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

After at least 11 failed attempts at achieving a lasting cease-fire between the Hamas terrorist group and Israel, negotiators in Cairo on Tuesday announced that they reached an indefinite cease-fire deal. But will the agreement hold up this time around? Some experts are skeptical because the talks leading up to the deal lacked the three major elements they believe are required for a successful cease-fire: negative leverage, positive leverage, and a credible third-party broker. 

With old alliances being frayed and new threats emerging, making sense of the rapidly changing Middle East is increasingly difficult for even seasoned observers and analysts. Disgruntled by President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in the region, some long-time American allies such as Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have begun openly criticizing the U.S. approach to issues like the Gaza conflict, with some even pivoting towards Russia. At the same time, civil wars in Syria and Libya as well as instability in Iraq have proven to be fertile breeding ground for new and more brutal terrorist organizations, forcing regional and international actors into new alliances to meet this common threat.

Leading up to the start of a new academic year in Israel, parents in the rocket-battered south are saying they do not feel safe sending their children back to school. Israeli officials agree that safety is the top consideration guiding the decision on whether or not to begin the school year as scheduled on Sept. 1. “Under no circumstances will we return to our normal routine under fire,” said Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni.

The Obama administration was forced to go on the defensive last week regarding accusations published in The Wall Street Journal that it held back Hellfire-missile transfers to Israel for further review. The WSJ strongly implied that President Barack Obama’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at an all-time low as a result of perceptions among U.S. officials that Israel is not doing enough to end its conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Some pro-Israel observers say they feel betrayed by the reported delay of the Hellfire missiles, regarding the move as the Obama administration breaking its promise not to allow political and diplomatic disagreements to interfere with U.S.-Israel security cooperation.

For the first time in 80 years, the United States could find itself without an international export credit agency if Congress does not reauthorize the charter of the United States Export-Import Bank, which is set to expire on Sept. 30. A failure to reauthorize the Ex-Im bank by that deadline could have significant financial implications for countries like Israel, which is home to companies accustomed to receiving loans from the bank. 

The British newspaper The Guardian turned down an advertorial piece penned by famed Harvard Law School professor and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz. In the ad, whose rejection was first reported by JNS.org on Friday, Dershowitz refutes statements by many media outlets that all of Gaza is densely populated, a claim that has been used to justify the use of human shields by Hamas in its recent conflict with Israel. “The British media is divided,” Dershowitz said. “But The Guardian, which holds itself out to be a purveyor of diverse truth, clearly reflects a bias against Israel on its editorial pages, as well as in its presentation of the news. Now that bias has spread to the advertising pages.”

Although the 2016 presidential election is still a long way off, prospective candidates are already testing the waters for possible presidential bids—primarily candidates considering running in the currently wide-open Republican race. Thus when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), one of the most visible potential contenders in 2016, said that he had never proposed to cut foreign aid to Israel, many in the pro-Israel community took notice.

SDEROT—With only a short time to recover from their jet lag, a group of 51 Evangelical Christian pastors representing every U.S. state and the District of Columbia embarked on a journey to the frontline of the recent Gaza conflict as part of a three-day mission organized by Christians United For Israel (CUFI).

 

After being vacant for nearly a year, the role of America’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom will likely soon be occupied by Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. While his liberal political views sometimes put him at odds with conservative-leaning Jewish organizations, most observers feel Saperstein’s experience in the issues relevant to the religious freedom post make him a good fit.

Few issues in the U.S. Congress have as much bipartisan support as pro-Israel legislation. It is difficult to find a member of the Senate or House in either party who, at least publicly, is not claiming undying love and support for Israel and its military’s Operation Protective Edge. But last week, there was a rare moment of uncertainty in regards to where emergency funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system would come from, and whether the proposed funding could survive the partisanship and inaction Congress is known for.

Israel withdrew ground troops from Gaza on Tuesday after completing its goal of dismantling terror tunnels. But how did Hamas get its hands on materials to build the tunnels in the first place? Some of the materials, including cement and iron, were smuggled into Gaza from Egypt. Yet due to pressure from international human rights organizations, until recently Israel itself was also providing Gaza with those materials. “So, in the name of humanitarian support for Gaza, Hamas misused the trust of the international community to build the infrastructure to attack Israel, with the help of human rights organizations,” explained Lt. Col (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Israel has been taking its licks in the international arena since it launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza on July 8. But criticism of the Jewish state was actually worse during its last battle with Hamas in 2012 and the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, experts say. Israel appears to have learned from past hasbara (public diplomacy) mistakes and has improved the way it delivers its message to the media and the public, both in the United States and internationally.

Jews around the world were inspired last month when Arab-Israeli teenager Mohammad Zoabi cloaked himself in an Israeli flag and spoke into a bedroom video camera, “I am an Israeli and will remain an Israeli. Israel will remain a Jewish and a democratic country.” As the current Israel-Hamas conflict persists, such voices are often drowned out. But another voice bubbling above the surface has little to do with Israel and everything to do with fighting Hamas. It is the voice of Muslims calling on their peers to fight the advance of political Islamism over Islam.

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 July 20 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.