World leaders gather in Jerusalem to mourn Shimon Peres

 

Leaders from all around the world gathered to pay tribute to former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres as he was laid to rest in Jerusalem on Friday. U.S. President Barack Obama eulogized Peres, stating, “His skill secured Israel’s strategic position. His boldness sent Israeli commandos to Entebbe, and rescued Jews from Ethiopia. His statesmanship built an unbreakable bond with the United States of America and so many other countries.” Obama continued, “He championed the promise of science and technology to make the desert bloom, and turned this tiny country into a central hub of the digital age, making life better not just for people here, but for people around the world.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, the first to speak, said of Peres, “Your stubborn faith in mankind and the good of people – in the victory of progress over ignorance, in the victory of hope over fear – was your eternal fountain of youth, thanks to which you were the eternal fountain of youth for all of us.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “He belonged to the generation that emerged from bondage to liberty, that struck roots in our ancient homeland, and wielded the Sword of David in its defense. Shimon made a monumental contribution to guaranteeing our capacity to defend ourselves for generations. And for that he will have the gratitude of generations.” The prime minister said that Peres “lived a life of purpose… he was a great man of Israel, he was a great man of the world.” He concluded his remarks by saying, “I weep for you. I loved you. We all love you.”

Before the ceremony, Netanyahu spoke briefly with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He told Abbas and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat of their attendance, “It’s something that I appreciate very much, on behalf of our people, and on behalf of us.” Netanyahu’s wife Sara told Abbas she was “happy” to see him and continued, “I am looking forward to having you at our house.”

Seventy-five world leaders attended the ceremony, including former President Bill Clinton, former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron, Britain’s Prince Charles, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and former Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

 

44-year-old human rights lawyer and women’s activist Narges Mohammadi has been given a 16-year prison sentence in Iran, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. Ms. Mohammadi built a career for herself defending victims of acid attacks and fighting against the death penalty.

“She has committed no crime and has just been doing her job as a lawyer and citizen,” said Nasrin Sotoudeh, another prominent lawyer and human rights activist whom Iran jailed previously. Amnesty International called her imprisonment “shameful”.

Writing from Evin prison in May, Ms. Mohammadi said the “pain and suffering in Evin prison is beyond tolerance,” and likened long periods of solitary confinement to “psychological torture.” She was cut off from all contact with her children—prompting a hunger strike and social media campaign. Consequently, her restrictions were eased, but she remains behind bars alongside 25 other female political prisoners.

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday that 338 people have been killed in the bombardments of eastern Aleppo carried out by the Syrian regime and Russia this past week, including more than 100 children. The number of wounded was 846, including 261 children. Rick Brennan, the WHO’s director of emergency response, told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, “We are asking for four things: stop the killing, stop attacks on health care, let the sick and wounded out and let the aid in.” Aleppo’s two largest hospitals came under attack this week and are no longer functioning, he added.

Earlier this week, the American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said that what Russia was doing and sponsoring in Aleppo was “barbarism.” Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday, “I think we’re on the verge of suspending the discussion [with Russia over Syria] because it’s irrational in the context of the type of bombing taking place.” The United States and Russia had reached an agreement on September 9 in Geneva to implement a ceasefire and deliver aid to besieged communities in Syria – should the violence be kept down and aid be delivered successfully for seven consecutive days, the U.S. said it would coordinate with Russia in targeting ISIS and Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria. This agreement lies in tatters after the combined Russian-Syrian assault over the past several days. Russia announced on Friday, the one-year anniversary of its intervention in Syria, that it would be sending more warplanes to Syria to intensify its air campaign.

In an attack earlier this month that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called “sickening, savage,” airstrikes (which the U.S. accused Russia of carrying out) destroyed 18 out of 31 trucks that made up a joint UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy that was delivering aid for 78,000 civilians. Twenty civilians were killed in the attack.

During the five year-long civil war that has killed over 400,000 people and displaced millions, the Assad regime has committed war crimes including the indiscriminate murder of civilians through the use of barrel bombsmassacres, intentional starvation, and chemical weapon attacks. The Assad regime and its Russian backers have been denounced for intentionally targeting schools and medical facilities. Assad has been fully backed in his onslaught against Syrian civilians by Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah.

 

Hardware for Apple’s “iPhone 8” is being developed in Israel, according to Business Insider. The phone is expected to be released next year with a “radical redesign” that will be drastically different from the iPhone 6 or iPhone 7.

