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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Abbas: Palestinians will resubmit statehood resolution

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians will resubmit a statehood resolution to the United Nations Security Council.

“We will go back to the Security Council until it recognizes our rights,” Abbas said Sunday in Ramallah, in the West Bank, Reuters reported. “We are determined to join international conventions and treaties despite the pressure.

“We didn’t fail, the U.N. Security Council failed us. We’ll go again to the Security Council, why not? Perhaps after a week.”

Jordan, which submitted the resolution that was defeated last week in the Security Council, will remain a member of the council. Several countries seen as more sympathetic to the resolution were rotated on to the body at the beginning of the year.

In the Security Council vote, eight countries backed the resolution, five abstained and two—the United States and Australia—were against. Nine votes were needed for passage.

The United States has said it cannot support the proposal and could use its veto power to quash it.

Abbas signed 20 international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, following the resolution’s defeat.

Israel balks at tax transfer in response to Palestinians’ ICC bid

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel froze some $125 million in Palestinian tax revenue in response to the Palestinian Authority’s request to join the International Criminal Court.

The move over the weekend followed the P.A.’s request on Friday to join the court as well nearly 20 other international treaties and conventions.

The tax money, which is used to pay public sector employees, was to have been transferred to the Palestinian Authority on Friday. Israel has frozen P.A. tax revenues before as a retaliatory measure.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel “will not sit idly by” in the wake of Palestinian efforts to join the ICC.

“The Palestinian Authority has chosen confrontation with Israel,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“We will not allow IDF soldiers and commanders to be hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It is the Palestinian Authority leaders, who have allied with the war criminals of Hamas, who must be called to account.”

The P.A.’s requests were signed by President Mahmoud Abbas earlier in the week after the United Nations Security Council failed to pass a Palestinian statehood proposal.

Israel also is looking to take Abbas and other Palestinian officials to court in the United States and other countries to be tried for war crimes, according to reports citing unnamed Israeli officials.

ISIS-linked terror cell arrested in Hebron

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli security forces arrested three Palestinians belonging to a terror cell linked to the Islamic State in Hebron.

The cell members were arrested in November by the Shin Bet, the security service said in a statement released to the Israeli media for publication on Sunday.

It was the first known Palestinian cell discovered to be linked to the Islamic State, the jihadist group also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The cell planned to kidnap and kill Israeli soldiers and civilians in the West Bank. It failed in an attempt to detonate a bomb against Israeli soldiers.

The arrested men, all in their 20s, admitted to the plots during interrogation.

Jordan suspends talks on $15 billion gas deal with Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Jordan suspended negotiations with Israel on a $15 billion deal to import natural gas.

Jamal Gamouh, the head of the Jordanian House of Representatives Energy Committee, told the Israeli business daily Globes that there can be no deal until it is clear who will own the Leviathan gas field, from where the 45 billion cubic meters of gas will come. The gas from Leviathan, one of Israel’s largest gas reserves, will be sold over 15 years.

A letter of intent on the deal was signed in September.

Last month, Israel’s Anti-Trust Authority recommended the breakup of a consortium of two energy companies developing Israel’s largest gas fields, including Leviathan.

Survey: Arabs and Jews share Israeli pride, shaky faith in gov’t

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Both Jews and Arabs are proud to be Israeli, but neither has great faith in the government, an annual poll showed.

Some 86 percent of Jewish citizens and 65 percent of Arab citizens are “proud” or “quite proud” to be Israelis, according to the survey released Sunday by the Israel Democracy Institute. In 2013, some 40 percent of Arab-Israelis described themselves as “proud to be Israelis.”

But the institute’s Israeli Democracy Index shows just 37 percent of Jewish-Israelis having trust in the government, a drop from 58 percent last year, and 43 percent of Arab-Israelis with that view, a rise of 10 percent over the 2013 poll.

The index focuses on the views of the Israeli public regarding the country’s socioeconomic situation and its effect on Israeli democracy.

The survey of 1,007 adults was conducted by the Dialog Institute in phone interviews between April 28 and May 29, prior to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

Among government institutions, those with the highest trust among Jewish-Israelis are the Israel Defense Forces, at 88 percent; the president of Israel, 71 percent; and the Supreme Court, 62 percent. Along with the government, institutions on the lower end of the trust scale are the Israel Police, 45 percent, and the media, 28 percent.

