Tag Archives: Israel

Dozens killed, including armed terrorists, in Gaza border violence

They also call this cutting off your nose to spite your face: Dozens have been killed today in riots along the Gaza-Israreli border as thousands of Gazan protesters attempted to invade Israel.

More than 35,000 protesters amassed at a dozen locations along the security fence, with many engaging in skirmishes that pushed the death toll Monday to the highest in Gaza since a 2014 cross-border standoff between the militant group Hamas and the Jewish state, according to the Associated Press.

Gaza health officials told the news agency that 41 people so far have been killed in Monday’s violence, and at least 772 have been wounded.

The relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv, a key campaign promise of President Trump, has infuriated the Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as a future capital.

“Moments ago, an IDF patrol foiled a bomb-laying attack by a cell of three armed terrorists near Rafah, close to the border,” the Israeli military said Monday. “This is a particularly violent protest point. The troops responded with fire at the terrorists. The terrorists were killed.”

You want to live in peace? You show others that you mean it. You want others to see you as violent and a killer? You do things that prove it.

These demonstrations prove the latter. In the seventy years since Israel’s founding, that nation has shown, time after time, that it is more than willing to work with the Arabs, the Palestinians, the international community, anyone, in order to establish peaceful relations with its neighbors. Israel even unilaterally walked out of Gaza in order to show the world and the Palestinians that they are willing to allow an independent Palestinian state to exist side-by-side with Israel.

The Gazans here once again prove that they are unready to do so. They only hate, and want to kill, emotions that are hardly a good foundation for a reliable peace treaty.

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Riots prompted by Hamas have left Gaza with fuel crisis

This is called shooting oneself in the foot: The riots that the Hamas leadership of Gaza have been pushing this week have left the territory without cooking gas or diesel fuel, and no way to obtain more.

In Friday night’s attack, a large crowd broke into the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing between Gaza and Israel, badly damaging a fuel and gas terminal and a conveyor belt for aggregate and animal feed.

Israel closed Kerem Shalom, saying it would take weeks or months to repair several million dollars in damages. It was not clear when the delivery of consumer goods by trucks would resume, said an army spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, adding that six trucks with medical supplies entered Gaza on Sunday.

There has been widespread speculation about the motives for the vandalism, with Israel holding Gaza’s rulers from the Islamic militant Hamas group responsible. Friday’s attack was the second on Kerem Shalom in a week, raising questions about why Hamas did not try to protect a key installation.

They estimate that Gaza only has about 7 to 10 days of fuel remaining.

It is unclear if Hamas leaders prompted the riot that destroyed the depot, or if the rioters themselves went out of control. No matter. It illustrates a madness in Gaza that has existed since Israel unilaterally left, giving them control of their own territory so they could rule themselves.

Rather than demonstrate that they were ready for their own state, the residents of Gaza have since chosen a terrorist organization as their leaders, destroyed the profitable infrastructure and businesses that the Israelis left them, and instead devoted their efforts to building missiles and bombs to fling at Israel.

This new destruction is merely par for the course. The riots that I expect tomorrow, when many Gaza residents will try to breach the border, under pressure from or in support of the Hamas leadership, is only going to cause more harm to those residents, and accomplish nothing good.

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The Middle East following Trump’s rejection of Iran deal

Many pundits had predicted that Donald Trump as president would lead to war with North Korea.

They were wrong. Completely, utterly, and foolishly. Instead, Trump’s hardline approach finally forced North Korea’s allies to force that nation to come to the negotiating table. For the first time in decades it appears we are going to see some substantive and positive changes in North Korea’s relations with the world.

This same pundit class, all operatives of the Democratic Party, have for the last few days been screaming that Trump’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal would also lead to war. Will these predictions be right this time? At this moment it is hard to say. Almost immediately after Trump’s announcement Iran and Israel exchanged missile fire. Overall, however, that exchange has turned out badly for Iran, the world’s biggest financier of terrorism and the instigator of most of the problems that presently exist in the Middle East.

First, it appears that militarily Iran did badly in the missile exchange, with Israel doing their capabilities in Syria serious harm. Second, Iran apparently did not tell anyone in Syria it was going to do use that country as a military launch site, and this is already causing them problems with their allies. For example, Russia announced today that it will not deliver new missiles to Syria, despite an earlier promise to do so.

Finally, a host of Arab Middle East countries have not only celebrated Trump’s actions, it has prompted some to reveal support for Israel, something that would have seemed impossible only two years ago.

It remains unclear if Trump’s actions will have the same positive effect on Iran as his actions did on North Korea. The two situations are not identical. Iran’s leaders have more flexibility and options that North Korea’s. Still, what Trump has accomplished is to get some important Arab nations to move to our side against Iran, and in doing so to increasingly ally themselves with Israel as well. This cannot be a bad thing.

Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic leader of Hamas announced yesterday that the protests next week in Gaza will be “decisive” and that many will die. Whether this really happens, it is apparent that such protests are not garnering Hamas the same worldwide support they once did. The same Middle East countries that have celebrated Trump’s actions have also made it clear they no longer support the terrorist tactics of the leaders in both the West Bank and Gaza. These Arab nations have quietly made it clear that they actually back Israel now.

Trump’s actions in the Middle East appear to have shifted the balance of power, and that shift has been in favor of Israel, the only democratically-elected nation in the area. This cannot be a bad thing.

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A detailed analysis of the recent seemingly pro-Israel remarks by the Saudi leader

Link here. The analysis takes a close look at what Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman really said about Israel’s right to exist, and found that, while much of what he said was hopeful, it was couched in enough vagueness that no one should celebrate too wildly.

In short, Muhammad said nothing revolutionary. He bore no glad tidings of a strategic shift in the Saudi Islam or in the manner that the Saudis relate to the world, including the Jews.

Which brings us back to the main question. What did we learn from this interview? The most significant thing that came out of the interview is that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is very keen to cooperate with the US and with Israel in everything related to defeating what he refers to as the “triangle of evil.”

The three sides of his triangle are Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the terrorist groups the Muslim Brotherhood has spawned, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia is still an Islamic country run by the corrupt and violent Arabian culture. As noted elsewhere in the article,

The problem is that Muhammad’s regime is built on shaky foundations. Muhammad instigated a blood feud with powerful forces within his family when he carried out a string of arrests last year. Among those arrested were several prominent princes.

Rhode [a Middle East expert] explains that the Saudi ruling clan divvied up the organs of government among branches of the family. For instance, one branch controls the Defense Ministry, another controls the Education Ministry, and so on down the line.

“In the Islamic world, humiliation is worse than death,” Rhode notes. “When Muhammad arrested the other princes, he humiliated them,” Rhode says. “And they will never forgive him. They will wait for the day they can exact revenge for their humiliation even if it only comes when their great-grandchildren have succeeded them.”

We cannot trust them very much, but we can take advantage of their internal conflicts to push them in a more reasonable direction.

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American embassy opens in Jerusalem in May

In order to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israeli independence, the Trump administration today announced that the American embassy will officially open in Jerusalem in May 2018.

Officials told Fox News the embassy would initially be located in the neighborhood of Arnona on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem. Initially, the embassy will consist of the Ambassador and a small team. Nauert said that the Consulate General would “continue to operate as an independent mission with an unchanged mandate” from its Agron Road location.

An official also told Fox News that the hope is for the U.S. to develop only a “footprint” there in May, with a target of a fuller complement and facility by the end of 2019.

Much of this is therefore symbolic, but symbolism in diplomacy is often everything. More important, this action lends weight to the likelihood that Trump is firm in keeping this campaign promise, a campaign promise that every past Republican president since the 1990s failed to keep.

You might not like Trump, but an honest appraisal has to give him credit for one thing. He keeps his campaign promises. He said he’d cut taxes. He cut taxes. He said he’d shut down illegal immigration. Everything he has done indicates a sincere effort to do so. He said he’s cut regulation and neuter the EPA. He has done so, in a manner not seen by a president in my lifetime.

While I can certainly criticize Trump for a number of things, including his unwillingness to really cut spending and waste in the federal government, I would dishonest if I did not credit him for this.

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Tiny crowded Israel

Journeying through northern Israel

Much of the world’s political troubles are centered on the question of Israel in the middle of the Middle East. In both the Arab world as well as in some western intellectual circles, there are whole campaigns to make it go away (some peaceful, some genocidal). Politicians, pundits, and intellectuals argue incessantly about the rights of the Palestinians and the Jews, the best solution of achieving peace, and even the question of whether the Jews who have immigrated there have a right to stay.

I have just returned from spending two weeks in Israel, a trip I do somewhat regularly to see family. Each of these visits has given me an on-the-ground close-up look at the situation there, something that is difficult to get from the typically shallow media coverage of the region. And from each of these visits comes at least one essay, something I think is required because of Israel’s significance in much of the world’s political turmoil.

This year, we took a three day sightseeing trip to northern Israel, to visit some Roman ruins, the Sea of Galilee, and an incredible nature preserve that is the springtime home for thousands upon thousands of migrating birds. This excursion thus made this particular Israel visit far different from my half dozen or so previous trips, in that it was the first time I spent a considerable time in Israel proper. All my previous trips visiting family had me spend almost all my time going from one West Bank settlement to another. (That experience resulted in a series of essays on what those settlements are really like, which not surprisingly has no resemblance to their portrayal in the western press. My previous essay, A look at some Israeli West Bank settlements, provides a good summary, but it also provides links to all the previous essays, which are definitely worth the time to read if you want to find out what it is really like in the West Bank. I will give you one clue that might shock you: Hitchhiking is one of the most popular ways to get around.)

