2nd Gaza humanitarian worker indicted for assisting Hamas


A United Nations humanitarian aid worker in Gaza used his position to provide material assistance to the terrorist efforts of Hamas, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said.

Waheed Borsh, 38, was indicted in Beersheba District Court on Tuesday for assisting Hamas. It is the second indictment of a Gaza Palestinian aid worker accused of assisting Hamas in the last week.

Borsh was arrested on July 16 by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police, the Shin Bet said in a statement issued Tuesday. The statement said Borsh confessed that he carried out activities that aided Hamas.

Borsh, from Jabaliya in the Gaza Strip, has worked for the United Nations Development Programme, or UNDP, in Gaza as an engineer since 2003. His areas of responsibility include demolishing houses damaged during armed conflicts and clearing the rubble from sites after demolition.

The UNDP, one of the world’s largest multilateral development agencies, conducts development and rehabilitation projects for the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip. The projects include assisting in the rehabilitation of housing damaged during armed conflicts.

The Shin Bet said its investigation of Borsh discovered that he had been instructed by a senior member of Hamas to redirect his work for UNDP to serve Hamas’ military interests.

In one such activity last year, he helped build a military jetty in the northern Gaza Strip for Hamas naval forces using UNDP resources, the Shin Bet said. Borsh also persuaded UNDP managers to prioritize the rehabilitation of housing in areas populated by Hamas members in response to a request by Hamas.

Borsh, who told investigators that there are other Palestinians employed by aid organizations that are working for Hamas, also disclosed information on Hamas tunnels and military bases that he had been exposed to during his work in Gaza, the Shin Bet said.

The Borsh case “demonstrates how Hamas exploits the resources of international aid organizations at the expense of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip,” according to the statement.

On Thursday, the Shin Bet announced the arrest of Mohammed El-Halabi, 32, director of the Gaza branch of the international humanitarian aid organization World Vision, on charges that he funneled tens of millions of dollars from the charity to Hamas.

Israel says has mended fences with EU in Netanyahu-Mogherini call


Israel said on Friday it had resolved its differences with the European Union after weeks of diplomatic tension following an EU decision not to allow goods produced in settlements in the West Bank to be labeled “Made in Israel”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Israel's foreign ministry said.

The two “agreed that relations between the two sides should be conducted in an atmosphere of confidence and mutual respect,” it said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that Israel would no longer insist on the exclusion of EU bodies from peace talks with the Palestinians over a two-state solution to the Middle East peace process.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in April 2014 and there have been no signs of them resuming.

While the United States has traditionally played the lead role in peace efforts in the region, the EU is Israel's largest trading partner and is the biggest donor to the Palestinians, and is looking to play a larger role in peace negotiations

“The conversation resolved the tensions and we are, Israel and the EU, back to good and close relations,” Nahshon said in a text message to the media.

In November, the EU said that goods produced in settlements could not be labeled “Made in Israel” and should be marked as coming from settlements, which the EU considers illegal under international law.

The EU holds the position that the lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, are not part of the internationally recognized borders of Israel.

After the guidelines were published, Israel suspended contact with EU bodies involved in peace efforts with Palestinians, although the government said bilateral ties with nearly all EU countries remained strong.

The Palestinians want the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the West Bank for their future state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Nahshon said Mogherini had expressed solidarity with Israel at a time of heightened Israeli-Palestinian violence and had strongly opposed attempts by various groups to boycott Israel.

Palestinian envoy pushes for new UN efforts, ‘collective approach’


Palestinian officials said they want to “keep the hope alive and keep the two-state solution alive” through new efforts at the United Nations.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the UN, said Friday, “We will not accept that the year 2016 is a year when we cannot do anything,” Agence France Press reported.

Mansour said the Iran nuclear deal and progress on the Syrian peace track point to a need for a “collective approach” to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, words similar to a statement earlier in the day by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mansour predicted that violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories will probably worsen in the absence of diplomatic efforts.

The Palestinian envoy said he may push for a resolution condemning Israel’s expansion of Israeli settlements, but said a broader plan is necessary, such as sending international observers to the region or convening an international peace conference, AFP reported.

UN remembers 6 million dead Jews as Ban Ki Moon’s words endanger 6 million live Jews


Then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan once acknowledged that the United Nations “rose from the ashes of the Holocaust” to save the remnants of European Jewry and provide the Jewish people with an opportunity to fulfill their age-old aspirations through the new nation state of Israel.

This year the UN explicitly linked International Holocaust Remembrance Day to its own mission by solemnly invoking the theme of “The Holocaust and Human Dignity:”

[WATCH: FULL UN SPECIAL EVENT ON THE HOLOCAUST]

“The theme links Holocaust remembrance with the founding principles of the United Nations and reaffirms faith in the dignity and worth of every person that is highlighted in the United Nations Charter, as well as the right to live free from discrimination and with equal protection under the law that is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Holocaust, which resulted in the destruction of nearly two thirds of European Jewry, remains one of the most painful reminders of the international community’s failure to protect them.”

Unfortunately, what the UN declared about Holocaust Remembrance was mocked by the words uttered by the United Nations’ current Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. Even as Israelis were burying the latest victim of Palestinian terrorism- a beautiful 23 year old who was stabbed to death in a market as she bought groceries for her grandparents, Mr. Ban declared that the current knife/gun/vehicle Intifada “is a reaction to the fear, disparity and lack of trust the Palestinians are experiencing.”  He went on to ‘explain’ “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process,” he said, blaming “the occupation” for causing “hatred and extremism.”

The subtext here, was that killings on the streets of Paris or in San Bernardino must be denounced by the international community as terrorism, but the heinous murders of Jews—among them family members of Holocaust survivors on the streets of Jerusalem—was essentially the fault of the Jews, that cold-blooded killers of Israelis didn’t merit powerful condemnation but rather needed to be “understood”.

The Secretary General’s words were splashed across the front pages of Israeli newspapers and outrage was expressed from Prime Minister Netanyahu to an incensed Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, who lamented, “Instead of trying to rationalize Palestinian terrorism, the United Nations should demand that the Palestinian Authority eradicate incitement, which is coming from its highest echelons.”

The timing and thrust of Mr. Ban’s statement is especially deplorable as he missed an historical opportunity to deliver to the Palestinians and all others embracing a culture of death, a crucial lesson from the Shoah itself.

Ban lectured Israelis that, “As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”

He invoked powerful words and imagery in making his case: The Palestinians he said suffered from fear, lack of trust, frustration, and humiliation.

He should have told them, “instead of embracing the culture of death of ISIS, Al Qaeda and Al Shabab, why not invite survivors of Auschwitz to al Quds University to discover how they dealt with fear, frustration and humiliation”. They would have heard from people who witnessed and experienced the Nazi Genocide, how and why they were able to embrace life and keep hope alive for a better future.

They would have seen someone, who despite having seen their world and families destroyed, who saw their own lives reduced to a number tattooed on their arms, who themselves were at death’s door when liberation finally came, despite it all, they rejected hatred and terrorism and chose Life.

Instead, on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr. Ban defaulted to a politically expedient mantra, one that never helped a single Palestinian. Whatever his motivation, the effect of his words was to tell Palestinians and by extension anyone with a gripe against Israel, that he understood the pain of terrorist murderers, if the target are Israelis.

What a disgrace.

So on the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Ban Ki Moon did manage to teach us something new. We learn there is something worse than forgetting 6 million dead Jews. It is deploying a cynical double standard that emboldens those who would destroy 6 million live Jews.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance. Dr. Harold Brackman is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center

UN’s Ban: ‘Frustration’ is to blame for Palestinian violence against Israelis


Palestinian violence against Israel is a result of Palestinian “frustration” over “a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

Ban called on Israel to freeze building in the settlements and to apply justice equally for Israelis and Palestinians in an address Tuesday to the U.N. Security Council.

He condemned the four-month spate of stabbings, vehicle attacks and shootings by Palestinians targeting Jewish-Israelis and added that clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces have continued to claim lives.

“But security measures alone will not stop the violence,” Ban said. “They cannot address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians – especially young people. It is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”

Ban said West Bank Jewish settlements, or “so-called facts on the ground in the occupied West Bank,” are “steadily chipping away the viability of a Palestinian state and the ability of Palestinian people to live in dignity.”

He said he was “deeply troubled” by reports of Israel approving more than 150 new homes in West Bank settlements, as well as an announcement declaring 370 acres in the West Bank as state land.

“These provocative acts are bound to increase the growth of settler populations, further heighten tensions and undermine any prospects for a political road ahead,” Ban said. “The parties must act – and act now – to prevent the two-state solution from slipping away forever.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Ban’s remarks, saying they “provide a tail-wind for terror.”

“There is no justification for terror. Those Palestinians who murder do not want to build a state, they want to destroy a state and they say this openly,” Netanyahu said.  “They want to murder Jews for being Jews, and say this publicly. They don’t murder for peace and they don’t murder for human rights.”

The Israeli leader also criticized the U.N.’s positions on his country.

“The United Nations long ago lost its neutrality and its moral force,” Netanyahu said, “and the secretary-general’s remarks do not improve its standing.”

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon comes to Israel in bid to calm tensions


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has come to Israel in an effort to tamp down the current wave of violence.

The hastily arranged visit has Ban meeting Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, as well as with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, who assumed the position last week, also arrived in Israel on Tuesday to attend Ban’s meeting with Netanyahu.

