are doing so. We see their bloody work on an almost weekly basis.

Islamic and all religious leaders should stand together and denounce these passages.

Some examples: A command in the Quran: “Fight against those to whom the Scriptures were given [i.e. Jews and Christians] … until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.”

Ginette Weiner, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Screenshot from Twitter

Israel to Hamas: Give Us Back Our Soldiers’ Remains, and You’ll Get the Tunnel Victims’ Bodies


Israel has issued an ultimatum to Hamas: if you want the bodies of the terrorists that died in the tunnel blast, you’ll have to give us the bodies of our soldiers.

On Monday, Israel blew up a partially built Hamas tunnel, resulting in the death of seven terrorists, two of which were senior commanders of Islamic Jihad. Hamas requested that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Israel retrieve the bodies of five terrorists believed to be buried underneath the tunnel.

Israel has signaled that they will not accept Hamas’ request unless they return the bodies of Israeli soldiers Shaul Oron and Hadar Goldin they kidnapped and killed in 2014 Hamas-Israel conflict. Hamas is also believed to have kidnapped three Israeli civilians.

“Israel will not allow search operations in the area of the security barrier in the Gaza Strip without progress on the issue of Israelis kidnapped and MIAs,” Israel Major General Yoav Mordechai reportedly told the ICRC in Gaza.

The families of the missing soldiers agreed.

The family of Shaul Oron told the Times of Israel, “We hope that the Israeli government will not dare to comply with Hamas’s request as long as they do not return Oron. Oron was kidnapped through a tunnel that Hamas dug, and for more than three years has been held by them in Gaza, and yet they do not allow the Red Cross to check on his condition.”

Goldin’s family echoed Oron’s family, stating: “Any Israeli humanitarian gesture toward Hamas must be contingent on bringing our boys home. If Israel responds [positively] to Hamas, it would be a moral injustice and a sign of political weakness.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is also on the side of the Goldin and Oron families.

“Hamas has violated the basic norms of humanity by holding hostage the remains of two Israeli soldiers,” Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a press release sent to the Journal. “We learned first-hand of the anguish of the family of Hadar Goldin, who visited the Simon Wiesenthal Center a few months ago.

“The International Red Cross should immediately launch an effort to release all the remains to their families, without delay.”

Israel has been working to retrieve their kidnapped citizens and bodies of their soldiers, to no avail. In September, Egypt ceased its mediation between Israel Hamas on the matter, making the prospects of an agreement between the two even more remote.

“We are not giving up on this mission – including over the last few days – until we successfully carry it out,” Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in July.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

An Apologetic No-Apology in Gaza


When Israel found a terror tunnel crossing the border into its territory on Oct. 30, it did what every country would do: It destroyed it. The tunnel was not there for peaceful purposes, and Israel did not use peaceful means to destroy it. It bombed it. And as the tunnel crumbled, Islamic Jihad operatives were killed — no great loss for those wanting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.

Those killed were not the target of the operation; they were collateral damage. But being who they were, you would not expect Israel to feel overcome with sorrow over their unplanned deaths. Still, when Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers were speaking about the incident, they sounded almost apologetic about the killing. Boastful remarks were rare — the military was proud of the new technologies that enabled the operational achievement, yet refrained from counting the killing of terrorists as part of that achievement. Politicians were asked by the prime minister to keep their thoughts to themselves — and did.

Why?

Pragmatism.

Left-wingers more easily accept Israel’s decision in this case.

Israel is a pragmatic country with pragmatic policies — and this is no less true when it has a right-wing government headed by a hawkish prime minister. It does not need an eruption of violence in Gaza. It does not seek confrontation with Hamas. It does not want to give the impression that its goal is to disrupt the process of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Of course, this does not mean that it will turn a blind eye when a terror tunnel is discovered. But it does mean that a small price, such as faking an apologetic response about killing very bad people, is not out of the question.

Or is it?

Some Israelis on the right, most notably Education Minister Naftali Bennett, did not easily accept these rules of overly restrained Israeli response. “We should not apologize for succeeding in eliminating terrorists,” Bennett said. Politicians in Israel — much like in the United States — see apologies as unfashionable and unnecessary. President Donald Trump does not apologize, but Bennett can take credit for having had a no-apology policy even before Trump. Maybe that’s the reason for his gut reaction to the IDF’s half-hearted celebration of victory.

It is easy to identify with Bennett’s reluctance to accept these rules of restraint. After all, these terrorists were coming to kill us, and we killed them right back! It is also easy to understand why the IDF is being so cautious. After all, the military would be the one having to deal with any eruption of violence. And if such violence can be avoided by having a low-profile celebration of this small victory, why not try this approach?

Politics, as always, stands in the way.

Right-wingers are lukewarm about playing down their response and wonder whether the IDF’s action indicates it is guilty of a defeatist apprehension of Hamas. The Israeli right-wing has developed a bad habit of constantly looking for signs of weakness in others, always suspecting that Israelis other than right-wingers do not have the stomach to do what it takes to keep this country safe.

Left-wingers more easily accept Israel’s decision in this case. Their instinctive preference is for Israel to always be restrained and always be considerate of the sensitivities of the Palestinians. But as they praise Israel for this measured, calculated response, they fail to notice other aspects of this exact same realism. Taking things as they are and not as you’d want them to be, accepting small humiliations so as not to complicate an already complicated situation — these explain both Israel’s limited celebration this week and Israel’s averse response to peace processing.

Sober realism, pragmatic attitude, a results-driven approach — all these have benefits and a price that cut both ways. They can make us curb our enthusiasm when terrorists — our most-detested, most-radical enemies — are killed. They also can make us curb our enthusiasm when a pipe dream of peace is offered.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

IDF Won’t Apologize for Killing Terrorists in Hamas Tunnel Blast


The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will not apologize for killing terrorists while blowing up a Hamas tunnel on Monday.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said that the explosion, which killed seven terrorists, wounded 12 others and left five terrorists missing wasn’t meant to harm any Palestinian. Education Minister Naftali Bennett used Manelis’ statement to claim that the IDF was apologizing for killing terrorists.

“These were terrorists involved in digging an attack tunnel inside Israeli territory with which they intended to kill Israeli women and children,” Bennett tweeted.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman fired back on Twitter, writing that “comments like this seriously damage the security of Israel and the IDF.” Yesh Atid MK Elaza Stern, a former IDF general, issued a statement denouncing Bennett’s comments and stating that the IDF in no way apologized for the killing of terrorists.

“It is a shame that government ministers, instead of backing the IDF after an incident like this, chose once again to use it to score political points at the army’s expense,” said Stern.

Two of the terrorists killed in the tunnel explosion were senior commanders for the terrorist organization Islamic Jihad.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has responded to the tunnel explosion by accusing Israel of using poison gas to kill the terrorist, who they referred to as “martyrs.”

“We call on all of the international organizations to stop these materials that the Israeli occupation is using against our unarmed people,” PA Health Ministry Spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra said to the PA’s news outlet.

Hamas has called the explosion “a dangerous escalation against our people” and Iran referred to Israel as the “blood-sucking Zionist regime” in response to the explosion.

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza. Suhaib Salem/ Reuters

IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel


The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed a Hamas tunnel on Monday that was still in the process of being built.

The tunnel spanned from Khan Younis in Gaza toward Kibbutz Kissufim in Israel. The IDF was able to detect it through an unspecified technological advancement and then destroyed the tunnel through a controlled explosion.

The explosion resulted in nine dead Palestinian terrorists, one of which was the senior commander of Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the tunnel’s demolition as how Israel is “developing breakthrough technology to deal with the tunnel threat.”

“Today, we located a tunnel and we destroyed it, and we will continue doing so,” Netanyahu declared. “We will continue to protect Israel’s borders.”

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stressed that the explosion took place on the Israeli border and that the Jewish state isn’t interested in another armed conflict with Gaza. However, Lieberman noted that “despite Palestinian unity, the Gaza Strip remains a terrorist kingdom.”

“There is no doubt Hamas, which controls Gaza, is responsible,” said Lieberman.

