Category: Israel

US Senate: Will back Israeli attack on Iran

Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate votes in favor of resolution stipulating that US will support Israel in case it was forced to take military action against Iran
Yitzhak Benhorin

WASHINGTON — Members of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee have adopted “Senate Resolution 65,” according to which the US will support Israel in case it is compelled to take military action and actualize its right to self defense in the face of an Iranian threat.

The resolution stipules that Israel will enjoy Washington’s diplomatic, economic and military aid.

According to the resolution, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez and Sen. Lindsey Graham, the US’s policy is to halt Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Senate Resolution 65 has successfully gained the support of 70 of the 100 senators.

In a statement issued by AIPAC it was noted that “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has sent a very clear and enormously important message of solidarity with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat—which endangers American, Israeli, and international security.”

President Barack Obama sent his holiday wishes to Israel on its 65th Independence Day, stating: “On this date 65 years ago, the Jewish people realized their dream of the ages – to be masters of their fate in their own sovereign state.”

“The strong and prosperous Israel we see today proves Herzl’s vision – ‘if you will it, it is no dream,” the US president added.


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He continued: “Is it remotely possible that the Jewish temple does not belong up on top where the Dome of the Rock defiantly sits? The crushing weight of Jewish tradition refuses to allow such an inflammatory and repugnant question. But a more critical question that trumps this colossal consensus is this: Would God Himself allow for His temple to be rebuilt where it does not belong?”

Many Christians expect a temple to be rebuilt before Jesus returns to Earth, as He spoke of “the abomination of desolation” standing in the holy place (Matthew 24:15), which is thought to be the inner sanctuary of the temple.

“Jerusalem and the Lost Temple of the Jews” revisits the facts of history by delving into archaeological discoveries, Bible Scripture, historical writings and eyewitness accounts.

It spends examining New Testament statements from Jesus concerning the temple, statements that may or may not have been fulfilled when the Romans leveled Jerusalem some 40 years after Jesus was executed there.

“After all the archaeological digs that have taken place in Jerusalem, not even one has unearthed any remnant of any foundation of any building from the first century. It was gone. It became just as Jesus said it would become, not one stone left standing upon another.

“But there’s a problem with the words of Jesus’ prophecy, because there are many stones left in the walls … that date back to the time of Herod. They are still standing one upon another, in fact close to 10,000 of them. So, either Jesus in His prediction wasn’t being precise in His facts, or there is something else we just do not or cannot understand.

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Palestinians kick off Jerusalem bid by ceding Holy Sites Custodianship to Jordan’s king

A historic agreement signed in Amman Sunday, March 31, between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II takes a new stand on Jerusalem – one of the core issues subject to negotiation with Israel – by accepting the king as Custodian of the city’s Holy Sites. The Palestinians agreed that Abdullah “will oversee and manage the Waqf (Muslim religious authority) in Jerusalem” and represent the interests of the Holy Sites “in relevant international forums… through feasible legal means.”

Where the Palestinian (Wafa) and Jordanian (Petra) versions of the same agreement differ is over the definition of “Palestinian sovereignty.”

debkafile: However, by this document, the Palestinian leader and the king have laid the foundation for a mixed Arab-Palestinian-Israeli framework for managing the shrines holy to Jews (who are not mentioned), Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem. It has opened the door to what many will be perceive as a proposal to internationalize Jerusalem’s sanctuaries, a status affirmed but never honored from 1948 to 1967.
This foundation will not only raise strong Israeli objections but also be challenged by many Palestinians and therefore will have to last a long and tortuous course to survive.
Its importance lies in that the Palestinian Authority has taken the historically momentous step of ceding to the Hashemite throne the custodianship – religious, political, legal, and security – of the Muslim shrines on Temple Mount with authority over the Palestinian Waqf.

It means that henceforth, instead of the Palestinian Authority, Israel will have to engage the Jordanian government in discussions of matters pertaining to Temple Mount, especially hyper-sensitive security arrangements.
This should not be too much of a stretch since in practice, Israeli and Jordanian intelligence have cooperated quietly on such issues for many years.

The Hashemite House comes out of the accord with Palestinian recognition for the first time as the Custodian of the Holy Places of Jerusalem, especially the Mosque of al Aqsa, a title which parallels the Saudi king’s traditional title as Guardian of the Holy Places to Islam in Mecca and Medina.
The degree of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s involvement in Jordanian-Palestinian accord is still to be determined and also whether Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians) were privy to its substance.

The Arab League summit meeting in Doha March 26-27, which debated the dormant Saudi Peace Plan,  was certainly not in the picture. Those rulers now have much to chew on.
It may be instructive to cite here the exclusive debkafile report published on Dec. 27, 2012:

A confederation plan for a Palestinian West Bank state and Jordan was the real subject of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent conversation with King Abdullah in Amman, debkafile’s sources reveal – not Syria. This idea has become a focal talking point in Amman, Washington and Palestinian centers. It ties in with the report from US and Jordanian sources that Israel and the Palestinians will resume talks in the spring.

The new Abbas-Abdullah accord appears to be a strong move towards bringing this plan to fruition.

