Palestinians lost international significance

The Palestinian “Internationalization” Strategy: End of the Road?

INSS Insight No. 907, March 21, 2017
When the Netanyahu government replaced the Olmert government and Barack Obama assumed the United States presidency, the Palestinians adopted an “internationalization strategy.” This choice reflected the Palestinian skepticism about the possibility of bridging the gaps with Israel and the hope that the international community would accept their tripartite demand: (1) establishment of a Palestinian state (2) on the basis of the 1967 borders (3) with East Jerusalem as its capital. The consolidation of the new administration in the United States, the unease among the Israeli public with the existing situation in the Palestinian context, and the room for maneuver in this context available to the Israeli leadership create a unique opportunity to fashion a new Israeli policy for dealing with the conflict with the Palestinians, and for coordinating this policy with the United States. This strategy should rest on the neutralization of the Palestinian internationalization strategy and incentives to the Palestinians to return to direct negotiations with Israel in order to achieve a settlement on the basis of a two nation-state solution.
Some eight years ago, when the Netanyahu government replaced the Olmert government and Barack Obama assumed the United States presidency, the Palestinians adopted an “internationalization strategy.” This choice reflected the Palestinian skepticism about the possibility of bridging the gaps with Israel (including with Olmert’s far reaching proposals) and the hope that the international community would accept their tripartite demand: (1) establishment of a Palestinian state (2) on the basis of the 1967 borders (3) with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians hoped to achieve this without having to contribute the minimum demanded by Israel for achievement of an agreement: committing to an end of conflict and finality of claims; waiving the right of return; and agreeing to security arrangements that to some extent would limit their sovereignty. The Palestinians pursued measures to prompt the international community to establish a Palestinian state as per the outline they wanted, but without negotiations with Israel and without the concessions necessary in order to achieve an agreement through negotiations.

Then-UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (l) with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Ramallah, June 28, 2016. Photo: Abbas Momani / AFP

The Palestinian internationalization strategy was bolstered by a public relations effort to implant the Palestinian narrative of the reasons for the conflict and the “just way of solving it,” and to saddle Israel with responsibility for the political deadlock. This was joined by general efforts to delegitimize Israel. This strategy, which focuses on a persistent systematic, effort to blacken Israel in international institutions, undermine its legitimacy, and deny the historic national connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, has scored several notable achievements in recent years.

During the Obama administration, Israeli and Palestinian leaders did not return to direct talks, despite the temporary freeze on Israeli construction in the West Bank that President Obama succeeded in imposing on the Israeli government; despite the mediation efforts of the President’s special envoy, former Senator George Mitchell; and despite the mediation efforts of King Abdullah of Jordan. One of the prominent achievements by the Palestinian national movement was the 2012 UN General Assembly resolution defining Palestine as a “non-member observer state.”
Furthermore, the Palestinians succeeded in entrenching within the US administration the belief that Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank was the main obstacle to an agreement. In this sense President Obama’s Cairo University speech of May 2009 was a convenient point of departure. Two subsequent extremely important diplomatic achievements were the administration’s decision to abstain in the December 23, 2016 UN Security Council vote, which passed Resolution 2334 establishing that the 1967 borders were the basis for negotiations (in contrast to Resolution 242, which requires an Israel withdrawal from “territories” occupied in 1967), and the speech given by John Kerry at the conclusion of his tenure as Secretary of State, which he chose to devote to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The confidence gained by the Palestinians with their political and diplomatic achievements over the years was reflected in the threats against the Trump administration should it carry out the President’s campaign pledge to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem. Senior Palestinian officials threatened the administration that they would “make its life miserable” in UN institutions, and that the entire Middle East would explode in a wave of violence. PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat even threatened to cancel recognition of Israel, and to give the keys to the Palestinian Authority to Israel. Overall, it appears that the Palestinians are having difficulty in internalizing two major changes that have made their internationalization strategy much less relevant: the Trump administration is not committed to the Palestinians to the same degree as was the Obama administration, and the Israeli narrative is closer to the outlook of the current administration than the Palestinian narrative.
In addition, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become less important in the Arab world and in the international community. Indeed, for several years the Palestinian issue has not led the agenda of Arab leaders, who are preoccupied by acute problems in their respective states and the region at large that have far reaching geopolitical consequences. The fact that Israel is a source of stability and an ally in the struggle against Iran on the one hand and against the Islamic State on the other, combined with the weakening of US support for regimes in the region, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia, has altered their prioritization of the conflict. Furthermore, the challenges encountered by the major powers in dealing with other disputes and conflicts in the Middle East, led by the civil war in Syria, instability in Yemen and Iraq, the strengthening of Hezbollah, and the increased influence of Iran and Russia in the Middle East, also currently undermine the effectiveness of the Palestinian strategy. Ten million Syrian refugees, a humanitarian disaster in Yemen, and instability in Iraq and Libya have shunted the Palestinian issue to the region’s political sidelines.
Israel’s interest is that the United States, and not the international community, which has accepted the Palestinian narrative practically in toto, should lead the international effort to address regional issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It is therefore important for Israel to coordinate an official response on the Palestinian question with the US administration, while changing the rules of the game that the Palestinians have managed to impose in recent years. There is likely to be a greater and more concrete ability of the United States to spearhead this issue now, thanks to a more resolute policy by the new President, the joint recognition of priorities, and the joint formulation of a relevant strategy.
With the consolidation of the new administration in the White House, which appears to be open to new ideas, Israel therefore has an opportunity, in coordination with this administration, to reshape the range of possibilities concerning the Palestinian issue as an element in a broad regional strategy. The Trump administration has already declared that the Israeli-Palestinian issue should be returned to the negotiating table in the framework of a bilateral dialogue, and that it does not accept unilateral anti-Israeli dictates at the UN or in the Quartet. The administration does not favor continued construction in the settlements or Israeli annexation of territory in the West Bank, but at the same time, it does not accept the Palestinian argument that Israel and the settlements are the obstacle to peace.
Israel’s interest requires coordination and understanding with the United States on what are truly significant challenges in the region: Iranian subversion and terrorism, the conflict in Syria, the need to strengthen Egypt and Jordan as stabilizing elements, and the failed states in the region, which can potentially cause instability and undermine regional security, including in the international system (particularly in Europe). The Israeli-Palestinian issue should thus be assigned a lower priority than it received during the Obama administration, with a joint Israeli-American effort to persuade the Palestinians of the futility of the internationalization strategy.
The new priority assigned to the conflict and the efforts to reach a settlement are not designed to strengthen the status quo – on the contrary. Paradoxically, the Palestinian internationalization strategy, the Palestinian refusal to advance to the second stage of the Roadmap, i.e., temporary borders for the future Palestinian state, and the all or nothing position of the two sides on the core issues have prevented progress toward a solution to the conflict. Making it unmistakably clear to the Palestinians that they must return to the negotiating process and mutual give and take, and also accept transitional and interim arrangements as preferable alternatives to the status quo will engender greater potential for progress than during the Obama administration.
As an initial sign to the Palestinians that the rules of the game have changed, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is in order. An American retreat from this pledge, even if in a flexible and creative format, as a result of the Palestinian threat aimed at preventing this measure, will weaken the American stature, and become an incentive for the Palestinians to adhere to a strategy of bypassing Israel and evading direct negotiations. Initial signs interpreted by the Palestinians as an American retreat from this promise have already led senior Palestinian figures to announce their intention to continue to target Israel in the international theater and promote a Security Council resolution on the illegality of the settlements, this time under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, even though it is clear that this time the US will veto it. It is therefore important for the United States to uphold the promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem, while underscoring that its location in the western part of the city on territory not subject to dispute, which will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any settlement, is a sovereign American decision, and does not indicate a retreat by the United States from its traditional position about determining the future of East Jerusalem through negotiations between the parties.
The consolidation of the new administration in the United States, the unease among the Israeli public with the existing situation in the Palestinian context, and the room for maneuver in this context available to the Israeli leadership create a unique opportunity to fashion a new Israeli policy for dealing with the conflict with the Palestinians, and for coordinating this policy with the United States. This strategy should rest on the neutralization of the Palestinian internationalization strategy and incentives to the Palestinians to return to direct negotiations with Israel in order to achieve a settlement on the basis of a two nation-state solution. These must be accompanied by three principal requirements: a specific time framework for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table; a Palestinian commitment to an orderly and responsible process of state building (institutions, economy, a monopoly of force, enforcement of law and order), in order to ensure that the Palestinian state that arises will be a functional and not a failed state; and an end to incitement and monetary support for terrorists imprisoned in Israel and for the families of terrorists who were killed.
It is important that the United States clarify that if the Palestinians prefer to continue their effort to isolate Israel in the international theater, instead of returning to direct negotiations during the allotted period, it will back independent measures by Israel for determining its border in accordance with Israel’s strategic interests, while preserving the possibility of future implementation of a negotiated two nation-state solution. In this way, Israel can prepare for disengage from the Palestinians, while retaining the settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley and the possibility of security operations throughout the West Bank. At the same time, territorial contiguity for the Palestinian entity and the undisturbed movement from the northern to the southern West Bank should be promoted and permitted. In addition, the international community and Israel will take action to develop the Palestinian infrastructure and economy, including through allocation of parts of Area C for these defined purposes.
Findings from a public opinion survey on national security matters conducted recently by the Institute for National Security Studies indicate that the majority of the Israeli public opposes a continuation of the existing situation or annexation of territory. Only 10 percent support annexation of all of Judea and Samaria, and 17 percent favor the continuation of the existing situation. Sixty-one percent of the public favor a settlement, be it a permanent agreement or an interim agreement in advance of a permanent agreement. As the Israeli public wants a change, the Israeli leadership has the flexibility and room for maneuver in this matter. Coordination with the United States under the special circumstances created will make it possible to disarm the Palestinian threats and the Palestinian internationalization strategy, assign the Palestinian issue a more balanced position on the regional and global agenda, and shape a more suitable security and strategic situation for Israel as a Jewish and democratic, secure, and just state.
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Living with antisemitism in America

