Day: March 13, 2017

Iranian foreign minister calls Netanyahu’s Purim story ‘fake history’

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gesturing during his speech at Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 19, 2017. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “fake history” for saying that Iran sought the annihilation of the Jews, just as had ancient Persia in the Purim story.

“To sell bigoted lies against a nation which has saved Jews 3 times, Netanyahu resorting to fake history & falsifying Torah. Force of habit,” Zarif tweeted.

To sell bigoted lies against a nation which has saved Jews 3 times, Netanyahu resorting to fake history & falsifying Torah. Force of habit.

On Saturday, Netanyahu visited an Israeli synagogue, where he told children celebrating Purim that Iran seeks to kill the Jews just as the Persians did. Purim started Saturday night, with costumes and street parties around Israel.

In an image attached to his tweet, Zarif wrote: “Once again, Benjamin Netanyahu not only distorts the realities of today, but also distorts the past — including Jewish scripture. It is truly regrettable that bigotry gets to the point of making allegations against an entire nation which has saved the Jews three times in its history.

“The Book of Esther tells of how Xerxes I saved Jews from a plot hatched by Haman the Agagite, which is marked on this very day,” he wrote, referring to the Persian king known in the Purim story as Ahasuerus.

Jews see Queen Esther as the heroine of Purim for dissuading Ahasuerus from killing all the Jews in the kingdom, as his viceroy Haman initially convinced him to do.

Zarif also credited Cyrus the Great, who he called an “Iranian king,” with saving the Jews during their exile in Babylon and Iran with “gladly” accepting Jews who “were being slaughtered in Europe” during World War II. Iran has often been accused of denying the Holocaust.

Earlier Sunday, the speaker of Iran’s parliament said “apparently, [Netanyahu] is neither acquainted with history, nor has read the Torah,” according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. Netanyahu “has distorted the Iranians’ pre-Islam historical era and attempted to misrepresent events. Of course, nothing more than presenting such lies is expected from a wicked Zionist.”

In a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Friday, Netanyahu said Iran sought to “destroy the state of the Jews” in the same way ancient Persia had plotted to “destroy the Jewish people.” But Putin rejected the parallel, saying the story of Purim occurred “in the fifth century BCE” and suggesting they discuss the “different world” of today.


University of Illinois, Ohio State reject divestment measures

(JTA) — Students at the University of Illinois and Ohio State University voted down measures urging their schools to divest from companies complicit in Palestinian human rights violations.

The Illinois referendum was rejected late last week by a margin of 56.8 to 43.2 percent, according to media reports. The Ohio State measure failed by a vote of 4,084 to 3,843.

The Illinois referendum called for divestment from more than a dozen companies allegedly complicit in Palestinian human rights violations, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett-Packard and General Electric. The Ohio State measure named five companies.

In a statement Sunday, the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago welcomed the referendum’s failure, which it credited to a student group, United Illini for a United Campus, that campaigned against the measure.

“Students made their voices heard and said together that divisiveness and anti-Israel bias have no home at their university,” the statement said. “Our Illini Hillel will not deviate from the core mission of enriching the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.”

‘Holocaust is fake history’ scrawled on Seattle synagogue

(JTA) — A synagogue in Seattle was defaced with graffiti denying the Holocaust.

“The Holocaust is fake news!” was found spray-painted on the wall of the Temple de Hirsch Sinai synagogue on Friday morning.

“There were two things we felt: shock and sadness, and resistance,” Daniel Weiner, the synagogue’s senior rabbi, told NBC News. “We were shocked that this had reached our own community and that such things, such stereotypes had become frequent. But we are also adamant to not give in to the intolerance and growing climate of hate in Seattle and our nation, and will resist.”

With more than 1,500 member families, the synagogue, founded in 1889, is one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest.

The incident comes amid a wave of threats against Jewish institutions nationwide, including more than 100 bomb threats, mostly against Jewish community centers, since the beginning of the year.



By freeing soldier-killer Ahmad Daqamseh, the Jordanian authorities removed a serious hurdle that haunted them for many years and was a thorn in their relations with Israel.

While his release has caused agony and brought tragic memories to the surface for the victim’s families, for Israel and its security establishment the release closes an ugly chapter and cleanses the atmosphere.


During his prison term, Daqamseh expressed pride for his actions and was publicly praised by his mother. Even Hussein Mejalli, Jordan’s justice minister at the time, called him a hero.

