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Netanyahu In Moscow for Talks with Putin

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Thursday. The discussion between the two leaders centered on the Trump Administration’s recently released “Deal of the Century” but before he returned to Israel Netanyahu also greeted Naama Issachar, an Israeli backpacker who received a presidential pardon from Putin earlier in the day after she was arrested in Moscow several months ago on drug smuggling charges as she was attempting to return home from a trip to India with 9 grams of marijuana in her luggage.

Elsewhere, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continued to issue statements condemning the “Deal of the Century” including in a letter he sent to Netanyahu through intermediaries on Wednesday in which he said that "the plan is an American and Israeli abandonment of the Oslo Accords." The letter also said that if the plan proceeds "the PA will consider itself free to break any and all agreements signed with Israel, including security coordination between the two sides."

Earlier on Wednesday, Netanyahu said during an interview with Fox News that “the Palestinians should take the first step" in implementing the plan, adding that the Palestinian people "must be given a vision, which I think is what the president did. Once we define the direction... I think we can get there.” However, he added "Getting Hamas out of Gaza isn't going to be easy. Assuming we have a peace agreement, then the two parts of where the Palestinians [live] will be connected. We have a way to get there, but the Palestinians should take the first step."

"We are going to leave open the map in such a way that we will not contradict... the outline that the president put forward," he explained. "We are going to maintain our policies. Israel will act according to what the plan signals. The Arab states... have said, 'This is something you have to consider.' I think this is an amazing achievement for President Trump…Trump is the best friend that Israel has ever had in the White House."

"It is a great day for peace, for Israel, for the Palestinians, and for the world. Thank you, President Trump."

Here are some videos offering some further analysis of the situation

Trump Administration’s ‘Deal of the Century’ Plan Unveiled

US President Donald Trump unveiled his much anticipated “Deal of the Century” peace plan at the White House on Tuesday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing next to him and giving favorable remarks of his own. The plan, including a map of borders between Israel and a future Palestinian State with its capital in some of the outlying neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem, was immediately and angrily rejected by the Palestinian Authority despite receiving support from several Sunni Arab governments.

Here are the videos of President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarks

Click HERE to read the full text of the plan

In the wake of the plan’s unveiling, Netanyahu announced that the cabinet would vote on annexing all Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, however, Likud officials later walked the announcement back, saying a decision on holding a vote had been delayed for an indefinite period of time. Analysts further clarified that a great deal of technical work needed to be done to prepare the documentation of such a momentous decision before a political vote could be taken.

Here is a video analyzing Israel’s minimum security needs

PA Reacts to Deal of the Century

Officials with the Palestinians Authority as well as the Islamist terror militia Hamas and other Palestinian factions reacted with furious outrage on Tuesday to the unveiling of the so-called “Plan of the Century” at the White House. “We say 1,000 ‘no’s to this deal,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said, sarcastically referring to it as “the slap of the Century” he added that “Now, we see that we were right when we rejected it from the beginning. Jerusalem is not for sale. Our rights are not for sale. The plot of the century won’t pass, and it will end up in the dustbin of history.” He further added that the plan was based on the Balfour Declaration “devised by the US and UK to liquidate the Palestinian cause. All schemes to liquidate the Palestinian cause will fail.”

“I say to Trump and Netanyahu: Jerusalem is not for sale, all our rights are not for sale and are not for bargain. And your deal, the conspiracy, will not pass,” he added in a televised address.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri agreed, saying the announcement of Trump’s plan “has no value, and it’s not worth the ink it was written with…Palestine will prevail, and Trump and the deal with go to the dustbin of history.” A statement by several Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, released shortly after the announcement of the plan, added: “No occupier shall remain on our land. Jerusalem will remain the eternal capital of Palestine. It will remain an Arab and Islamic city.”

However, their calls for street protests against the plan were sparsely attended, suggesting the possibility that their angry rejections are not entirely shared by a majority of the Palestinian populations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Arab States React to Deal of the Century
Sunni Arab heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE all issued statements immediately following the release of the “Deal of the Century” on Tuesday voicing favor for it and urging Israel and the Palestinians to immediately begin negotiations based on the parameters of the deal. However, the deal attracted criticism from Jordan and Turkey, while reactions were mixed among other regional states.

