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.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s newly announced running mate, is being touted by his supporters as a moderate Democrat with considerable domestic and foreign policy credentials from his experience serving on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees as well as formerly heading the Democratic National Committee. Kaine’s critics in pro-Israel circles, meanwhile, point to his outspoken support for the Iran nuclear deal, his decision to skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress about the Iranian nuclear threat, and the support the senator has received from the controversial left-wing lobby group J Street. JNS.org provides an overview of Kaine’s record on election issues that are prioritized by Jewish and pro-Israel voters.
While much of the media focused on the recent terror attack in Nice, the failed coup in Turkey, and the Republican National Convention, thousands of evangelical Christians gathered in the nation’s capital this week to show their support for Israel as part of the 11th annual Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Washington Summit. Although world events may have overshadowed its latest gathering, CUFI’s base of support—3.1 million members—is louder than ever. CUFI has become not only the self-described largest pro-Israel organization in America, but also likely the largest evangelical Christian organization of its kind. Much of CUFI's momentum stems from how Israel has become “one of the top issues for evangelicals” in a post-9/11 world. “All of a sudden [after 9/11] this distant land of Israel, battling these Islamic enemies, many realized that we are also facing the same threats and enemies,” said David Brog, one of CUFI’s founders and the director of its executive board.
A new technology endorsed by the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America (JCCA) could play a key role in preventing future attacks such as the 2014 shootings at the JCC of Greater Kansas City and the Village Shalom geriatric center. Earlier this year, JCCA announced FST Biometrics, an Israeli developer of In Motion Identification (IMID) technology, as its preferred identity management vendor. Brian Soileau, JCCA’s manager of corporate partnerships, told JNS.org that he immediately found favor in the IMID solution, which uses biometric identification technology—including facial recognition and body behavior analytics—to allow JCC staffers and members to move freely into and through facilities, while restricting access to unauthorized visitors.
After a selection process that more closely resembled a reality television show than the usual political appointments, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Friday tweeted that his choice for vice president is Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who beat out flashier contenders such as former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. For the pro-Israel community, Pence is viewed as a strong advocate for the Jewish state who can bolster Trump’s sometimes shaky relationship with Jewish leaders. Pence, an evangelical Christian, has noted that his strong support for Israel is rooted in his faith. “Let me say emphatically, like the overwhelming majority of my constituents, my Christian faith compels me to cherish the state of Israel,” Pence said in an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2009, while he was serving in Congress.
On Tuesday, the Republican Platform Committee unanimously approved significant changes to its platform in an attempt to further set the party’s pro-Israel credentials apart from the Democrats. The GOP’s platform changes included removing language encouraging a two-state solution as well as reinstating a reference to an “undivided” Israel that was previously included in the party’s 2008 platform, but was removed in 2012. The push to bolster the Republican Party’s language on Israel follows a four-year effort by pro-Israel leaders to reach out to the party’s base—evangelical Christians—as well as to Jewish and other ethnic groups to reach a Republican consensus on Israel policy. Most recently, pro-Israel groups worked on the platform changes with the campaign of presumptive nominee Donald Trump. “It’s the most pro-Israel platform that either party has ever issued, so we’re obviously very proud of the accomplishment,” David Friedman, one of Trump's Israel advisers, told JNS.org.
British-Jewish and pro-Israel groups are congratulating Home Secretary Theresa May for winning the leadership of the Conservative Party and replacing outgoing United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, who resigned following the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union in the Brexit referendum last month. May takes over the role after all other candidates for the Conservative leadership exited the race earlier in the week, and after Cameron expedited his resignation to Wednesday, July 13. May’s ascension to the post has been viewed positively by the Jewish and pro-Israel communities due to her record of support for those sectors. “Israel can rest assured that a U.K. led by Theresa May will be there in its moments of need,” said British lawmaker MP Eric Pickles, the parliamentary chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel group.
