By Anav Silverman
Tazpit News Agency
Although the Negev desert makes up 60 percent of the Israel’s land mass, it is a sparsely populated area in the south that holds only 8% of the country’s population. Home to the biblical Abraham and Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, there are approximately 700,000 people who live in the Negev today including over 200,00 in the desert’s capital Beer Sheva.
While the Negev is known for its natural beauty as well as its historical and archaeological sites, there are several factors that are changing the region’s scenery. According to Regavim, an Israeli NGO dedicated to preserving Israel’s state land and national properties, the Bedouin population’s construction of thousands of illegal buildings is spreading rapidly across the Negev.
“The area of illegal Bedouin expansion reaches up to 800,000 dunams (200,000 acres) in the northern Negev between Beer Sheva, Dimona and Arad,” stated Meir Deutsch, Regavim’s Regional Director to Tazpit News Agency during a recent tour of the region. “The Jewish population remains in much more concentrated areas like Beer Sheva. The Bedouins simply build wherever they want to.”
“Israel’s backyard desert is in a terrible mess,” Deutsch says. “If Israel allows this building to continue, it will lose its sovereignty over the northern Negev.”
“Part of the problem is the rapidly expanding Bedouin population,” explains Deutsch. Bedouin families are large, averaging six to ten children and have one of the highest fertility rates in the world. While Israel bans polygamy, Bedouin men often marry two to three wives and can have families with as many as 25 children.
In 2008, Israel together with leading figures in the Bedouin community initiated a state program to address the phenomenon of Bedouin polygamy and its severely harmful implications on family structure.
It is estimated today that there are nearly 200,000 Bedouins living in the Negev, of which half reside in seven existing towns established by the Israeli government. The other half of the population lives in unauthorized communities with no municipal status on desert land that the Bedouins have never formally owned. Deutsch explains that 60,000 illegal structures have been built by Bedouins across the Negev and 2,000 new illegal structures are added every year. These areas are rampant with poverty, crime and lawlessness.
In addition, because the Bedouins are dispersed over extensive areas and not in permanent housing, they are not connected to Israel’s electricity grid or public services.
Another major problem Deutsch pointed out is the collaboration between Sinai and Negev Bedouins who work together to smuggle in illicit drugs and weapons for terrorists, jeopardizing Israel’s security.
“There are solutions to these problems,” Deutsch tells Tazpit News Agency. “But it must begin with the government taking appropriate action to address these issues in an effectiveway. This hasn’t happened yet.”
“The illegal building has to stop. On Google Earth, anyone can see how the Bedouin communities in the northern Negev are continually expanding. If something isn’t done soon, the impact will be felt everywhere,” he added.
It is important to note that Bedouin citizens are a minority within the Arab minority in Israel. Most of the Bedouins in the Negev were nomads who originally came from Hejaz, a region in the northern Arabian peninsula and immigrated to Israel between the 14th and 18th centuries. Bedouins in northern and central Israel hail from the Syrian desert, with northern Bedouin tribes fighting alongside Israel during the 1948 War of Independence.
While much fewer Negev Bedouins serve in the IDF, an estimated two-thirds of their brethren living in northern Israel serve in the army as elite trackers and scouts along the country’s borders.
Israel: Iran’s new president will continue nuclear quest
Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | Ryan Jones
Israeli experts continue to caution and erroneously placated West that Iran’s new president will press forward with his nation’s nuclear arms program. His track record proves as much.
From the US to Europe to Russia, the international community has breathed a collective sigh of relief over the election of Hasan Rohani as Iran’s new president, hailing the bearded cleric as a “moderate” leader.
But few seem to remember that Rohani previously served as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator during the term of former President Mohammed Khatami. It’s true that between 2003-2005 Rohani halted Iran’s uranium enrichment program, but it’s also true that he started it right back up again once the immediate threat of US military intervention had passed.
That’s right - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not, as many have wrongly come to believe, the originator of Iran’s defiant nuclear program. In fact, none of these politicians are more than advisers when it comes to such important matters of state. Iran’s nuclear program, and even who gets elected as president, is all ultimately under the control Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini and his Guardian Council.
