But centrist Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who also heads Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, immediately challenged the motion, and said she would use her powers to block the legislation from being voted on in the Israeli Knesset, or parliament.
Peace talks have shown few signs of progress since Kerry oversaw their renewal in July after a three-year deadlock.
The target is to reach an agreement by April towards achieving a “two-state solution” in which Israel and a new Palestinian state would co-exist side by side.
The Jordan Valley region of the West Bank which Israel captured in a 1967 war and Palestinians seek as part of their future state, has been a focus of recent disagreement. Palestinians reject Israel’s demand to maintain a security presence there.
Kerry said in Washington earlier this month that the need to resolve the dispute over the Jordan Valley was “a critical threading of a needle that has to happen in order to achieve an agreement.” He said he was coordinating with Jordan as well.
The Israeli proposal to incorporate the Jordan Valley within its borders, endorsed by the Cabinet’s legislative committee, was the first Israeli step in years to annex any territory captured in 1967.
Shortly after that war, in a move not recognized internationally, Israel annexed east Jerusalem and added some adjoining West Bank land to the city, which it regards as its capital.
The last time Israel annexed any land captured in the 1967 war was in 1981 when it applied its law to Syria’s Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that lies to the north.
The proposed legislation came up two days before Israel said it would free 26 Palestinian prisoners, the third of four groups of prisoners being released as an agreed confidence-building measure since peace negotiations resumed.
The prisoners had been jailed for deadly violence committed before a 1993 Israeli-Palestinian interim peace accord.
Also expected to weigh on Kerry’s visit this week is an Israeli plan to build 1,400 homes in Jewish settlements, which Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said would “destroy the peace process” and could be met with retaliation.
The other night we were watching the Hebrew news on TV when a special story was featured concerning an Israeli nongovernmental organization that was operating secretly inside of Syria.
The founder of the organization, whose face was hidden and name withheld, said, “Nobody asks permission to kill. We do not ask permission to save lives. We don’t work for anybody, just for our conscience.”
The founder—whom we will call “Yael”—of this amazing NGO explained that the organization is made up of some 1,200 Israelis who love their homeland and believe in a Jewish tradition and culture that values a compassionate, open-minded respect for the sanctity of human life and dignity.
“We believe we are blessed to be born in a democratic country that enables its citizens to travel to challenging and dangerous places,” Yael said.
Along with this commitment to human life, the organization is also devoted to faithfully defending Israel’s borders and citizens in the face of threat.
“Today, with such economic power and defense capabilities, Israel feels a moral and ethical duty to become ‘the voice of the voiceless,’ and, in this particular case, even if it is the voice of the vulnerable populations among some of our toughest and cruelest enemies,” Yael said.
Unfortunately, the harsh reality in which the organization is operating is on behalf of the victims of Assad’s atrocities, which demands they carry out their activities below the radar and hide their identities.
They work in full cooperation with democratic secular Syrian groups who have significant presence on the ground and deliver tons of food, medicine and basic supplies to specific places according to an agreed-on distribution map.
Yael explained how the banking system collapsed in Syria and most rebel families could not access their funds. They sold their few precious items, but after two and a half years, they are destitute.
Many children have seen their mothers brutally raped, while their mothers beg them to remain silent to prevent further harm.
“We are all parents. We all have families, and we all understand the consequences if we ever get in trouble,” Yael told the Jerusalem Post. “There is no smart way to deal with fear. But the choice to do this, to feel that you are in the right place at the right time and that you are helping make a significant change is so rewarding.”
One of the organization’s most difficult challenges is the Muslim Brotherhood, which distributes aid in mosques but only lets specific people in to receive the aid. Then the Brotherhood fights anybody else who tries to distribute aid in other ways. The secular rebels have been attacked for bringing in their own aid supplies.
Furthermore, the Assad regime has been cutting off supplies of water in regions affected by the use of chemical weapons. Water is essential for people in those areas in order to rinse their bodies from the chemicals.
The organization has delivered hundreds of tons of basic food; sanitation items including soap, toothbrushes, women’s sanitation kits, toilet paper and tissues; vital refugee items such as insulating material, mattresses, blankets, iron sheets to build housing units and water canteens; and 300,000 dry meals, each meant to feed five people for a week.