While the majority of Jordanians disapproved of the 1997 attack and expressed sympathy for the schoolgirl victims – King Hussein traveled to Israel to pay his respect to the bereaved families – Daqamseh became a hero to some Jordanians who oppose normalization and peace with Israel.

During the time he was jailed, Daqamseh was an anti-Israel magnet, attracting support from radical groups in Jordan that used his case as a pretext to bash not only Israel but the Jordanian regime for its special relation with the Jewish state. That point of contention against Israel and Jordan has now been removed.

The relations between Israel and Jordan are considered of strategic importance for the two countries, which have enjoyed 23 years of peace and relative calm at their borders, but not enough trade.

At the heart of their relations there is a close military, security and intelligence cooperation that goes back decades. The military and security establishments have found common ground in fighting radical Islamist groups, such as Hamas, which has tried to establish underground cells on Jordanian soil to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel.

Another common enemy is ISIS, which despite its recent defeats in both Iraq and Syria maintains a presence on the triangular border between Israel, Jordan and Syria.

But what is really of greater concern for the Israeli government, as well as for the Hashemites who have ruled the country since its creation nearly 100 years ago, is the question of the domestic stability of the kingdom.

The Jordanian economy and social fabric have deteriorated in the last two decades due to the massive waves of immigrants and refugees, first during the US wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003 and more recently from the influx of nearly one million refuges of the Syrian civil war. Despite endless pleas by King Abdullah and his officials, backed by the Israeli government, neither the Western nations nor Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates provide the promised funds to help Jordan to deal with this crisis.

Due the sensitivity of the issue, Israeli leaders and officials refrain from speaking publicly about the future and stability of their neighbor to the east, but privately they express growing concern about it.

And still, as far as experts can estimate, it seems that there is no immediate threat to the regime. One important reason is the knowledge that Israel will do everything possible to keep the House of Hashim from being toppled.

For years, and even more now, Israel has perceived Jordan as its buffer zone, while the Hashemite Kingdom sees Israel as its best guarantee to stay in power.



Bulgarian-Israeli lawyer Moshe Aloni is seeking support for a campaign to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the Bulgarian Independent Orthodox Church, for protecting the country’s Jewish minority during the Holocaust.

Aloni, head of the Committee for Friendship between the Israeli and Bulgarian Advocates, nominated the church in January for its “brave acts of heroism” including voting unanimously to condemn antisemitic laws during World War II and for going against planned deportation of the country’s 48,000 Jews to Nazi death camps in Europe.


In a letter sent to The Jerusalem Post last week, Aloni noted that while the campaign had garnered support from Europe and the US, he sought to gain awareness from the Israeli public.

A petition launched last year on in support of this cause had, as of Sunday, gained 740 signatures of a target of 1,000.

The petition notes that while the Bulgarian government was an ally of Nazi Germany, the church showed bravery and leadership by fighting against antisemitic laws. It makes specific mention of two clergymen: Metropolitan (Bishop) Stephan, the head of the Sofian Church, and the highest ranking Bulgarian Church official during the Holocaust, and Metropolitan Kiril, the head of the Church in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv.

The pair was named as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2001, for vigorously opposing the anti-Jewish policies of the Bulgarian regime, and taking active steps against its policy of deporting the Jews of Bulgaria and handing them over to the Germans.

Kiril is said to have saved the 1,500 Jews of the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, who were set to be deported in March 1943. According to Yad Vashem, Kiril sent a personal telegram to the King begging for his mercy towards the Jews, and contacted the head of the local police, threatening to end his loyalty towards to Bulgaria and to act as he wished. Further testimony claims that he threatened to lie across the railway tracks in order to stop the deportation.

“Due to the heroic acts of these two prominent leaders and their willingness to speak up and take action, the deportation of the Jews of Bulgaria was postponed again and again until it was finally cancelled with the end of the war,” wrote Aloni in his letter to the Nobel Committee.

Aloni, who was himself born in Sofia, mentions that he and his family are among those are alive today thanks to the “heroism of the Bulgarian church and other brave citizens.”

“The nomination of the Bulgarian Church has most relevance in these days filled with hate and racism and modern day ethnic cleansing,” Aloni concludes.

The petition is sponsored by former minister General (R) Dr Ephraim Sneh and Haifa University law professor Moshe Keshet.



WASHINGTON – Meeting with senior Trump administration officials in Washington last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman twice referenced the growing threat posed by North Korea’s missile programs preoccupying the White House in its first days on the job.