Late Sunday, Ban released a video in order to “speak directly” to the Israeli and Palestinian people “about the dangerous escalation in violence across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, especially in Jerusalem.”

“I am dismayed – as we all should be – when I see young people, children, picking up weapons and seeking to kill,” he said in the video message. “Violence will only undermine the legitimate Palestinian aspirations for statehood and the longing of Israelis for security.”

In comments addressed to the Palestinian youth, Ban said: “I know your hopes for peace have been dashed countless times. You are angry at the continued occupation and expansion of settlements. Many of you are disappointed in your leaders and in us, the international community, because of our inability to end this conflict.”

To the Israelis he said: “When children are afraid to go to school, when anyone on the street is a potential victim, security is rightly your immediate priority. But walls, checkpoints, harsh responses by the security forces and house demolitions cannot sustain the peace and safety that you need and must have.”

In a statement issued before he left for Israel, Danon said he hoped that Ban would “unequivocally condemn the incitement to violence of the Palestinian Authority.”

He said he would immediately return to New York for a U.N. Security Council meeting on the current wave of violence scheduled for Thursday.

Humanitarian crisis in Syria worsens


This article first appeared on The Media Line.

As world attention has focused on the tide of Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe, aid organizations try to contend with a growing humanitarian crisis inside Syria. According to the United Nations, 7.6 million people have been internally displaced, meaning they have been forced to leave their homes and have moved to a different part within Syria. More than 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, almost five million of them in hard to reach or besieged areas.

“Not many aid organizations do work inside Syria because it is quite dangerous,” Buthayna Ahmed of Hand in Hand for Syria, an organization based in the UK told The Media Line. “We have more than 100 employees in Syria, and we are able to distribute aid on behalf of many organizations.”

As the civil war grinds on, and the death toll continues to climb to more than 220,000 with a million wounded, the humanitarian needs continue to increase. The UN says that more than half of all hospitals and medical clinics in Syria have ceased to function. Dozens of Syrians are killed daily in the fighting.

“I am absolutely horrified by the total disregard for civilian life by all parties to this conflict,” the UN’s humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said after a recent trip to Damascus and Homs.

Buthayna Ahmed of Hand in Hand said many of the organizations they distribute aid on behalf of, prefer to remain anonymous. They buy the aid in Turkey to save transportation costs from the UK. They, like all aid organizations in Syria, are struggling to keep up.

“We are dealing with one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history,” she said. “Funds are now drying up because the crisis is so huge. Until now, it has been the responsibility of countries on the borders of Syria but it must now become a global effort.”

The number of refugees who have fled Syria is now over four million. The neighboring states are unable to absorb more refugees and

Helping refugees inside Syria is one way to ensure that this tide of refugees will not become unmanageable. According to the UN, school attendance has dropped by 50 percent and about one-quarter of all schools are destroyed, damaged or being used as shelters. Millions of Syrian children have not been able to attend school for most of the past four years.

Almost ten million people in Syria have food insecurity meaning they do not know where their next meal is coming from. Millions of others live in poverty.

As the fighting continues, internal displacement is increasing. In 2015 alone, one million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes inside Syria, some for the second or third time.

“I ask the members of the international community to step up and provide us with the resources for our essential life-saving and protection work,” the UN’s O’Brien said. “People across Syria are counting on it.”

Israel slams Palestinians’ push to fly their flag at U.N.


Israel on Tuesday complained to the United Nations about a Palestinian initiative to fly their flag alongside full member states' at the world body's headquarters, calling it “another cynical misuse of the U.N. by the Palestinian Authority.”

Currently, only member states' flags fly at U.N. headquarters. While the 193-nation assembly overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012, a Palestinian attempt to secure full U.N. membership failed. Palestine is considered a non-member state.

But the flags of the two non-member states – Palestine and the Vatican – could soon be flying at the United Nations.

The General Assembly is expected to vote on Sept. 10 on a Palestinian resolution that says the flags of non-member observer states “shall be raised at the United Nations Headquarters and Offices following the flags of the member states of the United Nations.”

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor wrote a letter of complaint about the Palestinian initiative to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and this year's president of the 193-nation General Assembly, Sam Kutesa of Uganda.

“For 70 years the United Nations has raised only flags of full member states,” Prosor said, adding that the Palestinians never held a single round of consultations on their resolution. He called it “another cynical misuse of the U.N. by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Once again the Palestinians prefer to score easy and meaningless points at the U.N., simply because they can,” he said. “It's time to unequivocally tell them: this is not the path to statehood, this is not the way for peace.”

He also accused the Palestinians, who he said appear to already have enough votes for their resolution to pass, of misleading U.N. member states by pretending that it was a joint initiative with the Vatican.

Last week, the Holy See's mission issued a diplomatic note saying it would not co-sponsor the resolution and demanding that all references to it be cut from the draft.

Several days later, it issued a new news release reiterating that it did not object to the Palestinian draft resolution on flying non-member states' flags but without any reference to its earlier demand that it not be mentioned in the resolution. But it made clear it was satisfied with the status quo.

Prosor said the Vatican issued the second statement under pressure from the Palestinian and Arab delegations.

Neither the Vatican's nor the Palestinians' U.N. missions had any immediate response to queries about Prosor's letter.

Iran may have built extension at disputed site, U.N. nuclear watchdog says


Iran appears to have built an extension to part of its Parchin military site since May, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a report on Thursday, as part of its inquiry into possible military dimensions of Tehran's past nuclear activity.

A resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Parchin file, which includes a demand for fresh IAEA access to the site, is a symbolically important issue that could help make or break Tehran's July 14 nuclear deal with six world powers.

The confidential IAEA report, obtained by Reuters, said:

“Since (our) previous report (in May), at a particular location at the Parchin site, the agency has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment, and probable construction materials. In addition, a small extension to an existing building” appeared to have been built.

The changes were first observed last month, a senior diplomat familiar with the Iran file said.

The IAEA says any activities Iran has undertaken at Parchin since U.N. inspectors last visited in 2005 could jeopardize its ability to verify Western intelligence suggesting Tehran carried out tests there relevant to nuclear bomb detonations more than a decade ago. Iran has dismissed the intelligence as “fabricated”.

Under a “road map” accord Iran reached with the IAEA parallel to its groundbreaking settlement with the global powers, it is required to give the Vienna-based watchdog enough information about its past nuclear activity to allow it to write a report on the long vexed issue by year-end.

“Full and timely implementation of the relevant parts of the road-map is essential to clarify issues relating to this location at Parchin,” the new IAEA report said.

According to data given to the IAEA by some member states, Parchin might have housed hydrodynamic experiments to assess how specific materials react under high pressure, such as in a nuclear blast.

“We cannot know or speculate what's in the (extended) building … It's something we will technically clarify over the course of the year,” the senior diplomat said. The report said the extended building was not the one that some countries suspect has housed the controversial experiments.

“It’s funny that the IAEA claims there has been a small extension to a building … Iran doesn't need to ask for the IAEA's permission to do construction work on its sites,” Reza Najafi, Iran's envoy to the agency, was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

GROUNDBREAKING NUCLEAR ACCORD

Under its Vienna accord with the powers, Iran must put verifiable limits on its uranium enrichment program to create confidence it will not be used to develop nuclear bombs, in exchange for a removal of sanctions crippling its economy. Iran has said its nuclear work is for only civilian uses.

Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium gas of a fissile purity of up to 5 percent had since May decreased by around 870 kilograms to 7,845.4 kg, the report said. Once the July deal is implemented, which is expected to happen some time next year, this stockpile must be reduced to 300 kg.

Iran has for years been accused of stonewalling the IAEA inquiry into “possible military dimensions” (PMD) of its nuclear project. But the Islamic Republic delivered on a pledge under the “road map” to turn over more information by Aug. 15.

The IAEA report said the agency was still reviewing the PMD information Iran provided. Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano said on Tuesday the information was substantive but it was too early to say whether any of it was new.

The success of the deal between Iran and the powers will hinge on IAEA verification of Iranian compliance.

The agency has come under pressure, especially from U.S. lawmakers who will hold a critical vote next month on whether to ratify the deal between Iran and the powers, for not publishing its “road map” agreement with Tehran.

Amano last week rejected as “a misrepresentation” suggestions from hawkish critics of the nuclear accord that the IAEA had quietly agreed to allow Iran to inspect sections of Parchin on the agency's behalf.

Read the full text of the Iran Deal here


The 159-page final Iran Deal agreement is available online for anyone who's interested in reading it in its entirety. Below is the first part of the document.


Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Vienna, 14 July 2015

PREFACE

The E3/EU+3 (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) and the Islamic Republic of Iran welcome this historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which will ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful, and mark a fundamental shift in their approach to this issue. They anticipate that full implementation of this JCPOA will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons. 

Iran envisions that this JCPOA will allow it to move forward with an exclusively peaceful, indigenous nuclear programme, in line with scientific and economic considerations, in accordance with the JCPOA, and with a view to building confidence and encouraging international cooperation. In this context, the initial mutually determined limitations described in this JCPOA will be followed by a gradual evolution, at a reasonable pace, of Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme, including its enrichment activities, to a commercial programme for exclusively peaceful purposes, consistent with international non-proliferation norms.

The E3/EU+3 envision that the implementation of this JCPOA will progressively allow them to gain confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s programme.

The JCPOA reflects mutually determined parameters, consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on the scope of Iran’s nuclear programme, including enrichment activities and R&D. The JCPOA addresses the E3/EU+3’s concerns, including through comprehensive measures providing for transparency and verification. The JCPOA will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance, and energy.