Anyway, this three-day trip allowed me to get my first look at Israel itself. The map above shows our route, as indicated by the dotted red line. The numbered Xs were our stops, of which I will discuss below.
» Read more

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The dying Palestinians in Syria

Link here. If you want to really understand the corrupt and evil nature of the Palestinian leadership, you need only read this one article.

A Palestinian refugee camp has been under siege for more than 1,660 days. Hundreds of the camp residents have been killed, while tens of thousands have been forced to flee from their homes.

Those who have remained in the camp — mostly the elderly, women and children — live in unspeakable sanitary conditions and drink polluted water. More than 200 Palestinians from the camp, which has been under siege since 2013, have died as a result of lack of food or medicine. The conditions in the refugee camp, by any standard, are horrific.

Why have most of us not heard about the hair-raising “living” conditions that characterize this camp? Because it is not located in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. The name of the camp is Yarmouk, and it is located about five miles from the Syrian capital of Damascus.

More than 100,000 Palestinians used to live in the 2.11 square-kilometer Yarmouk camp before the civil war erupted in Syria in 2011. By the end of 2014, the number of the camp residents had plummeted to 13,000.

And what has Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas done about this?

While his people are being killed, starved, displaced and denied medical treatment in Syria, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appears to be more concerned about US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Picking a fight with the US administration has become a daily national sport for Abbas and his top officials in Ramallah. Hardly a day passes without another Palestinian Authority statement strongly denouncing Trump and his administration’s policies toward the Palestinians. But when it comes to the suffering of Palestinians in Syria, Ramallah is mute.

Palestinian leaders who hold regular meetings in Ramallah simply ignore the atrocities their people face in the Arab countries, especially Syria. Instead, the leaders devote most of their time to issuing condemnations of Israeli settlements and the Trump administration, as if Palestinians are not being killed by the thousands in an Arab country.

The 82-year-old Abbas, meanwhile, has made clear where his priorities stand. Instead of searching for ways to help his people in Syria and the Gaza Strip, where hospitals are facing a deathly shortage of fuel and medicine, Abbas has just spent $50 million to purchase a “presidential plane.” [emphasis mine]

Remember the last detail highlighted above the next time Trump announces that he is cutting funds to the Palestinian Authority. It is clear that any money given to them is not going where it should, and should therefore be cut off.

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Palestinian condemnation, from a Saudi Arabian

Link here. The story is about a Saudi Arabian video blogger who posted a two minute rant condemning the Palestinians as forcefully as can be imagined.

“You are the ugliest page in our history – like a bad memory that we’d like to forget. We want to tear this page out of [our history] and get rid of it completely, now and forever.

We’ve had to sacrifice having ties with Israel – the most advanced country in the Middle East because of you and your problems and your use of our religion, language, and the fact that you’re Arabs. [emphasis mine]

This quote is only a small part of the rant. I highlight it specifically because it reveals a recognition in Saudi Arabia of the reality that Israel is a far better ally for the Saudis than the Palestinians. For an Arab to say kind words about Israel in a public forum is quite astonishing, considering the history of the past sixty years. Furthermore, this blogger would not be saying it if he did not know that his government approves. There is no free speech in Saudi Arabia.

This is one more indication that a major shift is about to occur in the Middle East, with certain countries possibly abandoning the Palestinians as their leadership is presently constituted, two corrupt terrorist organizations with no interest in living in peace with their neighbors.

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Is Iran on the edge of collapse?

Link here. This short essay outlines a range of financial, economic, and fundamental problems facing Iran’s government that might lead to that country’s entire collapse.

Before we wax too eloquent about the democratic aspirations of the great Iranian people, we should keep in the mind that the most probable scenario for Iran under any likely regime is a sickening spiral into poverty and depopulation. Iran has the fastest-aging population of any country in the world, indeed, the fast-aging population of any country in history. It has the highest rate of venereal disease infection and the highest rate of infertility of any country in the world. It has a youth unemployment rate of 35% (adjusted for warehousing young people in state-run diploma mills). And worst of all, it has run out of water.