Hamas called the tunnel’s explosion a “Zionist crime” that “is a dangerous escalation against our people” to halt “efforts to restore Palestinian unity” in a statement.

“We affirm that resisting the occupation in all its forms and by possessing its various forms is a natural and guaranteed right of our people,” the statement read.

Iran, which funds Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, also denounced the tunnel’s destruction by referring to Israel as the “blood-sucking Zionist regime” that “wants to weaken the resolve of the oppressed Palestinian nation through the massacre of Palestinian youth.”

This is the third Hamas tunnel that has been destroyed by Israel since Hamas first started using the tunnels in the 2014 conflict. In 2016, Israel warned that Hamas digs over six miles of tunnel a month toward Israel and that they can travel through the entirety of the Gaza Strip underground through their network of tunnels. There have been some instances in which the tunnels have collapsed on Hamas members.

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza. Suhaib Salem/ Reuters

Hamas reaffirms goal to destroy Israel


Hamas is rejecting the notion that they need to recognize Israel’s right to exist and disarm their military as they’re in the process of potentially forming a Palestinian unity government.

Israel and the United States have demanded that Hamas renounce violence and respect Israel’s existence if they do form a unity government with the Palestinian Authority. Hamas leader Yehia Sinwar has rejected such demands, declaring in Gaza: “The time in which Hamas discusses the issue of recognizing Israel is over. The discussion now is about ‘when to wipe out Israel.”

Sinwar also scoffed at the request for Hamas to disarm its 25,000-member military.

“Nobody in the world can take away our weapons,” said Sinwar. “Not one minute in the day or night passes without our forces accumulating them. We are freedom fighters and revolutionaries for the sake of our people’s freedom.”

Sinwar was responding to Jason Greenblatt, the White House Middle East peace envoy, who announced in a statement on Thursday, “Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations. If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements.”

Israel has issued a list of preconditions that Hamas would have to agree to in order for the Jewish state to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government, including ending their ties with Iran and returning dead Israelis to Israel.

Hamas and Fatah, two rival Palestinian factions, recently reached a reconciliation agreement in Cairo and will begin negotiations to form a unity government in November. The Palestinian Authority responded to Israel’s set of demands by stating that they will continue “to move forward with the reconciliation efforts.”

Hamas’ charter explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews. They have attacked Israel repeatedly and were accused by Amnesty International of abducting, torturing and executing Palestinians during the 2014 Hamas-Israel conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israel lists conditions to negotiate with Fatah-Hamas unity government


Israel has made it clear it will not negotiate with any unity government between Fatah and Hamas unless a set of conditions are met.

In a Facebook post on the Israeli prime minister’s Facebook page, the Israeli government stated that they would not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless Hamas disarms, ceases their terrorist activity, ends relations with Iran and return the bodies of dead Israelis to Israel.

The Israeli government also demands that the Palestinian Authority cracks down on “Hamas terror infrastructures in Judea and Samaria” and “exercise full security control in Gaza” as well as be the channel of any humanitarian aid toward Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are in negotiations to form a unity government after signing a reconciliation agreement in Cairo, Egypt. The Palestinian Authority is urging Hamas to disarm, but Hamas thus far has been reluctant to cease their attacks on Israel.

“There are no secret clauses in the reconciliation understanding, and what the occupation published on the resistance halting in the West Bank is not true,” Hamas spokesman Husam Bradran told a Palestinian news outlet. “The position to choose resistance is not connected to any person or entity, but rather it is the position of the entire Palestinian people to decide. The natural situation is that when there is an occupation, there will be a resistance to confront it.”

Hamas has been designated by the United States’ State Department as a terrorist organization. They came to power after winning Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006, resulting in a civil war in Gaza that ended with Hamas seizing control of the region. Hamas and Fatah have had prior unity agreements before that did little to ease tensions between the two groups.

US president Donald Trump with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a welcoming ceremony in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23. Photo by Flash90

With America’s blessing, Abbas signals a reconciliation with Hamas


The Trump administration is encouraging the Palestinian Authority to assume control of the Gaza Strip and leaving the door open for a role by Hamas in the subsequent Palestinian government.

But if such a move was once seen as a traditional predicate to a two-state solution, top Palestinian leaders are hedging their bets, saying they would not rule out a “one-state” solution in which Palestinians have the same one-person, one-vote rights as Israelis. Israeli leaders have long said that would mean the end of the Jewish state.

Palestinian Authority government officials returned this week to the Gaza Strip, the first en masse visit — by Cabinet and security officials along with top bureaucrats — since Hamas’ bloody ouster of P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement a decade ago.

It was a visit twice blessed by the Trump administration, first through a statement last week by the Quartet, the grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union and Russia that guides the peace process, and again Monday with a statement from Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s top international negotiator.

“The United States welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza, as noted in the September 28 Quartet statement,” Greenblatt said in a statement he posted on Twitter.

The Quartet statement, while itself also abjuring mention of “two states,” made it clear that it foresaw a single Palestinian entity under P.A. rule. It urged “the parties” — the Palestinian Authority and Hamas — “to take concrete steps to reunite Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate Palestinian Authority.”

This week’s P.A. visit to Gaza, brokered by Egypt, a key ally to the United States and Israel, is only for several days, but Husam Zomlot, the PLO envoy to Washington and a top Abbas adviser, anticipated a consolidation of the Palestinian Authority presence there.

Zomlot, speaking Monday to reporters here, noted that Hamas dissolved its governing body last week and said the Palestinian Authority expected this week that Hamas would formally hand over governance of the strip. The final stage, he said, would be elections.

“The return of the Palestinian Authority” to Gaza “is a milestone for the Palestinian Authority and of President Trump’s deal of the century,” Zomlot said, using a phrase Abbas used in a meeting with Trump on Sept. 20.

A signal of the White House’s seriousness is the likelihood that Hamas will continue to play a role in governing the strip. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, heeding Israeli concerns, rejected any role for Hamas in Palestinian governance, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly it would be a deal breaker.

Now, however, careful phrasing by U.S. and Palestinian officials strongly suggests that Hamas will not fade into the night. Zomlot called the changes in Gaza “the return of the consensus government,” the joint Hamas-P.A. venture that existed uneasily in 2006-07 and infuriated the administration of George W. Bush.

Greenblatt in his statement nodded to concerns about Hamas, a State Department-designated terrorist group, but in language vague enough to accommodate a Hamas role.

“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.

That elides over earlier Israeli demands that not just a Palestinian government, but all of its components, must renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Netanyahu, speaking Wednesday to a Likud party meeting in the West Bank, maintained — at least in part — a tough line on the terms of a reconciliation acceptable to Israel. He said Hamas must be disarmed, but did not count out explicitly keeping Hamas figures within the Palestinian Authority bureaucracy.

“We expect everyone who talks about a peace process to recognize the State of Israel and, of course, to recognize a Jewish state, and we are not prepared to accept bogus reconciliations in which the Palestinian side apparently reconciles at the expense of our existence,” Netanyahu said in Maale Adumim, a settlement of 40,000 located just east of Jerusalem.

“Whoever wants to make such a reconciliation, our understanding is very clear: Recognize the State of Israel, disband the Hamas military arm, sever the connection with Iran, which calls for our destruction, and so on and so forth. Even these very clear things must be clearly stated,” he said.

Without mentioning the two-state goal, Greenblatt’s statement nevertheless called on the Palestinian government to abide by “previous agreements.” These would presumably include the 2003 “road map” that was to have culminated in Palestinian statehood.

Still, Zomlot said the Palestinians wanted more clarity from the Trump administration.

“We cannot travel a journey without knowing a final destination,” he said. Zomlot referred to Trump’s news conference with Netanyahu in February, when the president said, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

From the launch of the Oslo process in 1993 until now, Palestinian Authority officials have spoken of a one-state outcome only in pessimistic terms, casting it as a dystopia engendered by a failed process. Last month, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Abbas in a first for a Palestinian leader said that if the two-state option collapses, Palestinians could embrace one state. It would not be a predominantly Jewish state covering Israel and most of the West Bank, an outcome popular among the Israeli right, but a binational state in which West Bank and Gaza Palestinians have full rights as citizens.

