‘Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews have protested in Jerusalem against plans to force members of their community to serve in the Israeli military.
Several people were arrested after bottles, stones and a smoke grenade were thrown at police. Protesters and police were hurt in the clashes.
Ultra-Orthodox Israelis are currently exempt from military service while they study in religious schools or yeshivas.
Secular Israelis object to this and plans are being made to enlist them.’
by MARK LANDLER
New York Times
‘In a clear warning to Syria to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to Islamic militants in the region, a senior Israeli official signaled on Wednesday that Israel was considering additional military strikes to prevent that from happening and that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, would face crippling consequences if he retaliated.’
by Jessica Elgot
The Huffington Post
‘He has at times struggle to exert influence even within his own party, but Ed Miliband can take heart he is the 20th most influential Jew in the world.
Miliband has often described himself as an atheist, telling the BBC in 2010 after he became leader “I don’t believe in God personally”.
[...] Both his parents came as refugees from the Holocaust to Britain, but his father, the Marxist historian Ralph Miliband, kept a strictly secular household.
The list, compiled by the Jerusalem Post, is topped by Yair Lapid.’
by AVI ISSACHAROFF
Times of Israel
‘Israel and the Palestinian Authority tried to conduct backchannel negotiations, or at least initiate them, in late 2010 and early 2011 in a series of secret meetings between the prime minister’s envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, and the head of PLO Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo. Abed Rabbo revealed these contacts in an interview with this correspondent here last week.
According to Abed Rabbo, during the conversations, which culminated in a meeting between him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Molcho’s house in central Israel, Netanyahu seemed ready to renew negotiations within the framework of two states based on the June 4, 1967, lines. But the prime minister subsequently backed away from the contacts and the channel was discontinued.
Abed Rabbo said he and Netanyahu met for two-and-a-half hours in mid-February 2011, and mentioned — but did not negotiate over — various final status issues, including borders, Jerusalem and refugees. There had been no further contact since that meeting, Abed Rabbo said.’
by Chaim Levinson
‘Theoretically, the Civil Administration – the Israel Defense Forces body responsible for infrastructure law enforcement in the West Bank – should have jumped into action now that seven permanent dwellings are under construction in the settler outpost of Mitzpeh Danny (10 kilometers east of Ramallah). The outpost, established 15 years ago, is entering its final development stages after a lengthy period in which the settlers lived in trailers, flimsy structures and all kinds of patchwork arrangements.
According to its mandate and the order of priorities it has set for itself, the Civil Administration is supposed to demolish these new structures. Uninhabited new structures are second in the Civil Administration’s list of tasks (first comes the implementation of court orders), based on the approach that the demolition of inhabited homes generates a human tragedy and a political brouhaha.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the new homes to be razed. They are being built by Amana, a cooperative society headed by the legendary Ze’ev (‘Zambish’) Hever, 59, one of the leaders of the settlement enterprise in the territories and a member of the Jewish Underground, a militant terrorist organization that operated in the West Bank in the 1980s. The homes in Mitzpeh Danny are being built according to one of Amana’s three basic models: When you’re building the Land of Israel, you don’t get caught up in architectural niceties.
There are two types of settler outposts in the territories: those which exist under Hever’s auspices – and under what appears to be full protection from the law – and those set up by so-called “hilltop youth.” Civil Administration inspectors drop in for visits at Hever’s outposts to deliver demolition orders, which doesn’t bother the settlers much. Construction continues unabated and stops only by order of the Supreme Court, if they are ever issued.
That’s how the system works, thanks to Hever’s close and extensive ties with state authorities. For example, even though he devotes himself to illegal construction, he has already met twice with the newly appointed justice minister, Tzipi Livni. In contrast, outposts not under Hever’s protection are constantly subjected to demolition and repeated visits by the police.
Mitzpeh Danny is not alone, of course. Amana currently maintains hundreds oftrailers and dozens of construction sites without permits. In the past, the organization built thousands of homes without authorization. Some have since been legalized, no one cares about others. The State Prosecutor’s Office is well aware of all this. A brief visit to Amana’s website reveals the scope of the illegal construction. Amana often takes on illegal projects, ones no other contractor would consider.
An investigation by Haaretz exposes the role played by Hever in illegal construction on a vast scale, and raises questions about his consistent ability to evade punishment.’
‘Over 12,000 Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv and other cities to protest against proposed tax hikes and spending cuts in the state’s new budget. But will the latest iteration of Israel’s social justice protest movement continue? The anger in the streets Saturday may be an indication that the movement will continue and possibly grow.’
