US Backs Israel in Quitting Peace Talks

US Backs Israel in Quitting Peace Talks

The Obama Administration on Wednesday signaled its support for Israel’s decision to cancel further peace talks with the Palestinian Authority after the latter concluded a unity agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization.

“It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to sit down and negotiate with a group that denies its right to exist,” US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said in reference to Hamas.

Israel has long insisted that it cannot make genuine peace with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas.

In 2006, the Palestinian public responded to Israel’s position on the matter by overwhelmingly voting Hamas into power in national legislative elections. An internal power struggle with its rival Fatah kept Hamas from exercising its full authority. But Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah) this week demonstrated that he had no problem reconciling with Hamas, even if doing so put peace with Israel further out of reach.

The deal forged between Abbas and his Hamas rivals calls for the formation of a unity government in the next five weeks, and could see the Palestinian leader visit the Gaza Strip for the first time since it was seized by Hamas in a bloody coup in 2007.

“I said this morning that Abbas needs to choose between peace with Israel and an agreement with Hamas, a murderous terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and which both the United States and the European Union define as a terrorist organization,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement released to the press.

“This evening, as talks are still ongoing about extending the negotiations, Abbas has chosen Hamas and not peace,” he continued. “Whoever chooses Hamas does not want peace.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief negotiator in talks with the Palestinians, agreed: “The reconciliation agreement that Mahmoud Abbas signed with Hamas is a bad step, which not only caused the cancelation of [negotiations], but cast a heavy shadow on the possibility to progress.”

Livni added that Israel “has a duty, even when we want peace, not to stop seeing reality with eyes wide open: Hamas combines religious Muslim extremist ideology with terrorism and doesn’t recognize our right to exist.”

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said both the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement and Abbas’ recent decision to violate agreements with Israel by unilaterally seeking recognition for “Palestine” called into question whether or not the Palestinians really want a state of their own, or rather, a state alongside Israel.

“Hamas is not a government, it is a Jihadist terror organization that has inscribed on its flag the killing of civilians — women, children, old people — just because they are Jewish,” Lapid reminded a gathering of the European Jewish Congress in Tel Aviv.

At an emergency cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday, Netanyahu was reportedly urged to go beyond simply canceling a few negotiating sessions, and to impose real sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, maintained that unity with Hamas should not preclude a negotiated settlement with Israel. Abbas was quoted as saying that bringing Hamas into the PLO (the parent organization of the Palestinian Authority) would somehow bolster the chances of a lasting peace.

PHOTO: Hamas and Fatah negotiators shake hands in Gaza


The Patron (Christian) Saint of Palestinian Muslims

The Patron (Christian) Saint of Palestinian Muslims

Wednesday marked the Feast of Saint George, a celebration of the patron saint of England, whose signature red and white cross stands as emblem on the English national flag. In a little known tale of Mideast mishaps, it is the same Cross of St. George that also flies over churches and official buildings across the Palestinian-controlled territories. For George is the singular saint venerated by both Muslims and Christians in "Palestine" and Britain.

George grew up in a typical Christian family in the Holy Land in the Third Century AD. His mother was born in Lydda, the Israeli town of Lod. As a young man, George decided that he wanted to be a Roman soldier. When he later learned that the pagan Emperor Diocletian was responsible for the widespread persecution of Christians in Rome, George left the army in protest.

George's unwillingness to bow to the evil emperor led to imprisonment and torture. He was even dragged through the streets by horses, but refused to abandon his Christian faith. Unable to force him to deny his faith in Christ, George was eventually beheaded by the Romans on April 23, 303 AD.

The reputation of this brave Christian soldier grew, and over a thousand years after his death, George became patron saint of England in 1415 AD. A few centuries earlier, crusader soldiers returning to England from the Holy Land brought back stories of George they had heard from the local Christians. The idea that a Christian soldier was willing to die for his faith inspired the English, and Saint George was dubbed "the protector of soldiers." Crusader soldiers began wearing his signature – the red and white cross – on their chests and backs in the 12th century.

This is the same red and white cross of Saint George that adorns the national flags of England, Australia, New Zealand and the Union Jack.

Many churches in the "West Bank" and Israel bear the name of St George - in Lod, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and in the Galilee, for example. While the Western world celebrates St George's Day on April 23, in the Palestinian areas it falls on May 6, according to the older calendar used by the Eastern Churches.