What that means is that Iran’s nuclear program will continue if Khameini says it will, and Rohani has no power to stop it, assuming he even wanted to. And that is a pretty big assumption to make, considering the man’s past remarks and actions.
In 2004, Rohani advocated accelerating Iran’s nuclear program to the point where the international community would have no choice but to accept it as a fact of life, as had previously happened with Pakistan.
“Rohani is a dyed-in-the-wool Khomeinist and part of the consensus on Iranian nuclear energy, which is a code word for nuclear weapons,” explained Ze’ev Maghen, an Iran scholar at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, in an interview with the Times of Israel
Nor is Rohani necessarily any friendlier toward Israel than his predecessor. In his first public address since winning the election, Rohani asserted that international sanctions against Iran had been imposed in service to Israel.
According to Maghen, Rohani is every bit as hostile toward Israel as Ahmadinejad, he simply has better style.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to remind everyone that Rohani had only won the election because the ayatollahs of the Guardian Council had allowed him to, meaning Rohani must, like Ahmadinejad before him, hold views that fall in line with the ayatollahs’ agenda.
“We are not deluding ourselves,” Netanyahu said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “We need to remember that the Iranian ruler at the outset disqualified candidates who were not in line with his extreme world view, and from among those whom he did allow, the one seen as least identified with the regime was elected. But we are still speaking about someone who calls Israel the ‘great Zionist Satan.’”
Syrian civil war ‘dress rehearsal’ for world war?
Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | Yossi Aloni
A leading Israeli expert on the Middle East suggested last week that with all the foreign involvement in the ongoing Syrian civil war, that conflict could be the harbinger of a much wider conflagration.
Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, told those attending a symposium at Tel Aviv University that in the eyes of the Arab world, the final outcome of the Arab Spring hinges on the results of the struggle in Syria.
According to Prof. Rabinovich, the Syrian conflict is a Middle Eastern version of the Spanish Civil War, which was itself a dress rehearsal for World War II.
In Syria, the opposition is supported by the US and Europe, while the regime is backed by Hezbollah, Iran, and China. For Russia, the stakes are also high. Moscow sees Syria as a key to restoring Russia’s status in the region, so replacing the Assad regime with one supportive of America is unacceptable to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Still, it’s Iran that probably has the most to lose in Syria. Prof. Rabinovich explained that Iran has actually invested more than Russia when it comes to Syria. Iran wants hegemony in the Middle East, and thus far it has only managed to export its Islamic Revolution to Lebanon, in the form of Hezbollah, which is today more powerful than the state itself.
Iran needs to maintain Syria as a vital link to Hezbollah if it hopes to succeed anywhere else in the region. “The civil war in Syria is not being run by Assad, but rather by Iranian military commanders,” Rabinovich revealed. “Hezbollah is also commanding much of the fighting with troops that entered the country from Lebanon.”
Help promote Israel Today on YouTube
Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | Israel Today Staff
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A Judeo-Christian party in Israel’s Knesset?
Monday, June 17, 2013 | Israel Today Staff
For years, Israel Today commentator Victor Mordechai has been working to establish a Judeo-Christian political party under the title “The Bible Bloc.” He now has some competition, or rather, some assistance from Israel-loving Arab residents of the town of Nazareth.
A leading Arab Christian family from Nazareth, one of whom is a senior officer in the Israeli army, is working to create its own Judeo-Christian party, and has asked Mordechai to lead the Jewish component.
“These Arabs have come to the realization that their future is with Israel and the Jews, and not with the Muslims who are trying to push the ancient Christian community out of Nazareth,” said Mordechai.
The Arab family has posted its intentions on Facebook in Arabic. They have been encouraged by many Jews and fellow Christians, while others, primarily Muslims, have posted threatening responses. Arab media has also picked up on the story, and generally given it a negative spin.
Victor Mordechai writes more about the initiative and his potential role in it in the upcoming issue of Israel Today Magazine (July 2013).
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Israel, Christian aid group save Syrian girl’s heart
Monday, June 17, 2013 | Israel Today Staff
For several months now Israel has been treating Syrian civilians wounded in their country’s ongoing civil war. The situation has also given Israel an opportunity to add Syrian children to the list of those from around the Middle East who are receiving life-saving heart treatment in the Jewish state.
