France: Nations Will Plan Israel-PA Peace Talks
“The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’ The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, ’I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’” (Psalm 2:2–6)
French President François Hollande said on Tuesday that the international conference planned for late May to relaunch peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis had been postponed until the summer.
The statement followed French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's statement on Sunday that France will not cancel its plans for an “Israeli-Palestinian” peace summit on May 30, despite Israel's objections.
“This initiative is necessary because if nothing happens, if there is no strong French initiative, then colonisation, attacks, terrorist attacks and several conflicts are going to continue,” Hollande told Europe 1 Radio.
Although the Palestinian Authority and Israel are not invited to the summit, the goal of bringing 20 nations together to discuss the Israel-PA peace process “is to encourage them to return to the negotiating table,” Ayrault said Sunday.
While the French minister said the two sides “need to carry out direct negotiations,” he argued that “they need external help” because the process is stalled.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the upcoming conference as unhelpful and ineffective. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that peace talks can continue at any time the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas steps up to the table.
However, Abbas has refused time and again to meet and negotiate.
Ayrault said on Sunday, “I will not ask him [Netanyahu] to come to the meeting on May 30; he wasn’t invited. Only at a second date [would he be]. So I understand his disagreements, but it only convinces me of the need to do something to move this impasse.”
The French summit would follow “the 2002 Saudi peace initiative, approved by the Arab League (but not Israel), which called on the Jewish state to withdraw from Palestinian territory captured in the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem, in exchange for a normalization of ties with Arab countries.” The plan also “outlined the creation of a Palestinian state” in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. (Times of Israel)
Ayrault sees France’s strategy as the only option.
“We must demonstrate that the path that we are proposing will be the one that will allow for an exit out of the extremely serious situation, the impasse, which we find ourselves in,” Ayrault said.
France’s peace summit does have support from the PA, which perhaps expects that gathered nations will censure Israel.
This expectation seems reasonable in light of the resolution adopted last month by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). That resolution was backed by France and denies the historical Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.
At the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said he told Ayrault “that the scandalous resolution accepted at UNESCO with France’s support, that does not recognize the bond of thousands of years between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount, casts a shadow over the impartiality of the entire forum France is trying to convene.” (Arutz Sheva)
On April 11, 2016, the Executive Board for UNESCO passed a resolution in Paris that called Israel “the Occupying Power”; the Western Wall Plaza “al-Buraq Plaza” (after Muhammad’s donkey); and the Temple Mount platform “al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.”
This twisted resolution, which was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan, accused Israel of violating the “status quo” on the Temple Mount, of “continuous storming” of the Mount “by Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces,” and of “continuous Israeli aggressions against civilians including sheikhs and priests.”
It also falsely accused Israel of “continued conversion of many Islamic and Byzantine remains into the so-called Jewish ritual baths or into Jewish prayer places.”
Following the passage of the resolution, Netanyahu submitted a letter to French President Francois Hollande strongly criticizing France’s support of “rewriting a basic and irrefutable part of human history.”
“While we have no illusions regarding the United Nations’ commitment to truth or fairness, we were frankly shocked to witness our French friends raising their hands in favor of this disgraceful decision,” Netanyahu wrote.
“The international validation of Palestinian efforts to deny Jewish history and to perpetuate the myth of Israel’s aggression on the Temple Mount is not only immoral, it is also dangerous,” the letter states.
The Muslim Dome of the Rock is situated in the same spot in which the First and Second Temples were located.
14-Year-Old Israeli Elkana Wins International Bible Contest
“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to Your word. I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:9–11)
Israel once again emphasized the importance of the Bible last week at the International Youth Bible Contest on Israel Independence Day.
"The Bible was and still is the foundation of our national identity. It's the source of our [national] life. It's the source of our moral and social inspiration, and the basis of our right to fight for our survival here in the Land of Israel," Education Minister Naftali Bennett said.
The contest was neck and neck. In the 11th question of the 12-question final heat, 14-year-old Elkana Friedman caught a one-point lead ahead of Rehovot resident Tehilla Mattes.
Friedman, who had his 15th birthday on Sunday, is a student at the Bnei Tzvi Yeshiva in Beit El. Mattes is a student at Ulpana HaRav Baharan where Friedman’s mother is a teacher. Friedman’s father, Rabbi Aharon Friedman, also teaches but at the Kerem BeYavne Yeshiva.
Friedman told Arutz Sheva after his win that he did not have a “definite goal to be the Bible winner. It’s nice to be the winner, but that isn’t the goal.”
“With God’s help I made it here,” he said. “I get such great satisfaction from learning the Bible, and from this moving event in Jerusalem. Even after winning this prize, I’m going to continue studying the Bible, and I want to thank all of my family for supporting me, and thank the staff of the yeshiva for helping me reach this point.”