We might be observing the birth of Iranian democracy in the protests of the past few weeks, but it is more likely that we are watching the slow-motion train wreck of a once-great nation in all its gory detail. As I noted in an Asia Times analysis this morning, the most violent protests, e.g. the burning of a police station near Isfahan captured on this video, happened in the boondocks where water has run out. The river that runs through Isfahan, a legendary city of gardens in the desert, literally has run dry. Some Iranian officials warn that tens of millions of Iranians will have to leave their homes for lack of water. The country has used up 70% of its groundwater and its literally drying up major rivers to maintain consumption. It’s the worst ecological disaster in modern history.

If this analysis is even close to correct, things are going to get deadly interesting in the coming years. And it might not be just Iranians who face death. Iran will be like a cornered animal. The world, the Middle East, and especially Israel, will be in great danger because this particular cornered animal will have nothing to lose by doing very evil and violent things.

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Aryeh and Gil Gat – The Sound of Silence

An evening pause: I think this song is fitting for the last night of Hanukkah. For Jews, this verse well describes perfectly what it is like when they try to express their point of view in a harsh and hostile world:

“Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

The two singers are brothers and rabbis, and are performing here for an Israeli television show modeled after American Idol called Rising Star.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

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Trump declares Jerusalem Israel’s capital, delays moving embassy

President Trump today declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, though the move of the U.S. embassy to that city will be delayed for several more years.

Since the 1990s, when Congress passed a law that said the embassy should move but allowed presidents to waive that move repeatedly, every president issued a waiver because it was thought such a move would hurt the so-called peace process. Trump’s comments addressed this.

The President repeatedly addressed concerns about a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians being hindered as a result of the recognition. He argued failing to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as verified by law and Congress through the Jerusalem Embassy Act, has done nothing to move the region closer to a peace deal. “We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past. Old challenges demand new approaches,” Trump said. “The record is in, after two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a peace agreement.” [emphasis mine]

Trump is correct. We are no closer to Middle East peace now than we were in the 1990s. And I think the reason is illustrated by how the Palestinians (and their enablers) have responded to today’s announcement, with their usual grace and good will:

Gee, doesn’t the Palestinian response now kind of remind you of the gentle response of the Islamic community to some cartoons that were critical of Mohammad?

As I have written repeatedly, you can’t negotiate with someone who wants to kill you. When the Palestinians finally accept the fact that an Israeli state exists and will continue to exist, we will finally have peace. Not before, no matter how many deals get brokered by politicians.

I should also add that this announcement today does not fulfill Trump’s promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. It only makes believe that it does. Only when that embassy actually moves will Trump have done what he (and every previous Republican president or candidate since the 1990s) has promised.

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Israeli competitor for X-prize faces shutdown due to lack of funds

Capitalism in space: SpaceIL, the Israeli finalist in the Google Lunar X-Prize competition, must raise $20 million in the next two weeks or face shutdown, even as they are about to complete testing on their rover.

This is the second of five finalists facing shutdown due to an inability to raise enough investment funds. With a third depending on a rocket that might not be operational by the March 31, 2018 deadline, the prize looks increasingly like no one will win it.

This does not mean that none of the companies will succeed, only that at least one or two might fly after the deadline. If they do, they will still demonstrate that they have the ability to launch a scientific planetary mission for pennies (compared to what the government has been spending). At that point I would expect them to become very viable and profitable spacecraft companies. Thus, it would actually be a good investment for some rich person to put their money behind these projects. In the case of SpaceIL, however, the problem might be that it is a non-profit. It appears it is not designed to be a profitable company down the road, but to merely serve propaganda purposes now.

Anchored in the “can-do”, innovative approach and creative energy that has characterized the Jewish State since its founding, SpaceIL aims to replicate the “Apollo Effect” in Israel, inspire and motivate the next generation of Israelis to pursue a future in STEM professions. Since its establishment as a nonprofit, SpaceIL has pledged to donate the $20 million in prize money, if it wins, to the promotion of science and scientific education in Israel, and to thus contribute to Israel’s economy and security.

Since its founding, many have contributed to the project. The main donor is the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Foundation. Additional supporters include Morris Kahn, Sami Sagol, Lynn Schusterman and Steven Grand, among others. The project formed exceptional collaborations between the private sector, the academia and governmental companies. Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel-Aviv University, Israel Space Agency, Israeli Ministry of Science, Bezeq, dozens of engineers and hundreds of volunteers are among SpaceIL’s partners. Over the years, SpaceIL volunteers have reached half a million children and youths throughout the country.

All of this has wonderfully good intentions, but I think they would be better served to focus on making money. A successful and profitable space company will do far more to inspire Israel’s children than mere propaganda.

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A review of the Saudi purge taking place this week

Link here. The analysis here is the best I’ve seen, and suggests once again that we might be seeing a significant shift taking place within the Arab Middle East.

It is in the context of Saudi Arabia’s reassessment of its interests and realignment of strategic posture in recent years that the dramatic events of the past few days in the kingdom must be seen.