That it is a practical document and not just a declaration is indicated by the detailed definition of the Custodian’s purview appearing in the Jordanian version:

“Recalling the unique religious importance to all Muslims of al-Masjid al-Aqsa with its 144 dunams including include the Qibil Mosque of al-Aqsa, the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock and all its mosques, buildings, walls, courtyards, attached areas over and beneath the ground (a hint at Israeli archeological digs for the Biblical city and Temple)…”

Jordan and Palestine also pledged “all efforts to protect Jerusalem and its Holy Sites from Israeli escalatory Judaisation” – according to another clause in the Petra version.
On at least one very important point the Palestinian and Jordanian communiqués varied significantly:

According to PA Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habash, “The agreement confirmed Jordan’s historic role in caring for the religious sanctuaries. It also confirmed Palestinian sovereignty over all of Palestine, including East Jerusalem as its capital.”
However, Article 3:3.1 of the agreement published in full by Jordan puts it this way: “The Government of the State of Palestine, as the expression of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, shall have the right to exercise sovereignty over all parts of its territory, including Jerusalem.

While hailing their accord as a historic breakthrough, the Palestinian and Jordanian leaders will obviousy need to get all parts of their act together before they face Israel.


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Tamar Gas Field Gives Israel Energy Independence

After four years of exploration and drilling, as well as a $3.5 billion investment, Israel announced Saturday that the Tamar offshore gas field has finally come online, a move government officials say will diminish Israel’s dependency on foreign gas imports.

Tamar is believed to have reserves of up to 238 billion cubic meters (8.4 trillion cubic feet). Discovered in 2009, the field, which lies some 130 kilometers (81 miles) west of Haifa, is jointly owned by American company Noble Energy and three Israeli firms: Delek, Isramco and Dor Alon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Saturday that the event marked “an important day for Israel’s economy.”

The Energy and Water Resources Ministry confirmed that “natural gas is now moving from the Tamar reservoir to a new naval production rig across from Ashdod, from where it will within 24 hours reach an absorption station in Ashdod.”

Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom said, “This is Israel’s energy independence day. It is truly a historic event — Israel has received energy freedom.”

Delek Group owner Yitzhak Tshuva was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying: “This is a very proud day for all of us. Our vision has become a reality. This is a tremendous achievement for the Israeli energy market and the beginning of a new era.”

International Relations, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who — while serving as finance minister in Netanyahu’s previous government — promoted legislation that paved the way for offshore drilling in Israel, said, “Pumping natural gas from Tamar will not only afford Israel clean and cheap energy, but it will also yield the state considerable revenue.”

The royalties the three Tamar partners will pay the state and Israel’s potential natural gas exports are expected to yield some 450 billion shekels (about $123 billion) in state revenue over the next 25 years, AFP said.

Israel generates approximately 40 percent of its electricity from natural gas and until 2012, Egypt provided much of those needs. That supply, however, was constantly interrupted in the wake of the Egyptian revolution, as the pipeline connecting the two countries was repeatedly blown up by terrorists. Cairo canceled its gas supply agreement with Israel in April 2012, claiming the terms of the deal were undermining Egypt’s interests.

Despite the fact that Tamar has come online, domestic electricity prices are not expected to drop. Israel Electric Corp. announced that its plan for a 6.5% price hike, slated for mid-April 2013, still stands. Tamar’s gas supplies are expected to affect the domestic consumers’ power bill in 2015 at the earliest.

Energy experts said that Tamar has the ability to meet Israel’s energy needs for decades and it is expected to save the market about 13 billion shekels ($3.6 billion) a year; as well as create thousands of new jobs and promote Israel’s position in the world energy market.

Israel’s second offshore gas field, Leviathan, which has yet to come online, is twice the size of Tamar, AFP said. It is believed to contain 450 billion cubic meters (some 15.9 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas. Once online, Leviathan has the potential to make Israel a key player in the world energy market.

The Energy and Water Resources Ministry estimated in 2012 that once Tamar and Leviathan are both fully operational, Israel would be able to export some 53% of its natural gas.


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Iran crisis: Would Israel launch an attack?

As US President Barack Obama arrives in Israel, he does so amid a growing sense of urgency among the Israeli leadership over Iran’s nuclear programme – and the possibility it will take military action to stop it.

The window in which to solve the crisis by peaceful means, estimated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN last September as this spring or summer, is closing, and the prospect of a military strike looms.

Then, the prime minister, in front of a global audience, famously produced a caricature of an Iranian “nuclear bomb” and, with a red marker pen, drew a line near the top – making crystal clear where along Iran’s path of uranium enrichment Israel would not allow it to reach.

Just days earlier, America had spurned Israeli attempts to set deadlines publicly, reiterating a preference for negotiations as “by far the best approach”.

In Mr Netanyahu’s view, discussions with Iran have served only to buy it time to finish its nuclear project, and are pointless unless coupled with a credible military threat.

The key question observers and analysts disagree over is whether this is merely a strategy by Mr Netanyahu to apply the greatest possible pressure on the US to take more robust action to get results, or whether he would actually order a strike.

“He’s not bluffing at all,” says Maj Gen (ret) Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council. “He believes if, at the end of the day all other options are exhausted – and there are only two options: either get used to nuclear weapons in Iran or try to stop it by Israeli means – then he will prefer the second.”

Israeli intelligence

In fact, an Israeli investigative programme said in 2010 an order was issued by Mr Netanyahu to the Israeli military to prepare for a strike on Iran within hours if required, but that the order was cancelled due to strong opposition from Israel’s military and intelligence chiefs.

