Israel, Palestinian Authority sign water cooperation agreement

 

Water, water everywhere. Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed a water cooperation agreement on Sunday, the fourth major infrastructure deal agreed to in the past year and a half.

The agreement, which will restart the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee, was signed by Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) office, and Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister.

The committee is charged with modernizing the water infrastructure in the West Bank, giving Palestinian villages and towns better access to water.

The committee originally had been created as a temporary measure by the Oslo II interim agreement in 1995, and was supposed to be operate for five years. It last met six years ago. The agreement was signed in the winter so that the committee can be fully operational by summer, the dry season. The two sides have also agreed on a joint strategic planning mechanism that will govern water resources until 2040 and meet the needs of the growing population.

The water agreement showed that it is possible to arrive at “understandings and agreements when dealing with practical, bilateral issues, free of external influences, dealing with natural resources and other infrastructure issues that affect the entire population,” Mordechai said.

The other infrastructure agreements signed by Israel and the PA in the past year and a half govern electricity, mail, and 3G phone service.

 

Goodbye Ebola. On a state visit to Israel last week for the first time in his nation’s history, the president of the Muslim-majority West African nation of Sierra Leone expressed his gratitude to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin for the Jewish state’s assistance in fighting the Ebola virus.

“I must use this opportunity to thank you, the Government and the people of Israel, for the support that was provided to us during one of the most difficult moments in our history – the fight against Ebola,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said last Thursday at a joint appearance with Rivlin. “It was a moment others chose to turn their backs and isolate us, but Israel provided us with support, with financial, technical support, and we had people that volunteered to go out and assist us….That we have put the Ebola behind us is because of the support of this nation. Support that will always be remembered by Sierra Leoneans.”

“It is only a friend will support a friend that is in need,” Koroma added during his public meeting with Netanyahu. “And the Sierra Leonean people are most grateful for that.”

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Israel sent doctors and a field hospital to Sierra Leone to help the African nation fight the deadly disease and contributed $10 million to an aid fund—the sixth-largest contribution in the world.

 

Israeli security forces arrested 17 Palestinians, including 13 suspected Hamas operatives suspected of laying the ground for a terrorist infrastructure, in overnight raids in the West Bank Sunday. The Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet discovered and confiscated thousands of shekels meant to be delivered into the hands of terrorist groups. The security forces also found a gun workshop north of Hebron; more than 40 such workshops have been discovered in recent months, and more than 420 weapons confiscated. These workshops, The Times of Israel noted, “manufactured guns such as those used in the Sarona Market shooting attack in Tel Aviv” last June, which killed four people and wounded several others.

The Jerusalem Post reported that “an extensive Hamas infrastructure operating in the Ramallah sector and the West Bank’s Binyamin region was discovered, including the headquarters of the terrorist group in the region.” The Shin Bet announced, “The uncovering of the infrastructure indicates the continued strategic intentions of Hamas to operate and establish its presence on the ground [in the West Bank], in an attempt to topple the Palestinian Authority.”

Within the past few months, the Shin Bet busted a Hamas cell, consisting of more than 20 members, that was planning to carry out suicide bombings and shooting attacks in Jerusalem, Haifa, and elsewhere in Israel. In December, the Shin Bet announced the arrest of a seven-man Hamas cell in the West Bank, which was planning to kidnap an Israeli soldier in order to negotiate the release of a convicted terrorist. The terrorist in question, Ibrahim Abdallah Ranimat, 58, orchestrated the kidnapping and murder of IDF soldier Sharon Edri in 1996, as well as a suicide bombing attack on a Tel Aviv cafe in 1997, which claimed the lives of three women and wounded 48 others.

 

Israeli zookeepers at the Zoological Center Tel Aviv – Ramat Gan Safari nursed a baby mandrill back to life and his mother was only too pleased to snuggle him in her arms. The latest member of the mandrill group at the Israeli zoo was born on January 9 and found by zookeepers in an overnight enclosure that Tinkerbell, the mother, shared with her other son, Tuvia. The small, weak newborn was trying to cling to his 13-year-old mother’s belly but was instead being dragged behind. The zookeepers say they watched the mandrill and Tinkerbell attempt numerous times to connect without success. Mandrill babies must cling to the hair of the mother’s chest and be supported by her hand for the first two to three weeks of their lives, reports the Safari. The species is considered vulnerable in the wild. (via Israel21c)

Jews blamed for Kim Kardashian jewel heist

 

After news broke that two of 17 suspects detained in the armed jewelry heist of celebrity Kim Kardashian West were Jewish, one Palestinian Authority television commentator blamed the entire fiasco on “the Jews.”

