Screenshot from Twitter.

Palestinian Terrorist Injures Two Israelis in West Bank


A Palestinian terrorist injured two people in the West Bank on Friday morning through the use of a vehicle.

The terrorist, who is 17 years old and has yet to be identified publicly, rammed into two Israelis at two different West Bank locations. The terrorist struck the first victim, 70-year-old David Ramati, nearby the Efrat settlement with his car going at 60 miles per hour while having “a big smile on his face.”

The second victim, 35-year-old Even Ezer Holaring, was struck at the Gush Etzion Junction. The terrorist proceeded to exit the vehicle and attempted to stab Israeli soldiers. He was eventually shot by Israeli soldiers and is currently in critical condition.

Ramati is currently hospitalized with a head injury that is not believed to be serious. Holaring is in serious condition with an intracranial hemorrhage.

“His condition is very serious and I am asking everyone to pray for him,” said Holaring’s wife in a video to the hospital.

No Israeli soldiers were harmed in the attack.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the attacks by establishing a checkpoint at the West Bank village of Halhul.

“IDF troops are enforcing breathing closure on Halhul village, from which the terrorist came, in order to prevent additional assailants from leaving the village,” the IDF said in a statement.

The terrorist’s family is being interrogated for more information.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Donald Trump at he White House on May 3. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

White House explains redirected funds to Palestinians


A White House official confirmed Jewish Insider’s report on Wednesday that the Trump administration had quietly transferred an additional $20 million to Palestinian wastewater programs after the funds were frozen from an Egyptian economic aid package. “The State Department came to us and said they had identified this particular piece of money and these were, if I recall, FY2016 (Fiscal Year) funds that disappear at the end of September,” the White House official told Jewish Insider last week.

[This article originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

However, the Trump administration source objected to an assertion made by a Congressional aide that the Trump administration was rushing to move the funds to West Bank water programs before the Taylor Force Act could be passed. Last month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Taylor Force Act, legislation introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would cut off all U.S. economic aid that “directly benefits” the P.A. until they cease payments to families of terrorists. “There was a particular window for this so that the money would be used. TFA (Taylor Force Act) would have no impact on this even if they passed it tomorrow. There wasn’t an ‘oh my gosh, let’s get this money before Taylor Force passes,’” the White House official added.

The official said that there were numerous Palestinian projects that the U.S. would like to support. “But when you have terrorists stabbing American citizens in the back and tax paying dollars used to support these people, the President said very clearly to President Abbas in both Washington and Bethlehem in May, this is intolerable to us,” the source emphasized.

On a separate note, the White House official declined to opine regarding an announcement from Hamas last week that the U.S. designated terror group would dissolve the Gaza administrative committee and move towards a unity government. “Our feeling is very much wait and see. There have been lots of attempts at this before,” the White House official noted. “We appreciate the Egyptians (mediation) efforts to try and come to some resolution to do this.”

After Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections, the Islamist party joined with Fatah to form a national unity government in March 2007. The Bush Administration condemned this Palestinian government and refused to provide it with any assistance. This policy lasted until June 2007 when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the unity government following Hamas’ military coup in Gaza. Given the longstanding US policy of boycotting Hamas, any openness by the Trump administration towards the Islamist group playing some sort of internationally recognized political role is considered noteworthy.

Abbas rebuked U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman during his September 20 speech at the U.N. General Assembly for referring to the “alleged occupation” of Palestinian territories. When asked if the White House agrees with Friedman regarding the “alleged occupation” or the State Department that quickly clarified its decades old policy of calling the West Bank “occupied territory,” the White House official responded, “That’s simply not my question to answer. I am going to let David (Friedman) speak to that. It wasn’t my call. My personal views aren’t really relevant. That was his statement so I would refer that to him.”

Despite some reports that the U.S. is planning a regional summit with Israel and Arab Gulf states to accelerate the peace process, the Trump administration official noted that no such meeting is currently in the works.

The White House official declined to elaborate on the timetable when the U.S. plans to present Israelis and Palestinians with its peace plan or if there have been any concrete advancements towards peace during talks with Netanyahu or Abbas.

Asked what options the administration was considering, in light of the President’s unwillingness to exclusively back a two state solution,  the White House official explained, “It goes back to the other question. The President said one state or two states: it’s for the two parties to agree on. It’s not for us to say: here are your options.”

Lavishing praise on Netanyahu’s UN address, the White House source explained, “It was a very strong speech. Obviously, the President appreciated the strong expression of support. It doesn’t make us unhappy to have the Prime Minister of Israel very pleased with President Trump’s speech and perhaps the Venezuelans, Iranians and North Koreans less so. It draws a very clear contrast between the leaders of other countries. I thought the very positive message this year about what Israel offers the world was extremely valuable.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Bernie Sanders sponsors event supporting Palestinian village of Susiya


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is sponsoring a September 19th briefing on Capitol Hill to highlight the cause of the Palestinian village, Susiya, which is designated for demolition by the Israeli Army, a Senate staffer confirmed to Jewish Insider.

[This article originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

While the briefing marks International Peace Day which is September 21, due to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, it has been moved to the 19th to allow those celebrating to attend, according to a copy of the invitation. The organizer Rebuilding Alliance declined to publicize Sanders’ sponsorship in its invitation.

The California-based Rebuilding Alliance is slated to fly-in children from the West Bank villages of Susiya and Al-Aqaba along with Gaza. “It is our hope that upon hearing their presentation, members of Congress will personally make calls to the Israeli Embassy to express concern, stop the demolitions, recognize Palestinian planning rights, turn on the lights, and assure due process,” the event explains.

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Susiya is an illegally constructed outpost near Hebron and “are continuing to build in defiance of a court order.” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has written multiple letters to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on Jerusalem not to demolish the contested village.

Earlier this year, Sanders was one of four Senators to send a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson highlighting the case of Palestinian activist Issa Amro, who is charged by the Israeli military for obstructing soldiers. The Vermont lawmaker also delivered a harsh critique of Israel’s conduct in the 1948 war at the J Street conference last February. “Like our own country, the founding of Israel involved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people already living there, the Palestinian people. Over 700,000 people were made refugees,” he said.

The September 19 briefing will be the second pro-Palestinian event on Capitol Hill this year. In June, Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) sponsored an event titled: “50 Years of Israeli Military Occupation & Life for Palestinian Children.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Photo by Jacob Kornbluh

After amendment, Booker now supports Taylor Force Act


With a significant change in the latest version of the Taylor Force Act, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) will now support the effort after an amendment was agreed to on Thursday by the Appropriations Committee, a Booker aide told Jewish Insider. The New Jersey lawmaker was one of four Democratic Senators to vote against the Taylor Force Act in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month.

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

According to section five of last month’s bill, all U.S. funding to programs in the West Bank and Gaza would end unless the Secretary of State could certify every 180 days that the Palestinian Authority is taking credible steps to stop violence against Israelis, in addition to ending all payments to terrorists and their families.

However, in an updated version advanced out of the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, and sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the text clarifies that the U.S. funding to the West Bank and Gaza would only be severed for assistance that “directly benefits the P.A.” Therefore, U.S. funding towards humanitarian projects assisting Palestinians would now be permitted, a key demand by Booker who was concerned about the impact of cutting off U.S. aid to Palestinians not involved with committing acts of terrorism.

Programs that will now be exempted include “Kids4peace” which connects Israeli and Palestinian children from West and East Jerusalem to celebrate religious diversity. Additionally, the “Olive Oil without Borders” project that builds economic cooperation between Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians and encourages women-led businesses.

Earlier this week, the hawkish Committee for Israel launched an attack ad against Booker accusing him of “throwing Israel under the bus” for his vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Booker is considered a possible 2020 Presidential candidate.

Originally introduced in February, the legislation would cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until they cease payments to families of terrorists. Graham included the provision into the Fiscal Year 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill on Thursday. The bill is named after a former U.S. Army officer who was stabbed to death while participating in a study abroad program in Tel Aviv last year.

In a statement released last month, Booker explained his committee vote, “As recently as the day before the vote there was confusion among State Department officials over provisions in the bill and exactly what impact they would have on Israel’s security and the stability of the region.”

However, even the revised version of the bill faces other considerations. As Jewish Insider first reported, the U.S. will likely be unable to participate in the water agreement trumpeted by the Trump administration due to cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.

Given the scarcity of floor time in the Senate, it appears that the Taylor Force Act will go to the floor through the annual appropriations bill rather than in a standalone bill.

Jason Greenblatt in Israel. Photo from Facebook

Greenblatt’s Gaza proposal leaves more questions than answers


Towards the end of Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt’s trip to the Middle East this week, he visited the Israeli-Gaza border with IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. “It is clear that the Palestinian Authority must resume its role in managing the Gaza Strip,” Greenblatt declared and explained, “since Hamas has severely harmed the residents and failed to meet their most basic needs.”

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

Yet, Middle East experts questioned how realistic Greenblatt’s proposal is and urged more clarity from the Trump administration in how they would implement the return of PA rule in Gaza. “I think it is good that the Trump Administration expressed support for PA governing Gaza,” explained David Makovsky, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The question remains how to make this happen. Abbas missed a moment to establish the PA back in Gaza after the 2014 war. The PA has yet to put forward a plan that would make Gazans believe they care about them. For Abbas to win back Gazans, he cannot speak in generalizations but he needs a plan. The US cannot want the PA back more than the PA itself.”

Following the 2014 Hamas-Israeli conflict, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected a United Nations Security Council resolution supported by the United States, France, and Jordan to return PA forces to Gaza, Walla News reported.

“Absent any strategy or structure, it’s a pipe dream today,” said Grant Rumley, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). “There are no incentives for Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza when it can have (Abdel Fatah) Sisi or (Mohammad) Dahlan and the U.A.E. bail it out, and there are no incentives for Abbas to risk troops and political capital without guarantees that a repeat of the 2007 civil war won’t happen. Re-inserting the PA into Gaza will require a framework, regional buy-in, and a leadership in Ramallah that is willing to take risks — I see none of those on the horizon today.”

A White House spokesman declined Jewish Insider’s request for comment on the White House’s proposal.

Conditions in Gaza remain dire. Power in Gaza has declined to approximately four hours a day after the P.A. reduced fuel payments to the impoverished enclave. Unemployment in the impoverished enclave has spiked to 42% and among youth it’s at 58%. Hamas and Israel have fought three bloody wars resulting in thousands of casualties between 2008-2014.

Khaled Elgindy, a Brookings fellow focusing on Palestinian politics, cautioned, “Various Palestinian officials have said in one form or the other that they will not go back to Gaza on the back of Israeli tanks. The fact that this statement is coming from the Trump administration may not be helping things. People in Hamas may be looking at it: ‘Wait a minute, Is this an attempt to try and impose something on Hamas?’”

The timing of Greenblatt’s statement supporting the return of Fatah rule in Gaza is noteworthy in light of a senior Israeli government official’s comments to Yediot Achronoton Tuesday clarifying that Jerusalem is “interested in the stability of Hamas rule in Gaza.” Elgindy asked, “Does that mean the US and Israel are not on the same page when it comes to Gaza?”

While backing the Trump administration’s focus on the challenge of Gaza, Rumley concluded, “Unfortunately, absent any parameters or way forward, the Trump administration is likely to reach the same dead-end as the Bush and Obama administrations.”

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Aug. 9. Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

White House declines to criticize Netanyahu for comments on settlements


A senior Trump administration official refrained from criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for promising on Monday that he would not uproot West Bank settlements. “It is no secret what each side’s position is on this issue,” a senior White House official told Jewish Insider. “Our focus is on continuing our conversations with both parties and regional leaders to work towards facilitating a deal that factors in all substantive issues.”

[This article originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

Addressing an event celebrating 50 years of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Netanyahu said, “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel. This is the inheritance of our ancestors. This is our land.”

Netanyahu’s remarks come shortly after a senior White House delegation visited Israel and the West Bank in the Trump administration’s quest to secure the “ultimate deal” or a final status peace agreement. President Donald Trump had previously refused to endorse a two state solution, breaking with previous Democrat and Republican presidents.

In a readout of Jared Kushner’s meeting with Netanyahu last week, the White House said, “The United States delegation encouraged Israel to create an environment conducive to peacemaking, including by working with the Palestinians on projects of mutual interest and benefit.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed the Trump administration and suggested that the U.S. was biased against Ramallah during the ongoing peace talks in a July 31 interview with Jewish Insider.

“Israel announces thousands of new settlement units that make it almost impossible to achieve the two-state solution, and it’s merely met with silence from U.S. officials,” Erekat said.

Jared Kushner, left, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Aug. 24. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/Israeli Government Press Office

Jared Kushner was in the Middle East. Did Trump’s A team bring a peace plan?