Ron Jager

The writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer and Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psychoeducation programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. Today, Ron is a strategic advisor at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria.

Living with Anti-Semitism in America

American Jews and the Jewish organizations that represent them have demanded, in thundering pleas, that President Trump take action and end the current tsunami of anti-Semitic attacks on the American Jewish community. This is just and reasonable. Expecting political leadership not to abdicate their responsibility and at best act as conflict managers only allows a problem to fester and proliferate. Political leaders act to change a situation, leading a nation to a better place, allowing the people to feel secure and not under threat. This is a natural expectation that any normal public can expect of their national leadership.

Despite anti-Semitic acts being a relatively common occurrence way before the presidential campaign, since President Trump’s election, these ripples of anti-Semitic hatred have blossomed into a giant wave. American Jews have become consumed with trepidation and are beginning to realize that they have every right to stand up and demand that the president take action and end this vile anti-Semitism. Local television channels in the United States are flooded with footage of small children holding the hands of adults walking next to them and trying to catch up with them. The adults, meanwhile, are seen trying to get the little ones to walk a bit faster without making them panic. From North Carolina to Maryland, from Alabama to Rhode Island, thousands of children have been evacuated from Jewish community centers and schools, as if it is happening everywhere.

Yet this very same American Jewish leadership, who in recent weeks have been banging on the walls of the White House demanding that the current wave of anti-Semitism be stopped immediately, have for the latter part of the past quarter of a century demanded that the Israeli public, and the Israeli political leadership, continue with business as usual, despite the incessant Palestinian Arab incitement and blatant anti-Semitism in Israel.

Palestinian Arab anti-Semitism has long been recognized as the Arab world’s prominent vehicle for the hatred of the Jews. From academics teaching that Judaism permits murder and rape of non-Jews to religious leaders teaching that Islam demands the extermination of Jews, Palestinian anti-Semitism is a compelling force driving hatred and terror. The Palestinian Authority depicts Jews as the archetypal force of evil throughout history. Jews are said to be responsible for all the world’s problems: wars, financial crises, even the spreading of AIDS. Palestinians have long claimed to receptive ears that Jews are a danger to humanity.

Palestinian incitement to murder Jews has always been a natural outgrowth of anti-Semitic incitement rampant in Palestinian society, expressed at all levels without hesitation and without sanction. In Palestinian society, no one is ever held accountable for anti-Semitic incitement. This has never prevented American Jewish leaders from meeting with and supporting the Palestinian people and their leaders.

When Jews attack Jews, and when Jews deny the State of Israel the basic right of self-defense afforded to all nations of the world, thereby making it OK to express hatred of Israel, then they are invoking hatred toward themselves and hatred towards the Jews of America. Over the years, since the heyday of the Oslo agreement, American Jews, liberal Jews, have bent over backward supporting the case of the Palestinian Arabs, while here in Israel, the Palestinians have made anti-Semitism and incitement the backbone of the Palestinian education syllabus from kindergarten and up. Is it any wonder that the world has gotten used to the hatred of Jews and a culture of unabated anti-Semitism?

In America, the irony of all this is that over the past eight years of the Obama presidency, the administration opened the gates and encouraged millions of Muslims to flood into America. As with the Palestinians, anti-Semitism is rife in the Arab world, with over 80 percent of the Muslim public holding strongly anti-Semitic views. Yet this anti-Semitism, harbored by a large portion of Muslims, has never stopped these same Jewish organizations, these liberal Jews, from being at the front lines of demonstrations or political action when President Trump attempted to stop this unrestricted refuge admission into America. These Jews never ever expressed any concern that supporting this continuing addition of anti-Semitic Muslims to American society would create a breeding ground for the kind of anti-Semitism that the American Jewish community is experiencing today. American liberal Jews have become infatuated with doing “Tikkun Olam” and paving the way for flooding America with Muslim anti-Semites while ignoring the potential problems of admitting an untold number of immigrants from Muslim countries where extreme anti-Semitic sentiments are mundane and unrestricted.

All this will not end well. With no tradition of assimilation or integration into Western societies, Europe being the best example of this, the restive Muslim minorities that have entered America by the millions over the past eight years will only grow louder, and the level of anti-Semitism will get much worse before it gets better. The myth of multiculturalism, propagated wholeheartedly by the American Jewish liberal community, will implode as the volume of anti-Semitism becomes louder and more brazen. The American melting pot, a symbol of America for the millions and millions of immigrants over the past century, will cease to exist, leaving these anti-Semitic and anti-American Muslim minorities to reproduce, in America, the anti-Semitic and cultural squalor they claim to have wanted to flee.


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Esther is relevant today

The Biblical story of Esther and the immoral society

March 8, 2017

The holiday of Purim, which celebrates God’s salvation of the Jewish people from the annihilation scheme of the evil Haman, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther, is a mere few days away. While the narrative is thousands of years old and depicts occurrences in ancient Persia, the story’s relevance to contemporary society at large is striking, for it describes the eventual results of an absence of divine moral norms.

This concept was elucidated by the illustrious 20th century rabbinic scholar, Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who taught thousands of students at Yeshiva University’s affiliated rabbinical school over the course of nearly half a century.

Rabbi Soloveitchik explained, based on a careful reading of the Book of Esther, that the locus of its narrative – the Persian capital of Shushan – was the seat of an orgiastic society, drunken with unbounded enjoyment and self-gratification. Hence does the text of the Book of Esther give exceptional attention to the ornate furnishings of the king’s palace, the detailed cosmetics regimen of the women, the eunuchs of the king’s harem, and so forth, so as to portray Shushan as the apex of indulgence in pleasure and hedone. Such a society, devoid of divine morality and steeped in blind and limitless self-gratification, is most vulnerable for takeover by amoral totalitarianism.

To quote Rabbi Soloveitchik’s lesson on this theme:

“The hedonic society is, more or less, a democratic Western society, in pursuit of pleasure and happiness. That society’s world philosophy and outlook can be broken into a number of component parts. This democratic society is in pursuit of pleasure, insists on minimum government interference in private life, resents controls, demands unrestricted freedom in matters which do not affect the community, particularly, matters of sexual morality, hates discipline imposed from above, not even by teachers, is opposed to any constriction…

“There is also another society. There is another path which human beings take in order to escape from the finiteness awareness and in order to engage in self-defeat, not only in an allusion but simply in a delusion. The second path, along which frightened man runs in his wild flight from finiteness and death, leads in the opposite direction… Man, traveling along the second path, tries to calm the fear of finiteness through a big lie, through convincing himself that he is more than man. This is done by intentionally magnifying, a hundred-fold, and exaggerating and lying about human ability and power to solve both scientific and metaphysical problems of humanity, and by painting, in iridescent colors, the eschatological age which should be brought about by man alone, through his wisdom and creative efforts.

