This 2024 - Let's Win the Battle of Headlines
Pvt. Uri Magidish is reunited with her family, Oct. 30, 2023. Credit: Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).
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Israeli forces in Gaza free captive IDF soldier
Intro
After the news broke of Pvt. Ori Megidish's rescue, celebrations broke out in her hometown of Kiryat Gat in southern Israel.
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Israeli forces in Gaza on Monday freed an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas on Oct. 7, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Pvt. Ori Megidish was reunited with her family following a medical examination, the military said.

https://twitter.com/IDF/status/1719032123674296439

Megidish was among 243 people taken hostage by Hamas during its assault on Oct. 7, which left at least 1,400 people dead and more than 5,000 wounded. The terrorists have released four women.

She had been serving in the IDF's Nahal Oz Base near the Gaza border as a spotter after enlisting six months ago, Channel 12 reported.

Though other members of her unit were also taken hostage, Megidish is believed to have been held alone.

After the news broke of the soldier's return, celebrations broke out in her hometown of Kiryat Gat in southern Israel.

"Thanks to the Creator of the World, thanks to our soldiers," Megidish's aunt said during an emotional interview with Channel 12. "Thank you to the people of Israel ... we are very excited."

https://twitter.com/danielamram3/status/1719043239708111193

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the IDF and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) on their "important and exciting achievement," which he said "expresses our commitment to the release of all the hostages."

"The entire nation of Israel salutes the Shin Bet and salutes the IDF," commented the premier.

The state will "exhaust every possibility" to bring back the Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, Netanyahu told relatives of the missing on Saturday.

The meeting in Tel Aviv lasted for some two hours, after which the families participated in a rally demanding the abductees’ return.

On Sunday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant dismissed a Hamas offer to exchange the Israelis being held in Gaza for thousands of Palestinian terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons as “psychological games.”

“If there is no military pressure on Hamas, nothing will progress,” Gallant told relatives of the hostages, according to a Defense Ministry statement. “The stories published by Hamas are part of its psychological games. Hamas is cynically using those who are dear to us.”

On Monday, Hamas released footage showing three female Israeli hostages. The women in the video are confirmed to be Danielle Aloni, Rimon Kirsht and Lena Trupanob, according to Netanyahu's office.

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem called the video "cruel psychological propaganda by Hamas-ISIS."

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Netanyahu appealed to "Lena Trupanob, Danielle Aloni and Rimon Kirsht, who were abducted by Hamas that commits war crimes."

"I embrace you. Our hearts are with you and the other hostages. We are doing everything to bring all the hostages and missing people home," wrote the prime minister.

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    February 25, 2024
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IDF Master Sgt. Zohar Kochavi narrowly escaped death three times this year. Once fleeing the Hamas attack at the Supernova music festival and twice as a soldier fighting in the Gaza Strip. He is eager to return to the front.

Kochavi, with his girlfriend, Shiraz Amir, at his side, described his close calls to Channel 13 on Saturday evening, and his determination to return to combat, while pointing out footage of himself taken at the music festival and in the thick of the Gaza fighting.

"If this war continues, and they'll need me, I'll be there. Even if they don't need me. Even if they'll tell me, 'Sit at home,'" said Kochavi, who serves in the Oz Brigade, also known as the "Commando Brigade," a special operations force.

Kochavi was at the Supernova concert with his girlfriend when the terrorists attacked on Oct. 7. More than 360 people were killed and 40 kidnapped.

Kochavi and Amir arrived by car early that Saturday morning. Shortly afterwards, the terrorist assault began with a heavy barrage of rockets.

Amir related how Kochavi had bought a tent, shade canopy, mat and other camping equipment. When the rockets started, "he insisted on packing away all the things and taking home all he'd invested in."

Amir said she couldn't function. She was in shock from the shelling. "I stood on the side and cried while he folded up everything."

"I took my time and today I know that there's a possibility that this is what saved us," Kochavi said, suggesting that if they'd started off immediately, they might have been caught on the way and killed by the terrorists.

When they finally reached Kibbutz Be'eri, they spotted a white security vehicle stopped along the road; a security officer warned them that terrorists were ahead. They turned back to the site of the festival.

Amir wanted to enter a reinforced structure they had passed, built to withstand rocket attack. It was filled with people. "I thought, 'They know what they're doing,'" she said. Then they saw a man exit a nearby vehicle with a bullet in his foot and they realized the terrorists were close. Amir still wanted to enter the structure but Kochavi said, "We're moving."

