Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA
Report: Dayan asked Golda Meir to prepare nuclear option in ’73
(JTA)—Moshe Dayan urged Golda Meir to prepare to launch a nuclear strike during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, according to a former Israeli official’s longtime aide and confidant.
Arnon Azaryahu, who was an aide to Israel Galili, a Cabinet minister during the war, said in an interview that Dayan, the defense minister at the time, suggested that Meir, then the prime minister, order to begin preparations to enable a nuclear option on Oct. 8, 1973—the second day of the war.
The Yom Kippur War broke out when Syria and Egypt simultaneously mounted a surprise attack against Israel.
Dayan, Azaryahu said, told Meir that “since the situation is very bad, it would be worthwhile, since we don’t have a lot of time and a lot of options, that we prepare to show the nuclear option.” Meir declined, Azaryahu said.
Azaryahu recounted the incident during a filmed interview published Thursday for the first time on the website of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Wilson center called Azaryahu a “long-term Israeli government insider.”
Egyptian and Syrian forces made initial territorial gains in the early stages of the war of three weeks, but the Israeli army repelled the advancing Arab troops and penetrated deep into Syrian and Egyptian territory before an armistice was brokered later in the month. Some 2,000 Israeli troops died in the war.
The interview with Azaryahu was conducted several years ago by Avner Cohen, a historian who specializes in Israel’s presumed nuclear arms program—a capability that Israel has neither confirmed nor denied.
Azaryahu said he was not in the room when the Dayan-Meir exchange reportedly took place, but learned about it later that day from Galili, who was present.
Dayan had invited Shalhevet Freir, the director general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, to Meir’s chambers to begin preparations in case she allowed the request, Azaryahu said. But Meir “told Dayan to forget it,” Azaryahu said.
Freir did not meet Meir but waited outside with Azaryahu, according to the account.
Netanyahu: Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel is major roadblock
TEL AVIV (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a major address asserted that the primary obstacle to Middle East peace is the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu made his remarks Sunday at Bar-Ilan University—his first address there since a 2009 speech in which he famously declared his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Now, as Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have resumed for the first time in three years, Netanyahu declared that Palestinian leadership, not Israel, deserved primary blame for the conflict.
He began his speech discussing nearly 4,000 years of Jewish history in the land of Israel and later said that Palestinian refugees should not be allowed a right of return to Israel.
“The basis of the conflict has been the same for 90 years—refusal to recognize the right of the Jews to a state in Israel,” Netanyahu said. “For the process we’re in to have a real chance of success, we need to hear finally from the leadership of the Palestinians that they recognize the Jewish state, which is Israel.”
Netanyahu did not elaborate on a future Palestinian-Israeli border or the future status of Jerusalem, instead focusing on a retelling of the conflict’s history. He listed a string of Palestinian attacks on Jews that occurred before Israel’s occupation of the West Bank began in 1967. The prime minister also spoke at length about former Palestinian mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini’s ties to Adolf Hitler.
“The Zionists didn’t use the Holocaust to destroy the national aspirations of the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said. “The Palestinian leadership used the Holocaust to destroy the Zionist movement, and almost succeeded.”
The speech came five days after Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly, a speech in which he spent most of his time emphasizing the dangers of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
Netanyahu struck a similar chord in Sunday’s speech, saying that sanctions on Iran should be lifted only if Iran ceases enriching uranium and plutonium, and stops its centrifuges.
He also said the United States and Israel see “eye to eye” on the need to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
“Ask a simple question to Iran’s rulers,” Netanyahu said. “If you only want nuclear power for peaceful purposes, why are you enriching uranium and plutonium? You don’t need these at all for peaceful nuclear energy, but these are the essential ingredients for nuclear weapons.
“The international community’s position needs to be that we are ready to come to a diplomatic solution, but only one that gets rid of Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.”
Alleged spy for Iran indicted in Israel
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Ali Mansouri, an alleged Iranian spy, was indicted in an Israeli court.
Mansouri, who has Belgian citizenship, was indicted Sunday in Lod District on charges of espionage and aiding an enemy in wartime.
The indictment came a week after a gag order was lifted on his Sept. 11 arrest at Ben Gurion Airport. He was carrying photographs of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv at the time.
Traveling in Israel as Belgian businessman Alex Mans, Mansouri is believed to have been spying on Israel for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. He reportedly told Israeli investigators that he was promised about $1 million for his services.