I think Israel will not attack Iran for many reasons, above all because the United States doesn’t want Israel to attack Iran – it’s as simple as that”

A flurry of reports in August 2012 also suggested Israel was preparing a strike before that November’s US presidential elections.

At that time though, previous heads of Israel’s intelligence establishment publicly declared their opposition, saying an attack on Iran would be unsuccessful and counter-productive.

Among them was former domestic intelligence agency director Yuval Diskin, who expressed the view that bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would only lead it to accelerate its programme.

However, counter-opinion is grounded in precedent, with Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

“When we were planning Osirak, we believed the operation would put back [Iraq’s nuclear programme] by three or four years,” says Dr Shmuel Bar, Director of Studies at the Institute of Policy and Strategy in Herzliya.

“Actually it put it back by 10 years – so you never really know when you shuffle cards what the results are going to be. So from the point of view of criticism that Israel won’t do it because Israel can only do so much damage, I think that’s a misconception.”

Such a result might only be achieved, though, if Mr Netanyahu acts sooner rather than later. Former Defence Minister Ehud Barak has said Iran could reach a “zone of immunity” – the point at which fortification of its nuclear sites would render a military strike ineffective – as soon as spring.

The single most important factor though in influencing any decision to attack Iran will be Israeli intelligence reports. While the intelligence establishment has not yet countenanced an attack, its position could change at any time – if, for instance, it believes Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has decided to actually go for a nuclear bomb.

“The possibility of an Israeli strike is realistic and even probable under certain circumstances,” says Brig Gen (ret) Shlomo Brom, of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

“For example, a situation in which Israel will have credible intelligence that Iran is on the verge of breaking out to military capability”, a process which could take as little as a few weeks. This is the “final stage” Mr Netanyahu said he would never let Iran begin.

Historical outlook

In judging whether Mr Netanyahu would order an attack or not, one has to take into account the forces which shape his character, particularly the importance with which he views history and the idea of destiny.

“History will not forgive those who do not stop Iran’s nuclear programme,” he said in January.

Iraq and Syria attacks: The precedents?

In June 1981 the Israeli air force bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, destroying it in the process. The operation followed years of public protest by Israel towards France and Italy, both involved in the reactor’s construction.

It was eventually carried out, after 18 months of heated secret debate within the political and security echelons, despite the opposition of the heads of military intelligence and Mossad, and without any of the same kind of current public debate about what to do over Iran.

The attack which destroyed Syria’s nuclear reactor near Deir Ezzor in September 2007 has been widely attributed to Israel, though Israel has never confirmed or denied responsibility.

Like Osirak, the strike was not preceded by public debate in Israel, not least because no-one knew of the reactor’s existence.

The operation is still shrouded in secrecy, although reports afterwards said the then-Defence Minister Ehud Barak opposed the timing of the attack.

Israel did not inform the US in advance of its strike on Osirak, nor of its alleged bombing of the Syrian plant.

Time and again he has drawn parallels between the Iranian nuclear crisis and the world’s failure to prevent WWII and the Holocaust while it still had the chance.

“I don’t think Mr Netanyahu’s threats are rhetorical,” says Dr Bar. “You have to put it in an historic context of a leader of a certain age – [Netanyahu] has a tendency not only to look at politics but also at his role in history.

“There’s no doubt in his mind that Iran wants to acquire a nuclear weapon and will do so if allowed – if he’s PM and that happens, then he goes down in history as the person who allowed the existential threat to materialise, especially after having said he’s not going to allow it – so that’s tremendous pressure on any political leader to take action.”

However, Mr Netanyahu’s frequent warnings are taken by some as an indication he is not intending to act. Among the doubters is Yossi Melman, one of Israel’s leading security and intelligence journalists.

“Netanyahu’s threats are not realistic. He’s always talking about it – if you talk about it too much then I don’t believe you have intentions of doing it, because in the past when Israel and Israeli leaders wanted to do something they did it without talking,” says Mr Melman, author of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars.

“That was the case when we destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, that was the case in 2007 with the Syrian nuclear reactor. Yes Netanyahu’s aware of history, but he is making this stupid, unnecessary comparison with the Holocaust – we are not facing a new Holocaust.

“I think Israel will not attack Iran for many reasons, above all because the United States doesn’t want Israel to attack Iran – it’s as simple as that.”

Public opinion

The position of the United States is critical to any Israeli decision to attack Iran, and is of prime importance in shaping Israeli public opinion on the issue.

Polls taken in the summer and autumn last year suggest a majority of Israelis are opposed to military action against Iran without US support.

We’ve had this war coming with Iran for more than 10 years now, but to me it’s a lot of bluff”

Dr Yehuda Ben Meir, of the Public Opinion and Security project at the National Institute for Security Studies, believes this is in large part to do with not wanting to jeopardise US support for Israel.

“It’s clear this is a very important factor in Israeli public opinion because of the tremendous importance that Israelis attach to the close relationship with United States,” he says.

“If the public does not see an attack as creating tension in Israeli-American relations, then support for it will be much higher.”

Shmuel Bar points out that Israel did not inform the US in advance of the attack on Osirak or its alleged attack on the Syrian reactor, and may take the same approach in attacking Iran, as a way of side-stepping a potential “red light” from the US altogether.

Even so, there are those who reject an attack on Iran under any circumstances.

Graphic designer Ronny Edry has harnessed some of that opposition through a movement spawned on Facebook called “Israel Loves Iran”.

