Middle East Roundup: May 8, 2017

 

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Palestinian terrorist prisoner Barghouti caught secretly eating during hunger strike

(JNS.org) Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan revealed Sunday that convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti, who has led a hunger strike in Israeli prisons, has been caught secretly eating.

A video released by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) shows security camera recordings of Barghouti eating cookies and salted snacks in the toilet stall of his prison cell during the hunger strike.

“This hunger strike was never about the conditions of the convicted terrorists, which meet international standards,” Erdan said. “It is about advancing Marwan Barghouti’s political ambitions to replace Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas).”

He added, “Barghouti is a murderer and hypocrite who urged his fellow prisoners to strike and suffer while he ate behind their back.”

Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah Sunday, the terrorist prisoner’s wife, Fadwa Barghouti, claimed recordings of her husband were fabricated and said the footage will only strengthen Palestinian prisoners’ resolve.

An unidentified IPS official told Israel’s Channel 2 Monday the videos of Barghouti were obtained as part of an IPS plan to tempt the strike leaders to eat by placing food in their cells.

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96 percent of French Israelis vote for Macron, envoy says

(JNS.org) French Ambassador to Israel Helene Le Gal said Monday that French Israelis who voted in the final round of France’s presidential election Sunday overwhelmingly supported the winner, Emmanuel Macron.

Le Gal tweeted that 96.3 percent of French Israelis who cast their ballots in the cities of Tel Aviv, Netanya, Haifa, Ashdod, Eilat and Be’er Sheva opted for Macron, who went on to win with 64 percent of the total vote against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

In February, Le Pen had stated her intent to ban dual citizenship with non-European Union countries, troubling French Jews who also hold Israeli citizenship.

Le Gal told Army Radio that Macron would be “very friendly” toward Israel. On the eve of the election, Macron reiterated his stance that unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state would create instability and damage France’s relationship with the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the French president-elect, saying both Israel and France both face the threat of “radical Islamic terror,” and expressing confidence the “longtime allies” would “continue to deepen” relations.

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Israel’s first ‘smart’ hiking trail to be completed by spring 2018

(JNS.org) An initiative dubbed the “Sanhedrin Trail,” launched by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in cooperation with Israel’s National Religious Education Administration, will see the construction of Israel’s first “smart” hiking trail completed by the spring of 2018.

The 70-kilometer (43.5-mile) trail will span the Lower Galilee between Tiberias and Beit She’arim National Park, and will interface with an augmented reality-based mobile app, designed to integrate historic sites with current landscapes.

The app will virtually reconstruct heritage sites from the Second Temple period more than 2,000 years ago, when the 71 members of the Great Sanhedrin court presided on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

“People such as Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the members of the Sanhedrin who were active here 2,000 years ago, determined to a great extent much of how our lives are run today,” said Yair Amitzur, the IAA’s antiquities inspector for the Eastern Galilee, reported Israel21c.

“The establishment of the trail and walking on it will connect those who live here today with the atmosphere and frame of mind of that period,” Amitzur added.

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US and Israel to conduct joint air force drill over Arava desert

(JNS.org) Israeli and American air force pilots will participate in a joint exercise this week over the Arava desert, north of Eilat.

Several U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jets have already arrived in Israel to participate in the drill, which will take place at the Israeli Air Force’s Ovda air base.

Ovda is home to the Flying Dragon Squadron, also known as the Red Squadron, which acts as enemy aircraft during combat simulations. The squadron is comprised of F-16 fighter jets and Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters.

“An international exercise in cooperation with the American air force will begin in the coming days,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said. “The exercise is based on the annual training plan.”

This week’s exercise is a precursor to a significantly larger air force drill scheduled for November, dubbed “Blue Flag.” During Blue Flag, Israel will host combat pilots and support crews from the U.S., Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India and Italy.

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Hasidic Judaism founders’ belongings to be sold at Jerusalem auction

(JNS.org) A Jerusalem auction house is set to take bids for items belonging to two founders of Judaism’s Hasidic movements.

Kedem Auction House Tuesday will auction off a piece of fabric that was part of a robe worn by Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, known as “the Baal Shem Tov,” who founded the broader Hasidic movement, and a tobacco pipe that once belonged to Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak Rabinowitz, founder of the Gur Hasidic sect.

The piece of fabric is made of woven floral fabric and was handed down by the descendants of the Baal Shem Tov as a family heirloom. The family tradition claims the fabric was taken from the robe of “Or Shivat HaYamim,” which the Baal Baal Shem Tov wore from age 26 until he died at 60.

The second item, Rabinowitz’s tobacco pipe, is crafted from sepiolite and silver and was also a family heirloom passed down for generations. The tobacco pipe holds special meaning in Hasidic tradition, as it is recounted that Hasidic spiritual leaders performed Kabbalistic meditations and “unifications” of holy names using their smoking pipes.

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Israeli ministerial committee approves much-debated ‘Nationality Law’

(JNS.org) Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation unanimously approved a new version of the “Nationality Law” Sunday, four years after the much-debated bill was originally proposed.

The legislation would preserve the notion that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people.