The Times of Israel has an absolutely moving story in which a reporter spends the day with a Syrian mother, her afflicted daughter, and a staff member of Shevet Achim, an Israel-based Christian organization that arranges to bring Arab, Kurdish and Turkish children from across the region to Israel for treatment.
Little Nadrah (as she is referred to the article) is the first Syrian child to be helped by the program. After undergoing a successful procedure, Nadrah and her mother said they couldn’t be more happy with how they were treated in Israel.
Already at the border (Nadrah and her family are living as refugees in a neighboring host country) the Israelis showed their true colors to a mother and daughter who had been raised to view the Jewish state as a blood-thirsty enemy.
“I am so happy that you’re bringing in Syrians,” an Israeli border guard told a Shevet Achim staffer as he handed a popsicle to Nadrah. “We need to do something for the Syrian people.”
Later in their stay, a Syrian Jew who had long ago made aliyah to Israel came to visit the family and go out of his way to provide assistance.
The work of Shevet Achim over the years has been a two-fold blessing. It has demonstrated Christian love to the most destitute people of this region, and it has opened the door for Israel to show that it cares even for its enemies.
Israel “is clear that in life-or-death cases, it will do whatever is needed to get the patient treatment,” a Shevet Achim official told the Times of Israel. When these Arab children experience this level of care and assistance, they realize that in Israel’s eyes, they are “as valuable as any other child,” and they take that message home.
The full article is well worth a read: Click Here to read it now
Netanyahu: Don’t be fooled by Iran election
Sunday, June 16, 2013 | Ryan Jones
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday cautioned the West to avoid being fooled by the election of a purported moderate in Iran’s presidential election, noting that the Islamic Republic is really ruled by radical Islamic clerics.
Over the weekend, Iranians overwhelmingly voted into power moderate cleric Hassan Rohani, who was backed in the campaign by reformist elements. Rohani campaigned on a platform of greater freedom in Iran, and had previously vowed to reinstate official relations with the US.
That might be good news for Iranians. But when it comes to foreign relations, and especially Iran’s nuclear program, Israel urged the West to continue treading very warily.
“The international community should not be dragged into wishful thinking,” said Netanyahu. “15 years ago they said [former Iranian President Mohammed] Khatami is moderate, but nothing has changed. Iran will be judged by its action regarding nuclear program.”
Iran is actually ruled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini and his council of clerics. It should be noted that Rohani, while more pragmatic than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a long-time supporter of the Islamic regime, and was a disciple of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry statement following the election pointed out that a number of Rohani’s opponents in the election were disqualified by the ayatollahs, meaning the new president must not be too far off the mark of the official regime agenda. As such, it’s probably too early to be speaking of a “revolution” in Iran.
Nevertheless, the international community is likely to be taken in by the excitement, and Israel fears Rohani’s election will buy the ayatollahs much more time to push forward their nuclear program. That might have been the point all along.
Mideast turmoil presents opportunity for Israel
Sunday, June 16, 2013 | Yossi Aloni
Danny Ayalon, Israel’s popular former deputy foreign minister, says the Middle East is set to fracture even further in the near future, resulting in a region with over 30 nations, where only 22 exist today.
Speaking at the John Gandel Symposium at Tel Aviv University, Ayalon further stated that the process of globalization on the one hand, and the disintegration of independent political entities around the world on the other, present Israel with both opportunities and threats.
In his estimation, the divisions and current inward focus in the Arab states means there is at present no strong unified stances against Israel. At the same time, export deals for a portion of Israel’s new natural gas resources could strengthen dialog with Europe.
“The problem of the events in Syria is that in the absence of a strong government, security arrangements with Israel can be broken, so Israel has to take into account the presence of forces such as Hezbollah or al Qaeda,” explained Ayalon. “Strategically, our position may better, but tactically we have challenges.”
Ayalon believes that Iran will not become a nuclear power, thanks to eventual international intervention, and that Hamas’ position in the region will weaken significantly as Iran and Syria all but cut ties after the looming fall of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
“Israel has a strategic opportunity to invest first in herself,” said Ayalon. “That was clear already in the least election, when the Palestinians and Iran were not the main issues… We have a window of opportunity, and I hope the government will have the vision to see it and deal with the gap between those who have and those who do not have,” he continued, referencing Israel’s severe income disparity.