It has just marked its first anniversary, notching up over 108,000 likes, a third of which come from Israelis.

“We’ve had this war coming with Iran for more than 10 years now, but to me it’s a lot of bluff,” he says, sitting in his third-floor apartment in Tel Aviv.

“I don’t think Israel will attack Iran and Iran won’t attack Israel because it would mean mutually assured destruction. But if you talk too much about war it’s really dangerous – at some point you’re going to have to prove yourself, you’re going to have to go there, so what we really need to do now is calm the situation down.”

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Jewish Home, Yesh Atid ink coalition deal with Likud-Beytenu

The Jewish Home and Yesh Atid parties signed a coalition agreement with Likud-Beytenu Friday afternoon, paving the way for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to swear-in his new government early next week.

“We promised during elections to take care of the cost of living, to increase competition in the marketplace and to restore to the state its Jewish soul, and now we’ve got the tools to do it,” Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett told reporters.

“With God’s help, we signed it. The 33rd government is ready to go!” he wrote on his Facebook account. “I encourage Prime Minister Netanyahu and all of us Cabinet ministers to remember that we are representatives of the entire Israeli public.”

The coalition agreement had seemed a done deal on Wednesday, but hit a snag Thursday after Jewish Home representatives skipped a final meeting with Likud-Beytenu negotiators, over the issue of whether Bennett would be afforded a deputy prime minister title.

According to the new deal, both Bennett and Lapid will forgo the mostly ceremonial title, Israel Radio reported.

In return, Bennett will head the Cabinet panel on concentration of wealth and market competition, and his party will head a joint Knesset committee tasked with drafting a new universal military conscription law, Ynet news reported.

On Thursday, representatives of Jewish Home failed to arrive for a scheduled noon meeting with Likud chief negotiator David Shimron, amid reports that the prime minister’s wife delayed the final completion of coalition talks by demanding that Bennett — with whom she reportedly fell out when he served as her husband’s chief of staff from 2006-2008 — not be given the title of deputy prime minister. The same title was also therefore to be denied to fellow putative coalition partner Lapid, who worked closely with Bennett during the negotiations.

Shimron said it was an “ugly spin” to claim that Sara Netanyahu was responsible for the “ridiculous” argument over the deputy prime minister designations, and was sure “Mrs. Netanyahu has nothing to do with this.”

Jewish Home sources told Israel Radio that “the decision was one-sided and endangered work relations in the emerging government.”

Likud sources said they had been in contact with Yesh Atid representatives, who also requested that Lapid maintain the title, but that it wasn’t an ultimatum.

The last-minute argument appeared particularly marginal, since the title of “deputy prime minister” does not signify that its holder fills in for the prime minister when he is abroad or incapacitated. In fact, Likud officials said Thursday, the government would have to choose a stand-in PM when necessary, and he or she would come from the main party of the government.

Netanyahu will now be free to formally notify President Shimon Peres on Saturday night — the final day of the six weeks allocated to him — that he has mustered a Knesset majority. The coalition will comprise four parties: Likud-Beytenu (31 seats), Yesh Atid (19), Jewish Home (12) and Hatnua (6), for a total of 68 members in the 120-seat Knesset.

The outgoing government is set to hold a final meeting on Sunday, and the new government is likely to be sworn in Monday — some 48 hours before the scheduled arrival of Barack Obama on his first presidential visit.


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On the Temple Mount, a battle brews over Jewish prayer

On Tuesday, the struggle of Jewish women fighting to worship with prayer shawls at the Western Wall in Jerusalem received renewed attention when protesters at the holy site were joined by several new members of Knesset, spotlighting Israel’s ongoing policy of imposing Orthodox practice on all worshipers at the wall.

But in the coming years a different battle over Jewish prayer, one unfolding a few paces away, is likely to be of more significance — a growing debate over whether Jews should be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount itself.

The desire to pray on the Mount, also the site of Islam’s third-holiest shrine, has found more acceptance among mainstream rabbis in Israel over the past decade, spreading gradually from a tiny fringe to a broader religious public. The numbers of Jews actually visiting the Mount for religious reasons is still tiny — no more than several thousand a year, according to police estimates — but inching upward, and the sacred enclosure is slowly gaining in importance as an issue of religious and political meaning for religious Zionists, a group with outsize ideological and political clout in Israeli society.

That could make it a flashpoint inside Israel and an inflammatory issue for local Muslims and the entire Islamic world.

If the issue comes to the fore, it will be in part thanks to the activities of Moshe Feiglin, once a figure from the margins of the Israeli right and now a member of Knesset from the ruling party, Likud. On the way to his swearing-in ceremony at parliament last month, Feiglin went to the Temple Mount, where he had been detained by police in January for violating the prohibition on Jewish prayer. Early this month he was there again, freshly armed with parliamentary immunity, striding around the sacred enclosure with the purposeful air of a landlord and causing a stir when he tried to go into the Dome of the Rock, where entry is limited solely to Muslims. He has promised to be back.

Few places on earth are as potentially explosive as the Temple Mount. The shrine has been especially tense in recent weeks, with protests erupting twice after communal Friday prayers. Riots on the Mount have tended to involve protesters throwing rocks and chairs, but last week, for the first time in memory, a Palestinian threw a Molotov cocktail, pitching it from inside the al-Aqsa mosque and setting a policeman’s leg on fire. The officer was lightly wounded.