“Jews who robbed singer (sic.) Kim Kardashian have been arrested. It turns out that they are Jews,” Fayez Abbas told audiences on the show “Palestine This Morning” Wednesday. He neglected to mention the other 15 non-Jewish suspects in the case.

“They are thieves. In other words, they steal lands here too, no? But the engagement ring worth $5 million could not be found. They did not find it. The Jews hid it and turned it into something else,” Abbas insinuated.

Palestinian Authority television is notorious for disseminating anti-Semitic attacks on Jews, which are regularly documented.

 

An estimated 10,000 Gazans took to the streets on Thursday in a rare demonstration against Hamas, the authoritarian terrorist organization in charge of the Gaza Strip. Residents of Gaza have been receiving only three to four hours of electricity a day, which is down from the usual eight-hour cycle.The day before, Hamas arrested a comedian and musician, Adel Al-Mashoukhi, for making a one-minute video criticizing the power outages. “There is no work, no crossings, no food, no water to drink and also there is no electricity,” said Mashoukhi. “Enough Hamas. Enough, enough, enough. We want electricity, we want electricity, we want electricity.” Mashoukhi’s close friend said that the comedian “loves art and songs more than Hamas and its military” and is “fed up being without electricity and being treated like a sheep.”

Hamas blocked journalists from filming the protest, detaining an Associated Press journalist at gunpoint and badly beating an Agence France-Presse photographer who refused to relinquish his camera.

In August, the nonprofit organization Human Rights Watch condemned the treatment of journalists by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, stating that their tactics led to a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression in the Palestinian territories. “Both Palestinian governments, operating independently, have apparently arrived at similar methods of harassment, intimidation and physical abuse of anyone who dares criticize them,” said Sari Bashi, HRW’s Israel/Palestine director.

In 2015, the Palestinian territories received an unfavorable press freedom score of 84 (with 100 being the worst) from Freedom House. A survey released by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms in 2014 found that “80% of Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and Gaza practice self-censorship of their writing.” A poll published that same year by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 70 percent of Palestinians did not feel that they could criticize the PA.

 

Jerusalem street signs often include a short description of who they are named after, but only if the reference is to a man—until now. Signs with female namesakes are being updated to include bios of their inspirational heroines. “Wife to” so-and-so will no longer suffice, as was the case with Beruriyah Street, named for a female Talmudic sage, whose accomplishments were previously masked by her spouse, another venerated sage. Her intellectual accomplishments were omitted.

The change comes after over a year and a half of complaints. An estimated only 7 percent of streets in Jerusalem are named for women—a number that is expected to change in the future.

 

BrighTap, an Israeli-made smart water meter sensor that monitors water quality and consumption, recently took first place in the 2016 Startup Open competition, run by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN). BrighTap, a product made by BwareIT, is an Internet-of-things (IOT) meter that can be attached to any standard water tap, pipe or hose and helps users enjoy cleaner water while reducing their water bills. The tap meter provides water quality information, and tells the user how much water is consumed – powering itself by the water that runs through it. The product’s display shows real-time data and also stores it for tracking through a monitoring system. The company topped more than 1,000 startups from 101 countries. Through the Startup Open competition, the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) recognizes the top promising young firms that have yet to raise any outside capital from angel investors, venture capital firms or other formal sources of seed funding. (via Israel21c)

PA set to pay $760 monthly stipend to wife of ‘martyr’ who killed 4 Israelis last week

 

The Palestinian Authority has hailed a terrorist who killed four Israeli soldiers on Sunday as a “martyr,” signalling not only its approval of the fatal attack but that his widow will be eligible to receive a monthly stipend, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported on Tuesday.

The official PA daily reported that the attack was “a car ramming operation” and that the killer, Fadi al-Qunbar from eastern Jerusalem, “died as a Shahid,” which PMW explained is used to describe “a Martyr who died for Allah.” By referring to al-Qunbar as a martyr, “the PA is telling its people that murdering the Israeli youths was sanctioned by Islam and seen as positive Islamic behavior.” Official PA television also called al-Qunbar, who Israeli officials believe may have been a supporter of the Islamic State, a “Shahid” seven times.