Liberman described to US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson an “axis of evil” stretching from Tehran to Pyongyang, according to the Defense Ministry – a striking reference to a past time, the era of president George W. Bush, in which Iran’s military cooperation with North Korea was said to have peaked. American security cooperation with Israel once again has implications beyond the Middle East, the ministry added.


The US and Israel have worked together for years to mitigate missile threats from Iran and North Korea, which have in turn worked jointly to advance their programs.

But Washington’s cooperation with Jerusalem has been fraught with complications that naturally come with the territory of missile defense.

While offensive missile technology can be easily exported, missile defense technology is threat-specific. It is unclear whether Israel’s response programs to its unique threat landscape are transferable to the US or its allies in the Asia-Pacific region, which face a multitude of missile challenges from an enemy already nuclear-armed.

The question of transferability has led to tensions over funding after Israel began drawing nearly 10% of the Pentagon’s own missile defense budget since its war with Hamas in Gaza in 2014. During negotiations over a new decade-long defense package with Israel in 2016, Obama administration officials suggested its own Missile Defense Agency was running dry of resources to conduct research for the unique intercontinental threats facing the US homeland.

Israel’s program provides the US with some clear strategic benefits: It is one of the few battlefields in the world in which missile defense programs have actually been tested, and may reasonably face future tests. And the Jewish state shares with the Pentagon much of the technology it produces with US parts using US contractors.

The question is whether Israel’s short, intermediate and long-range programs intended to diminish threats from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran can be of practical use to South Korea, Japan and the US as they seek to mitigate a decreasingly stable North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.

The transferability of Israel’s programs – in addition to proof of Iranian collusion with North Korea, still unseen – might in the eyes of its advocates in Washington justify an increase in US aid beyond what was ultimately detailed in Obama’s defense package.

Under that agreement, Israel obligated itself not to ask for more funds – and even to hand back the check should Congress offer more money than the deal prescribes.

The MoU guarantees $5 billion in US aid for Israel’s missile defense over the next decade. Israel may ask for additional emergency funding only in the case of war, Jacob Nagel, Israel’s acting national security adviser, said during the signing ceremony in September.

The figure is large, but broken down into annual sums amounts to less than what Israel received in recent years – a statistic not lost on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is considering whether or not to lobby for more aid ahead of its annual policy conference in Washington next week.

Some Republican leaders in Congress say they are prepared to write in more funding for Israel’s missile defense than the MoU allows – and believe that President Donald Trump would sign off on it. But Jerusalem may treat the agreement as inviolable: Some Israeli officials fear that breaking the framework and increasing aid this year would open the door to future aid decreases.

Immediately following Trump’s inauguration, a new White House website floated his intention to fund “state of the art” missile defense programs to counter threats from Iran and North Korea. He has since proposed the largest defense budget increase in modern American history and began campaigning against sequestration cuts that have crippled growth at the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis suggested the US “put together a combined air missile defense capability for our Gulf allies” in order to deter Iran’s increasingly sophisticated program. He advocated for increased investments in the Pentagon’s ICBM and missile defense programs.

The Trump administration is actively exploring ways to foster Israeli-Arab cooperation against Iran, which it hopes will blossom into greater normalization of ties.

At the same hearing, Mattis was asked what the new administration could do to improve its strategy on the Korean Peninsula.

“It is going to take an international effort,” Mattis said.

While Israel’s role in this research is not yet clear, Liberman’s decision to incorporate North Korea into his discussions in Washington might signal Israel’s willingness to expand the scope of its missile defense work to incorporate the needs of America’s allies in Asia.

“It’s entirely unclear where we’re going yet, but the Israelis are looking to rebuild ties – and I’d think they would be very willing to demonstrate their value to the Pentagon,” said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “As this relationship is starting off, I think the Israelis would be remiss if they didn’t raise North Korea as part of their threat matrix, given what the US is looking at.”
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Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday, three days after Trump’s phone call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about ways to advance the Middle East diplomatic process.

Greenblatt is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and with Abbas in Ramallah.

In addition, he is also scheduled to meet in Jerusalem with President Reuven Rivlin, acting National Security Council head Yaakov Nagel and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories head Maj.-Gen.Yoav Mordechai.

As first reported in The Jerusalem Post last week, Greenblatt is coming to discuss guidelines to govern Israeli construction in the settlements, an issue that was a constant source of friction with the previous administration. Netanyahu and Trump agreed during their meeting in Washington last month to establish a mechanism to work out these guidelines and Greenblatt is to head that mechanism.