Muslims believe the Mount is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven in a mystical night journey recounted in the Koran, and call it the Noble Sanctuary. The day-to-day functioning of the site is in the hands of the Islamic Waqf, and Israeli governments have been stringent about maintaining the status quo. The enclosure, with its cypress trees and open stone esplanades, generally has the air of a peaceful urban park. But because of its importance to Muslims and the inherent tension of such a place being under the control of Israel, any violence there resonates across the Islamic world and has the potential for deadly results.

In an interview this week, Feiglin promised he would be visiting the Mount regularly as a lawmaker, and said he would bring others. The interview, part of a fundraising telecast for the Temple Institute, a group that says it is making practical preparations to rebuild the Temple, was broadcast Sunday, on what the institute dubbed its Fourth Annual International Temple Mount Awareness Day. The webcast was aimed at the institute’s supporters among evangelical Christians in the United States, and a 1-800 number was given for donations. The webcast’s hosts addressed the camera in front of a painting showing modern construction cranes erecting the Third Temple.

“Every Jew that goes to the Temple Mount puts another stone in the building of the Temple, and is making another step to fulfill Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount,” Feiglin told viewers. That is precisely what makes Muslims nervous.

Feiglin and other committed Temple activists have replaced the idea of Jewish renewal as represented by a powerful symbol — the Temple in Jerusalem — with the idea that if an actual building, a temple, is built on an actual site, the Temple Mount, Jews will somehow plug into a spiritual power source they have lost and restore themselves to greatness. The opposition of Muslims and other nations to Jewish practice at the site fits into their narrative: The nations know this, and don’t want it to happen.

Jewish religious interest in the Mount is not monolithic, and includes those who merely want to visit a site of great Jewish importance, those who believe Jews should be allowed to pray there, those who believe Temple rituals, like sacrifice, should be renewed immediately, and those who support the construction of a Third Temple in place of the Islamic shrines of the Noble Sanctuary.

At the moment, Israeli police and Waqf guards keep close tabs on visitors identifiable as religious Jews. If someone is seen moving lips in prayer, or prostrates themselves on the smooth stones of the shrine, they are expelled and detained.

‘We took the Israeli flag off the Temple Mount two hours after we got this present from the King of the Earth, and we gave it to the children of a slave’

If some thought that Feiglin would moderate his tone to match his new position as a Knesset member, that has not happened. Israel was to blame for ceding sovereignty on the Mount after the Six Day War, he told this week’s Temple Institute webcast, noting that an Israeli flag initially hung by paratroops after they captured the site in 1967 was quickly removed to avoid harming Muslim sensibilities.

“We took the Israeli flag off the Temple Mount two hours after we got this present from the King of the Earth, and we gave it to the children of a slave, to the sons of Ishmael. So there’s a lot of work to do here, with ourselves,” the Likud MK said in the interview broadcast Sunday. Feiglin declined to comment for this article.

The activities of the new member of Knesset come against the backdrop of changing attitudes toward the Mount. Since 1967, religious sentiment has been focused on the Western Wall, a section of a 2,000-year-old retaining wall built around the platform on which the Temple sat. The number of Jews who visited the Temple Mount last year was estimated by police at under 8,000, a tiny fraction of the many hundreds of thousands who visit the Wall. The number was similar the year before, and significantly lower the year before that.

The status quo on the Mount is the result of a convergence of religious and political interests after 1967. Rabbis decided early on that religious law forbade visiting the site because of fears one might tread on the location of the Holy of Holies, the focus of ancient ritual, where people were forbidden to enter. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the most important Zionist rabbi of the latter half of the 20th century, ruled that it was prohibited to visit the Mount, a position still endorsed by  Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. With the threat of Muslim violence should their sovereignty at the site be harmed, Israeli authorities were eager to keep the peace and happy to channel Jewish worshipers to the Western Wall.

The desire for a Jewish Temple Mount was kept alive largely by a tiny group, the Temple Mount Faithful, headed by a secular nationalist named Gershom Salomon, with support from evangelical Christians, and by some in the religious settlement movement. When the Shin Bet internal security agency broke up a Jewish terror underground in the 1984, agents uncovered a detailed plot to blow up the Islamic buildings at the site to pave the way for the building of the Temple.

There were other enthusiasts, like the founders of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem’s Old City, which works to recreate the implements used by Temple priests. The institute is open to visitors, and Temple merchandise is for sale in the gift shop, including puzzles and balsa-wood models. Someone pondering the institute’s stab at a recreation of a model of the Ark of the Covenant, for example, might be struck by how this great object of the imagination, when made real, looks like something one might find in a store selling rococo antiques, all winged creatures and gilt.

As years have passed, the authority of Kook, who died in 1982, has waned. Important rabbis from the religious Zionist mainstream, like Yaakov Meidan of the influential Har Etzion yeshiva, now permit visiting the Mount. Pilgrims are supposed to undergo preparations beforehand, including purification in a ritual bath.

With the growing acceptance of visits to the Mount has come a growing impatience with the fact that Jews are not allowed to pray there. Before visitors are allowed into the site, Israeli security personnel search them for religious paraphernalia or books, and religious Jews are typically accompanied by special police escorts.

Activists have been unable to overturn the strictures, though there have been signs of support inside the legal system. Last year, a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge, Malka Aviv, expressed displeasure with the security measures, saying at a hearing for an activist arrested for praying there that the police position “that Muslims don’t approve of Jews praying on the Temple Mount cannot, in and of itself, prevent Jews from fulfilling their religious obligations and praying on the Temple Mount.”