“I think that for most of my volunteers, what they fear more than death is indifference,” Yael said. “The belief that indifference kills is stronger than any fear.”
Israeli Hospitals Treat Syrians
Along with these noble and brave volunteers who are surely risking their lives, the Israeli army and northern Israel’s civilian hospitals have also opened wide their arms to help wounded Syrians.
The public is not told how Syrians cross the Syrian-Israeli border, but the news is spreading in Syria that the wounded can get help in Israel.
The army has a field hospital in the Golan Heights near the Syrian border where doctors set bones, bandage up and do whatever possible to stabilize a person’s medical situation before sending them back to Syria.
Those who are more seriously wounded are transferred to hospitals around northern Israel. Some need treatment for many months as they are rehabilitated and given numerous operations. The hundreds of Syrians the hospitals have treated and are treating is a drop in the sea compared to the hundreds of thousands who are victims of the civil war.
But Jewish heritage recognizes that every human being is important. The director of one hospital told of a 3-year-old girl crying days and nights for her mother. Proudly, he said, “I saw my staff doing everything they could to comfort her.”
The hospitals do all in their power to make the patients feel comfortable, with Arabic-speaking staff on hand to talk with those patients who are conscious upon arrival and accompany them through their stay.
Most of the time, patients come in alone without family and without any personal belongings and then, finding themselves in a Jewish hospital, are doubly traumatized. One little boy thought he was in Lebanon and panicked when he realized he was in Israel. But when one of the social workers spoke to him in Arabic and he saw how the doctors were going to help him, he relaxed and gained control.
Dr. Barhoum, director of the Western Galilee Hospital shares that for his staff, there is the professional aspect in which nurses and physicians do the job they were trained to do: help.
But there is also a moral aspect, he explains, in which the hospital staff has an obligation as human beings to provide humanitarian assistance to ease suffering. Barhoum believes this aspect most impacts his staff.
In another department, Dr. Sella tells of a 23-year-old Syrian man who was injured by an explosion that caused a piece of shrapnel to go through his cheek, cut through his jaw and entered his chest. He had received some kind of operation in Syria, but was bleeding from the neck so the Israeli field hospital sent him on to Dr Sella.
The staff developed a bond with him over the months, bringing him clothing, books and eventually small snacks—anything to make him feel more comfortable.
All he knew about Israel revolved around the Arab-Israeli conflict and he had no idea Arabs and Jews co-existed and have formed ties of cooperation within Israel.
When he saw that the staff included Muslims, Christians and Jews working together and treating everyone the same, he couldn’t figure out what was going on. After many months he was able to leave. He cried as he said goodbye to the staff, explaining that his time in Israel had changed his perspective on the country and the conflict.
Dr. Sella remarked, “God is in the small details, not the big ones. Go down to the small details, and that’s how you change the world.”
As we enter the holy day of Yom Kippur, it is clear we are not really in control. Our health, happiness and security are vulnerable to whim and miscalculation, to the sudden, unexpected and absurd. Life is fragile and unpredictable, especially in the Middle East.
We have irredentist Palestinians, Egyptian Islamists, Syrian chemical weapons, Hezbollah’s missiles and the Iranian nuclear project to cogently remind us of our vulnerability.
So as you settle back in the synagogue pew or your living room armchair to contemplate life on the Day of Atonement, you might want to pray for stability—for a predictable year.
Join me in the following prayers:
Pray for our soldiers lying in ambush opposite Hezbollah fighters on the Lebanese border or jihadi fighters on the Egyptian border. Pray for quiet.
Pray for the residents of the Golan Heights, whose homes are minutes away from the civil war that is raging in Syria. Pray for Israelis in Judea and Samaria, who have been outlawed by the world, boycotted by the EU, demonized by the Israeli left and are subject to a rising number of Palestinian attacks.
Pray for the residents of Tel Aviv, now well within enemy missile range.
Pray that the recent release of Palestinian terrorists (and the next planned releases) do not come back to haunt us.
Pray that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sticks to his self-declared red lines in the current negotiations. Pray that Netanyahu is given the stamina and courage to make the difficult but right decisions with regard to Iran. Pray that we don’t get caught (again) flat-footed and surprised by an enemy assault.
