Washington, July 20 — Israel would like to see a better future for the Syrian people and longs for peace with its neighbor but won’t interfere with the revolution occurring there, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Al Arabiya in an interview to be broadcast Thursday (July 21).
“We obviously would like to have peaceful relationships with Syria and we could only hope for a good future for the people of Syria. They deserve a good future. One of peace and one of freedom,” Netanyahu said. In Israel’s ongoing quest for peace, Netanyahu said he is “willing to negotiate peace with anyone that’s willing to accept the right of his people and his country.”
The Israeli prime minister also said Syrians are showing “enormous courage” during the deadly crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In the city of Homs, sectarian violence between the ruling Alawite minority and the Sunni majority claimedscores of lives on Monday. On Tuesday, security forces killed 13 people attending funerals of the victims.
In a separate interview, Netanyahu expressed concern about the continued flow of arms from Syria to Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based terrorist group also backed by Iran. Netanyahu made the comments while meeting in Jerusalem Tuesday (July 19) with U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen whose visit focused on Iran’s nuclear threat and the Islamic Republic’s growing involvement in the region.
Iran’s backing of the Syria Assad regime has harmed Syrian people as well as those of Lebanon, which Hezbollah uses as a base, Netanyahu told Al Arabiya.
“…what has also disturbed us is that Syria supports and has supported Hezbollah and Iran and Lebanon,”Netanyahu said. “The people of Lebanon under five years ago wanted to have their Cedar Revolution. Iran took it away from them with Hezbollah and with Syrian supporters.”
For Iran, Syria is the “weak link” in its fight for control over the Middle East, according to Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, writing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The Islamic Republic, he said, views the so-called ‘Arab spring’ “as a golden opportunity to export Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution to the changing Arab world.”
Jerusalem, July 19 - Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat are pushing ahead with their diplomatic campaign for recognition of Palestinians statehood at the United Nations in September despite the Middle East Quartet’s repeated requests that they choose peace talks instead.
Erekat said that the campaign will first seek recognition of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital and then try to gain membership of the U.N. as a full member state.
He also told a London-based Arabic language newspaper that they would proceed with the plan to seek full U.N. membership “even if the peace talks with Israel are revived before September,” The Jerusalem Post reported.
Erekat called the initiative “massive” and added that it is “being spearheaded by Fatah parliamentary bloc leader Azzam Ahmad and Palestine People's Party representative Bassam Salhi, who will travel to China to lobby support,” Israel’s Haaretz reported.
They will likely raise the issue in the U.N.’s General Assembly rather than the U.N.’s Security Council because the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany and Italy oppose the PA’s diplomatic maneuver.
Israel contends that the diplomatic campaign is not in the interest of a permanent and stable two-state solution because borders between the West Bank and Israel and issues of water, refugees and shared infrastructure would remain unresolved. Israel cites improvements in the Palestinian economy and security as tangible outcomes of existing cooperation.
The U.S. and EU-recognized terror organization, Hamas, said it opposes the PA’s plan and said “it had not been consulted about it” - despite the fact that Hamas and the PA signed a reconciliation pact in May.
“Hamas is a Foreign Terrorist Organization that calls Bin Laden a ‘holy warrior,’ remains determined to destroy Israel, and is responsible for the deaths of Israelis and Americans,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who chairs the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a recent media statement.
Israel views the Hamas-Fatah warming an obstacle to peace insomuch as Hamas continues to state that its main goal is the eradication of Israel.
“Now, Hamas will be a part of the Palestinian Authority, without having to recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence, or accept previous agreements,” the Ros-Lehtinen added.
At a recent Congressional hearing in Washington, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jacob Walles said: “The direct path to a two-state solution for a Palestinian state is the path of direct negotiations.”
Jerusalem, July 17 - Residents of southern Israel were sent back into bomb shelters this weekend as Gaza’s terrorists stepped up their rocket launchings. Close to 20 were fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza over the past week – totaling 348 this year alone.
The rocket fire has lasting physical and psychological effects on residents.