Israel disputes U.N. report finding it may have committed Gaza war crimes


Israel disputed on Monday the findings of a U.N. report that it may have committed war crimes in the 2014 Gaza conflict, saying its forces acted “according to the highest international standards”.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas, the dominant Palestinian movement in the Gaza Strip, which the report said might bear responsibility for war crimes that included “indiscriminate” firing of rockets at Israeli towns.

“It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound difference between Israel's moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organizations it confronted,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement, referring to the 50-day Gaza war last July and August.

“In defending itself against attacks, Israel's military acted according to the highest international standards.”

Saeb Erekat, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement: “The State of Palestine will review the findings and recommendations of the (U.N.) commission with the highest consideration, in line with its staunch commitment to ensuring respect for these esteemed bodies of international law.”

Echoing previous Israeli statements during the year-long U.N. inquiry, the foreign ministry said the report by the U.N. Human Rights Council was commissioned by “a notoriously biased institution” that has a “singular obsession” with Israel.

Citing such alleged bias and what it called a lack of the necessary expertise to conduct a professional and serious examination of an armed conflict, the ministry said Israel would consider the report “in light of these essential failings”.

Israel says U.N. grants Hamas-linked group NGO status


Israel on Monday accused a U.N. committee that oversees non-governmental organizations of granting U.N accreditation to an association that it said promotes “anti-Israel propaganda in Europe” and is linked to the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Israel's mission to the United Nations issued a statement condemning the decision, by the 19-member U.N. Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, to approve the application of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), an organization based in Britain.

The statement said that in 2010 Israel banned the PRC because of its ties to Hamas, labeling it “an organizational and a coordinating wing of Hamas in Europe” with members that include senior Hamas officials.

“Until today, the U.N. has given Hamas discounts and let it strengthen its activities,” Israel's U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor, was quoted as saying in the statement. “Now, the U.N. went one step further, and gave Hamas a welcoming celebration at its main entrance, allowing it to be a full participant.”

“According to this script, one day we may find Hezbollah sitting at the Security Council and ISIS (Islamic State) voting at the Human Rights Council,” he added. “This is the peak season for the U.N.'s Theater of the Absurd.”

The Israeli statement said 12 countries voted in favor, including Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkey, Venezuela, China and Cuba, and three voted against, the United States, Uruguay and Israel. India, Russia and Greece abstained, and Burundi was absent.

Official U.N. status as an NGO gives groups access to U.N. premises and opportunities to attend or observe many events and conferences at United Nations sites around the world.

Neither the PRC nor the British or U.S. missions to the United Nations had an immediate response to Reuters requests for comment on the vote or the Israeli announcement. A U.N. spokesman said it would be up to member states to comment since it was their decision.

The United States and European Union have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

Since Hamas, and not the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, is the de facto governing authority in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations maintains limited contact with it in terms of aid delivery, education and other activities.

The United Nations' principal Palestinian interlocutor is the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank.

U.S. official in Israel to discuss Mideast nuclear arms ban


A senior U.S. official is in Israel to discuss the possibility of a compromise that would keep alive the idea of someday banning nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, U.S. officials and U.N. diplomats said on Thursday.

Friday is the final day of a month-long review conference on the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at United Nations headquarters in New York. The conference has bogged down on several issues, above all the failure to convene a planned 2012 conference on a Middle East weapons of mass destruction (WMD) ban.

Without agreement on the Middle East issue, diplomats said treaty signatories might fail to agree approve final outcome document at the conference.

Last month, Egypt, backed by other Arab and non-aligned states, proposed that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convene a regional conference on banning WMD as called for at the 2010 NPT review meeting, with or without Israel's participation. Washington and Israel oppose the idea.

The United States has been trying to come up with a compromise that satisfies the Arabs but does not alienate Israel, diplomats said.

A State Department official said on condition of anonymity that Assistant Secretary of State Tom Countryman was currently in Israel to discuss the WMD-free zone and other issues.

“Both the United States and Israel support the creation of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East,” said Kurtis Cooper, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations. “We are working closely with our Israeli partners to advance our mutual interests, including preserving the NPT.”

Israel neither confirms nor denies the widespread assumption that it controls the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal. Israel, which has never joined the NPT, agreed to take part in the review conference as an observer, ending a 20-year absence.

Diplomats were skeptical about Countryman's prospects for success.

The call for a 2012 conference on a regional WMD ban, approved at the 2010 NPT review meeting, infuriated Israel. But diplomats said Israel eventually agreed to attend planning meetings. The planned 2012 conference never took place, which annoyed Egypt and other Arab states.

Egypt's latest proposals, Western diplomats say, are intended to focus attention on Israel. Washington and Israel say Iran's nuclear program is the real regional threat.

Iran says its program is peaceful. It is currently negotiating with world powers to curb it in exchange for lifting sanctions.

The Jewish state has said it would consider joining the NPT only once at peace with its Arab neighbors and Iran.

U.N. inquiry finds Israel fired on its schools, Hamas hid weapons in its buildings


Israel fired on seven United Nations schools and Hamas hid weapons in at least three empty U.N. buildings during Israel’s operation in Gaza in 2014, according to an inquiry.

Some 44 Palestinians sheltering in the U.N. schools bombed by the Israelis were killed and Hamas also fired at Israel from United Nations buildings, the U.N. inquiry found, according to a summary released Monday.

More than 200 pages, the full report on the incidents during last summer’s 50-day operation, dubbed Protective Edge, is considered top secret and will not be released.

Israel has investigated all seven incidents in which it was cited in the report and cooperated in the investigation, Haaretz reported. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it would study the report’s findings and work with the United Nations to improve the security of U.N. buildings in Gaza.

The inquiry led by Patrick Cammaert, a retired Dutch general and former force commander of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, looked at 10 incidents involving U.N. property. The investigation was ordered in November by the world body’s secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.

“United Nations premises are inviolable and should be places of safety, particularly in a situation of armed conflict,” Ban wrote in a cover letter accompanying the summary, according to reports. “I will work with all concerned and spare no effort to ensure that such incidents will never be repeated.”

The inquiry’s recommendations will be explored, he said.

Eyeing Arab ties, Israel to observe nuclear pact meeting


Israel will take part as an observer in a major nuclear non-proliferation conference that opens at the United Nations on Monday, ending a 20-year absence in hope of fostering dialogue with Arab states, a senior Israeli official said.

Assumed to have the Middle East's sole nuclear arsenal, and having never joined the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel has stayed away from gatherings of NPT signatories since 1995 in protest at resolutions it regarded as biased against it.

In a position laid out by then Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in 1995, Israel has said it would consider submitting to international nuclear inspections and controls under the NPT only once at peace with the Arabs and Iran. Those countries want Israel curbed first.

With Middle East upheaval and the disputed Iranian nuclear program often pitting Tehran-aligned Shi'ite Muslims against Sunni Arabs, a senior Israeli official saw in the April 27-May 22 NPT review conference a chance to stake out common causes.

Israel deems Iran its top threat. The Islamic Republic has said it seeks only nuclear energy, not bombs, from uranium enrichment. Six global powers are negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran – a process Israel has denounced, fearing it will not restrain Tehran's atomic activities sufficiently.

“We think that this is the time for all moderate countries to sit and discuss the problems that everyone is facing in the region,” the Israeli official, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the subject, told Reuters on Sunday.

“I see this, coming as an observer to the conference now, as trying to demonstrate our good faith in terms of having such a conversation. We need direct negotiations between the regional parties, a regional security conversation, a conversation based on consensus. This (attendance at the NPT conference) is meant not to change our policy. It's meant to emphasize our policy.”

The question of sequencing – if peace should precede disarmament – has helped mire negotiations on the creation of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. An Egyptian plan for an international meeting laying the groundwork for such a deal was agreed at the last NPT review conference, in 2010.

Western diplomats at the U.N. say that Egypt is unlikely to take as aggressive a stance against Israel now as it has at past NPT meetings, and that Israel and Arab nations worried about the Iran nuclear deal are united for the time being by a common fear that the United States might concede too much to Tehran in the talks.

The Israeli official doubted the deadlock would be resolved at the pending NPT conference – anticipating, instead, an “Arab proposal that would not adopt the position of direct engagement” with Israel.

Still, the official described the NPT conference as a chance to build on opposition Israel shared with some Arab countries to the April 2 outline nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.

The conference “doesn't contradict a broader possible outreach,” the official said. Without naming specific countries, the official said some Arabs appeared less attentive to Israel's non-NPT status as they were “too busy with bigger problems”.

Among these might be Egypt, which had long been vocally opposed to Israel's nuclear opacity but has recently closed ranks with its neighbor against common Islamist adversaries.

“Our initiative for a Middle East free of non-conventional weapons is a principle. It will not change. But nothing is against Israel itself. It's for everyone – Iran, Israel, everyone,” an Egyptian official said on condition on anonymity.

“Will we go and pressure Israel (at the conference)? I don't think so. I don't think the pressure will be intolerable.”

U.S. may no longer hinder Israel-critical U.N. actions


The Obama administration may reconsider shielding Israel from critical actions in international forums, according to reports.

Politico and the New York Times on Thursday each quoted unnamed senior administration officials as saying that the United States may back a U.N. Security Council resolution that would set the parameters for a two-state solution according to the 1967 lines.

The change comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the lead up to Tuesday’s elections, pulled back from endorsing a two-state solution, saying there would be no Palestinian state on his watch.

