Light for the Last Days

Israel Desk – April 2017

Trump stands up for Israel.

Meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House on February 15th, President Trump re-affirmed the United States ‘unbreakable bond with our cherished ally Israel’. He rebuked Barack Obama’s hostile farewell to Israel when the US backed an anti-settlement resolution in the Security Council, saying ‘I reject unfair and one sided actions against Israel at the UN.’ He called the Iranian nuclear agreement, which the Obama administration signed off, ‘one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen.’ He said he would like to work towards a deal to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Nikki Haley, Trump’s new appointee as US ambassador to the UN, told members of the press, ‘I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I’m here to emphasise the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias,’ she announced. Haley referenced the anti-Israel Resolution 2334, passed in December after former President Obama declined to veto the measure, which lashed Israel’s Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and dealt a severe blow to Israel’s standing at the UN. ‘We will never repeat the terrible mistake of Resolution 2334 and allow one-sided Security Council resolutions to condemn Israel,’ she vowed. Nikki Haley converted to Christianity after being brought up as a Sikh.

And talks to the Palestinians.

On 10th March Donald Trump had a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, after which he said that a Middle East peace conference is a real possibility. “The president emphasized his personal belief that peace is possible and that the time has come to make a deal,” the White House said. Trump underscored that such a peace agreement must be negotiated directly between the two parties and that the United States will work closely with Palestinian and Israeli leadership to make progress toward that goal, the statement said.

In a statement made by the Palestinian authority, Trump is stated to have said that “it is time we end the suffering which lasted for 70 years.” Abbas responded that they are “committed to peace, as a strategic achievement in an overall effort to found a Palestinian state alongside Israel.”

Palestinian officials say that Mahmoud Abbas was able to squeeze major concessions from US President Donald Trump when he called the Palestinian leader. Abbas is expected to visit the White House next month. When he does, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Trump will make a “historic” offer to the Palestinians. According to Erekat, Trump will ask Abbas to restart peace negotiations with Israel in exchange for American pressure on Israel to freeze Jewish settlements. Trump will also reportedly offer to rescind his promise to return the US Embassy to Jerusalem, a move that would offer significant backing to Israel’s claim to the holy city.

In response to this Yuval Steinitz, a top Israeli government official, has said Abbas is not a genuine partner for peace. “Israel is just telling the truth about Mahmoud Abbas’ extreme positions, which negate the existence of Israel as a Jewish state,” he told Israel Radio.

Netanyahu warns Putin about Iran.

Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Russian President Putin in Moscow on March 8th to address developments in Syria and how to combat Iran’s military presence in the war-torn country. He said Iran was seeking to exploit recent attempts to reach a political settlement in Syria in order to cement its military presence there. “There is an attempt by Iran to entrench itself permanently in Syria, with a military ground and naval presence,” he said. He added that even without an agreement guaranteeing its long-term military presence in the country, Iran will seek to ensure it retains a foothold there. Netanyahu also said: “There is also a gradual attempt to establish a front against us in the Golan Heights.” He expressed to President Putin Israel’s ‘strong and resolute opposition to this possibility”

Since its intervention in the Syrian civil war in 2015, Russia has worked closely with Iran in order to help prop up the regime of President Bashar Assad and preserve the two countries’ respective interests in Syria. Netanyahu has sought Russia’s help in seeking to thwart the attempts of Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah to use Syria as a base from which to attack Israel, telling Russian media outlets during a visit to Moscow last June that “Iran will not be allowed, using Hezbollah, to use Syrian territory to attack us and open up another terrorist front against us in the Golan.”

Another Israeli concern is the S-300 anti-aircraft system that Russia has supplied Iran with. This advanced weapons system makes it virtually impossible for Israel to launch any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Mr Netanyahu remains convinced that Iran is still working on producing a nuclear weapon and that this possibility represents a mortal danger to Israel.

