Israeli security forces seized four tons of ammonium chloride in a truck crossing into the Gaza Strip before Passover, the Shin Bet announced Tuesday. Ammonium chloride, which is primarily used as fertilizer, can be used as a rocket propellant for long-range rockets. The Shin Bet said that the four tons that were interdicted could have been used to produce hundreds of these weapons. The material was hidden in a truck along with 36 tons of salt, which, according to Ynet, “is typically used to smuggle chemicals into the Strip, especially chemicals used in rocket production.” It was seized at the Nitzana border crossing between Egypt and Israel. The importer of the prohibited material has close ties to Hamas. Israeli officials assess that Hamas has replenished its rocket supply and possesses approximately the same number of rockets that it had on the eve of Israel’s war with Hamas in the summer of 2014.
The Israel Tax Authority said in a statement, “This case underscores the activity of Gaza-based terrorist organizations in smuggling dual-use material disguised as goods destined for the civilian population and reconstruction projects.” The statement continued that Israeli customs officials and Shin Bet agents, in cooperation, have foiled “dozens of attempts to smuggle items and materials that are prohibited from importation into the Gaza Strip – such as sulfuric acid, diving suits, rocket propulsion fuel components, polyurethane, sulfur, fiberglass rolls and specially coarse coal for use in iron smelters and metalwork—and which are suspected of being for use by local terrorist organizations.”
Israel went to war with Hamas in the summer of 2014 in order to stop Hamas from firing rockets at Israeli civilians. Gaza-based terrorist groups fired nearly 5,000 rockets into Israel during the conflict itself. Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas took over the Strip in 2007 after a civil war with Fatah.
Israel allowed more than 10,000 truckloads of goods to enter Gaza in March 2016, according to the NGO Gisha.
The West’s refusal to challenge the growing corruption and autocratic rule of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “could have a devastating effect on the long- prospects for a viable Palestinian state,” Grant Rumley, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote Monday in Newsweek.
As long as Abbas continues security cooperation with Israel and “pay[s] lip service to the moribund peace process,” Western leaders will not pressure him to change, Rumley observed. He added Abbas “has tested the limits of Western leniency” since the end of the American-sponsored talks two years ago, which Abbas himself torpedoed.
Rumley raised concerns that Abbas, who is in the 11th year of a four-year term, is becoming increasingly dictatorial. Last month, Abbas established a new constitutional court, all of whose members are picked by Abbas, “that would, naturally, confirm his own presidential decrees,” Rumley wrote. When a Palestinian legislator accused an Abbas ally of corruption in March, Abbas issued a warrant for her arrest.
When teachers launched an unprecedented strike over the PA’s broken promises to raise their wages, the PA set up roadblocks to prevent the teachers from marching on Ramallah, arrested the leaders of the teachers’ union, and threatened legal action unless they returned to work. The crackdown prompted one Palestinian journalist to write that the PA “really should not continue to exist.” And a recent report from a Palestinian NGO found that in 2015, 60 percent of the nearly 200 violations of press freedom in Palestinian territories occurred in the PA-governed West Bank, with only 40 percent occurring in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
With Abbas sensing little interest from the White House in pursuing bilateral talks, Abbas is using the final year of President Barack Obama’s term in office as an opportunity for the “consolidation of power at home” and to “further isolate Israel,” Rumley wrote.
But the indulgence Abbas has been given to grow increasing autocratic comes at a price—”a devastating effect on the long-term prospects for a viable Palestinian state.” Rumley concluded:
As one former Bush administration officialremarked in 2013, Palestinian self-governance—with free and fair elections—were “a powerful argument that it was time for Israel to stop governing Palestinians.” In other words, Abbas’s increasingly tyrannical government in the West Bank does not only handicap political expression—it also sets back the very legitimacy of the Palestinian national project.
Other experts have raised concerns about the PA’s corruption and its effect the viability of a future Palestinian state.
In We Really Need to Talk About Corruption, which was published in the December 2013 issue of The Tower Magazine, Jonathan Schanzer observed:
It seems clear that, despite being rejected by both the ballot and the gun, Abbas has failed to learn his lesson. He has failed to reform the dysfunctional Palestinian Authority, and does not show any signs of attempting to do so in the near future. And the West, addicted to top-down peacemaking, shows little interest in genuinely helping the Palestinian people attain a government dedicated to coexistence with Israel, nor one built on the open, fair and transparent civil society and legal system required to build a successful state.
Similarly, in Terrorists and Kleptocrats: How Corruption is Eating the Palestinians Alive, which was published in the June 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Aaron Menenberg wrote:
Through the PA, a small group of elites has concentrated power and wealth, estranging the Palestinian people from its government and insulating the government from the people. Sadly, foreign attempts to aid the Palestinians are subject to the same regime, with devastating consequences. The attempt to use foreign aid to the PA as both a carrot and a stick has not closed the gap between the Palestinian people and their government. Rather, it has helped widen it.
American and European support for the Palestinian Authority now totals hundreds of billions of dollars—possibly trillions if non-governmental activities are included. With that money, we have helped build an elite-run system that bludgeons the entrepreneurial Sammys and marginalizes the pragmatic Izzats. Not a lot of Westerners get to see this dynamic from the inside, and that is a shame.
Much of the foreign support for the Palestinians is given with the best of intentions. This makes those who question it susceptible to all manner of criticism. That this questioning is often warranted, however, escapes many supporters and financiers of the Palestinian Authority, because it contradicts the comfortable mainstream narrative that reinforces their motivation. Meanwhile, the PA is as corrupt as ever, and uses our foreign aid to literally sell its people short.
The gap between the Palestinian people and their leadership is nothing less than catastrophic, and it will not be closed unless donors change the way they support the Palestinian Authority. A good first step would be to tie aid to greater PA transparency and responsibility to the Palestinian people. Donors should also insist on fiscal and legal reforms, as well as the establishment of robust and independent institutions—judiciary and education included. These are all necessary ingredients for economic growth and nation-building. Unfortunately, so long as we and other donors refuse to take these steps, we will remain part of the problem, not part of the solution. (via TheTower.org)
Every child gets a vision and hearing check in school on a regular basis. Dr. Moshe Fried, an Israeli plastic surgeon, believes an annual skin check is necessary as well, starting in the teens. This is why he agreed to be the medical consultant for Emerald Medical Applications’ DermaCompare, a free smartphone app that uses image processing and predictive analytics to detect changes in marks and moles over time. The app alerts the user to changes that ought to be screened for cancer. “The skin is the biggest organ in the body,” says Fried. “The need for this comparative system came from the concept that as dermatologists and plastic surgeons we have to check everyone throughout life to look for changes in moles – the medical term is ‘nevi’ — for signs of skin cancer. This is quite difficult to do. We think that together with this application we can accomplish this goal.” The public company, founded in Petah Tikva in 2013, has distribution agreements in Israel, Sweden, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia (in Australia, one out of seven people get skin cancer). In April, the Brazil Chamber of Commerce selected DermaCompare as the Israeli technology “most likely to succeed in Brazil.” A Spanish version of the app was recently launched for Puerto Rico, Mexico and Argentina, with more South American locations to come. “There is no other product like ours,” Emerald founder and CEO Lior Wayn says. “Our competitors use manual diagnostics and don’t use algorithms to compare images. “This is a proprietary technology that we adapted from the Israeli Air Force, using aerial photos to track enemy moves. Our enemy is moles and we know how to track them.” Last year, Wayn gave a TEDx Talk in Berlin about how he decided to adapt Israeli military technology into a lifesaving medical solution after his own father was diagnosed with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. (via Israel21c)