Most of those hiding in such structures were slaughtered.

As they traveled south, they reached a traffic jam. They abandoned the vehicle and continued on foot. When Kochavi heard shots, he told Amir, "Run as fast as you can and don't stop"—words she said still echo in her ears.

Kochavi filmed part of it with his cellphone and young people can be seen running. "Everyone's fleeing," he says, out of breath.

Ultimately, what saved them was a vehicle that passed by. They jumped aboard and insisted, "You have to take us."

They reached their apartment in Tel Aviv but "didn't have time to digest what they'd experienced," the report noted.

Kochavi, who had only recently finished a commando course, received his IDF call-up notice two hours later. He headed south.

"Shiraz tried to convince me: 'Don't go. Don't leave me alone,'" Kochavi related. "I explained to her this is my time. It's for this that I trained. For this I fought. For this I have my team, who are incredibly strong, and it'll be OK. Don't worry."

It was on the first day of fighting in Beit Hanun, a city in the northeastern Gaza Strip, that Kochavi received his first wound. Terrorists in a building fired a salvo at his head, missing him by centimeters, he said. He suffered a shrapnel wound to his hands and a comrade had to pull him to safety.

"I had a feeling something would happen to me and that I won't return," Kochavi admitted, which led him to write a letter to his family and to Amir in the event of his death.

Kochavi teared up as he read the letter aloud during the Channel 13 segment: "My Dear Family, If you're reading this letter, it's a sign that I'm in a better place. I'm there above. I hear you and see you. I want to tell you that maybe physically I'm not there, but I'll always be by your side even without your noticing."

Zohar Kochavi reads aloud the letter he wrote in the event of his death, his mother and girlfriend at his side. Screenshot.

While the first injury was a near-miss, the second, a few days later, was more serious. Hamas used a drone to drop an explosive on a group of IDF soldiers as they were resupplying.

Remarkable footage from the terrorist drone was shown in the television segment as the rocket falls and blows up beside the soldiers, dropping a number of them to the ground. Thirteen soldiers were wounded, including Kochavi.

"This happened really in a place where a soldier is supposed to feel the most protected," Kochavi said of the resupply area defended by raised sand walls, where soldiers return to stock up on food and water.

The soldiers didn't know that it was a drone at first and they fired on nearby structures. Kochavi took part in helping another wounded soldier. He felt as if a fist was pressing continuously in his side. He expected it to go away but it only grew worse.

He continued to fight but after 10 minutes his hand fell asleep and he started to feel weaker. His GoPro camera filmed the event and Kochavi can be heard groaning from the pain even as he fires on surrounding buildings.

Only when he woke up in Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon did he learn that two pieces of shrapnel had entered his side, one practically touching a major artery. "Everything hurt," he said. "I couldn't walk."

"It will sound a little weird," Amir confided, but her concern for Kochavi saved her. "I didn't function after Nova," she said. "And when [the injury] happened, I left the house. I moved into the hospital and I had something to worry about. That was my treatment."

Zohar Kochavi recovers in Barzilai Medical Center, in Ashkelon, with support from his girlfriend, Shiraz Amir. Screenshot.

Kochavi's mother, Fanny, admitted she was happy that he was wounded because it took him out of Gaza.

Kochavi is determined to return to combat, however. He is taking physical therapy to build back his strength.

Amir and Kochavi had what they described as a "very difficult conversation" about it. Amir, in the end, decided to support him. "If that's what will help him go on with life with a tranquil spirit, I'm with him," she said.

"My stomach churns. It's hard to hear it," said Fanny. "But I can't hold him back. He's 27 years old."

At the end of the television segment, Kochavi brought out his army fatigues to show where the shrapnel entered. "This is the first and this is the second," he said, pointing to two small holes in his shirt. "And I will wear it still."

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As the Biden administration repeatedly pushes for a "two-state solution," which more than half of Israelis oppose, David Friedman, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, unveiled his plan for peace at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn.

Given how so many countries are turning on the Jewish state, it is untenable to do nothing about the Palestinian issue, but a two-state solution is unrealistic, Friedman said at the Feb. 22 event.

“Give up all the fantasies,” he said.

Friedman called the notion of a Palestinian state side-by-side with the Jewish one “the mother’s milk of the Democratic party, and to an extent, the Republicans.” But after Hamas's Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel, “there can’t be a two-state solution,” he said. He noted that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians has told pollsters it approved of the attack.