The Republican Party has reportedly reinstated language endorsing an “undivided” Jerusalem into the party’s platform ahead of its national convention in Cleveland later this month. According to CNN, which cited a draft of the party platform that it obtained, the Republicans would reinstate a reference to an “undivided” Jerusalem while removing a reference to “Palestine” in support for a two-state solution. The Republicans’ move comes in the aftermath of advocacy on the issue by the lobbying affiliate of Pastor John Hagee’s influential Christians United for Israel (CUFI) non-profit. In a letter obtained by JNS.org that was sent to Republican convention delegates on July 6, former Ronald Reagan administration official Gary Bauer, director of the CUFI Action Fund lobby, called for the GOP platform to “strengthen its language in support for Israel with Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘undivided, enteral’ capital.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a historic multi-nation trip to Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Ethiopia this week, stressing the importance of improved diplomatic ties and economic cooperation after several decades of strained Israeli relations in Africa. In the first decades of Israeli statehood, the Jewish state had good ties with many countries across the 54-nation African continent. But following decisive military victories by Israel over its Arab neighbors in the 1967 and 1973 wars, Arab nations pressured many of those countries to break off relations with Israel. Yet today, with Israel growing into an economic, technological, and military leader, African nations are understanding the potential value of renewed cooperation with the Jewish state. “What Netanyahu is doing right now is very important, but it should have been done a long time ago. It’s overdue,” Zvi Mazel, whose former roles include Israeli ambassador to Egypt and deputy director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry in charge of African relations, told JNS.org.
The nuclear agreement signed on July 14, 2015, between Iran and the P5+1 powers—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, and Germany—was a watershed event in international diplomacy and a key moment for U.S. President Barack Obama, who staked his legacy on the deal’s success. One year later, should world nations, and perhaps most notably Israel, still view the Islamic Republic as a nuclear threat? Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council think tank, told JNS.org that the Iranians “remain within the letter of the agreement but not the spirit” of the deal. “They have been a little more transparent in their nuclear processes, but it has not fundamentally changed Iranian behavior,” he said, alluding to Iran’s continued military buildup; support for terrorist organizations; and hostility towards Israel, the U.S., and America’s Arab allies.
As Hillary Clinton begins her general election campaign against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the Democratic Party held a July 8 discussion on its national platform, including a review of its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The party's platform committee rejected proposed language on Israeli "occupation" and "settlements" during that meeting. Yet some political analysts still fear that the more critical views on Israel of Clinton's former primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, may have left their mark on the presumptive Democratic nominee, “I will be watching carefully to see what happens with the platform and which, if any, Sanders aides join the Clinton team post-convention,” said Tevi Troy, a presidential historian and former White House aide for the George W. Bush administration.
At the annual Herzliya Conference in Israel last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced a seemingly unprecedented barrage of attacks from a number of political speakers, who contended that it was time for a change of direction in the Jewish state. Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon even made a formal announcement that he will run for prime minister in the next Israeli election. The next election? For those at the Herzliya gathering, it might have seemed like an election is brewing in the Jewish state. But Dr. Ofer Kenig, a researcher for the Israel Democracy Institute think tank’s Political Reform project and an expert on Israeli partisan politics, says, “I wouldn’t count on it.…I can only see new elections if Netanyahu decides he has had enough and he wants to reshuffle the cards. But I am not sure what would lead him to make such a move.”
Highly publicized severe water shortages in Palestinian villages in the northern West Bank have caused tens of thousands of local residents to suffer without an adequate water supply, bringing negative attention to Israel in international media. The current situation has been caused by a number of factors relating to Israeli-Palestinian water policy, damaged infrastructure, and an extended heat wave. Yet the shortages—which also affect neighboring Israeli villages, albeit to a much lesser extent—are raising serious questions about the overall state of Israel’s water supply, water policy, and a crumbling water infrastructure that was never designed to serve so many residents. “What has been happening over the last few weeks is a combination of problems. Number one, a critical pipe bursting; number two, the [regional water supply] network cannot supply the demand; and thirdly, water in this area is prioritized toward Israelis over Palestinians,” Dr. Saul Arlosoroff—former director of Mekorot, Israel’s national water company—told JNS.org.
A Mideast-focused media watchdog group is criticizing the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency for what it called the “clear and blatant” conflict of interest of employing the chairman of the anti-Israel Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) as a reporter on Israeli-Palestinian affairs. While Nasser Abu Baker reported on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for AFP for more than a decade, he also held senior positions with PJS, according to a recent report issued by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). In one instance, while AFP covered Israel’s detainment of Mohammed al-Qiq, a Palestinian journalist with ties to the Hamas terror group who was held for months without trial, Abu Baker-led PJS campaigned for al-Qiq’s release.