In the past, the Obama administration has shielded Israel from critical resolutions, even when such resolutions hewed with administration policy; one famous instance was a 2011 U.S. veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution on Israeli settlement expansion that was in line with President Barack Obama’s opposition to settlement building.

Administration officials, asked by JTA for comment, pointed to statements Wednesday by spokesmen for the White House and State Department.

Those spokesmen did not say that the United States would now back, or at least not oppose, Israel-critical actions in international forums, but they did say that a change was possible.

“We are not going to get ahead of any decisions about what the United States would do with regard to potential action at the U.N. Security Council,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said in herbriefing for reporters.

“I will reiterate that it has long been the position of the United States under Republican and Democratic presidents, and it has been the position of successive Israeli governments, that only a two-state solution that results in a secure Israel alongside a sovereign and independent Palestine can bring lasting peace and stability to both peoples,” she said. “The prime minister, as we all know, in his comments earlier this week indicated that he is no longer committed to pursuing this approach. Based on the prime minister’s comments, the United States is in a position going forward where we will be evaluating our approach with regard to how best to achieve a two-state solution.”

Israel tells U.N. will defend itself against Hezbollah


Israel told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday it will take all necessary measures to defend itself after an exchange of fire between Hezbollah militants and Israel that has raised the threat of a full-blown conflict.

“Israel will not stand by as Hezbollah targets Israelis,” Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor said in a letter to the Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“Israel will not accept any attacks on its territory and it will exercise its right to self-defense and take all necessary measures to protect its population,” he added.

The attack occurred on Wednesday in the biggest escalation of fighting since a 2006 war.

Two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish peacekeeper were killed when Hezbollah fired a missile at a convoy of Israeli military vehicles at the Lebanon border. A U.N. spokesman and Spanish officials said the peacekeeper was killed as Israel responded with air strikes and artillery fire.

“Events in the north continue to unfold and Israel extends its condolences to UNIFIL and the Spanish government over the death of one of its soldiers earlier today,” Prosor said.

“I urge the Security Council to unequivocally and publicly condemn Hezbollah,” he added. “The terrorist organization must be disarmed and the government of Lebanon must abide by its international commitments and fully implement Security Council resolution 1701.”

Resolution 1701 halted the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in southern Lebanon. The south remains a Hezbollah stronghold.

Hezbollah said it carried out Wednesday's attack, which appeared to be in retaliation for a Jan. 18 Israeli air strike in southern Syria that killed several Hezbollah members and an Iranian general.

U.N. head sets date for Palestinian membership in ICC


United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that Palestine will join the International Criminal Court on April 1.

The accession to the court will allow the Palestinians to press war-crimes charges against Israel.

Ban made the announcement late Tuesday night, days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute, the international treaty under which the signatories accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the international war crimes tribunal.

Ban also approved the Palestinian’s membership in 16 other international treaties, conventions and agreements.

The Palestinians also filed an ad hoc declaration for the ICC to investigate Israel for war crimes as of June 13. The date is one day after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens by Palestinians from Hebron. The massive operation to find the teens and Israel’s 50-day military operation in Gaza over the summer would be covered under the retroactive date.

The declaration would start proceedings against Israel even as the Palestinians wait for the April 1 accession date, becoming the court’s 123rd member state. Israel is not a member of the court.

An ICC investigation could also lead to war crimes charges against the Palestinians.

The Palestinian’s move to join the ICC and other international treaties came after the United Nations Security Council late last month failed to pass a Palestinian statehood proposal.

In response, Israel froze some $125 million in tax revenue that it collects for the Palestinian Authority.

 

Abbas seeks to re-submit statehood bid to U.N. Security Council


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday he was discussing with Jordan plans to resubmit to the United Nations Security Council a resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state that failed to win enough votes last week.

Jordan remains a member of the Security Council while several other countries with revolving membership were replaced over the New Year.

The Palestinians hope these states will be more sympathetic to their resolution demanding an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and independence by 2017, although the veto-wielding United States would be all but certain to vote 'No' again, as it did on Dec. 30.

“We didn't fail, the U.N. Security Council failed us. We'll go again to the Security Council, why not? Perhaps after a week,” Abbas told officials at a cultural conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the Palestinian seat of self-rule government.

“We are studying it, and we will study this with our allies and especially Jordan … to submit the resolution again, a third time or even a fourth time.”

In the U.N. vote on Tuesday, the Palestinian draft received eight votes in favor, including France, Russia and China, two against and five abstentions, among them Britain. Australia joined the United States in voting against the measure.

But any resubmission would face almost certain failure. The U.S. has veto power as one of the council's five permanent members and has pledged to block Abbas's plan, calling it one-sided and unproductive.

Abbas signed onto 20 international conventions the next day, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, giving the court jurisdiction over crimes committed on Palestinian lands and opening up an unprecedented confrontation between the veteran peace negotiator and Israel.

In retaliation for the move to the ICC, Israel announced on Saturday that it would withhold 500 million shekels ($125 million) in monthly tax funds that it collects on the Palestinians' behalf, in a blow to Abbas's cash-strapped government.

“Now there are sanctions – that's fine. There's an escalation – that's fine … but we're pushing forward,” Abbas said.

Palestinians deliver to U.N. documents to join war crimes court


In a move certain to anger Israel and Washington, the Palestinians on Friday delivered to U.N. headquarters documents on joining the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and more than a dozen other international treaties.

The chief Palestinian observer, Riyad Mansour, and U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq confirmed the handover at the United Nations. It is a step that will likely further exacerbate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and could lead to reductions in U.S. aid or U.S. sanctions.

“This is a very significant step,” Mansour told reporters. “It is an option that we are seeking in order to seek justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power.”

The U.N. press office issued a statement saying the Palestinians had delivered documentation to join 16 international treaties. “The documents are being reviewed with a view to determining the appropriate next steps,” it said.

According to the Rome Statute, the Palestinians will become a party to the court on the first day of the month that follows a 60-day waiting period after depositing signed and ratified documents of accession with the United Nations in New York.

The ICC move paves the way for the court to take jurisdiction over crimes committed in Palestinian lands and investigate the conduct of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders over more than a decade of bloody conflict. Neither Israel nor the United States belongs to the ICC.

Mansour said the Palestinians have also formally requested retroactive ICC jurisdiction “with regard to the crimes committed during the last war in Gaza.” He was referring to Israel's 50-day war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip this past summer.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed in the July-August war.

Regarding the threat of possible U.S. sanctions or cuts in aid for joining the ICC, Mansour said: “It is really puzzling when you seek justice through a legal approach to be punished for doing so.”

The United States has said the move was of deep concern and unhelpful to peace efforts in the region.

“It is an escalatory step that will not achieve any of the outcomes most Palestinians have long hoped to see for their people,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement. “Actions like this are not the answer.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas' action would expose the Palestinians to prosecution over support for what he called the terrorist Hamas Islamist group and vowed to take steps to rebuff any potential moves against Israel.

“We will take steps in response and defend Israel's soldiers,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued on Thursday.

U.S. officials say that around $400 million in annual aid could be in jeopardy after the Palestinian move to join The Hague-based court, which looks at cases of severe war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as genocide.

The other signed treaties the Palestinians delivered to the United Nations include the U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, two additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The Palestinian government signed the Rome Statute on Wednesday, a day after a bid for independence by 2017 failed at the U.N. Security Council.

Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

Momentum to recognize a Palestinian state has built up since Abbas succeeded in a bid for de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, which made Palestinians eligible to join the ICC.

Britain says cannot support new Palestinian U.N. draft resolution


Britain joined the United States on Tuesday, declaring that it cannot support a new Palestinian draft proposal calling for peace with Israel within a year and an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by late 2017.

Jordan on Tuesday circulated to the U.N. Security Council a draft resolution prepared by the Palestinians, who said they want it put to a vote before Thursday. Washington said it could not support the draft because it was not constructive and failed to address Israel's security needs.

British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant was asked by reporters whether his delegation could support the Palestinian draft.

“Well no,” he said. “There's some difficulties with the text, particularly language on time scales, new language on refugees. So I think we would have some difficulties.”

Lyall Grant did not explicitly threaten to use Britain's veto power to help block the Palestinian text if it is put to a vote. Western diplomats have said that if the draft is voted on before the new year it will likely fail to muster the required minimum nine yes votes for adoption.

That would mean neither Britain nor the United States would need to use their vetoes. Washington will not hesitate use its veto to strike down the Palestinian measure if necessary, council diplomats said.

All 22 Arab delegations endorsed the Palestinian draft on Monday, though Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar, the sole Arab representative on the 15-nation council, said she would personally have liked more time to consult on the draft.

The Arab delegations were meeting later on Tuesday to discuss when to put the Palestinian draft to a vote. Timing for a possible vote remains unclear.

Israel has said a Security Council vote, following the collapse in April of U.S.-brokered talks on Palestinian statehood, would deepen the conflict. It supports negotiations but rejects third-party time lines.

The Palestinians, frustrated by the lack of progress on peace talks, have sought to internationalize the issue by seeking U.N. membership and recognition of statehood via membership in international organizations.

Washington, council diplomats say, has made clear it does not want a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian issue voted on before Israel's election in March.

The Palestinian draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, calls for negotiations to be based on territorial lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war.

It also calls for a peace deal within 12 months, ending Israeli occupation by the end of 2017.