Seven months into the Trump presidency, Israel and the Palestinians, along with other countries in the Middle East and experts on policy in the region, are still waiting for the U.S. administration to describe its preferred framework for peace there.

Kushner, who Trump has charged with brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, arrived Wednesday in Israel for his third visit to the region. He and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s top international negotiator, and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser, held meetings the following day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before wrapping up a Middle East tour that the U.S. described as “productive,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Something has to come out of this trip that demonstrates that the peace process is not dead and buried,” Aaron David Miller, a veteran Middle East peace negotiator under Republican and Democratic presidents who is now president at the Wilson Center, told JTA. “The whole world is watching. Some sort of event or framework is necessary.”

Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organization envoy in Washington, D.C., was more blunt at a meeting earlier this month with reporters.

“We need them to tell us where the hell they are going,” he said.

For its part, the Trump administration does not appear to be poised on the brink of a breakthrough. The Palestinians had hoped for a commitment to two states — Trump in February had retreated from 15 years of explicit U.S. commitment to the outcome. But on Wednesday, as Kushner’s party was landing in Israel, Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman, made it clear that nothing on the two-state front had changed.

“We are not going to state what the outcome has to be,” she said. “It has to be workable to both sides. And I think, really, that’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it.”

The inclination toward caution — leaving the pace of advancement to the parties — is a reaction to the burns suffered by the United States when previous administrations took a more proactive role in brokering peace.

It’s an experience Kushner is keen not to revisit — something he made clear earlier this month in a leaked chat with congressional interns. Kushner rarely speaks in public, and the exchange last month was a rare insight into how he has been approaching the renewal of the peace talks. It underscored how embryonic the administration’s approach was to peacemaking.

“So what do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know,” Kushner said in a recording obtained by Wired magazine. “And we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution. And there may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on.”

Kushner’s remarks — hesitant, if not feckless — were  in contrast with the intensity of the Trump administration’s activity at the start of his presidency, said Daniel Shapiro, the Obama administration’s ambassador to Israel from 2011 to 2017. In addition to Greenblatt’s near constant presence in the region and the two visits by Kushner, Trump visited Israel and the Palestinian areas in his first overseas trip as president, and has hosted Netanyahu and Abbas at the White House.

“Trump obtained a significant degree of leverage through his first meetings” with Netanyahu and Abbas, Shapiro said. “That kind of leverage is wasting an asset if it’s not used.”

A perception that has arisen: One of the obstacles to a coherent White House Middle East policy was infighting between relative traditionalists like Kushner and Powell — a Middle East hand who served in senior positions in the George W. Bush administration — and hard-liners like Stephen Bannon, the former White House strategist. Vanity Fair reported this week that Bannon lobbied hard to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, and “pushed a tougher line against the Palestinians than Kushner did.”

Pro-Israel groups that favor a hard line in dealing with the Palestinians lamented the appointment of David Satterfield, a veteran U.S. diplomat with experience in the Middle East, as acting assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs. The Zionist Organization of America worries that Satterfield will bring “unwarranted pressure on Israel.”

ZOA has also labeled Powell, who directed charitable activities at Goldman Sachs after serving as assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs in the George W. Bush administration, as “hostile to Israel.”

If Bannon’s exit from the White House means the administration will adopt a more traditional “honest broker” approach to the Middle East, some suggest that Kushner is likelier to push for talks — and compromise — on both sides.

The ex-negotiator Miller said that didn’t seem likely. Bannon’s preoccupations were elsewhere, he said, and in any case, it’s not as if Kushner and Greenblatt — Orthodox Jews with longstanding ties to Israel, including to its settlement movement — were slouches when it came to defending the country’s interests.

“You didn’t need Steve Bannon to create a huge sort of tsunami tilt in favor of Israeli sensibilities,” Miller said, as opposed to the coolness of U.S.-Israel relations under the Obama administration.

Another factor inhibiting a breakthrough is the domestic tribulations of each leader. Both Netanyahu and Trump are facing the possibility of criminal inquiries into their administrations, and Abbas faces the old internal challenge from Hamas, the terrorist group running the Gaza Strip, and newer ones from younger leaders in his own Fatah movement.

Still, the itinerary of the Kushner trip suggests the nascent stages of a grander strategy, according to Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The U.S. delegation, which included stops in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

“There is still interest across the region to explore a regional architecture for peace,” Schanzer said, referring to plans that Trump and Netanyahu have touted in the past that would create the conditions for a broader and simultaneous peace deal among Israel, the Palestinians and other Arab states.

“This idea is that the Israelis and the Arabs could find ways to ensure a better quality of life and some progress toward autonomy for the Palestinians while simultaneously exploring shared regional priorities with the Arabs,” he said, including shared strategies to confront Islamist terrorist groups and contain Iran’s influence. “If done in parallel, it could be productive.”

The time to strike on such a regional approach was now, Schanzer warned, noting that both Russia and China were making inroads into the region.

“You’ve got the Russians effectively commanding the Israelis to pay visits,” he said, referring to Netanyahu’s visit this week to Moscow, which seemed to preoccupy the Israeli leader more than the Kushner visit.

Russia maintains a presence in Syria, and Israel is pressing Russian President Vladimir Putin to make sure that any outcome in that country’s civil war is not to the benefit of Russia’s de facto allies in the conflict, Iran and Hezbollah.

According to Schanzer, “The Trump administration needs to guard this portfolio jealously if they want to maintain control” in the Middle East.

Supporters of ousted Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan stage a protest against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outside the Palestinian Legislative Council building, in Gaza City, Gaza, on Dec. 18, 2014. Photo by Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Palestinian power struggle over future of Gaza


Ousted Palestinian strongman Mohammed Dahlan has a plan to work with the Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip and with Egypt to take over the failing Gaza Strip and the almost two million Palestinians who live there. At the same time, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is a bitter rival of Dahlan’s, is launching his own reconciliation effort with Hamas, after weeks of squeezing the Islamist movement in Gaza.

Dahlan, a wealthy Palestinian businessman who lives in Abu Dhabi, is a former head of the Palestinian Security Services in Gaza and had a force of 20,000 men at his disposal. Dahlan had close ties with US intelligence services and the CIA. Some Palestinians have accused him of being an Israeli agent.

[This story originally appeared on themedialine.org]

Now Dahlan is coordinating with Egypt to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, and to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. As a first step, Egypt has begun providing Gaza with fuel for some electricity, after Israel, at Abbas’ request, cut the amount of fuel it supplies to Gaza. Gazans now have four hours per day of electricity followed by 12 hours of blackout.

“This Egyptian gesture is positive and some say it’s because of Dahlan,” Mkheimer Abusada, a political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza told The Media Line. “They say he convinced the Egyptians to supply fuel to substitute for the Israeli cutback. There are also hopes that in a month Rafah will reopen.”

Dahlan used to be a fierce critic of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA), charging the PA with widespread corruption. Abbas, the head of the Fatah party, and Dahlan are bitter rivals, and Abbas has repeatedly accused Dahlan of murdering Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a charge Dahlan vehemently denies. In 2014 Dahlan was sentenced to 15 years in jail in a Ramallah court, meaning he could be jailed if he returns to the West Bank.

In the past few weeks, Dahlan has outlined how a power-sharing deal with Hamas might work. Hamas has a new leader, Yihye Sinwar, who is known as a hard-liner. Sinwar and Dahlan also grew up together in the Khan Yunis refugee camp.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Dahlan said that the UAE has agreed to spend $100 million to build a power plant for Gaza on the Egyptian side of the border.

Most Palestinian analysts say that the people of Gaza are willing to support anyone who can relieve their suffering.

“The people of Gaza support any honest national movement that serves their interest,” Islam Atallah, a Palestinian political analyst in Gaza told The Media Line. “The real catastrophe is the Palestinian division and corruption. There is a struggle between Fatah and Hamas for power, and they are putting narrow interests above the people.”

Polls show that Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza want “national reconciliation” or an end to the divisions between the two areas. Although not territorially contiguous, Palestinians say that both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, along with east Jerusalem, must be part of a future Palestinian state. There is some fear that if the Dahlan plan goes through, Gaza would in effect be a separate Palestinian mini-state.

Abbas this week held a rare meeting with Hamas politicians in his Ramallah office.

“There are concrete reconciliation plans, which include the dissolving of Hamas’ “administrative committee” controlling Gaza, implementing a national government with full sovereignty over the Strip and a plan for general elections across Palestine, Abbas told the Anadolu Agency last month.

But most analysts say they do not believe that Abbas’ overtures to Hamas will bear fruit.

“Several Hamas spokesmen said they are ready to dissolve their government in Gaza if the PA will take full responsibility including paying 43,000 Hamas employees in Gaza,” Palestinian professor Abusada said. “That is impossible and President Abbas won’t do it.”

Abbas says that he should take over Gaza leading eventually to new elections, and is demanding that Hamas scrap any deal with Dahlan. Fatah and Hamas have been bitter rivals since Hamas took over Gaza in a 2007 coup that included incidents of Hamas gunmen throwing Fatah fighters off rooftops in Gaza.

Abbas has squeezed Hamas hard in the past few months. He has forced thousands of civil servants in Gaza into early retirement, cut PA funding for electricity in Gaza, and even made it harder for Palestinians in Gaza to enter the West Bank for medical treatment.

Israel so far has not commented on any of the new plans for the future of Gaza. Israel, like the US, says Hamas is a terrorist organization, and refuses to have any direct contact with it. Ties with Abbas are also strained over last month’s crisis surrounding metal detectors at a Jerusalem holy site. Israel says Abbas was not a constructive force in solving that issue and encouraged violent protests. Israel’s position on Dahlan being in charge in Gaza is unclear.

Former Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, middle, waits to hear the ruling at an Israeli military appeals court in Tel Aviv on July 30. Photo by Dan Balilty/Reuters

Israeli soldier asks army chief for leniency after losing appeal in shooting of downed Palestinian


Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, convicted of shooting a downed Palestinian terrorist, has asked the head of the Israel Defense Forces for leniency.

Azaria made the request of Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot days after a military appeals court upheld both the conviction and the 18-month prison sentence, which the prosecution had called too lenient. Azaria reportedly will not appeal the decisions to Israel’s Supreme Court.

In the letter, Azaria reportedly repeated his defense that he believed the Palestinian attacker was planning a suicide bombing from his prone position after he was shot and injured by other soldiers.

Azaria has not expressed remorse for his actions; regretting them could help him obtain leniency, observers say.

Azaria’s attorney, Yoram Sheftel, attacked Eisenkot in a television interview Monday, saying the chief of staff “is fat and doesn’t project a soldierly image in his appearances.”

Following the verdict, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and several other Israeli government ministers called for Azaria to be pardoned. Netanyahu also backed a pardon following Azaria’s conviction in January.

Azaria also noted his mother’s reliance on sleeping pills and his father’s stroke in the wake of the case, The Times of Israel reported.

Azaria, who was sentenced in February, has been under house arrest since leaving the military last week. He had been confined to the closed Nachshonim military base since being arrested in March 2016.

A medic in the elite Kfir Brigade, Azaria came on the scene following a Palestinian stabbing attack on soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 24, 2016. One assailant was killed, and Abdel Fattah al-Sharif was injured. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head in a shooting that was captured on video by a local resident for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Azaria was arrested the same day and indicted nearly a month later. Autopsy reports showed that the shots by Azaria killed Sharif. Prior to shooting Sharif, Azaria had cared for a stabbed soldier.

A general view of the West Bank city of Hebron on July 7. Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters

Poll: Palestinians’ support for two-state solution rising


A nearly equal majority of Israelis and Palestinians back a two-state solution, and the Palestinians’ support is rising, a new poll shows.

Support among Israelis is at 53 percent, a decline of 2 percentage points since December, and at 52 percent among Palestinians both in the West Bank and Gaza, an increase of 8 points, according to Palestinian-Israeli Pulse: A Joint Poll, published July 31.

Tel Aviv University’s Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah conducted the survey with funding from the European Union and the Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah.

The poll was conducted in June and early July among representative samples of 1,200 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and 900 Israelis, with an additional sample of Jewish settlers and Arab citizens.

The margin of error for both surveys was plus or minus 3 percent.

The survey tested the details of a permanent peace agreement, with incentives for those who are opposed; perceptions of the other; and alternate scenarios to the two-state solution, including both equal and unequal versions of one state, and a confederation of two states.

When presented with a peace agreement package based on previous rounds of negotiations — including a demilitarized Palestinian state and Israeli withdrawal to pre-June 1967 lines with land swaps; family unification in Israel of 100,000 Palestinian refugees; West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, with the Old City divided among the two sides; and the end of the conflict and claims — overall Israeli support declined to 41 percent from 46 percent in December, with backing among Jewish Israelis falling to 32 percent from 41 percent. Palestinian support rose 4 percent to 43 percent, with much of the rise coming from Gazans.