Meeting with Putin in Moscow three days before the Jewish holiday of Purim, commemorating the events of the book of Esther, Netanyahu said Persia had made “an attempt to destroy the Jewish people that did not succeed” some 2,500 years ago. “Today there is an attempt by Persia’s heir, Iran, to destroy the state of the Jews,” Netanyahu said. “They say this as clearly as possible and inscribe it on their ballistic missiles.”   Putin said that the events described by Netanyahu had taken place “in the fifth century BCE.” “We now live in a different world. Let us talk about that now,” Putin said.

The exchange highlighted the radically divergent world views of the two leaders: Netanyahu has said he sees himself as the guardian of the Jewish people against existential threats, most notably from Iran and its nuclear program. Putin, on the other hand, has sought to maintain positive ties with Tehran, including by selling the country the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft system over Israel’s objections.

Appeal to plant trees in Israel.

Zo Artzenu, a Jewish charity, is appealing for funds to plant trees in Israel. At the time of Israel’s New Year for Trees (Tu Bishvat), its appeal reads ‘In November 2016, tens of thousands of trees were destroyed, many due to arson fires set by our enemies. Now more than ever, Israeli farmers need your help to replace fruit trees that have been burned. Let’s plant even more trees than were destroyed! STARTING RIGHT NOW, OVER 20 KINDS OF FRUIT TREES WILL BE PLANTED. Apples, Apricots, Almonds, Dates, Figs, Pears, Plums, Pomegranates and so much more! In the Bible, God promises to bless those who properly observe the laws of planting in Israel:  “I will ordain My blessing for you…” (Leviticus 25:21).

Muslim Sheikh: ‘We don’t want to throw the Jews into the Sea’.

Israel Today published an interview with Sheikh Abu Khalil al Tamimi, the spiritual leader of the Islamic fundamentalist Salafist sect in the Palestinian territories. He said, ‘A two state solution does not make any sense. We want to live under Israeli democracy as equal citizens in Palestine. A one state solution is the only chance for peace for both peoples.’ Asked if his views had any support among the Palestinian people, he replied, ‘Yes. The vast majority want to live in a state with the Jews under democratic rule. Even the Koran talks about the Jews returning to the Holy Land in the last phase of world history. Believe me many Palestinians will tell you that life in Israel is much better than in the autonomous areas or in the Arab countries.’ Asked if the Jews and Muslims can find a peaceful compromise regarding the focal point of the conflict, Jerusalem, he replied: ‘I think the Jews should listen to their rabbis and keep the status on the holy mountain (i.e. the Temple Mount).   Jews should wait for their Messiah first. We Muslims believe in a redeemer, Imam el Mahdi, who will first make a peace agreement with the Americans. And then the Messiah will come. We need to wait until then.’

Taking on Israel’s Sex Trade.

Prostitution has reached a crisis level in Israel. A government survey notes that in 2014 there were upwards of 12,730 sex workers, each with approximately 660 clients a year. Of the men and women interviewed in the study the majority said they would like to escape the industry, but financial debts, intimidation by employers and a lack of job skills keeps them trapped in a desperate trade.

Now Christian volunteers and local Messianic believers have started A.I.R. (Act, Inspire, Restore), a social impact business which provides paid employment to women and men who want to escape the horrors of exploitation of the commercial sex industry. The job offers them a viable alternative to sex work, giving them a chance to rehabilitate their broken lives. The staff and volunteers at A.I.R. are training Jews and Arabs caught up in the sex trade to build furniture made out of wooden shipping pallets that would otherwise be discarded. The business which is registered in Tel Aviv has already filled a major order for furniture by Abraham Hostel, the largest hostel chain in the Middle East.

Matthias Opplinger, founder of the organisation, told Israel Today that government officials are collaborating in the project. ‘The Ministry of Social Affairs is sending us people desperate to get out of the sex trade. We teach them skill and offer them a good paying job in a wholesome atmosphere where they are being rehabilitated. These folks are embraced and treated with acceptance, respect and kindness and they respond.’

Israel Today.

Missile dangers to Israel.