An earlier Palestinian draft called for Jerusalem to be the shared capital of Israel and a Palestinian state. The final proposal reverts to a harder line, saying only that East Jerusalem will be Palestine's capital and calling for an end to Israeli settlement building.

Question of Palestine Debate


Delivered to UN General Assembly on November 24th.

Mr. President, 

I stand before the world as a proud representative of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I stand tall before you knowing that truth and morality are on my side.  And yet, I stand here knowing that today in this Assembly, truth will be turned on its head and morality cast aside.  

The fact of the matter is that when members of the international community speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a fog descends to cloud all logic and moral clarity.  The result isn’t realpolitik, its surrealpolitik. 

The world’s unrelenting focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an injustice to tens of millions of victims of tyranny and terrorism in the Middle East. As we speak, Yazidis, Bahai, Kurds, Christians and Muslims are being executed and expelled by radical extremists at a rate of 1,000 people per month.

How many resolutions did you pass last week to address this crisis?  And how many special sessions did you call for? The answer is zero. What does this say about international concern for human life?  Not much, but it speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of the international community. 

I stand before you to speak the truth.  Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, less than half a percent are truly free – and they are all citizens of Israel.

Israeli Arabs are some of the most educated Arabs in the world. They are our leading physicians and surgeons, they are elected to our parliament, and they serve as judges on our Supreme Court.  Millions of men and women in the Middle East would welcome these opportunities and freedoms.  

Nonetheless, nation after nation, will stand at this podium today and criticize Israel – the small island of democracy in a region plagued by tyranny and oppression. 

Mr. President,

Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state.  It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state.

Sixty seven years ago this week, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Simple. The Jews said yes.  The Arabs said no. But they didn’t just say no.  Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon launched a war of annihilation against our newborn state. 

This is the historical truth that the Arabs are trying to distort. The Arabs’ historic mistake continues to be felt – in lives lost in war, lives lost to terrorism, and lives scarred by the Arab’s narrow political interests. 

According to the United Nations, about 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in the war initiated by the Arabs themselves.  At the same time, some 850,000 Jews were forced to flee from Arab countries.  

Why is it, that 67 years later, the displacement of the Jews has been completely forgotten by this institution while the displacement of the Palestinians is the subject of an annual debate?

The difference is that Israel did its utmost to integrate the Jewish refugees into society. The Arabs did just the opposite. 

The worst oppression of the Palestinian people takes place in Arab nations.  In most of the Arab world, Palestinians are denied citizenship and are aggressively discriminated against.  They are barred from owning land and prevented from entering certain professions.  

And yet none – not one – of these crimes are mentioned in the resolutions before you.

If you were truly concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people there would be one, just one, resolution to address the thousands of Palestinians killed in Syria.  And if you were so truly concerned about the Palestinians there would be at least one resolution to denounce the treatment of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps.

But there isn’t.  The reason is that today’s debate is not about speaking for peace or speaking for the Palestinian people – it is about speaking against Israel.  It is nothing but a hate and bashing festival against Israel.

Mr. President, 

The European nations claim to stand for Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – freedom, equality, and brotherhood – but nothing could be farther from the truth. 

I often hear European leaders proclaim that Israel has the right to exist in secure borders.   That’s very nice.  But I have to say – it makes about as much sense as me standing here and proclaiming Sweden’s right to exist in secure borders.

When it comes to matters of security, Israel learned the hard way that we cannot rely on others – certainly not Europe.

In 1973, on Yom Kippur – the holiest day on the Jewish calendar – the surrounding Arab nations launched an attack against Israel. In the hours before the war began, Golda Meir, our Prime Minister then, made the difficult decision not to launch a preemptive strike.   The Israeli Government understood that if we launched a preemptive strike, we would lose the support of the international community.

As the Arab armies advanced on every front, the situation in Israel grew dire. Our casualty count was growing and we were running dangerously low on weapons and ammunition.  In this, our hour of need, President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, agreed to send Galaxy planes loaded with tanks and ammunition to resupply our troops.  The only problem was that the Galaxy planes needed to refuel on route to Israel.  

The Arab States were closing in and our very existence was threatened – and yet, Europe was not even willing to let the planes refuel.  The U.S. stepped in once again and negotiated that the planes be allowed to refuel in the Azores.

The government and people of Israel will never forget that when our very existence was at stake, only one country came to our aid – the United States of America.

Israel is tired of hollow promises from European leaders.  The Jewish people have a long memory.  We will never ever forget that you failed us in the 1940s.  You failed us in 1973.  And you are failing us again today.

Every European parliament that voted to prematurely and unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state is giving the Palestinians exactly what they want – statehood without peace.  By handing them a state on a silver platter, you are rewarding unilateral actions and taking away any incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate or compromise or renounce violence.  You are sending the message that the Palestinian Authority can sit in a government with terrorists and incite violence against Israel without paying any price.

The first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state was Sweden. One has to wonder why the Swedish Government was so anxious to take this step.  When it comes to other conflicts in our region, the Swedish Government calls for direct negotiations between the parties – but for the Palestinians, surprise, surprise, they roll out the red carpet.

State Secretary Söder may think she is here to celebrate her government’s so-called historic recognition, when in reality it’s nothing more than an historic mistake.

The Swedish Government may host the Nobel Prize ceremony, but there is nothing noble about their cynical political campaign to appease the Arabs in order to get a seat on the Security Council.  Nations on the Security Council should have sense, sensitivity, and sensibility.  Well, the Swedish Government has shown no sense, no sensitivity and no sensibility.  Just nonsense.

Israel learned the hard way that listening to the international community can bring about devastating consequences.  In 2005, we unilaterally dismantled every settlement and removed every citizen from the Gaza Strip. Did this bring us any closer to peace?  Not at all. It paved the way for Iran to send its terrorist proxies to establish a terror stronghold on our doorstep.

I can assure you that we won’t make the same mistake again.  When it comes to our security, we cannot and will not rely on others – Israel must be able to defend itself by itself.

Mr. President,

The State of Israel is the land of our forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It is the land where Moses led the Jewish people, where David built his palace, where Solomon built the Jewish Temple, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace.  

For thousands of years, Jews have lived continuously in the land of Israel.  We endured through the rise and fall of the Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman Empires.  And we endured through thousands of years of persecution, expulsions and crusades.  The bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land is unbreakable.

Nothing can change one simple truth – Israel is our home and Jerusalem is our eternal capital.  

At the same time, we recognize that Jerusalem has special meaning for other faiths.  Under Israeli sovereignty, all people – and I will repeat that, all people – regardless of religion and nationality can visit the city’s holy sites.  And we intend to keep it this way.  The only ones trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount are Palestinian leaders.   

President Abbas is telling his people that Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount.  He has called for days of rage and urged Palestinians to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount using (quote) “all means” necessary.  These words are as irresponsible as they are unacceptable.  

You don’t have to be Catholic to visit the Vatican, you don’t have to be Jewish to visit the Western Wall, but some Palestinians would like to see the day when only Muslims can visit the Temple Mount. 

You, the international community, are lending a hand to extremists and fanatics. You, who preach tolerance and religious freedom, should be ashamed.  Israel will never let this happen.  We will make sure that the holy places remain open to all people of all faiths for all time. 

Mr. President,

No one wants peace more than Israel.  No one needs to explain the importance of peace to parents who have sent their child to defend our homeland.  No one knows the stakes of success or failure better than we Israelis do. The people of Israel have shed too many tears and buried too many sons and daughters. 

We are ready for peace, but we are not naïve. Israel’s security is paramount. Only a strong and secure Israel can achieve a comprehensive peace.

The past month should make it clear to anyone that Israel has immediate and pressing security needs. In recent weeks, Palestinian terrorists have shot and stabbed our citizens and twice driven their cars into crowds of pedestrians.  Just a few days ago, terrorists armed with axes and a gun savagely attacked Jewish worshipers during morning prayers.  We have reached the point when Israelis can’t even find sanctuary from terrorism in the sanctuary of a synagogue. 

These attacks didn’t emerge out of a vacuum.  They are the results of years of indoctrination and incitement.  A Jewish proverb teaches: “The instruments of both death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

As a Jew and as an Israeli, I know with utter certainly that when our enemies say they want to attack us, they mean it.

Hamas’s genocidal charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews worldwide.  For years, Hamas and other terrorist groups have sent suicide bombers into our cities, launched rockets into our towns, and sent terrorists to kidnap and murder our citizens. 

And what about the Palestinian Authority?  It is leading a systemic campaign of incitement.  In schools, children are being taught that ‘Palestine’ will stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.  In mosques, religious leaders are spreading vicious libels accusing Jews of destroying Muslim holy sites.  In sports stadiums, teams are named after terrorists.  And in newspapers, cartoons urge Palestinians to commit terror attacks against Israelis.

Children in most of the world grow up watching cartoons of Mickey Mouse singing and dancing.  Palestinian children also grow up watching Mickey Mouse, but on Palestinians national television, a twisted figure dressed as Mickey Mouse dances in an explosive belt and chants “Death to America and death to the Jews.”

I challenge you to stand up here today and do something constructive for a change.  Publically denounce the violence, denounce the incitement, and denounce the culture of hate.

Most people believe that at its core, the conflict is a battle between Jews and Arabs or Israelis and Palestinians.  They are wrong. The battle that we are witnessing is a battle between those who sanctify life and those who celebrate death.