Israelis were evenly divided on a two-state solution until a few months ago, Friedman said. “Not any more.” The prior day, the Knesset—across political divides—voted 99-11 against unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. The Labor Party boycotted the vote, and the 11 were Arab party members.

Friedman's is a “generational plan,” which he said will take years and starts with an ultimatum to terrorists.

“Those of you who want to kill us, we’re going to kill you first. We’re not going to give in to terrorism,” he said. “Those who want to live with us, live with us.”

Jerusalem, Washington and Abraham Accord countries would lead the plan, with Israel retaining sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. As in the Marshall Plan for postwar Europe, Palestinian areas would be built up, funded by Gulf states. Palestinians would have “maximum civil autonomy,” with Israel retaining control of security, Friedman said.

As permanent residents, Palestinians would have Israeli documents, and though they could vote in local elections, they wouldn't participate in national ones, lest they have the chance to alter Israel's identity as a Jewish state.

“There are 30 Muslim states. If you want to live in one, pick one. There’s only one Jewish state,” Friedman said at the event. Palestinians would have full civil rights “other than the right to destroy the world’s only Jewish state through demographic power.” Israeli Arabs would retain their right to vote in national elections.

Friedman anticipated charges that his plan would amount to apartheid.

“Is America an apartheid state?” he asked, noting that residents of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can't elect a U.S. president and have non-voting congressional representation.

“These arrangements are accepted because there are significant reciprocal benefits,” Friedman said. “Israel has to help the Palestinians get out from the depths.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks to members of the press during an event in Jerusalem on Oct. 14, 2018. Credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.

'Biblical homeland'

Friedman unveiled the plan of his nonprofit, the Friedman Center for Peace Through Strength, in a session that introduced the Christian and Jewish grassroots group Keep God’s Land.

Per its site, the group, which was founded after Oct. 7, is “dedicated to strengthening and defending Israel’s right to its biblical homeland, with the ultimate goal of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.”

The prior day, the National Religious Broadcasters announced a “Biblical Heartland Resolution,” urging members to refer to "Judea and Samaria" when reporting on the region, not the “the erroneous term ‘West Bank.'"

The board of the NRB passed a resolution on Feb. 20 pledging “continued support and friendship with Israeli in her time of need,” condemning terrorism and calling on Hamas to release all of the hostages. It also noted the important role Christian media play in educating about Jew-hatred.

The NRB's large annual gathering of evangelical media outlets and personalities, held in Nashville this year from Feb. 20 to 23, had a strong emphasis on Israel.

Friedman participated in several events during the conference, and former U.S. president Donald Trump called his former ambassador to Israel to the stage to deliver remarks during Trump's address on Feb. 22.

Had Trump been in office last year, Hamas would never have been able to invade Israel, because Trump cut off funds to Hamas and hamstrung Iran, Friedman told those assembled. The Biden administration reversed both of those, he said. “We’re feeling the pain now because of that.”

Friedman added that his plan for the Palestinians follows the biblical promise that Israel is the land of the Jewish people and said it would grant civil rights to all and “recognizes that every human being is created in the image of God.”

David Friedman
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks at the Jewish Federation's annual General Assembly in Tel Aviv, Oct. 24, 2018. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

Middle East abhors a vacuum

“Let’s not let the perfect get in the way of the possible,” Friedman told attendees, anticipating Palestinian opposition to his plan.

He noted that there is no clear successor to aging, widely-unpopular Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. In the aftermath of the war against Hamas, “Israel will have to increase security” to address the “vacuum,” Friedman said.

Stability can be improved with initiatives to build real lives for Palestinians, not by recycling refugee camps and a grievance mentality, according to Friedman. Palestinian leaders who can create opportunities for a better and freer Palestinian future are needed also.

The plan “addresses needs on the ground, including the need to improve the Palestinian quality of life,” Friedman said. It also builds on the success of the Abraham Accords, he said.

With Israel retaining sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, the plan would ensure that sites sacred to many people of faith remain open and protected.

“You’re going to live here forever," he told Palestinians. "We can prosper together.”

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A walk around the Tower of David is a one-stop shop for architecture in Jerusalem from the times of the kings of Judea in the First Temple period 2,800 years ago until today.

