By Elliot Jager
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© 2014 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.
By Elliot Jager
© 2014 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.
JERUSALEM — Israel said its last farewell to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday with a state ceremony outside the parliament building before his flag-draped coffin was taken on a cross-country procession to its final resting place at his family farm in the country’s south.With a high-powered crowd of VIPs and international dignitaries on hand, Sharon was eulogized as a fearless warrior and bold leader who devoted his life to protecting Israel’s security. Vice President Joe Biden and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair headed the long list of visitors.
In a heartfelt address, Biden talked about a decades-long friendship with Sharon, saying the death felt “like a death in the family.”
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When the two discussed Israel’s security, Biden said understood how Sharon earned the nickname “The Bulldozer,” explaining how Sharon would pull out maps and repeatedly make the same points to drive them home.
“He was indomitable,” Biden said. “But like all historic leaders, all real leaders, he had a north star that guided him. A north star from which he never, in my observation, never deviated. His north star was the survival of the state of Israel and the Jewish people wherever they resided,” Biden said.
Sharon died on Saturday, eight years after a devastating stroke left him in a coma from which he never recovered. He was 85.
One of Israel’s greatest and most divisive figures, Sharon rose through the ranks of the military, moving into politics and overcoming scandal and controversy to become prime minister at the time of his stroke.
He spent most of his life battling Arab enemies and promoting Jewish settlement on war-won lands. But in a surprising about-face, he led a historic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, uprooting all soldiers and settlers from the territory after a 38-year presence in a move he said was necessary to ensure Israel’s security.
His backers called him a war hero. His detractors, first and foremost the Palestinians, considered him a war criminal and held him responsible for years of bloodshed.
The speakers at Monday’s ceremony outside parliament largely glossed over the controversy, and instead focused on his leadership and personality.
“Arik was a man of the land,” President Shimon Peres, a longtime friend and sometimes rival, said in his eulogy. “He defended this land like a lion and he taught its children to swing a scythe. He was a military legend in his lifetime and then turned his gaze to the day Israel would dwell in safety, when our children would return to our borders and peace would grace the Promised Land.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who resigned from Sharon’s Cabinet to protest the Gaza withdrawal, said that he and Sharon didn’t always agree with each other. Nonetheless, he called Sharon “one of the big warriors” for the nation of Israel.
“Arik was a man of actions, pragmatic, and his pragmatism was rooted in deep emotion, deep emotion for the country and deep emotion for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said.
Nearly 10 years on, the withdrawal from Gaza remains hotly debated in Israeli society. Supporters say Israel is better off not being bogged down in the crowded territory, which is now home to 1.7 million Palestinians.
Critics say the pullout has only brought more violence. Two years after the withdrawal, Hamas militants seized control of Gaza and stepped up rocket fire on Israel.
In a reminder of the precarious security situation, Palestinian militants on Monday fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip. Sharon’s ranch in southern Israel, where his body was being laid to rest, is within range of such projectiles, though but Monday’s missiles did not hit Israel. No injuries or damage were reported.
Biden praised Sharon’s determination in carrying out the Gaza pullout, which bitterly divided the nation.
“The political courage it took, whether you agreed with him or not, when he told 10,000 Israelis to leave their homes in Gaza, in order from his perspective to strengthen Israel … I can’t think of a more difficult and controversial decision he made. But he believed it and he did it. The security of his people was always Arik’s unwavering mission.”
Blair, who is now an international envoy to the Middle East, said Sharon’s “strategic objective” never changed. “The same iron determination he took to the field of war he took to the chamber of diplomacy. Bold. Unorthodox. Unyielding,” he said.
Sharon’s coffin lay in state at the Knesset’s outdoor plaza where Israelis from all walks of life paid respects throughout Sunday.
In addition to Biden and Blair, the prime minister of the Czech Republic, and foreign ministers of Australia and Germany were among those in attendance at Monday’s ceremony.
Even Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, sent a low-level diplomat, its embassy said.
After the ceremony ended, the closed coffin, draped in a blue and white Israeli flag, was placed in a military vehicle and driven in a police-escorted convoy toward Sharon’s ranch in southern Israel.
