News Digest — 4/17/19

US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt Releases Map That Includes The Golan

On Tuesday (16th), the Trump administration’s special envoy for Middle East negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, released an updated map of Israel that now includes the Golan Heights.

“Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system after @POTUS issued a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Mr. Greenblatt tweeted.

In March, President Donald Trump said that it’s time for the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signaled a major shift in US policy.

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” Trump tweeted on March 21.

The president signed a proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan on March 25.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 War and annexed the area in 1981.  Much of the world still refuses to recognize Israel’s sovereignty on the Heights.



Senior PA Official Said To Warn Hamas Plotting Coup Against Abbas In West Bank

A senior Palestinian Authority official reportedly warned that Hamas means to exploit the economic situation in the West Bank and pay off PA officers and security forces to take control of the territory.

The effort will resemble Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2007, the official said, according to a Tuesday (16th) report in Channel 12 News.  Hamas ousted Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction from Gaza to take control of the territory two years after Israel withdrew unilaterally, and the terror group has ruled the Strip ever since.

“We fear that Hamas will exploit the deteriorating economic situation of our officers and members of the security forces, and pay money to buy them off,” the official reportedly said at a closed meeting this week.

“That’s how Hamas took control of Gaza in the coup of 2007, with bribes paid under the table,” he said.

The Palestinian finance minister in February announced salary cuts for civil servants, days after Israel said it would withhold tens of millions of dollars in tax transfers to the PA.

Israel’s security cabinet had approved the freezing of $138 million over the PA’s payments to Palestinians jailed by Israel for terrorism and violence, and to the families of dead terrorists.

In protest, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said he would not accept any funds from Israel unless it provided the full tax sums it owed the PA.

Israel, which collects taxes on behalf of the PA, says the payments encourage further violence.

The PA claims the payments are a form of welfare to families who have lost their main breadwinner.



PA FM: ‘Abbas Ready To Meet Netanyahu With No Preconditions’

Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, is prepared to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with no preconditions, PA Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki said in an interview with the Russian news agency Sputnik.

“We are ready to talk with Israelis without any conditions,” Al-Malki said.

There would, however, be one condition.  The invitation to meet would have to come from Russian President Vladimir Putin, “the one who will create the best conditions for a meeting to take place and for a meeting to be successful,” according to Al-Malki.

“We have reiterated our readiness and our willingness to President Putin that anytime that he believes there is readiness on the Israeli side we will be more than ready to come and sit and have talks with Netanyahu,” Al-Malki said to Sputnik.

In reference to the peace plan being developed by the USA, Al-Malki stated that, “we reject any proposal to resolve the conflict which doesn’t include recognition of the independence of a Palestinian state.”

“If Netanyahu is going to annex the West Bank, then the response should not be exclusively Palestinian, but the response should be a collective one from the international community,” Al-Malki added, referring to Netanyahu’s pre-election promise to annex the West Bank.  “If Netanyahu wants to annex the West Bank, he has to deal with 4.5 million Palestinians.”



Passover Reenactment Ceremony In Jerusalem Draws Hundreds – David Jabinowitz

Hundreds gathered on Monday (15th) to reenact the ancient Passover ritual, including the eating of the paschal lamb, which in the days of the Jewish Temple was brought to Jerusalem as a sacrifice on the eve of the Jewish holiday.

The First Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, and later, the Second Temple built on the same site, was destroyed in 70 CE.

In recent years, the ceremony has been held near the Temple Mount.

Many rabbis criticize the current ritual, saying it must wait until the Temple is rebuilt and reconsecrated.

Others, however, counter that the reenactment is carried out for educational purposes and for instilling the desire to rebuild the Temple, and is not the actual ceremony.

The ritual slaughter of the lamb first took place as the Jews were about to leave ancient Egypt in the story of the Exodus.  They received the Torah on Mount Sinai, wandered through the desert, and ultimately arrived in the Promised Land.

When the State of Israel captured the Temple Mount in 1967, 19 years after the modern Jewish State was established, various religious leaders embarked on a campaign to raise awareness of the Temple Mount’s Jewish historic link and practices.

The site is still considered the holiest in Judaism and rabbis have been divided over whether its holiness prohibits Jews from stepping foot there in light of what is considered the current state of ritual impurity of all Jews.  However, the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount has increased over time.

Those who argue that the Mount can be ascended as long as the holiest area is not encroached are still faced with the prohibition against reciting Jewish prayers because of a ban imposed by the Waqf Islamic Trust, guardian of Islam’s third holiest shrine located nearby.

The Passover ceremony conducted in recent years has not been carried out on the Temple Mount, but rather elsewhere in the Old City.  The event also includes the reciting of the priestly blessing and the blowing of trumpets.

The Passover holiday begins Friday night (19th) with the ceremonial Seder meal honored in Jewish homes around the world.  The family service has become the center of the festival in lieu of the Temple ceremony.



Israeli Researchers Discover New Way To Fight War On Cancer

Israeli researchers at Hebrew University (HU) say they have reached a breakthrough in how to fight cancer.  While it might have been clear already that RNA-binding proteins play a major role in cancer growth, no cancer treatment has targeted these proteins until now.

“Our technology is a new approach in the war on cancer,” said Professor Rotem Karni.

“By understanding the biological function of RNA-binding proteins we successfully designed decoy molecules that inhibit these proteins and move us ever closer to creating an anti-cancer drug,” he added.

Prof. Karni and his HU Institute for Medical Research – Israel Canada team, led by PhD. student Polina Cohen-Denichenko, developed “several decoy molecules which inhibit the RNA-binding proteins that speed-up brain and breast cancer growth,” said a statement released by the university.

“To test the decoys, they treated brain cancer cells with decoy molecules.  When the cells were then injected into healthy mice, the cancer cells did not replicate and, soon after, the tumors died off,” according to the statement.

Prof. Karni says that though his team is focused on brain and breast cancer, his technology enables scientists to “tailor-make” decoys for other types of cancer, as well.

The team presented its findings in the Nature Communications scientific journal.