‘Israel has given the green light for the construction of a further 300 homes in a West Bank settlement.The number of eviction incidents has risen sharply since a new Israeli government, with even stronger opposition to a 2-state solution, took office in March. And the Israeli defense force are ready to use almost anything to back their governments orders, including special anti-riot measure called ‘Skunk’.’
by Ali Abunimah
[...] When it comes to Israel’s abuses, governments around the world have offered nothing but lip service; while dozens of countries face US, EU or UN sanctions for far lesser transgressions, it has taken years for EU governments to even discuss timid steps such as labelling goods from illegal Israeli settlements, let alone actually banning them. Yet the peace process train trundles on – now with a new conductor in the form of John Kerry, the US secretary of state – but with no greater prospects of ever reaching its destination. So, enough talk already.
The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aims to change this dynamic. It puts the initiative back in the hands of Palestinians. The goal is to build pressure on Israel to respect the rights of all Palestinians by ending its occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees who are currently excluded from returning to their homes just because they are not Jews; and abolishing all forms of discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
These demands are in line with universal human rights principles and would be unremarkable and uncontroversial in any other context, which is precisely why support for them is growing.’
‘A militant Palestinian group in Damascus said it is forming combat units to try to recapture Israeli-occupied territory, in particular the Golan Heights, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah that they would support such operations.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) said it was preparing for new operations after nearly 40 years of quiet on the Israel-Syria border.
The group, designated terrorists by the United States and others in the West, was most active in the 1970s and 80s but retains influence with Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon.’
‘Various Lebanese sources report intense Israeli military activity Sunday along the Israeli-Syrian and Lebanese borders. Witnesses describe Israeli warplanes as making aerial passes over south Lebanon, ground forces moving along the Golan border with Syria and attack helicopters flying over Mts Hermon and Dov and the Shaaba Farms.’
by Jason Ditz
‘Addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP, a pro-Israel group closely allied with AIPAC) today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel sought to stake out a pro-diplomacy position while giving the usual levels of lip-service to military support for Israel.
The result was a somewhat confusing split in reports of his speech, in which he simultaneously called for a “more delicate approach” to the Middle East that required the US to “recognize its limitations,” while emphasizing policies that suggest nothing has really changed.
To that end, Hagel touted “reinforcing” Israel’s military advantage across the region, as well as backing Egypt and selling high end weaponry to the Persian Gulf states, while vowing to keep a “robust military presence” there as well.’
by Harriet Sherwood
‘The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has encountered severe turbulence after it emerged that he ordered a double bed to be installed on a plane that carried him and his deeply unpopular wife, Sara, to Baroness Thatcher’s funeral in London last month – at a cost of $127,000 (£83,000).
The revelation comes amid growing resentment over an austerity budget proposed by the finance minister Yair Lapid, a former TV personality who won popular support in January’s election by promising to champion Israel‘s financially squeezed middle class. Up to 15,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities on Saturday night in an echo of the massive social justice protests that swept the country two years ago.’
‘[...] The latest billionaires’ list compiled by Forbes magazine names Gates and his pal Warren Buffett as the world’s second and fourth richest men. Between them, the pair have a “net worth” of $120.5 billion.
Fawning news features tell us we should admire the duo because of their philanthropy. Yet a newly-concluded business deal demonstrates where the sympathies of the 1% really lie.
Buffett has just spent a cool $2 billion to take full control of the Israeli company Iscar Metalworking (he had already bought most of the firm in 2006). Eitan Wertheimer, Iscar’s president, described the transaction as a “message of faith” in the Israeli economy and “a type of Balfour declaration.”’
‘Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah says Syria will supply his forces with “game-changing weapons” despite alleged Israeli airstrikes aimed at stemming the flow of arms across the Syrian border with Lebanon.
Nasrallah made a TV appearance after Israeli warplanes reportedly launched strikes within Syrian territory on Friday and Sunday. In carrying out the attacks, Israeli fighters flew over Lebanon and allegedly fired air-to-ground weapons at their targets.
The airstrike were targeting Iranian-supplied missiles that were en route to Hezbollah, anonymous Israeli officials later told media, a claim which Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Muqdad dismissed on Thursday.
“They absolutely did not achieve their objective and they lied when they said they are targeting Hezbollah,”he said in an interview with AFP. He further promised that Syria would “respond immediately” to any future Israeli attacks against its territory.’
‘Professor Stephen Hawking is backing the academic boycott of Israel by pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Hawking, 71, the world-renowned theoretical physicist and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, had accepted an invitation to headline the fifth annual president’s conference, Facing Tomorrow, in June, which features major international personalities, attracts thousands of participants and this year will celebrate Peres’s 90th birthday.