The judge suggested prayer should be permitted “in a structured fashion, in a place designated for it.”

The Temple Mount, said Jerusalem tour guide Eli Duker, is “the only place in the country where you feel you’re discriminated against because you’re Jewish.”

Last month, while leading a synagogue group up to the Mount, Israeli guards seized pictures of the Temple and a book that Duker had in his bag for instructional purposes. Duker protested, he said, but had to yield, and later wrote a letter asking for guidelines on what constituted material too inflammatory to be taken into the enclosure. He has yet to get a response.

Duker dated the new increase in interest in the Mount among religious Jews to the reopening of the site to non-Muslims in 2003, three years after it was closed because of the violence of the Palestinian intifada. The closure marked a break with the past, and its reopening led some Jews to re-evaluate their relationship with the place, he said.

‘We were not trying to demonstrate that it’s exclusively ours, or that we want the Muslims off, only that it’s a significant, if not the most significant Jewish site, archaeologically, historically, and religiously. This is the heart of it all’

At the same time, the Western Wall had begun to lose its luster for some in the religious Zionist world, because it is dominated by the ultra-Orthodox and because of its various annoyances, like the presence of beggars. In addition, Duker said, religious Zionists pride themselves on their knowledge of the country’s geography and history, and understand the difference between a wall that was an external feature of the Herodian compound and the site of the Temple itself.

For some Jewish visitors, visiting the Mount has nothing to do with a desire to harm the Islamic structures there or any plans to begin work on the Third Temple. Some are simply connecting with a place at the center of Jewish history and religion.

One recent visitor, Elli Fischer, from the city of Modi’in, said he came because of the “very strong Jewish connection to this place.”

“We were not trying to demonstrate that it’s exclusively ours, or that we want the Muslims off, only that it’s a significant, if not the most significant Jewish site, archaeologically, historically, and religiously. This is the heart of it all,” Fischer said.

Fischer wondered why those who supported the right of women to worship in prayer shawls and phylacteries at the Western Wall would not support the right of Jews to pray at Judaism’s holiest site. The theoretical question in both cases is the same: Can religious freedom be limited to avoid harming the religious sensibilities of others and to keep the peace?

“Israel’s current policy of granting control of these holy sites to intolerant religious bodies is, at the very least, consistent,” Fischer wrote in a blog post for The Times of Israel last year. “The government does not want to risk major disturbances by tampering with the status quo. The only way that the government will ever budge from its comfort zone, the only way that the patronage of religious bodies will yield to greater application of liberal democratic principles, is if these different groups, which are often at odds, form a coalition, transcend their special interests and truly advocate for these freedoms to be applied universally.”

Feiglin, for his part, told Army Radio on Tuesday that he supports the Women of the Wall’s fight to pray as they wish at the Western Wall.

Among what might be termed hard-core Temple activists, rather than more casual visitors, the most prominent of the young generation is Arnon Segal, who writes a weekly column on the Temple for the right-leaning weekly Makor Rishon. Segal’s column tracks police restrictions and Waqf actions, and has brought attention to polls like one showing 52 percent of Israelis supporting the right to pray on the Mount. He has also included interviews with secular figures like the writer A.B. Yehoshua, who shared a proposal for turning the Old City into a Vatican-like religious zone run by representatives of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and suggested building a new Jewish temple near — but not on — the Temple Mount. (Yehoshua explained that his temple would be a cultural center with a library and museum dedicated to monotheism.)

Segal, who is 32 and was born in the West Bank settlement of Ofra, is the son of Haggai Segal, a journalist best known for his arrest as a young man as part of the Jewish underground of the 1980s. He first visited the Mount at age 19.

“I felt a cognitive dissonance,” he said. “I’m a Jew, I pray three times for the return to Zion, to the Temple. But in practice, we can do these things, but we choose not to. We choose not to relate to that part of our Judaism. We’ve erased that part of our religion.”

‘The first thing that we need to clarify is that this is a mosque’

Segal was putting his finger on an apparent inconsistency in religious Zionism, which has always believed that Jews should bring their own redemption by coming to Israel — but stopped short of believing they should take active steps toward building a temple in Jerusalem.

Religious Zionism, he believes, must take the next step and abandon the idea that Jews must wait for God to rebuild the Temple. “There were rabbis in Europe who said the same about returning to the Land of Israel,” he said.

Segal believes there should be a place in the enclosure not only for Jewish prayer, but also for sacrifice, and said this could be done immediately, without harming any of the existing buildings. “I want equal rights for Jews on the Temple Mount. What Muslims do, I want to do too,” he said.

Any move to change the status quo at the site would almost certainly result in bloodshed. Already sensitive to perceived threats to the Noble Sanctuary, Muslims reject any allowance for Jewish ritual within the confines of the shrine.

“The first thing that we need to clarify is that this is a mosque,” said Prof. Mustafa Abu Sway, an Islamic scholar and member of the Waqf’s governing council. “As other places are churches and synagogues, this is a private place that belongs to Muslims.” Islam sees the entire enclosure, and not just the buildings, as one house of prayer, he said.

The recent violence, he said, was the result of general tensions among Palestinians, exacerbated by what they see as threats to the integrity of the shrine.