There are walls from the Hasmoneans, towers from King Herod, a banquet room from the Crusaders and arched walls from the Ottomans to name just a few. 

Now the Tower of David Jerusalem Museum welcomes the latest layer in the Old City's architecture with the addition of the Angelina Drahi Entrance Pavilion, which opens its doors next month.

After more than a decade of planning and three years of construction, the final part of the $50 million renewal of the Tower of David Jerusalem Museum is complete with the opening of the new multi-level sunken entrance pavilion.

The 1,000 square meter (10,763 square feet) building nestled between the walls of Jerusalem's Old City and the ancient citadel walls is barely noticeable from the Jaffa Gate Plaza.

The Tower of David Museum. Photo by Dor Pazuelo.

Building regulations forbid building above the height of the Old City walls, so the architects and engineers needed to plan for excavating the site 17 meters/18.6 yards down to build the pavilion that now houses the ticket office of the museum, a changing exhibition gallery, and a labyrinth of offices for the Education Department underground and a shaded seating area outside. In May, the coffee shop will open.

A duty and an honor

The ancient citadel was transformed into a welcoming and accessible environment under the direction of Kimmel Eshkolot Architects, Professor Etan Kimmel and lead architect Yotam Cohen-Sagi.

“The opportunity to bring the 21st century to this ancient iconic site is both a duty and an honor," says Kimmel.

"We were set the task of renovating one of the earliest and most important architectural treasures of Jerusalem. Our challenge boiled down to our ability to find solutions to preserve the ancient stones that represent Jerusalem’s past without compromising their historic value or their beauty while planning new architectural structures and introducing modern infrastructure using modern materials to create a fruitful, interesting meeting between the new and the old,” he explains.

The first people to go on site were the archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

"You only need to use a teaspoon to dig up antiquities in the Old City of Jerusalem, and this is even more true when you are building a structure underground next to a citadel thousands of years old," says Cohen-Sagi.

The Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem's Old City, May 4, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

No great treasures from Jerusalem's past were found during construction and the building of the pavilion could go ahead as planned.

The renewal and conservation of the museum was led by the Clore Israel Foundation.

“No other museum can tell Jerusalem’s story in such a distinctive setting, within this citadel that has witnessed so many eventful periods in the city's past," says Eilat Lieber, director and chief curator of the museum. 

"Alongside the physical conservation of the walls and towers of this ancient site, we have developed a completely new permanent exhibition and creative programming that tells Jerusalem's long, complex and colorful history in respectful, innovative and engaging ways," she adds.

The museum now boasts 10 galleries spread throughout the ancient citadel that bring the story of Jerusalem to life through ancient artifacts mixed with the latest in immersive and interactive technology.

Designing Memory at the Tower of David Museum. Photo by Ricky Rachman.

The new pavilion allows for a change in the flow of visitors.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion says, “The new Tower of David Jerusalem Museum at the Jaffa Gate will serve as the new gateway to Jerusalem for the millions of visitors, tourists and pilgrims who want to explore the city’s rich and complex history before visiting the religious sites and ancient alleyways of the Old City.”

The entrance should have been opened on Nov. 3 but the Hamas war changed these plans. The museum opened on Oct. 9, the third day of the war, and has been running activities and guided tours for evacuated families, arts and crafts fairs for artists from the north and south as well as education programming for school children, all free of charge. 

"When we opened the museum, we didn’t know who would come," admits Lieber.

It quickly became clear that for the thousands of visitors who arrived, the museum offered a reprieve from the shadows of the war, she says. One visitor, who had been evacuated from Moshav Kfar Maimon, near the northern Gaza Strip, says that standing surrounded by the ancient Jerusalem stones gave a historical perspective and some hope.

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Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh's government could offer its resignation "within days" as part of a unity deal with the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, Sky News Arabia reported on Sunday.

The move would be meant to facilitate the swift establishment of a Palestinian "government of technocrats" whose primary purpose would be the reconstruction of Gaza, sources in Ramallah told Sky News.

The government is expected to be headed by Mohammad Mustafa, currently the chairman of the P.A.'s Palestine Investment Fund. It would serve during a "transition period" until elections are held.

On Feb. 12, P.A. chief Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Doha at the invitation of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to discuss ways to incorporate Hamas into a P.A.-led body for Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Following Abbas's trip, Hamas reportedly approved a three-step plan leading to "complete reconciliation [with the Palestinian Authority]" and the terrorist group joining the Palestine Liberation Organization, which controls the P.A., under a "unified Palestinian-Arab vision."