Incentives offered to those who opposed the peace agreement package caused the total support to rise on both sides. Among the incentives offered was the release of all Palestinian prisoners, which caused Palestinian support to rise to 73 percent; Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, which spurred support among Jewish Israelis to rise to 58 percent; and changing educational textbooks on both sides to remove incitement, raising support by one-third on both sides.

Some 57.5 percent of all Palestinians and 58.3 percent of all Israelis opposed the idea of a confederation of a Palestinian state and the State of Israel in which citizens of each country could live in the territory of the other under their laws, with security and the economy handled jointly by both countries.

A majority of Palestinians, or 52.3 percent, believe a two-state solution is no longer viable, and 43.9 percent of Israelis agree. In a separate question, 58 percent of Palestinians and 61.4 percent of Israelis opposed one state for Palestinians and Israelis.

Some 47.2 percent of Israelis support or strongly support the evacuation of Jewish settlements under a peace agreement, with 44.8 percent opposing or strongly opposing such a move.

In a question on the perception of others, 39.6 percent of Palestinians said they agreed or certainly agreed with the statement “I feel fear toward Israeli Jews,” and 67.5 percent of Jewish Israelis agreed or certainly agreed with the statement “I feel fear toward Palestinians.” Some 53.3 percent of Palestinians said they disagreed or certainly disagreed with the statement “Most Israelis want peace,” and 62.2 percent of Israelis said they disagreed or certainly disagreed with the statement “Most Palestinians want peace.”

Muhammad Harouf, a Palestinian resident of Nablus is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on suspicion of murdering his partner Michal Halimi on Aug. 2. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Palestinian man confesses to killing his pregnant Israeli girlfriend, police say


A Palestinian man confessed to killing his pregnant Israeli girlfriend, Israel Police said.

Michal Halimi, 29, from the West Bank settlement of Adam, has been missing for more than two months. Her body was found in Holon, on the coast of central Israel, on May 24.

Halimi reportedly was eight months pregnant, as well as reportedly married to an Israeli man.

She had left her home voluntarily to move in with her boyfriend, Muhammad Harouf of Nablus, the police said in a statement Wednesday. Police said that based on both of their Facebook pages, the couple had intended to get engaged and be married.

When Harouf was first interrogated there were contradictions in his responses, which led to a continuing investigation and questioning of other witnesses to the couple’s relationship, according to police.

Police interrogated Harouf several more times before he confessed and reconstructed the murder for police. He said he met Halimi in Holon, choked her, threw stones at her head, buried her and left the area in her car, according to police.

A motive for the murder has not been determined, but in the courtroom at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, Harouf kicked a prison guard and yelled, “I’ll kill all the Jews,” the Ynet news website reported. “I wanted to free prisoners,” he yelled to reporters as he exited the courtroom.

David Friedman testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Feb. 16, 2017. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Image.

Trump to meet with US ambassador to Israel over Temple Mount crisis


President Donald Trump will meet with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Temple Mount crisis.

The meeting is scheduled for late Monday morning, Haaretz reported. An unnamed White House official told the Israeli newspaper that Friedman was coming to Washington this week “as part of a long-planned trip.”

“In addition to a variety of meetings, he will be meeting with the president, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt tomorrow to discuss the events that transpired in the region over the past two weeks where tensions have recently lowered,” the official told Haaretz.

Friedman reportedly was involved in working to reduce tensions over the increased security measures at the Temple Mount, which ultimately were removed. The metal detectors and other measures were installed after a July 14 attack by three Arab-Israeli men that left two Druze-Israeli police officers dead.

Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy for international relations, also visited Israel last week, also in a bid to help lower the tensions at the Temple Mount.

Both men last week visited the shiva for three members of the Salomon family who were killed by a Palestinian assailant as they sat at their Shabbat table in the West Bank settlement of Halamish celebrating the birth of a baby boy in the family. Friedman also visited the families of the Israel Police officers killed on the Temple Mount.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking about Iran and North Korea at the State Department in Washington, D.C., April 19, 2017. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

ZOA calls on Tillerson to quit over State Department saying Palestinian terrorism stems from ‘lack of hope’


The Zionist Organization of America called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to resign over the State Department terrorism report which the ZOA called “bigoted, biased, anti-Semitic, Israel-hating (and) error-ridden.”

“This Tillerson State Department Report blames Israel for Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks on innocent Jews and Americans, ignores and whitewashes the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) ‘pay to slay’ payments to Arabs to murder Jews, among other travesties,” said a ZOA statement Monday about the report, published last week.

In the report, the State Department listed as “continued drivers of violence” a “lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.”

It also said that Palestinian leaders had addressed incitement.

“The PA has taken significant steps during President [Mahmoud] Abbas’ tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence,” it said. “While some PA leaders have made provocative and inflammatory comments, the PA has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to violence.”

The ZOA said that the report directly contradicted multiple criticisms of the Palestinian Authority for incitement by President Donald Trump and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.

The ZOA statement praised Rep. Pete Roskam, R-Ill., for his letter to the State Department last week seeking changes in the report.

“I strongly you encourage to modify this report to accurately characterize and hold accountable the root causes of Palestinian violence — PA leadership,” Roskam said.

Israeli forces patrolling in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, July 20, 2017. (Mamoun Wazwaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Three Israelis reportedly killed, one wounded in West Bank stabbing attack


Three Israelis reportedly were killed and one wounded in a stabbing attack in a West Bank settlement north of Ramallah.

Two men and a woman reportedly died of their wounds, while a woman in her 60s was seriously injured in the attack in Halamish, according to The Times of Israel. Israeli media reports said the attacker was shot but survived.

Israel TV’s Channel 10 said the assailant, who entered the home of victims, was in his late teens and had posted on Facebook that he was upset by events at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, where Palestinians and Israeli security forces clashed this week over the Israeli government’s decision to keep in place indefinitely metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount.

Eli Bin, the head of Israel’s rescue service Magen David Adom, said an off-duty soldier next door heard screams, rushed to the home and shot the attacker through a window, according to ABC News. Bin said the attacker was wounded and evacuated to hospital.

On Friday, three Palestinians reportedly were killed in clashes between rioters and police in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Six Israeli police officers were injured in the rioting, touched off after Israel installed metal detectors at the Temple Mount in response to a July 14 terrorist shooting near the holy site that killed two Israeli police officers. The previous night, some 42 people were wounded in clashes between security forces and Palestinian protesters, who rioted during rallies against the introduction of the metal detectors, Army Radio reported.

The Temple Mount compound contains the Haram al Sharif area that is holy to Muslims.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner on June 19. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt after Netanyahu meeting: Making peace will ‘take time’


Arriving at an Israeli-Palestinian peace will “take time,” President Donald Trump’s top two negotiators said after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The United States officials and Israeli leadership underscored that forging peace will take time and stressed the importance of doing everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking,” the White House said in a readout after the meeting Wednesday between Netanyahu and Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump and his Jewish son-in-law, and Jason Greenblatt, his special envoy to the region.

The cautious tone appeared to defer to Netanyahu’s preference to go slow in advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace. Netanyahu does not believe that the Palestinians are fully committed to coexistence and accuses their leadership of continuing to incite violence.

For their part, Palestinian Authority officials have enthusiastically embraced Trump’s hopes of reviving the talks and have dropped some previous prior demands, including that Israel freeze settlement building.

Greenblatt and Kushner have been tasked with reviving peace negotiations. Greenblatt has visited the region multiple times since Trump became president in January, while Kushner was making his first visit as an envoy. He accompanied Trump during his one-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian areas last month.

Also present at the meeting was David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

“The three United States officials discussed Israel’s priorities and potential next steps with Prime Minister Netanyahu, acknowledging the critical role Israel plays in the security of the region,” the readout said.

Greenblatt and Kushner also plan to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during their visit before returning to Washington, D.C., to brief top Trump administration foreign policy officials.

The Six-Day war. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin, Gen. Rehavam Zeevi (R) And Gen. Narkis in the old city of Jerusalem.

The Seventh Day: The Fighting Continues


As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, I’ve been dismayed, though not surprised, by the divisiveness of the dialogue. I was only two when the Six Day War broke out, but I was raised with feeling tremendous pride over the breathtaking victory. I was not from a religious family and we were only reluctantly Jewish identified. Support of Israel was the thin reed on which our Jewish identity hung. That tiny, beleaguered Israel was able to nearly quadruple its size, regain access to its holy sites and do it all in six days against staggering odds was miraculous. Not only that, but a loss would have been unthinkable, undoubtedly bringing another Holocaust — the stated intent of Israel’s Arab neighbors. I firmly believe that in the narrative arc of Jewish history the Six Day War merits pride and jubilation. It was a turning point in the battle for Jewish safety and self-determination in a world that seemed to care not a whit about either.

Many of us can agree on that much. But the week marking the war’s anniversary proved that we can agree on little else. Indeed, what may otherwise have been a communal celebration of victory became, as all things Israel often do, a source of deep division.

It’s not hard to understand why.

As early as the day after the war ended, the fate of the over 650,000 Palestinians already living in the West Bank was unclear. In the fevered glory over the success of the military campaign, not many people were discussing that. Now the number has grown to over 2.5 million Palestinians, and the military occupation continues with no apparent end in sight. To the contrary, the current Israeli government, with the support of the United States, seems to be operating under this vain hope that the issue will simply go away—that the status quo is somehow perpetually sustainable.

There are those on the far right, who are actually seeking to annex significant portions of the West Bank, sounding the death knell for the two-state solution. And even many of those who recognize the untenability of a permanent military occupation, blame the problem solely or primarily on Palestinian intransigence and the historic Palestinian proclivity towards terrorism.

At the same time, no one can dispute that living in a state of apparent perpetual occupation with limited self-determination and limited guarantees of the basic civil liberties that we take for granted is simply not right. It’s not Jewish. It’s not moral. And it is most certainly, not conducive to peace. Therefore, for those of us who want Israel to remain Jewish and democratic and secure, it’s impossible to disregard the challenges that came with the historic victory.

At the same time, for me, the troubling aspect is not that I may disagree with others about what direction Israel should go—that’s healthy. What disturbs me is that the discussion is often binary. Even among liberal American Jews it seems that either you blindly celebrate the success of the Six Day War or you view it solely through the prism of the occupation. And these extreme positions inevitably devolve into name calling. If you point out the human rights disaster that is the occupation, you are anti-Zionist and probably anti-Semitic. If you celebrate the Six Day War, you are anti-Palestinian and a willing conspirator to a human rights disaster. Both positions are incomplete. However, and more to the point, neither position serves the interest of either side.

Jews have always had the ability to hold, in harmony, two conflicting ideas. We see the good and the bad in things. We debate. We yell. We hate. We love. Yet, when it comes to Israel, a nuanced understanding seems to be more of the exception than the rule.

Mostly for serendipitous reasons, rather than Zionistic reasons, my first time in Israel was during my junior year of college over 30 years ago. I then became a proud Zionist and started to learn what it means to be a Jew. Since that time, I have loved that nation, have taken pride in its ability to take in Jewish refugees from around the world, have marveled at its technological, medical and agricultural innovation, and, yes, have been grateful for the strength of its military. At the same time, as a Jew, I can also see, indeed I must see, the tremendously adverse consequences that the 50-year occupation is having on both the occupied and the occupier. So while we can and should celebrate the miracle that was the Six Day War, it is incumbent upon us to also see the tragedy that unfolded as a result and how that jeopardizes the Israel that we so deeply love. Indeed, having those honest, nuanced conversations and searching for solutions is precisely the best way to manifest one’s love and concern for Israel.


Adam F. Wergeles is a Los Angeles technology lawyer and a co-founder of IKAR.

Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon. Photo courtesy of ActiveStills

Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman undermine peace for Palestine


One of the reasons I like superhero movies is because it’s always obvious whom to root for.

Let’s take Wonder Woman, because she’s killing it at the box office, and she has the added cachet of minority status, which makes her even more appealing: It’s a no-brainer to cheer for the beautiful woman with superhuman strength and unassailable moral clarity over the treacherous Ares, God of War, who seeks the destruction of humankind.

Simple plots with uncomplicated characters work just fine in fiction. In nonfiction, not so much.

So perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that two famous fiction writers, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, are failing to grasp the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The best-selling novelists, husband and wife, currently are on a press tour for a new book they edited, “Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation,” which, given the world-class pedigree of the contributors, would appear to be a marvelous book.

The problem is not the work itself but the way Waldman and Chabon are promoting it. In interviews, they have turned their brief tour of the West Bank into undeniable evidence that they’ve discovered the absolute truth of the conflict: It’s Israel’s fault. And they describe the situation in such shallow and simple terms, I half-wondered if “Kingdom” was a children’s book. (It’s not.)