Saturday’s sudden announcement that a new anti-corruption panel headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the near simultaneous announcement of the arrest of more than two dozen royal family members, cabinet ministers and prominent businessmen is predominantly being presented as a power seizure by the crown prince. Amid widespread rumors that King Salman will soon abdicate the throne to his son, it is reasonable for the 32-year-old crown prince to work to neutralize all power centers that could threaten his ascension to the throne.

But there is clearly also something strategically more significant going on. While many of the officials arrested over the weekend threaten Mohammed’s power, they aren’t the only ones that he has purged. In September Mohammed arrested some 30 senior Wahhabist clerics and intellectuals. And Saturday’s arrest of the princes, cabinet ministers and business leaders was followed up by further arrests of senior Wahhabist clerics.

At the same time, Mohammed has been promoting clerics who espouse tolerance for other religions, including Judaism and Christianity. He has removed the Saudi religious police’s power to conduct arrests and he has taken seemingly credible steps to finally lift the kingdom-wide prohibition on women driving.

There’s a lot more, including details about how the Obama administration was dishonestly aiding the wrong side. Read it all

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Hamas agrees to hand Gaza to Palestinian Authority

Don’t count those chickens just yet: Hamas today agreed to a deal with the Palestinian Authority to hand over control of Gaza to their West Bank rivals.

Nothing is really agreed to yet. They now will form committees to determine exactly how control will be transferred.

A major sticking point has been the Hamas military wing and its arsenal. Abbas has said he would only return to Gaza if Hamas hands over power, while Hamas has said the military wing is not up for discussion. Hamas officials have assured the Fatah negotiators that the military wing would maintain a low profile as part of any deal.

I can’t imagine any deal here. The leaders of both groups come from terrorist organizations. The Hamas leadership would consider it literal suicide to give up control over its military force. Similarly, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority would consider it literal suicide to allow an independent military force to operate within it.

The link notes two key aspects to this deal. First, it was partly prompted by the Arab boycott of Qatar, which had been supporting Hamas. Second, it has been brokered by the Egyptian government led by al-Sisi.

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Egyptian leader demands Palestinians accept Israel in UN speech

While the main buzz in the American press has been President Trump’s UN speech this week, no one has noticed that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in his own UN speech called for the Palestinians to accept the existence of Israel and to co-exist with it.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Tuesday urged Palestinian Arabs to overcome their differences and be ready to co-exist with each other and with Israelis in safety and security. “I tell the Palestinian people it’s extremely important … to overcome the differences and not to lose opportunities and to be ready to accept co-existence with the other, with Israelis in safety and security,” Sisi said in a speech before the UN General Assembly, as quoted by Reuters.

Sisi also had his first pubic meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu this week. Furthermore, earlier in the week the king of Bahrain endorsed an event at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles by sending his prince as a representative, while simultaneously calling for an end to the Arab boycott of Israel.

[Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center,] told The Times of Israel in a phone interview Monday that he was in Dubai on a mission for his organization when the king personally invited him to visit his palace. While the meeting took place in February, Hier said that he was ready now to discuss its contents after receiving “a clear signal” from the king that the royal meant business. In this case, the signal was that Bahraini Prince Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa attended a large event for the Weisenthal Center on Thursday, and also visited the unabashedly pro-Israeli Museum of Tolerance, also located in Los Angeles.

There have been other indications recently that the covert cooperation that has existed in recent years between Israel and some Arab nations against Iran and Islamic terrorism is about to become more public. If so, we might be on the cusp of some real positive change in the Middle East. (I realize I am being absurdly optimistic with this statement, but one can always hope.)

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California iman calls for genocide against all Jews

Can’t we all just get along? The Friday sermon of a California iman called for the killing of all Jews because Israel had the nerve to put up metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

And why did Israel do this? Because three Arabs murdered two Israeli policemen in cold blood at the site.

The bottom line here is that the Islamic world wants to kill Jews, and will find any excuse to do it, even excuses as silly as an Israel effort to prevent further violence. Listen to this guy’s sermon at the link. He makes it very clear that this is a Muslim requirement — from the Koran — to kill Jews. And Israel should negotiate with these fanatics?

I want to also point out that this iman was making his speech in California, a place that increasingly fashions itself a haven for fascists and the power-hungry. Note also these details about the mosque from which he made this speech:

The Islamic Center of Davis in Northern California is located about 15 miles from the state’s capital, Sacramento. It has, in the past, hosted events featuring Waleed Idris al-Menessey, who has also called for Muslims to kill Jews and impose Sharia law on non-Muslims law worldwide. Al-Meneesey’s Minneapolis-based Islamic center has produced five recruits for the Islamic State terrorist organization. On its online resources page, the Islamic Center of Davis links to several known Muslim Brotherhood front groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim Students Association (MSA).

