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Egyptian foreign minister visits Israel for first time in 9 years

Posted by Albert Gersh - July 11, 2016


In a sign of continually improving relations between the two neighboring countries, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Israel on Sunday, offering his government's assistance in restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Egypt offered to host direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in Cairo, in which a working group consisting of Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, and Jordanians would develop confidence-building measures. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed Egypt’s initiative.

Shoukry’s visit marks the first time an Egyptian foreign minister has visited Israel since 2007, and highlights the closer ties that have been forged between Israel and Egypt in the last few years under Sisi’s leadership, mostly due to increased military and intelligence cooperation against Hamas and ISIS militants in the Sinai. Egypt has shut down underground tunnels between Sinai and Gaza in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons and fighters between Sinai-based ISIS militants and Hamas. ISIS in Sinai perpetrated major attacks against Egypt, and both Egyptian and Israeli intelligence agencies have noted that Hamas and ISIS cooperate extensively. Hamas has trained ISIS militants and provided them with medical care. Israel has helped Egypt's campaign against Sinai militants by allowing more Egyptian troops and heavy weapons in the Sinai than their 1979 peace agreement technically permits. In an interview with the Washington Post last year, Sisi lauded Israeli-Egyptian security cooperation and openly stated that he often speaks to Netanyahu. Israeli ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren exclaimed to the New York Times that “This is one of the best times we’ve ever had” in terms of cooperation between governments. Furthermore, a new Egyptian textbook for ninth graders that was introduced this year covers the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in a more positive light, asking students to state “the advantages of peace for Egypt and the Arab states.”

Relations with Israel’s other Arab neighbors have also improved, based on a common interest in thwarting Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions. For example, although Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, high-level former Israeli officials have engaged in strategic and sometimes public discussions with former Saudi officials on the shared threat from Iran as well as prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

The families of five Americans recently killed or injured by Palestinian terrorists have filed a lawsuit against Facebook for allowing the terrorist group Hamas to incite violence on its network, the Times of Israel reported Monday. The plaintiffs are seeking $1 billion in punitive damages under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows American citizens who are victims of overseas terrorist attacks to sue in U.S. federal courts. The lead plaintiffs are the parents of 29-year-old U.S. Army veteran and Vanderbilt University graduate student Taylor Force, who was stabbed to death by a Hamas terrorist while visiting Jaffa in March. Other plaintiffs include the parents of 16-year-old Naftali Fraenkel, who was among the three boys kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank in June 2014; the parents of three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun, who was killed during a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem in October 2014; the son of 76-year-old peace activist Richard Lakin, who was murdered during a shooting and stabbing attack in Jerusalem in October 2015; and Menachem Mendel Rivkin, who sustained serious injuries during a stabbing attack in the West Bank in January.
“Facebook has knowingly provided material support and resources to Hamas in the form of Facebook’s online social media network platform and communication services,” the plaintiffs said in a statement. “Hamas has used and relied on Facebook’s online social network platform and communications services as among its most important tools to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity.”Representing the plaintiffs are civil rights lawyer Robert Tolchin of New York and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel Law Center, who together filed a class-action lawsuit last October calling on Facebook to block Palestinian pages that incite violence against Jews. The Israel Law Center released a video in January called “The big Facebook experiment,” which compared Facebook’s response to posts that incite violence against Palestinians and to those that incite violence against Jews. According to the center, Facebook promptly shut down the page that incited against Palestinians for violating its community standards, while the page inciting against Jews was not taken down.
Israeli officials have levied heavy criticism at Facebook for allowing Hamas-affiliated pages, such as the Shehab News Network, to post inciteful images and calls to violence against Jews. One of the most popular social media sites in the Palestinian territories, Shehab’s Arabic-language Facebook page has nearly 6 million followers. Songs, videos, and graphics that glorify terrorist attacks often go viral on Palestinian social media. A video re-enacting a Palestinian shooting attack that claimed the lives of four people and wounded 16 others in Tel Aviv last month gained tens of thousands of views a day after the killings. (via TheTower.org)
The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon has announced the groundbreaking discovery of the first Philistine cemetery ever to be found, following more than 30 years of excavation at the site on the western shore of Israel. Findings from the cemetery, dated to the 11th–8th centuries BCE, support the Bible’s description of the Philistines as western migrants to the shores of ancient Israel around the 12th century BCE. The Philistines are most famously known as the archenemy of ancient Israel from the Hebrew Bible. Excavations at Ashdod, Ekron, Ashkelon and Gath (Tel es-Safi) have demonstrated how culturally distinct they were from the Israelites of that period in their ceramics, jewelry and weapons. Bones from the cemetery are currently undergoing DNA, radiocarbon and biological distance testing. “After decades of studying what Philistines left behind, we have finally come face to face with the people themselves. With this discovery we are close to unlocking the secrets of their origins,” said Daniel M. Master, professor of archaeology at Wheaton College in Illinois, one of the sponsors of the Leon Levy Expedition in the Ashkelon National Park along with the Leon Levy Foundation, the Semitic Museum at Harvard University, Boston College and Troy University. (via Israel21c)

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