Hamas officials told Saudi-based Asharq News that while it welcomes cooperation with the P.A., the terrorist group demands to be consulted on "every step," including the members of the prospective government.

The United States wants the P.A. to assume control of Gaza after the war against Hamas ends, a move that Israel vehemently rejects because of Ramallah's overt support for terrorism.

On Jan. 27, Abbas's spokesman told Al Arabiya television that the P.A. is prepared to hand over the reins to Hamas after the conflict. Ramallah is "prepared to hold general elections, and if Hamas wins, the president will hand over the Authority," spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.

The U.S. State Department has refused to rule out Hamas retaining power in Gaza or even joining a P.A.-led governing body that would also have jurisdiction in Judea and Samaria.

According to Palestinian polls, 89% of Palestinians support establishing a government that includes or is led by Hamas. Only around 8.5% said they favor an authority controlled exclusively by Abbas's Fatah faction.

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Israel's Education Ministry is warning of "panic-inducing costumes" ahead of next month's Purim holiday as the country continues to grapple with the Hamas war that began on Oct. 7.

According to the ministry, the directive issued to schools and kindergartens comes "in the shadow of the war and in accordance with the security reality and the characteristics of the current period."

Administrators and teachers are recommended to sit down with students and parents to discuss "how to properly celebrate the holiday" with the recognition of the "worry or sadness they experience."

Additionally, the guidelines state that "care must be taken to avoid arriving in costumes that may cause fear, panic, or injury to another."

In the coming days, educational teams will discuss with students the costumes they intend to wear, "with the aim of considering together with them about how to choose a costume that will give them a creative and joyful personal expression, without endangering the costume-wearers and their environment. Also, the students are required to show sensitivity and personal responsibility in choosing the costume, so as not to harm the other."

The wartime mood has put a damper on preparations for the usually joyful holiday celebrating the biblical story of the Jewish Queen Esther saving the Jewish people from Haman, the evil vizier of the Persian King Achashverosh. It takes place from sunset on March 23 until sunset on March 24.

Many municipalities across Israel have decided to cancel or alter traditional events, including Holon nixing the popular Adloyada parade.

An exception is Jerusalem, which plans on celebrating Purim as usual, including the party on Nissim Becher Street in the Nachalot neighborhood and dressing famous buildings in monster costumes. Jerusalem is also looking at the possibility of holding an Adloyada parade for the first time since 1957.

"The Jerusalem municipality decided to hold the events out of a desire to be happy, and to show that the capital of Israel continues to live and be happy even in difficult times," Ynet reported.

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One in five Israeli seniors is living without proper home heating due to financial constraints, a phenomenon exacerbated by the Hamas war's effects on the economy, a survey released on Sunday finds.

The findings of the Geocartography survey prompted the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews to allocate an additional 10 million shekels ($2.76 million) of funding to help 27,000 households across Israel. 

The seniors most heavily impacted economically by the war, now in its fifth month, were those between the ages of 65 and 69, 23% of whom said the war had forced them to adjust or limit spending as a result of the current financial climate. 

Seniors in the Israeli Arab sector were especially hard hit financially in the wake of the Hamas attack, the polling found.

“Every winter presents major challenges for Israel’s elderly, but there is no doubt the war in Israel has caused greater financial constraints on this already vulnerable community,” said IFCJ President Yael Eckstein.

“With the help of our hundreds of thousands of friends and supporters around the world, the Fellowship is blessed to increase our ongoing support of Israel’s elderly, through practical and financial assistance to help them during these challenging winter months,” she said.

The survey, which was conducted in mid-January among 400 Israelis aged 65 and up, had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

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  • Words count:
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    February 25, 2024
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Korniychuk Yevgen has been Ukraine's ambassador to Israel since 2020. Since before Russia's invasion of his country in February 2022, he has argued that Israel is not doing enough when it comes to assisting Ukraine.

Since the invasion, his efforts to increase Israeli assistance to Ukraine have only increased.

Q: Thank you, ambassador, for the interview. What is the situation in Ukraine two years after the Russian invasion?

A: I should remind you that not many intelligence communities in the world...believed that we would last more than two to three weeks as an independent nation, but after two years of war, we control the majority of our territory, which by itself, I believe, means victory.

