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May 1, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Israel's Population Hits 8.7 Million on Eve of 69th Independence Day - Ofer Aderet (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's population is 8.68 million - more than 10 times what it was when the state was founded in 1948, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced Thursday.
    Some 74.7% (6.484 million) are Jewish, 20.8% (1.808 million) are Arab - both Muslim and Christian - while the remaining 4.5% (388,000) are non-Arab Christians, members of other religions or people of no religion.
    There are also 183,000 foreign nationals living in Israel. In the past year, 174,000 babies were born in Israel and 30,000 people immigrated to the country.
    As of 2015 there were an estimated 14.41 million Jews in the world, 43% of whom lived in Israel.
    See also Meet This Year's Independence Day Torch Lighters - Tamara Zieve (Jerusalem Post)
    See also 69 Reasons to Applaud Israel on its 69th Birthday - Robert Sarner (Times of Israel)

Survey: Both Jewish and Arab Israelis Are Optimistic about the Future (Peace Index)
    74% of Israeli Jews and 57% of Israeli Arabs rate their own personal situation as good or very good, according to the Peace Index survey conducted on April 25-26, 2017, by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute.
    86% of Jews and 51% of Arabs are proud of being an Israeli, while 73% of Jews and 61% of Arabs are optimistic about Israel's future.

North Korea Threatens Israel (Jerusalem Post)
    In an interview with the Hebrew news site Walla last week, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un is a madman and that together with the leaders of Iran and Syria was part of an "insane and radical" gang that was bent on undermining international stability.
    In response, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Saturday, "The reckless remarks of the Israeli defense minister are sordid and wicked behavior and a grave challenge to the DPRK [North Korea]."
    Anyone who "dares hurt the dignity of its supreme leadership" will face "merciless, thousand-fold punishment."

Israel's Covert War Against Hizbullah's Missiles - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    By providing missiles and rockets to Hizbullah for more than a decade, Iran's goal is to be able to threaten vital Israeli infrastructures - water, electricity, hospitals, transport, airfields and emergency supplies.
    Iran is now transitioning Hizbullah's arsenal to one comprised mostly of precise missiles, some of which are GPS-guided.
    The Iranians understand that Israel's anti-missile defenses are capable of intercepting more than 80% of their rockets, so they intend to battle it using sheer volume.
    The attacks on arms depots in Syria attributed to Israel reflect the increased efforts by the Iranians to arm Hizbullah as well as Israel's efforts to prevent this.