Hawking is in very poor health, but last week he wrote a brief letter to the Israeli president to say he had changed his mind. He has not announced his decision publicly, but a statement published by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine with Hawking’s approval described it as “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there”‘
‘Turkey’s prime minister has denounced Israeli airstrikes on Syria, saying the attacks help strengthen Syrian President Bashar Assad’s hand.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday also criticized Iran for “turning a blind eye” to massacres in Syria and accused the international community of ignoring the bloodshed.’
‘Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has restricted new settlement construction projects, a settlement watchdog said yesterday, in an apparent gesture to help the United States restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Yariv Oppenheimer, who heads Israeli-settlement watchdog Peace Now said there had been a fall in permissions for new settler homes that began with a tour of Israel and the West Bank by the US president, Barack Obama, in March. During that visit, Mr Obama called settlement growth “counterproductive to the cause of peace”.’
by Glenn Greenwald
‘On Sunday, Israel dropped massive bombs near Damascus, ones which the New York Times, quoting residents, originally reported (then evidently deleted) resulted in explosions “more massive than anything the residents of the city. . . have witnessed during more than two years of war.” The Jerusalem Post this morning quoted “a senior Syrian military source” as claiming that “Israel used depleted uranium shells”, though that is not confirmed. The NYT cited a “high-ranking Syrian military official” who said the bombs “struck several critical military facilities in some of the country’s most tightly secured and strategic areas” and killed “dozens of elite troops stationed near the presidential palace”, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that “at least 42 soldiers were killed in the strikes, and another 100 who would usually be at the targeted sites remain unaccounted for.”
Israeli defenders claim that its air attack targeted weapons provided by Iran that would have ended up in the hands of Hezbollah. Obama officials quickly told media outlets that “the administration is fully supportive of Israel’s airstrikes”. Indeed, Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy noted: “Keep in mind the Israelis are using weapons supplied by us.” There is, needless to say, virtually no condemnation of the Israeli assault in US media or political circles. At this point, the only question is how many minutes will elapse before Congress reflexively adopts a near-unanimous or unanimous resolution effusively praising Israel for the attack and unqualifiedly endorsing all past and future attacks as well.
Because people who cheer for military action by their side like to pretend that they’re something more than primitive “might-makes-right” tribalists, the claim is being hauled out that Israel’s actions are justified by the “principle” that it has the right to defend itself from foreign weapons in the hands of hostile forces. But is that really a “principle” that anyone would apply consistently, as opposed to a typically concocted ad hoc claim to justify whatever the US and Israel do? Let’s apply this “principle” to other cases, as several commentators on Twitter have done over the last 24 hours.’
Editors Note: Craig Murray is a British political activist and former ambassador to Uzbekistan (2002-04). He accused the Karimov administration of human rights abuses and torture against the wishes of the British government for which he was removed from his position from 2004.
by Craig Murray
‘Israel has granted oil exploration rights inside Syria, in the occupied Golan Heights, to Genie Energy. Major shareholders of Genie Energy – which also has interests in shale gas in the United States and shale oil in Israel – include Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild.
[...] For Israel to seek to exploit mineral reserves in the occupied Golan Heights is plainly illegal in international law. Japan was succesfully sued by Singapore before the International Court of Justice for exploitation of Singapore’s oil resources during the second world war. The argument has been made in international law that an occupying power is entitled to opeate oil wells which were previously functioning and operated by the sovereign power, in whose position the occupying power now stands. But there is absolutely no disagreement in the authorities and case law that the drilling of new wells – let alone fracking – by an occupying power is illegal.
Israel tried to make the same move twenty years ago but was forced to back down after a strong reaction from the Syrian government, which gained diplomatic support from the United States. Israel is now seeking to take advantage of the weakened Syrian state; this move perhaps casts a new light on recent Israeli bombings in Syria.’
Abby Martin takes with a look at the conflicting reports about chemical weapons being used in Syria, news of Israeli airstrikes in Damascus, and the importance of taking information from the corporate media on this issue with a grain of salt.
by Dan Williams
‘Israel sought to persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday that its recent air strikes around Damascus did not aim to weaken him in the face of a more than two-year-old rebellion.
Officials say Israel is reluctant to take sides in Syria’s civil war for fear its actions would boost Islamists who are even more hostile to Israel than the Assad family, which has maintained a stable stand off with the Jewish state for decades.
But Israel has repeatedly warned it will not let Assad’s ally Hezbollah receive hi-tech weaponry. Intelligence sources said Israel attacked Iranian-supplied missiles stored near the Syrian capital on Friday and Sunday that were awaiting transfer to Hezbollah guerrilla group in neighboring Lebanon.’
‘Israel used “a new type of weapon”, a senior official at the Syrian military facility that came under attack from the Israeli Air Force told RT.
“When the explosion happened it felt like an earthquake,” said the source, who was present near the attack site on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday morning.