Violence Intensifies in Iraq and Syria
Massive street demonstrations have continued in Iraqi cities this week, leading to several deaths and the burning of hundreds of cars and dozens of buildings. Economic activity in some cities has dramatically decreased and curfews were in effect in most of Iraq’s large cities. The protesters are demanding snap elections and other reforms, while the regime has labelled them “terrorists” whose aim is the illegitimate toppling of the regime. Meanwhile, in Syria, forces loyal to the Assad regime, supported by Iranian-backed militias and Russia air power, has made progress in their offensive against the last rebel forces holed up in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Here is a video giving some deeper analysis of the situation in Syria

Environmental Reports Warns of Problems in Red Sea
A report was published this week by the Max Plank Institute for Chemistry saying that hydrocarbon gases seeping up through the bed of the Red Sea are mixing with emissions from industrial shipping to create dangerously high levels of air pollution in the northern Red Sea region, home to Israel’s southern resort city of Eilat. The report warned that the situation is likely to get worse as the volume of seaborne traffic through the area increases in the coming years.
Today’s video gives some analysis of the situation regarding Israel’s engagement with the International Criminal Court

Netanyahu Trial to Begin Within Weeks

Following the withdrawal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution on Tuesday, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit filed an indictment with the Jerusalem District Court against him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His trial will begin within weeks and according to many analysts it is expected to impact on the Knesset elections scheduled to take place on 2 March.

"Citizens of Israel - At this fateful hour for the people of Israel, while I am in the US on a historic mission to shape Israel's permanent borders and ensure our security for future generations, another Knesset show is expected to open in the immunity circus,” Netanyahu wrote in an open letter to the “Citizens of Israel” which he posted on his Facebook page Tuesday morning. "This is the continued personal pursuit by the obsessed 'just not Bibi' people. Instead of understanding the size of the hour and transcending political considerations, they continue to engage in cheap politics that damage a crucial moment in the history of the state. Since I was not given due process, because all of the Knesset rules are being trampled underfoot – and since the results of the procedure were dictated in advance without a proper discussion as required – I decided not to let this dirty game go on."

"But now, I will not let my political opponents use this matter to interfere with the historical move I am leading," the letter continued. "As I have done all my life, I will continue to invest all for the future of our country and for you, the citizens of Israel." 

However, Netanyahu’s various political opponents spent most of Tuesday morning passionately demanding that he resign immediately.

IDF Gearing Up for Possible Escelations
Ahead of the formal unveiling Tuesday of US President Donald Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” the IDF has quietly deployed additional troops to the Jordan Valley and otherwise raised the level of preparedness for possible violence following the announcement. "The State of Israel is facing crucial days of establishing its permanent borders and applying sovereignty to Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said. “The IDF and the forces in the field are prepared for every scenario. We are facing crucial days of setting boundaries and applying sovereignty…threats from the Palestinian side will not deter us.”

Islamic State Leader Calls for Attacks on Israel
Caliph Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi,a senior official with the Islamic State (IS) terror militia, sent a directive to members of the group on Monday ordering them to begin plans to target Israel and Jewish communities around the world, with chemical weapons if possible. He added that "The Muslims who live in Palestine... will be at the forefront of the fight against the Jews [and] foiling the ‘Deal of the Century.’” He also directed a message specifically to Israelis and Jews, saying "Today we have begun a new phase in our struggle with you. Our eyes now look towards Jerusalem."

Trade Between Israel and Russia Rebounds
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat this week when Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin announced that annual bilateral trade between Israel and Russia had risen above $5 billion, marking a full recovery from the dip suffered during the financial crisis earlier in the decade. He made the announcement at a recent meeting of the Russia-Israel Business Dialogue Forum, which was also attended by dozens of government and business leaders from both countries.

“We consider economic cooperation to be the most important aspect of Russian-Israeli relations," said Chair of the Israeli-Russian Business Council, Temur Ben-Yehuda. "Making sure this cooperation continues to be strong at the highest level involving government agencies and the business community is key to a long-term mutually beneficial partnership between the two countries.”

Today's videos include recent postings to mark International Holocaust Remembreance Day

Here is a podcast exploring the relationship between Israel and the US regarding the threat from Iran

‘Deal of the Century’ Set to be Formally Unveiled

US President Donald Trump was scheduled to unveil the full details of his long-anticipated “Deal of the Century” plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians at noon on Tuesday following meetings on Monday with Israeli leaders at the White House. “This is an opportunity for peace,” Trump said, standing next to Netanyahu upon his arrival to the White House on Monday. “We’ll show a plan that has been worked on by everyone. We’ll see if it catches hold. If it does, that’d be great. If it doesn’t, it’s okay.”