“The Nationality Law is critical in a time like this, when elements from within and without are trying to reject the Jewish people’s right to a national home in its country and the recognition of the state of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” said Member of Knesset Avi Dichter (Likud), who initially proposed the legislation, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

The legislation will proceed to a preliminary reading in the Knesset and will then return to the Ministerial Committee for further discussion. Opponents of the bill say it discriminates against minorities in Israel such as Arab Israelis, as it downgrades Arabic from being an official language to having “a special status in the state,” meaning its speakers have “the right to language-accessible state services.”

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Netanyahu declares support for Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts

(JNS.org) Ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed his support for the American leader’s push for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

“The president will be warmly welcomed here as a great friend of Israel and as is customary for the leader of our greatest ally, the United States,” Netanyahu said Sunday at Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting.

“The president is seeking to examine ways of renewing the peace process with the Palestinians. I share in this desire, as do the citizens of Israel. We want peace. We are also educating our children for peace,” said Netanyahu, referencing comments made last week by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who had claimed, during his first meeting with Trump, that the Palestinians teach their children peace.

Netanyahu said, “I heard Abu Mazen (Abbas) say that the Palestinians are also educating their children for peace. I regret that this is simply incorrect.” Following Abbas’s comments, the Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors and translates Arab media reports, published a series of excerpts highlighting “the indoctrination of children by the Palestinian Authority and Fatah in armed resistance, jihad and martyrdom.”

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Islamic State warns of new terror attacks on Egypt’s Christians

(JNS.org) A leader of the Islamic State terror group’s operations in Egypt issued a warning expressing the intent to launch new attacks on Christians in Egypt.

“We are warning you to stay away from Christian gatherings, as well as the gatherings of the army and the police, and the areas that have political government facilities,” said the unnamed Islamic State leader in an interview with the Al Naba weekly newspaper.

According to the warning, Islamic State intends to launch attacks on “legitimate targets,” including churches and Christian businesses. The new threat comes after two Islamic State terror attacks at Egyptian Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday, April 9, in the Nile Delta city of Tanta and the coastal city of Alexandria. The attacks killed a combined 45 people.

Islamic State also claimed responsibility for a terror attack at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Egyptian Sinai in mid-April. One policeman was killed and four others were injured in that attack.

The jihadist terror group is increasingly targeting Christians and religious minorities in Egypt in a challenge to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who has vowed to protect those population groups from terrorism.

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Hezbollah purportedly blasts Hamas’s new policy manifesto
(JNS.org) The Lebanese terror group Hezbollah purportedly blasted Hamas’s recently issued policy document, which appears to accept a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders.

Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Qassem, without specifically mentioning the Gaza-ruling Palestinian terror group or its document, said Hezbollah “stands by the resistance that sticks to the goal of liberating the entire Palestine unconditionally.”

“We dissociate from the resistance [groups] that divide Palestine into two states. We dissociate from the resistance that sells the blood [of ‘martyrs’ in exchange] for land,” said Qassem, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported.

Qassem also made it clear Hezbollah only supports groups that insist on “the full liberation of the Palestinian territories without any preconditions.”

Israeli officials and policy experts have dismissed Hamas’s document as an attempt by the terror group to gain greater appeal among the international community and the Palestinian population.
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Lawmakers call on State Dept. to allow listing of Jerusalem as part of Israel on passports
(JNS.org) Dozens of members of Congress signed a letter urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reverse the longstanding U.S. policy of not allowing Americans to list Jerusalem as part of Israel on the birthplace section in passports.

“Under the current policy, Americans born in Jerusalem have no country of birth listed on these documents; they are identified only as having been born in Jerusalem,” 52 lawmakers, led by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R.-Fla.), wrote to Tillerson last week, the Washington Free Beacon reported. “We ask that you change the policy to permit Jerusalem-born Americans to have ‘Israel’ listed as their birthplace.”

In the letter, the delegation noted a 2002 law passed by Congress that requires the State Department to record “Israel” as a Jerusalem-born citizen’s birthplace on their passport. Yet the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did not implement the law, arguing that designating Jerusalem as part of Israel would interfere with the U.S. being an honest broker in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the congressional law, arguing it would interfere with the president’s power in dictating foreign policy.
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Assault rifle used by terrorists found concealed in Palestinian child’s bed
(JNS.org) An assault rifle that had been used to commit shooting terror attacks on Jewish towns in Samaria was found hidden in the headboard of a Palestinian child’s bed in the village of Fahm, Israel Hayom reported Friday.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, in collaboration with the elite Duvdevan army unit, discovered the weapon while searching the home of a suspected member of a terrorist cell last month. The search was part of a larger operation ultimately resulting in the arrest of two terrorists.

In the child’s room, pink “Dora the Explorer” sheets and dolls on the bed gave the room a normal appearance, but inside the headboard’s storage compartment, troops discovered a weapon that had been used to commit terrorist attacks.

During the past two months, the terrorist cell used the gun to perpetrate shooting attacks on the northern Samaria towns of Shavei Shomron, Hermesh and Shaked, as well as the nearby Salem army post. Nobody was killed in the attacks, but the shootings caused property damage.
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