Following the savage attack in a Jerusalem synagogue, celebrations erupted in Palestinian towns and villages.  People were dancing in the street and distributing candy.  Young men posed with axes, loudspeakers at mosques called out congratulations, and the terrorists were hailed as “martyrs” and “heroes.” 

This isn’t the first time that we saw the Palestinians celebrate the murder of innocent civilians.  We saw them rejoice after every terrorist attack on Israeli civilians and they even took to the streets to celebrate the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center right here in New York City.

Imagine the type of state this society would produce.  Does the Middle East really need another terror-ocracy?  Some members of the international community are aiding and abetting its creation.  

Mr. President,                                                                                                                                                                 

As we came into the United Nations, we passed the flags of all 193 member States. If you take the time to count, you will discover that there are 15 flags with a crescent and 25 flags with a cross.  And then there is one flag with a Jewish Star of David. Amidst all the nations of the world there is one state – just one small nation state for the Jewish people. 

And for some people, that is one too many. 

As I stand before you today I am reminded of all the years when Jewish people paid for the world’s ignorance and indifference in blood.  Those days are no more.  

We will never apologize for being a free and independent people in our sovereign state.  And we will never apologize for defending ourselves.

To the nations that continue to allow prejudice to prevail over truth, I say “J’accuse.”

I accuse you of hypocrisy. I accuse you of duplicity.

I accuse you of lending legitimacy to those who seek to destroy our State.

I accuse you of speaking about Israel’s right of self-defense in theory, but denying it in practice.

And I accuse you of demanding concessions from Israel, but asking nothing of the Palestinians.

In the face of these offenses, the verdict is clear.  You are not for peace and you are not for the Palestinian people.  You are simply against Israel.

Members of the international community have a choice to make. 

You can recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, or permit the Palestinian leadership to deny our history without consequence. 

You can publically proclaim that the so-called “claim of return” is a non-starter, or you can allow this claim to remain the major obstacle to any peace agreement.

You can work to end Palestinian incitement, or stand by as hatred and extremism take root for generations to come. 

You can prematurely recognize a Palestinian state, or you can encourage the Palestinian Authority to break its pact with Hamas and return to direct negotiations. 

The choice is yours. You can continue to steer the Palestinians off course or pave the way to real and lasting peace.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Iran seeks post on key U.N. committee, Israel deems it ‘absurd’


Iran is seeking a senior post on a United Nations committee that decides accreditation of non-governmental organizations, a move that Israel on Tuesday compared to gangster Al Capone running the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Iran was elected to the 19-member committee in April for a four-year term from 2015. The United States and Israel are also members of the committee, which acts as a kind of gatekeeper for rights groups and other NGOs seeking access to U.N. headquarters to lobby and participate in meetings and other events.

When Iran was first elected to the committee, the United States sharply criticized it as a “troubling outcome” because of what it said was Tehran's poor human rights record. The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment on Iran's bid to become vice chair of the committee.

In a letter obtained by Reuters, Iran presented its candidacy for vice-chair of the committee, which will begin meeting in late January.

Israel, which views Iran and its nuclear program as an existential threat, was clearly displeased by the idea.

“Imagine if Iran ran this committee in the same way it runs its country – human rights activists would be detained, journalists would be tortured, and anyone with a social media account would find himself arrested on fabricated charges,” Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor told Reuters.

Iranian officials were not immediately available to comment on Prosor's remarks.

The committee decides which NGOs will be accredited at the United Nations. Conservative developing nations worked to block accreditation of an international gay-lesbian NGO several years ago and the issue was taken to the General Assembly, which voted to accredit the group.

Late last month a U.N. General Assembly committee adopted a resolution condemning Iran's human rights record and urging the government to make good on promises of reform.

Netanyahu: No chance for peace deal if Israel sued for war crimes


A Palestinian push to try Israeli officials for war crimes at a United Nations tribunal would end any chance of reaching a peace deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu spoke to Army Radio on Friday, a day after the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to the United Nations said his government would join the International Criminal Court if the U.N. Security Council refuses to set a deadline for Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian territories.

“We may end up there,” Netanyahu said of the prospect of war crimes charges being brought against Israel at the Hague-based U.N. tribunal. “If Abu Mazen attempts it, this will have dire consequences,” he added, using another name for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “He could bring the Hague to do it, bringing us to the destruction of any chance of a sane peace deal.”

On Thursday, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. envoy, told the Associated Press that his government has turned to the Security Council “to force Israel to negotiate in good faith the end of the occupation within a time frame.”

The Palestinian Authority hopes the council will adopt a draft resolution setting November 2016 as the deadline for an Israeli pullout from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.

“But if this additional door of peace is closed before us, then we will not only join the ICC to seek accountability,” Mansour said. “We will join other treaties and agencies” to build evidence “that we exist as a nation, we exist as a state, although the land of our state is under occupation.”

 

Israel’s land seizure: political favor or West Bank game-changer?


In the days after the war in Gaza concluded, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to bear left.

He spoke of a “possible diplomatic horizon” for Israel on Aug. 27 and suggested a return to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Reports emerged that Netanyahu had met secretly in Amman with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

But on Sunday he took a sharp right turn, seizing nearly 1,000 acres in the West Bank as state land near the Etzion settlement bloc. The move is a prerequisite for settlement expansion and prohibits Palestinians from using the land for building or agriculture.

According to Israeli reports, the government seized the land in response to the nearby kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June.

The land seizure — Israel’s largest in decades — drew condemnation from the Israeli left and from the international community. The U.S. State Department said it was “counterproductive” for the peace process. In a statement, the left-wing NGO Peace Now called the move “proof that Prime Minister Netanyahu does not aspire for a new ‘Diplomatic Horizon.’ “

“Israel is trying to be territorially maximalist in the area and to deny territorial contiguity to the Palestinians,” Hagit Ofran, the head of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch, told JTA. “The message of this act is clear: The inclination of Israel is not to peace and compromise but to continuation of settlement.”

But some experts said that though the move hurts Israel diplomatically, critics overstate its importance on the ground. The area is a strip of land adjacent to the West Bank that Israel intends to keep under any peace deal. Declaring it state land was, they said, a way for Netanyahu to placate his allies on the right after opposing their suggestion to depose Hamas during the Gaza war.

“I think it falls in a certain pattern,” Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, told JTA. “The government does something that is unpalatable to the right wing, whether it be making concessions in the peace process or, in this case, agreeing to a cease-fire in Gaza, and then it attempts to palliate the right by building in Judea and Samaria or, in this case, reclassifying land.”

According to Maj. Guy Inbar, spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces’ Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the seizure is only the first step toward a potential settlement expansion.

Palestinians who claim the land have 45 days to challenge the decision in Israel’s courts. If the appeals fail, the government still has to make an additional decision to legalize building there before any construction can begin. An illegal Israeli settlement outpost, Gvaot, already sits on a portion of the land. Several surrounding Palestinian villages, according to Ofran, have laid claim to the land. But Inbar said an Israeli investigation found the land has not been used for decades.

Netanyahu has backtracked before on settlement expansion plans following international criticism. In 2012, Netanyahu announced Israel’s intention to build in an area known as E1, which sits between the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah, as well as between Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim. The United States opposed the plan, and nearly two years later the land sits empty.

But Sunday’s seizure does prohibit Palestinian use of the land. And Israeli politicians and commentators have criticized Netanyahu for alienating Abbas and Israel’s allies just as the sides could have restarted peace talks following the Gaza cease-fire agreement.

“[The] announcement, which wasn’t brought to the Cabinet, regarding 900 acres of land for building in the Etzion bloc harms the State of Israel,” Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party said Tuesday in a speech. “Maintaining the support of the world was already challenging, so why was it so urgent to create another crisis with the United States and the world?”

Meanwhile, the future of peace talks remains unclear. Negotiations ended in April after nine months as Israel reneged on a scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners. Abbas responded by applying for Palestinian accession to a range of international treaties, and talks collapsed as Abbas formed a unity government with Hamas.

According to reports, Abbas said he won’t return to talks unless Israel proposes a border in their initial stage. Should Israel refuse, Abbas reportedly plans to turn to the United Nations Security Council to call for an Israeli West Bank pullout.

Palestinian officials also threatened recently to apply for membership to the International Criminal Court, which could allow the Palestinian Authority to sue Israel for settlement building and allegedly violating Palestinian rights. But Abbas has yet to submit the application.

“Given that there’s no negotiations, trust with the P.A. and Abbas is not at a premium,” said Jonathan Rynhold, a senior research associate at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “If [Netanyahu] offers a fairly generous territorial offer, this will be irrelevant.”

 

Alleging U.N. bias, Israel again keeping distance from Gaza probe


The United Nations probe into the Gaza conflict hasn’t even begun, but Israel already is convinced that it won’t end well.

In a resolution adopted by a vote of 29-1 with 17 abstentions, the U.N. Human Rights Council moved last month to establish a commission of inquiry “to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The United States cast the sole vote against.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the council for choosing to investigate Israel rather than nearby crisis zones such as Iraq or Syria, and implied he would not cooperate with U.N. investigators.

“The report of this committee has already been written,” Netanyahu said following a meeting with visiting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The committee chairman has already decided that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. Therefore, they have nothing to look for here. They should visit Damascus, Baghdad and Tripoli. They should go see ISIS, the Syrian army and Hamas. There they will find war crimes, not here.”

Israel has been down this road before. Following the end of the last Gaza conflict, in early 2009, its government refused to cooperate with a U.N. investigation led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The probe, dubbed the Goldstone Report, alleged that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians, though Goldstone later personally retracted that allegation. Israel rejected the original report as inaccurate and biased.