Crowds stood along the roadside and on bridges, snapping pictures and getting a final glimpse of the coffin as the procession of vehicles left Jerusalem and snaked down the highway outside the city’s picturesque hills.
The convoy made a brief stop at Latrun, the site of a bloody battle where Sharon was wounded during Israel’s war of independence in 1948, for a brief military ceremony before continuing south. His coffin was lowered into the ground in a military funeral at the family farm in southern Israel.
At Sharon’s graveside, his son Gilad remembered his father for overcoming the odds, whether it was battling a Palestinian uprising after becoming prime minister in 2001 or clinging to life in his final days even after his kidneys had stopped functioning.
“Again and again you turned the impossible to reality. That’s how legends are made. That’s how an ethos of a nation is created,” he said.
Sharon’s life will be remembered for its three distinct stages: First, was his eventful and contentious time in uniform, including leading a deadly raid in the West Bank that killed 69 Arabs, as well as his heroics in the 1973 Mideast war.
Then came his years as a vociferous political operator who helped create Israel’s settlement movement and masterminded the divisive Lebanon invasion in 1982. He was branded as indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps outside Beirut when his troops allowed allied Lebanese militias into the camps. An uproar over the massacre cost him his job.
Yet ultimately he transformed himself into a prime minister and statesman, capped by the dramatic Gaza withdrawal. Sharon appeared to be cruising toward re-election when he suffered the second, devastating stroke in January 2006.
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© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Former Arkansas governor, Republican presidential candidate and popular syndicated radio host Mike Huckabee said that the reputation of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who died Saturday at the age of 85, will not be tarnished even though in 2005 he “ordered Israeli citizens to leave Gaza and eventually forced them out of their homes in communities like Gush Katif.”
Commenting on the death of the Israeli war hero and politician, Huckabee noted that “the sincerity of his intentions in giving up lands with the hopes of peace” did not lead to a more friendly Gaza. The area is today controlled by the Islamist Hamas Palestinian faction.
But Huckabee recalled Sharon’s leading role in creating major settlements in Judea and Samaria in the 1990s.
Huckabee, who has not ruled out a possible bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, lauded Sharon as a major figure in modern Israeli history.
“He was a celebrated person as well as immensely powerful military figure, leading troops in all of Israel’s major conflicts including the War for Independence, the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War,” he said.
Sharon’s life was “a living sacrifice for the nation of Israel that he loved and served” and he will be remembered “as one of Israel’s mightiest and most effective warrior and leaders,” said Huckabee, who is a regular visitor to the Jewish state.
Sharon’s life was “a living sacrifice for the nation of Israel that he loved and served. Our prayers go out to his family,” Huckabee concluded.
© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Elliot Jager
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” Psalm 122:6
The bible is very specific that in the end of time, the world’s attention would not be focused just on Israel in general, but on Jerusalem in particular. It is the most fought for piece of property in human history. Palestinian president Abbas has no intention of letting it remain in Jewish control, and declared his hard line in a blistering speech today.
Too bad Abbas has never read the bible all the way through to the end. If he had, he would see that the Jews win in the end, and that the Messiah rules and reigns from David’s Throne in Jerusalem for 1,000 years of perfect peace.
In a fiery Ramallah speech, Palestinian president Abbas says ‘Palestinian people won’t kneel, and we tell the world, listen… without east Jerusalem as a capital of the state of Palestine, there will be no peace between us and Israel’
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent a defiant message to Israel’s leadership and US mediators Saturday, telling cheering supporters that the Palestinians “won’t kneel” and won’t drop demands for a capital in east Jerusalem.
Abbas’ unusually fiery speech highlighted the wide gaps between him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the outlines of a peace deal. It also raised new doubts about the chances of US Secretary of State John Kerry to bridge those gaps in coming weeks and come up with a framework for an agreement.
Abbas adopted tough positions in the wide-ranging speech, saying that “there will be no peace” without a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem and that he would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
On Saturday, Abbas spoke to several hundred Palestinians activists from Jerusalem whom he had invited to his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The crowd whistled, chanted and clapped as the normally low-key Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, struck a tough tone.