Mansouri’s brother, Mansour, also worked for Iranian intelligence, according to the indictment, and was present at meetings between Ali Mansouri and senior Iranian intelligence officials, the Times of Israel reported.
UNESCO passes six resolutions against Israel
JERUSALEM (JTA)—UNESCO passed six anti-Israel resolutions with support from France.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization passed the resolutions Friday at a meeting in Paris of its executive committee.
France backed all the resolutions, as did Russia; the United States opposed all of them. Britain and Italy abstained in the votes.
Among the resolutions was one condemning Israel for canceling at the last minute a visit of UNESCO inspectors to look at preservation work at 18 sites in the old city of Jerusalem. The visit was canceled after Palestinian Authority officials said they would take the delegation to visit the Temple Mount and to meet with politicians, effectively politicizing the visit, according to Israel.
Other resolutions condemned Israel’s work at the Mugrabi Bridge at the Temple Mount Plaza, and naming Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs as Israeli national heritage sites.
UNESCO was the first U.N. body to accept “Palestine” as a member.
Israeli girl, 9, stabbed in apparent West Bank terror attack
JERUSALEM (JTA)—A 9-year-old girl was injured in an apparent terrorist attack in a West Bank settlement.
Noam Glick was injured Saturday night on the porch outside her home in Psagot, located north of Jerusalem and adjacent to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority.
Although shots were fired, it is believed Noam was stabbed, according to reports. She was treated in Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem and, following surgery, her condition was upgraded. She has wounds at the base of her neck, across her chest and on her ear.
According to Noam’s father, a scream brought him out to the porch, where Noam told him there was an Arab trying to enter the house.
The attacker has not been captured. Israeli soldiers found a breach in the settlement’s fence and what the Israeli military is calling an “improvised weapon.”
The family home is located at the edge of Psagot, several hundred yards from the Palestinian village of El Bireh. Psagot remained under lockdown until early Sunday morning, when it was determined that the attacker was no longer in the community.
Egyptian troops, protesters clash on Yom Kippur War anniversary
(JTA)—Egyptian troops clashed with anti-military protesters as Egypt marked the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.
A protester from the Muslim Brotherhood was killed and two others were wounded during the clashes on Sunday south of Cairo.
Muslim Brotherhood members were protesting the military coup that deposed former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.
Prior to the anniversary of the start of the war on Oct. 6, 1973, Egyptian authorities had warned against anti-army protests.
Meanwhile, military planes participated in flyovers over Cairo on Sunday to celebrate the launching of attacks on Israel in 1973. Several years after the war, Egypt regained the Sinai Peninsula as part of a peace treaty.
Israel to seek U.N. Security Council seat, ambassador says
(JTA)—Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, said Israel will seek a seat on the Security Council for the first time.
Prosor told Reuters on Oct. 3 that Israel would vie for a seat on the 15-member panel, the U.N.’s most powerful body, for 2019-20.
“We’re going all out to win,” Prosor told Reuters. “It’s about time.”
To win one of the 10 two-year rotations on the Security Council, which also has five permanent members with veto power, Israel would need to secure two-thirds of the votes in the General Assembly, made up of 193 member states.
The Security Council has the power to pass binding resolutions backed by force.
Prosor said Israel would compete against Germany and Belgium for two seats allocated to the Western European and Others group, to which Israel belongs.
European anti-circumcision motion ‘fosters hate,’ Israel says
(JTA)—Israel called on the Council of Europe to rescind a resolution that was “fostering hate” by equating non-medical circumcision of boys with female genital mutilation.
“This resolution casts a moral stain on the Council of Europe, and fosters hate and racist trends in Europe,” Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a statement last Friday. “We call on the Council of Europe to act without delay in order to annul it.”
The resolution in question was part of a report which the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe passed on Oct. 2. The Council of Europe is the continent’s main human rights body. Its resolutions are non-binding.
Titled “Children’s Right to Physical Integrity,” the report called non-medical circumcision of boys a “violation of the physical integrity of children” and mentioned it along with female genital mutilation.
“Any comparison of this tradition to the reprehensible and barbaric practice of female genital mutilation is either appalling ignorance, at best, or defamation and anti- religious hatred, at worst,” the ministry said.
Israel rarely condemns motions by the Council of Europe or other institutions that do not concern it directly.
“Claims that circumcision harms young boys’ health and body are false, and do not rest on any scientific evidence,” the statement said.