Here is a video released by the Prime Minister’s Office

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz released a cautious statement saying that “Immediately after the [March 2] election, I will work towards implementing it from within a stable, functioning Israeli government in tandem with other countries in our region.” press before his return flight to Israel.
Various details of the plan have been leaked to the media but analysts advised waiting till the plan is officially revealed. However, reactions to the leaks have already prompted some settlement leaders to demand that it be rejected.

“I am amazed that my prime minister has agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state," warned Yesha Council chief and Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani on Tuesday. "This is an existential threat to the State of Israel. It spells the destruction of the settlements in Judea and Samaria. We have agreed in the Deal of the Century to the creation of a Palestinian state…I am willing to give up on Jordan Valley sovereignty in exchange for a promise that there won’t be a Palestinian state. We have to stop this now.”

Similar statements were issued by other settler leaders.

Israeli Leaders in Washington for ‘Deal of the Century’ Announcement

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz were in Washington Monday for separate meetings with US President Donald Trump regarding the so-called “Deal of the Century” plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Elements of the plan are expected to be released Tuesday during a joint press conference Trump and Netanyahu are scheduled to give. Prior to their arrival at the White House, Trump publicly declared to the two Israeli officials that “You have six weeks to get this [plan] going – if you want it.”

“This is an opportunity that comes once in history, and we cannot miss it,” Netanyahu said in a video posted to social media Saturday evening. “We have the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House, and therefore, we have the best opportunity we ever had.”

For his part, Gantz thanked Trump for the invitation and praised him for his strong support of Israel, but warned that the “Deal of the Century” would likely prompt “a large and painful internal argument” within Israel but that he (Gantz) had committed himself to “reduce this dispute to a minimum.” He also acknowledged Palestinian objections to the plan, which have amounted to outright rejection even before the plan is released. Trump told reporters over the weekend that he expected initial hostility to the plan from the Palestinian leadership but that they’d eventually accept it as “it's actually very positive for them."

However, amidst calls by some Palestinian factions for massive protests and violence to “resist” the plan, the IDF announced over the weekend that it is taking extra precautions.

Violence Intensifies in Several Iraqi Cities
Amidst lingering tensions between the US and Iran, three Katyusha rockets landed inside the US Embassy compound in Baghdad on Sunday evening, causing some damage and at least one injury, according to Iraqi media sources. Leaders of Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror militias active in Iraq have called for mass protests to evict US forces from the country in the coming days. However, large-scale protests against them and their Iranian patrons have also continued in recent days in several Iraqi cities, accompanied by violent confrontations which have killed several people.

Israel Offers Assistance to Turkey Following Earthquake
An earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale killed at least 38 people and injured many more in Turkey's Elazig province last Friday, prompting Israel and other neighboring countries to offer assistance. "We are anxiously tracking the developments," wrote MDA director-general Eli Bin in a letter to Turkish Red Crescent president Dr. Kerem Kinik on Saturday. "This is a significant earthquake that requires a large-scale response and collaboration between a large number of organizations.”

"I view this as an opportunity for collaboration and offer all assistance towards saving lives anywhere in the world. This is how MDA has operated in the past and will continue to do so," stated Bin.

Here is a video showing other ways Israel is blessing the world

Israelis Welcome Break from Severe Winter Weather
Israelis were relieved on Sunday morning as a break in the inclement weather brought some relief from what has been, by most standards, the harshest winter in almost 30 years. Record low temperatures combined with heavy precipitation and winds have led to several deaths and widespread property damage, but over the weekend nearly 100,000 Israelis took advantage of warmer temperatures and clear skies to visit national parks and otherwise enjoy the outdoors.

Israelis Allowed to Visit Saudi Arabia
In the latest sign of thawing relations between Israel and its Sunni Arab neighbors, Interior Minister Arye Deri authorized an initial batch of Israeli citizens to visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday. The visitors reportedly include business people interested in joint ventures with their Saudi counterparts as well as Moslem citizens who with to visit Saudi Arabia for religious pilgrimages. Visitors must still secure permission from Saudi authorities.

Today’s video tells the story of an Arab-Israeli Christian in the IDF

FRIDAY FEATURE - Fading memories, fading sympathies

Memory is so important, yet so fragile. The most often repeated command in the Tanakh is to “remember!” Yet we are mere humans, and the memories captured in our minds tend to fade so easily. On Monday, January 27th, I will have the privilege to address hundreds of Holocaust survivors at a remembrance gathering in Haifa to honor the memory of the six million Jews massacred in the Nazi genocide. The ceremony will be held at a unique “warm home” which is solely dedicated to caring for needy Holocaust survivors – the only one of its kind in Israel. There will be cabinet ministers and other dignitaries there as well. Sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem with Yad Ezer L’Haver, the warm home is located in an older neighbourhood of upper Haifa, and although I have been there dozens of times, I still worry if I will remember how to get there through the winding hilly streets.