“Then something happens… By idolizing man and setting him up as a deity, it inevitably leads to the formation of idolatrous cults, from time to time, like the cult of Stalin… Society, mankind, humanity is idolized, defined and set up as the omnipotent deity… The idol is the class, not the individual… In the name of some man-made doctrine or code, they appeal for sacrifices… Arrogant man becomes a tyrant, and the arrogant society which he establishes turns into a tyrannical society.

“As a rule, orgiastic society eventually succumbs to a tyrannical, arrogant society… Orgiastic man overemphasizes the importance of freedom. He simply lacks the courage, the vision, to have the power of anticipation. He lacks the predictive element in history. He does not experience history, since he just lives for the present. Little by little, his power is eroded, and he is replaced by the irrational (tyrannical) man…

“Man cannot, and must not, legislate the moral norm. Man should be ready to either accept morality from God, or give up any attempt to lead a moral life. Imposition of a secular, finite and relative code upon society is in vain and is worthless. In my opinion, that is exactly what the original sin consisted of. Adam tried to impose and legislate norms of good and bad. He brought disaster upon himself and mankind. Irrational man does that with arrogance and ends up with the law of immorality…

“A society that lacks a divine moral code cannot endure. The empty, meaningless void that is created by pliable and disposable communal norms gives entry to totalitarianism, be it Marxism, communism or fascism.”

I fear to ponder what would have eventually happened with American society, originally structured by a strong sense of Biblical values, had the Democratic party won the recent elections. The Democrats’ rejection of any sense of divine morality and their basic embrace of unbridled permissiveness portended the eventual collapse of American society and a severing of its historical connection to Biblical values. When such values are replaced with trends of self-gratification and the breaking down of all semblance of dignified social order, one must worry. When the Biblical concepts of marriage, gender and even honesty are banished in favor of a contrived right to totally redefine and overturn these truths, society is in major trouble.

Rabbi Soloveitchik addressed these issues very clearly, explaining during a 1974 public lecture in Boston:

“A philosophy of [homo]sexualism is being preached throughout the Western world, to such an extent that a certain rabbi came to me and said, “How can we defend ourselves against it?” I told him, take out a Bible and read the verse,“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.” We are on the defensive, you understand. Why? And the same is true of abortion and so forth.

“I can never predict what modern society will come up with. Everything is possible. The most abnormal, obnoxious, repellent ideas may be introduced in the form of legislation to Congress. And now, since it is modern to be liberal, it’s quite in vogue to be heretical, so any law can be adopted. The Supreme Court in America is the most unpredictable body. Did you see, did you read carefully, the decision about abortion? (Roe vs. Wade)

“This is the meaning of the phrase in Genesis, “children of the flesh”. Children of the flesh are oversensitive to beauty, to unredeemed beauty. We ourselves cherish beauty, but redeemed beauty. Unredeemed, vulgar, coarse people. And simply what the children of the flesh preach is non-interference on the part of ethics and morality. This man wants to enjoy life, that’s all. Because actually the pagan way of life rests upon the idea of egocentric hedonism. The latter was declared by the pagans to be morally desirable. In other words, free man is expected to reject any restrictive norm interfering with his hedonic freedom. The permissive society is the pagan society, which heads toward disaster. The permissive society consists of the children of the flesh, who are obedient to the flesh and its biological pressures.

“The main sin of pagan society consists in its exploiting nature for the sake of man’s enjoyment without the latter accepting responsibility for the very act he enjoyed. In a word, hedonic society, the generation of the Great Flood, drove itself and the environment to annihilation. That is exactly what happens to the Western part of the world, the so-called “democratic world” or the “free world”.”

Rabbi Soloveitchik opposed liberal, hedonistic societal values, and he likewise was an outspoken opponent of communism. He voted for Eisenhower, despite the Democratic party’s all-out efforts to secure the Jewish vote, and he was a staunch supporter of the Vietnam War, viewing the spread of communism as the greatest evil.

There is another lesson of Purim: the defeat of lies and hypocrisy. Haman persuaded the king that his Jewish subjects were not loyal and hence should be done away with. Haman lacked any factual basis for this claim, and, to the contrary, the Jewish community of Persia was quite loyal to the government, as evidenced by various events in the Bible. The Talmud teaches that one must pray for the welfare of the government, and to this day, every synagogue recites a public prayer for the President during Saturday morning prayers. (I must admit that even though I, of course, always respond Amen to this prayer, it was quite a challenge to do so the past eight years, until January 20th of this year.) Haman perpetuated a great lie, and was a hypocrite par excellence.

And today, with so much fake news and totally baseless attacks on the president emanating from the liberal media, inspiring naive people to take to the streets in protest incessantly, the lesson of Purim that the truth must be sought and falsehood must be boldly dispelled needs to be taken to heart and acted upon.

The current hypocrisy of the American left knows no limits, as media and protesters selectively overlook liberal politicians’ numerous and outrageous statements and acts of prejudice, and are obsessed with fabricating implications of bias on the part of President Trump.

We must ask:

Where was the righteous indignation of these people and media organizations when it came to the racial overtones of an important election season communication by the campaign manager of Hillary Clinton?

Where was the righteous indignation of these people and media organizations when it came to the now former Vice President Biden calling then-candidate Obama “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy“?

Where was the righteous indignation of these people and media organizations when it came to Nevada’s Democratic Senator Harry Reid stating of then-candidate Obama that he was electable because of his light skin and “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted one“?

Where was the righteous indignation of these people and media organizations when it came to former President Clinton stating about then-candidate Obama, “A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee”?

Where was the righteous indignation of these people and media organizations in reaction to top advisers to the Hillary Clinton ticket harboring and being associated with misogynistic and anti-Israel views?

Where was the righteous indignation of these people and media organizations in reaction to top-tier Democratic party and administration leadership making disparaging remarks about Indians ?

Where is the righteous indignation of these people and media organizations in reaction to Minnesota Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison’s likely ascension to chair the DNC, in light of  Ellison’s support for Nation of Islam and other anti-American and anti-Semitic causes?

Purim instructs us not to fall for the Big Lie and to be ever so wary of efforts to strip society of divine moral values. I pray that the coming years represent a reversal of these trends and of the overall damage of the past eight years.

Avrohom Gordimer serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he is also a board member of Coalition for Jewish Values, (, a national organization that speaks on behalf of what are commonly known as Judeo-Christian ethics — the moral voice of the Torah. By day, he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer. Sent by the author, also on

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Women are equal in IDF

No limits

 Lt. Col. Oshrat Bachar is the deputy women’s affairs adviser to the IDF chief of staff.
Israel Hayom, March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day, which will be marked worldwide on Wednesday, March 8, is of paramount significance and impact to all women.

On this day, we should celebrate the growing presence of women in key positions, as well as stress the fact that, like many systems and organizations, the Israel Defense Forces has made a huge leap in integrating women into its ranks and promoting gender equality, and it does not seem to be slowing down.

The army is opening roles that were previously closed to women out of an essential need to maintain its strength and preserve its values. Even before Israeli independence and the establishment of the IDF, women were an integral part of the collective effort to defend the Jewish community.

Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said, “The army is the supreme symbol of duty, and as long as women are not equal to men in performing this duty, they have not yet obtained true equality.” I agree completely. The army places women in critical positions where they serve their country and fulfill their duties equally with men.

I am proud to see women wearing military uniforms, honored to serve their country, in the headquarters or in the field, in the air, at sea or on land, knowing they are inspirations and role models for other women, both inside and outside the army. There is no limit to what women can do or the places they can reach — and the growing number of women in regular service or active duty proves that every single day.

During my military service, I was considered a trailblazer in several areas and positions, some of which I performed as the first woman in the IDF’s history. I am proud to say that throughout this long journey, I have managed to maintain my femininity and have never attempted to emulate the men beside me, but instead have remained who I am — a woman and a fighter.

I believe that a woman should not fear remaining a woman, regardless of the role she performs. It is pivotal for her to maintain her character wherever she goes, because in the end, it is character and not gender that constitutes the deciding factor.

These days, the IDF is working on opening the fourth mixed-gender combat battalion, joining Caracal, Arayot Hayarden, and Bardelas. The demand for combat positions among female recruits is tremendous, and for that purpose, the army decided to establish new platforms for female combat soldiers and expand the contributions they can make.

This is reflected in the growing number of women in the mixed Homefront Command battalions patrolling in Judea and Samaria, in the Oketz K-9 special forces unit, and in the Air Defense Command, which is tasked with manning the missile defense batteries and protecting the people of Israel.