Abbas warned in his U.N. address that in the failure of a two-state solution, “neither you nor we will have any other choice but to continue the struggle and demand full, equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine. This is not a threat, but a warning of the realities before us as a result of ongoing Israeli policies that are gravely undermining the two-state solution.”

Zomlot expanded on that possibility at his news briefing Monday.

“As long as we mean one man and one woman, one vote, we are fine with this,” he said, adding however that the two-state solution “remains absolutely the best option.”

Zomlot also addressed the Taylor Force Act, legislation named for an American stabbed to death last year by a Palestinian terrorist that would slash funding to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continued to subsidize the families of Palestinians jailed for or killed attacking Israelis.

Palestinians say the payments mostly go to the families of the wrongfully imprisoned. Zomlot said the Palestinians proposed a tripartite commission, to include the United States, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, that would consider whether to remove some families from the payrolls.

“We have engaged with the administration, we have a trilateral commission,” he said. “We would offer to the United States to be the sole arbitrator and we will accept [the decision]. Guess who rejected it? Israel.”

A senior Trump administration official suggested that Zomlot was overstating the offer.

“We only received a brief general outline about this proposal which did not answer key questions or present a viable solution to the real problem, which is the official policy of paying terrorists and their families,” the official told JTA.

A senior Israeli official told JTA that the offer missed the point — the Palestinians can stop the payments on their own.

“The Palestinians don’t need Israel, the U.S. or anyone else, they just need to do it,” the official said. “Unfortunately they won’t.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad of Fatah (front right) walks to a meeting with a Hamas delegation at a hotel in Cairo following reconciliation talks in September 2014. A new effort is underway. Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Hamas and Fatah try again to move toward Palestinian unity


The long-awaited reconciliation between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah has taken a new turn with the announcement by Hamas on Sept. 17 that it would dissolve its administrative committee — the body that effectively serves as the governors of the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in 2007.

The Islamist group apparently has agreed to take the action and to abide by other conditions that Fatah set forth for implementing a reconciliation agreement. Several of the conditions have been signed in recent years but none has been implemented. The new initiative, brokered by Egypt, includes an invitation for Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to oversee a unity government for the Gaza Strip immediately.

The Hamas declaration was released one day after the PA’s delegation reached Egypt after meetings last week between a visiting Hamas delegation and the head of the Egyptian Intelligence Agency, Khaled Fawzi.

Hamas’ promising press release is something Palestinians have been waiting for since the signing of the first reconciliation agreement in Egypt in 2011. The statement also mentioned that new elections will soon be held in Gaza, and that Hamas is willing to accept Egypt’s invitation to meet with the PA under Cairo’s aegis. Hamas said all of these decisions were made with the desire to establish a unified Palestinian government that includes all political parties that were signatories to the 2011 agreement.

Wassel Abu Yousef, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee, cautioned that while the Hamas press release is important, it must be followed by action — specifically, practical steps to implementation, unlike after previous attempts at reconciliation.

“The Palestinian Authority needs to go to Gaza to assess the current governmental infrastructure and prepare for the elections to come,” he said. Abu Yousef also warned that follow-up was critical to end the division, and he expressed appreciation for Egypt’s role in initiating and providing the venue for the political reconciliation.

“The Palestinian Authority needs to go to Gaza to assess the current governmental infrastructure and prepare for the elections to come.”

In recent months, Hamas has sought to improve its relationship with Egypt in several ways, including issuing a new charter that removed its association with the Muslim Brotherhood — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s nemesis. The Muslim Brotherhood’s relationship with Hamas had been the catalyst for the Sisi government to eschew Hamas and refuse its pleas for assistance. Hamas needs Egypt to allow passage of goods and people through the Rafah crossing, the only crossing point not controlled by Israel. It also needs Sisi’s help in obtaining goodwill gestures from Israel, such as medical treatment for Gazans.

Having been teased several times since 2011, Palestinians-at-large were not optimistic that the latest developments would spell unity.

Abdel Rahman Haj Ibrahim, head of the political science department at the West Bank’s Birzeit University, pointed out that the Palestinian government has not made an official statement despite the PA sending a delegation to Egypt.

“Nothing is solid or official,” he said. “Hamas and Fatah have two different political agendas, they have no mutual points, and there will be no reconciliation without the two parties finding mutual grounds.”

He cautioned, “No one knows what is going to happen. Remember, more than once has there been talk of reconciliations but there were no results on the ground.”

A former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a rival group to both Fatah and Hamas, explained under the condition of anonymity that the Palestinian people have no faith in either of the two factions involved in the talks.

“For the last 15 years, we have needed a unified government to fight settlements and the occupation, to support prisoners during the strike. … We needed one unified official political Palestinian entity, but they failed to put aside their differences.”

He agreed, however, that the Palestinian reconciliation is a necessary step that needs to be taken in order to reunify the Palestinian people.

“The bad situation in Gaza is a result of Fatah and Hamas and their respective governments, which resulted in corruption and disingenuousness,” he said. “They need to work on regaining the trust of their people.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stands during a reception ceremony for Jordan's King Abdullah II in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 7, 2017. Picture taken August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The Mahmoud Abbas exchange, Part 3: On Israel and the Palestinian leadership struggle


Amir Tibon is an Israeli journalist who covers Washington, D.C. for Haaretz newspaper. Prior to Haaretz, Tibon was the diplomatic correspondent for Walla News, a leading Israeli news website. His writing on Israel, the peace process and the Middle East has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Politico Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Tablet Magazine, The New Republic, The Huffington Post, The American Interest, and The Jerusalem Report.

Grant Rumley is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where he focuses on Palestinian politics. Rumley has published in leading media outlets, including Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, and contributed commentary to The New York Times, Reuters, and Newsweek. Prior to joining FDD, Rumley was a visiting fellow at Mitvim, The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. While in Jerusalem, Grant also founded and edited The Jerusalem Review of Near East Affairs. Previously, Grant served as a consultant in Washington on issues related to counter-terrorism, the Middle East, and war-gaming strategies.

The following exchange will focus on Tibon and Rumley’s new book The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas (Prometheus Books, 2017). You can find parts one and two here and here.

***

Dear Grant and Amir,

I’d like to dedicate our third round to the complicated hate triangle between Abbas, Hamas and Netanyahu. In your book, there is a description of Abbas’ reaction to the Shalit deal, which the previous Netanyahu-led government made with Hamas:

In one conversation with a senior American official, Abbas complained that “Hamas kidnapped one Israeli soldier and Netanyahu gave them a thousand prisoners for his release. My security forces have returned to Israel more than a hundred Israelis who wandered into our territories, and we got zero appreciation for it.” Indeed, Abbas’s security forces had a policy of escorting Israelis who entered Palestinian cities and towns by mistake into the safe arms of the Israeli military. “If I behaved like Hamas, I could have a hundred Shalit deals by now—there would be no more Palestinians in Israeli prisons. But I choose to do the humane thing and get nothing in return,” Abbas lamented.

My third-round question: looking ahead to the day after Abbas, what would you like, say, an Israeli decision maker reading your book to learn about Israel’s role in the fragile Hamas-Fatah relationship? What mistakes has Israel made, does Israel have a say on the matter and should Israel pursue any specific strategy when it comes to the inevitable succession struggle? 

Thank you once again for participating in this exchange.

Shmuel   

***

Dear Shmuel,

This anecdote represents a recurring frustration that Abbas has expressed over the years in the ears of Israeli and American officials who have worked with him – that Israel, in his eyes, responds “better” (from a Palestinian point of view) to violence than to negotiations. The Shalit affair is one example he has repeatedly used in this context. The 2005 Gaza disengagement is another, and we discuss it at length in the book. Abbas and people close to him felt that instead of giving the PA a larger role in the withdrawal from Gaza, and thus empowering Abbas in the eye of the Palestinian street, Ariel Sharon insisted to go at it alone and by doing that strengthened Hamas, which told the Palestinian public that Israel withdrew under fire, and that guns and suicide bombers were more efficient in extracting concessions from Israel than negotiations.