Under Palestinian Authority law, the widows of “Shahids” are entitled to receive monthly stipends for the rest of their lives. The family of a martyr is eligible to receive a minimum of 1,400 shekels each month, while the wife receives an additional 400 shekels. She also receives 200 shekels monthly per child, as well as an additional 300 shekels if she is a resident of Jerusalem. In total, al-Qunbar’s wife is set to receive 2,900 shekels ($760) per month for the rest of her life from the attack. Within the next several months, she will also receive a one-time payment of 6,000 shekels ($1,580).

PMW also observed that PA President Mahmoud Abbas failed to condemn Sunday’s attack, in contrast to his response to car-ramming attacks in France and Germany. Following last summer’s truck ramming attack in Nice, which killed 84 people, Abbas told French President Francois Hollande that he “condemned this cowardly act in the strongest terms.” Similarly, following the attack at a Berlin Christmas market last month, which left 12 people dead, Abbas again said that he “condemned this cowardly act in the strongest terms.” Meanwhile, Palestinian factions including Fatah, the political party headed by Abbas, and Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, praised Sunday’s attack — a response that stood in marked contrast to much of the rest of the world.

 

Hamas can’t take a joke. The terrorist organization arrested a comedian Wednesday for making a one-minute video about power outages in Gaza; the clip has thus far garnered more than a quarter million views.

“(Take) everything, but electricity, Hamas,” entertainer Adel al-Mashwakhi said in the video, which highlighted ongoing outages that have severely affected the amount of power afforded to Gazan homes.

Gaza residents have taken to the streets to protest the power cuts, leading to a number of arrests, according to the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network. Al-Mashwakhi was arrested just hours after his video went live.

In August, Hamas announced that one of its operatives was electrocuted to death while working on a tunnel in Gaza, indicating that the Islamist group was diverting power meant for civilian use to bolster its terror infrastructure.

Israel was forced to increase the amount of electricity it sends to Gaza in June after repeated shutdowns at Gaza’s only power plant due to a payment dispute between Hamas and Fatah.

 

The United States blacklisted 18 senior Syrian officials on Thursday after determining that the Bashar al-Assad regime was responsible for carrying out gas attacks on civilians by weaponizing chlorine. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons,” said Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council. “The Assad regime’s barbaric continued attacks demonstrate its willingness to defy basic standard of human decency, its international obligations, and longstanding global norms.”

Also Thursday, Syrian human rights activists urged the United Nations to bring Iranian-backed militias and Russia to justice for war crimes committed in their country, Reuters reported. The Syrian Network for Human Rights and the Violations Documentation Center cited specific incidents of Russian criminality and also said, “We…urge the Commission to explore fully all credible accounts of Iran’s complicity in war crimes in Aleppo” due to the “central role” of Iranian-backed militias in besieging Aleppo before that city’s fall. 

 

Elli is the Norse goddess of old age. Elli•Q, named in her honor but with an original twist, is a robotic companion who emerged from stealth mode today on a quest to alleviate loneliness and social isolation for older adults living alone. Elli•Q is the brainchild of Intuition Robotics,  a Ramat Gan startup pioneering social companion technologies. The robot’s mission is to be an “active aging companion,” keeping older adults engaged by helping them access and connect to today’s technologies, including video chats, online games, social media and other ways to stay in touch. “We set out to create this company to have a positive social impact,” Dor Skuler, CEO and founder of Intuition Robotics, says. “While we don’t expect a robot or technology to be people’s friends or solve the problem of loneliness, we do think that technology can overcome barriers and bring people together in a way that’s not happening today.” (via Israel21c)

 

UN Rep at TIP event in Jerusalem: “There are no excuses” for terror attacks

 

Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, laid flowers at the site of Sunday’s truck-ramming terror attack at the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem Wednesday. Speaking at a memorial event hosted by The Israel Project, Mladenov drew a link between terror against Israelis and similar violence taking place around the world. “We need to stand united against this rise of violent extremism,” he said. “Terrorism will never be tolerated. There are no excuses.”

In the attack, a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem slammed a truck into a group of IDF cadets who had just gotten off a bus during a field trip. Four were murdered and 17 others injured.

The memorial event also featured representatives of Israel’s Jewish and Christian clergy, who called for an end to terror and peace among faiths.

Mladenov added his voice to a rising tide of worldwide condemnations of the attack, which comes in the wake of Palestinian calls for increased violence following last month’s UN Security Council resolution which described Israel’s presence in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank as illegal. Israeli authorities have recorded an increase of violent attacks since the passage of the resolution.

