News from Israel and the Jewish World

JNS.org is an editorial content and business-services resource for media, reaching global Jewish communities. Below you will find the most pressing, breaking news from Israel and the Jewish world. JNS.org is updated regularly and includes special Israel news through exclusive English-language syndication of content by Israel Hayom, one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers.

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Prominent dovish American Jewish leaders are distancing themselves from claims by two leading Israeli left-wing figures that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged the recent wave of Palestinian arson attacks. Leaders of dovish organizations including the Israel Policy Forum, Partners for Progressive Israel, and Americans for Peace Now took issue with the controversial anti-Netanyahu statements by Peace Now co-founder Amiram Goldblum and Member of Knesset Zehava Gal-On (Meretz).

Democratic and Republican lawmakers are vowing to challenge a limit on U.S. defense aid for Israel that President Barack Obama included in the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the two nations. The agreement—reached in September—guarantees Israel $38 billion in aid over 10 years, but it also states that if Congress increases the aid, Israel is obliged to return the extra funds. U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Texas), Randy Weber (R-Ariz.), and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday at Agudath Israel of America’s legislative luncheon in New York that the restriction is "unconstitutional" because it would interfere with the ability of Congress to fulfill its mandate as a co-equal branch of the federal government. Engel vowed to "fight every step of the way" to bring about the revocation of the aid limit.

After years of silence, the Obama administration has finally spoken out about an American citizen who was killed in Israel. There's just one catch. The focus of the administration's sudden concern is not one of the 141 Americans who have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists. It's a Palestinian-American terrorist who tried to murder Israelis, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

Longstanding schisms within the Palestinian polity have adversely affected the development of institutions that will be needed for the envisioned Palestinian state and, indeed, for forging a consensus on negotiating the peace deal with Israel that is necessary to achieve a two-state solution. Unless there is some dramatic development at this week's Fatah party gathering in Ramallah, the true obstacle to moving forward towards a comprehensive and sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace will be tragically clear, writes Kenneth Bandler of the American Jewish Committee.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented Monday on the Israeli Air Force (IAF) strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, saying Israel will not allow any radical jihadist group to get a foothold on its borders. The IAF mounted two strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria between Sunday and Monday. The air force killed four Islamic State operatives Sunday after the terrorists fired mortars and artillery on Israel Defense Forces Golani Brigade troops patrolling the Israel-Syria border. Monday's strike targeted an Islamic State post on the southern edge of the Syrian Golan Heights.

Improving weather conditions, a massive influx of support from the international community and efforts by Israeli first responders have enabled the Jewish state to get raging wildfires under control. Israel’s Arab and Muslim allies were instrumental in helping the Jewish state combat the flames, with Egypt, Jordan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority all aiding the relief efforts.

“Put your hands behind your back and get on your knees,” 19-year-old Noam Ohayon exhorts JNS.org's reporter, who complies. “Now fall forward on your face. Without breaking your fall with your hands.” Ohayon, his voice full of mirth, then puts things in perspective. “Now imagine having to do that outside in the height of winter on the Golan [Heights] on a concrete path full of stones and ice,” he says. The exercise is just one of many challenging drills Ohayon had to endure in what is known as “Shavua Na’or,” or Na’or Week, at the Tamir pre-military preparatory academy in the northern Israeli town of Katsrin. The academy is one of 54 similar institutions across Israel that groom high school graduates for the Israel Defense Forces.

The United Nations has made it a major priority to advocate for the resettlement of refugees, so the following fact may come as a surprise: 40 years ago this week, the U.N. actually condemned a country for resettling refugees. But this part may be less surprising: that country was Israel, writes Aron White of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

The New Israel Fund (NIF) recently received a grant to “research and report on anti-Semitism on U.S. campuses.” On the surface, this appears to be a welcome development—a progressive group being mobilized to confront a major social malady plaguing institutions of higher education.  Beneath the surface of the Sept. 27 grant, however, are vested interests seeking to use this issue to cover up their role in fomenting the atmosphere that is hostile to Jewish students. The NIF is being paid by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund—a main backer of the anti-Israel activism that contributes to, enables and devolves into anti-Semitism on college campuses, writes Yona Schiffmiller of the NGO Monitor research institute.