Apple’s Herzliya R&D center is its second-largest in the world and has over 700 employees. Chief executive officer Tim Cook flew to Israel to inaugurate the new center in 2015, telling Israeli President Reuven Rivlin that he and his staff “have an enormous admiration for Israel, not just as an important ally for the US, but as a place to do business.”

The tech giant has taken special interest in Israeli chip design, and already bought two Israeli microprocessor chip design firms. “Apple’s Israeli acquisitions and its expanding local workforce show that the company is becoming more and more independent on the chip level, where it once had to rely on external suppliers,” Shlomo Gradman, chairman of the Israeli Semiconductor Club, told The Wall Street Journal in 2015. A year later shares in an Israeli microchip company hit a record high after analyses showed that its technology was used in the iPhone 7.

More than 250 other international companies have also established R&D centers in Israel, including Google, Facebook, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard.

Former Israeli Defense Minister Ya’alon: Iran more of a threat to the West than ISIS

 

Iran is more of a threat to the Western world than the Islamic State, wrote former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in the pages of the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. Ya’alon explained that “the threat of a militaristic messianic Iran – 80-million strong – is much more menacing to Western interests than the Sunni thugs and murderers of Raqqah and Mosul.” Iran is the “prime backer of the genocidal Syrian regime” as well as of its terrorist proxy Hezbollah, which Iran uses as “a strategic tool to undermine the legitimate role of the Lebanese government.” In addition, Iran supports the Houthis, who overthrew the internationally-backed government of Yemen, as well as radical Shiite elements in the Arab Gulf states. Iran also supplies the terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad with weapons, financing, and know-how. Ya’alon continued, “Those who believed that the nuclear agreement would lead to a more moderate, open, reformist Iran, at home and abroad, regrettably suffer from wishful thinking.” In fact, Iran has become more aggressive. “So long as the ayatollah’s regime governs Iran,” he wrote, “there is no chance we will see a McDonald’s in Tehran. Instead, we will see more executions, more repression, more tyranny.” Because of Iran’s expansionism and aggression, “Arabs and Israelis are in the same boat, facing Iranian-backed threats all around us.”

 

In a move that underlines the danger indicated by Ya’alon, Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace Division, told reporters on Tuesday that “we do not need missiles with a range of over 2,000 kilometers. The longest range required for [Iran’s] missiles is the [Israeli] occupied lands.” He asserted that “the Zionist regime is our biggest target.” Hajizadeh said that the Zolfaqar ballistic missile would become operational in March of next year. Earlier this month during a military parade, a banner on a truck carrying a Zolfaqar missile read, “If the leaders of the Zionist regime make a mistake then the Islamic Republic will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust.” At a ballistic missile test in March, Iran launched a missile with a range of about 870 miles that had the phrase “Israel must be wiped from the face of the earth” inscribed on it in Hebrew.

 

Israelis and foreign dignitaries from around the world will gather in Jerusalem to mourn the death of Shimon Peres on Friday—a spirit Hamas wants to counter with a “Day of Rage”. The Gaza-based terror group is asking Palestinians to mark the former president’s funeral—and the one-year anniversary of the wave of terror attacks that have included stabbings and car-rammings—with violence and bloodshed.

 

Hamas spokesman Samu Abu Zuhri expressed his contempt for the former president in remarks made to the Associated Press on Wednesday: “The Palestinian people are very happy at the passing of this criminal who caused their blood to shed.” He also commented that Peres’s death closes the door on a generation.

 

Peres commented on generational divides during his own life, attributing many of the problems besieging the Palestinian people to an outdated mindset that working with Israel is taboo. “The present Arab uprising didn’t stem from Israel,” Peres told Bloomberg in 2012. “The old guard is trying to keep down the young chickens. The old guard is better organized. They may win elections, but unless they have a solution to poverty, to corruption, to oppression, they will not last. I am with the young people.”

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to attend Shimon Peres’ funeral in Jerusalem on Friday, Palestinian and Israeli officials stated on Thursday, as other Arab leaders expressed their condolences upon Peres’ passing. Abbas will be joined by a PA delegation. A senior Palestinian official said that, with his attendance, Abbas wants to “send a strong message to Israeli society that the Palestinians are for peace, and appreciate the efforts of peaceful men like Shimon Peres.” Abbas sent a condolence letter to Peres’ family on Wednesday, expressing that “Peres was a partner in making the brave peace with the martyr Yasser Arafat and prime minister (Yitzhak) Rabin.” Peres, Abbas continued, “made unremitting efforts to reach a lasting peace from the Oslo agreement until the final moments of his life.”