We are stronger than we were two years ago. The majority of the population believe we can win, meaning that we could liberate all of our independent territories that belonged to Ukraine before 2013. Our army is definitely, in technical and human terms, one of the strongest among the world, and within the last month we were able to sign security cooperation agreements with various states, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Denmark and some other nations.

Q: Let me ask about the situation on ground—we saw several reports about the Russians claiming to conquer a few areas?

A: I'm not sure that taking a small town, which had a population of about 25,000 before the invasion, is a great victory. Our aim is to save human lives, the lives of our soldiers, and if based on practical considerations we decided to withhold our troops and move them to other territories, that doesn't mean a great victory for Russians. Again, they were supposed to control the whole country within a month of the beginning of the war, and now after two years, they are claiming victory if they capture a small town in the Donbass area. I don't think it's a victory at all.

Q: It seems that since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has started to be a major drone producer?

A: Not just drones—we're producing a lot of different types of ammunition and military equipment. Some of them we've been making as a joint venture with the Western countries. ... We realized that the war is unfortunately a marathon, this is why we had to invest in our own production. And that's what we've been doing, successfully.

Q: What changes do you see, if at all, since Oct. 7 regarding global attention on the war in Ukraine?

A: We have the same enemy, which is Russia and Iran. And most of the Israeli people will agree with me. The political leadership will most likely not. But if now the same Iranian drones that are being used against Ukraine are also being used by Yemen, you will agree with me that we are fighting the same enemy. Of course, Iran is not going to be at the forefront of the war, but it will supply, it will support pro-Iranian proxies all over Israel. And that's the same as the Russians have been doing, meeting with Hamas and Hezbollah leadership in Moscow, and with the Iranians.

In terms of the media, it was for us more difficult because a lot of the attention was drawn to the war in Israel after Oct. 7, but we are working hard to keep it [in the headlines of the] major international media outlets around the world.

Q: What would you like to see more of from the Israeli side?

A: I wish we could do more together with the Israeli government, but again, this is not a one-man show—the Israeli government has to agree to do more. So, for example, I should remind you that we have the bill now in Congress pushing financial aid mostly to Ukraine and Israel. And I should say that we should do more in order to push to have the vote in Congress as quickly as possible for this important act that will provide financial aid for Ukraine and Israel.

Q: But how much disappointment is there that we know exactly what the Russian stance is on the war in Gaza, yet still, Israel is not changing its position regarding the Ukrainian war?

A: Listen, I am not an adviser to the Israeli government. And you know that I have heavily criticized them for not having a more proactive position towards Russia and Ukraine. But this is not up to me. I'm a foreign diplomat. You know, I think this is more for the Israeli people, who should call on their government to change its position and do more.

You don't need any proof of who the enemy is, and yet you will probably not find one sentence of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu criticizing the Russian leadership. Your ambassador to Moscow has been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, and since the beginning of war I have been summoned to the Foreign Ministry five times.

Which is the problem...I am trying to explain that we have the same enemy and that they have to be more proactive and work closer together against that enemy.

Q: Is Ukraine getting the same assistance as they got before the war here in Israel?

A: We have a problem because of the U.S. election at the end of the year. And now Trump's influence on Congress is pretty high. This is why this isn't related to the war in Israel, but rather to the Democrats versus Republicans in Congress. And you know that Republicans are at the majority in Congress, that's why we have a problem. It's not related to Israel, but again, you have your own lobbying abilities in Congress, and we do as well. So we think, I think we have to work together, because the aid to Israel and aid to Ukraine is the same deal.

Q: How do you think the war will end?

A: Like I said, this is a marathon. This is not a sprint. We all understand that. And no matter how tired the public in Ukraine is, more than 80% wants to liberate all of our territories and push forward. So this is the key message. So I'm sure you have seen, we have had a big gathering in Habima Square, together with the mayor of Tel Aviv. The same gathering is what's going on in all major cities of Israel in support of Ukraine. We have to stay united. And this is what most of the people in Ukraine and people in Israel understand. And we need to stay strong and defeat our enemy and achieve full victory. And that's what we're focused on.

Amichai Stein is the diplomatic correspondent for Kan 11, IPBC.

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Defense Minister Yoav Gallant recently conveyed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that on the issue of ultra-Orthodox conscription, he would support whatever Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz proposed.

It is understood that the prime minister is outraged over this decision, and in a conversation about Gallant with his confidants, he threatened to delay the passage of the law to extend the mandatory military service in the IDF for conscripted and reserved troops—a measure that is important for the army and Gallant.