The Turkey-Israel normalization deal—reached June 27 after months of speculation that an agreement was imminent—“is presented by the Turkish government as a major victory in foreign policy,” said Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank who formerly served as a member of the Turkish Parliament. “Clearly, Turkey is a taking a step back from its earlier ideological and adventurous foreign policy rooted in Islamist principles rather than traditional republican values,” Erdemir told JNS.org, explaining that the deal with Israel is also a significant shift for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has “made a career out of polarization through sensational and anti-Semitic rhetoric.” At the same time, experts are skeptical about the deal's ability to alter Turkey-Israel disagreements over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
When it comes to content that incites terrorism, how can social media be regulated? And will social media platforms’ owners and users get on board with such efforts? Former senior Israeli Mossad spy agency operative Uzi Shaya, speaking at a conference hosted by the Shurat HaDin legal rights NGO, says that social media companies hide behind phrases like “freedom of speech,” but that if driven to do so, these platforms could partner with other entities to stop incitement. After the November 2015 Paris attacks, Twitter deleted 125,000 accounts associated with the Islamic State terror group within a matter of days, Shaya points out. “I presume this is an intentional coincidence,” he quips. “If there is no legal justification for deleting the accounts after the attacks, they should have remained operational. If there is legal justification, they should have been deleted beforehand.” Twitter’s cleanup work on terror stopped at Islamic State, as Hamas’s senior leaders continue to have Twitter and Facebook accounts.
In a historic referendum on Friday, the United Kingdom voted to leave the 28-nation European Union (EU), sending shockwaves throughout Europe and the international community. The results of the so-called “Brexit” vote—52 percent in favor of exiting the EU and 48 percent opposed—call into question the identity and strength of the EU while leaving many nations, including Israel, wondering how the vote will affect policy and trade in the years ahead. “There is no doubt that Israel will be left to follow the agreements that will be made between the United Kingdom and the European Union, and to adjust its economic and trade relations with Britain accordingly,” Dr. Oded Eran, the former Israeli ambassador to the EU, told JNS.org.
A newly released 10-minute online video produced by the Center for Near East Policy Research says that many of the Palestinians who have murdered Israelis during the so-called “stabbing intifada” were educated in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Among other footage, the video reveals a military-themed school play held at the UNRWA Nuseirat School in Gaza, in which students hold an Israeli hostage at gunpoint and emerge from a tunnel in order to carry out an attack against Israelis. Documentary filmmaker David Bedein, director of the Center of Near East Policy Research, says that the U.N. member states who are the funders of UNRWA schools should be held accountable for the agency’s hate education. At the top of that list is the United States—UNRWA’s largest donor, providing $400 million of the organization’s annual $1.2 billion budget. For UNRWA, says Bedein, the film “should be cause...to carry out a self-introspection.”
Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been fraught with tension. Even within the framework of that tension, strong American military aid for Israel has been a constant during the Obama years. But during the last few weeks, that support has been called into question by the White House’s expression of opposition to additional funding for Israel’s highly touted missile defense systems. “It seems like this whole [defense funding] issue is being manipulated by both sides for political interests internally and externally,” Arik Puder, president of the New York City-based public relations firm Puder PR and a former senior media consultant for Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, told JNS.org. “A lot of it has to do with egos and tensions between the two leaders. It is no secret that the relationship between them isn’t the best.”
In a span of less than a week, deadly shooting sprees at the hands of gunmen affiliated with Islamic terror movements rocked Orlando and Tel Aviv. In America, the mass killing of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub has strengthened calls for stricter gun control laws. Yet in Israel, where many civilians carry firearms, questions on how the Tel Aviv terrorists acquired their weapons did not spark national debate. “Random gun violence is low here because people are more serious,” Avi Dobular, master shooting instructor at the Magnum 88 Range in Jerusalem, told JNS.org. “Israelis grow up in a gun culture. They see people carrying guns from a young age. They serve in the army, where they are taught discipline and responsibility.”
The influx of migrants and refugees into Europe has presented that continent’s leaders and policymakers with some of their greatest current challenges. Those challenges “defy silver-bullet solutions,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken at the 2016 Herzliya Conference. During the June 14-16 conference in Jerusalem and Herzliya, the topic of migration reappeared in many of the dozens of speeches and panel discussions throughout the three-day Israeli event. The migrant crisis has been accompanied by an uptick in European nationalism and support for nationalist political parties, as well as amplified concerns about employment and Islamic terrorism. “[Europeans] fear the new cheap labor endangers their jobs. Others have fury because they have been searching for cheap housing for a long time. They think the politicians have no money for them—only for the refugees,” said Prof. Jurgen Ruttgers, former prime minister of the North Rhine-Westphalia state in Germany.