Abbas, of course, is also painfully aware of the price the Palestinians have paid for turning to violence. That’s why despite his talk about Israel’s “encouragement” of violence, he has never actually adopted Hamas’ strategy – only lamented about it. But one important conclusion that we hope policy-makers will take from our book, is the importance of creating incentives and benefits for a leader who opposes violence and is committed to negotiations. Abbas deserves a lot of criticism – which can easily be found in our book – but even his harshest critics should give him credit when it is due for opposing violence and supporting negotiations over the years. Unfortunately, that has not happened often enough during his long career as a diplomat and a political leader.

The succession struggle that will come after Abbas is an internal Palestinian affair, in our view. Israel could perhaps affect it by, as we have suggested above, empowering moderate leaders and showing more flexibility towards those who support negotiations and compromise than towards those who support violence and strive for conflict. But they should also beware not to look too eager to support any specific candidate or faction, since that could ultimately empower the ‘other side.’ Can the damages of the past be repaired, in a way that would convince a majority of Palestinians that Abbas’ approach is more beneficial than Hamas’? We hope so, but cannot say for sure.

 

Elad Salomon with his wife, Michal, and three of their children. Elad, his father and his sister were stabbed to death on July 21 in a terrorist attack at Halamish.

Lessons from the house of mourning in Halamish


Three days after an Israeli father and two of his children were stabbed to death on Shabbat by a Palestinian in a West Bank settlement, I found myself with 16 other progressive rabbis sitting shivah for the deceased, the Salomons, in a Charedi neighborhood.

It was perhaps the hardest moment of a recent visit to Israel — sitting with the other Americans, our shoulders, heads and legs covered as we paid our respects to this grieving family. We stood out among the others and were stared at by many, and yet, we found many surprising similarities between us and were received by the family with such grace and warmth and real gratitude that it moves me deeply just to recall it.

I have been coming to Israel for more than 20 years, and these visits have never been picture perfect. I lived here as a rabbinical student in the 1990s, during the huge marches for peace, which then brought about the tragic assassination of Yitzhak Rabin after he signed the Oslo peace accords. Shortly after I arrived with a group from my congregation in 2006, the second Lebanon war broke out. And a few years ago, when I brought another group, our ice-breaker the first morning ended with the sound of sirens and instructions to head to shelters because missiles had been launched and Iron Dome activated.

I’m used to arriving in Israel and having things change dramatically within hours or days, but I was hoping this time would be different. It wasn’t.

As Tisha b’Av approaches — it begins the evening of July 31 — I am keenly aware of the dual realities that animate Israeli life. The destruction of the Temples in flames, the massacre of other Jews in so many other times and places, all of the hatred that has been and still is directed at us as a people is real and palpable here as Israel continues to fight for legitimacy and the safety of her people. It pervades every political conversation, every heated argument, every major decision. The pain of the past and the fear our people have internalized, coupled with the fact that this is the Middle East, makes this place a tinderbox ready to ignite at any moment.

It took no time for me to be reminded of all this when I came last week for the American Israel Education Foundation Rabbinic Seminar to travel across the country with colleagues and learn from experts about the complex issues at play here. We arrived hearing that the government had rescinded the agreement that took years to craft, granting egalitarian services at the Western Wall. Local people and delegations from the United States turned out and protested the government’s reversal of policy.

But that was just the beginning. The big news as we arrived was the government response to a challenge from the Israel Religious Action Center, opposing government discrimination against gay and lesbian couples wanting to adopt children. The government alleged that being raised by a same-sex couple would prove harmful to a child because it would “load extra baggage on the child.” As a social liberal and as a lesbian mother, this was particularly painful and disappointing for me, as it was for all of our delegation.

We stood out among the others and were stared at by many, and yet, we were received by the family with such grace and warmth and real gratitude.

Immediately, 90,000 people signed a petition against the decision, including professional organizations of psychologists, mental health professionals, social workers and others. They argued that all research proves that children are better off in a loving home with loving parents of any kind. What amazed me was that, in Tel Aviv, 15,000 people turned out to protest the government’s position. I was deeply moved by how far ahead of the government so much of the Israeli public is on issues like this.

But as soon as there is a march to further the cause of social justice, there is another mass gathering resulting from another kind of deep tension here. Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians we’ve met with all agree on one thing: Narratives and symbols have great power here in Jerusalem and go beyond reason to powerful emotion very quickly. Actions taken even for good reasons become flash points because they trigger a deeper struggle — the struggle between two peoples and the narratives that express their existential understandings of themselves and their place in the world. And this is what is at the heart of what’s been happening recently on the Temple Mount.

On July 14, two Israeli Arabs murdered two Israeli Druze police officers guarding the Temple Mount. As a result, the government decided to place metal detectors at the entrance to the area. The decision to physically put them in place just hours after the shooting prompted a heated reaction from Palestinians, who saw this as a breach of the status quo at their holy site. Protecting Israelis from those who would murder them makes sense, and the Israeli government has every right to take any action it deems necessary to protect its citizens. What is so sad and shortsighted is that the decision was implemented in a way that completely ignored how this action would be perceived and used by extreme elements within the Arab world.

And it was used: Extremists claimed that Jews were preventing Muslims from praying at Al-Aqsa and called on their faithful to protest in massive numbers. Clashes with police happened on a large scale hours after 15,000 Israelis marched for LGBT adoption rights in Tel Aviv.  

After incitement by Hamas and other radical groups, thousands of Palestinians clashed with police July 21 in the West Bank, and three Palestinians were killed. Later that night, a 19-year-old Palestinian climbed the fence of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank where three generations of the Salomons were celebrating Shabbat and the birth of a new baby. The suspect stabbed three people to death and wounded another, leaving a bloody scene in his wake.

In the same 24 hours, Israel moved from a place with an active debate that would be celebrated in any democracy about social policy to a place where one action that should have made sense tore apart society.

The scene of the Halamish attack. Photo courtesy of IDF

The deep divides between the secular and religious, Palestinians and Israelis, haves and have-nots, hawks and doves will not be bridged in our lifetimes — if ever. As a wise teacher told us on this trip, the oldest Hebrew texts talk about peace and justice in terms of seeking, not of achieving. We are not a people of arrival but of journey “toward.” If there is a people who can model for the world that humans can vigorously pursue ideals they know they never will see fully realized, it is the Jewish people. If there is any country that can make titanic struggles into creative new paradigms, it is Israel.

Our teacher also taught us that he does not view the glass as half full but believes it is important to celebrate that the opportunity exists to pour water into the glass. We break a glass at every Jewish wedding to symbolize what is still broken in our world.

Tisha b’Av reminds us of this so well. What I love about Israel and her people is that even with all that I’ve described, there is a spirit of innovation, creativity, lust for life and defiant hope that also is ingrained in our people. While biblical Israelite religion was destroyed when the Temple burned, Rabbinic Judaism was born at the same time. With every tragedy and act of brutality that happens here, something new and unanticipated is created.

May we have the continued strength to crush glass at our most joyful times so that we remain mindful of the shattered and broken world we live in, the world of conflicting and sometimes flammable confrontation with one another. May we also bless the fact that we are given a glass and the opportunity, as our wise teacher said, to pour water into it at all.

Amid all of the tension and all the misunderstanding and mistrust in Israel these days, our experience of sitting with the Salomons, people in such pain, as a sacred act is an example of the only solution — encountering one another as human beings. As someone very wise once said, “If our hearts must break, let them break open.”


Rabbi Amy Bernstein is senior rabbi at Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation of Pacific Palisades.

Palestinian members of Hamas's armed wing senior militant in Gaza City on March 25. Photo by Mohammed Salem

Hamas reportedly will remove goal of destroying Israel from new policy document


Hamas will remove its goal of destroying Israel from a new policy document.

The Palestinian terrorist organization’s document is expected to be released Monday, Reuters reported, citing Gulf Arab sources. It will also drop Hamas’ association with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The new statement of policy is believed to be designed to improve relations with Gulf Arab States and Egypt. Most Arab Gulf states consider the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization; most Western countries have similarly labeled Hamas.

Hamas reportedly also will agree to a “transitional” Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. The document will still deny Israel’s right to exist and call for “armed struggle” against Israel, Reuters reported.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. Its 1988 charter calls for Israel’s destruction.