As a career soldier, a sense of pride and duty accompanies me each day. I call on you, dear women, those who already serve in the army and those who are awaiting conscription, who have a deep sense of calling mixed with a touch of fear — I am calling on you to believe. Believe in your way and in yourselves; believe that you are good and capable on your own merits. There is no doubt in my mind that you can make it big — it is up to you.

Lt. Col. Oshrat Bachar is the deputy women’s affairs adviser to the IDF chief of staff.

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Reducing surgery for breast cancer

Revolutionary Israeli device can eliminate need for follow-up breast cancer surgery

By Shoshanna Solomon, February 9, 2017, Times of Israel

Israel’s Dune Medical Devices has developed an instrument to help women with breast cancer avoid undergoing dreaded follow-up surgery to remove residual cancer cells after a tumor is removed. The device is already being used by surgeons on patients in more than 100 hospitals in the US and in Israeli medical centers.

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When women undergo lumpectomies to remove breast cancers, the cancerous tissue is then sent to labs to ensure that the margins surrounding the tumor are clear of cancerous cells, so that the patients are truly cancer-free. Unfortunately, statistics show that when lab results are released, after a process that can take several weeks, one in four women is asked to return for re-excision — secondary surgery — if the tumors tested reveal that the margins are not clear, indicating some cancer cells remain in the patient’s body.

“We have developed the only technology in the world that has a commercial product that allows surgeons in operating rooms, in real time, to check the margins of the tumor, identify cancerous tissue and decide on the spot if more tissue needs to be removed or not,” Gal Aharonowitz, general manager in charge of Israeli operations, told The Times of Israel in a phone interview.

Clinical trials show that the company’s MarginProbe device reduces the need for re-excision by 51 percent, if it is used during the initial procedure, Aharonowitz said. Commercial use of the product has shown a drop of as much as 80% in the need for repeat surgery, he said.

The device consists of a hand-held gadget — a single-use probe that looks like a large pen or ultrasound instrument — and a console. After the tumor is removed, while the patient is still on the operating table, the surgeon uses the probe to check the margins of the just-removed tissue. Sensors on the probe send signals to the tissue, and a signal, both visual and acoustic, gets reflected back, which is then classified as either positive, indicating there are still cancerous cells on the margins, or negative, giving the all-clear to close up the patient.

The radio-frequency spectroscopy technology used by the probe measures the electrical properties of the cells and can distinguish cancer cells from healthy ones within a second, said Aharonowitz.

The product got FDA approval at the end of 2012 and started marketing in the US in 2013. It has also received the necessary regulatory approvals from European authorities.

The company is now seeking to increase the use of the device in the US and in Israel, and to expand the applications of the technologies to other cancers, like prostate, lung and liver cancers, he said.

Dune Medical's MarginProbe reduces amount of follow up breast cancer surgery (Courtesy)

Dune Medical’s MarginProbe reduces amount of follow-up breast cancer surgery (Courtesy)

“We are already working on these new applications — more specifically on a smart biopsy device that will allow surgeons or radiologists to identify and take the right tissue sample out. We expect this to be available in the market in the near term,” Aharonowitz said. Dune received a 3 million euros grant through the EC Horizon 2020 award in 2016 to expedite development of the biopsy device, he said.

The product is being used by more than 100 hospitals in the US, including Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia and UC Irvine Health in California, and 12 in Israel. It has been used commercially on some 10,000 patients, said Aharonowitz.

Dune Medical is in talks with the Israeli Health Ministry to get the probe recognized as standard care in Israel, a step that would allow hospitals to be reimbursed for its use. At the moment, said Ramit Harpaz, in charge of marketing the product in Israel for Dune, the lack of reimbursement is hindering the device’s adoption.

“None of the large hospitals use it, because it is not part of the standard of care,” she said. “We bring objectivity to procedures that were based mostly upon clinical judgment until now.” Hospitals that use the technology include Assuta Hospital in Ramat HaHayal, Tel Aviv, Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot.

Dune Medical Devices's Gal Aharonowitz (Courtesy)

Dune Medical Devices’s Gal Aharonowitz (Courtesy)

Use of each probe costs around $1,000 in the US, said Aharonowitz — significantly lower than the outlay incurred by insurers when a patient needs to undergo additional surgery, he said. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, re-excisions for lumpectomy procedures range in price from $9,000 to $16,000.

Dr. Tanir Allweis, a breast surgeon and medical director at the Sarah Markowitz Breast Health Center at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, has been using MarginProbe on some 100 patients a year and finds it “very, very user-friendly.”

Allweis, who also took part in Dune Medical’s clinical trials for the product, says it has reduced her re-excision rates by some 50%.

“A conservative approach,” the cost, and some hesitancy regarding the false positives the instrument sometimes gives — requiring surgeons to remove further tissue from the patient even when pathological results later show it was actually clear — could be preventing more widespread adoption of the gadget, she said.

“But false positives are a small price to pay for the improvement in the re-operation rate,” she said. “The trade-off is worth it.”

Illustrative photo of doctors in an operating room at a hospital in Jerusalem. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of doctors in an operating room at a hospital in Jerusalem. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

According to US nonprofit, about one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2017 some 255,180 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the US. About 40,610 women in the US are expected to die in 2017 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989.

Dr. Alice Police, a breast cancer surgeon at UC Irvine Health, does about 300 surgeries a year and has been a surgeon for about 26 years. She participated in Dune’s US clinical trial.

“I think it is the biggest advancement in breast cancer surgery in a generation,” she said in a video testimonial on the company’s website. “When we have to tell a patient that they need a second surgery because the margins aren’t clear from the first surgery, it is just devastating for the patient psychologically.”

Using the probe at the time of the surgery gives immediate reassurance to the surgeon and is “very simple and easy to use,” Police said.

Dune Medical Devices was founded by Dr. Dan Hashimshony, a physicist, in 2002 and has been funded by VCs and private investors.

Dune Medical Devices founder Dan Hashimshony (Courtesy)

Dune Medical Devices founder Dan Hashimshony (Courtesy)

“I like to carry around a list of difficult questions that are worth solving and the margins issue was one of them. It took a while, but we did it,” Hashimshony said in a phone interview. “The next challenge for Dune will be to bring to the market a generic version of the product that will work in almost every solid tumor removal procedure.”

Posted in Business and Commerce, Health Sciences, Middle East Report, Recent Posts, Science, Science and Technology, Women's Health | Comments Off on Reducing surgery for breast cancer

Hamas prepares to attack Israel

Hamas Prepares for the Next Round of War

Yoni Ben Menachem, February 6, 2017

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

Vol. 17, No. 4

  • Hamas has never for a moment given up its strategy of destroying Israel. Although the military balance of power is in Israel’s favor, Hamas is constantly improving its capabilities and building its military preparedness for the next round.
  • The key question is who will deliver the preemptive strike in the next conflict. Will Israel surprise Hamas and destroy the tunnels before it can use them, or will Hamas surprise Israel and succeed to move its fighters through the tunnels into Israeli territory?
  • At this moment Hamas has no interest in a military clash with Israel. The movement has indeed rehabilitated the military capabilities targeted in the last war but not the thousands of homes that were destroyed.
  • A serious struggle is being waged over Khaled Mashal’s position as chairman of Hamas’ Political Bureau. The military wing of Hamas, supported by Iran, backs Yahye Sinwar, the commander of the military wing, and Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar against the candidates favored by Qatar and Turkey.
  • The quiet on the Gaza border with Israel is temporary and deceptive. Both sides are intensively engaged in drawing lessons from Operation Protective Edge and preparing for the next round of warfare.

The semblance of quiet in the Gaza Strip is misleading. Lately the “drizzle” of rockets launched at Israel by the so-called “rebellious organizations” has declined, apparently because the Hamas security mechanism has carried out a wave of arrests among the Salafi, jihadist, pro-Islamic State organizations. These arrests were aimed at placating Egypt. They do not, however, reflect Hamas’ change of intentions toward Israel.

In the town of Rafah on February 2, 2017, the Hamas military wing held a large military ceremony in which a monument was unveiled in memory of the Tunisian engineer Muhammad al-Zouari, a drone specialist who worked for Hamas. On top of the monument was a model of an Ababil drone.

A monument dedicated to Zouari in Gaza with an Ababil drone on top.

A monument dedicated to Zouari in Gaza with an Ababil drone on top.