Also at the ceremony, European Union Ambassador to Israel Lars Faarborg Andersen said, “We are here in solidarity with the victims and families of this terrible terror incident that took place a couple days ago in Jerusalem and took the lives of four young people in a totally meaningless way…We collectively must do all we can to fight this scourge and end this meaningless and tragic death.”

Senior diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Italy, India, Belgium, Spain, Austria, and Lithuania also paid their respects to the victims of terror from their own countries and from Israel.

 

In a rare public demonstration since the 2009 unrest that rocked the country, protestors in Iran demonstrated against one of the founding fathers of Iran’s oppressive regime at his funeral Tuesday. The event provided a rare opportunity for the country’s “long-silenced opposition,” as characterized by the Wall Street Journal.“

The crowd was estimated by Tehran’s governor at up to 2.5 million people and became, in effect, parallel funerals,” reported The Journal. “One featured Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior officials honoring [the late President Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani. The other included protests in support of Green Movement opposition leaders.” Pro-democracy “Green Revolution” protests swept Iran after its disputed 2009 presidential election.

“People’s slogans today at Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s funeral shows that regime officials have to resolve the issue of house arrest of leaders of the 2009 dissidents,” Deputy Parliament Speaker Ali Mottahari said via Twitter. One of the slogans chanted by the crowd was “Free Political Prisoners.”

Mr. Rafansajani’s own daughter, Faezeh, is an opposition supporter who has served jail time for her activism. At one point during the procession, she spoke to the crowd and flashed the victory sign.

“The desire to change and reform has not died and whenever there is an opportunity it will resurface and we will raise our voice,” said one woman, who did not want her name to be published.

 

A Syrian man recovering in an Israeli hospital said that while the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is his enemy, the Syrian people “want peace with Israel,” The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.

Fadi, his wife, and their four children were forced to leave their home village after it was devastated during the Syrian conflict, which has claimed more than 450,000 lives since 2011. “There has been complete destruction caused by the regime through artillery, planes, barrel bombs from helicopters and tanks,” he said. He argued that Assad must be removed from power so that Syrians can have peace and “live in coexistence as one people without wars and to create a popular basis of friendship and brotherliness and to renounce violence.”

“This regime is the enemy of the world. It kills big and small. It doesn’t leave anything. Even animals it kills,” he added.

Regarding coexistence, he said that the Assad regime indoctrinates people to “think that the Israeli people is our enemy. But we don’t believe it today. We want peace with Israel and all the peoples around the world.”

Like all wounded Syrians in Ziv Hospital, Fadi’s case has been handled by Fares Issa, a social worker who joined the medical center only months before it started accepting Syrian patients. He specifically recounted an incident from last year with a young Syrian patient who lost both his legs from shelling. “The child who lost his legs, a 12-year-old, was screaming in the trauma room, ‘Don’t treat me, because we don’t have money to pay for the hospital.’ I tried to calm him down,” Issa said. “He said they don’t have money. But you want to give them life, life for a child who has lost his legs.”

Over 2,500 Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals since 2013, even though the two countries have been in a state of war since Israel’s founding. Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai documented one of the risky missions the IDF undertook to rescue an injured Syrian fighter in 2015. Pregnant women sometimes travel to the border in order to deliver their babies in Israel, and Israeli doctors have treated young Syrian patients with cutting-edge procedures that allowed them to walk again.

An Israeli crowdfunding campaign raised nearly $350,000 to aid Syrian refugees last month.

 

The Australian government recently released photographs of weapons, which its navy seized from an Iranian dhow (a type of vessel) off the coast of Yemen in February 2016, that appear to be Iranian-manufactured and on their way to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Matthew Schroeder, an analyst for the Small Arms Survey, an international research center in Geneva, Switzerland, said, “[T]he seizure appears to be yet another example of Iranian weapons being shipped abroad despite longstanding U.N. restrictions on arms transfers from Iran.”

Conflict Armaments Research, a private arms consulting firm, published a report last November indicating that its research and analysis “suggests the existence of a weapon pipeline extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen, which involves the transfer, by dhow, of significant quantities of Iranian-manufactured weapons and weapons that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles.”

The Houthis seized control of the Yemeni government in 2015, prompting a military intervention by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries. The Iranian proxy, whose slogan reads in Arabic “God is great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam,” have received arms—including missiles—and training from Iran.

American, French, and Australian vessels have intercepted weapons shipments from Iran on their way to the Houthi rebels. After the capture of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in 2014, Iranian parliamentarian Ali Reza Zakani, who is close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, boasted that Iran now controlled four Arab capitals, the other three being Damascus, Baghdad, and Beirut.