If I, a Jew, lived in Sacramento I would not feel safe.

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Hamas has made Gaza unliveable, according to the UN

A UN study has found that in the ten years since Hamas took control of Gaza the place has become unliveable for its residents.

A decade after the Islamist group Hamas seized Gaza, the Palestinian enclave is effectively unliveable for its 2 million people, with declining incomes, healthcare, education, electricity and fresh water, the United Nations said.

In a report examining humanitarian conditions in the territory, which Hamas took over in June 2007 after a brief conflict with forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations concludes the situation in Gaza is deteriorating “further and faster” than was forecast only a few years ago. “Across the board we’re watching de-development in slow motion,” Robert Piper, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. “Every indicator, from energy to water to healthcare to employment to poverty to food insecurity, every indicator is declining. Gazans have been going through this slow motion de-development now for a decade.”

The article tries to lay the blame on everyone, including Israel, while somehow ignoring the corruption and terrorist roots of Hamas itself. Still, the real blame might belong to the people in Gaza themselves. After Israel unilaterally pulled out in an effort to exchange “land for peace,” the people of Gaza voted for their own leadership, and choose Hamas, a terrorist organization whose reason for existing is to kill Jews and destroy Israel. After making a poor decision like that, no one should be surprised it their circumstances immediately began to decline. We all get the government we deserve.

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Israel and India sign three new space agreements

The new colonial movement: India and Israel have inked three new development agreements between their different government space agencies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel has deepened cooperation in space technology between the two countries as the two sides on Wednesday signed three agreements relating to space. The first memorandum of understanding was between Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and Israel Space Agency for cooperation in electric propulsion for small satellites, second was on cooperation in GEO-LEO optical links and third pact was on cooperation in atomic clocks (which are satellite components meant to provide precise locational data).

The third agreement is especially interesting. It indicates that India no longer wants to work with the German company that built its most recent GPS satellites because that company’s atomic clocks all had problems. Unlike the ESA, India has decided that such failures should not be rewarded with more work.

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Trump to keep U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv

President Trump today signed a waiver allowing him to keep the U.S. Israeli embassy in Tel Aviv, rather than moving to Jerusalem as he promised repeatedly on the campaign trail.

This is not the most important political story of the day, but it illustrates what we can expect from Trump. In the end, he backs down under pressure from the Washington elitist community. For example, even though his proposed federal budget suggested a willingness to cut the deficit and eliminate whole agencies, I have doubts he will succeed in getting Congress to agree to any of those cuts.

This is also why I have not yet posted on the various rumors claiming that he plans to exit the Paris climate treaty. Until I actually see him do it, I do not believe it.

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White House decision on embassy move only after Trump’s Middle East trip

The White House has denied reports that they have decided not to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and have instead said that the decision on whether to move the embassy will only be made after Trump’s Middle East trip.

Since neither story identified the White House official making the claims, either for or against the move, I suppose we should file this whole thing under fake news. These are unsubstantiated leaks, and should not be taken seriously.

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Trump rules out moving embassy to Jerusalem

Breaking promises: Despite firm and loud promises during the campaign to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Trump administration officials today said that no move is planned, for the near future.

And the Republicans wonder why they can’t get the Jewish vote. I have talked to numerous Jewish relatives, and though many are conservative, all of them have great reservations about the Republican Party, which they perceive as two-faced towards Israel and the Jewish people. Repeatedly they have seen Republican presidential candidates (from Reagan to Bush to Bush to Trump) promise to move the embassy, and then betray that promise once they were in office.

Granted the Democrats are very hostile to Israel these days, but they already have the blind loyalty of many Jews. You want to change their minds? Don’t backstab people, as the Republicans and Trump are now doing.

But then, this behavior has become typical for the Republican party. Across the board they show little loyalty to the people who voted for them. Instead, once in power they routinely ally themselves with the Washington power elites, often in direct betrayal of their campaign promises.

A side note: The link explains nicely how moving the embassy would probably aid the peace talks. Based on the failure of everything that has previously been tried, I see no reason not to do it.

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Palestinian Authority stops shipping medicine to Gaza

They’re such nice people! Because of the political battle between Hamas, running Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority, running the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has stopped its quarterly shipments of medicine to Gaza.

Palestine Today quotes Dr. Munir Bursh, the pharmacy director at the Ministry of Health in Gaza, saying that the Palestinian Authority has stopped supplying medicines and baby formula to Gaza altogether. “90% of the treatment of cancer patients in the Gaza Strip has stopped due to the lack of the supply of drugs,” he said. Bursh added, “This is reprehensible and very strange, threatening a major health disaster up to the collapse of the health situation in Gaza, because the Ramallah government has been responsible for supplying medicine to Gaza, despite the deficit in the previous years.”