“On the Palestinian front, everyone, including the Likud, already accepts the two-state solution. There is no fundamental difference between the coalition parties on this point, only disagreements over what price to pay and what direction to take (for peace),” noted Ayalon. “But the Palestinians are not speaking with one voice… [So] we need to focus on conflict management - an agreement whereby we recognize a sovereign and independent Palestinian state…and they recognize Israel as a Jewish state. But no Israeli government can sign off on permanent border, especially in Jerusalem.”
Professors: Stop calling Israel an occupier
Friday, June 14, 2013 | Israel Today Staff
Professors participating in an international conference at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv this week explained that international law that does necessarily support the claim that Israel is imposing a belligerent occupation on Judea and Samaria.
Under the title of “Israel and International Law,” the conference brought together professors of law from around the world to discuss the issue of Israel’s presence in and sovereignty over the so-called “West Bank.”
Prof. Avi Bell of the University of San Diego explained to Arutz Sheva that it is “a mistake to think of this as a simple black and white matter of law. It’s not. It’s complicated.”
Bell noted that “the way the law is generally discussed is as if it’s all absolutely clear that Israel’s case is insupportable,” while in reality Israel has a very good legal case for continued sovereignty over these territories.
Prof. Jeremy A. Rabkin of George Mason University added that since the creation of the United Nations, “no other country in the world…has ever acknowledged that it is involved in an occupation.” As such, this is a very flexible category without modern legal precedent, so it is unfair to create an international law that applies only to Israel.
Meanwhile, a poll conducted by Smith Research on behalf of the Knesset’s Land of Israel Caucus found that 68 percent of Israelis oppose surrendering Judea and Samaria because doing so would pose a serious security threat to the Jewish state.
Prior to Israel’s capture of Judea and Samaria during the Six Day War in 1967, Arab forces regularly used the strategic highlands to launch terrorist and military attacks on Israel’s civilian population centers.
Summer camp in Gaza: Kids learn to abduct Israelis
Friday, June 14, 2013 | Israel Today Staff
The annual Hamas-run summer camp in the Gaza Strip has started up, and features the same unbelievable line-up of activities, such as learning to fire live assault rifles, avoid capture by the authorities and abduct Israeli Jews.
To increase the realism, tires are left burning all around the camp ground, and the sounds of explosions can be heard constantly.
An estimated 10,000 Gaza kids between the ages of six and 16 attend the camp every summer. Let that sink in - first graders are being trained to kill people with guns and violently kidnap Jews.
UK newspaper The Daily Mail, which has a reporter in Gaza, wrote that the camp “appears to have been designed to mold its visitors into the terrorists of tomorrow.”
To make sure the children know just what it is their being trained to fight for, their masked Hamas supervisors also provide a number of lessons and workshops on Islam and becoming a martyr for Allah.
Rumors of war in the north
Thursday, June 13, 2013 | Ryan Jones
Earlier this week, the US government warned Americans to steer clear of Israel’s northern Golan Heights. Now the United Nations is cautioning that neighboring Syria’s ongoing civil war is likely to spill over the border.
“US citizens are advised to defer non-essential travel to and within the Golan Heights and to exercise an extra measure of caution,” read an email sent by the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to American citizens living in Israel.
The warning came after Syrian government and rebel forces engaged in a days-long battle for the border town of Quneitra, with Syrian forces entering the demilitarized buffer zone between Israel and Syria for the first time in decades.
Around the same time, Austria, which is the largest contributor of troops to the UN peacekeeping force stationed on the Golan border, announced that it was pulling its soldiers out of the region.
The peacekeepers making up the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) have been repeatedly targeted by Syrian rebels in recent months, and many have expressed their total lack of motivation to risk their lives to prevent war between Israel and its neighbors.
The Austrian troops began withdrawing on Wednesday, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened rushed negotiations with Sweden to replace the absentee peacekeepers.
In fact, Ban said, there is an urgent need to actually increase the size of the UNDOF deployment. “The ongoing military activities in the area of separation continue to have the potential to escalate tensions between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic and to jeopardize the ceasefire between the two countries,” said the UN chief.