Pray for Jerusalem, that it remain under Israeli control. Pray that we have the national backbone to reassert our sovereignty in the face of increasing Palestinian Authority encroachment throughout the city and on the Temple Mount.
Pray that you never have to walk into a pediatric oncology hospital ward. Pray for friends and strangers alike who spend their days and nights in these tragic places. Ask G-d to keep you and your children out of emergency and operating rooms, cardiac units and psychiatric wards.
Pray that you do not become a victim of this country’s more than 74,000 annual burglaries; 28,000 annual traffic accidents, including 300 fatalities; 21,000 car thefts; 22,000 crimes against the elderly; 15,000 incidents of serious violence; or 150 non-terrorist murders.
Pray that classroom violence—experienced by 1 out of every 3 school children—does not affect your son or daughter and that they get to be part of the lucky 48 percent of Israeli kids who actually complete high school matriculation.
Pray for rain.
Pray for all the incredible volunteers in our society who run thousands of nonprofit organizations devoted to social welfare, making Israel one of the most altruistic societies in the world. May they all be strengthened and rewarded!
Pray for the patience and humility that we need to treat our elderly parents as we would like our children to treat us.
Pray that all the international businessmen and government officials who visit Israel to marvel at our high-tech triumphs will one day be equally impressed by our moral and spiritual accomplishments.
Pray for a “good news” media, for the emergence of Israeli journalists who make a point of highlighting and showcasing the beauty of Israel’s society.
Pray for more amazing archaeological discoveries, like the Torah scroll gold ornaments unearthed near the Temple Mount last week and the Hebrew inscriptions from the Canaanite period found in the Ophel last year, which demonstrate to the world our rootedness in this land.
Pray for all the Israelis who aren’t praying—those gambling the day away in Greece, cycling aimlessly through Tel Aviv or, unfortunately, just plain turned off by this country’s noxious mix of religion and politics. Pray for Jews who are in synagogue but who pray only for themselves.
Pray that we can tame our tendency to all too often harshly judge and stereotype each other.
Pray for your own faith and spiritual world. May it be enriched and deepened.
Pray, if you can, like Rabbi Yishmael Ben Elisha, the high priest who, according to legend, was granted an audience with G-d and asked to bless the Almighty. “May it be your Divine will,” intoned the priest, “that your mercy overcome your anger; that you treat your children with compassion and forbearance; and that you judge them with leniency.” Amen.
The government’s plan to release 85 Palestinians imprisoned prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinian Authority ahead of renewed peace talks has met with harsh criticism by families of terror victims, who say the move will “add insult to injury.”
The 85 prisoners in question are all considered “heavyweight terrorists” directly involved in murderous terror attacks against Israelis.
“The possible release of these terrorists is a disgrace to the Israeli justice system,” says Ehud Bromberg, who lost his brother, Avraham, in a terror attack.
Sgt. Avraham Bromberg, 20, who served in the Israel Defense Forces Armored Corps, was on his way home from his Golan Heights base when he was attacked by a group of terrorists on Nov. 26, 1980. Bromberg fought his assailants but suffered a fatal head injury. He died at Rambam Hospital in Haifa four days after the attack.
Bromberg’s murderers, Karim Younis and his cousin Maher Younis, were sentence to life imprisonment, but their sentence was commuted by President Shimon Peres in August 2012, making them eligible for parole in 2023. The Palestinians demand that the two be included in the upcoming prisoners release.
Avraham’s son, Avi, who serves as spokesman of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, was livid Tuesday, when media reports confirmed that the cabinet will vote on the matter in the coming days.
He is demanding that the cabinet’s vote be postponed pending a meeting between the representatives of the bereaved families and the ministers.
“It is inconceivable that the state can ignore the bereaved families like this,” he said. “President Peres and the government are grateful to Abu-Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] for the difficult concessions he agreed to for the sake of the negotiations, and we will be left to pay the price. We didn’t even get a phone call. The government’s conduct is a disgrace.”
Almagor’s director, retired Lt. Col. Meir Indor, also leveled harsh criticism at the government over the decision.
