July 4, 2018

Australia ends direct aid to Palestinian Authority, citing payments to terrorists

Australia has stopped giving direct aid to the Palestinian Authority due to concerns that the money is being used to pay Palestinian terrorists and their families.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement Monday that the country was cutting its funding to the World Bank’s Palestinian Recovery and Development Program fund. Australia will redirect that $10 million in Australian currency ($7.4 million U.S.) to the U.N. Humanitarian Fund for the Palestinian Territories, which supplies Palestinians with health care, food, water and shelter.

Bishop wrote to the Palestinian Authority in late May to ensure that Australian funding was not supporting terrorists and is now “concerned” over where that money goes.

“I am confident that previous Australian funding to the PA through the World Bank has been used as intended,” she wrote. “However, I am concerned that in providing funds for this aspect of the PA’s operations there is an opportunity for it to use its own budget to activities that Australia would never support.”

Israel has long maintained that the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, encourage terror attacks against Israelis by giving perpetrators and their families financial rewards. Israeli lawmakers are advancing a law to slash funds to the P.A. by the same amount it uses to pay terrorists, and the United States, in the Taylor Force Act, cut funding to the P.A. over the payments to convicted terrorists and their families.

“Any assistance provided by the Palestine Liberation Organization to those convicted of politically motivated violence is an affront to Australian values and undermines the prospect of meaningful peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Bishop said.



Iran announces talks with remaining signatories to nuclear deal

TEHRAN, Iran — The foreign ministers of Iran and the five world powers still party to the 2015 nuclear deal will meet in Vienna on Friday for talks on the troubled accord, state media in Tehran said.

The top diplomats of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia will join Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the Austrian capital, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported, for their first talks together on the deal since Washington pulled out earlier this year.

During the meeting the ministers will discuss an “incentive package” the European Union is offering to try to persuade Iran to stay in the agreement, IRNA reported.

The meeting will seek “solutions to preserve the Iran nuclear deal after the illegal US action to withdraw,” it said.  The announcement came with President Hassan Rouhani in Europe to rally support for the deal.

Rouhani, accompanied by Zarif, was in Switzerland on Tuesday and due to head on Wednesday to Vienna, where the accord was signed in 2015.

US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the agreement two months ago, to the ire of the other signatories which along with the European Union have continued to back the accord.

Trump said the “defective” deal did not sufficiently curb Iran’s nuclear program nor address its ballistic missile development and support for regional terror groups.

Iran has warned it is ready to resume uranium enrichment to 20 percent — above the level permitted in the deal — “within days” if the agreement falls apart.



Elie Wiesel memorial plaque unveiled at Jerusalem Holocaust Museum

A memorial plaque dedicated to Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel was unveiled Monday at Jerusalem’s Chamber of the Holocaust museum on Mount Zion, marking two years since the venerated novelist’s death.

The plaque in memory of Wiesel, who died aged 87 in New York on July 2, 2016, was unveiled next to a 70-year-old “Tree of Life” dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize winner at Israel’s first Holocaust museum, established in 1948.The event was attended by dignitaries including Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin; Deputy President of the Claims Conference in Israel Shlomo Gur; Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU (Former Soviet Union); and chairman of the Chamber of Holocaust Rabbi Yitzhak Goldstein.

“His words touched the very soul of the Jewish people,” said Elkin at the memorial ceremony.

“There is, therefore, nothing more symbolic than a plaque here in the first museum in Israel dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust, in a place that was for the Jews during many decades, the nearest place to the Western Wall.”

Born in Romania, Wiesel authored 57 books discussing his experiences during the Holocaust. His memoir Night has been translated into 30 languages and sold approximately 10 million copies in the US alone.

The memorial plaque in memory of Wiesel was a joint initiative by Limmud FSU, the Conference for Material Claims against Germany and the March of the Living organization.



The current state of Aliyah: there’s good news and bad news

I am the representative of over 40,000 new immigrants… if everything was fine, I wouldn’t work here,” LiAmi Lawrence, the head of the KeepOlim immigrant support movement, told a special meeting in the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs on Monday.