Several European Jewish groups have condemned the resolution, including Milah UK and the European Jewish Congress.
Women of the Wall hold calmest service in months with little police protection
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Scores of women gathered for a Women of the Wall service at the Western Wall with little police protection and minimal disruption from protesters.
Friday’s service, which drew 100 to 200 women, was the group’s calmest in at least six months. Women of the Wall, which gathers at Judaism’s holiest site for a women’s service at the beginning of each Jewish month, prayed in the women’s section with no physical barriers enclosing them.
The group scored a legal victory in court this year that allowed its members to pray without fear of arrest. In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has convened a committee to forge a compromise between Women of the Wall and the haredi Orthodox leaders who want to retain exclusive control of the holy site.
These changes in the status quo sparked a backlash from Israel’s haredi Orthodox community, which turned out protesters en masse for several services in a row.
During those services, from May through August, Women of the Wall participants were barricaded behind a tight police cordon in various parts of the Western Wall plaza. Groups of haredi men yelled epithets and threw eggs, coffee and water at the women, while thousands of Orthodox girls, spurred by rabbis and activists, packed the women’s section of the plaza and prayed silently.
Leading up to Friday’s service, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz asked that the Orthodox girls not come to pray—a request that went unheeded. Thousands packed the plaza to participate in a joint service with a group in the men’s section, praying for the health of Sephardi sage Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who has been hospitalized.
But in contrast to recent months, Women of the Wall prayed in the plaza with nothing separating the group from the Orthodox girls. A few police officers stood in the crowd but had no unrest to quell.
The only protests facing the Women of the Wall were intermittent screams from some girls. A few girls tried to shush Women of the Wall, to little avail.
Hobby Lobby president says chain will carry Hanukkah items
(JTA)—The president of Hobby Lobby said the Oklahoma-based chain will carry Hanukkah items in its stores near areas with large Jewish populations.
Steve Green in an interview with The Associated Press published Saturday said the items will be in his crafts stores in New York and New Jersey by November.
Last Friday, Green called blogger Ken Berwitz, who started the anti-Hobby Lobby backlash with a post last week. The two spoke for about 15 minutes, according to the AP, and Berwitz said the conversation was “pleasant” and the situation should be “diffused.”
Berwitz said in the post that he would never visit the retailer again after being told “We don’t cater to you people here” during a call to a New Jersey Hobby Lobby store in which he inquired whether it would be carrying Hanukkah items.
In a statement published Oct. 3 on the ADL’s website, Green apologized for the alleged remark and indicated that his company has “deep respect for the Jewish faith.” The statement made clear that the owners “do not tolerate discrimination at the company or our stores.”
The ADL also issued a statement saying that the organization “has no reason to believe that Hobby Lobby has refused to stock Hanukkah items because of hostility to Jews or anti-Semitism.”
“A store choosing not to carry Hanukkah items does not violate anyone’s rights,” the organization added.
Iran a year away from nukes, Obama says
(JTA)—U.S. estimates show that Iran is a year or more away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon, President Obama said, contradicting shorter Israeli estimates.
In an interview with The Associated Press released Saturday, Obama called the U.S. estimate “probably more conservative” than that of Israeli intelligence.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly last week that Iran is just months away from nuclear weapons capability and called for a tightening of sanctions despite the Western world’s softening attitude toward the Islamic Republic.
Obama told AP that the U.S. shares “a lot of intelligence” with Israel.
“I think Prime Minister Netanyahu understandably is very skeptical about Iran, given the threats that they’ve made repeatedly against Israel, given the aid that they’ve given to organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas that have fired rockets into Israel,” Obama said. “If I were the prime minister of Israel, I would be very wary as well of any kind of talk from the Iranians.”
Obama said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been “saying a lot of the right things” in his stated attempt to improve relations with the rest of the world.
“The question now is, can he follow through? The way the Iranian system works, he’s not the only decision maker—he’s not even the ultimate decision maker,” Obama pointed out.
“But if in fact he is able to present a credible plan that says Iran is pursuing peaceful nuclear energy but we’re not pursuing nuclear weapons, and we are willing to be part of an internationally verified structure so that all other countries in the world know they are not pursuing nuclear weapons, then, in fact, they can improve relations, improve their economy. And we should test that.”
Obama said the United States is “not going to take a bad deal” and will verify any agreement.
“It is very much in not only the United States’ interest but also Israel’s interest to see if we can resolve this without some sort of military conflict,” he added.