The book is, in fact, a compilation of stories from assorted contributors, including Pulitzer Prize winners and a Nobel Laureate, that seeks to illuminate the lives of long-suffering Palestinians who have toiled under Israeli occupation for the last 50 years. It’s a noble endeavor. And the pair deserves credit for their good intentions. But the way these two seasoned storytellers are discussing their “findings” is so one-sided, bereft of nuance and oblivious to history, it made this pro-Palestinian American Jew cringe.

The story of the Waldman-Chabon book begins in 2014, when Waldman returned to Jerusalem, the place of her birth, after a long absence. “We couldn’t deal, like so many American Jews, with what it meant to go back,” she said last week during a live internet broadcast sponsored by the New Israel Fund. “We didn’t want to engage.”

But then Waldman was invited to attend the Jerusalem Writer’s Festival. Afterward, members of Breaking the Silence, an organization of former Israel Defense Forces soldiers seeking to expose and end the occupation, offered to show her around Hebron. There, she saw the impact of Israel’s occupation for the first time — poverty, oppression, injustice. Then she went to Tel Aviv, where she “had an amazing time, [and] got drunk every night.” She decided to do something about this unfair contrast.

She returned home to Berkeley and suggested to her husband that they take up the Palestinian cause through a writing project. “I thought he wouldn’t want to alienate his Jewish audience,” she said, somehow unaware that a majority of American Jews support a two-state solution. “To his credit, without hesitation, he said instantly, ‘Of course, yes, we’ll do this.’ ”

In the spring of 2016, they brought 29 of the world’s most eminent writers to visit — exclusively — the West Bank, East Jerusalem and even Gaza, if they pleased. Afterward, Chabon declared to the Forward that Israeli military occupation is “the most grievous injustice I have seen in my life.”

He should get out more.

Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that two famous fiction writers, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, are failing to grasp the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It’s disappointing when you discover that your literary heroes sometimes are myopic and obtuse. That they would spend far more time immersing themselves in the lives of one of their characters than they spent zipping through one of the most complex regions in the world is perplexing. But that hasn’t stopped Waldman and Chabon from casting themselves as daring literati, shining a light in Israel’s dark corners.

“As soon as you start asking questions,” Chabon said, “everything comes back to this massive bureaucracy that …  exists only to remind Palestinian people that they are utterly subject to Israeli power. And the way that power demonstrates itself most effectively, demoralizingly, is not by dropping bombs, bulldozing houses, it’s the everyday tiny indignities to which Palestinians are subjected: What it takes for a Palestinian who needs dialysis to get dialysis, what it takes a Palestinian businessman … to arrange a meeting. The way the rules get changed so whimsically, [it’s] so clear it’s being done on purpose to demoralize, to dehumanize.”

Not everything Chabon says is untrue. I trust he saw “indignities.” But he fails to mention the indignity of total Arab-Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state since the Balfour Declaration, in 1917, and at least half a dozen times since then. For someone who’d be short a few novels without Jewish history, how conveniently he chooses to ignore it.

For “Kingdom” Chabon wrote about Sam Bahour, a Palestinian businessman he admires for persevering despite the odds, for “building this glass palace while missile strikes are occurring all around him.” That Israel experiences much the same thing is an irony apparently lost on him.

The conflict that has mystified and humbled generations of experts and world leaders is, for these two writers, superhero simple: Palestinians, good; Israeli government, evil.

But this is what happens when serious writers engage in conflict tourism. And it is unworthy of their gifts. What a shame to marry such weighty voices to a shortsighted conclusion. It gives their experience, and their book, a gravitas it hasn’t earned.

“This conflict is not a morality play where one side is all right and the other is all wrong,” American diplomat Dennis Ross said when I reached him by phone. Ross has worked on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an envoy, expert and direct negotiator serving the Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.

“When you demonize one side, you don’t make it easier for two sides to reconcile,” he said. “You make it harder.”

Capt. Rafi Sivron dangles his feet in the Suez Canal the day after the end of the Six-Day War. Photo courtesy of Rafi Sivron

The hidden hero of the Six-Day War


It was a war the world had never seen — pre-emptive, daring, lightning fast. In six days — 132 hours — one small army defeated five. By the last day, Israel had captured territories four times its former size. The war changed the map of the Middle East — of the world — in ways so profound, from Washington to Cairo, from the United Nations to The Hague, from college campuses to refugee camps, that the fight over the spoils of that conflict continue.

The war that began June 5, 1967, ushered in decades of deep American diplomatic, economic and military engagement in Israel, and introduced a new vocabulary into the news — terror, Islamic fundamentalism, Messianism, suicide bombers, hijacking, refugees, Palestine.

This year, the 50th anniversary of that war, its consequences linger. Israel’s stunning victory swung America firmly to its side, jump-starting a special relationship that includes billions of dollars in foreign aid and unprecedented security cooperation — a bond that affects every American soldier, diplomat and taxpayer.

Israel’s continued control over some of the territories captured in that war and of their inhabitants is still a flashpoint of international controversy and a source of deep moral and strategic disagreement among Jews themselves. Many Jews and Christians who explain the sudden victory as the hand of God fiercely resist any peace that requires the return of biblical lands. Others fear that in Israel’s victory lay the seeds of its own demise if the result is that Israel ceases to be a Jewish, democratic state.

[TIMELINE: The six days of war]

Meanwhile, writes Said K. Aburish in his 2004 book, “Nasser: The Last Arab” (St. Martin’s Press), the Six-Day War “was so unexpected in its totality, stunning in its proportion, and soul-destroying in its impact that it will be remembered as the greatest defeat of the Arabs in the twentieth century. The Arabs are still undergoing a slow process of political, psychological, and sociological recovery. It is easy to trace all that afflicts the Arab world today to the defeat which the 1967 War produced.”

Millions of Arabs lost faith in their secular leaders and turned to fundamentalist Islam. The Palestinians realized they couldn’t rely on conventional Arab armies to beat Israel and pinned their hopes instead on a man named Yasser Arafat —and so the age of modern terrorism was born.

You have to read only the headlines any given week to understand that while Vietnam is history, the Six-Day War is current events.

The Arabs refer to the war as the naxa, or setback. The victors christened it the Six-Day War. Neither name gets it right.  “Setback” is an epic understatement, like calling a scalping a haircut. And although “Six-Day War” deliberately echoes the biblical Creation story, it obscures one of the most important facets of the war itself: the very reason why Israel won.

The outcome of the war was decided in its opening hours. Israeli warplanes took to the skies in the early morning of June 5 and headed on a stealth mission toward Egypt. They flew just a few meters above the Mediterranean Sea to avoid radar. They banked toward land, fanned out over dozens of airfields, rose and then dived down to unleash a hellfire of cannon fire and bombs on their targets. All of Egypt’s airfields were rendered useless, and most Egyptian aircraft were destroyed. Israeli planes then decimated the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi air forces. Within two hours, in three waves of attacks, Israel had destroyed 452 enemy airplanes. It had complete control of the skies.

The attack began at 7:45 am. By 10:30 a.m., air force commander Gen. Motti Hod turned to Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin and reported, “The Egyptian air force has ceased to exist as an effective fighting force.”

Israeli combat aircraft stream toward Egypt at the launch of Operation Focus, the surprise attack designed by Capt. Rafi Sivron and Lt. Col. Jacob “Yak” Nevo.

The Six-Day War was a victory of intelligence over firepower, of preparation over bluster, brains over brawn. It was a triumph of foresight and planning, the vision of the few that set in motion the bravery of many. In that sense, one of the real heroes of the war — the most crucial and the least known — was a 20-something air force navigator named Capt. Rafi Sivron. Long before the first shot was fired, Sivron and his immediate superior, Lt. Col. Jacob “Yak” Nevo, created the plan that won Israel the war. They were the men behind Operation Focus.

In most books and articles about the war, stuffed with the exploits of generals, soldiers and politicians, Sivron and Nevo make cameo appearances — if at all. In the cataclysmic drama of those six days, there indeed may have been bigger actors, producers and directors — but those two wrote the script.

In January 2014, while I was working on a project about the war, I asked Uri Dromi, a journalist, Journal contributor and former Israel Defense Forces helicopter pilot, if he knew anyone who fought in it.

“Have you heard of Operation Focus?” he said.   

“Of course.”

“Well, that was Rafi.”

I immediately dialed the number Uri gave me.

Rafi’s voice was strong, with a pleasant Israeli accent and precise English diction. As I was to learn over hours of conversation, in all things he did, Sivron was nothing if not precise.

Rafael Sivron was born in Haifa, the son of German immigrants who moved to pre-state Palestine from Berlin in 1934. His father’s parents remained in Germany. They were murdered in Terezin.

Sivron joined the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in 1954. He excelled as a navigator, flying missions in a variety of aircraft and helicopters. In 1962, at a NATO school for anti-submarine warfare in Malta, he met Nevo.

In the cockpit of a combat jet, Nevo was without equal, “the father of Israeli aerial combat,” in the words of IAF historian Iftach Spector. Nevo pioneered IAF dogfighting techniques, pushing himself and his planes to the limits.

Despite very different styles, the two bonded. Nevo was slight, thin — cockpit-sized. He also was serious and reclusive.

Sivron was movie-star handsome and far more outgoing. He prodded Nevo to have fun, which for Sivron meant taking breaks for tennis, attending the opera and playing “almost professional” classical piano.

Back in Israel, the head of the air force, Ezer Weizman, had long held that Israel’s best chance for winning the next war would be to destroy enemy air forces on the ground. The logic was sound, but there was no plan to carry out what other military leaders thought was a strategic fantasy.

Toward the end of 1962, Weizman tapped Nevo to come up with a plan, and Nevo remembered Sivron from Malta. By then, Sivron headed the air force subsection for operational planning, figuring the life-and-death logistics for Israel’s frequent counterattacks, stealth missions and patrols.

“When I say I was the head of this section, you could have in mind that I have something like 20 to 30 people working for me — maybe it is today this way. But then I was all alone,” Sivron said.

Nevo asked Sivron to design an attack plan. Sivron said he was too busy.

“You know what?” Nevo said. “There’s no war on the way, so pick a time. If you want to take three months, take three months. If you want to take three years, take three years.”

Sivron agreed. He was just shy of his 27th birthday.

Rafi Sivron in 1978 as the Israeli defense attaché in London. Photo courtesy of Rafi Sivron

As a present to himself, Sivron asked a friend returning from Italy to bring back an elegant fountain pen like the one he saw advertised in glossy magazines. Though he couldn’t really afford it, Sivron splurged on the pen, a Parker 61.   

In a plain, three-story building in central Tel Aviv, in a tiny room at the end of a long corridor, Sivron sat alone at his desk, with that Parker pen, designing Operation Focus.

In the pre-planning stage, Sivron and Nevo brainstormed ideas for their plan, often bringing in experts from other departments. That’s when they came up with their first good idea: concentrate on the runways.

Gen. Hod had long said that a fighter jet is the most dangerous weapon in the world when it is in the air, but on the ground, it is useless. Nevo and Sivron figured if Israeli jets simply destroyed enemy planes, new ones could always arrive and take off. But without runways, nothing could get airborne.

“So this was decided, and I got an open hand of how to do it,” Sivron told me. “At this time, the Egyptians, Syrians and the Jordanians had about 20 military airports with 55 runways. So it was a problem, of course.”

In Hebrew, German Jews are called yekkes — a word that connotes extreme punctuality and exasperating attention to detail. Nevo, the pilot, left the operational details to Sivron.

“I was the yekke,” Sivron said.

Sivron focused first on the runways.

“You can’t attack airports if you don’t know where they are,” he said, “if you don’t know how they look, if you don’t have a picture, if you don’t know which aircraft.”

Reconnaissance photos provided Sivron with up-to-date knowledge of the enemy airfields. Israeli spies embedded in the highest echelons of Syrian and Egyptian society transmitted more details. Sivron learned the thickness of each runway, the type and parked position of each airplane, the patrol times and break times for each squadron, the distance each radar worked, the number of anti-aircraft guns.

Every detail mattered. Sivron learned that while Israeli jets used high-pressure tires, the MiGs that the enemy air forces flew used low-pressure tires. If you bombed a runway with normal bombs, ground crews could just fill it with sand and planes still could take off. The IAF outfitted their Mirages with two 500 Kgs bombs.  All the bombs were fitted with innovative fuses that changed the timing of the detonators in order to afflict maximum damage on concrete runways.

Knowing where Egyptian observation posts were stationed enabled Sivron to design flight paths to avoid them. He matched the number of runways with the number and type of planes necessary to take them out, the altitude at which they needed to climb on approach, the angle at which they needed to attack, the possible effects of dust and wind, the number, weight and power of bombs each pilot needed to carry, how low and fast each plane could fly to avoid radar.