Israel to Buy 13 Naval Guns from U.S. to Defend Offshore Gas Reserves - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    The State Department has approved Israel's request to buy 13 76-mm naval guns and spare parts for $440 million, to be mounted on the Israel Navy's missile boats.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Official Criticizes New UNESCO Resolution Labeling Israeli Actions in Jerusalem "Illegal" - Ben Cohen
    A U.S. official condemned a resolution entitled "Occupied Palestine" to be voted on this Tuesday by UNESCO. The resolution asserts "all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel...which have altered...the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the 'basic law' on Jerusalem, are null and void." The Basic Law on Jerusalem, passed by the Knesset in 1980, affirms that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel." Two sites sacred to Jewish worshipers - the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem - are defined by the resolution as "Palestinian sites" and "an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory."
        The U.S. official said, "UNESCO is too often used as a vehicle by member states inclined to delegitimize the State of Israel. Although several of these anti-Israel resolutions are typically adopted biannually by UNESCO, over time they have become increasingly political in nature and now question Israel's basic claim to historic sites. These resolutions are counterproductive to the core work of UNESCO and do nothing to advance the goal we all share of a two-state solution."  (Algemeiner)
  • Israel Stops to Honor Fallen Soldiers and Terror Victims
    Israel paused to honor its fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism Sunday evening as it began commemorating Memorial Day. Sirens wailed across the country at 8 p.m. and at 11 a.m. on Monday, prompting Israelis to stop in their tracks and stand silently to remember the dead. Bereaved families visited cemeteries, places of entertainment shut, and TV and radio stations aired war stories and melancholy music. After decades of conflict many Israelis have personally experienced the grief of war or know someone who has.
        The sad atmosphere ends sharply at sundown Monday, when Israelis take to the streets for Independence Day celebrations through Tuesday, with dancing, fireworks, parties and cookouts. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Bereaved Families of Fallen Soldiers Tell Their Story (Ynet News)
        See also Photos: Israel Pays Tribute to Fallen on Memorial Day (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: This Small Country Is All We Have
    Speaking at the dedication of the new National Remembrance Hall in Jerusalem on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Together we bow our heads in memory of the 23,544 who fell in our nation's battles and the thousands more who were killed by murderous terrorists. We are one people, and it is clear to all of us that were it not for the sacrifice of these men and women - we would not be free in our own land. In fact, we would not be here at all. It is thanks to them that we exist, thanks to them that we live."
        "This small country is all we have....Our roots were planted deep into this land thousands of years ago, and for generations we were loyal to it. We renewed our national sovereignty in this land seven decades ago."
        "We stand as a fortified wall against our enemies. We do not show weakness. We do not loosen our grip from the weapons in our hands because we know that this is the only way to push back the thickets of evil that refuse to accept our existence. This is the only way we will achieve peace with those of our neighbors who want peace."
        "It is actually our loved ones who went to battle from whom we draw comfort. The wick of their lives was cut off in a moment, but the spark of the sense of mission that burned in them still glows."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israeli Arab Singer "Honored" to Perform at Memorial Day Ceremony - Itay Ilnai
    Israeli Arab singer Nasreen Qadri, a Muslim Arab, performed on Sunday evening at the Jerusalem Municipality's Memorial Day ceremony at Safra Square, the site of the city hall. On Monday, she is to participate in the torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
        She said in an interview, "I am part of this country, and it's an honor for me to be invited to take part in the Memorial Day and Independence Day ceremonies....For me, being on stage in the ceremony is feeling like I belong....My message is one of peace and harmony."
        Q: Aren't you afraid of the reactions from the Arab population?
    Qadri: "No, because I make them feel like they belong. I am sure that if I perform at the torch-lighting ceremony, they will say: 'Look, our Nasreen is singing.'"  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Palestinians Are Rewarding Terrorists. The U.S. Should Stop Enabling Them. - Thane Rosenbaum
    Without apology or shame, yet in conflict with the Oslo Accords and professed aspirations for peace, the Palestinian Authority is running a bounty system. Payments to terrorists and their families are enshrined in Palestinian law, provided for in the PA budget and indirectly supported by foreign aid. Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who are convicted of attacks in Israel are entitled to monthly "salaries" commencing with their arrest (and continuing for life for men who serve at least five years and women who serve at least two), along with additional cash grants and priority civil-service job placements upon their release.
        The longer a prison sentence - really, the more deadly an attack - the more profitable the payout. But incentivizing the murder of civilians is barbarism. The "lone wolves" who perpetrate stabbings, shootings and car-rammings are not really acting alone - they are a people's army recruited to kill by their government. Instilling a profit motive for terror is not a reassuring sign that West Bank Palestinians are ready for neighborly peace.
        Congress is considering the Taylor Force Act, named for a West Point graduate and Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who was in Israel last March when a Palestinian attacked a crowd with a knife. The act would effectively cut U.S. aid in half unless the PA abandoned its payments to terrorists. Palestinians don't have to be saints; they just can't be assassins. Abolishing the incentives for killing Israelis is a moral necessity. The writer directs the Forum on Law, Culture & Society at the New York University School of Law. (Washington Post)
        See also Abbas Will Continue to Pay Palestinian Prisoners, PA Minister Says
    PA Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe said Saturday that President Mahmoud Abbas "outright rejects" Israeli demands to halt payments to prisoners held by Israel, Israel's Channel 2 reported. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the salaries paid to imprisoned terrorists by the PA constitute a major obstacle to peace. (Times of Israel)
  • Where Is World Outrage over Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul? - Richard Kemp, Jim Molan, and Arsen Ostrovsky
    At an age when most teenagers are getting ready to go off to university or travel abroad, Israelis devote two to three years of their lives to defending and protecting their country, and by extension the West's front line of defense in the global war against Islamic terrorism. Two such soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the State of Israel were Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed by Hamas in the 2014 Gaza war.
        Hamas still holds their bodies hostage in Gaza as a bargaining chip. Holding the bodies of soldiers killed in action and refusing their return to their next of kin for burial is a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. That Hamas, a fanatical Iran-funded Islamist terrorist organization, does not abide by even a modicum of international law and basic human decency is beyond dispute.
        But where is the international outcry? Where is the Red Cross? Where is the UN? Hadar Goldin was killed and taken hostage during a UN cease-fire. Where are the self-professed human rights groups? The international community, which is seeking to rebuild Gaza and promote peace, should make any further efforts conditional upon the immediate and unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers' bodies. It is time the world showed that Israeli lives matter too.
        Col. Richard Kemp is a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan. Australian Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Jim Molan served as chief of operations for the Multinational Forces in Iraq. Arsen Ostrovsky is an international human rights lawyer. (Jerusalem Post)

Israel Was Not Born of the Holocaust - Jack Schwartz (Times of Israel)

  • The Jewish state owes its creation to a string of contingencies which either predated, or were independent of, the destruction of Europe's Jews between 1941 and 1945. The Balfour Declaration, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, was a British commitment to a Jewish homeland during World War I. It gave international standing to what was already a vibrant Zionist presence marked by waves of immigration in the previous three decades.
  • By the end of the 20-year interwar period in 1939, the Jewish Yishuv was a thriving entity, socially integrated, economically viable, and politically organized with a motivated defense element that would only grow in discipline and effectiveness.
  • After the war, Great Britain was spent. Its colonial empire became too costly and too draining, and it opted for withdrawal in possessions such as India. It is no accident that, in the guise of partition, Britain withdrew from both India and Palestine the same year.
  • This had little to do with the Holocaust and much to do with the calculations of the British Colonial Office as to the cost-benefit ratio of keeping an embattled outpost in Palestine rather than maintaining control of Suez and a base at Aden in the Arabian Sea.
  • The actual UN vote on partition which put in motion a Jewish state was based more on self-interest than sentiment. Russia and its satellites supported the Zionist cause with an eye toward diminishing British power in the Middle East.
  • Had the vote taken place with an expanded de-colonized UN a few years later, it is doubtful the decision would have gone in Israel's favor.

    The writer is a former book editor of Newsday.

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