Hamas claims that Zouari was assassinated by Israeli Mossad agents near his home in Tunisia because he had made a great technological contribution to the anti-Israeli struggle. Hamas credited him with developing unmanned aircraft as well as a small, remotely-controlled submarine.

Abu Ubaida, spokesman of Hamas’ military wing, praised Zouari’s work for Hamas and disclosed that he had often visited Gaza. What he said regarding Israel during the ceremony is worthy of note: “The Palestinian problem is not merely a geographic problem or an internal political struggle between a people and an occupier; it is instead a problem of the Islamic world and an existential, historical, and cultural struggle.”1

Hamas poster.

Zouari at work. Hamas poster.

Hamas has never for a moment given up its strategy of destroying Israel. Although the military balance of power is in Israel’s favor, Hamas is constantly improving its capabilities and building its military preparedness for the next round. It aims to inflict painful strategic blows on Israel in various ways:  short- and long-range rocket fire, attack tunnels, booby-trapped drones, naval commando forces infiltrated into Israeli territory, and even cyber warfare and hacking into IDF soldiers’ computers and telephones.

In early February 2017, Hamas media outlets extensively quoted Israeli leaked media reports on the failures of Operation Protective Edge, which are expected to be revealed in the Israeli state comptroller’s report. Hamas commentators claimed that these failures reflected the Israeli political echelon’s helplessness and confusion during Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, and said it was actually Hamas that won the campaign.2

Hamas’ psychological warfare is likely to continue after the comptroller’s report is published in full.

Hamas Has Recovered Militarily

Senior Israeli security officials confirmed in late January 2017, that Hamas has fully rehabilitated its military capabilities that were damaged in Operation Protective Edge and has even improved some of them, namely in the areas of rocket and mortar fire and tunnel construction.3

Currently, Hamas has several thousand rockets aimed at Israel and dozens of attack tunnels. These tunnels are intended to infiltrate its gunmen into the Gaza-belt area for murder and kidnapping attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. The Hamas military wing continues to work round the clock on manufacturing rockets and digging tunnels.

This is a race against time. Israel has launched a major project to build a large wall deep in the ground around Gaza. The aim is to counteract the tunnel phenomenon while also developing advanced technological methods for detecting tunnels.

The key question is who will deliver the preemptive strike in the next conflict. Will Israel surprise Hamas and destroy the tunnels before it can use them, or will Hamas surprise Israel and succeed to move its fighters through the tunnels into Israeli territory?

When Will the Next Military Conflict Occur?

A wave of demonstrations swept Gaza on January 9, 2017. Residents were protesting the electricity shortage crisis, and Hamas security forces were forced to fire in the air to block the protestors. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has not been able to solve the electricity shortage.

The residents are suffering through the harsh winter with only three hours of electricity per day.

The anger expressed at the Hamas regime certainly could have led it to deflect the blame toward Israel and instigate a military escalation. Hamas would thereby have sought to divert gazes from its responsibility for Gaza’s dire situation.

The crisis was temporarily averted when Turkey intervened and agreed to send fuel to Gaza, with Qatar providing financial aid for purchasing fuel for Gaza’s power station.

This is a time bomb that, if not finally resolved, could reemerge and explode – in Israel’s face as well.

The electricity crisis is only one aspect of the fragile situation in Gaza with its explosive potential.

The results of a poll published this week in the territories, conducted by the Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) of Ramallah,4 reveal that 71 percent of Gaza’s residents think their economic situation has deteriorated in 2016 compared to 2015, and 55 percent also see a worsening of their security situation.

At this moment Hamas has no interest in a military clash with Israel. The movement has indeed rehabilitated the military capabilities targeted in the last war but not the thousands of homes that were destroyed, and the rebuilding continues.

Map of Hamas’ tunnel system in 2014.

Map of Hamas’ tunnel system in 2014. (IDF Spokesman)

Meanwhile, the movement’s leadership has been opening a new page with Egypt. The aim is to bring about an easing of the blockade on Gaza with a series of measures, particularly the opening of the Rafah crossing and even its conversion into a commercial crossing.

In early February 2017, a Hamas security delegation is expected in Egypt to discuss new security understandings with the heads of Egyptian intelligence. The understandings pertain to safeguarding Gaza’s border with Egypt and to the war against the Islamic State branch in northern Sinai. If the talks succeed, the blockade on the Egyptian side of Gaza will be eased substantially. This is something Hamas wants very much. The pressure by the Gaza residents will then diminish, and Gaza will have a small, regular opening to the Arab world without having to be dependent on Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

At the same time, the movement’s leadership has been busy with internal elections. The first stage ended with the election of a new Hamas leadership to represent the security prisoners in Israel.

Internal Political Tensions Emerging

Beneath the surface, a serious struggle is being waged over Khaled Mashal’s position as chairman of the Political Bureau.

The military wing of Hamas, which is supported by Iran, backs Yahye Sinwar, in effect the commander of the military wing, and Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar against the candidates favored by Qatar and Turkey, Ismail Haniyeh and Mousa Abu Marzouk.

Al Zahar in the center

Al Zahar (center) during the October 2012 Gaza war.

Recently the tensions between these two camps grew when the Turkish deputy prime minister condemned the truck terror attack by Fadi al-Kanbar at the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem, which killed four IDF soldiers.

The military wing was enraged when the Hamas leadership in Qatar remained silent about Turkey’s condemnation.

This internal tension should not be underestimated. It, too, could lead to a violent eruption between the camps and an escalation against Israel.

Meanwhile, there have also been preliminary contacts through mediators, on a prisoner-exchange deal between Israel and Hamas in which Israelis would be returned, and Hamas security prisoners would be released. Specifically, this would involve returning the bodies of the missing IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, along with Avraham Mengistu of Ashkelon and a Bedouin Israeli, Hisham al-Said, who have been held captive in Gaza since 2014 and 2015 respectively.

In return for the four, Hamas is demanding the release of thousands of terrorists in a deal that, it claims, must be larger than the Shalit deal of 2011.

A military conflict between Hamas and Israel at this time would likely disrupt the talks on a prisoner-exchange deal. With such a deal, Hamas would hope to win glory and sympathy in the Palestinian street.

As noted, the quiet on the Gaza border with Israel is temporary and deceptive. Both sides are intensively engaged in drawing lessons from Operation Protective Edge and preparing for the next round of warfare.

Military logic calls for a surprise move and a preemptive strike by Israel against Hamas’ newly built tunnels and rocket stockpiles. For the time being, though, it appears that Israel’s political echelon wants to continue the status quo.

Hamas’ intentions are very hard to assess. The power struggles within the movement, its relations with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, and the economic situation in Gaza are variable factors that could lead the Hamas leadership to initiate a military move against Israel at any given moment if it serves the leadership’s interests. Hamas is now prepared for such a move from a military standpoint.

The bottom line is that the Israeli political echelon still has not reached a decision on the future of the Gaza Strip.

Does Israel want to oust the Hamas government? Who would rule Gaza in its stead? Does Israel want to reconquer the entire strip and reinstate the military government, or is it seeking a long-term truce that would see the easing of the blockade, the opening of a seaport with Israeli supervision, and the admission of thousands of workers into Israel?

So long as there is no Israeli decision on these matters, the status quo will continue, and Israel will react to Hamas’ moves instead of being the party that initiates moves, with all that this entails from a military standpoint.

* * *


Posted in Islam, Middle East Report, News Articles | Comments Off on Hamas prepares to attack Israel

Liberated Jewish Territories

A Truth-Telling Strategy to Advance Israeli-Palestinian Peace

By Dr. Max Singer, January 29, 2017

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 403

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The US is usually thought to be biased in favor of Israel, even after its recent acceptance of UNSC Resolution 2334. But for many years, the US has been a big part of the reason why the diplomatic world accepts a false narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict that harms Israel and makes it harder to achieve peace. Washington should move to a truth-telling strategy to dismantle the structure of false views that slander Israel and stand in the way of peace.

The widely accepted false narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is built on the following premises:

  • Israel stole and now occupies Palestinian territory;
  • there are millions of “Palestinian refugees” who have a “right of return” to Israel;
  • Israel and the Palestinians have equal or comparable claims to Jerusalem;
  • the Palestinian community and its leadership are ready to accept a two-state solution that will end Palestinian efforts to eliminate the Jewish state.

The US has consistently either supported or been unwilling to contradict these premises.