The document is being released two days before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to meet President Donald Trump at the White House.

The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades cadets marching in the town square of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip on June 15, 2015. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Hamas hangs 3 accused of collaborating with Israel in killing of commander


Hamas hanged three men in Gaza accused of “collaborating” with Israel.

The death sentence was carried out Thursday by the terror organization that controls the coastal strip.

The men were accused of being involved in giving information to Israeli military intelligence to aid in the assassination of a top Hamas commander, Mazen Fuqaha, late last month in Gaza, which Hamas blames on Israel. Israel has neither affirmed nor denied involvement in the killing.

The men, aged 32, 42 and 55, were charged with providing information on the location of Hamas operatives and military sites over the past three decades. Hamas said they were allowed to defend themselves as provided under Sharia law.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the executions and said they were illegal because Hamas did not get the permission to execute from P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas.

Human Rights Watch also condemned the hangings.

“The abhorrent executions by Hamas authorities of three men in Gaza deemed to be collaborators project weakness, not strength,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the organization’s Middle East division, said in a statement. “Hamas authorities will never achieve true security or stability through firing squads or by the gallows, but rather through respect for international norms and the rule of law.”

Yahya Sinwar, left, and Ali Khamenei (Getty Images via JTA)

I’m rubber, you’re glue: Iran and Hamas impose sanctions targeting US, Israel


Israel’s archenemies apparently couldn’t wait until April Fool’s Day.

On Sunday, geopolitics got all “hafouch,” or turned upside down, as they say in this country. Iran imposed penalties on U.S. firms for working with Israel, and Hamas closed its border with the Jewish state. Stereotypically, of course, it’s the other way around, with the United States and Israel doing the sanctioning of Iran and Hamas.

According to Iran’s IRNA state news agency, the “reciprocal” sanctions on 15 U.S. companies are for alleged human rights violations and cooperating with Israel. IRNA quoted Iran’s foreign ministry as saying the companies had “flagrantly violated human rights” and cooperated with Israel against the Palestinians.

Iran’s seizure of the companies’ assets and ban on contact is largely symbolic since the companies don’t do business with Iran. Among the targeted firms are Re/Max Real Estate, which Tehran accuses of “buying and settling home in settlements located in the occupied territories.”

Emily Landau, a senior researcher at the Institute for International Security Studies, a leading Israeli think tank, said Iran actually has a long history of using the United States’ tools against it.

“This is well-known Iranian tactic of turning the tables on the U.S.,” she wrote in an email to JTA. “Iran has done it many times before over the past years. They take the same messages that the U.S. sends them, about how Iran must do this or the other, and sends them back in reverse.”

Meanwhile, in a rare move, Hamas shut the Erez crossing, which is how people move between Israel and Gaza, due to the assassination of a senior official in its military wing Friday. Hamas officials have blamed the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad for the killing of one of its top military leaders, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen Friday in Gaza.

“The closure is being implemented as part of the steps taken by Hamas security forces as a result of the crime of the assassination of Mazan Fukha,” the spokesman for the Interior Ministry said in a post on his official Facebook page.

Israel has maintained a blockade of Hamas-run Gaza since 2007, but it grants permits for people to cross through Erez for business or humanitarian reasons. Hamas apparently suspects that collaborators with Israel were involved in the shooting. Israel has not commented.

So far, Hamas has refrained from responding with rockets. Israeli analyst Avi Issacharoff wrote in The Times of Israel Sunday that Hamas may be looking to avoid a new war.

“Yet, for all its rhetoric, Hamas has yet to show any firm evidence of Israeli involvement, a fact that may give the organization the political maneuvering room to avoid a dramatic response that could lead to a full-fledged confrontation,” he wrote.

But he noted the group’s new Gaza chief, Yahya Sinwar, was known to be dangerous and unpredictable when he was head of Hamas’ military wing, and Israel-Hamas tensions can heat up quickly in the summertime.

U.S.-Iran relations have also gotten hotter President Donald Trump took office in January. Twice in as many months the United States has imposed new sanctions on foreign individuals and companies for allegedly supporting Iran’s weapons program. Last month’s sanctions also targeted Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

In response to a proposal by U.S. lawmakers to go further and brand Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, a senior Iranian lawmaker threatened that his country could do the same to the CIA.

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but in international conflict it tends to escalate.

An Israeli flag is seen near the minaret of a Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City. Nov. 30, 2016. Photo by Ammar Awad/REUTERS.

Hamas closes border between Israel and Gaza


Hamas closed the border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel following the assassination of one of its commanders.

The border crossing was closed Sunday in an effort to prevent the assassin or assassins from leaving Gaza. The Rafah border crossing with Egypt also reportedly has been closed by Hamas.

Thousands attended the funeral for Mazan Fukha in Gaza on Saturday, which was attended by Hamas senior official Ismail Haniyeh, Ynet reported.

Fukha was assassinated on Friday night outside of his Gaza home, according to reports. Hamas is blaming Israel’s Mossad for his death. Mourners shouted “revenge” against Israel during the funeral, the AFP news agency reported.

The Israeli side of the Erez crossing, the only place where people cross in and out of Gaza, will remain open. The Kerem Shalom crossing, which is used for goods and humanitarian aid, also will remain open, according to Israeli officials.

Fukha, who Israel says founded Hamas in the West Bank and helped coordinate terror attacks against Israelis, was jailed in Israel after being found responsible for suicide attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis during the second Intifada.

He was released from prison in Israel in 2011, as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange and ordered deported to Gaza.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

IDF targets Hamas positions after rockets fired from Gaza at southern Israel


JERUSALEM – Israel’s military targeted two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip hours after two rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel.

One of the rockets fired on Saturday landed near the southern Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon and the second appeared to fall in Gazan territory. The launches triggered the Code Red rocket alarm system.

No injuries or damage was reported in the attack on Israel. No casualties were reported in Israel’s strike on the Hamas targets later on Saturday.

On Sunday morning the Code Red alarm system sounded in several Gaza border communities. The IDF said it was a false alarm.

A member of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas stands guard at a site, which according to the Gaza police, was hit by an Israeli air strike, in the east of Gaza City. March 16. Photo by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/REUTERS.

Israel strikes 2 Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire


Israeli airstrikes hit two Hamas positions in northern Gaza overnight Thursday in response to a rocket fired from the strip at southern Israel.

No damage or injuries were reported from the Gaza rocket strike, which struck an open area of the Sdot Negev Regional Council, near the Gaza border, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The Code Red rocket warning system did not sound in the area since it was determined that the rockets would fall in an unpopulated area.

The Palestinian news agency Maan reported there were no injuries from the Israeli Air Force strikes but three electric lines were downed.

The IDF said it holds Hamas responsible for any strikes emanating from Gaza.

President Donald Trump greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Feb. 15. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Why Trump shook up the two-state solution


At his press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump uttered words that will live in Mideast infamy— “I’m looking at two-state and one-state. I like the one that both parties like.”

On the surface, those words appear innocuous—let the parties decide their future. But in truth, they represent a diplomatic earthquake. No Western leader has ever had the guts to challenge the conventional wisdom that the two-state solution is the only desirable outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ever since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, this two-state idea, which really means the establishment of a Palestinian state, has been the shiny object worshipped by diplomats around the world and repeated like a mindless mantra at one failed peace conference after another.

By disrespecting this shiny object, Trump introduced the idea that the object may, in fact, not be worth all the worship. His ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, tried to soften Trump’s stance when she expressed U.S. support for the two-state solution, but she pointedly added, “we are thinking out of the box as well.”

Thinking out of the box is what Trump did when he refused to bow down to the two-state idol. What may have looked so beautiful twenty years ago—two states for two peoples living next to each other in perfect harmony—has become, in reality, a potential disaster for all sides. For one thing, the high likelihood that Hamas and ISIS would swoop in and turn the West Bank into another terror state is disastrous not just for Israel, but for the Palestinians and the United States. This is the kind of mud on the idol of a Palestinian state we rarely hear about.