Although it is originally a local Christian holiday, both Palestinian Christians and Muslims participate. "It's not only the Christians that appreciate him, the Muslims also feel the power and the miracles of St George," says Father Ananias, a Palestinian Christian priest.

The Christian name George is also one of the most common names in the Palestinian-controlled territories. There are many stories and pictures of St George involving him slaying a dragon. The dragon is believed to represent the devil or evil empire that George resisted by his faith in Christ.

Many Muslim scholars go so far as to suggest that St George is mentioned in the Koran. In Arabic, George is known as al-Khadr, which is also the name of a village near Bethlehem where the festival is celebrated every year. According to these scholars, al-Khadr, identified as St George, served as an assistant to none other than Moses. How curious that St George, believed to be an associate of Moses, who lived over a thousand years earlier, became a patron saint for Palestinian Muslims.


A 'New Chapter of Hope Between Jews and Christians' in Israel

A 'New Chapter of Hope Between Jews and Christians' in Israel

The Israeli defense establishment this week decided to begin actively recruiting local Christians into the Israeli army.

The move comes after years of encouragement by the Nazareth-based Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum for young Arabic-speaking Christians to voluntarily join the IDF so as to better integrate into Israeli society.

Israel Today has repeatedly reported on the activities of the forum, whose leaders have long insisted that local Christians can only expect equal opportunity when they decided to take on equal responsibility.

The forum has had great influence on a number of recent government decisions, most notably the passing of a law in February that officially recognized local Christians as an independent minority.

The decision to send official recruitment letters to young Christians is expected to significantly boost the number of Christian soldiers in the IDF. Though the recruitment letters will look the same as those sent to young Israeli Jews, service in the IDF will remain voluntary for Christians.

Israel Today sought out the reaction of the spokesman for the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, Maj. (ret.) Shadi Khalloul. This is what he had to say:

"The Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum welcomes this brave decision by the defense minister and the IDF chief of staff. Though the (recruitment) orders are voluntary, they demonstrate the seriousness and firm desire of the state to incorporate and promote the Christian population.

"This is a historic decision and the start of a new chapter, a chapter of hope between Jews and Christians in the State of Israel. It will allow young people from the Christian community to more seamlessly integrate into Israeli society and to more easily climb the ladder of progress in both military and civilian life.

"The Christian community is an important strategic asset for Israel and its security. Christians are one of the best educated communities in the country, meaning our young people can make a significant contribution both to the IDF and the state.

"We believe the IDF is a central component of Israeli society that can bring the various populations together so that in unity we can build a better future for everyone, while also ensuring the security of our community and the democratic Jewish state. [Army service] is an important step toward equal opportunity. [All must share] the rights and duties.

“The time has come for Christians to take it upon themselves to strengthen their position alongside the Jews. We see what is happening [to Christians] in the Arab countries. They lived the lie of unity [with the Muslims] and ignored the impending danger until it was too late. Conscription to the IDF is a small part of strengthening a community that seeks to live in peace and security with everyone. It seems that is the only way defend against the broad array of enemies.”


Palestinians Displeased With Condemnation of Terror

Palestinians Displeased With Condemnation of Terror

A senior Palestinian Authority (PA) government official is facing a fierce public backlash after condemning last week’s terrorist murder of 47-year-old Baruch Mizrahi as he was driving to the Passover Seder with his family.

PA Endowments Minister Mahmoud El Habash told a reporter with Israel’s Army Radio that he was “pained” by the slaying of Mizrahi and the wounding of his pregnant wife and young son.

“We condemn the killing of all people irrespective of their background,” El Habash went on to say. “The idea of killing and violence is completely illegitimate.”

But El Habash’s words did not sit well with many Palestinians, who have long been exposed to systematic indoctrination against Israel and the Jews.

According to Israel Radio, there have been calls for El Habash’s dismissal, and even some who demand the minister be put on trial for treason. In Gaza, leaflets bearing El Habash’s visage and the words “Wayward Son” have been distributed far and wide, while in the PA-controlled “West Bank” posters featuring a doctored image of El Habash in Jewish ultra-Orthodox garb have appeared on street corners.

Meanwhile on Facebook, Palestinians have threatened to kill El Habash for his outrageous sympathy toward Israeli victims of terror.

The treatment of El Habash in this instance is very telling of Israel’s “peace partners,” especially in light of the refusal of his boss, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, to himself issue a public condemnation of the Passover attack.