Palestinian leaders have an additional false view on which they insist when they speak in Arabic, and which they often proclaim to international audiences. This view is that the Jewish people did not, in fact, live in and rule parts of Palestine, including Jerusalem, for hundreds of years long before the beginning of Islam. While this false claim is not generally accepted diplomatically, UNESCO recently endorsed the fiction that the ancient Jewish temples were not built on the Temple Mount – a site UNESCO calls “al-Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif” (Noble Sanctuary).

This Palestinian false history is not challenged by the US or by any other democracy. Had the US utilized an active strategy of telling the truth, the Palestinians would not have been able to continue to use their false picture to resist peace.

Rejecting false premises does not mean rejecting a peace agreement based on a two-state solution. The truth is compatible with a variety of ideas about what should be done in the future. Those who support a two-state solution can also support a strategy of telling the truth, as can those who doubt the feasibility of a two-state solution.

US policy has always been to ignore, and sometimes even to support, the falsity of these diplomatically accepted narratives in order to avoid contradicting the Palestinians and arousing the wrath of the Arab and Muslim nations. This longstanding American willingness to put reality aside to try to encourage negotiations has been unsuccessful thus far, and has become increasingly harmful.

For many years, US policy was to appear “even-handed” even at the expense of truth – that is, to be superficially even-handed between the arsonist and the firefighter, the terrorist and the victim of terror. Washington should switch to an even-handed policy of supporting truth, whether it comes from Palestinians or from Israelis: a policy of rejecting falsehood from both sides.

Of course, many statements are partly true and partly false, and often there are good reasons for different opinions about what is true. But there would be a great improvement in the diplomatic environment if the US took the lead in rejecting the most important and clearly false elements of diplomatic consensus.

A truth-telling strategy does not mean being absurd by always insisting on truth. The realities of human nature, and of politics and international relations, require substantial room for untruth. The US government cannot and should not act like an innocent who expects everyone to always tell the truth, and who views not doing so as evil.

The False Claim That There Is Such a Thing as “Palestinian Territory”

The biggest falsehood the US needs to expose is that there exists “Palestinian territory” that Israel refuses to “give back” because of its expansionist ambitions and purported security needs. It is controversial, rather than a falsehood, to say that justice and peace require Israel to turn over to a Palestinian state essentially all the land it seized in its defensive war in 1967. But there is a big difference between the controversial statement that the West Bank should become Palestinian territory as part of a peace agreement and the false statement that these areas are now, or ever were in the past, Palestinian territory.

The distinction between saying that the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) is Palestinian territory and saying that it should become Palestinian territory is important for both the past and the future. For the past, the statement that the West Bank is Palestinian means that Israel stole land that was not Jewish and should “give it back.” For the future, the distinction determines whether Israeli proposals to provide land for a Palestinian state are returning stolen property or are offers to give up disputed land to which it has serious claims, in order to make a healthy peace with its neighbor. From the Palestinian point of view, it differentiates between an immoral submission to a thief who has more power and a wise compromise with neighbors who have overlapping claims of right.

A US truth-telling strategy would not ignore Palestinian assertions about “Palestinian land,” but would point out that the land in question is disputed. It is not Palestinian territory – despite US acceptance of a UNSC resolution that refers to it as such – because there is no Palestinian territory and never has been. Palestinians have never ruled or been sovereign over any land. This is an indisputable fact, not a question of policy or interpretation.

The West Bank is disputed territory: it is territory for which Israel has historic and legal claims based on League of Nations resolutions endorsed by the US government in the 1920s and confirmed in Article 80 of the UN Charter. The most recent sovereigns before the West Bank came into dispute were the British Mandate from the League of Nations to promote a Jewish national home (1922-48) and the Ottoman Empire (1517-1917).

Individual Palestinians certainly own much land in the disputed area, just as they own land in Israel, in the US, and elsewhere. But ownership of land by individual Palestinians does not make it Palestinian territory, either in Nablus or in New York.

Palestinian national rights to the land do not come from international law, but from a principle that has become widely accepted over the last century: that the people who live in an area should govern it. But this principle is not automatic and self-executing. Implementing it presents difficulties that require exceptions (or else east Boston would have become part of Ireland). Who the majority is in an area depends on how the borders are drawn. For example, Israelis are the great majority of the population of Area C in the West Bank – a Jewish majority that was not created by removing Arabs.

The Falsehoods about “Palestinian Refugees”

The second most important part of a new truth-telling strategy would be to expose how the Arabs have abused what they call the “Palestinian refugees” in order to maintain them as a weapon for destroying Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

The politely accepted story in diplomatic circles is that there are nearly 5 million “Palestinian refugees” from 1948, more than a million still living in UNRWA “refugee camps” because Israel refuses to let them return home despite the “right of return” granted them by the UN General Assembly.

The reality is that only some 50,000 of the “Palestinian refugees” are refugees as the world defines the term. The others are descendants of refugees who have died. The Palestinian leadership and the Arab states have prevented these descendants, who never lived in Israel, from settling and living normal lives in any Arab state (except Jordan).

Furthermore, UNGA Resolution 194 did not, in fact or in law, grant the right of return to all refugees, and would have had no authority to do so even if it had tried.

It is widely recognized in private that the Arab insistence on the “right of return” does not come from concern over the wellbeing of the “refugees,” who have not been given any choice about their unfortunate status. The miseries imposed on them for three generations are the result of the Arab world’s decision to prevent their resettlement in the hope that someday, Israel will be forced to take in so many “refugees” that it cannot continue to be both Jewish and democratic.

The false diplomatic story with which the US has been playing along for generations is that the Arab position on the “right of return” is a plausible negotiating position that might prevail in the final stage of peace talks. The issue should not yet be addressed, so the thinking goes, because it is so hard to resolve. The truth, which is widely understood in the diplomatic community although no country will admit it publicly, is that the “refugees” do not have any real legal “right of return,” and Israel cannot allow them to move to its territory if it is to survive. It is well understood that the “right of return” is a weapon to destroy Israel, not a normal negotiating demand that can be compromised.

A truth-telling strategy would declare that peace depends on finally settling the “refugees,” and that it is needless cruelty to keep them in refugee camps and without normal citizens’ rights any longer.

The US should start the process of closing down UNRWA, the UN agency that has made it possible to conceal the truth about Palestinian “refugees.” And it should be made clear to the Palestinians that they will never get international support for the notion of forcing Israel to take in millions of Palestinians.

It should be noted that the Israeli government has favored continued support for UNRWA. This is one of a number of instances where the government of Israel has chosen to appease international opinion rather than use the truth to defy it. It is time for Israel too to move away from such appeasement, which has not worked.

The more sophisticated diplomatic discussion of how peace might be negotiated asserts that the “refugee” issue does not prevent peace, because the Palestinian leadership already understands that no more than a token fraction of refugees will ever be allowed to move to Israel. The “refugees” will have to be satisfied with apologies and compensation – a premise widely acknowledged but never uttered out loud.

Diplomats around the world, particularly in the US, privately understand that Israel cannot and should never be forced to take in millions of “Palestinian refugees.” But no one says so officially, or tells that to the Palestinians. A truth-telling strategy would hold that it is time to say openly what everyone knows to be true.

Telling the truth that there is no “right of return” leaves open the question of compensation for Palestinian refugees from Israel and for Jewish refugees from the Arab countries. This does not have to be an obstacle to peace. It is indisputable that the creation of Israel led to at least as many Jewish refugees from Arab countries as Palestinian refugees from Israel. And the Jewish refugees, who were all resettled without international help (mostly in Israel), were forced to leave behind more assets than did the Palestinian refugees.

False “Even-Handedness” About Jerusalem

A much less important, but highly symbolic, piece of American truth-telling will be moving the US embassy in Israel to the country’s capital, Jerusalem. The US can further increase its truth-telling by allowing the passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem to record the fact that they were born in Israel. At present, Washington is unwilling to allow this truth to appear in American passports.

Because the US has been willing to ignore these truths for so long, there will be great Arab resistance to their being stated in public. The fiercer their protests, the more the Arabs will demonstrate the cost of having avoided truth-telling for so long. In the long run, a recognition that the US has a commitment to the truth will reduce the harm done by violent protests. Conversely, a policy of avoiding the truth in deference to threatened violence will lead to more such violence – or to US subservience to the rioters.

Jerusalem is a good example of the biased “even-handedness” that has long characterized the US stance. Official statements always refer to Jerusalem as sacred to both sides – sometimes adding that it is sacred to Christians as well – and typically imply that a fair solution will require equal treatment for Israel and the Palestinians on Jerusalem. But in reality, there is very little symmetry between the Israeli and Palestinian connections to Jerusalem.

