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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Israel’s Security Cabinet: No negotiations with gov’t that includes Hamas

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Security Cabinet unanimously decided not to negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes the terrorist organization Hamas.

The Security Cabinet met Monday following the swearing-in of the Palestinian unity government.

“Today, Abu Mazen said yes to terrorism and no to peace,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “This is the direct continuation of Abu Mazen’s policy of refusing peace.

“While Israel has carried out courageous and painful steps on behalf of the diplomatic process and continues to be committed to peace, Abu Mazen has refused to extend the negotiations, has rejected the American framework document, continues to incite against Israel, has unilaterally acceded to UN treaties and has now forged a pact with the Hamas terrorist organization.”

The Security Cabinet also authorized Netanyahu to impose additional sanctions on the Palestinian Authority, though it did not publicly disclose what the sanctions might be.

The statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said the Security Cabinet voted “to form a team to consider ways of action given the new reality that has been created and ahead of diplomatic and security situations that will be created in the future” and “to act, including in the international arena, against the participation of terrorist organizations in elections.”

The Security Cabinet said it would “hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for all actions that harm the security of Israel which originate in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.”

Israel formally suspended peace negotiations with the Palestinians shortly after Abbas launched unity talks with Hamas.

Netanyahu rips Palestinian unity government before its swearing-in

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized European acceptance of a Palestinian unity government just hours before its new ministers were sworn in.

“It is surprising for me that European governments, which vehemently condemned the Brussels shooting, talk collegially or even in a friendly tone about the Palestinian unity government with Hamas,” Netanyahu said Monday morning at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “This is a terrorist organization which undertakes criminal attacks and boasts about them.”

The Palestinian unity government was sworn in Monday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority.

The ceremony was almost delayed by last-minute fighting over the configuration of the new Cabinet and a threat of boycott by Hamas.

Israel stopped actively looking for ways to continue American-backed peace talks with the Palestinians after the announcement that Abbas’ Fatah party had agreed to form a unity government with Hamas.

U.S. will work with Fatah-Hamas unity government

(JTA)—The United States plans to work with the new Palestinian unity government and will continue to disburse aid to the Palestinian Authority, the State Department said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that the U.S. “will be watching closely to ensure that [the Hamas-Fatah government] upholds principles that President [Mahmoud] Abbas reiterated today,” according to Haaretz.

The principles include recognizing Israel, rejecting terror and honoring agreements.

The new government was sworn in Monday in Ramallah. Earlier that day, Israel’s Security Cabinet said it will not negotiate with the new government and will oppose Hamas participation in the Palestinian elections if and when they take place. The Security Cabinet also said it will hold the new government responsible for any rockets fired at Israel from Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel would not allow the new unity government to hold any elections in eastern Jerusalem, the Times of Israel reported.

Abbas criticized Israel’s refusal to recognize the new government and said Palestinians would continue efforts to declare statehood, something that was put on hold during peace talks with Israel.

“We won’t stand with our hands folded in the face of punitive measures, and we will use every legal and diplomatic tool at our disposal in the international community,” he said, according to Haaretz.

Israel retaliates for attacks from Gaza, Syria

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s military returned fire on its northern and southern borders in response to attacks from the Gaza Strip and Syria.

Several mortars were fired on Israel from Syria on Monday morning, with one explosive landing near an Israeli army outpost on Mount Hermon. No one was injured in the attack, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The Israeli military responded by firing artillery in the direction of the launching site, the IDF said in a tweet.

“The IDF reserves the right to respond in any way and any time to any and all attacks on Israel to protect Israeli’s residents,” a statement on its website said.

Israel lodged a complaint with the United Nations about the attack.

Several previous incidents of mortars fired from Syria landing in northern Israel were discovered to be unintentional, part of the fallout from Syria’s civil war, but some have been deemed intentional by the IDF.

Also Monday morning, the IDF bombed what it said in a statement were two “terror sites” in central and southern Gaza in retaliation for two rocket attacks from Gaza against southern Israel.

Since January, approximately 150 rockets have been launched from Gaza toward Israel.

Israel Prize-winning actress Hanna Maron dies at 90

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli actress Hanna Maron, who won the Israel Prize for her screen and stage career, has died.

Maron died last Friday in Tel Aviv. She was 90.

The 1973 Israel Prize recipient for theater also was recognized in 2011 by the Guinness World Records as the actress with the longest stage career, 83 years. Maron already had appeared in several German films before immigrating to prestate Palestine with her parents in 1933 at the age of 10.

Some of her most memorable stage performances came in “Pygmalion,” “The Glass Menagerie” and “Hello, Dolly!,” as well as several plays by another Israel Prize winner, Nathan Alterman. Maron also starred in Israel’s first sitcom, “Krovim, Krovim,” from 1983 to 1986.

In 1970, she lost a leg in a terror attack when her El Al flight to London was hijacked to Munich by Palestinians; Maron sustained serious injuries from a grenade explosion. She was flying to England to audition for a part in the production of “Fiddler on the Roof” opposite Chaim Topol.

She was against performing in the West Bank. Maron once told Haaretz, “These are occupied territories, and I am against the occupation.”

600-year-old grand hall excavated under Western Wall

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A grand hall from the early 14th century was fully excavated in the Western Wall tunnels.

Excavated for more than four years under the supervision of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the hall was inaugurated Sunday by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

The hall, located underground adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza—including beneath the homes of Palestinians living east and south of the area—was converted into an educational center.