“I say, listen, listen, the Palestinian people won’t kneel, and we tell the world, listen, listen the Palestinian people won’t kneel,” he said at one point, drawing chants of “Abu Mazen, Abu Mazen.”
“Without east Jerusalem as a capital of the state of Palestine, there will be no peace between us and Israel,” Abbas said.
Abbas also reiterated that he will not recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Netanyahu has raised such a demand, and there is growing expectation that it will be included in Kerry’s proposal.
“We will not recognize it,” Abbas said. “We will not accept and it’s our right not to recognize the Jewish state.” source – YNET
JERUSALEM — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the trailblazing warrior-statesman who transformed the region and was reviled by Arab foes, died on Saturday at the age of 85 and after eight years in a coma caused by a stroke.
The Sheba Medical Center that has been treating Sharon said last week that his health has been declining. Sharon had been suffered from failure vital organs including his kidneys shortly before his death.
Sharon’s nurse, Marina Lifschitz, said he had not suffered while lying comatose, though he had at times given basic responses to stimuli. She recalled at one point holding up a picture of his late wife, Lily, for him to view.”And suddenly I saw a tear simply rolling out of his eye. That is very difficult to forget,” Lifschitz told reporters.
A maverick in war and politics, Sharon reshaped the Middle East in a career marked by adventurism and disgrace, dramatic reversals and stunning rebounds.
“Arik was a valorous soldier and a bold statesman who contributed much to the security and building up of the State of Israel,” said President Shimon Peres, a former political ally of Sharon and, with the ex-premier’s death, the last of the Jewish state’s founders still in public life.
One official said Sharon’s remains would lie in state in parliament in Jerusalem on Sunday. A memorial service will be held there on Monday morning, followed by an afternoon funeral near Sycamore Farm, Sharon’s residence in southern Israel.Among foreign dignitaries expected to attend are U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and former British prime minister Tony Blair, the official said.
Sharon denied wrongdoing but was eventually forced to resign as defense chief in 1983 after an Israeli probe said he bore “personal responsibility” for not preventing the bloodshed.
© 2014 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires
JERUSALEM — Could Israel face a mounting global boycott of the type that ended apartheid in South Africa if it fails to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians by this spring?
Some liberal Israeli commentators have been sounding such warnings, and the outgoing European Union (EU) envoy to the Middle East said Thursday that support in Europe for sanctioning Israel over its settlement policies could gain steam if talks collapse.
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Israeli officials have been downplaying any potential repercussions, and this week the European Union dangled unprecedented incentives before Israelis and Palestinians to nudge them toward a deal.
But Palestinian grassroots activists and their foreign supporters say an international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions — or BDS — against Israel is gaining momentum.
They point to recent successes, such as a decision this week by the American Studies Association, a group representing more than 3,800 U.S. scholars, to boycott Israeli academic institutions, though not individual Israeli colleagues.
Some activists say the death of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela earlier this month also invited comparisons between international anti-apartheid boycotts two decades ago and similar efforts now to pressure Israel to end its occupation of lands the Palestinians want for their state.
The BDS successes have been largely symbolic, and their impact on Israel’s robust economy has so far been negligible.
Israeli government officials have either dismissed the BDS campaign as ineffective or portrayed it as an attempt with strong anti-Semitic overtones to delegitimize the Jewish state.
Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, denounced the boycott decision of the U.S. scholars as a “travesty,” saying this week that “singling out of the Jewish state for boycott is no different than the many attempts throughout history to single out Jews and hold them to a different standard.”
While talk of boycott has unleashed strong emotions in Israel, government officials have been watching Europe’s more strident stance on Israeli settlements with greater concern.
Some 550,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967 along with the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians want a state in those lands and say Israel’s settlement building which only accelerated during the negotiations is jeopardizing the talks and pre-empting their outcome.
The EU has reiterated in recent months that it considers all settlements illegal and has taken steps to bring its actions more in line with its stated positions.
Europe has imposed a funding ban on Israeli research projects in the occupied territories that goes into effect next month.
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Earlier this week, EU diplomats warned Israel against new settlement announcements, saying that if negotiations collapse as a result, Israel would be held accountable.