The al-Aqsa Mosque, which is located in Jerusalem, has significance for the religion of Islam (although its origins are controversial) – but it is in no way central. The city of Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Koran, nor in regular Muslim prayers. On the other hand, Jerusalem is a central feature of the Jewish religion and of daily Jewish prayer and identity. The climax of every Jewish wedding ceremony is when the groom breaks a glass to symbolize the exile from Jerusalem and repeats a quotation from Psalm 137: “If I forget you, o Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.”

Jewish and Muslim performance in ruling Jerusalem since 1948 has also been very different. Under Israeli rule over Jerusalem (West Jerusalem for 19 years and the entire city for 50 years), there has been freedom of religion and protection of the holy sites of all religions. During the 19 years of Jordanian rule over East Jerusalem, Jews were not allowed entry even to the Jewish Quarter, and Jewish religious sites were destroyed.

The religion of Islam takes no notice of Jerusalem as a city. Muslims have expressed interest in Jerusalem only when it was ruled by non-Muslims. For over a thousand years of Muslim rule over Jerusalem, it was never made into the capital of any part of the Muslim empire, not even the local district. From 1948 to 1967, when it was ruled by Jordan, Jerusalem was treated as inferior to Amman. By contrast, the city of Jerusalem has always been a major concern of the Jewish religion and of Jewish identity, including throughout the nearly 2,000 years during which it was in the hands of others. Israel cannot survive as a Jewish state without Jerusalem as its capital.

Israeli and Palestinian interests in the future of Jerusalem are not at all symmetrical. Israel needs Jerusalem to continue to be a vibrant working city. The Palestinians, by contrast, would make an important gain in their effort to destroy Israel if they achieved new arrangements for Jerusalem that allowed its health as a city to be undermined by violent conflict.

To follow an even-handed truth-telling strategy about Jerusalem, the US should state that a fair disposition of the city will acknowledge it as the capital of Israel, protect the religious concerns of all religions, and assure that the city’s health will not be jeopardized by internal conflict. The Palestinian interest in having Jerusalem as the capital of a new Palestinian state should be satisfied in a way that is consistent with these three values.

The False Assertion that the Palestinians are Ready to Make Peace with Israel

A US truth-telling strategy would also address the question of whether the Palestinian community and leadership are in fact willing to make peace with Israel. While there cannot be any indisputable truth about such a hypothetical and complex question, there is evidence that can be examined in order to respectfully try to understand the point of view of the Palestinians.

A search for truth would ask why the Palestinian leadership (both intellectual and political) takes such pains to falsely deny the ancient Jewish presence in the land. It must be unpleasant and difficult for informed Palestinians to tell such obvious falsehoods that there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (from which Christ could chase the money-changers), or that Jews did not rule the land for centuries before most of them were exiled by the Romans 2,000 years ago. This denial of history is not part of the religion of Islam; it is a recent Palestinian invention. Older Muslim sources explain that the Dome of the Rock was built on the Temple Mount because it was the site of the Jewish Temple. One of the traditional Arab names for the Mount is Bayt al-Maqdis (The Temple).

One plausible explanation why the Palestinian leadership is so insistent on such an extreme denial of reality is that if the Palestinian people knew the truth, they might be more willing to accept Israel on part of the land. This suggests that it might be constructive for the US to remind the Palestinians that according to Islamic tradition, the Temple Mount was built by Jews as the site of the Jewish Temple. A public airing of the fact that there is no doubt that there were ancient Jewish kingdoms in the land a thousand years before Islam might increase the readiness of the Palestinian people to make peace with the Jewish people, who share their connection to the holy land.

Persistent US truth-telling would so undermine the Palestinian leadership’s efforts to deny basic historical truths that they would not be able to continue without embarrassing themselves before their own people. It would show the Palestinians that the US, and presumably other democracies, are not prepared to accept blatant falsehoods as justification to force Israel to accept a Palestinian victory. This would undermine one of the major Palestinian reasons for thinking they might still be able to destroy Israel: their hope that it is not too late to remove Israel from the land completely. That Palestinian hope is the fundamental obstacle to peace.

When Did the Palestinians Have an Internal Dispute about Making Peace with Israel?

If we are to gain a truthful answer to the question whether the Palestinians are now willing to make peace with Israel, we must also ask the following question: If the Palestinian leadership and public are now willing to make peace with Israel, when did they change? And what was the political process that produced the change?

Since before the establishment of Israel, despite the deep desire of many Palestinians for peace, the Palestinian community and its leadership were determined not to accept a Jewish state on any terms and were committed to struggle to destroy it until it was removed from land that had once been Muslim-ruled. Whatever some Palestinians might have thought or said in private or in English, any suggestion of a basis for accepting Israel or of allowing the “refugees” to be settled outside Israel was taboo in Arabic public discourse for many years.

This is a statement of fact, not an accusation. It could be disproved if one could point to Arabic public statements to the effect that it is necessary to end the struggle to destroy Israel, or that a major share of the “refugees” might not be allowed to enter Israel. There is no evidence of such statements. Nor can one find many Palestinian political voices who say such things in Arabic in public. The Palestinian political discourse is available translated into in English on MEMRI.

Before there can be any major change in Palestinian policy, there will have to be a sharp public debate among Palestinians. Certainly there would be strong voices initially rejecting any willingness to give up the war to destroy Israel or to settle the “refugees” outside of Israel. This debate would be visible in public channels, and it would be possible to see which side was eventually forced to retreat.

There has been no such debate. Palestinian discourse still maintains the taboo against suggesting it is necessary or desirable to give up the war against Israel on any terms. Nor is it acceptable to discuss the possibility of some “refugees” not being allowed to move to Israel.

A truth-telling US strategy would not continue to assume that peace can be negotiated with the Palestinians if Israel makes appropriate concessions. Truth-telling is consistent with urging negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but not from the position that the success of those negotiations will depend on what Israel does. A truth-telling strategy would recognize that agreement on peace can only happen after Palestinians have public debates about “refugees” and about accepting Israel.

Why the US Should Move Toward a Truth-Telling Strategy

A large edifice built on falsehood has come to define the diplomatic and policy environment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This structure of unreality has failed to produce useful results. Perhaps, therefore, the new US president, who campaigned on making significant changes to US policy, should adopt a new strategy of truth-telling, which might lead to better results.

International pressure is one of the main weapons with which the Palestinians hope to destroy Israel. They will not give up that goal until it has become clear that there is no way it can succeed. Demonstrating that the world will no longer pretend to believe Palestinian falsehoods might lead more Palestinians to see that they have no chance of eliminating Israel. They might then seek the benefits of peace.

Furthermore, forcing Palestinians to acknowledge Israel’s historical and moral claim to the land would provide them with an honorable basis for compromise with Israel. If Israel were a stranger to the land, simply a colonial power taking Arab land by force, as the Palestinians falsely argue, it would be cowardly for them to yield.

When the American and European democracies accept Palestinian falsehoods, it creates a disincentive for the Palestinians and their supporters to face the realities of their situation. But these realities have to be the basis of any resolution of the conflict. A truth-telling strategy would offer a sound long-term foundation on which peace can eventually be built.

Why Israel Should Move Toward a Truth-Telling Strategy

Even with a new administration that has promised to break with the policies of the past, there may not be much chance that the US will depart radically from its policies of the last 50 years. But whether Washington alters past positions or not, Israel should advocate a truth-telling strategy for the US and the other democracies and pursue that strategy itself.

Israel is now imprisoned by an internationally accepted structure of falsehoods. It is tactically wiser for Israel to argue for truth-telling than to continue to appease the international consensus, for example by explaining why settlements are not the obstacle to peace, or that Israeli security requires that Israel occupy what people think of as “Palestinian land.”

Israel needs to go on the diplomatic offensive. Framing its position as an effort to get recognition for the truth is more likely to get its story heard than simply making demands and claims. And criticisms of the Palestinians that Israel needs to make to change the diplomatic consensus will be more effective if they are made as part of a broader strategy of urging democracies to face the truths about the conflict.

It is politically difficult for the US or other countries to take positions that are more “pro-Israel” than the positions of the Israeli government. If Israel would like other states to move toward more truth-telling about the conflict, it needs to stop holding back from presenting its own case out of fear that criticism of the Palestinians and assertions of Israeli rightful claims would seem to conflict with negotiations for peace.