For most of the survivors I have met, they have a much greater worry on their mind, which is that people will forget about their suffering and loss during the Holocaust. They fear the world will not remember, and thus will not carry the important lessons of the Shoah (Holocaust) into the future. Sadly, their fears are a valid concern.

In their lifetimes, those European Jews who survived Hitler’s genocide campaign have witnessed the rise of Holocaust denial, as well as the resurgence of anti-Semitism. This has been a particularly bad year for terror attacks and hate crimes against Jewish people. From Pittsburgh to Halle, synagogues have been, quite literally, under siege.

Nevertheless, I would urge all my Jewish friends to take courage. There are many in the world who have learned the lessons of the Holocaust, and this is especially true of Christians. We used to be the Jewish people’s worst enemies, but ever since the Holocaust, Christians have become their best friends. This new era of close Jewish-Christian friendship also has something to do with the rebirth of the nation of Israel, which is the best answer we have to the threat of anti-Semitism. But we are here now, remembering with them not only the horrors of the Holocaust, but also the long, tragic legacy of Christian hostility towards Jews. And we say to both: “Never Again!”

Many of the survivors of the Holocaust helped to build the state of Israel. They are here by historic right. Yet some say that the world only accepted Israel as a nation 70 years ago out of sympathy for Jewish suffering in the Holocaust. I am afraid there is some truth to this.

When the United Nations voted to accept Israel as a member state in 1949, the key vote was cast by the Soviet Union. If they had opposed Israel’s admittance, the vote would have turned out very different. But the Soviets had just enough sympathy for Jewish suffering because of what the Red Army discovered when it liberated Auschwitz exactly 75 years ago. Yet it did not take long for that sympathy to wear off. Within a few short years, the Soviet Union was oppressing its Jewish population and joining with its Arab allies to try to wipe Israel off the map.

The lesson is clear! Sympathy for Jews can fade quickly, while hatred of the Jews never seems to disappear. Today, the Soviet Union may be gone. But senior advisors to Vladimir Putin recently began reviving the old libel that Jews murdered the Russian royal family. Meanwhile, angry calls for the killing of Jews have been heard once more echoing off Brandenburg Gate. Every Jewish synagogue, school, and community center in Europe has security guards, and American Jewry is now scrambling to do the same. 

So my dear Jewish friends, remember to stay on guard! Do not be deceived when members of the United Nations or European Union stop for a few moments one day each year to show sympathy for Jewish suffering in the past. It may be there only to ease their conscience, so they can go back to criticizing and condemning the Jewish state every other day of the year. Indeed, their sympathy can fade so fast, even by sundown.

Yet also be encouraged that there are millions of Christians at your side today! We have more than a temporary sympathy for your sufferings. We have a love for you from God that is stronger than hate. It is a love that compels us to stand with you and defend you. And it will never fade away. Am Israel Chai!

David R. Parsons is Vice President & Senior Spokesman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

FRIDAY FEATURETTE - Water, Water Everywhere

Capping off one of the wettest winters in decades, torrential rains have poured down on Israel all this week, bringing the Sea of Galilee to its highest level in years and also filling many small streams, ponds, tributaries and rivers all over the Holy Land. Coming as it does after years of near-drought conditions, the rains (and snow on Mount Hermon in the north) have been welcomed, but there has also been a price to pay in the form of several deaths and billions of shekels in property damage, including massive destruction in the coastal city of Nahariya.

The IDF has also suffered damage including to 8 F-16 jets which were caught in underground shelters when the rains hit. Ironically, the shelters, built to protect the jets from falling rockets and bombs, quickly filled up with water, “drowning” the planes and causing severe damage to their computerized components and engines.

With the end of January approaching, Israelis are aware that the traditional end of winter is also looming and with it the end of the season when their country receives all of its rainfall. This brings mixed feelings as sunshine and warm temperatures are much more pleasant, but everyone knows how much the country needs water.

Along with the unusually high volume of rain, there has also come a flood of commentary about the possible prophetic significance of the unusually heavy rains. In the amusing but harmless category there have been questions raised in online forums about the possible need for the Israeli government to set up a process for issuing fishing licenses for the Dead Sea, since so much fresh water is flowing into it from these rains. On the other end of the spectrum there have been deeply hurtful and unhelpful blogs written accusing the city of Nahariya of some uniquely terrible sin which caused God to send a rainstorm to punish it, just as He sent showers of burning sulphur and brimstone to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, as described in Genesis 19.

