Israel approves largest West Bank settlement construction in 25 years

Israel approves largest West Bank settlement construction in 25 years
Israel has greenlighted plans for over 8,000 new homes in the West Bank, with over a third for “immediate” construction, the defense minister revealed on Sunday, making it the largest expansion of Jewish settlements in the area in 25 years.

According to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, 3,651 settlements were approved last week, Haaretz reports. The minister noted that “What we’ve approved on June 6 and 7 is the maximum that can be approved.”

Plans for 8,345 new housing units have been approved by the Israeli authorities so far this year, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency writes, citing Liebermann. Out of these, 3,066 have been given final approval and will soon be built.

“The numbers for the first half of 2017 are the highest since 1992,” Lieberman said, as cited by local media and news agencies.

The defense minister also praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for its aggressive stance on expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“There was no better government in terms of settlement construction,” he said, according to Haaretz.

For some, however, the plans appear to fall short of expectations.

“I respect the defense minister very much but unfortunately the numbers he mentioned aren’t correct,” Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, said, according to the newspaper. According to Dagan, most of the approved units “are counted five or six times,” essentially putting the “real number” under 2,000 housing units.

However, according to Lieberman, pushing for more would “stretch the rope beyond its limit, and thus put the entire settlement enterprise at risk.”

Nearly 400,000 Jewish settlers are estimated to be living in the West Bank along with 2.8 million Palestinians. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, an area claimed by Palestinians.

The construction of settlements in the region is considered illegal under international law. The international community has long voiced concerns over the controversial constructions while condemning the deteriorating security situation between Israelis and Palestinians.

The government of Israel stopped building official settlements in 1992, according to Israeli monitoring group Peace Now. That, however, did not stop the construction of unauthorized settlements in the West Bank.

Egypt delays UN motion on Israel as Trump intervenes

This file photo taken on November 15, 2016 shows a placard reading "Trump Make Israel Great Again" in Tel Aviv.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMr Trump’s strong support for Israel is reciprocated, as this placard in Tel Aviv showed in November

Egypt has delayed a UN vote on a text condemning Israeli settlements in occupied territory after Israel asked Donald Trump to intervene.

Israel contacted the US president-elect’s transition team after learning that the Obama administration might abstain in a Security Council vote.

The move would have allowed the motion to pass, a US official told the BBC.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi discussed the issue in a phone call with Mr Trump, Mr Sisi’s office said.

In a statement, it said the two men had agreed on “the importance of giving a chance for the new American administration to deal in a comprehensive way with the different aspects of the Palestinian issue”.

The resolution submitted by Egypt called for Israel to stop settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it said breached international law.

It was to have been put to a vote on Thursday, but Egypt withdrew it hours before the meeting was due to start.

Israel’s ambassador the US Ron Dermer expressed gratitude to Mr Trump, tweeting “Israel deeply appreciates the clear and unequivocal call of President-elect @realDonaldTrump to veto anti-Israel resolution at the UN.”

Construction at Givat Zeev settlementImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe Obama administration has often rebuked Israel over settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem

The US, which holds the power of veto as a permanent member of the Security Council, has traditionally sheltered Israel from condemnatory resolutions by voting them down.

The Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement building and there had been speculation that in its final month it might allow a resolution against settlements to pass at the UN.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Trump, who takes over as president on 20 January, had urged the Security Council to defeat the motion.

“Peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations,” he said in a statement.

“This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

This file photo taken on March 21, 2016 shows US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference in Washington, DC,Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBoth Israeli officials and the Egyptian president spoke with Mr Trump, it emerged

After the postponement of the vote, an Israeli official told Reuters news agency that it had warned the Obama administration in advance that it would appeal to the president-elect if the US abstained, and confirmed that it had directly asked Mr Trump to intervene.

However, four other members of the Security Council warned that if Egypt did not press ahead with its resolution, other member states would do so.

New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Senegal said they reserved the right to move ahead with the vote.

The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace.

About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Israeli social media reacts to the pope’s visit to Auschwitz

As Pope Francis meets with Holocaust survivors in Auschwitz, users took to social media to share their thoughts on the historic visit. More than 1.1 million people were killed in the former Nazi concentration camp.

Polen Weltjugendtag 2016 Papst Franziskus besucht Auschwitz

As the pope walked through the notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work sets you free”) gate at the entrance to Auschwitz, pictures coming from the former concentration camp were too strong for social media users to ignore.

Within an hour of his visit , #Auschwitz began trending as a topic on Twitter with many users sharing personal thoughts.

Multiple tweets and posts praised the pontiff – the third consecutive to make the pilgrimage to the place. They called his visit “emotional” and commented on the image of him walking through the gate as “strong.”