Jason Greenblatt. Credit: CourtesyJason Greenblatt. Credit: Courtesy

Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer is currently in the country as well to take part in the discussions with Greenblatt.

The talks with Greenblatt, however, are expected to be wider than just the settlement issue and to include looking at ways to move the long-stalled diplomatic process forward.

According to the White House’s readout of the 10-minute-long conversation between Trump and Abbas on Friday, Trump “emphasized his personal belief that peace is possible and that the time has come to make a deal.” He stressed that such a deal would have to “be negotiated directly between the two parties,” and that the US could not impose a solution. Trump also invited Abbas to the White House “in the near future.”

Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jew from Teaneck, New Jersey, is a graduate of Yeshiva University and also studied for a year at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut. He has worked for Trump over the last two decades as a real estate lawyer.

In the heat of the presidential campaign last April, Trump announced that Greenblatt, and another one of his top Jewish lawyers, David Friedman, would be his top Israel advisers. Friedman is expected to be approved by the Senate as the ambassador to Israel in the coming days.

In an interview with JTA last April, Greenblatt said that he supports a two-state solution, as long at it is negotiated by the parties and not imposed from the outside.

Greenblatt was called unexpectedly by Trump to a meeting the then-presidential candidate was having with Jewish reporters last April. When Trump was asked about the settlements, he deflected the query to Greenblatt, who said, “I think the settlements should stay, but I think they have to work something out so that both sides are able to live in peace and safety.”

In ‘candid’ talk with PM, Reform leaders highlight growing US partisan divide on Israel

American Jewish Reform leaders held a “candid” meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They shared their concerns over a wide range of issues, including maintaining US bipartisan backing for Israel amid a what a recent poll showed is a growing divide in support between Republicans and Democrats.

The delegation, led by the group’s president Rabbi Rick Jacobs, met with Netanyahu and his staff for nearly an hour, according to a statement by the Union for Reform Judaism, discussing a number of subjects including US-Israel ties, religious pluralism in Israel, threats against Israeli Reform leaders, the Iranian nuclear threat and Israeli settlement activity.

The Reform leaders said they expressed concern to the Israeli leader over “maintaining a bipartisan American consensus in support of a strong US-Israel relationship,” Israeli “expansion of settlements” in the West Bank, and “the status of the governmental agreement concerning the Kotel,” or Western Wall.

Israeli government ministers in January 2016 approved a plan to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, but progress has yet to be made.

The Reform leaders said they were “pleased” with the appointment of Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), who attended the meeting, to help move the plan forward.

The representatives also told Netanyahu that they remain firmly committed to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, while also expressing their concern regarding settlement expansion in the West Bank.

In turn, Netanyahu and his staff, according to the statement, briefed the leaders on current threats to Israel’s security, and emphasized that “the Iranian nuclear threat remains by far the most significant danger.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, left, meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on March 9, 2017. (WAFA)

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, left, meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on March 9, 2017. (WAFA)

On Thursday, the delegation met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, to discuss the two-state solution, settlements and the Trump administration.

Following the meeting, Jacobs said in a statement that he was “impressed with the president’s clear and unequivocal commitment to the two-state solution. He clearly is frustrated with the lack of progress, or even the existence of ongoing negotiations. I share that frustration.”

On Friday, Trump and Abbas held their first conversation since the new president took and in which he invited the PA leader to the White House to discuss the stalled peace process.

The Palestinians had expressed frustration and worry over what appears to be a US distancing from commitment to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, with Trump telling Netanyahu last month at a joint news conference that he “can live” with either a one- or two-state solution, a statement Palestinians slammed for breaking with decades of American policy.

Jacobs said he learned from Palestinian officials that they had previously spoken with the Trump administration, which had confirmed that US policy continues to support a two-state solution.

The URJ delegation, which arrived in Israel last Monday, also met with President Reuven Rivlin, Jewish Agency President Natan Sharansky, as well as members of the Knesset during their visit.

JTA contributed to this report.

Britain looks to strengthen trade ties with Israel post-Brexit

Britain will reportedly seek to bolster economic ties with Israel following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union last year.

Israel and Britain will set up a working group to negotiate trade deals between the two countries, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday.

According to the report, a team of two to four officials from each country will meet by the end of March, and the group is expected to continue meeting two or three times a year to hammer out economic agreements.

On his visit to Israel last week, UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson boasted of the existing close ties between the two countries and mentioned plans to negotiate a new free trade agreement.