One reason we rarely hear about it is that the notion of a Palestinian state is still as shiny as ever. On the Israeli side, it would mean separating from two million Palestinians and securing its future as a Jewish democracy. And on the Palestinian side, it would mean securing their national aspirations. Those ideals are still in play, but only in the abstract. In reality, even moderate commentators like Aaron David Miller have called the two-state solution “dead.”

It doesn’t matter who you blame for this death. The fact is, the more the world has pursued the two-state solution, the more distant it has become. No conflict in modern history has generated more frequent miles, fancy hotel rooms and media coverage than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Former Secretary of State John Kerry made over twenty trips to the region to try to jumpstart talks. He could barely manage to arrange “talks about talks.”

A fresh observer like Donald Trump, with his business background, probably looked at this dead corpse and figured he had little to lose by shaking things up. Since the obsession with the two-state solution seems to have killed the two-state solution itself, maybe he figured: Let’s see what happens if we lose that obsession. A good dealmaker, after all, never shows desperation and keeps his options open.

Ironically, putting an alternative on the table may well improve the odds of a two-state solution, if the parties end up seeing that the alternative is even worse. We’ve never had a serious debate about this, partly because, up until now, that alternative has come from the fringes. Trump has now put it front and center. The New York Times published a remarkable op-ed the other day by Jewish settler leader Yishai Fleisher, who calmly laid out five alternatives to the two-state solution. That sounds to me like a new chapter in a long debate.

A wild card that is sure to influence this debate is Trump’s desire to involve in the peace process Arab states that have grown closer to Israel. Maybe this is Trump’s way of shaking up the Palestinians and telling them they’re no longer the only game in town.

Let’s face it. A huge reason for the death of the two-state solution has been the chronic refusal of the Palestinian leadership to make any concessions or even to make any counter-offers to Israeli proposals– which is consistent with their continuous promotion of Jew-hatred and glorifying of terrorism. They’ve never paid a price for this. If anything, the world has rewarded them. My guess is, they’re now looking at Trump and saying, The party’s over. This guy’s not going to coddle us. He’s going to demand some real concessions, or else.

Will this Trumpian disruption lead to anything good? Will it empower the moderates on all sides and create a perfect storm of circumstances that can bring the two-state corpse back to life?

Who knows. The only thing we know for sure is that when you’re looking at certain death, any alternative is welcome.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

10 US Muslim leaders urge Hamas to release remains of Israeli soldiers


Ten U.S. Muslim leaders, including both Muslims in Congress, urged Hamas to return to Israel the remains of two soldiers.

“In the name of Almighty God the most merciful and compassionate, we appeal to you on the basis of humanity and charity to release the remains of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two Israeli soldiers killed in action, to their families,” said the letter sent Sept. 21 to Khaled Meshal, a leader of Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Signatories include Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Andre Carson, D-Ind., the two Muslim congressmen; M. Ali Chaudry, the former mayor of Basking Ridge, New Jersey.; Sayyid Syeed, the director of interfaith alliances at the Islamic Society of North America; and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who directed an unsuccessful and controversial effort to build an Islamic community center near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York.

“Both Israelis and Palestinians have felt the pain of war, of losing loved ones and children far too soon,” the letter said. “The Holy Qur’an reminds us that ‘Whoever pardons and makes reconciliation will receive his reward from Allah.’ We ask you to act upon these words and allow the Goldin and Shaul families to bury their loved ones.”

Shaul and Goldin were killed during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, the president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, initiated the letter. He made it public on Sunday at the annual Washington conference of the Israeli-American Council, where Goldin’s parents were in attendance.

“Here, in the presence of the Goldin family, I am proud to share that many of the most prominent leaders of America’s Muslim community have joined their humanitarian campaign,” Schneier said. “We are hopeful that these voices can make an impact in bringing Hadar and Oron home.”

The Israeli-American Council’s CEO, Shaul Nicolet, praised the foundation “for taking a leadership role in this campaign to bring Israel’s boys home.”

Goldin’s parents last week opened an exhibition of their son’s artwork at United Nations headquarters in New York in a bid to raise awareness about their quest to return their son’s remains.

Shaul’s father, Herzl, died Sept. 2, from intestinal cancer. His family released a letter he had written to his son.

Israel to pay Turkey $20 million in compensation after six-year rift


Turkish lawmakers on Wednesday submitted to parliament a settlement deal with Israel that would see Israel pay Ankara $20 million within 25 days in return for Turkey dropping outstanding legal claims, ending a six-year rift.

Relations between the two countries crumbled after Israeli marines stormed a Turkish ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, killing 10 Turks on board.

Israel had already offered its apologies for the raid. Both countries are to appoint ambassadors, and Turkey is to pass legislation indemnifying Israeli soldiers as part of an agreement partly driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals.

Gaza reconstruction proceeding too slowly


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Two years after the fighting between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, about 70,000 Palestinians have not returned to their homes that were damaged in the fighting. Just 200 homes have been completely rebuilt and the families have returned.

“We ask the international community to increase their donations and the countries who pledged billions to respect their pledge,” Adnan Abu Husna, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, told The Media Line. “The people of Gaza should not get to the point that they feel they are forgotten.”

Abu Hasna said that nearly 140,000 homes were damaged either totally or partially, mostly from Israeli airstrikes. Of those, 9500 were completely demolished, and 5000 were so damaged that people cannot live there. At an international donors conference soon after the fighting ended, UN officials asked for $724 million, but only received $257 million.

Abu Hasna says the UN has helped nearly 70,000 families with some type of financial assistance. While thousands of families were originally housed in UN schools, all of those whose homes were destroyed have either rented new homes, paid for by the UN, or are living with relatives.

The pace of reconstruction has been glacial, partly because Israel accuses the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza, of diverting cement and other materials to build weapons and tunnels. Those allegations were strengthened last week, when the Israeli Shin Bet announced charges in two separate cases, against local employees in Gaza allegedly working for Hamas.

In the first case, Israel accused Mohammed al-Halabi, the head of World Vision in Gaza, of diverting more than seven million dollars each year since 2010 to Hamas in Gaza. “We condemn any diversion of funds from any humanitarian organization,” World Vision International President Kevin Jenkins said in a statement. “If any of these allegations are proven to be true, we will take swift and decisive action,” although added that the organization had “not seen any of the evidence,” and suggested the numbers had been exaggerated.

“World Vision's cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past ten years, was approximately $22.5 million, which makes the alleged amount of up to $50 million being diverted hard to reconcile,” the statement read. The organization suspended its operations in Gaza.

In the second case involving the UN Development Program, Israel charged Wahid Borsch, funneled resources to Hamas to build a naval port for Hamas commandos. UNDP denied any wrongdoing, saying that “the rubble in question was transported to its destination according to written instructions from the Ministry of Public Works and Housing of the Palestinian Authority as to where it should be placed.”

UNDP officials also questioned the details of the case, saying they had not yet seen the evidence against Borsch.

“We are waiting for the proof on all of these things,” Dania Darwish, a spokeswoman for UNDP told The Media Line. “Wahid is a contractor at UNDP. He does not have any management responsibilities. UNDP has strict processes and guidelines that must be followed.”

In any case, even if all of the damaged homes are rebuilt, the economy in Gaza faces growing challenges. A World Bank report found that Gaza’s unemployment is the highest in the world, and many of Gaza’s residents are completely dependent on UN food aid.

Although Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it continues to control what goes into and out of Gaza. Palestinians call it a blockade, while Israel says it has worked to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

“Everyone talks about what is going in to Gaza, but we also have to think about what is going out,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told The Media Line. “Unless Gaza can export there won’t be a viable economy there. There have been no meaningful exports from Gaza since 2007.”

A spokesman for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said they were unable to provide details of Palestinians exports allowed to leave Gaza.

Israeli envoy: Hillary Clinton led the way to Gaza cease-fire in 2012


Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador the the United States, credited Hillary Clinton with the leading role in achieving a cease-fire in Israel’s 2012 conflict with Hamas.

Clinton flew to the region and conducted shuttle diplomacy between Egypt and Israel to end hostilities between Israel and Hamas through indirect negotiations. Dermer said that because of the quick cease-fire, the eight-day conflict was the only one of Israel’s three rounds of fighting with Hamas to not include an Israeli ground operation in Gaza.