“Israel is facing a slippery slope. The Palestinians are gang-raping the government and it just capitulates,” Indor said. “This happens every time in different ways. Every deal you make with the Palestinians, they violate.”
Indor bashed the justice system’s treatment of its heavyweight prisoners, saying it weakened efforts to bring terrorists to justice.
“The Israeli justice system is left empty of authority,” he said. “This time it’s Fatah terrorists. Last time it was Hamas terrorists. [The government] is asking us to accept the fact that the state of Israel is willing to let terrorists get away with killing Jews and that it no longer seeks to punish them with the full force of the law.”
A SPECIAL MESSAGE
From Mike Evans the founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team
The European Union has declared war on Israel–economic warfare. This is far from surprising since biblical prophecy indicates that the Antichrist will come from within EU confines. In Daniel 8:24-25, the prophet describes events surrounding his rise:
“And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of Princes; but he shall be broken without hand.”
In a move designed to cause Israel great financial hardship, the EU voted on July 16th to forbid all twenty-eight members from having any interaction with Israeli territories outside the original 1949 lines. This would include, according to news sources, “cooperating, transferring funds, giving scholarships or research grants to organizations or individuals based in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem, and even the Golan Heights.” The instructions target 2014-2020 and went into effect July 18th. The decision dictates that Israel must disavow “settlements” that are not part of the 1949 mandate.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the move, “This matter will only be determined through direct negotiation between the two sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As prime minister, I won’t allow hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights, and in Jerusalem–our united capital–to be harmed. I expect those who really want peace and regional stability to deal with this matter of Israel’s settlements after they solve more pressing problems in the region like the Syrian civil war and Iran‘s race to get a nuclear weapon.”
Today you and I have been chosen by God to stand in defense of Israel. The Jewish people are under attack and facing threats on every side. They need to know that they are not alone–that their Christian friends around the world are standing with them. That is why we are working so hard on the Righteous Gentile Heritage Center.
We have been given a one-week extension to raise the remaining half of the funds for the fourth floor and to make the second payment of $411,500. It is critical that we keep on schedule; the grand opening is scheduled for September 2014, and the nation of Israel is already talking about this unprecedented witness of Christian love. Your gift today will be matched dollar for dollar.
With your gift of any amount, we will send you a beautiful Psalm 91 print and a matching bookmark. I know these beautiful words will strengthen and encourage your faith.
When you send your gift of $50 or more, we will send you the print and bookmark and a lovely Touching the Hem of His Garment figurine. Few stories in Scripture demonstrate faith in action better than the woman who believed she would be healed if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. You will enjoy displaying this piece in your home or office.
If you are able to send a gift of $100 or more, we will send the print and bookmark and a copy of the Jerusalem World Center Study Bible. Prepared especially for members of the Jerusalem Prayer Team, this beautifully bound King James Version features special study helps and notes that I know you will use again and again, including a concordance, center-column reference, Messianic Prophecies of the Old Testament, Miracles and Parables of our Lord, and much more.
Remember that your gift today will be doubled by the matching gift offer to do twice as much to help us reach this urgent goal.
Your support of the Jerusalem Prayer Team today allows us to continue our work on the Righteous Gentile Heritage Center, to stand up and speak out for Israel, and to meet urgent humanitarian needs among the poor Jewish people living in Israel. Thank you so much for being part of this vital worldwide prayer movement.
“In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” Daniel 9:2
From Haaretz: The European Union has issued orders forbidding its member states from cooperating, transferring funds, giving scholarships or research grants to bodies in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem , and even the Golan Heights, Haaretz wrote Tuesday.
The new instruction, promulgated by the European Commission, which is the operative arm of the EU, sets parameters for cooperation between the EU and its members states, on the one hand, and Israeli governmental and private elements on the other. The instructions are for the years 2014 – 2020 and will go into force on Friday, July 18.
The decision also states that any future agreement signed with Israel must include a section that says the “settlements” are not part of sovereign Israel and therefore not included in the agreement.
A senior source in the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the new EU decision is dramatic, and can be called “a true earthquake.”
“This is the first time in which a explicit and formal instruction like this is issued. Until now, there were silent understandings and agreements that the EU does not work beyond the Green Line” – as the 1949 Armistice Line is known – “but this is an official and binding prohibition.”