Watch video00:53

Pope Francis visits Auschwitz concentration camp

Out of the three successive popes to visit Auschwitz, Pope Francis is the first one who has no personal connection to it: John Paul II hailed from Poland, which was under German occupation at the time the camp was used by the Nazis, while Benedict XVI was German.

The visit has also inevitably touched the hearts of many Israelis, who saw it as a gesture of kindness and respect for the Jewish people and the victims of the Holocaust in particular.

“An extremely powerful image of the pope visiting Auschwitz,” one Israeli journalist tweeted. Others shared the photo of the pontiff passing under the gate, applauding Pope Francis for being humble and modest, “walking on his own, silently, without an orchestra or a chorus.”

The pope has met with several survivors of the Auschwitz camp, an act largely hailed by Israeli media as a “historic event.” One by one, the pontiff stopped to shake the survivors’ hands, immediately bending over to kiss them on both cheeks.

“Pope Francis is visiting Auschwitz concentration camp, where he will hold a prayer in the gas chambers area and meet with Holocaust survivors,” Israeli channel 10, one of the most popular in the country, tweeted.

However, not everyone was impressed by the visit and some Israeli Twitter users have even called the pope “weak” and “fawning.”

“This has to be the most obsequious pope Christianity has known so far,” an Israeli user tweeted in Hebrew, referring to the pontiff’s pledge to Poland to open its doors to migrants.

Yet for the survivors themselves it has been a “great honor” to meet the pope, 100-year-old Alojzy Fros told the Associated Press. “This is a huge thing for me.”

Poland’s chief rabbi Michael Schudrich prayed in the pope’s presence, reading Psalm 130 in Hebrew, which starts: “From the depths I have cried out to you, O Lord.”

“The pope presents in pictures how one can visit the Polish soil – soaked with Jewish blood – alone, bowed headed and silently. We should learn from him and teach ourselves,” this user said, summing up the visit.



On Eve of Yom Kippur, Ann Coulter Still Unrepentant for ‘F—ing Jews’ Tweet (INTERVIEW)

SEPTEMBER 22, 2015 11:59 AM 38 COMMENTS

Ann Coulter, the controversial conservative pundit who aroused the ire of Jews last week when she tweeted comments perceived as antisemitic. Photo: Twitter.

On the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, conservative political firebrand Ann Coulter expressed only a smidgen of regret for her now infamous Twitter tirade, in which she accused candidates at last week’s Republican presidential debate of pandering to Jews.

Among a string of angry messages lambasting the contenders’ focus on consensus issues, the pundit tweeted, “How many f—ing Jews do these people think there are in the United States?”

Offered the chance to reconsider her choice of words in an interview with The Algemeiner on Monday, her first with a Jewish publication since making the comments, Coulter yielded only that, “I would’ve used the ‘f—ing’ in a different part of the sentence.” And even that would only be in order to prevent her critics from “chopping up” her words and putting together a “bomb.”

Throughout the course of the interview, Coulter claimed she has been inundated with “fan mail from my Jewish fans.” She asserted that she is “a friend of Israel” and stands “against the enemies of the Jews.” She also said that while Jews “are usually so good with real estate,” Israel would do better if it relocated to the southern U.S. border. She called Donald Trump “the most Jewish” Republican candidate — although she has yet to hear any criticism from Trump’s Jewish daughter, Ivanka — and expressed interest in finding herself a Jewish doctor with whom to settle down.

But she was repeatedly dismissive of the maelstrom of antisemitism that her comments have ignited on social media networks, and rejected criticism from Jewish groups across the political spectrum that her comments played into antisemitic stereotypes about Jews having undue influence on American policy to the detriment of U.S. interests.

She pooh-poohed attacks from liberals, whom she called, “utter frauds and hypocrites” that “are constantly sucking up to antisemites,” but she also refused to take criticism from Jewish groups that might usually be aligned with her politically.

The hawkish Zionist Organization of America blasted Coulter’s “appalling, anti-Jewish remarks which evoked the classic, antisemitic trope about Jewish manipulation of America for the purposes of supporting Israel at America’s expense,” and the Orthodox National Council of Young Israel condemned her “ill-advised decision to spew hatred by denigrating the state of Israel and the Jewish community.” Commentary Magazine editor and conservative commentator John Podhoretz tweeted simply, “Shame on you.”

But Coulter dismissed the condemnations from “groups I agree with” as coming from people who “were deceived” and are “unfamiliar with my work,” as well as others who “may just be naive.”

Confronted by The Algemeiner with the prevailing wisdom that her tweet played into the most grotesque Jewish stereotypes, Coulter deflected, saying, “I’m throwing their Israel-pandering right in with their Reagan-pandering and their abortion-pandering.” She also noted, “In fact, right after sending that tweet, I tweeted out: ‘or maybe it’s the evangelicals.’”