“When you fly a Mirage at 450 knots,” Sivron said, “if the sea is calm you have no ability to realize at what altitude you are. You can easily drop to the water. If you hit the water, it is your last flight.”

Nevo led endless test missions and bombing runs over mock-ups of Egyptian air bases in the Negev, feeding data back to Sivron, who sat at his desk, crossing out old vectors, calculating the timing anew.

Because the Arabs had so many more planes than the Israelis, Sivron and Nevo were counting on another ability the IAF had been developing for several years: shaving the time it took for a plane to land, refuel, reload, and get back in the air.  

For several years, squadrons used to compete as to who will do the turnaround quicker,” Sivron said. “These turnarounds in competition were made with substantial effort involving one aircraft at a time, almost laboratory-like conditions.”

With limited ground crews and the large number of jets involved in Operation Focus, the Israelis planned on a turnaround time of 20 minutes.  Not as fast as seven, but still six times faster than the best the Egyptians could do. The Israelis would make up in flight time what they lacked in hardware.

Still, Operation Focus demanded that almost every Israeli combat plane and bomber go on the attack. Twelve would be left to defend the homeland. 

“It was not an easy decision,” Sivron said. “People say it was self-explanatory. It was not at all.”

I asked Sivron how much help he had in figuring it out.

“I was alone,” he said. “Alone with myself. Nobody else was involved in this.”

Two years after he began his work, Sivron wrote his last calculation with the same Parker 61 he started with. As he finished the last line, the pen topped working.

The master plan for Operation Focus was printed and bound in an almost 60-page blue-covered booklet. Sivron wrote the main body of the order, which described the method and principles of Moked.  Of the six appendices, Sivron wrote the two main ones, “Forces and Tasks” and “Routing.”

A meeting of senior brass went over the plan, line by line. They didn’t make a single change.  From the first draft it was called Moked, Focus.  The finalized order was passed on to the squadron leaders, base commanders and head of departments at the headquarters of the IAF.  This was in September 1965.

Each top secret copy was numbered; each number was logged to its owner.  Sivron, who by then had been promoted to major, was not given one.

“I could take it only to one place,” he said, “and that’s to prison.”

Sivron began studying economics and Middle East history at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.   

Land captured by Israel in red

That summer, Lt. Col. Yoash Tzidon, the head of the IAF’s armament development section, decided to run Operation Focus through a newly acquired machine called a computer. By then, Hod had replaced Weizman as air force commander. Based on the likelihood of navigation problems, early detection, fog, wind and anti-aircraft fire, the computer determined that the chance of Operation Focus succeeding was 7 percent. 

Sivron was unfazed. He had total confidence in his plan, and the data and calculations behind it. But the final decision rested with Hod.

“He was not an intellectual person,” Sivron said of Hod. “He was a farmer with a very straight way of thinking. Hod turned to Tzidon, ‘You know this is the best plan we have. If you want to make another one, go ahead.’”

The computer lost.

A year later, as tensions mounted between Egypt and Israel, Rafi Harlev, the head of the IAF operations, called a meeting of all squadron leaders.

“We have a plan,” he told them. “It’s over a year old.”   

He passed out copies of Operation Focus for review and debate.

Again, there was not a single change.

In the popular imagination, the Six-Day War is a modern-day David and Goliath story. Just by the math, Israel truly was David. The Arab armies had more than twice the number of troops, and more than three times the number of combat aircraft and tanks. The Egyptians and Syrians were backed by Soviet weaponry and advisers — who could join their side at any moment.

But even though Israel was outnumbered on paper, it had advantages David couldn’t imagine. The Israel Defense Forces was the best trained, most professional and most highly motivated army in the Middle East. It was designed to defend the country. It had (and has) nuclear weapons.

The Arab armed forces, meanwhile, were designed to quell internal dissent and prop up unpopular regimes. In his new book, “The Six-Day War” (Yale University Press), Guy Laron reports a 1961 conversation between the Israeli spy Wolfgang Lutz (who fed intelligence to Sivron) and Egyptian Gen. Abd al-Salam Suleiman, whom Lutz  had first plied with whiskey.   

“We [in Egypt] have enough military equipment to conquer the whole Middle East, but equipment isn’t everything,” Suleiman said. “The army right now — in terms of training, military competence and logistics — will not be able to win a battle against a fart in a paper bag.”

As war appeared imminent, the CIA informed President Lyndon Johnson that should hostilities break out, Israel would win in 12 days. But though the Americans and even the Israeli high command were confident of eventual victory, the Jewish state’s leaders were wracked with concern that the casualties Israel would suffer would be devastating.   

Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol gave voice to that fear. At a cabinet meeting on the eve of war, he said, in Yiddish, “Blut vet sich giessen vie vasser.” Blood will run like water.

Israel’s best hope to ensure victory at an acceptable cost was a pre-emptive strike. It was Operation Focus.

Three weeks before the war started, Sivron donned his uniform and left his dorm room for IAF operations headquarters, where he was assigned to plan combined operations. By then, he was married, and he felt keenly what failure would mean: that his young family would be slaughtered like his paternal grandparents.

Weizmann had been pleading with Eshkol to implement Moked, in which he had complete confidence.  On June 4, Eshkol, after receiving what he felt was a “yellow light” from the Americans, agreed.

On June 5, a fleet of Israeli planes took off after dawn.

In the central control and command room of the IAF, Sivron followed the take off and flight path of the armada he had planned.

Equally both tense and thrilled, he knew that if the Egyptians detected a single Israeli plane, the surprise attack could end in disaster.

Sivron watched as the majority of jets reached the “pull up point,” when they leapt from their low altitude sneak attack to enable their bombing run. It was still two full minutes before the first bomb had been dropped.

“I turned around and said, ‘We have won the war.’”

For Rafi Sivron, the Six Day War ended two minutes before it started.

The Israeli jets  roared up on the Egyptian bases undetected — Yak Nevo’s among them. Many of the Egyptian pilots were eating breakfast when their planes and runways went up in smoke. Each wave brought more success. Soon after the first Israeli planes returned to base, it became clear to the air force that the plan had exceeded even its own expectations. Sivron was relieved, but not surprised. Focus worked.

I asked Sivron what he made of the success.

“Moked wasn’t worth anything without the pilots and crews and all the members of the air force,” he said. “We lost 24 pilots.”

The war would rage on for five more days. There would be tough, costly ground battles for Gaza, the Sinai, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. All of them would have been immensely more difficult if Israel hadn’t gained control of the air.

As historian and Israel’s former Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren pointed out in his essential history, Six Day War, Egypt still could have stalled or even reversed Israeli gains on the ground. Victory still depended on many things: the pilots and soldiers, their commanders, the unity of the entire country, as well as Egyptian miscalculation.

But it is impossible to imagine Israeli victory without the plan. It wouldn’t have been a movie without a script.

Egyptian planes destroyed at a Sinai air base on the first day of the war. Photo: Israel National Photo Archive

For  Sivron, too, the war continued. On Day Two, June 6, Sivron, who was still responsible for combined operations, joined his helicopter squadron as a pilot to carry troops over Saudi Arabian territory to land them in Sharm-El-Sheik, in the Sinai peninsula.

On June 10, he was at the front command post of the IAF in the southern Galilee, part of two squadrons of helicopters gathered in order to prepare a massive troop landing in the 
southern Golan Heights.   Sivron was assigned to remain at the command post. Instead, he decided to join as a co-pilot in leading the landing.

In the second run, his squadron landed 20 troops some 30 kilometers ahead of advancing Israeli ground troops. The crossroad where they landed, called Butmia in Arabic but since renamed Rafid in Hebrew, remains until today the easternmost point of the border between Israel and Syria. It was 1 PM on the sixth day of the war.

A day later, Sivron piloted a helicopter to the Golan to evacuate a wounded officer. He returned in a Jeep ahead of advancing Israeli tanks, meeting with U.N. officials and Syrian prisoners. By 3 p.m. on June 11, the war was officially over.

“All of it was in our hands,” Sivron said.

One day after the cease-fire, Rafi Sivron entered the offices of air force operations HQ. Nobody was there. Everyone had gone out to celebrate. 

Sivron took a car and a friend and drove for 24 hours, all through the Sinai desert to the Suez Canal.

“Everything was still burning,” he said. “Hundreds of tanks beside the road, dead soldiers.  Then we went to Jerusalem, to the Western Wall.”

One week later, he was back at the university, studying.

Yak Nevo retired as a colonel from the Israeli air force in the late 1970s. He tried to set up a business but was unsuccessful. He turned to woodcarving and died in relative obscurity in 1989, of multiple organ failure, at the age of 55.

Sivron went on to serve in the air force until 1981, including a stint as defense attaché in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia. He retired as a brigadier general. Later, after a dozen years as El Al Airlines’ director of operations control and planning, he retired in 2000.

He lives in Tel Aviv with his second wife. From both marriages, he has five children, nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

“Now I am playing tennis five times a week,” he said, “which keeps me young.”

Sivron is 81. I remarked how astounding it is that much of his country’s fate rested in his hands when he was only 27.

“This is the reason that I can talk to you now,” he pointed out to me. “If I were 37 then, maybe we wouldn’t be talking.”

Rafi Sivron, today

In hindsight, it’s easy to see how the astounding victory of the Six-Day War, like any solution, created a slew of new problems. At the time the fighting raged, though, none of these were apparent, or mattered. Israel faced imminent attack by five Arab armies. If it lost, the country would be obliterated. That’s what the Arab leaders were saying, and 22 years after the Holocaust, Israelis were inclined to believe them.

“The only thing worse than a great victory,” Eshkol, the Israeli prime minister, said at the war’s end, “is a great defeat.”t

When all sides were locked in an existential confrontation, Israel’s reasons and objectives were clear and unambiguous. Rafi Sivron knew why he was fighting and what winning looked like. When you know those two things, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to win.

We Americans have grown resigned to endless wars and ambiguous outcomes. The wars in Vietnam and Korea ended in evacuation instead of victory. We still are mired in Syria and Iraq, fighting ISIS, the dregs of the Iraq War. American troops are still in Afghanistan, 16 years after 9/11.

If there’s a lesson in Operation Focus, it’s embedded in the very name: If you must go to war, concentrate on what you’re fighting for, and how to win.

And if you really think wars are won in only six days, or by some act of divine intervention, think again.

A group of Israeli soldiers at the Western Wall after it was recaptured in the Six-Day War. Photo by David Rubinger

Six-Day War: Voices after victory


Few wars fought on any soil have had as profound an impact as the Six-Day War, which began June 5, 1967. The Jewish Journal asked Jewish leaders and thinkers to assess the war’s aftermath 50 years later.

Six Days, Followed by 50 Years of Palestinian Posturing

The Six-Day War was a turning point. Until then, Arab leaders were all about avenging Palestine; the defeat in 1948 swept the old elites out of power and brought in younger ones from the military. They made Palestine the central issue — not to resolve it but to use it internally and in their rivalries with other Arab leaders to see who could dominate the Arab world. Pan-Arabism — one Arab nation — was the idiom, and Palestine was the vehicle around which it was built. That, for all practical purposes, ended after those six days in June 1967.

Dennis Ross

Palestinians, who had left their fate to the Arabs after 1948, now knew they could not count on them. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leaders — while claiming they now would assume responsibility for fulfilling national aspirations — found it easier to focus on symbols and not substance, rejection rather than reconciliation, and grievance rather than achievement. Even today, their tendency remains more a flag at the United Nations than state and institution-building. There are those like former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who recognize that the State of Palestine is far more likely to emerge when the rule of law becomes more important than seeking resolutions in international forums that deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

Israelis expected peace after the war. The Cabinet adopted a secret resolution on June 19, 1967, accepting withdrawal to the international border in return for peace with Egypt and Syria. More discussion was needed on the West Bank/Gaza. Israelis had not expected to be occupiers of what at that time were a million Arabs. The Oslo process was supposed to resolve the problem of occupation, but has not.

The challenge now — 50 years after 1967 — is for Israeli leaders to figure out how to avoid becoming a binational state when it is not clear that two states for two peoples can be negotiated, much less implemented, anytime soon.    

DENNIS ROSS is a former Middle East envoy and negotiator under four U.S. presidents.


From Auschwitz to Jerusalem and From Jerusalem to …

As the three-week buildup to the Six-Day War began, Jews sensed that Jewish life was again at risk, this time in the State of Israel. Once again, the world was turning its back. The United States would not come to Israel’s aid. The United Nations troops left.

Michael Berenbaum

A friend suggested that we bring the Israeli children to the U.S., where they would be safe. I decided that my place was to be in Israel. If the Jewish people were threatened, it was my fight, my responsibility. So instead of attending my college graduation ceremony, I left for Jerusalem. I was in the air when the June war began, and landed in Israel just in time to be in Jerusalem when the city was reunified.