It is very rare that I visit a site in this tiny country that I have never visited before, but recently I had the awesome privilege of overlooking the Valley of Quneitra into Syria from Mount Bental.
From there, you can see the border with Syria, and nothing can highlight the differences between the two countries like the fact that on the Israeli side, everything is green and plush, and on the Syrian, it appears to be a barren wasteland.
On Top of Mount Bental
Mount Bental was the location of one of the biggest tank battles in history—during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Quneitra (pronounced koo-net-tra) Valley is called the Valley of Tears because of massive loss of life that took place there.
The Golan Heights is an immense, hilly plateau in Northern Israel. It borders Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Its average height is about 3,500 feet. Its highest point on the northern border of Mount Hermon tops 9,000 feet.
Syria Terrorizes Israel From the Highlands
When Syria controlled this region, she used the highland to rain terror on Israel’s Galilee villages and farms with rockets and bombs, and PLO raids were launched against Israel from Syrian territory. Syria’s attacks grew more frequent in 1965 and 1966. Often, Israeli children would have to sleep in bomb shelters. A final attack was unleashed against defenseless Israeli towns in April 1967. Israel responded by shooting down six Syrian MiG fighter jets and issued a stern warning.
In addition, Syria was seeking to divert water from entering the Sea of Galilee—Israel’s main supply of drinking water. A country can’t last long without water. This, in and of itself, was an act of war.
Having had enough, Israel defended herself in the Six Day War, fighting—literally—an uphill battle. Israeli tanks stormed the Golan Heights and fought a bloody, intense battle. Israeli causalities reached 115 in just a few days, while Syrian casualties were 20 times that, at 2,500. In the end, Israel controlled the highlands.
Peace Rejected by Syria
It is important to note that just a few days later, on June 19, 1967, the prime minister and his cabinet voted to return the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for a peace treaty. Disgraced, Syria would not be further humiliated and rejected the olive branch.
Attacked While Fasting
In 1973, as the entire country of Israel was fasting for Yom Kippur, a humiliated Arab world (from the Six Day War defeat) led by Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. The surprise attack caught Israel off guard. My wife remembers her brother being called out of the synagogue to report for duty, along with tens of thousands of soldiers and reservists.
However, initial gains by Syria proved fleeting. Once the reserves were organized, they launched a counter-offensive, regaining all the territory. In fact, by the end of the short war, Israeli shells were reaching the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus. Israeli troops extended their reach 20 kilometers into Syria!
Several attempts from Syria to retake this land were rebuffed by Israel. Finally in May 1974, Israel and Syria signed a Separation of Forces agreement. Israel retreated to the Golan Heights, and Syria reoccupied areas lost in the Yom Kippur war. Again, just to be clear, Israel did not relinquish the Golan Heights, just the areas gained in 1973. There would be a demilitarized zone in between the two countries that would be occupied by U.N. peacekeepers, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force.
After 40 Years, Peacekeepers Run
Amazingly the view atop Mount Bental has been Israel’s quietest border until the recent Syrian civil war. Recently Austria pulled its 377 troops (out of 911) from the mission, after Syrian rebels briefly overtook the border crossing at Quneitra.
This is not the first time a U.N. peacekeeping mission abandoned its post on Israel’s border. Leading up to the Six Day War, President Nasser of Egypt ordered the U.N.—what was then considered to be their great peacekeeping mission—to leave the Sinai Peninsula, where they served as a buffer between Israel and Egypt. And without a word of dissent, they left.
From my vantage point yesterday, high on Mount Bental I could see the U.N. outpost where rebel forces kidnapped 21 unarmed U.N. Filipino peacekeepers. I could also see smoke billowing out of New Quneitra—and I could not determine if it was the result of a rocket or some Arab burning trash. New Quneitra has been the scene of several bloody battles in recent months.
Syria abandoned Old Quneitra after Israel retuned the land in May 1974 and simply built a new city close by. Old Quneitra now serves as a reminder that Israel, while desiring peace with her neighbors, is willing to defend itself against attack.
Ron Cantoris the director of Messiah’s Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Cantor also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. His newest book, Identity Theft, was released April 16. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.