 

King Abdullah II of Jordan sent a condolence letter to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday, which read in part, “Mr Peres’s efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and his support for the two-state solution must be upheld and built upon by leaders in Israel and all stakeholders in this conflict.” He continued, “Today, his contributions towards achieving peace and security in the region are more relevant than ever before, as the situation becomes more complex and the security of this entire region comes under threat.” Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Jawad Anani, will attend Peres’ funeral.

 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, paid his respects to Peres on Thursday local time, tweeting, “Rest in Peace President Shimon Peres, a Man of war and a Man of the still elusive Peace in the Middle East.”

 

While Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will not attend the funeral, Egyptian officials confirmed that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will be in attendance.

 

Crop-picking and food donation organization Leket Israel is preparing for Rosh Hashanah by gathering apples, according to an article in the Times of Israel. Leket is the country’s largest food bank and rescue network, and on a typical day, will provide 7,600 volunteer-prepared sandwiches to children in need from 113 schools in 30 cities throughout Israel. But in light of the High Holy Days, Leket is switching its focus from harvesting vegetables to picking apples. Dipping apples in honey is a traditional Jewish custom meant to mark the sweetness of entering into a new year.

 

This September, Leket helped farmers in the Golan Heights region of Israel, picking 300 tons of apples to be provided to 140,000 families in need over the holiday. Other fruits of interest include “starfruits,” pomegranates and carambola, of which they gathered 300 kilograms to be distributed to 150 families.

Shimon Peres, the last of Israel’s founding fathers, dies at 93

 

Former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres, the last of Israel’s founding fathers, died Wednesday morning local time at the age of 93, two weeks after suffering a massive stroke. Peres was one of Israel’s most distinguished and iconic leaders and has generated enormous respect around the world during a career spanning more than six decades. A founding father of the State of Israel, he served as the country’s president, its prime minister on three occasions, and as a member of 12 cabinets. He was known for building Israel’s defense in its early years, ushering in desperately needed economic reforms in the 1980s, pushing for peace through the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, and fighting for Israeli unity as president in the 2000s.

Born in Wiszniew, Poland in 1923 (now Vishnyeva, Belarus), Peres’ family emigrated to British Mandatory Palestine in 1934 and settled in Tel Aviv. In 1947, David Ben-Gurion, the country’s first prime minister, made Peres responsible for arms procurement and recruitment for the Haganah, the pre-state Jewish military. As director general of the Ministry of Defense, at the young age of 29, Peres founded Israel’s military and aviation industries. Through adept diplomacy, he was able to forge a strong relationship between Israel and France, which dramatically improved Israel’s military and strategic capabilities in the 1950s and 1960s. When serving as defense minister, he drew up the plan for the successful raid at Entebbe in 1976, in which 103 of 106 Jewish hostages were rescued from Palestinian terrorists. As prime minister, Peres pushed through economic reforms in 1985 that reined in rampant inflation and revived the Israeli economy.

As foreign minister for Yitzhak Rabin, Peres was the official supervisor of the secret negotiations with the PLO, which culminated in the Oslo Accords in 1993 and a Nobel Peace Prize. Peres assumed the premiership following Rabin’s assassination in November 1995, but was defeated in the polls by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996 after a wave of terrorist attacks. In 2001, Peres became foreign minister as part of a Labor-Likud unity government under Ariel Sharon. He helped Labor support Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan, before leaving the party in 2005 to serve as the deputy leader of Sharon’s new Kadima party.

Peres served as Israel’s president from the age of 83 to 90, strengthening Israel’s image abroad while working on Israeli-Palestinian peace and cooperation initiatives through the government as well as his foundation, the Peres Center for Peace. He received the Presidential Medal of Honor from Barack Obama in 2012 and the French Légion d’honneur in 2008.

 

U.S. leaders from both sides of the aisle mourned the passing of Shimon Peres, remarking upon his status as a world statesman and visionary. “Shimon Peres’ story was the story of modern Israel – a saga of daring, dynamism and wisdom. With all of his heart, this farmer, fighter, author, Nobel peace prize winner, prime minister and president worked to guide his nation into a secure and confident future,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “He was an intellectual resource who personified the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel.” Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan echoed her sentiments: “The world has lost a true legend and statesman. Shimon Peres was a gift to the country he helped establish and lead, and a persistent voice for the cause of peace.”