For most organizations, moving underground would be ominous. For Israel’s national blood services center, it’s exciting. Nov. 16 marked the groundbreaking for the Jewish state’s new state-of-the-art central blood bank. Located in Ramla, the facility will be the world’s first completely underground national blood services center. Israel’s challenging reality affects every key aspect of the design of the center. Eli Bin, director general of Israel's Magen David Adom (MDA) national blood bank service, told JNS.org that "due to the challenges faced by our country both in terms of security and possible natural disasters, MDA must maintain its high standard and build a blood services center that's compatible with Israel's population growth rate as well as the aforementioned challenges."

When Israeli media personality Yair Lapid established the Yesh Atid party back in 2012, the U.S. State Department and Jewish peace activists were ecstatic, figuring Lapid would draw votes away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party. They were delighted with Lapid again earlier this year, when he refused to join Netanyahu's governing coalition, briefly giving the Israeli left hope of preventing a Likud-led government. Let's see what they think of Lapid now that, as a leader of one of Israel’s opposition parties, he has publicly acknowledged that there is no "occupation" of the Palestinians and that the Palestinian Authority is the obstacle to peace, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

A controversial bill to limit the volume of Muslim calls to prayer from mosques across Israel pits freedom of religious expression against the right to be protected from unwanted religious intimidation. The bill’s supporters contend that the calls’ noise negatively affects the quality of life of nearby residents of all faiths, including some Muslims, particularly the midnight and pre-dawn calls that often wake adults and small children. Opponents of the bill suggest that the measure was offered specifically to discriminate against mosques and that it inflames religious tensions.

Against the backdrop of this month’s long-overdue leadership elections for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, the Palestinians living in the West Bank face an uncertain future after more than a decade of stagnant rule. “The older generation has lost its ability to lead without leaving a younger generation behind that follows any clear organized path,” Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and expert on Arab affairs, told JNS.org. “The real problem is that there are no institutions or structures that can lead Palestinians now; there has been a steady decay in all bodies.”

Whether Jews concerned about Israel agree with Daniel Gordis, they generally not only read what he has to say, but his comments also become a primary source of discussion for days after his articles appear. This is no less true of the Conservative rabbi’s latest article, about Donald Trump's election victory. But this is less the voice of Gordis’s usual scholarly insight and moderation, and more a page from Lamentations reminding us of his love for Israel and the “danger” that a Trump victory brings to the world’s two largest Jewish communities. Columnist Abraham H. Miller writes why he disagrees with Gordis's assessment of the Trump win's implications for Israel.

Anyone reeling from the American presidential election result might want to take comfort in the laid-back attitude of some Palestinian civilians. At two competing Palestinian-owned "strip malls"—each housing a falafel joint, supermarket, and pet shop—located near the main junction leading into the city of Ariel in the Samaria region, most Palestinians interviewed by JNS.org reporter Orit Arfa were unfazed by the election victory of Donald Trump.

Important government action was taken to protect the environment in the Middle East this week. But don't expect the government in question to get any credit—because it was the Israeli government that took the action, and the Palestinian Arabs who were the polluters. And the Palestinians, as we all know, are immune from international criticism, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

The election victory by Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman who has never held political office and is a neophyte on foreign policy, has left many observers wondering about the future direction of U.S. policy abroad. Against that backdrop, supporters of Israel are immediately focusing attention on Trump’s approach to the much-discussed Iran nuclear deal, which was approved by the Obama administration and five other Western governments in July 2015. As a presidential candidate, Trump made a variety of comments regarding his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, ranging from calls for stronger inspections to entirely nixing the Obama administration’s signing of the pact. Trump “has cultivated a fair amount of ambiguity towards how he would approach the Iranian nuclear deal...this ambiguity is best exemplified by Trump's claims of both renegotiating and tearing up the [deal],” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Responding to rising demand for post-immigration services for English-speaking immigrants to Israel, the Nefesh B’Nefesh nonprofit will open two new aliyah centers in January 2017. Rachel Berger, director of post-aliyah and employment for Nefesh B’Nefesh, envisions a shared space where immigrants can “drop by, [and] get one-to-one services in times of employment and post-aliyah guidance.” 

Although it will be some time before President-elect Donald Trump names the members of his cabinet, the four individuals most often mentioned as contenders for the administration’s top foreign policy post all have strong pro-Israel records. 

A Donald Trump administration embrace of Israel may gravely deepen the divide among American Jews and make it infinitely harder to sustain support for Israel as a bipartisan principle. A situation in which opposition to Israel is an integral component of the opposition to Trump should not be welcomed by anyone who cares about American-Israeli relations. These are the realities that, when the gloating stops, Trump and his acolytes will have to deal with. Let us hope, however forlornly, that wisdom will be their guide, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen in his analysis of the 2016 presidential election.