This time, the commission will be chaired by William Schabas, a Canadian-born professor of international law at Middlesex University in London. Schabas said in an Aug. 12 interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that it would be “inappropriate” to assert that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Last year, Schabas said that Netanyahu would be his “favorite” leader to see tried at the International Criminal Court.

Schabas’ father is Jewish and he sits on the advisory board of the Israel Law Review. In the Channel 2 interview, he said he would not let his personal opinions affect his investigation.

“What someone who sits on a commission or a judge has to be able to do is to put these things behind them and start fresh, and this is of course what I intend to do,” Schabas said. “It’s in Israel’s interest to be there in that discussion and give its version of events. If it doesn’t, then that leaves an unfortunate one-sided picture of it.”

Israeli cooperation could have softened his report’s conclusions, Goldstone wrote in the 2011 Washington Post Op-Ed in which he backed down from the report’s most scathing criticism of Israel. Goldstone noted that subsequent investigations by the Israeli military indicated that it was not Israel’s intent to target civilians.

“Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn’t negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes,” Goldstone wrote. “Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants.”

Among Israeli legal experts, there is broad agreement that Israel must do its part to present its version of events, even while disagreeing about how best to do that. Only Israel’s state comptroller has indicated that he will be investigating the Gaza conflict.

Amichai Cohen, an international law expert at the Israel Democracy Institute, said the comptroller’s probe is insufficient and that Israel should launch an investigation by experts.

“The comptroller himself doesn’t have knowledge in international law, in criminal law, in military law. That’s not his specialty,” Cohen told JTA. “You need something independent and transparent.”

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based NGO UN Watch and a vocal critic of the Human Rights Council’s treatment of Israel, said Israel should do what it did in 2009: publish accounts from the conflict that show its side of the story without directly cooperating with the investigation.

“If the U.N. decides to have a one-sided inquiry, they will write a one-sided report,” Neuer said. “I’m confident Israel will make sure that the commission will have no excuse to say they didn’t have the information.”

Shlomy Zachary, a lawyer with the Palestinian legal rights group Yesh Din, urged Israel to cooperate with the United Nations, noting that its decision to work with a 2010 U.N. investigation of the so-called flotilla incident helped mitigate criticism of Israel.

That probe, known as the Palmer Commission, was charged with investigating the storming of a Turkish boat aimed at breaking Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The report ultimately condemned the raid, but it also criticized the conduct of protesters on board the ship and determined that the Gaza blockade was legal.

“When Israel cooperated with international bodies, the results were in favor of Israel,” Zachary told JTA. “When Israel is not willing to cooperate, it creates the suspicion it has something to hide.”

Neuer agreed that the 2010 probe was a good model for U.N. investigations, but he noted that it was supervised by the U.N. secretary-general, not the Human Rights Council. Neuer said that given the commission’s record of bias, Israel’s options are more limited.

Ultimately, the conclusions of the latest investigation will not be legally binding on Israel. But if its conclusions are harsh, it could further ratchet up international criticism. Cohen said that could put added pressure on Israel to exercise restraint should another round of conflict take place.

“The point in these commissions isn’t just to research the past, it’s to tell the future,” Cohen said. “The main problem is that a commission will say from now on, this or that should be prohibited. This is very problematic for Israel. That will make it harder next time.”

On packed flight to Israel, hundreds of American Jews, emboldened by Gaza crisis, start lives anew


Daniel Knafo was wide awake aboard the Boeing 747 as sunlight began peaking over the northern horizon of the Mediterranean Sea early on the morning of Aug. 12.

Less than 10 hours earlier, he was at the departure terminal of John F. Kennedy International Airport with more than 300 American Jews, all of them embarking on a journey to start new lives in Israel.

And shortly before that, the teenager was at Los Angeles International Airport, bidding farewell to the city he called home for the first 17 years of his life.

At about 5 a.m., Knafo was standing in the aisle of El Al chartered flight 3004, which was cruising above the Mediterranean and less than two hours west of Ben Gurion International Airport, where the Woodland Hills native  would step on to the tarmac with the other 338 other Jews onboard—young, old, married and single.

Guy Zohar and Daniel Knafo, both from the San Fernando Valley, at Ben Gurion Airport.

Of those, Knafo was also one of 108 young Jews planning to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces within the first few months of making Israel home. This flight was chartered by Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that promotes aliyah to Israel from North America and the United Kingdom. The group assists families and individuals in making the move, with financial support, assistance with the job hunt and other myriad obstacles that immigrants have to navigate.

It was the organization’s 52nd chartered aliyah flight since its founding in 2002, during which time, according to its website, Nefesh B’Nefesh has helped more than 30,000 diaspora Jews move to Israel.

The timing of this particular flight full of immigrants, or olim, may strike some as particularly poignant, given the on-and-off war that has enveloped Israel for the past several weeks—Hamas has fired 3,500 rockets into Israel since July 8, according to the IDF. And in response to the rockets and the discovery of more than 30 underground cross-border attack tunnels, Israel’s military launched a ground and air assault on Hamas’s strongholds in Gaza, most of which are densely populated within civilian neighborhoods. The war has left a reported 64 Israeli soldiers, three Israeli civilians, and 1,881 Palestinians dead.

But for Knafo and numerous other American olim interviewed by the Journal at JFK airport and aboard the flight, the Gaza war is not a deterrent to making aliyah—it is, at least in part, a catalyst to move to the Jewish state.

“I want to be there more than ever,” Knafo said, as dozens of fellow soon-to-be soldiers socialized around him. “Nothing will stop me from joining.”

Knafo, who attended El Camino Real High School and graduated from New Community Jewish High School, hopes to serve either in the IDF’s paratrooper unit (Tzanchanim) or in the elite Golani Brigade. He is honest with himself about the risks he will face. “If they tell you they are not scared, they’re lying,” he said of all the  young immigrants preparing for military service.

Not long before leaving, on July 20, Knafo attended an evening candlelight vigil in Los Angeles for Max Steinberg, another former student at El Camino Real High School who left Los Angeles to volunteer in the IDF. Steinberg and six other soldiers were killed in Gaza when their Golani unit’s vehicle was struck by Hamas anti-tank missiles in the first days of the IDF’s ground incursion.

Knafo said that he felt guilty leading a normal life while Israel was embroiled in war.
“It kills me that while they are fighting I’m in L.A. living the life, driving my car, going to the beach,” he said. “I don’t think its right. That’s why I want to be there more than ever.”

Knafo is one of 49 Jews from California who landed at Ben Gurion Airport early on the morning of Aug. 12 on the chartered flight—25 of whom will be joining the IDF. And while a large swath of the plane’s other passengers were also from New York and New Jersey (117 and 45, respectively), the group of olim hailed from places as far north as Alaska and Canada’s British Columbia, and as far south as Georgia and Florida.

Matt and Ariella Rosenblatt, also from Los Angeles, decided that this would be their last chance to make the move with their three children. Their oldest, Yishai, 8, was approaching the age when, Matt said, he and Ariella wouldn’t feel as comfortable starting a new life for the entire family.

Matt and Ariella Rosenblatt, moving to Israel from Los Angeles, with their three children at JFK after a ceremony led by Nefesh B'Nefesh

The Rosenblatts plan to stay with relatives this week until they receive the key to their apartment in Efrat; Matt, who had a job as an actuary in Los Angeles, will follow up on some work leads in Israel. Shortly before a joyful and celebratory departure ceremony at JFK—where the olim were greeted by Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor and American-born Knesset member Dov Lipman — Matt said he and Ariella discussed the distinctive timing of their move, but decided against delaying or cancelling .

“Had we been there already two months and then this started up while we were already there, we wouldn’t have come back, so, really, what’s the difference?” Matt said.

The Rosenblatts a few moments after landing in Israel. They will soon move into an apartment in Efrat.

Onboard, as the flight neared Israel, Ariella was keeping an eye on 1-year-old Yair, her youngest, and recalling the couples’ conversations about the fact that their children would eventually have to serve in the Israeli military.

“We’ve talked about it. We were like, ‘Wow, that’s two sons in the army,” she said. “It’s scary.”
Feeling “excited” and “a little nervous,” Ariella added, seeing your children serve in the military is a price of living in Israel, and that, “We need to be home when our country is in this situation.”

Throughout the group, not one person interviewed expressed regret or fear, either at the decision to start anew in Israel, or at the choice to go now and not wait until the advent of cease-fires that would endure in longer than 72-hour intervals.

In fact, the spirited mood on board the airplane echoed, on the one hand, the feel of a Jewish summer camp field trip (with teenagers and young adults mingling, sitting on laps and barely sleeping), and on another hand, the patriotic Zionist mission that it was. Many passengers wore shirts that read, “Aliyah is my protective edge,” a reference to Operation Protective Edge, the IDF’s official moniker for its Gaza campaign.

Whenever a Nefesh B’Nefesh staff member referenced over loudspeaker those on the flight who would be enlisting with the IDF, much of the plane erupted in applause.

And, upon arrival at Ben Gurion, the new arrivals were greeted by Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s recently appointed president, and Natan Sharansky, the renowned Soviet refusenik and chairman of the Jewish Agency—as well as hundreds of cheering Israelis and dozens of reporters and cameramen covering the arrival of the newcomers from North America.President Reuven Rivlin and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky greet the olim as they descend to the tarmac.