Among Arab-Israelis, the institutions that fare best include the Supreme Court, 60 percent; the police, 57 percent; the president, 56 percent, and the IDF, 51 percent. On the lower end, along with the government, are the media, 37 percent, and the Knesset, 36 percent.

The poll also found that 75 percent of all Israelis—78 percent of Jews and 59 percent of Arabs—feel a part of the State of Israel and its problems. Some 19 percent of Jewish-Israelis and 38 percent of Arab-Israelis do not feel a part of the state and its problems.

Some 61 percent of Jewish-Israelis believe that crucial decisions regarding governance, economy or society should be made by a Jewish majority, while 35 percent disagree that a Jewish majority should be required.

The survey was presented to President Reuven Rivlin by the institute’s president, Yohanan Plesner, and Tamar Hermann, academic director of its Center for Surveys.

“I was not surprised to see that the Index presents a decrease in the public’s trust in the country’s system of leadership and governance,” Rivlin said. “ I suspect the system has warranted as much. A lack of faith in public services and the system of governance constitutes a potentially fatal blow to democracy.”

A total of 148 respondents were interviewed in Arabic and 59 in Russian, according to the institute. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percent.

U.S. Embassy in Israel issues warning over predicted snowstorm

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv warned Americans in Israel to prepare for snow and stormy conditions.

Along with the snow, rain, heavy winds and freezing temperatures are predicted for throughout Israel this week. As much as a foot of snow is expected in some areas.

“We advise you to monitor the weather conditions, plan ahead, and prepare for any scheduled travel accordingly,” read the message for U.S. citizens emailed Friday. “Similar weather conditions at this same time of year in 2014 resulted in the closure of major roadways, stranded and isolated motorists, and difficult/perilous travel conditions.”

In Jerusalem, the municipality said in a statement that it was readying for the stormy conditions by removing overhanging branches, repairing roads, and preparing tow trucks and snowplows.

Heavy rainfall throughout the country over the weekend caused the Sea of Galilee to rise a centimeter, reaching 212.83 meters below sea level. The freshwater lake is full at about 210 meters below sea level.

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi raises Palestinian flag on Temple Mount

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Ahmed Tibi, an Arab-Israeli Knesset member, raised the Palestinian flag on the Temple Mount.

Tibi on Saturday led a procession of hundreds of eastern Jerusalem Palestinians to the site in honor of the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.

The United Arab List-Taal party lawmaker called for “an end to the occupation” and said that “the procession sends a message of liberty and peace and a desire to shake free the burden of the occupation in order to gain a normal and free life.”

He called the Al-Aksa Mosque, where the procession ended, “the crown jewel of Jerusalem, which will be the capital of Palestine,” Ynet reported.

Marchers chanted Tibi’s name, as well as “Tibi, you are the hero of Palestine” and “You are the strongest man who can protect our rights” in Arabic.

Tibi, a medical doctor, could lead a united Arab party in the upcoming national elections in Israel, according to Ynet.

The Temple Mount is holy to Muslims and Jews.

Members of Congress warn of repercussions for Palestinians’ ICC move

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Republican and Democratic lawmakers said there would be repercussions for the Palestinian Authority in the wake of its bid to join the International Criminal Court.

“Congress must do everything in its power to block funds to the P.A. and to any U.N. entity that recognizes a non-existent State of Palestine to make it clear to Abu Mazen that there will be consequences to his schemes at the United Nations and other international organizations like the International Criminal Court,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee, said in a Dec. 31 statement.

Abu Mazen is the nickname of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who signed the treaty on Dec. 31.

Joining the court is a step toward allowing the investigation of alleged Israeli war crimes.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said the move “deeply frustrated” her.

“This move only sets back the peace process even further,” Gillibrand said in a Dec. 31 statement. “I will work with my colleagues in Congress to make it clear to the Palestinian Authority that they will be held accountable for these kinds of actions.”

The Obama administration has said it was “deeply troubled” by Abbas’ action, calling it counterproductive.

On Jan. 1, Canada called Abbas’ move “dangerous.”

“Such a provocative decision only furthers the divide between Palestinians and Israelis, and will carry unfortunate consequences,” John Baird, the Canadian foreign affairs minister, said in a statement.

U.S. diplomats attacked by stone-throwing Israeli settlers

(JTA)—Jewish settlers stoned the cars of U.S. diplomats investigating vandalism to Palestinian-owned olive groves in the West Bank.

