Latest News on Israel and the Jewish World

JNS.org freelance reporters and staff editors strive to provide high quality news coverage of the latest news from Israel and the Jewish world. In this section JNS.org offers analytical reports and commentaries on politics and international affairs, culture and lifestyle features, arts and sports content, and religious news. For the latest news on Israel, we also include exclusively syndicated content from Israel Hayom, a major daily newspaper in Israel. If you are interested in a specific topic, please browse through the content “categories” in our navigation bar or search our site.

Latest News

The oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar’s influence has been widely felt during the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. While traditionally closely aligned with Iran, Hamas has pivoted to Sunni powers like Qatar and Turkey in recent years for economic and political support. Keen to expand its regional and international influence, Qatar’s ties to the Palestinian terrorist group have drawn increasing criticism from Israel, the United States, and even fellow Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who accuse Qatar of undermining regional stability by supporting Hamas. 

Late on Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted its ban on flights by U.S. carriers in and out of Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had accused the Obama administration of an “economic boycott on Israel” through politically motivating the FAA ban, which came just as Secretary of State Kerry traveled to the Middle East to try to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

A private conversation caught on an open microphone between Secretary of State John Kerry and his aide Sunday is raising questions about whether the Obama administration’s uncompromising public support for Israel’s Operation Protective Edge may not reflect its private stance.

Before a July 20 deadline, negotiators taking part in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran agreed to extend the deadline for another four months after what the parties described as tangible successes. But the extension ignited a fresh round of skepticism about the prospects for the negotiations. “It’s kind of naive to think they’ll have an agreement, when the sustained way in which Iran is going about building its nuclear program hasn’t changed at all,” Michael Adler, public policy scholar with the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told JNS.org.

With the conflict in Israel in their hearts and on their minds, thousands of evangelical Christians converged on Washington, DC, from July 21-22 to flex their collective muscles for the Jewish state as part of the annual Christians United for Israel (CUFI) summit. “Our joy is consistently interrupted by news from Israel. But it is good to be together with loved ones at a sad time. I see the energy more than ever, that we have to speak out and be a voice for Israel,” David Brog, executive director of CUFI, told JNS.org

A new Pew Research Center poll showing Republicans as more sympathetic to Israel than Democrats has left Jewish Democratic leaders searching for an explanation of the partisan gap. In the survey—conducted from July 8-14, the week Israel began its air operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip but before its ground invasion—73 percent of Republican respondents said they sympathize with Israel in the conflict, compared to 44 percent of Democrats. 

Since taking over as president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) after Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, Mahmoud Abbas—whose PA term actually expired in 2009—has been continually touted by world leaders as someone Israel can rely on to make peace. But the third Israel-Gaza war since Hamas’s takeover of the coastal enclave from Abbas’s PA in 2007 has proven that Hamas—despite its political isolation, financial troubles, and conflicts with the Israeli military—is still the preeminent voice of the Palestinians, rather than Abbas.

Hours after the IDF began a ground operation in Gaza, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke on the Senate floor to express their support of Israel and its operation, while denouncing the Palestinian Authority’s unity government and the moral equivalency drawn by those critical of Israel’s actions. “[The Israelis have] done everything they could to de-escalate this, but Hamas is a terrorist organization who has fired thousands of rockets and they could care less where they land. Eventually you have to do this. You can only do so much from the air, you’ve got to go take ground back from the enemy,” Graham told JNS.org.

Australia’s Sydney Harbor is up in flames. Large letters superimposed on the scene ask, “How would they react?” That image and many others like it have been distributed by an Israeli student initiative called “Israel Under Fire,” which now boasts more than 57,000 followers on its Facebook page. While rocket attacks continue from Gaza after Palestinian terrorists’ rejection of a cease-fire brokered by Egypt and accepted by Israel, more than 400 student volunteers are working together from a computer room at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC) college and graduate school to present the world with Israel’s position on the ongoing conflict with Hamas.

With Israel and Hamas mired in their latest conflict, United States officials have been mulling their limited options to broker a cease-fire, finding that America has few dependable friends in the region and less credibility to help it play its traditional role as peace broker. Most experts believe that the U.S. no longer possesses the influence and trust in the Middle East it once did, largely due to the recently failed peace talks it sponsored between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, inaction in Syria, and the recent turmoil in Iraq. 

“I feel so vulnerable when I am driving my car,” said Ehud Zion Waldoks of Beersheba. “I am constantly preparing to stop abruptly, to leap out and grab my daughter and run for cover.” Waldoks’s story is similar to that of all southern Israelis—and now most of the state of Israel, as rockets penetrate deeper than ever into the Jewish state. Israel-Gaza conflicts are nothing new. There were similar flare-ups with Hamas in 2008-9 and 2012. But the war will have lasting effects on the nation, particularly on children, families say.

With the launch of the Israeli army’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, much of the public’s attention has appropriately focused on Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group behind the June 12 abduction and murder of three Jewish teens and more recently the escalation of rocket fire on Israel. But the threats the Jewish state faces from Gaza may not be as clear-cut as they seem. While Hamas is still extremely deadly, it has seen a weakening of its grip on the coastal enclave over the past few years, due to challenges from other Islamic terror groups and isolation from its former patrons in the Muslim world. 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza after at least 80 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel on Monday night. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared a state of emergency in communities within 25 miles of the Gaza border. The IDF called up 1,500 reserve troops, and more reserves are expected to be summoned. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas “chose to escalate and they will pay dearly for it,” and Ya’alon predicted that the operation “will not end in just a few days.”

Despite both the Senate and House of Representatives being in recess last week, news of the discovery of the three kidnapped Israeli teens’ bodies was swiftly condemned by U.S. lawmakers, some reinvigorating calls for America to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) due to Hamas’s involvement in the murders. Hamas, the Gaza-based terrorist group, is part of a unity government with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu political party, announced Monday that his party is splitting from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, dissolving a partnership formed ahead of the Jewish state’s 2013 general election. Lieberman is reportedly seeking to distance himself from Netanyahu’s policies on Gaza and Hamas.

In an interview with JNS.org from his office at the Knesset, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danon discusses his current government role, both Israeli and Palestinian construction, and the complexities of the Mideast region. “I take a direct approach, not being wishy-washy on issues, even if it means I have to confront the chairman of my own party—the prime minister—on very important issues,” Danon says. “And I think in general, the public appreciates it.”

With a little more than a year until convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard is eligible for parole, a group of nine prominent legal scholars has sent a letter to President Barack Obama arguing for Pollard’s early release. The group of scholars and professors at top universities—led by Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz and Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian justice minister—sent the letter on June 20, outlining 10 reasons for why they believe the president should release Pollard, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who in 1987 was given a life sentence in American prison for selling classified information to Israel.

Jewish community opinion is divided on a Supreme Court decision that dealt a blow to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. that a portion of the health-care law known as “Obamacare” is unconstitutional due to its mandate that for-profit corporations provide contraception coverage through their health-care policies, or face penalties. That provision, according to the court, violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment as interpreted by The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

The citizens of Israel were shocked and saddened on Monday when news emerged that the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped on June 12 were discovered in a field west of Halhul, near Hebron. The teens had apparently been shot soon after being abducted by Hamas terrorists, while still in the kidnappers’ car, officials said. “Hamas is responsible—and Hamas will pay,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Emerging from the chaos of the Syrian civil war, the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) terrorist group has gained the world’s attention for its brutal medieval-style Islamic justice and its swift victories in Iraq, threatening to overrun the weak U.S.-backed government there. But now ISIS is also setting its sights on Jordan, threatening to drag Israel into the global jihadist conflict.