Netanyahu was angry that Gallant was essentially leaving him to deal alone with the haredi parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism) on this matter, threatening his coalition. 

Gantz's National Unity Party believes its presence in a wartime government poses an opportunity and an obligation to promote legislation that would introduce mandatory service for hared men. haredi parties have been putting up roadblocks against the law, seeking to discuss the conscription issue after the municipal elections this Tuesday.

The hot potato of haredi conscription came up again after Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara said in her response to the High Court of Justice that if primary legislation for exempting haredim from conscription was not advanced by April, the state would be required to begin conscripting them. Currently, the exemption for haredim is in effect due to a Cabinet resolution from the summer, which froze haredi conscription in order to advance legislation on the matter, but the decision is set to expire at the end of March. For its part, the government did not advance the issue due to the ongoing war in Gaza.

In the current public mood, the issue of ultra-Orthodox conscription complicates things for Netanyahu, Religious Zionism Party leader Bezalel Smotrich and Otzma Yehudit Party head Itamar Ben-Gvir. On the one hand, their voters demand that haredim share the burden of service in light of the war; on the other, all three want to maintain coalition unity and not clash with the haredi parties.

Senior government officials believe that they will try to delay the haredi conscription issue again, whether by requesting an extension from the High Court or by finding a legal construct through the authority of the defense minister, thereby leaving the situation as is.

Another possibility is to reach a compromise with the haredim. One option is to raise their conscription quotas in law, but such a solution would fail to satisfy the anger among Israelis who have demanded equality of burden and are unwilling to accept the increased burden on sectors already bearing it for years.

Senior coalition members admit that even without a change in haredi conscription, the law to extend the mandatory service for other sectors will eventually pass, because it is an important and urgent military need.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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  • Words count:
    532 words
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  • Publication Date:
    February 25, 2024

Israel Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Saturday night posted a scathing criticism of the United Nations and its Human Rights Council after it issued a report calling for an arms embargo of Israel.

"Since the October 7 massacre, the @UN has cooperated with Hamas terrorists and is trying to undermine Israel's right to defend itself and its citizens," he tweeted, adding that the world body has turned a blind eye to Israeli suffering, including sexual crimes, at the hands of Hamas.

Katz described the U.N.'s failure to hold Hamas accountable "a stain that cannot be erased, on the U.N. as an organization and personally on the U.N. Secretary-General."

https://twitter.com/Israel_katz/status/1761424126483341557

On Friday, the Geneva-based group issued a statement citing "U.N. experts," including special rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups: "Any transfer of weapons or ammunition to Israel that would be used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law and must cease immediately."

The experts welcomed the Dutch appeals court's Feb. 12 decision ordering the Netherlands to stop sending F-35 jet replacement parts to Israel and the suspension of weapons transfers by Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Japanese firm Itochu Corporation.

It urged other states to follow suit.

The "experts" also cited the Jan. 26 ruling by the International Court of Justice at the Hague, which cited "a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza and the continuing serious harm to civilians since then.”

However, the statement neglected to mention the court's rejection of South Africa's request for an order immediately halting Israel's war against Hamas.

The U.N. statement also said military intelligence shouldn't be shared with Israel.

“State officials involved in arms exports may be individually criminally liable for aiding and abetting any war crimes, crimes against humanity or acts of genocide,” according to the statement. “All States under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and the International Criminal Court, may be able to investigate and prosecute such crimes.”

Israel's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday, "Even in the face of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Hamas terrorists, Israel has acted, and will continue to act, in accordance with international law. 

"Calls for an arms embargo on Israel are actually calls of support for the Hamas terrorist organization. Calls to stop intelligence sharing are calls to prevent the hostages being brought home." 

On Feb. 12, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell also suggested that the United States and other countries halt weapons shipments to Israel over allegations that “too many people are being killed” in the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Foreign Minister Katz, responding at the time to Borrell’s comments, said, “Minister Borrell, you don’t want to listen to anyone. We clarified and will clarify again. Israel acts according to the international laws of war and allows the Gazans to reach safe areas."

In fact, he continued, "Israel cares more about the residents of Gaza than Hamas does. They prevent them from leaving. We permit it.” Calls to prevent the shipment of weapons to Israel "are actually calls to prevent Israel from destroying Hamas. It will not happen. We will destroy Hamas,” he said.

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