All of this speculation and commentary is belied by the fact that Israel’s neighbours are also experiencing similar conditions this winter, with Egypt, Turkey, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Iran and even far away Spain, Portugal and France all suffering from destructive flooding after days when several months worth of rain fell in just a few hours, completely overwhelming the absorptive capacity of the ground and the channelling capacity of man-made infrastructure meant to alleviate flooding.

These storms have caused widespread destruction in dozens of cities and villages all over the region, including some towns which have been completely washed away so that an observer would never be able to tell that there had ever been a town full of people there in the first place. On the other hand, I an arid region where millions of people living in ever-present fear of not having enough fresh water is blamed for a variety of chronic health, economic and general quality of life problems, this winter’s heavy rains have also filled reservoirs and re-charged aquifers, giving hope for better days ahead.

Back in Israel, the rains continued on Friday morning as they had been falling all this past week, drenching but not yet drowning the Holy Land’s grateful but weary inhabitants and giving them many things to pray about as the Sabbath approaches.

Iranian Officials Outraged as Another Colleague Assassinated

Iranian officials were reacting with hysterical outrage Thursday following a brazen assassination of one of their colleagues, Basij forces commander Abdolhossein Mojaddami, who was leaving his home in Khuzestan province on Wednesday morning when two masked men rode up on a motorcycle and shot him to death in front of his own front door. The assassination of a senior regime figure was noted by analysts who speculated that it might be a sign that fear of the regime, which has for so long held opposition groups in abeyance, may be rapidly eroding.

The hit also came on a day when U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook told London-based the Arabic-language daily newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that if newly appointed Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani “follows the same path of killing Americans then he will meet the same fate" as his predecessor, Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US air strike earlier this month.

"This isn't a new threat. The president has always said that he will always respond decisively to protect American interests," Hook said. "I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it."
Here is a video giving some context to this story

Leaders Arrive in Israel for Holocaust Commemorations

US Vice President Mike Pence and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Israel Thursday morning to participate in the Fifth World Holocaust Forum to commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, joining dozens of other heads of state, as well as many of the crowned heads of Europe, who are already in Jerusalem for the event. On Wednesday evening, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted a gathering of those who had already arrived at his official residence in Jerusalem, inviting them to join him in a joint statement against racism, antisemitism and extremism.

Here is a video the IDF posted on the occasion

Israel Moving on Environmental Issues
In the wake of a recent report showing dangerous levels of air pollution in Israel, Wednesday saw an inter-ministerial tenders committees for seawater desalination and solar power plants extend an invitation to companies who are interested in building a new desalinization plant in the Western Galilee and a large solar power plant near Dimona. "This is a significant step, alongside many other initiatives, to realize the ministry's policies of increasing its targets for electricity generation from renewable energy by 2030," said Energy Ministry director-general Udi Adiri.

Here is a video about green technology being developed in Israel

Macron Has Big Day in Jerusalem
French President Emmanuel Macron had an eventful visit to Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday, getting soaked with rainwater in the process of becoming the first French government leader to visit the Western Wall in almost a quarter of a century while also managing to get filmed getting into a sharp verbal confrontation with his Israeli security escort at the entrance to the Church of St. Anne. Despite reports that he later apologized for speaking harshly and shook hands with his escort, the video of the confrontation, which went viral on the internet, is likely to be the part of his trip to Jerusalem which is most remembered.
“I feel the holiness and the history here,” Macron said as he was standing at the Western Wall. Later, he visited the Temple Mount and was greeted by the director of the Wakf Islamic religious trust, Azzam al-Khatib, and Omar Kisswani, director of al-Aqsa Mosque.

Here is a video showing one aspect of Macron's big day

Archeologist Confirm Details of ‘Samaria Ostraca’
A study was published this week in the scientific research journal PLOS One, confirming that the famous “Samaria Ostraca” pottery fragments found by American archaeologist George Andrew Reisner at a dig in the Samarian foothills in 1910 were, in fact, originally produced in the Biblical city of Samaria itself. Many of the fragments have ink-on-pottery inscriptions in Biblical Hebrew recording transactions and delivery schedules for various merchandise including olive oil and wine.
“If only two scribes wrote the examined Samaria texts contemporaneously and both were located in Samaria rather than in the countryside, this would indicate a palace bureaucracy at the peak of the Kingdom of Israel’s prosperity,” archaeologist and coauthor Prof. Israel Finkelstein explained.

Here is a video about recent Biblical archeology in Israel


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