“Then a giant golden mushroom of fire appeared. This tells us that Israel used depleted uranium shells.”
Depleted uranium is a by-product of the uranium enrichment process that creates nuclear weapons, and was first used by the US in the Gulf conflict of 1991. Unlike the radioactive materials used in nuclear weapons, depleted uranium is not valued for its explosiveness, but for its toughness – it is 2.5 times as dense as steel – which allows it to penetrate heavy protection.
Countries using depleted uranium weapons insist that the material is toxic, but not dangerously radioactive, as long as it remains outside the body.’
‘[...] The tempo of the new strikes added a dangerous dynamic to the conflict, fueling concerns that events could spin out of control and spark a regional crisis.
Israel’s military on Sunday deployed two batteries of its Iron Dome rocket defense system to the north of the country. It described the move as part of “ongoing situational assessments.”
A senior Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose information about a secret military operation to the media, confirmed that Israel launched an airstrike in the Syrian capital early Sunday but did not give more precise details about the location. The target was Fateh-110 missiles, which have precision guidance systems with better aim than anything Hezbollah is known to have in its arsenal, the official told The Associated Press.’
by Frederik Pleitgen and Sara Sidner
‘A Syrian official called an attack Sunday on the nation’s military research facility a “declaration of war” by Israel.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said the attack represented an alliance between Islamic terrorists and Israel.
He added that Syria would retaliate against Israel in its own time and way.’
‘U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday that Israel has the right to guard against the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah a day after and alleged Israeli strike on a Hezbollah-bound missile shipment in Syria.
Israel has long made clear it is prepared to resort to force to prevent advanced Syrian weapons from reaching Hezbollah or jihadi rebels. Israeli warplanes went after the shipment inside Syria, where a two-year civil war is raging.
Obama, in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo as part of a three-day Latin America tour that ended in Costa Rica, would not comment on whether the strikes had in fact taken place.’
‘Israel, which has the most advanced defense industry in the Middle East, is in the forefront of the rapidly expanding drone business that’s changing the way wars will be fought for decades to come.
With state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries, Elbit Systems and Aeronautics Defense Systems developing new and more agile unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as ground and seaborne drones, the Jewish state seems well-placed to corner a big slice of a market valued at around $50 billion a year.
Indeed, Israel’s widely considered to be the leading UAV exporter in the world, selling units and associated technology as far afield as India, Russia, Nigeria and Mexico.’
Editors Note: The US has a long history of arming dubious and dangerous groups that at the time suits their geopolitical requirements without properly considering the future implications of such actions. Syria’s situation right now is so incredibly complicated that some of America’s allies that were previously happy to arm the ‘rebels’ are having second thoughts. Britain are now starting to think it is too risky, also Turkey and Jordan are having similar doubts. Any neighboring countries would be quite frankly be insane not to be worried about arming terrorists groups. with even the “moderate” FSA having pledged to attack airliners.
Times of Israel
‘Israel opposes arming Syrian rebels unless they are carefully vetted beforehand, Jerusalem’s ambassador to the US said Wednesday.
Michael Oren’s comments to CNN come as the US and other Western countries are weighing upping their involvement in the Syrian civil war after two years of bloody fighting and recent reports of chemical weapons use by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
[...] Israel has expressed worry over Islamist elements among the ranks of Syrian rebels, with some fearing the creation of a jihadi terror base at Israel’s doorstep should Assad fall.
Turkey and Jordan have expressed similar concerns over arming rebels, according to CNN.’
‘Israel has carried out an air strike targeting a shipment of missiles in Syria bound for Hezbollah guerrillas in neighbouring Lebanon, an Israeli official said on Saturday.
Israel had long made clear it is prepared to resort to force to prevent advanced Syrian weapons, including President Bashar al-Assad’s reputed chemical arsenal, reaching his Hezbollah allies or Islamist rebels taking part in a more than two-year-old uprising against his government.
Israelis are worried that if Assad is toppled, Islamist fighters could turn his guns on them next door, after four decades of relative calm along the Golan Heights border zone.’
by Barak Ravid
‘U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reportedly told his Israeli counterparts that the Obama administration would examine military options against Iran more closely following the Islamic Republic’s upcoming elections, and their possible ramifications on the country’s nuclear program.
According to a report Friday in the Wall Street Journal, Hagel, together with other senior American officials, reached an understanding with Israel during the defense secretary’s recent visit to Israel. Apparently, the two countries would conduct a joint situation assessment following the elections, and that if diplomatic channels are ruled out, efforts will be shifted to a more detailed discussion of military options.
The report also stated that the United States has redesigned its “bunker buster” bomb, that should be able to penetrate the underground nuclear enrichment facilities at Iran’s Fordow plant.’