“There are 188 families, [of] new immigrants, [that] within two years, left Israel… Someone is not doing their job properly,” he said.

The meeting painted a mostly rosy picture of immigration procedures and numbers, including employment and education; Lawrence was among the few dissenters. He praised the work of the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, but said the help provided by them is not enough both for immigrants in the land and those waiting to immigrate.

Earlier in the meeting, MK Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu) and representatives from the ministry emphasized that Israel contains the largest population of Jewish people in the world, with over six million Jewish residents, compared to the United States’ 5.7 million.

The remarks were part of a broader panel about immigration to Israel within the last year from both new immigrants and Israeli citizens returning from living abroad, as part of a themed day at the Knesset, focusing on the work of various governmental agencies.

Landver, who serves as aliyah and integration minister, also discussed the general amount of immigrants and returning Israeli citizens who came to Israel in 2017, placing special emphasis on the few thousand immigrants from Ukraine. Landver immigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union in 1979.

A statement also clarified that 29,228 people immigrated to Israel last year, out of 245,235 in total over the past ten years; 7,239 of them were returning citizens.

Of last year’s 6,917 immigrants, around one-fourth of the total number and over 2,000 more than in 2016, settled in the Negev and Galilee regions, which are both regions that the ministry has been focusing on bringing immigrants into.

Landver also emphasized that the work of the ministry and the committee needs to focus on helping new immigrants to Israel feel welcomed and accepted when they arrive.

“I’ve said more than once,” she said, “in this committee… [that] first of all, you need to prepare the immigrant before he comes to the country… [to prepare him for] where he’ll arrive, who will receive him, who is helping him, what is the absorption process.”

Towards the end of her talk, Landver briefly mentioned the Diplomat Hotel situation, saying that the ministry has held discussions with the prime minister and other parties but has yet to reach a definitive solution. In 2014, the United States embassy in Israel bought the hotel, which houses many Russian immigrants; they may lose their housing if a solution is not found by 2020.

Alex Kushnir, the ministry’s director-general, gave a presentation on the efforts of the ministry to integrate new immigrants, placing emphasis on the “digital revolution” surrounding immigration procedures, where new immigrants can communicate over the Internet with ministry representatives and can use a multilingual online portal to track their immigration progress and check up on the next steps.

The website was presented briefly during the meeting, and appeared to still be under construction; when the site’s language was switched to Russian, some of the section headings on the webpage came up in English.

Kushnir’s presentation also revealed that 10,624 immigrants to Israel in 2017, and 2,101 returning citizens, were between the ages of 18 and 35.



Gaza incendiary balloons start 6 fires near Israeli communities

Six fires near communities in southern Israel were caused Tuesday by incendiary balloons sent from the Gaza Strip, in another busy day for firefighters battling the new Palestinian tactic.

The blazes were started in the areas of Kibbutz Kissufim, Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Nahal Oz, according to the Israel Fire Department, which said that firefighters and KKL-JNF teams were able to gain control of all fires.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the security cabinet, toured the Gaza border area on Tuesday and said that the incendiary devices sent flying over the Gaza border into Israel are “no less grave than mortars.”

“A kite at the Gaza border area should be treated like a rocket on (the city of) Ashkelon,” Shaked told reporters.

“The State of Israel must use an iron fist against those who launch incendiary kites and against terror operatives,” she adds.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched countless kites, balloons and inflated latex condoms bearing flammable materials, and occasionally explosives, into Israeli territory, sparking near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, parks and forests.

On Sunday, the Eshkol region saw some 20 fires caused by incendiary devices, burning large swaths of agricultural fields and grasslands, the spokesperson for the region said.

To combat the near-daily fires, the Israeli military has brought in reservist soldiers to act as firefighters. In addition, most of the communities in the area have recruited residents to serve as first response teams.

Israeli leaders have been split on how to respond to those responsible for the airborne arson attacks, with some calling for the IDF to shoot the kite flyers and balloon launchers on sight, while others argue that it would be a step too far.