I can still hear the words of the bus radio announcement as it was driving on old Highway 1: 

“An IDF (Israel Defense Forces) spokesman has said: The Old City is ours; I repeat the Old City is ours.”

I can still see the tears in the eyes of my fellow passengers as they embraced one another.

On the fifth day of the war, I went to Shabbat eve services and heard then-Israeli  President Zalman Shazar speak the words of “Lecha Dodi”: “ ‘Put on the clothes of your majesty, my people. … Wake up, arise.’ All my days I have prayed these words and now I have lived to see them.”

Never were those words more true. Never did they touch my soul more completely. I was a participant in Jewish history; I was at home in Jewish memory; I was embraced by Jewish triumph. However much skepticism — political and religious — has entered my understanding of that war and its consequences in the past 50 years, that moment is indelible in my soul and touched it, oh, so deeply.

My role in the war was anything but heroic. I organized a group of American volunteers to drive and work on garbage trucks. In that capacity, I helped clear the rubble of the war that divided Jerusalem at Jaffa Road and some of the stones from the homes demolished near the Wall. I was there on Shavuot when 100,000 Jews went to the Wall — under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in 1,878 years — and women in miniskirts danced alongside Charedi men, each fully absorbed in the moment, oblivious to the incongruity of what they were doing.

And yet, looking back, I think we are still fighting the Six-Day War, now a 50-years war. The “victory” has lost its majesty and mystery, though not its necessity. Even without walls in the center of Jaffa Street, Jerusalem is a divided city, nationally, ethnically and religiously. Repeated triumphs have not yielded security. The Jewish narrative is anything but simple: From Auschwitz to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem of Gold to an earthly place divided and dividing. Time has made it more difficult to return to that heroic, miraculous moment -— more difficult but perhaps not less urgent.

MICHAEL BERENBAUM is a professor of Jewish studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Institute at American Jewish University.


Following Maestro’s Advice Changed His Life

Both of my parents are seventh-generation Israelis. On June 3, 1967, I was in medical school in Philadelphia studying for my med boards when the Arabs were surrounding Israel, screaming for its destruction.

Howard Rosenman

I flew to Israel,  volunteered as an intern in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and was stationed in Gaza. On the morning of June 8, my commanding officer, who knew of my family — called “Vatikay Yerushalayim” (“The Ancients of Jerusalem”) — said, “Tzahal [the Hebrew acronym for the IDF] is about to recapture the Old City. Go up to Jerusalem.”

I was there when Rabbi Shlomo Goren blew the shofar on Har ha’Bayit (the Temple Mount). It was the most important moment in my life.

I was then transferred to the Hadassah Medical Center, and Leonard Bernstein came to conduct Mahler’s “Resurrection Symphony” on the newly reconquered Har ha’Tzofim (Mount Scopus).

Bernstein came to visit the volunteers. “You look exactly like a waiter of mine at a discotheque in New York City,” he said to me.

“I am your waiter,” I answered. He immediately invited me to the concert.

Afterward, at the party at the King David Hotel, he offered me a “gofer” job on the documentary film of “the maestro” conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Judea and Samaria for the Tzahal, with Isaac Stern playing the violin. It was a war zone and you couldn’t go unless you got special clearance. 

Lenny encouraged me to leave medical school: “You are too good of a storyteller. Go into the arts. You will never bow to the Mistress of Science.”

Back in Philly, while assisting on an amputation, I decided to take a leave of absence. I called up Mr. Bernstein and told him, “I took your advice.”

Mr. Bernstein then introduced me to Katharine Hepburn, whose assistant I became on [the Broadway musical] “Coco,” and Stephen Sondheim … and my life was never the same again.

HOWARD ROSENMAN is a Hollywood producer.


An Unexpected Narrative

Eight years ago, I happened to be in Memphis, Tenn., where I visited the National Civil Rights Museum. The guided tour was led by an elderly gentleman, probably in his early 80s, who introduced himself as a civil rights activist and a personal friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sharon Nazarian

As he walked us through the museum, we arrived in the hall showcasing an actual Freedom Rider bus. He proceeded to share with us the story of young students bravely coming to Memphis, in racially mixed groups, to show solidarity with the civil rights movement.

Knowing that many of the courageous riders were Jewish students, I raised my hand to ask his perspective on the role of the American-Jewish community in the civil rights struggle.

His answer has plagued me to this day. He said that at the height of the civil rights battles, the Jewish community had stood side by side with the African-American community, that is, until the 1967 Six-Day War.

During and after the war, he said, the attention and passion of the Jewish community turned completely toward Israel and away from the equal rights struggle in the United States. He went on to say that he, along with the leadership of the civil rights movement, felt completely abandoned and forgotten and continue to feel that way to this day.

Although this was a narrative I had never heard before, it helped explain what may have been the beginning of the deep rift that has taken hold between the Jewish and Black communities in the U.S., as felt and viewed from the perspective of the African-American community. We are still realizing the ripple effects of those momentous six days; this is another ripple that continues to impact our community here in the U.S.

SHARON NAZARIAN is president of the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation.


Millennials and the War

Jesse Gabriel

For my parents and many of their friends, the Six-Day War brings to mind David Rubinger’s iconic photograph of Israeli paratroopers standing in front of the Western Wall, their hopeful young faces an indelible reminder of Israel’s miraculous military victory less than 25 years after the Holocaust. But for many millennials, the Six-Day War is not what comes to mind when they think about Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict. On the contrary, my peers have tended to view Israel largely through the lens of more recent conflicts. As we tell Israel’s story on college campuses and to a new generation of U.S. policymakers, we should keep in mind that Israel’s incredible contributions to science and technology, its vibrant democracy and free press, and its commitment to treating victims of the Syrian civil war are likely to resonate more strongly than its struggle for survival in 1967.

JESSE GABRIEL is an attorney and board member of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.


Six-Day War: A Poem

Rabbi David Wolpe

The war
Became the wall.
But it was also
Families fleeing, fighters dying
Ghosts returning, rejoicing.
The city no longer a widow
The people no longer an orphan.
The tangle of promise and power
Tight as a schoolgirl’s braids.
And the Jews,
Bearing rifles and regulations
Dove deeper into history,
Brutal, fickle history,
Afraid
And unafraid.

RABBI DAVID WOLPE is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple.

Left: Alfred Ozair, standing in the back row, third from left, in Nablus shortly after the West Bank city was captured by Israeli forces in 1967. Right: Ozair at his locksmith business in Tarzana. Photo by Eitan Arom

Alfred Ozair on the Six-Day War: ‘We paid with blood’


You wouldn’t necessarily know it to look at him, seated behind the sliding window of his locksmith business in a strip mall in Tarzana, but Alfred Ozair has seen his fair share of history. During his 84 years, he followed a Jewish migration from Iraq to Israel and finally to Little Israel in the San Fernando Valley.

During a recent interview, Ozair sat in the lobby of the dog grooming business that provides the sole entrance to his workspace, and produced old documents and photographs, including one of him and his battalion in 1967. In the picture, Ozair and his fellow soldiers crowd the doorway of a Jordanian police station in Nablus, and Ozair holds up a fist in the air, flashing a wide grin.

Ozair was part of the auxiliary force that entered the West Bank immediately after it was captured, and he remained there until he was sent home about two weeks later. His service was brief and rather uneventful, he said, but it left an impression. Even 50 years later, he recalls seeing the bodies of fallen soldiers in Nablus, covered in flies, because there hadn’t been any time to remove them.

The experience was sobering for him, even as he basked in the glory of Israel’s swift victory. So why did he look quite so happy in the picture?

He gestured at the photo. “When I am here, nobody killed me — I am happy.”

But to hear him tell it, there was more to the look of pride and victory he wore that day: The story of his Jewish generation goes from oppression and fear to strength and triumph in 1967.

Ozair was born in Baghdad in 1934 at a time when Jews in Arab lands were considered second-class citizens, living in fear of persecution by anti-Semitic government officials or angry mobs. In 1941, a pogrom swept the city, resulting in the death of some 180 Jews. Things didn’t get much better after that.

“The day of the declaration of the independence of Israel, in 1948, we were in the ghetto of Baghdad, hiding,” Ozair said. “We were afraid that they would come in a mob and kill us.”

Through all that, Jews were barred from carrying weapons. So when he and other young Jews arrived in Israel and found themselves armed in defense of their state, it was an entirely foreign feeling to them.

“The Jews in the Arab countries, especially the youth, they came to Israel, they have rifles, they have tanks,” he said, his voice breaking with delight. “This — this is something different. We felt the independence, we felt the liberty.”

In none of the three wars where Ozair was a participant did he see actual combat, but his work was nonetheless crucial: He was responsible for the upkeep and repair of the electrical systems that powered essential equipment, such as radios.

In 1956, his first wartime experience, this role put him on the cutting edge of Israel’s technology. At that time, he recalled, the army still employed pigeons to carry messages back and forth.

“Don’t be surprised,” he said. “This is the army of Israel as it was. We had nothing. From nothing, we do everything. Nu!”

He remembers his deployment to the West Bank in 1967 as a time of great fear. Israel’s cities became ghost towns as they emptied of adult men. People in Tel Aviv boarded up their windows in case the city was bombed. So many people were drafted that high schoolers were called on to deliver the mail because all the letter carriers had been deployed to the front.

Mothers sent their sons to the front knowing they might never come home, but they sent them with pride and stoicism, Ozair said. Each young man was a drop in the bucket of the war effort. “You collect water, drop by drop, and you have a quantity of water,” he said. “With this water, you can do something.”

Ozair is concerned that these days, Jewish youth doesn’t recognize the sacrifice of his generation, and that instead they feel Israel was simply handed to the Jewish people with minimal strife and struggle. “It’s not like that,” he said. “We built Israel, stone by stone. And we have to be proud.

“They have to know how much we paid. We paid not with money. We paid with blood.”

Nowadays, Ozair’s life is tranquil, as he likes it. In 1989, following his brother, he and his two children moved to Santa Monica, and he went into business as a locksmith. A few years later, he moved to the location in Tarzana, where he’s been ever since. He keeps 30 or 40 books, in Hebrew and Arabic, in his cramped storefront, squeezed between the dog groomer and an Israeli-run flower shop.

His business hasn’t made much money since the early 2000s, but he doesn’t really mind that. He pays $600 a month for the small space on a stretch of Ventura Boulevard where Hebrew is almost as common as English, and he spends his free time reading and watching the decades pass.

“I am not looking for money,” he said. “I’m looking to live a good life.”

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin, Gen. Rehavam Zeevi (R) And Gen. Narkis in the old city of Jerusalem. Photo from Wikipedia

The Six-Day War, in real time for the first time


Israel’s State Archives has unsealed documents from the Six-Day War after 50 years. They include transcripts of full cabinet meetings and of the Security Cabinet meetings. Here are a few observations.

In Cabinet meetings, people say many things. In tense Cabinet meetings, they say even more things. Thus, when transcripts are released, it is easy to isolate quotes and make big headlines out of them to serve a position or an ideology. If it were up to us, a politician muses, we would “deport the Arabs to Brazil.” Is this a statement that proves Israel’s malicious intentions? Some might say yes. They had the same reaction when Yitzhak Rabin mused about his desire to see Gaza drowned in the Mediterranean.

But you also can see it as a statement proving the sobriety and realism of Israel’s ministers at the time — a statement proving that they realized, on Day One, that occupying a territory in which many Arabs reside is going to be a headache. They did not deport anyone to Brazil. They were stuck with the headache. We still are stuck with it.

Not everything the ministers said seems impressive in retrospect. But what is quite impressive is the ministers’ refusal to engage in desperation in the weeks leading to the war and their reluctance to surrender to euphoria after it. The ministers behave in these meetings as all Israelis did: The period leading to the war was highly worrisome and the country was in a dark mood during the three weeks of “waiting.” The period after the war was one of celebration and invincibility.

The ministers are apprehensive, and they are uplifted — but in a more subdued way. They do not panic before; they do not lose proportion after. Yes, many of their assessments seem naive, misconstrued, even foolish in retrospect. But this is not due to a lack of seriousness.

Reading the debate about the future of the West Bank feels prescient. There are annexationists who want to absorb the territory and believe the demographic challenge of absorbing so many Arabs along with the territory will sort out itself. Menachem Begin, a member of the emergency Cabinet that was assembled prior to the war, argues that within seven years there will be a Jewish majority in the West Bank. There are those for whom demography is the key. Pinchas Sapir, the finance minister, worries about Israel’s future as a Jewish state if so many Arabs will become residents or citizens of Israel.

It is almost boringly familiar, and yet so distant.