“She came in and had to get it right, and had, I think, basically one shot,” Dermer said at an event hosted by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “A lot of lives were saved.”

Dermer said the talks defined “how the U.S. and Israel work together as allies.”

He also defended Israeli settlement expansion in areas that would likely be part of a Palestinian state in a negotiated agreement. Dermer admonished the international community for criticizing Israeli building in settlements that would likely remain part of Israel. And he said that settlers living deeper in the West Bank should, in the event of Palestinian statehood, be given the option of gaining citizenship in that state.

“When you think settlers are undermining the prospects of peace, you are saying Palestine must be ‘judenrein,'” he said, using a Nazi German term meaning “free of Jews.” “There is no reason, concretely and in principle, why Jews should not be able to live in a future Palestinian state.”

Early in the event, a protester disrupted Dermer, standing in front of him, holding a banner and yelling “Occupation is not a Jewish value. Settlements are an obstacle to peace. We need justice and peace. We need equality for all people in Palestine and Israel.” After security guards escorted her out, protesters outside chanted “Free, free Palestine.”

Dermer said the next U.S. president should pursue the peace process by engaging with the Palestinian Authority and the wider Arab world on parallel tracks. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested, Dermer said shared opposition to Iran and the Islamic State terror group could draw Israel and Arab states closer together.

“The Arab states in the region understand the dangers of Iran, understand the danger of ISIS, and see Israel as a potential ally in that struggle,” he said. “One of the opportunities for a new administration is to take this new realignment in the Arab world and see how to translate that into a policy that advances peace.”

Israel says Arab citizen illegally crosses into Gaza Strip


An Israeli from the country's Bedouin Arab minority illegally crossed into Gaza on Tuesday, Israel's military said, an incident that may affect a proposed prisoner swap with the Palestinian enclave's Hamas authorities.

Hamas says it is holding two Israeli soldiers whom the army declared dead after they were lost in action in the 2014 Gaza war. The Islamist militant group also says it has two Israeli civilians who previously walked into the fenced-off enclave.

The man who entered Gaza on Tuesday was not authorized to do so and was believed to be inside Palestinian territory, a military spokeswoman said. She declined to say how she knew he is a Bedouin Arab citizen, or to elaborate on the incident.

“This matter is under investigation,” the spokeswoman said.

Palestinian authorities did not immediately comment, but witnesses in the Gaza Strip reportedIsraeli spotter aircraft overhead.

Israeli officials previously said they sought to recover the two soldiers' remains and the two civilians held by Hamas, signaling willingness to repeat past amnesties of jailed Palestinians in a trade. Hamas has conditioned any discussion of the four on a preliminary release of detainees byIsrael.

Relatives of the two Israeli civilians who previously entered Gaza, one of whom is Jewish and the other a Bedouin, have described them as suffering from psychological problems.

Will Gaza Get a Port?


A proposal by an Israeli minister to construct an island to serve as a port that would open up the blockaded Gaza Strip to the world has gained adherents from Israeli security experts, who view it as a way to avoid further rounds of conflict with the coastal enclave run by the militant Hamas movement.

But the initiative by transport and intelligence minister Yisrael Katz is receiving a cold reception from both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, both of which doubt Israel is actually interested in alleviating the suffering of Gazans.

For almost the last decade, since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, the Strip has been under Israeli and Egyptian blockade, its contact with the outside world closed off and its economy ravaged by the strictures and three wars with Israel. The goods that do pass into Gaza come overland after rigorous Israeli inspection.

Israel says the sea blockade is aimed to stop smuggling of weapons to Hamas but Palestinians and their supporters view it as a collective punishment originally aimed at turning the population against the Islamist group.

But now, Katz says, his plan for a port on an artificial island off the Gaza coast can remove Gaza's isolation while safeguarding Israel's security.

''The artificial international island that will be linked to the coast by a bridge with a security checkpoint will give the Strip a humanitarian and commercial outlet to the world without endangering Israel's security,'' he told reporters during a press conference last week.

Katz came up with his proposal based on assessments of security specialists that the situation in Gaza, where there is no economic horizon, is untenable and ''that in the end Gaza will collapse,'' his spokeswoman, Maayan Sarig, told The Media Line. He also hopes the project will reduce international pressure on Israel over its blockade.

Katz's plan calls for creating an eight square kilometer island linked to Gaza by a four and a half kilometer bridge. He says that in the future an airport could be established, and hotels could be built. The cost of creating the island would be five billion dollars, to be paid for by the international community.

The bridge will have a security checkpoint to be controlled by international security forces while Israel would maintain control at sea, according to the plan.

On an island, isolated on all sides by the sea, it would be easier to achieve full monitoring of goods than if the port were on the mainland, security experts say.

The plan has been in the works for several years but Katz is now pressing for its early approval by the security cabinet after its main opponent, former defense minister Moshe Yaalon, stepped down from the cabinet last month. Yaalon doubted that inspection arrangements could be devised guaranteeing Israel's security, according to the Haaretz newspaper.

A spokesman for the new defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, declined to comment on the plan as did a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Katz's office says the plan has the backing of security specialists. Shaul Shay, former deputy head of Israel's National Security Council, voiced enthusiasm for it during an interview with The Media Line.

''It's a good idea,'' he said. ''Gaza needs a port that will enable passage of goods and necessities for its 1.5 million people,'' he said. But, he stressed, Israel would need to have oversight of the security inspections. ''We can't rely on someone else for this.''

Shay, who is affiliated with the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said the plan, if implemented, would reduce chances of another round of conflict to follow up three wars in the last eight years. ''Everything that gives hope is good,'' he said, adding that such a project will create many jobs.

''A project of this size with international funding makes the chance that they will start something against Israel smaller, it gives them something to lose. The more they have to lose the lower will be their motivation to open a round (of hostilities).''

Military commentator Erez Wiener, writing in the NRG website, also voiced backing for the plan and said it would provide a window of opportunity to invite Turkish participation in development of the port, something that could push forward Israeli-Turkish reconciliation, which was agreed upon Sunday to end a six year rift. ''A project like this with international funding can be an excellent vent to release hot air and to provide hope to Gaza residents,'' he wrote.

But Palestinians from both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority voiced criticism and distrust of Katz's intentions. ''This seems to be from the imagination. I don't know if there is seriousness on the Israeli side to do that,'' said Ghazi Hamed, a Hamas leader who is deputy foreign minister in Gaza. ''From time to time, the Israelis talk of giving, facilitating and support but the situation in Gaza is still miserable.'' He said that what is needed is a comprehensive lifting of the Israeli siege on the Strip. ''We need Israel to lift the siege, to open the crossings, to allow for export and import and for all building materials and free movement and access of people to and from Gaza and to establish the seaport and airport.''

Asked if Hamas would agree to an Israeli or a third party role at the port, Hamed said it is not time to answer that question.

''Let's talk about the principle-if Israel agrees to the principle to lift the siege, establish the seaport and open the crossings we can talk about other arrangements.''

Meanwhile, Hossam Zumlot, strategic affairs adviser to West Bank based Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, accused Israel of trying to reinforce the split between the West Bank and Gaza. ''This is a dubious and politically motivated plan to ensure the continuation and institutionalization of Palestinian division, the final severing of Gaza from the rest of the occupied territory of the state of Palestine and delivering a lethal blow to the prospects of a two state solution.''

''We question the motive,''Zumlot added. ''If the motive is elimination of human suffering than lift the illegal, criminal siege imposed for nine years. But the motive is not that.”

Jeremy Corbyn says he regrets support for Hamas, Hezbollah


Britain opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said he regrets supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, and that comments by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone asserting that Hitler supported Zionism were “wrong.”

Corbyn testified on Monday before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on rising anti-Semitism.

Corbyn, a harsh critic of Israel who in 2009 called Hezbollah and Hamas activists “friends” after inviting representatives from both terrorist groups to visit the British Parliament as his guests, is accused of encouraging vitriol against Israel and Jews by not distancing himself from groups such as Hamas.