The convoy of U.S. consular officials was attacked last Friday as it approached Adi Ad, an Israeli settlement.

U.S. security guards exited the cars after the rocks were thrown and pointed their guns at the Israeli settlers, according to The Times of Israel. But an Israeli police spokeswoman told Reuters that the U.S. delegation did not draw their weapons, though they also did not coordinate their investigation with local Israeli officials.

The U.S. Embassy declined to comment.

No one was injured in the incident.

U.S. officials reportedly were looking for examples of vandalism after residents of the Palestinian village of Turmus Ayya claimed Israeli settlers had destroyed thousands of olive tree saplings in recent weeks.

According to the United Nations, last year Israeli settlers damaged almost 11,000 olive trees owned by Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israel: ‘Deep disappointment’ in France’s U.N. vote on Palestine

(JTA)—Israel said it was “deeply disappointed” with France’s U.N. Security Council vote for Palestinian statehood.

Aviv Shir-On, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s deputy director for Europe, communicated Israel’s disappointment last Friday in a meeting with Patrick Maisonnave, France’s ambassador to Israel, according to news reports.

A Jordanian bid to pass a resolution on Palestinian statehood failed last week to garner the necessary nine out of 15 votes necessary for adoption. The United States promised it would veto the resolution if it crossed that threshold.

France was among the eight nations voting in favor of the resolution. In the past, European nations abstained from voting for Palestinian statehood.

Haaretz reported said that Maisonnave told Shir-On the French vote was aimed at keeping the Palestinians from joining the International Criminal Court, where they may seek war crimes charges against Israel.

The Palestinians submitted an application to join the court on Wednesday, a day after the failed U.N. vote.

Jerusalem Unity Prize established in memory of kidnapped Israeli teens

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced the creation of a prize in memory of three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinians.

The Jerusalem Unity Prize, which was announced Jan. 1, will honor the spirit of unity that existed across Israel in the days following the kidnapping of Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel in June.

The prize was developed in partnership with the families of the three teens and the Jerusalem-based organization Gesher.

In a video announcing the prize, the teens’ mothers call on Jews “to take a deep breath [and] bridge the gaps that divide us.”

Winners of the award, which carries a $25,000 prize, will be chosen by a committee chaired by Barkat, the parents of the three teens and dignitaries from Israel and the Diaspora, organizers said in a statement.

“While grappling with the unknown question of the fate of their sons, the Yifrah, Shaer and Fraenkel families taught the entire world a remarkable lesson in courage and showed us that unity is a value that enables us to overcome even the greatest challenges,” Barkat said. “The Jerusalem Unity Prize will spread this message from Jerusalem across the world and become the eternal legacy of these three remarkable young men.”

In addition to the prize, a Unity Day is being planned for June 3 in Jerusalem where the awards will be presented alongside programming to promote unity initiatives.  The event is being held on the one-year anniversary of the teens’ deaths.

The prize is funded by Ira and Ingeborg Rennert, Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein, Robert and Amy Book, David and Sarena Koschitzky and UJA-Federation of New York.

1.5 million visitors to Auschwitz museum in ‘14 sets mark

(JTA)—More than 1.5 million people visited the former Auschwitz concentration camp in 2014, setting a record.

It was the highest attendance ever at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial in Poland, according to its museum.

“The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial has become the world’s symbol of the Holocaust and the crimes of World War II,”  said Dr. Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz Memorial. “Without the reference to the history of this place, it would be hard for new generations to understand our reality and challenges of the contemporary world.”

The most visitors came from Poland, with 398,000, followed by Great Britain at 199,000 and the United States at 92,000. Germany and Israel had the fifth and sixth highest totals, 75,000 and 62,000, respectively.

Over 10,000 people from around the world participated in educational projects, seminars, conferences or study visits at Auschwitz in 2014, according to the museum.

Ruth Popkin, former national president of Hadassah and JNF, dies

(JTA)—Ruth Popkin, who served as national president of Hadassah and the Jewish National Fund, has died.

Popkin died Friday at the age of 101.

She served as the 18th national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization, and was later named an honorary vice president of the organization. She also served as the national president of JNF from 1989 until 1993, and was a Century Council member.

Popkin also was a past member of the executive board of AIPAC, the cabinet of the American Zionist Movement, the board of directors of the United Israel Appeal and American Friends of Hebrew University. In 1987 she was the first woman elected as chair of the presidium and president of the World Zionist Congress.

 

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