A group of Israeli lawmakers who visited Abbas during the Passover holiday insisted that he had privately condemned the killing of Baruch Mizrahi. But Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Ruaineh later scrambled to correct those reports, insisting that while Abbas had spoken again violence in general, he had not specifically condemned the targeting of the Mizrahi family.


America Threatens Sanctions Against Palestinian Authority

America Threatens Sanctions Against Palestinian Authority

The Obama Administration threatened what could be described as diplomatic and economic sanctions against the Palestinians if their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, goes through with his own threat to dismantle the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas hinted at such a move in an interview last week with Egyptian media, complaining that Israel’s unwillingness to meet 100 percent of Palestinian demands meant a two-state solution was increasingly unlikely.

Over the weekend, Palestinian officials told Israeli media that Abbas and his senior aides were considering canceling the “Oslo Accords” and dismantling the Palestinian Authority, a move that would make Israel directly responsible for all Palestinian Arabs and dangerously tip local demographic figures.

It is not the first time Abbas has threatened to shut down the PA and cancel existing peace agreements with Israel.

“Of course [the PA disbanding] will have serious consequences,” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters. “Obviously, this is not in the interest of the Palestinian people, and all that has been achieved will be lost.”

Psaki continued by noting that “a great deal of effort has gone into building Palestinian institutions by Palestinians as well as the international community, and it would certainly not be in the interests of the Palestinian people for all of that to be lost. We - the United States - has put millions of dollars into this effort. It would obviously have very serious implications for our relationship, including our assistance going forward.”

Veteran Palestinian politician Qadura Fares told Israel’s Army Radio that the Palestinian Authority was largely unconcerned by the American threat. But a day later, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat belied that notion, insisting that reports of the PA’s imminent demise were an “Israeli ploy.”

“No Palestinian is speaking of an initiative to dismantle the Palestinian Authority,” Erekat claimed in remarks to the AFP.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, took the opportunity to criticize the Palestinian leadership, saying that threats to quit the peace process were indicative of the true intentions of the Palestinian Authority.

“Today, we saw the Palestinian Authority speak of dismantling itself and also talking about unity with Hamas,” Netanyahu told attendees at a post-Passover celebration. “They should decide - either dissolve, or enter into a union with Hamas. When they want peace, they should let us know. Because we want a genuine peace.”

With only seven days to go until the April 29 deadline for the current US-brokered peace talks, Psaki said that her boss, US Secretary of State John Kerry, has no plans for yet another last-minute mission to the region to save the failing negotiations.


Israel Need Not Fear Isolation

Israel Need Not Fear Isolation

Israel is fearful that a collapse of peace talks with the Palestinians could result in an international boycott and isolation. In fact, even the Americans have been warning of such an outcome.

But, it is important to remember that Israel has no shortage of loyal friends. Some of those friends recently came to Israel under the banner of the “Friends of Israel Initiative” to hold their annual meeting.

The gathering was addressed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.

More impressive, however, was the list of participants, which included former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (pictured), former Uruguayan President Luis Alberto Lacalle, former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, former Italian Foreign Minister Julio Tarazi, former Czech Foreign Minister Karl Schwarzenberg, Nobel laureate and former First Minister of Northern Ireland David Trimble, and the head of British military forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp.

The group also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, who told the Friends of Israel that he hoped they, as distinguished former heads of state and leading politicians, could help explain the truth about Israel.

The Friends of Israel Initiative was established in 2010 to fight against efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state and to reaffirm Israel’s right to exist in peace and security alongside its neighbors.

The movement actively opposes any attempts to boycott. Aznar, who is the organization’s founder and current chairman, has forged a very friendly relationship with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.

In a statement to the Israeli press, Aznar had this to say:

"The [Friends of Israel] Initiative is neither a Public Relations campaign, nor a so-called Jewish lobby. Most of us are not Jewish, but we share the vision - as much one of values as of strategy - that when defending Israel we are defending the West. We are defending our way of life and values, and also our interests.

"Simply put, Europe must defend Israel if we want to preserve the West as we know it. Look at the changes sweeping the region. Uncertainty is the dominant factor. And Israel is both more important to the West today - and more besieged by hostility - than at any time in recent memory.

“Indeed, when considering the full picture of the strategic relationship (including not just diplomacy, but the equally critical realms of security; economy; and science) the close nature of the EU-Israel alliance becomes clear. Not only is Israel’s relationship with the EU and its member states closer than commonly portrayed, but, in the final analysis, it represents a strategic asset to the Union and its members.”