I’m reading a transcript of a Security Cabinet meeting from May 26, 1967. Rabin, then the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), is asked to assess whether Israel can withstand an attack. Look how careful he is: “I think if we have the tactical surprise, there is a possibility … that we will have achievements.”

Here is a question: Was this a rhetorical failure on part of the IDF and Rabin? Consider an alternative scenario: It is the same meeting, but Rabin promises a great victory, then Israel faces a military defeat. What would we say in such a case? Probably that the chief of staff didn’t assess the situation correctly and thus provided Israel’s political leaders with inaccurate information on which they made the wrong decisions.

But no one has the time or reason to ask the exact same question when the assessment of the military commander is inaccurate in a positive sense — that is, a prediction of great difficulty that later proves to be an overstatement.

And there is more. A minister warning defense minister Moshe Dayan that the IDF ought to be reminded to treat the civilian population humanely. Ministers arguing for and against taking East Jerusalem. Concern that overeagerness could prolong the war and occupy more territory because of the victories.

There also are lies that Israel decides to tell. The protocol shows how Israel attacked Syria in the Golan Heights. Minister Yigal Alon calls for the attack, disregarding the possibility of diplomatic tension with Russia because of it. He says he prefers controlling the Heights over diplomatic problems with the Russians.

The director of the Foreign Ministry warns against action — attacking Syria will complicate things for us with the Russians, he argues. But Rabin wants action. “Ending such a war without hitting the Syrians would be a shame,” he says.

Israel tells the world that the Syrians are fighting. “This is not the truth,” argues minister Haim-Moshe Shapira. True, says Alon. “I admit that this isn’t the truth, but these are the kind of lies that we can tell to have peace” — namely, to have the Syrians’ cannons removed from the Heights that overlook Israel.

Some things still feel different, and the most notable of them is the approach of the representatives of Israel’s religious-Zionist sector. Today, they are the most hawkish. In 1967, they famously were the least hawkish. They were the ones preaching for caution and moderation.

Shapira did not want the attack on the Syrians. His friend Zerach Warhaftig cools down Dayan when the defense minister suggests that Israel send its forces to Beirut.

“I would argue that we should have some limits,” Warhaftig says.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor.

U.S. President Donald Trump gives a statement after landing at Ben Gurion International Airport on May 22. Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

Netanyahu, a man in the middle, scrambles to give Trump a warm welcome


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did his best to give Donald Trump a warm welcome when he landed Monday at Ben Gurion Airport on his first trip abroad as U.S. president.

Netanyahu offered support for Trump’s stated aspiration to broker the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians. But he also made clear his right-wing government has no plans to leave the West Bank anytime soon.

“Israel’s hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, including the Palestinians,” the Israeli leader said. “The peace we seek is a genuine one, in which the Jewish state is recognized, security remains in Israel’s hands, and the conflict ends once and for all.”

Netanyahu has pushed his government to accommodate Trump both on his trip and in his effort to make an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But many Israeli ministers have signaled they are not willing to yield much more political ground.

Just getting all the ministers to show up at the airport for the welcoming ceremony reportedly took cajoling by Netanyahu. The prime minister had to angrily mandate attendance during the Cabinet meeting Sunday because several ministers had opted out upon learning they would not be included in the receiving line, according to Israeli media reports.

“It’s a four-hour wait, work hours, phone calls, mail, meetings. I have things to do in those four hours,” Culture Minister Miri Regev told Army Radio Monday ahead of Trump’s arrival. “To drag us there to stand as the scenery — that’s ugly. It’s beneath the dignity of the government of Israel and does not give any more respect to President Trump.”

In the end, Trump shook hands with all the ministers, as well as dozens of deputy ministers, religious leaders and the heads of the army, police and Mossad foreign intelligence service.

Several officials, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett, urged Trump to break with decades of U.S. policy and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Under pressure from his political right, Netanyahu has insisted he is applying similar pressure. Last week he went as far as to release minutes from his February meeting at the White House that he claimed proved as much. But Netanyahu has made an effort to defer to Trump in a way he did not always with his predecessor, Barack Obama.

After the reported airport ultimatum Sunday, Netanyahu got the Cabinet to OK a raft of measures designed to signal goodwill to the Palestinians. They included the development of some West Bank industrial zones, opening the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan 24 hours a day and increasing building permits for Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank, where Israel has full control. The Prime Minister’s Office later said the measures came at Trump’s request.

Also, in April, Netanyahu won Cabinet approval for new restrictions on settlement construction in a gesture to Trump. The vaguely formulated policy is to build new West Bank housing, whenever possible, in already built-up areas of settlements.

“This is a very friendly administration and we need to be considerate of the president’s requests,” Netanyahu explained to his ministers, according to Haaretz.

Right-wing members of the governing coalition, led by Bennett, have gone along with Netanyahu. But they have made clear that their loyalty has limits.

On Sunday, Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, voted against the measure to boost Palestinian building in Area C. Bennett, the party’s leader, told fellow ministers over the weekend that the move amounted to a de facto change in borders for which Israel would receive nothing in return, Army Radio reported.

Although Bennett was part of the unanimous Cabinet vote in April to restrict settlement building, he immediately criticized the policy. Several other right-wing members of the coalition, including Likud lawmaker Yehudah Glick, expressed concerns that it amounted to a settlement freeze.

Most of the fire has been directed at Netanyahu for allegedly failing to push a right-wing agenda hard enough. Attacking the United States is not considered good politics in Israel, and politicians who heaped praised on Trump in the wake of his election in November may be hesitant to turn against him. But the Trump administration has recently tried their patience, including by backing off the president’s campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Israel’s contested capital, Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv and by asking Israel to stop expanding settlements — if not to stop building them entirely.

When the White House released a pre-trip promotion video last week that featured a map of Israel without any of the territory Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War — the West Bank and the Golan Heights — Shaked told journalists, “I hope this is a matter of ignorance and not policy.”

Netanyahu will have a chance to explain his political situation to Trump in person when they meet in Jerusalem, first for work at the King David Hotel and later for dinner with their wives at the prime minister’s residence. How that will affect the speech Trump is slated to deliver at the Israel Museum on Tuesday remains to be seen.

But Bennett has promised to push ahead with a bill to annex Maale Adumim, a large settlement on the outskirts of Jerusalem, after Trump leaves. Even Issac Herzog, the head of Israel’s political opposition and the chairman of the center-left Labor Party, visited the city last week in what he said was a symbol to Trump that it must ““remain under the sovereignty of Israel, as part of an agreement on Jerusalem that will remain a united city.”

People walking through the mostly haredi Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, Israel, on July 16, 2015. Photo by Flash90

Israel’s demographic future: Crowded and very religious


Israel’s projected future looks a lot like a visit to the Jerusalem central bus station: crowded and very religious.

According to a government report to be released in full next week, the Jewish state’s population will double in about 40 years. Some 29 percent — or 5.25 million of its projected 18 million residents — will be haredi Orthodox Jews. That’s more than triple the current 9 percent.

“Israel will have the highest population density in the Western world,” Sergio DellaPergola, a preeminent Israeli demographer and member of the report’s steering committee, told JTA. “Interestingly, haredim will overtake Arabs as the largest minority.”

The Central Bureau of Statistics revised upward its previous projection, made in 2012, that the population will reach 15.5 million in 2059, with 4.5 million haredim. DellaPergola said the bureau had wrongly assumed Israel’s fertility rate would continue to decline.

If this report proves accurate, Israel — with a land area of some 8,000 square miles — will be more densely populated than the West Bank and the Gaza Strip taken together are today. Some experts have warned of impending disaster, but DellaPergola said Israel still has room to expand outside its geographic center, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem region, in what Israelis call the “peripheria,” or periphery.

“Israel has a huge area that is very underpopulated,” he said. “If you can distribute the population more equally across the periphery, density is not a problem. But I haven’t seen much strategy from the government.”

The government has implemented a development plan focused on poor rural towns, but a State Comptroller’s report released last week accused former housing minister Uri Ariel of misappropriating tens of millions of shekels earmarked for such places.

Gilad Malach, who analyzed the Central Bureau of Statistics report for the Israel Democracy Institute think tank, noted that other societies have proven able to adapt to high population density.

“It’s not necessarily a disaster,” he told JTA. “Singapore and Hong Kong are even more populated [than Israel is projected to be], and they are successful states. Great cities also function almost like states.”

Israel is growing rapidly mostly because of its birth rate, which DellaPergola said is the highest of the world’s 100 most developed countries, “some of which aren’t that developed.”

Once exceptionally fertile, Arab-Israeli women now have an average of 3.13 children, the same as their Jewish fellow citizens. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics report, Arabs will comprise 20 percent of the Israeli population in 2059, compared to the current 21 percent.

By contrast, after ticking downward when child subsidies were slashed in 2003, the haredi fertility rate has stabilized the past five years at 6.9 children per woman. Malach said the projected haredi population boom should be a “call to action” for Israel. He recommended the government, along with civil society, invest in haredi education and workforce integration, as well as rethink its large-family policies.

The idea is that as the haredi community becomes a bigger part of Israeli society, it must hold its own in the economy — but some current government policies incentivize haredim to remain out of the workforce. Hundreds of thousands of haredi men receive government stipends of $120 to $215 a month to study in yeshiva. Just under half of them do not work, although the percentage has been unevenly decreasing for over a decade.

Haredi families also disproportionately benefit from monthly government allowances of $42 to $52 per child.

“If we focus on policy regarding pro-natality, and specifically integration of the ultra-Orthodox into society, the dramatic growth predictions may not be fulfilled,” Malach said. “It would also be good for the prosperity of the State of Israel.”

Although hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into haredi education and employment in recent years, child allowances were restored in 2016 as a condition of the haredi political parties joining the governing coalition.

DellaPergola agreed that a change in government policies could lower the haredi fertility rate. But he insisted the Central Bureau of Statistics report was accurate to within “hundreds of thousands,” saying it had taken into account the trend toward haredi employment.

Moshe Friedman, the CEO of Kamatech, a nonprofit that helps bring haredim into the high-tech industry, said there is no reason to fear the growth of his community. He said his group has trained or found jobs for 7,000 people since it started five years ago, and that he cannot accommodate everyone who wants to participate. A 40-person cybersecurity course he recently opened with Cisco got 900 applicants, he said.

“I see a really good trend of haredim who want to be part of society, part of the economy,” Friedman told JTA. “I understand from this new report the importance of the work we are doing to help the haredim integrated into society. So I think it will be OK.”

President Donald Trump, right, reaches to greet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a joint news conference at the White House on Feb. 15. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

What to expect from Trump’s Israel visit


President Donald Trump will be departing on Friday for his first foreign trip overseas with stops in Saudi Arabia, the Vatican, Israel and the West Bank. Daniel Kurtzer, former US Ambassador to Israel and Egypt, told Jewish Insider, “What Trump is trying to do is contrast his close closeness to Israel with that of Obama. Obama didn’t go for the first four years and Trump is going in the first four months.”

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

The visit to Israel is part of a long term US strategic investment towards the process, noted Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum. “Someone in the White House has learned the lesson from the last administration where it was clearly a mistake not to go to Israel early on. (They) realize that if you are going to get the Israelis to make concessions, it’s probably a good idea to actually go to Israel and show the Israelis some love.”

The White House’s showering of love towards Israel is concerning many in Jerusalem, explains Daniel Shapiro, former US Ambassador to Israel from 2011-2017. “When it comes to President Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, both sides are nervous about what this trip, and events beyond it, could produce. Trump is unpredictable, and his team is inexperienced in Middle East negotiations,” he told Jewish Insider.

While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may be uncomfortable abiding by Washington’s demands to cut stipends to terrorists’ families, he still likely appreciates the renewed attention. Abbas is “primarily looking at the revival of interest in the Palestinian issue and his own role as chairman of the PLO as an unexpected political bananza. What he is going to try and do is try to get maximal advantage particularly in terms of his own domestic political credibility,” explained Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. “As long as the Palestinian issue has been resuscitated — almost brought back from the dead really by Trump —  and he’s standing next to Trump whether in the White House or Ramallah, and there is serious prospects for some benefits on-the-ground, his position which was otherwise very shaky politically becomes really unassailable.”

With Trump’s unpredictable nature and the threats of a Twitter war launched against Jerusalem and Ramallah, Kurtzner emphasized the willingness of both sides to please Trump. “They (Netanyahu and Abbas) are going to try and put on the best face they can: neither one wants the responsibility of failure to be on their doorstep,” he stated. At the same time, Shapiro emphasized the deep underlying challenges preventing any genuine breakthrough between the parties. “Neither Netanyahu or Abbas have any trust in the other, and both face severe domestic political constraints and gaps in their respective positions on the core issues,” he noted.  “So whether they agree to start talks under Trump’s sponsorship, or simply stall for time, they are very likely to fall back into deeply ingrained habits of preparing not for success, but for winning the blame game when failure comes.  That may be the biggest challenge facing Trump’s initiative.”