An IDF spokesperson confirmed that at least four missiles were fired in the direction of Israel’s southernmost city Eilat, from the direction of the Egyptian border. Three of the missiles were successfully intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system, while the fourth landed in an open area. The missiles were fired by ISIS affiliated rebels fighting against the Egyptian government in northern Sinai. Israel believes Hamas operatives from Gaza are cooperating with ISIS groups and are encouraging attacks on Israel as well as on Egyptian army forces.

The IDF responded earlier to a mortar shell that landed in the Golan Heights, which was shot from across Israel’s border with Syria. There were no casualties or damages that were reported. The IDF said that it launched an attack on a target on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights region, holding the regime in Damascus responsible for such action. “The IDF will not tolerate any attack on Israel’s sovereignty or the security of its citizens, and sees the Syrian regime is responsible for what happens in its territory,” an IDF spokesperson said.

Israel’s main fear on this front is a renewal of conflict with the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. Hezbollah has at least 120,000 rockets aimed at Israel, many of them able to strike anywhere in the country. The IDF Home Front Command is preparing for the thousands of rockets expected to strike Israel during the next war, investing hundreds of millions of shekels over the past two years on defensive measures and strengthening strategic capabilities. The IDF expects that an estimated 150,000 civilians would leave their homes in the North in the event of a war with Hezbollah. In addition to preparing for a mass evacuation, the IDF has spent millions of shekels on upgrading and constructing new public bomb shelters. In this respect, Tel Aviv is considered one of the best protected cities whereas many areas in the Negev are said to be most at risk. The command, which conducts annual drills to prepare for emergency scenarios, has also begun conducting annual nationwide emergency drills for schoolchildren. It has also begun a project to teach high school students how to administer first aid to themselves, in the event that the arrival of emergency services is delayed.

Donald Trump promises ‘Things will be different after January 20th.’

Commenting on the UN vote, Donald Trump vowed on Twitter: “Things will be different after January 20th,” (i.e. after he becomes President). He has made statements suggesting he will change decades of U.S. foreign policy on dealing with Israelis and Palestinians, giving Israel a freer hand to build settlements and relocating the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Mr Trump has said, “My administration will stand side-by-side with the Jewish people and Israel’s leaders. Together we will stand up to enemies, like Iran, bent on destroying Israel and her people, together we will make America and Israel safe again.” His Vice President, Mike Pence, is an Evangelical Christian and strong supporter of Israel. He stated at that rally in Jerusalem that Jerusalem is the “eternal undivided capital of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.” He called Israel America’s  “most cherished ally,” and that “Israel’s fight is our fight, because Israel’s cause is our cause.”

David Friedman has been named as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. After his appointment was announced, Friedman stated he looked forward to forging the U.S. bond with Israel “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.” Friedman also has voiced opposition to the so-called two-state solution and vowed that a Trump administration would never pressure Israel to accept a Palestinian state.

At the same time Trump has expressed the hope that his administration will bring about a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. In an interview with the Times of London, Trump said that his son in law, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s husband, would to take on the task of negotiating peace between Israelis and Palestinians – an appointment Trump has previously floated due to the fact that Kushner “knows the region, knows the people, knows the players,” Trump described in a previous interview.

The Palestinians reacted with fury to the proposal to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.   They see this as ‘recognising Jerusalem as the capital of the Jews’. Abbas’ advisor on religious affairs, Mahmoud Al-Habbash said, “It is a declaration of war on all Muslims.” Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat “If you transfer the embassy and agree to the annexation of the settlements in the West Bank, you will drag the region into a state of anarchy, extremism, and lawlessness.”

70 nations gathered in Paris to call for creation of a Palestinian State

The Middle East Peace Conference in Paris on 14th January gathered ’70 nations’, not including Israel, to call for the creation of a Palestinian State. Based on the table of nations in Genesis 10 Judaism considers the phrase ‘70 nations’ to symbolise all the nations of the world, even if the actual number exceeds 70. Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn said, “One could say that the 70 nations are a representation of all nations, and coming together clearly set against the word of God which clearly ordains that Jerusalem is given by God to only one nation – Israel.’