“Already in Talmud Torah [religious elementary school], we studied Tanakh from first grade up to eighth grade, four hours a day of expertise. In addition, I also studied by myself in my free time and at home,” Friedman said emphasizing that he had gone over the Hebrew Scriptures 30 to 40 times. (Arutz Sheva)
Along with the gift of a Tanakh, Friedman received 30,000 shekels and a promised grade of 100 percent for his Tanakh matriculation exam in high school.
A few days before the contest, Netanyahu affirmed the centrality of the Bible in supporting the Jewish people's connection to the land.
“It all happened, and it happened here,” he told the Bible Contest participants. “This is our land, this is our heritage, our book, our story, our faith, our hope. It’s all in the Bible. It’s all in the Tanakh.”
“No one has been able to replicate anything of the like, although there were great works of literature,” Netanyahu said. “I know how excited you are and I wish you all the best. You should all consider yourselves champions, and to be a champion of the Bible is to be a champion of our people.”
According to Dan Kanar, who emceed the contest at the Jerusalem Theater, thousands of students registered to participate in the contest this year, from Australia, Ukraine, Uruguay, Italy, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Argentina, US, Bulgaria, Belgium, Belarus, Brazil, Germany, South Africa, the Netherlands, Hungary, Turkey, Mexico, Spain, Poland, Finland, Panama, Czech Republic, France, Colombia, Costa Rica, Canada, Croatia, Romania, Russia, and Switzerland.
Preliminary tests determined those with the highest Bible scores, and a series of quiz rounds narrowed down the contestants to a final 16, including Mattes and Friedman, all together hailing from eight different nations and contributing answers to the theme of this year’s contest, “Israeli Unity.”
Hamas Operatives Tell All on Tunnels
"Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me." (Psalm 59:1)
A 17-year-old Palestinian Arab who joined the Hamas military wing two years ago has provided invaluable information about Gaza’s terror-tunnel system after his arrest by Israeli security forces this past week.
“Hamas is planning to operate inside of Israel in the next round of fighting,” the Israeli Security Agency, the Shin Bet, told Israeli media. “The investigation revealed a wide range of information regarding Hamas’ efforts to dig tunnels under the border for the purpose of sending Hamas militants into Israel.” (Ynet)
“Following initial investigations, it was revealed that he is a member of the Hamas North Gaza Division, and joined a short time before Operation Protective Edge broke out,” said the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) in media reports published last Tuesday.
Protective Edge was a defensive mission launched by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on July 7, 2014, after the Gaza Strip continued to launch increasing, non-stop rocket and missile fire at civilian areas in Israel.
After 10 days of counterattacks by air, the IDF entered the ground phase of the mission, to locate and dismantle the rocket launch sites and weapons caches being used against Israel.
The teen, who was living in the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza, was recruited by Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades before the IDF response.
The al-Qassam Brigades trained him to conduct attacks and ambushes, including storming buildings, setting off explosives, infiltrating Israel, and gathering information on IDF forces and patrols.
He also began taking part in digging the extensive tunnel system that would infiltrate Israel, built for killing and kidnapping Israelis.
Another arrest last month of Mahmoud Atouna, 29, also from Jabalya in the northern Gaza provided interrogators with “much information about the tunnel routes in the northern Gaza Strip, its tunnel-digging methods, the use of private homes and public buildings to bore tunnels and materials used," Shin Bet said in a statement on May 5.
Atouna also “pin-pointed several digging locations as well as tunnel shafts”within the Hamas weapon and terrorist transportation network inside Gaza. This network, he said, “includes resting areas, showers, and dining areas for the benefit of the operatives underground.” (Reuters)
This information may have helped Israeli military find yet another tunnel on May 5 amidst the third day of mortar attacks by Gaza. Israeli soldiers found the tunnel (about 29 meters or 95 feet underground) within a 100-meter border zone that Israelis operate and patrol.
Poll: Netanyahu Is 10th Most Admired Man in US
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)
An online survey by YouGov in the United Kingdom reveals that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the 10th most admired man in the United States, tied with the Dalai Lama's 3.7 percent “admiration score" and more admired by the American people than former US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Leading the male list is current US President Barack Obama, followed by Pope Francis and Bill Gates. Next, Stephen Hawking and Billy Graham tie at a score of 5.2 percent. Contenders for president in the upcoming election cycle, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, as well as former President Jimmy Carter, rounded out the top 10.
Netanyahu did not make the top-20 of any of the other 29 countries polled, whose top-admired people were based on “open-ended nominations from panelists across 30 countries,” and included politicians, actors, musicians, and other public figures.
Meanwhile, as Obama’s term will expire on January 20, 2017, a poll conducted by Israel’s TNS/Teleseker for Channel 1/Mabat at the end of April assessed Israeli preferences for the next US president.