The U.S.-led negotiations resumed in late July, after a five-year diplomatic impasse, and are to last for at least nine months.
On Wednesday, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, for the first time raised the possibility of an extension. He said that if the two sides reach a framework agreement on all main issues by the end of April, the Palestinians would be prepared negotiate for up to a year to work out the details of a comprehensive deal.
Previously, the Palestinians had said they reserve the right to walk away from the negotiations after nine months and explore other options, such as seeking wider international recognition.
The outgoing EU envoy to the Middle East, Andreas Reinicke, said in a phone interview from Brussels on Thursday that he believes a deal is possible and that the two sides “are starting to bridge the first gaps.”
Before the resumption of talks, the EU was discussing possible EU-wide recommendations on labeling Israeli settlement products, he said. Labeling could enable consumers to decide if they want to boycott such goods.
Reinicke said that when he started in his post in February 2012, only two of 28 EU member states supported the idea of labeling. Now, 14 states are in favor, he said. “There is movement in this direction,” he added.
“I think there is a general understanding among all 28 states that settlements are illegal under international law as long as there is no agreement on the border” between Israel and a state of Palestine, he said.
The discussions on labeling have been put on hold for now because Europe is working closely with Secretary of State John Kerry to support the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, said Reinicke, who leaves his post at the end of December.
Hoping to prod the sides, EU diplomats promised earlier this week that Israel and a future Palestine would win unprecedented access to the EU in new partnership agreements if they strike a peace deal.
In Israel, the aftermath of Mandela’s death and the recent BDS successes have sparked a domestic “boycott debate.”
Shmuel Inbar, a Middle East analyst, said Israel isn’t facing a serious threat.
“I don’t think that five months from now, the key issue on the international agenda is to start to go on a crusade for boycotting Israel,” he said. He said Europeans will realize “that they have much bigger problems to attend to.”
However, several liberal commentators said Israel must heed the warning signs.
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“For various reasons, the Western governments have turned a blind eye to the Israeli violation of human rights” in the occupied territories up to now, Aviad Kleinberg, a history professor at Tel Aviv University, wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily this week. “They usually make do with feeble condemnations and voicing pious concern for the future of ‘the conflict’.
“It appears as though this policy of turning a blind eye is going to end,” he wrote.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
By Pastor Bobby Schuller
As I hear songs of the season playing on my radio and see Christmas lights going up on my neighbor’s homes, I remember a special Christmas Eve that I shared with Hour of Power viewers in the Holy Land in 1999. I was 18 years old. There were 500 people, Hour of Power viewers from all over the world all sitting on a hill above Bethlehem. It was nighttime in Shepherd’s Field, and the city of Bethlehem below was sparkling. As we sang beloved Christmas songs, we held these little lamps, and it was amazing. I stood up front with my grandpa. It was lightly raining, but when the service started, the rain ended. It was as if God stopped the rain and it was just beautiful.
Bethlehem was so beautiful and nice back then, but it doesn’t exist like that anymore. I went back to Bethlehem a number of years later and it had a wall around it now that Hamas was in control. All sorts of awful things have happened there since.
I remember when I went back to Bethlehem for a fourth time, I spoke to a man who said, “Bethlehem used to be mostly Christian, about 90%. Now, most of the Christians have left, fleeing for their lives.” This is still fresh in my mind because of everything that’s happening in Israel, even today. We’re praying for the peace of Israel and Palestine. And this is what I want you to walk away with:
The man said, “In Bethlehem, it’s Christmas every day. Not because Bethlehem is Christmas town, but because we believe that Jesus is born in the hearts of Christians in every moment. The ones of us that are left, the Christians that are still here support each other and love each other. I know that I see Jesus in my kids, I see Jesus in my neighbor, I see Jesus in my parents. Because of that, it gives me the strength to endure anything. I will never leave Bethlehem because I believe that Jesus is here with me in the physical bodies of other believers. That means that Christmas happens every day right here.” Christmas is every day.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to live every day as if it were Christmas. Each day I will worship you and your sacrifice through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Reflection: How could you celebrate Christmas, not just through this Christmas season, but every day?