“Whoever made this decision is killing the entire people, and punishing the entire people.” He said that the PA supplies the Gaza Strip with medicines every two months, but it did not send any medicines for three months now.

Hospitals in Gaza are also worried about the closure of the Gaza power plant due to the spat between Hamas and Fatah, saying that they cannot desalinate the water needed for every day purposes.

The last line refers to the decision by the Palestinian Authority to stop paying its Gaza electrical bill, forcing Israel to stop supplying Gaza with electricity.

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A look at some Israeli West Bank settlements

As my regular readers know, I periodically take trips to Israel to visit family. When I return, I then post my impressions and what I have learned, thereby providing an eye-witness perspective to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Previous essays from earlier visits are as follows, with the first five from my 2013 visit and the last from my visit in 2014.:

Map of the West Bank settlements that I have visited

Having just returned from another visit, I have some new impressions. Above all, I think it worthwhile to note that in all these visits, I have routinely stayed with relatives who live in West Bank settlements. In fact, I have now visited or stayed in five different settlements. The map on the right shows the locations of these settlements, marked with an X. If you click on the image you can see a higher resolution version.

Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the settlement from my 2003 visit, though I know it was west of Hebron. It might have been Carmel, but I am not sure. I do know I have indicated its location with reasonable accuracy.

Regardless, there are a number of things we can learn from my visits. The largest settlements, Alon Shvut, Kiryat Sefer, and Beitar, are all close to the 1949 Armistice border. They are also all relatively close to Jerusalem and thus act for many as suburbs of that larger city. As I wrote in 2013,
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Israeli student cubesat launched from Atlas 5

When the Cygnus capsule was placed in orbit yesterday, it also released a number of nanosats, one of which was a cubesat built by Israeli high school students.

More than 80 pupils in grades 9-12 at schools in Herzliya, Ofakim, Yeruham, Ofra, and the Bedouin town of Hura helped to construct Duchifat-2, which weighs just 1.8 kilograms (four pounds), and is just 20 centimeters (eight inches) tall and 10 centimeters wide. Due to its small size, the satellite has no motors and instead uses the earth’s magnetic field to keep itself correctly aligned in space.

Cubesats have generally been built and launched as college projects to help teach students the engineering behind satellites. This however was the only nanosat released by the Atlas 5 that involved high school students.

Note also that the project did not simply involve Jewish students.

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The Last Day

An evening pause: This short Israeli film seems pertinent as I leave for Israel again to visit family. The film was made before 2012, and attempts to portray a moment in the future.

When I first scheduled this, I suggested that people make sure they read the analysis at the youtube website. Youtube however has terminated this filmmaker’s account. I wonder why. Could it be because some from the Islamic world complained? Could it be that some within the google/youtube world didn’t like its message?

The video is still on youtube, however, posted by others. Freedom lives, even as some try to squelch it.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

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Off to Israel + new op-ed!

My April travels continue. It has been too long since I traveled to Israel to visit family, so today I am heading out for the long flight, arriving tomorrow afternoon. I will be there until April 20. I expect I will be able to post, as I have in the past, though my commentary will likely be reduced somewhat.

Note that I will have a new op-ed published sometime this week at The Federalist entitled “What Trump’s space policy should really do.” I am positive that my conclusions will not be what most people expect. The op-ed was inspired by this comment by Edward Thelen, part of comments in connection with this Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast, where I talked about space exploration in the context of the American settlement of the west.

The comparison with the American west is appropriate. There have been other expansions throughout the world, too. In the 19th century, the US was not the only country that had a frontier. We have several examples of expansion from which to learn, but the frontiers in the Americas were clearly the largest, complete with immigration from the Old World straight to the frontier.

An example of a lesson — beyond Robert’s example of the Homesteading Act — is the need for better communication between the US east coast and California. Messages and people needed to move across the continent in far less time and in a safer manner than those that were available in 1860, so government funded a transcontinental railroad, a line longer than had ever been built or operated before. Earthbound or space-born governments may also have needs for similar large projects. Although the needs of We the People has been shown to be best met through private-ownership of free-market capitalist commerce, there will be times when government should also fund projects that solve its needs.

Edward was suggesting that the focus of the federal government — and Trump’s space policy — should be building an infrastructure that will make it easier for private companies and individuals to work in space. My initial response had agreed with him:

What NASA should do is build the kind of infrastructure that private enterprise needs to explore the Moon, the asteroids, and Mars. Build a communications network. Put communications satellites behind the Moon. Set up radiation monitors that private tourists trips will need to monitor solar and cosmic radiation. And even here, the model should be that used in the west with the transcontinental railroad, where the government hired private companies to do the work for it.