The poll found that 42 percent of Israelis, who have the interests of Israel in mind, favor Clinton and 34 percent favor Trump for the leadership position.
But when respondents were asked about which candidate would work better with Netanyahu from the presidential seat, 42 percent of Israelis found Trump a better choice. Thirty-two percent chose Clinton.
The poll showed that Israelis generally have a more favorable view of Clinton over Trump at 68 to 43 percent, respectively.
The poll also prompted its respondents to predict which candidate would win the presidential seat this November. However, for Israelis, it seems too close to call: 40 percent thought Clinton will win, with 39 percent forecasting a Trump win.
While one in four Israelis do not see a possibility for improvement if any of the current candidates become president, a 51 percent majority of Israelis think the next president will be an improvement over Barack Obama.
While 8 percent said the US president-to-be will not affect Israel negatively, another 15 percent of Israelis said they were not sure whether the US election would carry implications for Israel.
In his first major foreign-policy speech, given at the end of April, Trump criticized Obama for the strain on America’s relationship with Israel.
“Israel, our great friend and the one true democracy in the Middle East, has been snubbed and criticized by an administration that lacks moral clarity,” Trump said during a speech in Washington.
“President Obama has not been a friend to Israel. He’s treated Iran with tender love and care and has made it a great power. All at the expense of Israel, our allies in the region and, very importantly, the United States itself,” Trump added.
“We pick fights with our oldest friends, and now they’re starting to look elsewhere for help,” Trump said, claiming a lack of “coherent foreign policy” by the US.
“In the Middle East, our goals must be, and I mean must be, to defeat terrorists and provide regional stability, not radical change,” he said.
Israeli Divers Find Preserved Roman Shipwreck Off Caesarea Coast
“About Zebulun he said: ‘Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, they will feast on the abundance of the seas, on the treasures hidden in the sand.’” (Deuteronomy 33:18–19)
The most extensive underwater find in 30 years was recently discovered by a pair of friends from Ra’anana, Israel, while diving in the ancient port of Caesarea. The ancient shipwreck, which was found just before Passover, has lain at the bottom of the harbor for some 1,600 years.
Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra’anan salvaged a few pieces of the stunningly preserved remnants of lost cargo and reported their discovery to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), a requirement by Israeli law. According to Times of Israel, the pair then conducted a joint dive with experts from the IAA, who found the seabed had shifted, giving a glimpse of the shipwreck.
The IAA salvage team cleared more sand away and discovered among other items 20 kilograms (about 44 lbs) of coins, melded together in the shape of the clay jar that had contained them.
“The coins that were discovered bear the image of the emperor Constantine, who ruled the Western Roman Empire (AD 312–324) and was later known as Constantine the Great, ruler of the Roman Empire (AD 324–337), and of Licinius, an emperor who ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire and was a rival of Constantine, until his downfall in a battle that was waged between the two rulers,” a statement by the IAA reads.
The salvage expedition also turned up several Roman antiquities, including animal-shaped objects, such as a bronze faucet shaped like a boar with a swan on its head, a figurine of the Roman moon goddess Luna, and remains of three life-size bronze-cast statues.
“In the many marine excavations that have been carried out in Caesarea, only [a] very small number of bronze statues have been found; whereas in the current cargo, a wealth of spectacular statues were found that were in the city and were removed from it by way of sea,” the IAA states. “The sand protected the statues; consequently, they are in an amazing state of preservation, as though they were cast yesterday rather than 1,600 years ago.”
The IAA has dated the wrecked vessel to the Late Roman period (about AD 250–450), when Rome had begun to shift from polytheism to the new Christianity. The polytheistic representations in the wrecked vessel’s hoard do not carry this Christian influence or any sense of Jewish cultural influence.
Bronze statue found of of coast of Caesarea
The shipwreck also contained the remains of two lamps, one bearing the image of the Roman sun god Sol and the other bearing an image of an African slave. Jar fragments were also found, which the IAA suggests were used for carrying drinking water for the travelers.
Salvaged objects connected to the ship include items used in constructing and sailing the vessel, as well as iron anchors.
Archaeologists have determined that the ship hit the rocks and seawall off the Caesarea coast, suggesting that the sailors had unsuccessfully cast the anchors to ground the ship. The storm likely pulled them toward the shore.
“A preliminary study of the iron anchors suggests there was an attempt to stop the drifting vessel before it reached shore by casting anchors into the sea; however, these broke, evidence of the power of the waves and the wind which the ship was caught up in,” said the IAA in a statement.
IAA experts believe the ship’s primary cargo was recycled metal.
Feinstein and Ra’anan will receive a tour of their finds in the antiquities storeroom as well as a Certificate of Appreciation for reporting their discovery.
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