It is notable that the US is thought to be biased in favor of Israel even though it does not stand for the truths essential to Israel’s position. Despite its longstanding alliance with Israel, the US under many presidents has allowed Israel to be forced to operate according to the international structure of falsehood that now dominates Israel’s diplomatic position. This policy should be replaced by a truth-telling strategy.

Briefly, some of the main truths that the US has been denying or ignoring, and that a truth-telling strategy should make prominent in the international discussion, are:

  • Although there are good reasons why there should eventually be “Palestinian territory,” there is not now, and never has been, any such thing. No territory was “taken from” the Palestinians; nor can any territory be “given back” to them. They have always lived in territory ruled by others.
  • West Jerusalem is located in Israel and is the capital of Israel. The Palestinian and Israeli connections to Jerusalem are neither equal nor symmetrical. Jerusalem is demonstrably more important to Israel than it is to the Palestinians.
  • The Jewish people lived in and ruled most of the area of Israel in ancient times. Israelis did not come to the land as European colonialists; they came as a people returning to its homeland. Israel’s rule over the land is not based only on its military strength; it has historical, legal, and moral claims.
  • The Jewish international legal right to settle in the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea was established by the League of Nations’ Mandate in 1922, in recognition of the Jewish People’s millenarian attachment to the Land of Israel. It is not based on Jewish suffering in the Holocaust.
  • The claim of a “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees” is not a humanitarian effort to provide help or justice to those unfortunate individuals, who are not truly refugees. It is an Arab weapon intended to destroy Israel via demographic subversion. And it is not a valid legal claim. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians requires resettling the “refugees” outside of Israel and ending UNRWA’s mandate. (While this truth is not indisputable, it is the understanding held by independent and informed people, most of whom do not publicly say what they personally believe.)
  • It is not an established truth that the Palestinian leadership and community have decided to give up the goal of destroying Israel and are ready to make a peace that accepts Israel if Israel makes appropriate concessions. The evidence for and against this generally accepted assumption needs to be examined. Much of it indicates that the Palestinian community is not willing to make peace with Israel on any terms.

The US should be more genuinely even-handed between Israel and the Palestinians than it has been in the past. It could advance the cause of peace by telling the truth. It is not even-handed for the US to let one side’s systematic falsehoods dominate the diplomatic discussion, when a truth-telling strategy could make the policy debate more realistic and improve the long-term prospects for peace.

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Dr. Max Singer, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is co-founder of the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

Posted in Education Report, Islam, Judaism, Middle East Report, Monotheistic Religions, News Articles, Opinion, Recent Posts | Comments Off on Liberated Jewish Territories

Science overturns evolution hypothesis

Scientists engineer animals with ancient genes to test causes of evolution

Press release, January 13, 2017

University of Chicago Medical Center

IMAGE: A transgenic fruit fly engineered to carry the alcohol dehydrogenase gene as it existed about 4 million years ago. Thousands of these ‘ancestralized’ flies were bred and studied for their… view more

Credit: Kathleen Gordon

Scientists at the University of Chicago have created the first genetically modified animals containing reconstructed ancient genes, which they used to test the evolutionary effects of genetic changes that happened in the deep past on the animals’ biology and fitness.

The research, published early online in Nature Ecology & Evolution on Jan. 13, is a major step forward for efforts to study the genetic basis of adaptation and evolution. The specific findings, involving the fruit fly’s ability to break down alcohol in rotting fruit, overturn a widely-held hypothesis about the molecular causes of one of evolutionary biology’s classic cases of adaptation.

“One of the major goals of modern evolutionary biology is to identify the genes that caused species to adapt to new environments, but it’s been hard to do that directly, because we’ve had no way to test the effects of ancient genes on animal biology,” said Mo Siddiq, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, one of the study’s lead scientists.

“We realized we could overcome this problem by combining two recently developed methods–statistical reconstruction of ancient gene sequences and engineering of transgenic animals,” he said.

Until recently, most studies of molecular adaptation have analyzed gene sequences to identify “signatures of selection”–patterns suggesting that a gene changed so quickly during its evolution that selection is likely to have been the cause.  The evidence from this approach is only circumstantial, however, because genes can evolve quickly for many reasons, such as chance, fluctuations in population size, or selection for functions unrelated to the environmental conditions to which the organism is thought to have adapted.

Siddiq and his advisor, Joe Thornton, PhD, professor of ecology and evolution and human genetics at the University of Chicago, wanted to directly test the effects of a gene’s evolution on adaptation. Thornton has pioneered methods for reconstructing ancestral genes–statistically determining their sequences from large databases of present-day sequences, then synthesizing them and experimentally studying their molecular properties in the laboratory. This strategy has yielded major insights into the mechanisms by which biochemical functions evolve.

Thornton and Siddiq reasoned that by combining ancestral gene reconstruction with techniques for engineering transgenic animals, they could study how genetic changes that occurred in the deep past affected whole organisms-their development, physiology, and even their fitness.

“This strategy of engineering ‘ancestralized animals’ could be applied to many evolutionary questions,” Thornton said. “For the first test case, we chose a classic example of adaptation-how fruit flies evolved the ability to survive the high alcohol concentrations found in rotting fruit. We found that the accepted wisdom about the molecular causes of the flies’ evolution is simply wrong.”

The fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster is one of the most studied organisms in genetics and evolution.  In the wild, D. melanogaster lives in alcohol-rich rotting fruit, tolerating far higher alcohol concentrations than its closest relatives, which live on other food sources. Twenty-five years ago at the University of Chicago, biologists Martin Kreitman and John McDonald invented a new statistical method for finding signatures of selection, which remains to this day one of the most widely used methods in molecular evolution. They demonstrated it on the alcohol dehydrogenase (Adh) gene–the gene for the enzyme that breaks down alcohol inside cells–from this group of flies.  Adh had a strong signature of selection, and it was already known that D. melanogaster flies break down alcohol faster than their relatives. So, the idea that the Adh enzyme was the cause of the fruit fly’s adaptation to ethanol became the first accepted case of a specific gene that mediated adaptive evolution of a species.

Siddiq and Thornton realized that this hypothesis could be tested directly using the new technologies.  Siddiq first inferred the sequences of ancient Adh genes from just before and just after D. melanogaster evolved its ethanol tolerance, some two to four million years ago. He synthesized these genes biochemically, expressed them, and used biochemical methods to measure their ability to break down alcohol in a test tube. The results were surprising: the genetic changes that occurred during the evolution of D. melanogaster had no detectable effect on the protein’s function.

Working with collaborators David Loehlin at the University of Wisconsin and Kristi Montooth at the University of Nebraska, Siddiq then created and characterized transgenic flies containing the reconstructed ancestral forms of Adh. They bred thousands of these “ancestralized” flies, tested how quickly they could break down alcohol, and how well the larvae and adult flies survived when raised on food with high alcohol content.  Surprisingly, the transgenic flies carrying the more recent Adh were no better at metabolizing alcohol than flies carrying the more ancient form of Adh.  Even more strikingly, they were no better able to grow or survive on increasing alcohol concentrations. Thus, none of the predictions of the classic version of the story were fulfilled. There is no doubt that D. melanogaster did adapt to high-alcohol food sources during its evolution, but not because of changes in the Adh enzyme.

“The Adh story was accepted because the ecology, physiology, and the statistical signature of selection all pointed in the same direction. But three lines of circumstantial evidence don’t make an airtight case,” Thornton said. “That’s why we wanted to test the hypothesis directly, now that we finally have the means to do so.”

Siddiq and Thornton hope that the strategy of making ancestralized transgenics will become the gold standard in the field to decisively determine the historical changes in genes to their changes on organisms’ biology and fitness.

For his part, Kreitman, who is still a professor of ecology and evolution at UChicago, has been supportive of the new research, helping advise Siddiq on the project and sharing his vast knowledge about molecular evolution and Drosophila genetics.

“From the beginning, Marty was excited about our experiments, and he was just as supportive when our results overturned well-known conclusions based on his past work,” Siddiq said. “I think that’s extremely inspiring.”


The study, “Experimental test and refutation of a classic case of molecular adaptation in Drosophila melanogaster,” was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Life Sciences Research Foundation.

About the University of Chicago Medicine

The University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences is one of the nation’s leading academic medical institutions. It comprises the Pritzker School of Medicine, a top 10 medical school in the nation; the University of Chicago Biomedical Sciences Division; and the University of Chicago Medical Center, which recently opened the Center for Care and Discovery, a $700 million specialty medical facility. Twelve Nobel Prize winners in physiology or medicine have been affiliated with the University of Chicago Medicine.

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