Secretary of State John Kerry has previously expressed his concern about Iranian missiles being delivered to the Houthis, and then being fired over the border into Saudi territory.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist questions orthodoxies about Palestinian statehood

 

“Would a Palestinian state be good for Palestinian people?” columnist Bret Stephens asked in the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal Monday.  Because of the failures of Palestinian political institutions, Stephens, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who formerly served as Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post, is not so sure.

“A telling figure came in a June 2015 poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, which found that a majority of Arab residents in East Jerusalem would rather live as citizens with equal rights in Israel than in a Palestinian state,” he wrote. “No doubt part of this owes to a desire to be connected to Israel’s thriving economy.”

The notion that a Palestinian state is in the best interest of the Palestinian people is an unexamined idea that overlooks the facts on the ground, Stephens opined. The Palestinian Authority lacks even the bare minimum requirements for creating a viable state; it cannot, for example, maintain a monopoly of force.  A Palestinian state enacted tomorrow would likely be overrun by Hamas and other competing terrorist factions.

The Israeli government’s official position, supported by the U.S., is that a two-state solution is the desirable outcome of the conflict. While Israel has taken great risks for peace and has twice offered the Palestinians a state, the Palestinians have responded with rejectionism and violence, as Stephens pointed out in his column. Furthermore, Grant Rumley, an expert on Palestinian affairs, wrote last May that the failure to account for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ corruption and authoritarian rule in the West Bank, which has resulted in weak political institutions, “could have a devastating effect on the long-term prospects for a viable Palestinian state.”

 

In one of his final acts in office on December 30, outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon submitted a confidential report to the UN Security Council alleging that Iran may have violated an international arms embargo by smuggling weapons to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, Reuters reported Sunday.

The report also contains a charge from the French government that an arms shipment seized in the Indian Ocean in March originated in Iran and was intended for fighters in Somalia or Yemen.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which was not altered by the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions as part of last year’s deal with global powers, bans Iran from exporting weapons and specifically prohibits the transfer of arms to Hezbollah.

Ban cited a speech that Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave in June, in which Nasrallah claimed that all of its “rockets and weapons are from the Islamic Republic of Iran.” “I am very concerned by this statement, which suggests that transfers of arms and related materiel from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Hezbollah may have been undertaken contrary (to a Security Council resolution),” Ban wrote.

Hezbollah reportedly has an arsenal of 130,000 rockets, more than the combined total of all 27 non-U.S. NATO member states. Israeli officials believe that any future war with Hezbollah has the potential to cause “thousands of civilian deaths” in Israel. Hezbollah has, among other things, threatened to attack ammonium tanks in Haifa, which could kill tens of thousands of people. 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. A few days later, a newspaper linked to Hezbollah bolstered the Israeli assessment.

 

Bring on the shekels. Israeli high-tech firms raised a record $4.8 billion in 2016—easily surpassing the previous year’s gains by 11 percent. 

“Traditionally, many of Israel’s tech companies have sold out at an early stage to global giants like Cisco, IBM and Microsoft,” according to an article in Reuters. “But now start-ups are using a sharp rise in private investment to pursue growth, often aiming for eventual stock market flotations. With founders looking longer term rather than trying to make quick money, acquisitions of Israeli tech firms fell in 2016 to their lowest level in six years.”

The uptrend in capital raising is expected to continue in 2017—though possibly at slower rates.

 

An internal brace for adolescent scoliosis from Israel’s ApiFix has continued to generate inquiries from readers since ISRAEL21c first wrote about its development in April 2012. Now there’s more good news to report for young people suffering from severe curvature of the spine. As of the end of 2016, the ApiFix device has been used on 110 patients in Israel and in eight European countries — Germany, France, Holland, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Poland – and is getting closer to approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says CTO Uri Arnin. “There is significant interest from other places as well, and I believe in coming years we will start marketing in additional countries,” Arnin says. Scoliosis surgery, normally an invasive four- to six-hour procedure costing about $100,000 in the United States, uses 16 to 20 screws and results in significant permanent spinal stiffness. ApiFix’s Israeli-made titanium implant needs only two screws to secure it in place during a one-hour, minimally invasive procedure and allows the patient to maintain most of the flexibility of the spine. Approved for use in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis over 40 degrees, the implant corrects the curve gradually over several months. (via Israel21c)
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