Ban wants to see the force increased to 1,250 combat-ready troops, and to significantly improve their defensive capabilities.
The Return of Crusader Theology
Thursday, June 13, 2013 | Tsvi Sadan
Last month, the World Council of Churches (WCC) convened in Lebanon and issued the following statement:
“Palestine continues to be the central issue in the region … The persistence, after sixty five years, of continuing dispossession of Palestinian people—Christian and Muslim alike—from their land by Israeli occupation, continuing settlement of land inside the 1967 borders … is central to the turmoil in the region …. Jerusalem today is an occupied city with a government which has adopted discriminatory policies against Christians and Muslims alike …”
The WCC also took aim at Christians who dare to support Israel, the reviled “Christian Zionists”:
“Christians who promote ‘Christian Zionism’ distort the interpretation of the Word of God and the historic connection of Palestinians—Christians and Muslims—to the Holy Land, enable the manipulation of public opinion by Zionist lobbies, and damage intra-Christian relations.”
The WCC is not a marginal organization that can be dismissed off hand. It represents some 500 million Christians living in 110 countries and territories around the world. It include Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed and Independent churches, all of which have signed on to a political-religious document that contains blatant lies that bring to mind historical anti-Jewish Christian biases.
For instance, the WCC asserts that Israel, continually, for 65 years, has been dispossessing Muslims and Christians of their land. The truth is that the last time Palestinians crossed the Jordan River eastward and never returned was during the Six Day War in 1967. Wars, as can be witnessed today in Syria and elsewhere, produce refugees. Israel’s only fault in this regard is that it won the war. And even during that conflict, when the entire Arab population of Hebron fled, they were asked by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to return to their homes.
In contrast, due to intolerable conditions, there is massive Christian emigration from Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem and from Lebanon. Christians suffer discrimination not in Israel, but rather in Turkey, Egypt, Syria and any other Muslim country.
The WCC also wants people to believe that “Jerusalem today is an occupied city.” The WCC is not specifying “east” or “west” Jerusalem, meaning that for these Christians Jerusalem as a whole should be under the control of anyone but Israel, or, more precisely, the Jews. The fact that only “east” Jerusalem is disputed as “occupied” territory is irrelevant to the pious-minded Christians who signed this document.
The WCC anti-Israel political stand stems from its theological position that asserts, only tacitly for fear of being labeled anti-Semites, that (Christian) “Zionism distort[s] the interpretation of the Word of God.”
Zionism is a late 19th century national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The Bible is so steeped with such a vision that it is pointless to bother with quotations. The WCC must assert therefore, like the Crusaders before, that today, the chosen “people of Israel” are not the Jews, but rather all true Christians, which is why Jerusalem should not be under Jewish sovereignty. For them, even Muslim control of Jerusalem would be better.
Any honest and unbiased reader of the Bible knows otherwise, and should reject this anti-Jewish theology. Anybody, the WCC included, who singles Israel out as the sole villain that threatens world peace, who points fingers at Israel, the least troublesome element in the Middle East, is, by definition, anti-Semitic. Masquerading such sentiment as Christian love only adds insult to injury.
BDS leaders: No point in talking peace with Israel
Thursday, June 13, 2013 | Israel Today Staff
Leaders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at delegitimizing Israel showed their true colors at a conference in Bethlehem last week by boycotting even a negotiated peace with the Jewish state.
“We have no faith… in the so-called negotiations,” BDS leader Omar Barghouti told France’s AFP news agency during the conference.
According to Barghouti, the conflict could only end when Israel fully surrenders to all Arab demands, including, but not limited to, opening its gates to millions of so-called “Palestinian refugees,” a move that would demographically destroy the Jewish state.
Barghouti and his cohorts urged the Palestinian Authority to stop playing diplomatic games with Israel, and instead throw its full weight behind the BDS effort.
It should be noted that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas actually agrees with Barghouti and the BDS policies regarding future peace with Israel. Abbas has on numerous occasions stated that he will not sign a peace deal that doesn’t include control of Jerusalem and the “right” to flood Israel with millions of Arab civilians.
It should also be pointed out that this was the same BDS conference where a senior PA official lashed out at a participant for asking a “provocative” question. The participant was later beaten by Palestinian police.