Lena Elkins, who flew Friday from her hometown of San Francisco to New York, was one of a small number of young olim aboard the flight who will jump straight into her professional life without first joining the military. A recent graduate of the University of Oregon, Elkins’ younger sister moved to Israel last year and is in the IDF.

Living in Israel, Elkins said a few hours into the flight, has been on her mind since a visit six years ago with the Jewish Federation’s Diller Teen Fellows Program. And while she wishes she had served in the military, she said finding work is her priority now. Doing so in Israel, she said, particularly now, is also a major part of the Zionist project.

“I think it [Gaza] honestly has strengthened it [aliyah],” Elkins said. “It’s what Israel needs right now. This is what Zionism is. It’s people being there for Israel.”

Shortly after stepping foot on the tarmac and getting a feel for the love Israelis heap on diaspora Jews who move here, Channah Barkhordarie, a recent doctoral graduate of UCLA, said aliyah entered her mind last September, when her PhD advisor moved to Israel.

Barkhordarie, like Elkins, has no plans to enlist in the military and views her decision to live here as a way to “support this state.”

“Coming here and studying here and living my life here—that’s my show of support,” she said.

Everyone, it seemed, had made their aliyah decision long before this summer’s turmoil but that decision was only rendered more meaningful by the recent war, as well as the deaths of three Israeli teens by terrorists that provoked the fighting.

Toby and Chaby Karan, from Riverdale, at JFK airport.

“We just couldn’t cope with just being here,” Toby Karan, who moved from Riverdale, N.Y. with his wife, Chava, and four children, said at JFK airport before departure. “There were days through the past two months, the hardest days, that we said we’d never more wanted to live in Israel.”

On the flight, Liat Aharon, 18, sat calmly in her seat as many of her friends around her bounced around the cabin. “It seems like a dream,” said the Encino native of the approach to Israel, but she added, “It keeps getting scarier and scarier; I can’t believe it’s already happening.”

When asked, though, whether she felt as if she was leaving home or going home, she responded immediately:

“I’m going home.”

Ban orders review following allegations UNRWA gave rockets back to Hamas


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commissioned a review of U.N. practices for relocating weapons found on its premises following reports that rockets found in an UNRWA school were returned to Hamas.

“The Secretary-General is alarmed to hear that rockets were placed in an UNRWA school in Gaza and that subsequently these have gone missing,” Ban said in a statement Wednesday, a day after the second such cache of weapons was uncovered in a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the principal group assisting Palestinian refugees.

“The Secretary-General has asked for a full review of such incidents and how the U.N. responds in such instances,” the statement said. “The United Nations is taking concerted action to increase its vigilance in preventing such episodes from happening again.”

Ban, the statement said, directed two security departments to “to immediately develop and implement an effective security plan for the safe and secure handling of any weapons discovered in U.N. premises.”

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, accused UNRWA of returning the missiles to Hamas when he met Wednesday with Ban, who is in the region trying to bring about a cease-fire, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Christopher McGrath, an UNRWA spokesman, told JTA in an email that UNRWA’s practice was to refer unexploded ordnance to “local authorities.” He said the local authorities in this case did not answer to Hamas but to the government of unaffiliated technocrats in Ramallah.

“They pledged to pass a message to all parties not to violate UNRWA neutrality,” he said of the authorities.

Another UNRWA spokesman said the missing weapons to which Ban referred was the second batch, discovered Tuesday. UNRWA evacuated the school, Christopher Gunness told JTA, and its staff sought appropriate personnel to remove the weapons only to discover the next day when they returned that the weapons had been removed.

“We evacuated the premises and placed a guard at the gate,” Gunness told JTA in an email from Jerusalem, where he is based.

“At the same time, we began intensive consultations to find an international actor to help survey the weapons so the extent of the problem could be ascertained and a safe disposal plan developed,” he said. “There were 1,500 displaced civilians in schools on either side of the installation and their safety was paramount. UNRWA staff did not re-enter the installation until the following day when displaced people from Beit Hanoun forced open the school seeking refuge. At that point our staff went to secure the area in which the weapons had been discovered the previous day and found they had been removed.”

Gunness noted that UNRWA staff have come under fire during the war. Three teachers, all women, were killed Thursday by Israeli fire — two in their residences, where family members also were killed, and one returning home from an UNRWA emergency shelter.

“Our hearts go out to their surviving family members,” he said.

 

U.N.’s Ban: Hamas stopping rocket fire would stop escalation


U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said an end to Hamas rocket fire was the only means of preventing an Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

“Today we face the risk of an all out escalation in Israel and Gaza with the threat of a ground offensive still palpable and preventable only if Hamas stops rocket firing,” Ban said Thursday at a Security Council session on the latest outbreak of hostilities.

Ban’s casting of the responsibility for ending the conflict principally on Hamas was unusual for a U.N. official.

Palestinian and Israeli representatives addressed the session of the council, the only body with decisions that have the force of international law.

Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, played the sound of a warning siren during his address. “Imagine having only 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter,” he said. “Now imagine doing it with small children or elderly parents or an ailing friend.”

Israel launched a counteroffensive on Thursday after an intensification of rocket fire. More than a hundred Palestinians have been killed so far in strikes by Israeli combat aircraft on suspected terrorist targets.

 

Ambassador Samantha Power condemns BDS


The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement against Israel hurts the chances of a just and lasting peace in the region, Ambassador Samantha Power, the permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations, declared Sunday evening, Feb. 23, at UCLA.

Delivering the 12th annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, Power outlined her critique of the international effort to isolate Israel. 

“I'd say a couple of things,” Power said in response to an audience member's question.  “First, we oppose boycotts and divestments and do not feel as if they are appropriate in this context at all, but also feel that they are disruptive to the most lasting way to bring about dignity and peace to both parties involved, which is this peace process that we have underway.”

The Middle East peace negotiations initiated by Secretary of State John Kerry, Power said, “really does stand a meaningful chance of achieving, again, security, peace, dignity and ultimately prosperity as well for the Palestinian people as well as for the State of Israel.” 

Power went on to condemn all efforts to delegitimize Israel, especially within the United Nations itself.   

She said that for years Israel was excluded from membership in the UN caucus on human rights, despite having a voting record on human rights that surpassed that of the United States.

“Israel has been trying to become a member of that group for as long as that group has existed, and Israel's record of voting coincidence with those of us who are a part of that group is higher than the United States's rate of voting coincidence with these other so called like minded; I mean we were close but Israel is completely like-minded with the countries in the group,” the ambassador said.

Two weeks ago, after months of “relentlessly lobbying” and making Israel's case, Power was finally able to persuade caucus members to admit Israel. 

Before assuming her ambassadorship in August 2013, Power established herself as a leading defender of human rights and an expert on genocide in the modern era. Power served as a senior advisor to Barack Obama in 2008 during his presidential campaign.   In late November 2008, she was named Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council and chaired the Atrocities Prevention Board. While serving as ambassador, she has focused  on UN reform, women's and LGBT rights, human trafficking, refugees and the promotion of human rights and democracy.  She is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, a study of the U.S. foreign policy response to genocide.  

“It is completely anachronistic that all these years after the country's founding it's literally like the kid in the corner who can't even find its way into a group when at the same time, it's sending, you know, medical doctors to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, it's laying down resolutions in the General Assembly to try to alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship and through new technologies in agriculture, which Israel of course has a lot of experience on,” Power concluded. 

Israel, Power said, “has a lot to offer the rest of the world so we are believers that integration is the best route actually to bring about peace and security and ultimately justice.” 


The full text of Power's reply is here:

“I'd say a couple of things,” Power said in response to an audience member's question.  “First, we oppose boycotts and divestments and do not feel as if they are appropriate in this context at all, but also feel that they are disruptive to the most lasting way to bring about dignity and peace to both parties involved, which is this peace process that we have underway.  It really does stand a meaningful chance of achieving, again, security, peace, dignity and ultimately prosperity as well for the Palestinian people as well as for the State of Israel.”

“I think efforts of delegitimation are counterproductive and something we deal with at the United Nations a lot, and I'll just give you a couple examples of, you know, things we have done in the short time that I have been there.”

“Every country in the United Nations belongs to a kind of regional group in which they do their work.  We do our negotiating within a sort of caucus, it's like caucuses within the Senate, and at the United Nations in New York, we have a little caucus that works on human rights issues; human rights issues, you know let's say South Sudan or LGBT issues and so forth.  Israel has been trying to become a member of that group for as long as that group has existed, and Israel's record of voting coincidence with those of us who are a part of that group is higher than the United States's rate of voting coincidence with these other so called like minded; I mean we were close but Israel is completely like-minded with the countries in the group.”

” Despite years of trying to get Israel into the group it was excluded, and finally two weeks ago just again through relentless lobbying and through making a functional case for why it was in our interest to bring Israel into this conversation and into this grouping, Israel was admitted. This has been a priority of mine… since I [ ] work…slowly in Geneva, Israel had been… there is a regional group known as the Western European and other group and, yeah you never want to be the other until you have no place else to go.  And again, you know, it is in all of our interest to bring Israel into the community of nations.”

” It is completely anachronistic that all these years after the country's founding it's literally like the kid in the corner who can't even find its way into a group when at the same time, it's sending, you know, medical doctors to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, it's laying down resolutions in the General Assembly to try to alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship and through new technologies in agriculture which Israel of course has a lot of experience on and has a lot to offer the rest of the world so we are believers that integration is the best route actually to bring about peace and security and ultimately justice.”

 

Hear Samantha Power's comments in the video above.