“We moved away to Moshav Gaya [a small village that is home to some 300 residents, located outside Ashkelon in southern Israel] because I wanted to feel more secure, even if the security is just in my thoughts. The moshav I live in has houses very spread out, so maybe the chances of being hit by a rocket are smaller” Dorit, a mother of two children, told The Israel Project on Sunday.
“My son, Ori, is seven and he is seeing a psychologist for anxiety attacks. I mean, he was so young when things were really bad and this has influenced him.
“I’m seeing a specialist too. I have a newborn baby to take care of, and I need to take care of myself and my children,” Dorit added.
Michal Shaban, spokeswoman of Shaar haNegev regional council that borders Gaza, said residents were bombarded over the past few days.
“We had a few weeks of quiet, but to our dismay the emergency situation has returned. All day it’s a case noise, sirens and fear,” Shaban said.
“As civilians, we fight for quiet and for a return to routine. But at the same time, we prepare for every possibility, and unfortunately, the emergency situation continues each day,” added Shaban.
“The IDF holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement last week. Hamas, which is funded, trained and armed by Iran, has not prevented the terror groups from launching the rockets at Israel.
Hamas may be trying to test the IDF’s response policy.
The IDF has used pinpointed response tactics to target terrorists and their infrastructure.
“In the past weeks the army's policy has been to strike targets in the strip in response to each rocket fired at Israel, avoiding a large-scale operation,” explained Israel’s YNet News.
Seven people were reportedly wounded during the retaliatory airstrikes over the weekend.
On March 23, 2011, a bomb weighing between 1-2 kilograms (2.2-4.4 pounds) exploded at a crowded bus stop next to Egged city bus #74, across the street from the Jerusalem Convention Center and near the Central Bus Station. Mary Jean Gardner, a 59-year-old British national who was studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was killed and about 50 people were wounded in the attack. Jerusalem Mayor Barkat notably remarked, "When terror attempts to disrupt our way of life, the best solution is to get back to normal as quickly as possible. Events in Jerusalem will not be cancelled and Jerusalem will not stop running."
"Strangers No More," a film about the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, won the Academy Award in the category of Documentary. Bialik-Rogozin also received the National Education Prize−the most prestigious prize awarded in the Israeli education system.
Washington, Feb. 14 – “The Israel Project’s Spanish language program is proud and humbled by the strong support and interest we have received from the U.S. Latino population,” says program director Leah Soibel. The Israel Project’s Spanish program was created approximately a year and a half ago in August, 2010.
The Israel Project’s Executive Director for the Americas, Alan Elsner, expounds, “We at TIP are excited by the opportunity to build and strengthen our relationships with this important community with which we share so many fundamental values and experiences, and we are eager to deepen our dialogue and learn from one another.”
In TIP’s first targeted quantitative efforts to collect public opinion data among this population in early 2011, Latinos clearly support Israel in the context of the conflict. Personal support for Israel reaches 48 percent while only 9 percent support the Palestinians. And, 44 percent of Latinos say the U.S. SHOULD support Israel, compared to only 6 percent for the Palestinians.
U.S. Latinos have warm feelings toward Israel by a three-to-one margin (41 percent positive-14 percent negative) and are cool toward the Palestinians by two-to-one (16 percent-31 percent). When asked to rate their feelings toward Iran, a majority of Latinos (54 percent) give a negative rating.
Like many other demographic groups in the U.S., TIP brings a targeted approach to communicating directly with the Latino community, and has great optimism regarding the strengthening of Israel’s relationship with this key group.
Recently, Soibel moved from TIP’s Jerusalem office to the Washington office to be closer to her daily efforts, working as an educator and resource for the Spanish language media as well as political and diplomatic leaders from the Latino community. She has worked closely with hundreds of Spanish-language reporters and world leaders over the years, providing them with exclusive materials in Spanish and facilitating tours, interviews and media events with experts and officials about the region.
Soibel is a meticulous researcher with expert knowledge of Israel's security needs and peace efforts, international terrorism and Iran-backed activities in Latin America and the Middle East. She regularly appears in the Spanish-language media and often briefs journalists and opinion leaders in Spanish and English on the latest Mideast developments.