Asked if she would repudiate the antisemitic hordes that have gathered in her defense under the #IStandWithAnn social-media banner, she claimed, “I haven’t seen any of those tweets. I hear about them but… I don’t even want to acknowledge their existence. It gives them too much credibility.”

“But for one thing,” she added, “If, or to the extent that, they are antisemites, well, they are going to become familiar with my work, and they’re going to see I’m not.”

Despite the strong implication to the contrary of her initial tweet, Coulter insisted that support for Israel in the U.S. is by no means a Jewish issue, but “truly an American cause” and that she supports U.S. aid to Israel because “they are our only friend there.”

“I must tell you,” she said, “Jews are usually so good with real estate. You guys are in a bad neighborhood over there. You are surrounded by animals and lunatics.”

“Israel knows how to defend itself,” she added. “They have a nice fence.”

Coulter also took the time, as a devout Presbyterian, to clarify the Christian religious imperative to support Israel.

“It would be great if I could clarify this in a Jewish magazine,” she said, “this business about the reason Christians support Israel is because we want the second coming. No, no, no, not true. That’s equivalent to theProtocols of the Elders of Zion.”

According to Coulter, the reason for Christian support for Israel, “as a matter of doctrine,” is because of the belief in the biblical mantra “that god gave Israel to the Jews.”

Perhaps walking back her 2007 radio show comments saying that Christians “just want Jews to be perfected” by converting to Christianity, she added, “I mean the existence of the Jews is proof of God in that sense.

Asked if she had any message for the Jewish community in honor of Yom Kippur, which begins tonight, the unrepentant Coulter again flaunted the opportunity to express regret for her almost universally derided use of anti-Jewish language.

“Happy new year, and best wishes for an easy fast!” she said.


Israel hits Gaza with airstrikes, closes crossings after more rockets fired

Published time: June 07, 2015 05:36

Edited time: June 07, 2015 17:11

An Israeli air force F-15 fighter jet. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

An Israeli air force F-15 fighter jet. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)


Israeli jets struck several sites in northern Gaza on Sunday, as Israel blamed Hamas for launching a missile into Ashkelon and ordered all Gazan border crossings to be closed. The Palestinians say a pro-Islamic State group is trying to provoke a war.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the Air Force has hit a number of “terror infrastructure sites” in the northern Gaza Strip, the Jerusalem Post reports. This was in direct response to a rocket fired on Saturday from Gaza, which exploded outside of Israel’s southern Ashkelon region in an open space. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

It is the second time in days that Gaza has been bombed after obscure militants launched unguided missiles into Israel, with a similar scenario unfolding Thursday night. In both cases, the Omar Brigades, a radical Salafist group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Hamas, which is the dominant Palestinian group in Gaza, has claimed that the Salafists are trying to spark another major conflict in the region to seize power. Hamas has reportedly hunted down and killed a leader of the rival group, while a Twitter account thought to be run by the Omar Brigades said Sunday that the latest strike was “in protest” against the imprisonment of their fellow jihadists in Gaza.

However, Israel has said it will not take into account who exactly is responsible for attacks from a Hamas-controlled territory.

“Even if the shooters last night were jihadist groups rebelling against Hamas by firing at us, we view Hamas as being responsible for everything that occurs in the territory of Gaza,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has said.

Ya’alon on Sunday issued an order to close the only two operating border crossings between Israel and Gaza. The crossings – Kerem Shalom and Erez – will be opened only for humanitarian purposes until the security situation changes, the order said.

The other three crossings into Gaza are still not operational.

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The latest attack near Ashkelon comes a day after the IDF deployed at least two Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in southern Israel.

On Sunday, the US backed recent Israeli airstrikes, saying Israel has right to defend its people.

“Clearly the US stands with the people of Israel as they defend their people and their nation against these kind of attacks,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a G7 summit in Germany.

On Thursday, several massive explosions rocked the Gaza Strip amid reports of Israeli jets spotted in the area. The strikes took place in the western part of the strip, near the Maqousi Towers residential area.

The last time Israel cut off Gaza completely was in November, as it shut down the Kerem Shalom and Erez border crossings.

Rights activists say the border closures threaten the population of the already extremely isolated Gaza Strip, which has been in dire need of rebuilding and humanitarian aid since Israel’s deadly seven-week military operation in Gaza last summer, Operation Protective Edge, which claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Palestinians.

READ MORE: Israel a criminal offender at large, UN listing or not [GRAPHIC IMAGES]

The latest spike of violence in the region follows a relatively calm. Last summer’s brutal crackdown by the Israelis came after regular missile attacks on Israeli territory.