I need to think about this more. This needs to be written up properly.

In thinking about it, however, I completely rejected my initial response, and Edward’s suggestion. The infrastructure that the federal government needs to build in space has nothing to do with physical objects. This is the mistake everyone has been making for decades. In my op-ed I argue for something else entirely, and I hope the Trump administration is listening.

Stay tuned. When the Federalist op-ed gets posted I will post the url here immediately.

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Republicans prepare legislation to defund UN

While both houses of Congress are moving forward on meaningless condemnations of the UN’s vote declaring the Oslo Accords null and Israel’s presence in parts of Jerusalem illegal, Republicans in both houses are also preparing legislation that will actually cut funding to the UN.

The right-wing House Freedom Caucus will meet next Monday to decide between two proposals to bring to the House. One would be to reduce American funding to the UN. The other, more aggressive proposal is to make funding voluntary, thus leaving it to Congress every two years to decide whether to continue contributing to the organization. “One is an incremental step, the other is really a herculean leap,” said Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows.

These ideas also have strong support by a number of Senators. I am hopeful that Congress will go beyond a mere condemnation and pass something that will actually cause the UN some pain.

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New Republican bill to move U.S. embassy to Jerusalem

Three Republican Senators today introduced legislation that would move the American embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

To a certain extent this law is mere show, as there already is a law that calls for the U.S. to do this, though that law also allowed presidents to waive the move if they thought it would harm international relations. That concern is essentially gone now, and it appears this new law eliminates the waiver clause.

This is likely only the beginning. At least, I hope it is.

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Republicans offer two meaningless resolutions condemning UN-Israel resolution

Failure theater: Two resolutions, one in the House and the other in the Senate, are going to be offered by Republicans to condemn the UN resolution that declared Israel’s presence in parts of Jerusalem and Israel to be illegal.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) was quoted by The Hill as having said on Friday he will introduce a measure on Tuesday expressing support for Israel and throwing the “sense of the Senate” behind disapproving the United Nations resolution. “Over the last eight years, the Obama administration has made a series of blatantly misguided choices when it comes to working with our strongest ally in the Middle East,” Moran said in a statement. He added the Trump administration will “have to work overtime to repair the damage President Obama has done.”

Separately, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) said Friday he is offering a resolution condemning President Barack Obama and the United Nations “for their dangerous anti-Israel actions”, according to The Hill.

Neither resolution will have any teeth. Essentially, they will declare that the UN was mean for what it did, but the U.S. Congress ain’t going to do anything about it.

Obviously, Congressional action might not end with these resolutions, but do not be surprised if this is all these cowards do.

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The upcoming Israeli response to the UN and Obama attacks

Link here. Essentially, the UN and the Palestinians might have literally shot themselves in the foot with their attempts to declare Israel’s presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank as illegal. The article outlines in great detail the long term negative results of the UN resolution last week, all of which we can now expect. I cannot quote it all, but this one quote will give you a taste:

Regarding the international community, the Security Council opened the door for its members to boycott Israel. As a result, Israel should show the UN and its factotums the door. Israel should work to de-internationalize the Palestinian conflict by expelling UN personnel from its territory.

The same is the case with the EU. Once Britain exits the EU, Israel should end the EU’s illegal operations in Judea and Samaria and declare EU personnel acting illegally persona non grata.

As for the Palestinians, Resolution 2334 obligates Israel to reconsider its recognition of the PLO. Since 1993, Israel has recognized the PLO despite its deep and continuous engagement in terrorism. Israel legitimized the PLO because the terrorist group was ostensibly its partner in peace. Now, after the PLO successfully killed the peace process by getting the Security Council to abrogate 242, Israel’s continued recognition of the PLO makes little sense. Neither PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas nor his deputies in Fatah – convicted, imprisoned mass murderer and terrorism master Marwan Barghouti, and Jibril Rajoub who said he wishes he had a nuclear bomb so he could drop it on Israel and who tried to get Israel expelled from FIFA – has any interest in recognizing Israel, let alone making peace with it. The same of course can be said for the PLO’s coalition partner Hamas.

An Israeli decision to stop recognizing the PLO will also have implications for the Trump administration.

In the aftermath of 2334, calls are steadily mounting in Congress for the US cancel its recognition of the PLO and end US financial support for the Palestinian Authority. If Israel has already ended its recognition of the PLO, chances will rise that the US will follow suit. Such a US move will have positive strategic implications for Israel.

Read it all. There is more, all of which is likely to happen, since the Israelis are faced with survival and will need to fight back.

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