Yet, for all of the focus on how the trip will impact Israelis and Palestinians on-the-ground, Koplow suggests that the visit may have an additional purpose. “Going abroad and having a high-profile trip where you are seated by leaders in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Vatican it looks good and certainly won’t escape anyone’s notice that it’s coming at a time when things at home are getting dicey and this won’t be the first President to go abroad and try to use good headlines and nice photos from overseas to push away some trouble he is having at home,” he said.

Worshipers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Jan. 17. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Trump Israel visit team member reportedly says Western Wall is ‘part of the West Bank’


A senior member of the U.S. delegation for President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel next week reportedly angered Israeli officials when he said the Western Wall was “part of the West Bank.”

Israel’s Channel 2 reported Monday that the U.S. delegation rejected Israeli requests that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an Israeli TV crew accompany President Donald Trump on his visit to the Western Wall. The U.S. official then reportedly said, “It is not your territory, it’s part of the West Bank.”

According to the report, the Israeli delegation was so angry that members started shouting.

An Israeli official told Channel 2 that the Jewish state was “convinced that this statement contradicts President Trump’s policy as expressed in his fierce opposition to the latest [United Nations] Security Council resolution” and that it had asked the United States for clarification on the comment.

In December, the U.N. Security Council passed an anti-settlement resolution with the U.S. abstaining. Trump slammed President Barack Obama for not vetoing the resolution, calling it “extremely unfair.”

Trump will arrive in Israel on May 22, when he will visit the Western Wall and meet with President Reuven Rivlin and Netanyahu. That day also includes a “possible visit” to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.

The following day, Trump will speak at Masada, the Roman-era fortress in the Negev Desert, and meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Trump’s first overseas trip as president will also include visits to Saudi Arabia and the Vatican. The agenda was deliberately set “to bring about all the different countries, all the different religions, in the fight against terrorism,” an aide said earlier this month.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised eyebrows when he spoke of “a peace initiative between Israel and Palestine.” It was not the first time a member of the Trump administration referred to “Palestine,” which the U.S. does not recognize. Earlier this month, White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr. said on Facebook that the president would meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in “Palestine.”

A senior administration official called Tillerson and Scavino’s references “unintentional and unfortunate,” The Jerusalem Post reported Monday.

Surrounded by his relatives, the body of the 18-month-old baby Ali Saad-Dawabsheh is carried during his funeral in the Palestinian village of Duma, in the West Bank, July 31, 2015. Photo by Oren Ziv/Getty Images

Family of Palestinians killed in arson attack sues Israel for $2.8 million


The family of a 6-year-old Palestinian boy whose parents and brother were killed in an arson on their West Bank home has filed a lawsuit against the State of Israel demanding $2.78 million in compensation, saying its settlement policies led to the attack.

Right-wing Jewish extremists were indicted in the July 2015 firebombing in the Palestinian village of Duma in the northern West Bank. Ahmed Dawabshe, then 4, was the only survivor of the attack that killed his brother, Ali, 18 months old; father, Saad; and mother, Riham.

The lawsuit filed Monday in the Nazareth District Court charges Israel with criminal negligence, saying that the state failed to demolish illegal outposts, including the one from which the alleged attackers came, The Times of Israel reported.

“The writing was on the wall and it was clear to everyone that the leniency toward the hilltop youth, outpost residents and lawbreakers would quickly spill over from property damage and non-fatal attacks to deadly attacks that would end the lives of the innocent Palestinian residents,” the lawsuit said, according to the news website.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said late last month that Ahmed Dawabshe was not eligible for compensation because he does not qualify as a terror victim, the law does not apply to Palestinians and that there was no request on file for such compensation.

Liberman was responding to Arab Joint List lawmaker Yousef Jabareen, who had asked why the boy had not received money from the state.

Ahmed is being cared for by his grandparents.

The occupation that saved Israel


Imagine sitting down at a Passover seder and receiving a visitor who wants to kill you. That visitor is not the prophet Elijah or the Fifth Son — the one absent from the table — who has a change of heart. No, he’s a killer who hates Jews and wants to destroy them.

Fifteen years ago, on March 27, 2002, Abdel-Basset Odeh left his home in the West Bank and walked into a Passover seder in Netanya’s Park Hotel. He then blew himself up, killing 29 mostly elderly Jews and wounding 64 more.

The Jewish world was horrified but not shocked. That’s because the Netanya massacre was part of a murderous Second Intifada that lasted several years and killed more than 1,000 Israeli Jews. It seemed as if every week was marked by a similar calamity — a Palestinian would enter Israel from the West Bank and blow up Jews in restaurants, ice cream parlors, discos, cafés and public buses.

Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of Israel entering the West Bank after the Six-Day War of 1967, critics have come out in full force urging Israel to “end the occupation once and for all.” For the majority of Israelis, however, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

You see, Israelis remember something that happened right before Jews were being blown up every week by Palestinian terrorists. They remember that their prime minister, Ehud Barak, had, in fact, offered to end the occupation once and for all — and the Palestinians walked away.

It happened in July 2000, when President Bill Clinton brokered peace talks at Camp David. A year later, in a Newsweek article titled, “Clinton to Arafat: It’s All Your Fault,” the U.S. president let the world know who he felt was most responsible for the agonizing failure.

When Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat told him, “You are a great man,” the president replied, “The hell I am. I’m a colossal failure, and you made me one.”

What Israelis remember, above all, is that after the failure of peace, Arafat started a war. Israelis remember that after Barak offered to end the occupation, they started getting blown up by Palestinians entering from the West Bank.

And they remember that after the Netanya Passover massacre, Israel said, “Enough.”

Israelis remember that after Barak offered to end the occupation, they started getting blown up by Palestinians entering from the West Bank. 

The Jewish state was left with no choice but to double down on the occupation and go right to the source of the terror — the West Bank.

So Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, calling up reservists and sending troops and heavy weaponry deep into the hearts of six major Palestinian cities, surrounding towns and West Bank refugee camps.

The goal was to stop terrorist attacks by regaining control of the West Bank, in particular the cities in Area A that were under the sole control of the Palestinian Authority.

What did they find when they regained control? Just what they expected. As reported in JPost, Israel uncovered 23 explosives laboratories and seized enormous quantities of weapons.

“The situation we had back then — with suicide bombers coming into the center of the country blowing themselves up — we don’t have that now,” Lt. Col. Yair Pinto, a commander during Operation Defensive Shield, said recently to JPost.

Indeed, in our zeal for peace, it’s easy today to forget the dark days of the past. Those were the days when Israelis would risk their lives any time they took their kids for ice cream, got on a bus, met a friend for coffee or sat down for a Passover meal inside a hotel.

So, yes, bemoan the occupation. Lecture Israel on the need to end it. I have as much sympathy as anyone for the need to shake up the status quo and make a durable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

But I also have sympathy for Israelis who remember that when Israel was traumatized by daily terror, it wasn’t less occupation that saved them, it was more.


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

A general view of apartment blocks under construction is seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit in 2013. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

6 Palestinians injured in West Bank clashes with Israeli troops


Six Palestinians were wounded in a series of clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

The clashes Friday came amid a so-called day of rage in support of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons, The Times of Israel reported.

In the village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, three people were injured by live fire, the Palestinian humanitarian group said. Another three were injured in Beit Omar, near Hebron. All are in stable condition, a spokesperson for the group said.

The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately comment, The Times of Israel reported.

Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have been striking for over a week over demands for better medical care and greater access to telephone calls.

Giora Inbar at the Jewish Journal offices in April 2017. Photo by Rob Eshman

Even the experts are turning on the West Bank occupation


For decades, I’ve been writing about the danger Israel’s occupation of the West Bank — and before that, Gaza — poses to the existence of a democratic State of Israel.

It’s not a position that makes you popular with a vocal minority of American Jews, and perhaps a majority of the Jewish establishment. One of the most frequent critiques I get is that I am a naive non-combatant writing from the safety of the United States who knows nothing about Israeli security, the realities of the Middle East or the true nature of the Palestinians.

So, fine, let’s say I plead no contest to all those charges. But suppose I could find someone who served at the highest ranks of Israel’s army or intelligence services and who holds the same positions on the issues that I do? Would that convince the critics?

Now, what if I could find 270 of them?

Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) is a group of former combat commanders, generals and intelligence officials who have undertaken a campaign in Israel to end the occupation.

“We believe in separation as opposed to annexation,” Gen. (Res.) Giora Inbar, a CIS leader, told me. “We understand security comes by agreement, not by fighting.”

Inbar visited the Jewish Journal offices early last month as part of a speaking tour sponsored by Israel Policy Forum. He is, at 64, tall and trim, with close-cropped gray hair and a gravelly close-your-eyes-and-it’s-Yitzhak-Rabin voice. Inbar and other members of the group, including Amnon Reshef, a hero of the Yom Kippur War, will be back in Los Angeles next weekend, as well.

Like Rabin, they harbor few illusions about whether Hamas loves Jews or whether ISIS doesn’t have its sights set on Ramallah, much less Amman. As the former head of the Israel Defense Forces’ liaison unit in southern Lebanon, Inbar worked with intelligence-gathering units that likely knew more about what was going on in Syria than Bashar Assad.

“We are combat commanders,” Inbar explained. “Each of us at a point in his career understood the limits of power. We believe the two-state solution is the only solution that guarantees the security of Israel.”

When Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza in the Six-Day War, 50 years ago this June, it assumed control of the millions of Palestinians who live there, without granting them full democratic rights. Unless it withdraws, the country soon will find itself having to choose between being an apartheid state or a binational state of Jews and Arabs — something the generals and most analysts see as a recipe for a Syria-like disaster.

Commanders for Israel’s Security is dealing with an issue that so far the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to face, or, in some cases, has made worse. The CIS idea is very simple, and emblematic of the fighting ethos of the Israel Defense Forces: Seize the initiative.

“We refuse to condition our response on their initiative,” Inbar said. “We are not going to let anyone use the claim of ‘no partner’ as an excuse. No partner? OK, we are strong enough to initiate.”

For CIS, that means a simple three-point plan.

First, Israel can complete the security fence running between the country and the territories, and enforce strict security along the fence. Netanyahu, bowing to a right wing that doesn’t want to acknowledge Israel’s lack of sovereignty over the West Bank, has resisted finishing the fence — a lapse that risks Israeli lives. 

Second, say the commanders, work with Palestinians to improve their infrastructure and economy. In Hamas-controlled Gaza, that could mean allowing plans for a seaport to go forward.

“Help them build their economy and lifestyle, so they have something to lose,” Inbar said.

Finally, engage the Palestinians and Israel’s regional neighbors in talks along the lines of the Arab Peace Plan, which Israel has long rejected or ignored.

The peace talks can come last, Inbar said, and whether they bear fruit or not, Israel’s initial two steps will ensure it a safe and secure democratic state. 

“The idea is to bridge the stagnation and status quo that now exists with a permanent status agreement in the future,” the general explained.

In Israel, military yichus, or pedigree, matters. When CIS launched a controversial public relations campaign earlier this year that warned Israelis of a one-state inevitability, opinion polls showed that 7 percent of Israelis who didn’t think there was a chance of a two-state solution changed their mind — overnight.

But there is much more work to be done.

I interviewed Inbar the same week members of Netanyahu’s coalition sought to pass a bill that would extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jerusalem-area settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

“It’s a disaster,” Inbar told me. “It really violates the territorial contiguity of the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu delayed a vote on the bill to avoid a confrontation with the Trump administration, but proponents have vowed to reintroduce it. 

Meanwhile, sources in Israel have told me Commanders for Israel have held at least two private meetings with Netanyahu himself. 

As Israel celebrates its 69th birthday, these former generals may be just the gift it needs.


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

An aerial view of Israel’s largest settlement, Maale Adumim, March 12, 2008. Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images.

Israeli man injured, Palestinian assailant shot to death in car-ramming attack


JERUSALEM — An Israeli man, 60, was injured in a car-ramming attack in the West Bank that ended with the Palestinian driver being shot to death by soldiers.

The driver in the Wednesday afternoon attack rammed his car into a bus stop near the Gush Etzion junction in the Etzion Bloc, located south of Jerusalem, according to the Israel Defense Forces. He was stopped when soldiers at the scene opened fire on the vehicle.

The victim suffered a head injury and was taken to a Jerusalem hospital in light-to-moderate condition, according to Israeli reports citing emergency services. Israeli army medics treated the driver at the scene, according to reports, but he later died of his wounds at the hospital.

Several car-ramming attacks have occurred at that junction in the past year and a half.

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