“The general atmosphere is not at ease: the prisoners’ hunger strikes, the lack of progress on the political level, the expansion of the settlements, financial hardship, lack of freedom of movement. So in general, people are frustrated,” he said.

“Added to this are these almost daily visits, which are done in a way that antagonizes Muslims and invades the privacy of the mosque,” Abu Sway said.

Feiglin, for his part, seems to see himself as the representative of the Temple activists in Israel’s halls of power, and to relish the prospect of a religious clash.

“Everyone’s afraid,” Feiglin told the interviewer for the Temple Institute’s webcast, grinning from his new Knesset office. “Everyone’s afraid of the Temple Mount.”

temple mount

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Second Vatican state to be established in Jerusalem

“The Old City of Jerusalem will become a “special regime”. It will be an autonomous, self-governing entity. The Chief Administrator will have minimum reliance on the existing regimes and structures”.

This is a policy proposal from “Jerusalem Old City Initiative”. The proposal is a fruit of the “peace process”, and inter faith dialogues between Jews, Muslims, Catholics and claimed to be “Christians”.

People are not aware that the planning of a the seat of the last antichrist has reached its final stages. This work got a booster after the implementation of the Oslo “peace accord”.

The final push for the end game, started with the formation of The Council of the Religious Institutions of the Holy Land in 2005. This council has Muslims, Jews, Catholics and claimed to be “Christians” in its governing body.

When you read their statement of faith, you are introduced to the final One World Religion. They try to tell us that all faiths leads to the same god. Now they plan the arrival of their leader.

Statement of faith:

“As religious leaders of different faiths, who share the conviction in the one Creator, Lord of the Universe; we believe that the essence of religion is to worship G-d and respect the life and dignity of all human beings, regardless of religion, nationality and gender”.

This is the councils website:

Did you know that both The Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the The Islamic Sharia Courts of the PA is supporting this Norwegian proposed “inter faith initiative” in Jerusalem?

And the head of this council is a Norwegian Lutheran priest, Mr. Trond Bakkevig. He is supported by the Church of Norway, and the World Council of Churches.

And when the final “peace deal” almost went through in Annapolis in November 2007, The Religious interfaith Council was getting ready to party in the Norwegian Embassy in Washington.

To get the Old City of Jerusalem ready for a “special regime” to come, The “peace makers” have formed an International work shop called “Jerusalem Old City Initiative”. This initiative is sponsored by the mainly protestant Christian republic of Canada. Their head office is at The University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.

The website of “Jerusalem Old City Initiative”.

When you go through this web-site, reading strategic documents, reports and plans, you will be stunned by what they have suggested.

It is a copy-cat plan of the foundation of the Vatican statehood in 1929.

And the ideas of how to rule this Old City statehood in Jerusalem, seems to be collected from the governance of the present Papal system.

The final plan will be presented to the government of Israel as an offer, they simply “have to” accept.

The new statehood in Eastern Jerusalem will have a “Chief administrator” who govern a “special regime”. His powers will be  similar to the Pope of Rome.

Please take a closer look at their web-sites.

Below are some of the suggestions from Jerusalem Old City initiative.

The Chief Administrator will be lifted above the laws. He will have his own statehood, and his inhabitants will be a closed circle of faithful servants. From this seat, He can practice his lawlessness.

These suggestions are found in the summaries of the executive reports:

1. An autonomous bureaucracy

2. To have its own inhabitants.

3. A robust security force.

4. A Council, a partly democratically elected body with power of veto over actions of the Administrator.

5. Old City as a single unit under a single administrator, having executive authority.

6. Agreement between the parties, with two national capitals, Al Quds and Yerushalayim.

7. A single Old City Police service to be established.

This is the text found in one of the strategic document on this web site.

Key Characteristics and Functions of the Special Regime

The proposed special regime, headed by a Chief Administrator, would be responsible for the efficient and equitable management and governance of the Old City, including ensuring the sanctity of and access to the Old City’s Holy Sites.

To meet these responsibilities, the special regime would require an empowered autonomous bureaucracy — one whose leadership has the confidence of both Israel and Palestine and one that is vested with both the authority and the capacity to administer, manage, and police specific aspects of the Old City and its inhabitants.

A key function of the Special Regime this regime would be to ensure equity, law, and order. Security will be the test of any peace agreement: if order in the Old City breaks down, any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement itself will be at risk.

Thus, the Old City Special Regime would require a robust security force, with the capacity both to deliver even-handed law enforcement and justice and to confront successfully large-scale security threats, including potential efforts by extremists from the various camps seeking to undermine an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

First the Old City security force, as a model from the Vatican City.

Catechism (doctrines) of the Catholic Church

841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims.

The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

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With Passover Approaching, a Plague of Locusts Descends Upon Egypt

As if we hadn’t already seen enough Biblical events this year, a plague of over 30 million locusts swarmed over Egypt’s cities and farms just three weeks before Passover begins. But put your apocalyptic fears to rest. This happens every year as part of the locusts’ natural migration pattern, though this year’s swarm is especially large. That doesn’t mean Egyptians aren’t freaked the heck out by millions of nasty bugs buzzing through the air at all hours of day and night, possibly descending upon the agriculture fields where they’re known to destroy entire crops, just like in the actual Passover story.