The joint declaration that was issued at the conclusion of the conference endorsed UN Security Council Resolution 2334 which was adopted on December 23rd and the six principles that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry laid out in his 70 minute speech on December 28th.  However it did not immediately recognise a Palestinian state, nor did it lead to further action being taken by the UN Security Council on 17th January, as had been feared by Israel. The conference participants agreed to work toward “a negotiated solution with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security”, which is merely a re-statement of the long held position of the UN anyway.

There was actually nothing new in this statement, and the outcome of this conference was not nearly as bad for Israel as many had been anticipating.   The original intention of the conference, which was called for one year ago by former French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, was seen as a way of forcing Israel to accept a Palestinian state inside its borders.

Yuval Rotem, Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, considered the conference to be a victory for behind-the-scenes Israeli diplomacy. “The fact that the Paris conference has no follow-up is, from our perspective, the most meaningful accomplishment.   Even though we did not attend the conference, we succeeded in getting across our position.” PA President Mahmoud Abbas was disappointed in the conference and cancelled a follow up meeting with French President Francois Hollande.

Israel cares for wounded Syrians.

Considering he’s lost 25 members of his extended family to the civil war in Syria and has difficulty walking due to injuries from a car bombing, Fadi (not his real name) looks remarkably relaxed. He grins warmly as he greets The Jerusalem Post at his bedside at Ziv Medical Center in Safed. His self-assurance may stem from the fact that he knows he is getting good care.

Fadi one of about 800 Syrians to be treated at the hospital since February 2013, making Ziv the largest treatment centre in Israel for wounded Syrians. He says the residents of his area yearn for peace. “We want peace and to live in coexistence as one people without wars and to create a popular basis of friendship and brotherliness and to renounce violence,” he says. Fadi says he has found Israel to be very different than the image depicted by the Assad regime. “Assad teaches in order to make people think that the Israeli people is our enemy. But we don’t believe it today. We want peace with Israel and all the peoples around the world.”

While staying in Ziv, Fadi is under the care of social worker Fares Issa, who started work in the hospital just a few months before the Syrians began being treated there and has handled all the cases of Syrian patients. Issa, 39, from Gush Halav near Safed, says those who arrive at the hospital “are wounded by gunfire, shrapnel, severance of limbs, stepping on mines and car accidents caused by snipers firing at the wheels of cars. “They have war trauma, a trauma similar to what Holocaust survivors have. They store things, they don’t place their faith in anyone,” Issa says.

The first thing Issa does for them is bring them new clothes, because their clothes have invariably been torn to treat the wounds. Some of the cases have left a deep impression on Issa. A year ago two children were admitted to the hospital, one of whom had lost both his legs from shelling. “The child who lost his legs, a 12-year-old, was screaming in the trauma room, ‘Don’t treat me, because we don’t have money to pay for the hospital.’ “I tried to calm him down,” Issa says. “He said they don’t have money. But you want to give them life, life for a child who has lost his legs.

“It was very hard for me and when I went home I still heard his words in my head that he doesn’t have money, that ‘they shouldn’t treat me, that they should let me die.’ It really moved me. My dream was to see him walk on two legs. Three months later, with the help of the hospital and the director, with the very supportive environment, they had given him a lot of things – games, clothes, a tablet so that he could pass his time and enjoy. In the end, I gave him two prosthetic limbs with the help of which he was able to stand up and walk.

“I felt good with myself, because at first I had told myself ‘I have to make sure this boy goes home on two legs.’ I felt good that I had fulfilled this for myself. I had a fatherly connection with that boy, I felt he was my child.’

Issa says the Syrian patients are always anxious to go home to their families, even though it means going back to the war. They are sent home as soon as they finish their treatment.

Jerusalem Post.

Tony Pearce

Tony Pearce

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