“It was inclusive language I used which, with hindsight, I would rather not have used,” he said of using the term “friends” to describe Hezbollah and Hamas activists. “I regret using those words. I have done so on many occasions.”

Corbyn was asked about remarks that Livingstone made in April during a radio interview, in which he asserted that Hitler’s policy when he was elected in 1932 that Jews should be moved out of Europe and be moved to Israel was  “supporting Zionism.” Livingstone was suspended from the party for the remark.

“Ken Livingstone made remarks that are wholly unacceptable and wrong,” Corbyn said.

Corbyn rejected a question about whether he was fostering an atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the Labor Party that he heads.

“That is unfair. I want a party that is open for all,” Corbyn asserted. “A long time ago there were sometimes anti-Semitic remarks made, when I first joined the party and later on. In recent years, no, and in my constituency not at all.”

He rejected reports saying that he compared Israel to the Islamic State in a speech against anti-Semitism delivered last week.

It is reported to be the first time that an opposition leader has given testimony to a select committee hearing.

Netanyahu to U.N. chief: Urge Hamas to free Israelis, return bodies


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to use his position to help pressure Hamas to repatriate two Israeli citizens and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.

In a joint appearance here during Ban’s 48-hour visit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Netanyahu also called on the U.N. to “highlight Hamas’s crimes and understand that our security measures are aimed only at keeping our citizens safe from this threat and we use judicious force in this regards.”

Ban and Netanyahu also met with the families of presumed killed Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose bodies are being held by Hamas in Gaza. Two Israeli citizens are also being held by Hamas in Gaza — Avera Mengistu, a 28-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli, and an unidentified Bedouin-Israeli who crossed into Gaza of their own volition.

“Hamas is cruelly and illegally holding the remains of our soldiers and holding our citizens. I ask you to use your standing to help return home these soldiers and these citizens. It’s a humanitarian position and elementary humanitarian requirement that Hamas and its criminal activities is of course throwing into the winds,” Netanyahu said Tuesday during an appearance with Ban in front of reporters before the two leaders started a private meeting.

Netanyahu reminded Ban of his stated goal during a 2013 visit to Israel to work to halt anti-Israel bias in the international body.

“Regrettably, the goal of treating Israel fairly remains unfulfilled across a wide spectrum of U.N. activities and U.N. forums,” Netanyahu said.

“I know that your desire for all countries to be treated fairly and equally remains true today. I urge you to dedicate your last six months as the Secretary General of the United Nations in trying to right this wrong. And when I say that, it’s not just for Israel’s sake. It’s for the credibility of the UN,” Netanyahu said.

Ban called on Israel to work quickly toward a two-state solution.

“I encourage you to take the courageous steps necessary to prevent a one-state reality of perpetual conflict,” Ban says. “No solutions to the conflict will be possible without the recognition that both Palestinians and Jews have undeniable historic and religious connection to this land. No solutions can come through violence. It must be based on mutual respect and recognition of the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

Earlier on Tuesday Ban visited the Gaza Strip, where he called on Israel to lift the “suffocating” blockade on the coastal strip, Reuters reported.

“The closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction effort. It is a collective punishment for which there must be accountability,” Ban said.

The call to lift the closure came a day after Israel and Turkey announced a reconciliation agreement which keeps the blockade in place.

‘Dig’ producer sues insurer, saying 2014 Hamas rockets were terrorism, not war


USA Network’s owner is suing the company’s insurer for refusing to cover expenses after filming of the series “Dig” in Israel was interrupted by Hamas rocket attacks.

The Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company is denying a $6.9 million claim because it defines the 2014 rocket attacks as war, not terrorism, the Hollywood Reporter reported Monday. The insurer excludes coverage for war or warlike action, according to the suit.

The mystery-thriller miniseries is set in Jerusalem and began filming in Israel, but shifted production to New Mexico in the summer of 2014 when Israel was hit by multiple rockets fired by the terrorist group Hamas, which governs Gaza. 

 

Israel launched the seven-week Operation Protective Edge in response to multiple Hamas attacks that summer.

In a complaint filed in a California federal court on Monday, Universal Cable Productions, of which USA Network is a subsidiary, the company is arguing that the coverage should have been provided because the insurance policy does not exclude acts of terrorism, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The complaint alleges that a representative of the insurance company told NBCUniversal in a letter dated July 28, 2014, that “the terrorism coverage should not apply” because the focus of the acts “is not the United States or its policy” and “the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury has not certified” that summer’s events as “acts of terrorism.”

The suit also argues that the Gaza Strip is not a “recognized sovereign nation.”

“The United States government does not recognize the Gaza Strip as a sovereign territorial nation, and does not recognize Hamas as a sovereign government,” the complaint argues. “Rather, the United States government has officially designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. Nevertheless, Atlantic has ignored the United States government position and applicable law.”

The production company called the insurer’s position “a self-serving attempt to invoke the war exclusion and avoid its coverage obligations.”

The complaint also references State Department reports and travel advisory warnings about Hamas and says that the insurer initially agreed that an insured event had occurred but then changed its position.

The series, which was canceled after airing for one season in the spring of 2015, was created by “Homeland” creator and Israeli director Gideon Raff. Pro-Palestinian groups objected when it was announced that it would be filmed in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, which has been a flashpoint in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Reports: Senior Hamas official defects to Israel, Gaza hit with airstrike


A senior Hamas officer from Gaza reportedly has defected to Israel.

Bassam Mahmoud Baraka, who is believed to have extensive knowledge of Hamas’ underground tunnel networks, has been missing for several days and may have fled to Israel, Haaretz reported Tuesday, citing several Palestinian media outlets.

Baraka, the son of a Muslim religious judge affiliated with Hamas, is believed to have given himself up to Israeli soldiers waiting for him at the border, the Palestinian reports said.

Fatah websites said the Red Cross informed Baraka’s family that he was in Israeli custody.

Meanwhile, Israel reportedly launched an airstrike into Gaza, causing damage but no injuries.

According to The Times of Israel, Palestinian sources on Tuesday said Israelis were targeting a Hamas tunnel opening when they hit an agricultural area near the border.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed there were explosions near the border but said they were related to an Air Force test. The IDF did not say whether the explosions occurred in Israel or Gaza.

Israel Air Force destroys Hamas post after mortar fire


Retaliating for the firing of mortars on Israeli troops near the border with Gaza, Israel Air Force aircraft destroyed a Hamas facility south of Gaza City.

The strike Friday morning, in which a missile was launched at a Hamas watch post, followed the targeting from the Gaza Strip of soldiers patrolling the fence along the southern part of the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported. The firing of two mortar rounds at Israel Defense Forces troops resulted in no injured and no damage.

The strike Friday was the third time in three days that Israel has retaliated for mortar attacks from Gaza. One woman was killed Thursday during one such attack, according to Palestinian sources in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

At least 16 mortar rounds were launched into Israel from Gaza this week – double the number recorded in the previous four months. Israel holds Hamas directly responsible for the recent attacks, which broke a lull in April, when no launches were recorded, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.

On Thursday, the IDF said it had uncovered a tunnel from Gaza leading into Israel, whose function was to enable terrorist attacks on Israeli soil. Stretching for hundreds of yards, the tunnel was 90 feet underground, according to the IDF.

Israeli troops come under mortar fire from Gaza


Israeli troops came under mortar fire from Gaza while performing engineering work near the border fence.

The Israel Defense Forces responded to the Wednesday morning attack by shelling Hamas-run military posts in Gaza, the IDF said.

No Israeli soldiers were injured in the morning mortar attack; a second mortar was reported fired at troops on Wednesday afternoon.  The Hamas military post fired on by Israel was damaged but there were no Palestinian casualties, Ynet reported, citing Palestinian sources.

The shelling on the border was the second attack in less than 24 hours. Israeli troops working near the border with northern Gaza on Tuesday afternoon came under gunfire. An Israeli army engineering vehicle was hit in the fire from northern Gaza and damaged by the bullets, and no troops were injured, the Israel Defense Forces said. There has been no claim of responsibility from Gaza.

Tuesday’s incident came several hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited troops in the southern border area of Gaza, and remarked on the relative quiet of the border area in the two years since Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

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