The crops are so far safe, Egyptian officials assured the public. As the plague made its way from the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia at the end of last week and this weekend, though, Egyptian Agricultural Minister Salah Abdel Moamen explained the situation to the country in a calmly worded statement. “The current inspection teams at areas targeted by locusts did not witness swarms damaging a single inch of crop,” said Moamen. He added that the locusts are “sexually immature and do not depend on plants for energy since they mainly rely on fat stores.”


That said, these plagues can be unpredictable. Egyptian officials didn’t expect the plague to pass by the country’s capital, until Sunday when the locusts unexpectedly arrived in Cairo. The government denied reports that the locusts had started devastating crops as well as a report from United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that the Ministry of Agriculture cleared 11,000 hectares of land in an attempt to save the harvest. When they get hungry, a one-ton hoard of locusts can eat the same amount of food in one day as 2,500 humans, according to the UN. Egypt knows this too. Less than a decade ago, a plague of locusts nearly 40 miles wide swept over Egypt damaging crops at the majority of the country’s farms. That’s a picture of it, to the right.

Conflicting reports aside, Moamen insists that the government has everything under control. “Egyptian armed forces and the border guards are attempting to fight the swarm with the means at their disposal,” the agriculture minister said. “I ask the families living in the locust-plagued areas not to burn tires. This does not chase away the locusts, but only causes damage and could ignite large scale fires that would cost in lives.” Also, that smoke isn’t doing Egypt’s grandchildren any favors. Scientists anticipate that, as global warming worsens, plagues like this will also get worse.

 4 horsemen

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Israel on Verge of Revealing New Government


President Obama is supposed to be in Israel in about two weeks. Israel doesn’t have a government.

The Israeli elections were on January 22. Contrary to widespread expectations, the right didn’t score a big win; instead the electorate returned complex, angular results. The religious right gained, the secular right lost a lot, and a brand-new party that could be loosely described as secular-centrist, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, made a big splash by coming in second with 19 seats (out of a total of 120 in the Knesset).


Binyamin Netanyahu, for whom the election results were sufficient for a third tenure as prime minister, has been trying ever since to negotiate his way to a coalition. It’s been brutal.

The basic struggle pits, on the one side, Netanyahu, striving for as broad a coalition as possible including the two haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) parties. And on the other, an alliance that has formed between secular-centrist Lapid and Naftali Bennett, head of the nationalist-religious Habayit Hayehudi party that also did well in the elections. Bennett wants to weaken the haredi camp; Lapid insists on excluding it from the coalition entirely.

Just now, the Israeli media is reporting that the very tight (at present) Lapid-Bennett alliance has prevailed, with Netanyahu agreeing to their terms—meaning that a coalition without the haredim is on the way, possibly by the end of this week.

What’s at stake here? Netanyahu’s preference for a wide coalition is easily understandable. Wide coalitions are more stable, with no one party wielding extortionate power (by threatening to bolt the coalition and thereby dissolve it). Netanyahu also sees Israel facing critical security (particularly Iran), diplomatic (particularly getting along with Obama), and economic (particularly budget-cutting) challenges for which a wide coalition can give him the most ballast.

Netanyahu also wants to preserve his secular-right Likud Party’s alliance with the haredi parties, which goes back four decades; excluding these parties could lead them to punish Likud in the next elections.

Lapid and Bennett, however—particularly the former—insist that Israel cannot keep allowing most haredi men to refuse army service, and to live cloistered lives as yeshiva students on the public dole. They say having the haredi parties in the coalition will inevitably lead to compromises on these issues that will ensure the situation stays the same.

A large majority of Israelis, right, left, and center, agree that the present situation with the haredim is untenable. The Lapid-Bennett alliance, however, has been criticized as cynical and opportunistic; some say these two novice politicians, intoxicated with their electoral success, are essentially confronting Netanyahu with a power play and securing plum ministerial positions for themselves.

In particular, whereas Bennett—whom foreign media have portrayed as a “hip settler”—is, while not actually a settler, supposed to be sympathetic to their outlook, Lapid—while projecting himself as a centrist during the election campaign—actually has a backlog of viciously anti-settler statements (usefully collated here by Israeli commentator Martin Sherman) typical of the far left.


They do indeed, then, form an odd couple; and there is ample reason to fear that a coalition of Netanyahu’s, Lapid’s, Bennett’s, and a couple of smaller parties would be creaky and possibly cacophonous.

On the economic front, with Netanyahu, Lapid, and Bennett all sharing a free-market philosophy, the prospects of such a coalition tackling Israel’s economic challenges effectively are bright. The diplomatic front is a good deal more complicated.

Claims and speculations about Obama’s upcoming visit vary widely—from a report Monday on World Tribune that he intends to demand a West Bank withdrawal to Secretary of State John Kerry’s assurances that he only seeks to “listen.” Potentially, Lapid’s more dovish party could provide an ideal pressure point for a U.S. administration seeking to harry and ultimately undo Netanyahu.

One hopes, then, that the key figures of whatever coalition finally forms will put politics aside and face Israel’s challenges responsibly. Foremost among those challenges is Iran; as Netanyahu put it in a speech two weeks ago:

Iran’s development of nuclear weapons will make the Middle East a nuclear tinderbox. It will change the world…. Sanctions alone will not stop the nuclear program of Iran….

Although Obama, too, claims he’s determined to stop Iranian nukes, his choice of defense secretary casts a thick shadow over his credibility. The situation calls for maximal Israeli unity and seriousness.


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