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Iran marks Army Day with cries of ‘Death to Israel, US’

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Iran on Saturday marked Army Day with a military parade featuring new weapons systems, as well as a truck carrying a massive banner reading “Death to Israel.” A televised broadcast of the parade was punctuated by repeated cries of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” “If Israel makes a mistake,” the announcer on Iran television said during the broadcast, as heavy trucks carrying armored personnel carriers rolled past, “those in Tel Aviv and Haifa will not sleep at night, not one person.” Broadcast on national television, military brass and political leaders, foremost President Hassan Rouhani, attended the procession south of the capital Tehran, which showcased the country’s military technologies. Among the weapons systems paraded past dignitaries was a domestically produced version of the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile, the Bavar 373.

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Iran on Friday accused the United States of creating the murderous Islamic State, Boko Haram and al-Nusrah terrorist groups. The commander of Iran’s ground forces, Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, said the US had established these terror groups to harm Islam and bolster Israel’s security. “The ISIL (another name for Islamic State), Boko Haram and al-Nusrah have been created in line with the US strategy of religion against religion, which seeks to impair the divine face of Islam,” Pourdastan said, according to the Iranian Fars news agency. “The American and European people’s high tendency towards Islam and (the necessity for) protection of the Zionist regime’s security have caused the US to create the terrorist groups,” he added, in an address at Tehran University. A senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader issued similar accusations earlier in the week. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s top adviser for international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, called extremist groups including Islamic State “the protégés of the Americans.” Khamenei himself routinely calls for “Death to America,” even as the US leads world powers in negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program. Talks aimed at reaching a final deal by June 30 are set to resume next week. President Barack Obama on Friday left the door open to meeting Iran’s demand for all sanctions to be lifted on the day the deal takes effect, although the US has hitherto stated that a framework agreement reached in Lausanne earlier this month provides only for phased relief of sanctions as Iran complies with elements of the deal. The Lausanne talks went ahead as a senior Iranian military commander declared that Israel’s destruction was “nonnegotiable.”

Source: Times of Israel

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Leading US Rabbi Joins Chorus of Concern Over Obama Administration’s Attacks on Israel

MARCH 27, 2015 5:20 Pm
Abraham Foxman ObamaCharles Krauthammer IsraelDavid Harris ObamaIsraeli Prime MinisterJewish figuresKehilath JeshurunObama NetanyahuObama RabbiRamaz school

Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, led by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein. Photo: Wikipedia.

One of America’s most prominent rabbis, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, has voiced concern over the Obama Administration’s latest assault on Israel, following the reelection of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu last week.

In an email to congregants on Wednesday, Lookstein, the spiritual leader of New York City’s famed Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue and principal of the prestigious Ramaz school, said that while “I try to steer clear of politics in my sermons and in messages to the community. There are times, however, when an exception should be made.”

“One of those times is now,” the rabbi continued, “when reports are coming from the administration in Washington of a need for reassessing the Israel/United States relationship.” Lookstein, who was ranked by Newsweek in 2008 as the most influential Orthodox pulpit rabbi in the United States, followed with a full-throated endorsement of an article by syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, who argues that “there is zero chance” that the right climate for the establishment of a Palestinian state will come “now or even soon.”

Krauthammer concludes, “In the interim, I understand the crushing disappointment of the Obama administration and its media poodles at the spectacular success of the foreign leader they loathe more than any other on the planet. The consequent seething and sputtering are understandable, if unseemly. Blaming Netanyahu for banishing peace, however, is mindless.”

Lookstein said Krauthammer’s article “presents with utmost clarity an assessment of the reassessment. It deserves the attention of all of us.”

The commentary, first published by The Washington Post, follows a week of harsh criticisms, veiled threats and alleged media leaks by Obama Administration officials directed towards Israel and its newly reelected Prime Minister Netanyahu. The attacks were largely focused on comments Netanyahu made while on the campaign trail about the establishment of a Palestinian state, and Israeli Arabs.

The escalation of rhetoric led to pushback from a number of leading Jewish figures as well as pro-Israel activists and congressional leaders, including some that have traditionally been aligned with the administration.

Writing for The Algemeiner on Thursday, Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, who has been critical of Netanyahu in recent weeks, said he is “even more troubled” by the “statements now coming out of the White House calling for a reassessment of policy toward Israel.”

Foxman wrote, “Let me be clear: I wish Mr. Netanyahu would do more to solidify relations with Israel’s ally in America and to stand up to those in Israel who seek to make impossible a Palestinian state. None of this, however, justifies what we are hearing from the Obama Administration. Their reactions raise deeper questions about their intentions and perspectives.”

Earlier in the week, the dovish American Jewish Committee head, David Harris, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that “The fact that the outcome of a Democratic election in Israel seems to be of great concern” to the Obama Administration “is cause for deep anxiety and puzzlement.”

“Whatever the failings of the prime minister, the way this is unfolding runs completely contrary to the spirit of US-Israel relations,” Harris said. “The US appears to have a reasoned interest in prolonging the crisis.”