As with other Western nations watching events unfold, Israel advocates the spread of democracy and stability throughout Egypt and the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed these sentiments when he spoke to Israel’s parliament in early February. He also warned about the dangers of Egypt being pushed to radicalization or influenced by Iran, a leading state sponsor of terrorism.
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel. The decision of the most powerful and influential Arab state to make peace with Israel reduced the likelihood of a large-scale Arab-Israeli war. It also brought Egypt into alliance with the West, helped strengthen moderate voices in the region and brought greater economic prosperity to the country.
Israel took political risks and sacrificed much to achieve peace, giving up oil fields, military bases, civilian settlements and a crucial land buffer for a promise of peace. Egypt kept its promise.
From the time of its independence, Israel waited 30 years for an Arab leader to show the courage and vision to make peace. Since 1977 Israel and Egypt have enjoyed more than three decades of peaceful relations.
Jerusalem, Jan. 2 – Terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza launched a military-grade projectile at an Israeli community of 6,500 residents on New Year's Day. The attack is part of a recent rise in mortar and rocket attacks on Israel coming from Gaza.
The Israeli Navy reportedly detained two ships that were trying to enter Gaza's coastal waters on Sunday.
Israel "holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip and for any terrorist activity emanating from it," the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Sunday.
Regional experts believe Tehran is a major sponsor of Hamas both militarily and financially.
Iran-backed Hamas is building up its military capability, particularly through weapons smuggling via Sinai, the Israel Security Agency said in its year-end report.
"The (United Nations) Security Council must give appropriate attention to the smuggling of arms into Gaza, which continues to fuel violence and instability in our region - in violation of numerous Security Council resolutions, including resolution 1860," Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Meron Reuben said in a letter to the organization in December 2010.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 in the hope that a civil society would develop and that it would lead to a two-state peace agreement. However, since then thousands of rockets have targeted Israeli homes in the cities and villages close to Gaza. Hamas has also extended the range of its rockets.
Meanwhile, Israeli police arrested five Hamas affiliates in East Jerusalem that were suspected of planning to fire rockets into Teddy Stadium, a sports center in southern Jerusalem, during a Premier League soccer game.
Two of the men were Arab Israeli citizens and three were Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem area has seen a rise in terrorist incidents in 2010, including throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails (or fire bombs, frequently used to set targets on fire), stabbings, and shootings.
In 2010, there were 798 terror attacks against Israelis. Nine Israelis were killed and 28 were wounded.
Also, 8,050 people have been wounded since the start of the second intifada in late September 2000, a period of increased Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians.
The second intifada began after Yasser Arafat, former leader of the Palestinian National Authority, walked out of the Camp David peace negotiations in July 2000.
There was a decrease in attempted suicide attacks in 2010. Joint Israeli and Palestinian cooperation is one of the reasons for the reduction in violence.
Israel's preventive security measures, coupled with the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s increased leadership and training of its own police force - with American assistance - has helped.
Haifa, Dec. 2 – Forty people have been killed as the worst forest fire in Israel’s history swept through the forests of Mount Carmel near Haifa.
The unprecedented disaster plunged Israel into mourning on the first day of the Chanukah festival.
Most of the dead were prison guards in the process of evacuating inmates from a prison in the path of the fire. Their bus was overtaken by fast-moving flames. The head of the Haifa Police Department, Deputy Commander Ahuva Tomer was critically injured in the fire.
Israel appealed for Cyprus, Italy, Russia and Greece to send firefighting planes to quell the flames which continued to rage. Spain was the first to respond, promising to send four firefighting planes to help Israel battle the inferno.
"Today, our hearts are in Haifa, with the firefighters that with incredible courage are battling the flames; some of them have been injured, along with residents of the area." said President Shimon Peres. "We are praying for a miracle. We are praying for their safety. We are praying for the fire to end." Magen David Adom Director General, Eli Bin called the fire the most severe such event in the country’s history.
Israel has been in the grip of a severe drought. Rains which normally come in November after the hot summer months failed to materialize this year. Israeli news outlets reported that the fire, aided by strong winds, has already burned at least 7,000 dunams (about 1,730 acres) of natural forest.
The University of Haifa was evacuated as a precaution as were residents of western neighborhoods, two prisons and a psychiatric hospital and at least two nearby villages.