In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Johnson hailed growing bilateral commercial ties: “We have the fastest growing Aston Martin dealership anywhere in the world here in Israel. We’ve done some fantastic export deals with you. But you’ve also greatly contributed to our economy.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May hopes to trigger Article 50 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal procedure to start negotiations on leaving the bloc, by the end of March. That will begin two years of negotiations between Britain and the EU as to exactly what Brexit will entail.

While it was part of the European Union, trade deals with other countries were done in Brussels on behalf of the entire bloc of nations. Britain is now looking to set up trade deals on its own to replace the existing deals. Although a trade deal with the US is a priority, the UK sees Israel as an important trading partner.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with UK PM Theresa May, at 10 Downing Street in London, February 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with UK PM Theresa May, at 10 Downing Street in London, February 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Last month Netanyahu visited London, and he and May spoke of “preparing the ground” for a post-Brexit trade deal.

“We’re seeing trading bilateral relationships between the UK and Israel, in science and trade for example, doing better than ever,” British ambassador to Israel David Quarrey told the Guardian. “But there’s the potential to do even better, particularly in the context of Brexit. I was with Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu in London and it was clear there was the determination for this.

“Most business people in Israel look at the UK as a great place to do business, because of its culture, language, and the predictability of the regulatory and tax system,” he said.

James Sorene, chief executive of Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM), wrote that “the Israel-Britain alliance is a boost for the British economy and carries sizable strategic advantages for both countries. The reality is that a strong partnership with Israel is an asset that will become increasingly valuable for the UK as it resets relations after leaving the EU.”

Likud MK Sharren Haskel, who serves on the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee, told the Guardian that “one of the main areas we can co-operate is cybersecurity, where Israel is receiving 20% of worldwide investments – huge for such a small country.”

Turkey vows ‘strong reprisal’ after Dutch expel minister

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Sunday his country will strongly respond to Dutch authorities’ “unacceptable treatment” toward Turkish ministers who were prevented from addressing Turkish citizens in the Netherlands.

Turkey’s Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was expelled from the Netherlands and escorted back to Germany by Dutch police early Sunday after being blocked from addressing a rally in Rotterdam, where protests erupted outside the Turkish consulate.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, criticized Kaya as “irresponsible” for attempting to visit after being told she was not welcome and hit out at “unacceptable” verbal attacks by Turkish authorities amid an escalating row with Ankara.

In a written statement released early on Sunday, Yildirim also urged Turkish nationals living in Europe to remain calm and not fall for provocations. He also asked them to cast their votes in the April 16 referendum saying it would be best response to the European nations.

“There will be a stronger reprisal against the unacceptable treatment toward Turkey and ministers who have diplomatic immunity,” he said.

“Our so-called European friends who speak of democracy, freedom of expression and human rights have failed their class,” he added.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (R) and US Vice President Joe Biden (L) hold a joint press conference following their meeting on August 24, 2016 at the Cankaya Palace in Ankara. AFP /Adem Altan

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (R) and US Vice President Joe Biden (L) hold a joint press conference following their meeting on August 24, 2016 at the Cankaya Palace in Ankara. AFP /Adem Altan

The Dutch government said it had told Turkey it could not compromise on public order and security.

“The search for a reasonable solution proved impossible, and the verbal attacks that followed today from the Turkish authorities are unacceptable,” it said in a statement.

“In this context Minster Kaya’s visit was irresponsible. Through contacts with the Turkish authorities, the message was repeatedly conveyed that Minister Kaya is not welcome in the Netherlands …. nevertheless she decided to travel.”

Dutch police used water cannon and horses early Sunday to break up protests outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam.

Turkish residents of the Netherlands gather for a protest in Rotterdam on March 11, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel DUNAND)

Turkish residents of the Netherlands gather for a protest in Rotterdam on March 11, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel DUNAND)

After several hours of calm demonstrations, police moved in to disperse over 1,000 people gathered close to the consulate, charging the crowd on horseback and using dogs to regain control.

Protesters hit back, throwing rocks at riot police, while hundreds of cars jammed the streets blaring their horns and revving their engines.

Tensions finally tipped over into violence after a day of fast-moving events, triggered when Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he planned to attend a pro-Turkish government rally in Rotterdam.

The Netherlands, which holds general elections on Wednesday, had repeatedly said Cavusoglu was not welcome to campaign for Turkey’s April referendum in the country and refused his plane permission to land.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted angrily accusing the Dutch — who were once under Nazi occupation — of being “the vestiges of Nazis.”