President Barack Obama “issued an unusually long and personal” statement honoring the former president, as characterized by The New York Times on Wednesday. “A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever,” Obama said. “Shimon Peres was a soldier for Israel, for the Jewish people, for justice, for peace and for the belief that we can be true to our best selves — to the very end of our time on Earth and in the legacy that we leave to others.” President Obama awarded Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Other American leaders to extend their condolences included former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his wife Melania, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, former President George H.W. Bush, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

 

Israeli politicians of every stripe honored the life and legacy of Shimon Peres, the last surviving member of Israel’s founding generation.
Like all the citizens of Israel, the whole Jewish people, and many in the world, I bow my head in memory of our beloved Shimon Peres,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
“Shimon was a teacher, a friend and a remarkable statesman who will be forever remembered as an icon of Israel’s history, and whose legacy will continue to play a profound role in Israel’s future,” opposition leader and head of the Zionist Union party Isaac Herzog wrote on Facebook. Herzog also leads Labor — the largest party that makes up the Zionist Union — which Peres also headed. Peres, said Herzog, “is one of the greats that shaped the face of Israel throughout its existence. He contributed to Israel’s security and deterrence, he fought resolutely against terrorism, and he relentlessly pursued peace. These remarkable contributions, as well as his work towards economic and social empowerment, improving Israel’s international status, and supporting Israel as a nation of innovation and courage, created a lasting impact that no words can do justice.”
Tzipi Livni, a Zionist Union MK and former foreign minister, said that it was “hard to imagine Israel without him; he will be remembered the world over as a statesman and a leader.” Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party praised Peres as “a practical visionary and peace-seeking security figure, a courageous leader.” Numerous members of the Knesset and Israel’s military establishment also extended their condolences, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beitenu), who called Peres’ passing “a sad day for Israel.”

 

Foreign leaders expressed their condolences for the death of Shimon Peres and paid their respects to the late statesman. Pope Francis gave his prayers for Peres’ family and the people of Israel, calling for “the divine blessings of consolation and strength upon the nation.” British Prime Minister Theresa May announced, “He was a visionary and courageous statesman, who worked relentlessly for peace and never lost hope that this would one day be achievable.” Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a statement in which he wrote, “This is a man who was a political giant, a statesman who will rank as one of the foremost of this era or any era, and someone I loved deeply.” French President Francois Hollande called Peres a “faithful friend of France” and said that “[w]ith the death of Shimon Peres, Israel loses one of its most illustrious statesmen, one of the most ardent defenders of peace.”

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, tweeted, “In former President Shimon Peres, we lost a key world leader & a friend of India. Pained by his demise. Our condolences to the people of Israel.” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote, “Australia mourns the passing of Shimon Peres, his passion for the State of Israel as strong as his commitment to peace.” The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said she was “heartbroken” to hear of Peres’ passing and called him a “man of peace [and] immense source of inspiration.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued a statement that “the world has lost a great statesman, Israel one of its founding fathers and Germany a highly treasured friend and partner.” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he “always benefited from his views. Even in the most difficult hours, he remained an optimist about the prospects for reconciliation and peace.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a letter that “Peres was a partner in making the brave peace with the martyr Yasser Arafat and prime minister (Yitzhak) Rabin, and made unremitting efforts to reach a lasting peace from the Oslo agreement until the final moments of his life.” He also tweeted that Peres’ death is “a heavy loss for all humanity and for peace in the region.”

Among the world leaders scheduled to attend Peres’ funeral are U.S. President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry, Britain’s Prince Charles, Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Turnbull, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres “fighting for his life” two weeks after suffering stroke

 

Former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres’ medical condition took a turn for the worse on Tuesday, two weeks after he suffered a stroke. His doctors have said that he is “fighting for his life.” Peres’ family gathered at his bedside to say their farewells to the statesman. The Times of Israel reported that doctors had stopped giving Peres life-saving treatment and sources close to him said “these are the former president’s final hours.” Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri told reporters,“[W]e are all praying. We are all used to seeing an active and intense Shimon…” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who succeeded Peres at that position, said, “I wish to send my prayers to the health of my friend Shimon Peres…My concern right now is with…Peres who is fighting for his life at these very moments.” Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, tweeted, “Keeping Shimon Peres and his family in my thoughts, my prayers and my heart.”