Gennady Bogolyubov, a London-based philanthropist born in Ukraine, funded the excavations and education center. Bogolyubov has supported a number of major British-Jewish causes, as well as causes in his native Dnepropetrovsk and a number of Israel-based charities.

The walls of the 600-year-old hall are decorated with stone pillars and highly stylized arches, as well as a window to 14th-century aqueducts. On the side of the structure are a staircase from the Herodian period, a section of a Roman road and a bathing house from the Mamluk period, according to the IAA.

Israeli government approves plan to strengthen identity of Diaspora Jews

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s government has approved an initiative to strengthen the connection between Israel and world Jewry, as well as to strengthen the Jewish identity of young Diaspora Jews.

The Government of Israel-World Jewry Joint Initiative was approved by government ministers on Sunday.

The comprehensive, multi-year plan will be based on joint initiatives to be developed by the State of Israel and world Jewry, according to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency for Israel, which will work in partnership with the government in organizing the initiative.

The total budget to implement the initiative of about $168 million will come one-third from the Israeli government and two-thirds from world Jewry. The Israeli government’s contribution is above existing funding for world Jewry programs.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky addressed a government Cabinet meeting on Sunday in support of the plan.

“The State of Israel needs a strong Jewish world and the Jewish world needs a strong Israel. This government decision, which comes during a difficult period of budget cuts, is the strongest expression of the centrality of Jewish identity as the cornerstone of Israel-Diaspora relations,” Sharansky said in a statement following the vote.

The initiative will work under the auspices of the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, headed by Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party.

The initiative comes following a two-year planning process that involved thousands of Jewish leaders from Israel and around the world.

Rolling Stones’ Israel concert time changed for religious attendees

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Rolling Stones have pushed back the start time of their Tel Aviv show to enable religiously observant concert goers to attend.

The Stones are scheduled to perform at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, which is the holiday of Shavuot. The concert originally was scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m., minutes after the end of the holiday.

The band announced over the weekend that it would push the beginning of its concert to 9:15 after the Tel Aviv Municipality agreed to extend the 11 p.m. curfew on public performances.

“Following many requests from the public, particularly the observant public, to delay the starting hour for the performance, the City of Tel Aviv, together with the production team, decided to change the starting time,” event promoter Shuki Weiss Promotion and Production said in a news release.

Some fans from outside of Jerusalem reportedly have rented apartments in Tel Aviv for Shavuot in order to make it to the concert on time,

Ticket sales for the concert reportedly have been sluggish; it is the Rolling Stones’ first concert in Israel.

Shin Bet: Hamas senior official admits funding Temple Mount riots

(JTA)—A senior Hamas operative said that the group is paying young Arabs to harass Jews at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel’s domestic security service announced.

Hamas operative Mahmoud Toameh, 63, made the claim in interrogations by the Shin Bet security services after his arrest on May 14, Shin Bet wrote in a statement posted May 29 on its website.

Shin Bet’s account of Toameh’s interrogations quotes him as saying that Hamas cooperates with Israel’s Islamic Movement to prevent Jews from entering the Temple Mount compound. Hamas pays a group of young men a monthly salary of $1,150 to $1,440 to harass and throw stones at Jewish visitors.

Toameh, who was born in the West Bank city of Tulkarem but now lives in Saudi Arabia, was arrested at the Allenby Crossing between Israel and Jordan and was indicted on Thursday at a military court, Shin Bet wrote. The Shin Bet announcement did not specify the counts with which Toameh was charged.

He said Hamas had recently seen a decrease in the level of funding offered to the group by Iran and has come to rely more heavily on funding from donors in the Persian Gulf.

According to Toameh, the “Palestinian Business Forum” is a Hamas front.

Shin Bet said Toameh, who has eight children, has presided since 2008 on Hamas’ Shura Council, which is headed by Khaled Mashaal. He also sits on Hamas’ main economic council.

Kerry: Israel’s reaction to Fatah-Hamas talks ‘appropriate’

WASHINGTON (JTA)—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Israel’s wait-and-see approach to Fatah-Hamas unity talks was “appropriate.”

He made the remarks in an interview May 29 on PBS, adding that he was “disappointed that the [peace] process, what is in place, that that didn’t produce the next step.”

Asked about the negotiations on unity between Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, Kerry said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “and Israel are waiting to see what happens with the Hamas reconciliation, with the announcement of a new government, with the question of what that new government may or may not choose to do. That’s an appropriate thing to be doing. We’re all waiting to see what happens.”

Both Israel and the United States regard Hamas as a terror group and have said the inclusion of Hamas in the government would present problems in cooperating with the Palestinian Authority.

An interim unity Palestinian government is expected to be announced in the coming days, paving the way for new elections.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians, renewed last July at Kerry’s behest, collapsed in April over the Hamas-Fatah unity talks, as well as differences on settlement expansion, prisoner release and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

President Obama, in an NPR interview after he delivered a major foreign policy speech on May 28, said he still held out hopes of resuming peace talks.

“I have not yet given up on the possibility that both Israelis and Palestinians can see their self-interest in a peace deal that would provide Israel security that’s recognized by its neighbors and make sure that Palestinians have a state of their own,” Obama said.

On May 29, U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said that the Obama administration “will not make decisions until we see the final formation of the interim government and have the opportunity to assess and make a determination about whether this is a government we can work with.”

In the PBS interview, Kerry repeated warnings he has made in recent months that neither party to the talks “can afford to simply maintain the status quo and believe that there’s a road to greater stability and to peace without re-engaging and without coming back at some point in time to the negotiating process.”


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