Peres, 93, is one of Israel’s most distinguished and iconic leaders and has generated enormous respect around the world during a career spanning more than six decades. A founding father of the State of Israel, he served as the country’s president, its prime minister on two occasions, and as a member of twelve cabinets. He is renowned for building the country’s military and aviation industries, reforming the economy, pursuing peace, and playing a unifying role as president.

 

Iran’s likely next Supreme Leader, Iran expert Ray Takeyh wrote in The Washington Post on Monday, sat on a commission responsible for the mass murder of thousands of political prisoners in the late 1980s. Ibrahim Raisi, wrote Takeyh, is a “reactionary” Iranian hardliner who “oversaw the massacre of thousands of political prisoners” in the summer of 1988, and, given his appetite for violence, “could be the only person in the Islamic Republic who could cause people to miss [current Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei.”

Raisi is 56 years old and spent his career serving as prosecutor general in the Islamic Republic—“responsible for disciplining mullahs who stray from the official line.” As head of one of Iran’s largest charitable foundations—a position to which he was appointed by Khamenei himself—he oversees an endowment valued at an estimated $15 billion, which has been accused of providing funding to Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Raisi is a favorite of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the organization tasked with defending the revolution at home and exporting it abroad that is notorious for its “mafia” style rule and brutal suppression of the Iranian people.

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should not be dismissive of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to address the Knesset, a Saudi newspaper asserted on Sunday. Netanyahu made the invitation to Abbas in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last Thursday. Netanyahu’s “invitation is reminiscent of the one issued by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to visit Israel – and the rest is history,” the Saudi Gazette editorial read. “Camp David demonstrated that negotiations with Israel were possible and that progress could be made through sustained efforts at communication and cooperation.” The Saudi daily cautioned against Palestinian skepticism: “Palestinians should note that at the time [of the Camp David Accords], Egypt and Israel were mortal enemies, having fought three wars.” It noted that while the “Arab world derided” the Accords’ provision for a five-year interim period of Palestinian autonomy, “in hindsight, if the provisions had been carried out, Israel and the Palestinians might not be in the impasse they are in at present.”

An article in The Jerusalem Post last month highlighted the phenomenon of local and state-run media outlets in Saudi Arabia beginning to shift their long-held position of enmity toward Israel. Recent changes include quoting Israeli officials; asking Saudis to discard their “hatred of Jews”; and calling for direct talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia, free from intermediaries. David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy branded the pivot as “the new normal,” saying that while pragmatic, behind-the-scenes dialogue between Israel and Arab countries is “nothing new,” the presence of two sides in public forums marks an undeniable turning point. “What is noteworthy today is that the issue is being actively and openly debated in major Arab media, with both proponents and opponents each having their say.”

In other signs of this slow but persistent change, Anwar Eshki, a former general who had served in senior positions in the Saudi military and foreign ministry, visited Israel in July as part of a delegation of Saudi academics and businessmen. Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold gave an interview last year with a Saudi website, and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer was likewise recently interviewed by the Saudi media.

 

Israel experienced a population growth rate of almost two percent over the past Jewish year, according to numbers published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday. The growth rate is consistent with previous years. Israel’s population now registers at 8.585 million, an increase of 172,000 from the same time last year. The country’s birthrate is more than four times the death rate: 189,000 babies were born during the past year compared to 46,000 people dying.

Israel’s Arab population grew by 2.2%, a slightly higher growth rate than that of the Jewish population, which experienced a 1.9% increase. Muslims grew by 2.4% and Christians by 1.5%.

Wedding bells rang for 50,797 couples. Among first-time marriages, 44,412 were grooms and 45,547 were brides. The average age of first-time husbands was 27.6 compared to 25 for first-time wives.

Reuters: Israel’s diplomatic ties have never been better

 

Forging new bonds across the region and elsewhere, Israel has never been in a better position diplomatically, Reuters reported on Thursday. Key examples of partnership include warming relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, countries that increasingly share security concerns with Israel. “Egypt even allows Israel to conduct drone strikes against militants on Egyptian territory” in the common battle against the Islamic State and Hamas, and Saudi Arabian leaders have made visits to Israel.

A new alliance has been formed between Israel, Greece and Cyprus; their militaries hold “extensive air and naval exercises together.” Earlier this year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades held a three-way summit that “concluded with the creation of a de-facto geopolitical bloc between the three states.”

In other recent diplomatic developments, Netanyahu convened a summit with at least 15 leaders and representative of African countries last week at the United Nations, where he expressed his desire to share Israeli technology with African nations. The Israeli prime minister visited Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia this summer, the first time in almost 30 years that an Israeli head of state had visited sub-Saharan Africa. Weeks later, the Republic of Guinea, a Muslim-majority African nation, restored diplomatic ties with Israel after a 49-year break. Netanyahu has made it a priority to strengthen Israel’s commercial, diplomatic, and security relations with African countries.

 

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Saturday banning California from contracting companies that discriminate against any federally-recognized nation or peoples, including Israel.

Assembly Bill 2844, which unanimously passed California’s assembly at the end of August, requires that companies seeking to do business with the state verify that they are not violating its civil rights laws while boycotting a foreign country. Israel, which has been singled out by proponents of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, is the only country mentioned by name in the legislation.

“The bill sends the clear and unmistakable message that the state of California wants no part of the goals and tactics of the BDS movement,” Janna Weinstein Smith, the Los Angeles director of the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement praising the signing of the measure.

California is the 12th state to pass a bill against BDS on the grounds of its discriminatory nature, according to a count by Palestine Legal, which works on behalf of pro-Palestinian campaigners. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a number of agreements with Brown while visiting California in 2014, including one to provide the Golden State with training in “water conservation and desalination techniques” developed by Israeli scientists.

 

Iran is obstructing the election of a Lebanese president, a Lebanese member of parliament said on Sunday, highlighting continued Iranian and Hezbollah attempts to dominate Lebanese politics. Jamal al-Farrah, who belongs to the Future Movement party, explained, “[Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri made several initiatives to end the presidential void, including nominating [Suleiman] Franjieh, but there’s a clear Iranian decision to block the election of a president.” Franjieh is one of the top two contenders for the position of president of Lebanon – the other is Michel Aoun, the favorite of Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah, which have together been able to paralyze the Lebanese political system. Franjieh also enjoys support from Iran and the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Lebanon has not had a president since May 2014 and its parliament has failed 44 times to elect one, most recently on September 8. Resigned Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi vowed, “We will not allow what’s happening in Baghdad, Damascus and Sanaa to happen in Beirut and we will be fierce fighters in defending our Arab and Lebanese identity and in preventing the Iranian axis from changing it.”

Ya Libnan reported last week that Naim Qassem, the second-in-command of Hezbollah, had acknowledged that his organization had blocked the appointment of a new Lebanese president.  “The days have proved that there is a specific path for the presidency. Those who want to elect a president have only one route to take and it leads to General Michel Aoun,” Qassem said. “The global and regional powers, the Security Council and the Arab League will not be able to alter this course. They have been trying for two years to no avail.”

Hezbollah’s obstruction of the domestic Lebanese political process comes as the Iranian proxy is preparing for another war with Israel. An Israeli defense official told The New York Times in May 2015 that the buildup of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound” and that their lives were at risk. Geoff Corn, an international military law expert, explained to The Weekly Standard that if Israel were to strike in this instance, “both legally and morally, the cause of these tragic consequences will lie solely at the feet of Hezbollah.” Because of this, Corn said, “Hezbollah should be pressured starting today to avoid locating such vital military assets among civilians.” Hezbollah has gained significant combat experience in Syria while supporting the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, which the terror group will be able to deploy against Israel. Its arsenal of rockets has increased tenfold since 2006 to more than 130,000, more than all non-U.S. NATO countries combined. The group also has hundreds of drones, Yakhont surface-to-sea missiles, anti-tank missiles (including the Russian Kornet), advanced anti-aircraft weaponry, long-range rockets, and M-600 ballistic missiles.

 

Female U.S. veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have the opportunity to travel to Israel in search of healing, NBC News reported Sunday. Heroes to Heroes, a nondenominational New Jersey-based nonprofit, organizes trips to Israel that allow for American veterans to meet with Israelis who also struggle with PTSD in pursuit of emotional and spiritual healing. The American veterans participating in the trip have the opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River or to plant trees to honor those killed in battle.

One participant, Kamilla Miguel, told NBC News about the emotional bond she saw between female veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces: “I wish all of us had that in the States, not just this little group…I mean – all the women in the U.S. should feel how they feel with each other, with this common bond and connection, it’s amazing.”

Heroes to Heroes was established by Judy Schaeffer, who felt she “had to do something to help” after she visited the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She remembered the “spiritual power” she had felt when she traveled to Israel as a teenager and believed that similar trips could provide healing to military veterans.