Israel Political Brief October 31, 2011: U.S. to withhold UNESCO dues over Palestinian membership



U.S. to withhold UNESCO dues over Palestinian membership

Source: JTA, 10-31-11

The United States, saying it has no choice, will stop paying its dues to UNESCO following the U.N. cultural agency’s vote to grant full membership to the Palestinians.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization approved the Palestinians’ bid Monday during its general assembly in Paris by a vote of 107 to 14, with the United States, Canada and Germany among those voting against the motion. Britain was among the 52 nations that abstained.

UNESCO is the first U.N. agency that the Palestinians have attempted to join since asking for full membership in the United Nations in September. It previously had observer status at the agency.

The vote activated legislation adopted nearly two decades ago that prohibits U.S. funding to U.N. agencies that accord the Palestine Liberation Organization statehood status.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that a $60 million payment to UNESCO scheduled for November will not be delivered. The U.S. annual dues to UNESCO comprises more than 20 percent of the agency’s budget.

“Today’s vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member is regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” Nuland said.

The United States will lose its vote in UNESCO if it does not pay its dues for two years. Reportedly the U.S. is concerned that the Palestinians will now request membership in other U.S. agencies in which the U.S. would lose its influence if it halts dues payments.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry in a statement issued following the vote called the decision a “unilateral Palestinian maneuver which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement.”

“This decision will not turn the Palestinian Authority into an actual state, yet places unnecessary burdens on the route to renewing negotiations. Israel believes that the correct and only way to make progress in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians is through direct negotiations without preconditions,” the statement said. “The Palestinian move at UNESCO, as with similar such steps with other U.N. bodies, is tantamount to a rejection of the international community’s efforts to advance the peace process.

The statement went on to thank the countries that “displayed a sense of responsibility” by opposing the bid.

Unlike in the U.N. Security Council, where its permanent members such as the United States hold veto power over legislation, there is no veto in UNESCO. The United States had boycotted UNESCO for nearly 20 years until 2003, when it returned to the agency.

In November 2010, UNESCO adopted several proposals by Arab states classifying Jewish and Muslim holy sites. It referred to Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as a mosque, in addition to using its Jewish designation of Rachel’s Tomb, and said the tomb as well as the Cave of the Patriarchs was “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories.” It called both landmarks “Palestinian sites.”

Israel Brief October 30, 2011: Kent State University president slams anti-Israel professor



Kent State University president slams anti-Israel professor

Source: JTA, 10-30-11

The president of Kent State University decried the behavior of a professor who shouted “death to Israel” during a lecture given by a former Israeli diplomat.

Ishmael Khaldi, the former deputy consul general at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco, was confronted by Kent State University history professor Julio Pino during a question-and-answer session following Khaldi’s speech at a campus event last week. Khaldi was speaking about his life as a Bedouin in Israel who rose through the ranks of the Foreign Ministry, as well as Middle East issues.

Pino, a convert to Islam and a tenured professor, asked Khaldi how the Israeli government could justify providing aid to countries like Turkey — to which Israel recently sent earthquake aid — with “blood money” from the deaths of Palestinian children. After briefly arguing with Khaldi, Pino left the auditorium shouting “Death to Israel.” An audience member responded by shouting “Shame on you” after him.

KSU President Lester Lefton said in a letter published on the university’s website that Pino’s behavior was “reprehensible, and an embarrassment to our university.”

Lefton wrote that he believed it as Pino’s right to pose a provocative question to Khaldi, but that while it was also Pino’s right to shout invective against Israel, “it is my obligation, as the president of this university, to say that I find his words deplorable, and his behavior deeply troubling.”

“We value critical thinking at this university, and encourage students to engage with ideas that they find difficult or make them uncomfortable. We hope that our faculty will always model how best to combine passion for one’s position with respect for those with whom we disagree. Calling for the destruction of the state from which our guest comes (as do some of our students, faculty and community members) is a grotesque failure to model these values,” Lefton’s statement said.

“We welcome President Lefton’s clear condemnation of Professor Julio Pino’s deplorable conduct,” said Nina Sundell, the Anti-Defamation League’s Ohio regional director. “Statements such as ‘Death to Israel’ extend beyond legitimate political discourse. When the statement is shouted by a university professor at a university student organization event on campus, it is even more harmful.”

Pino has courted controversy for years, writing an opinion column in 2002 in which he praised a suicide bomber. In 2007 he faced allegations that he was behind the website Global War, which bills itself as “a jihadist news service.” At the time, Pino refused to comment on the allegations, describing it as a freedom of speech issue. However, his department chair said that Pino had told him that he contributed articles to the site.

Israel Political Brief October 30, 2011: Second cease-fire between Israel, Gaza reportedly brokered



Second cease-fire between Israel, Gaza reportedly brokered

Source: JTA, 10-30-11

Rockets from Gaza continued to hit southern Israel as a second cease-fire in less than 24 hours was scheduled to go into effect.


Egypt reportedly continued to negotiate a cease-fire for Sunday night in an effort to stem a weekend assault of rockets and mortars on southern Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command on Sunday night announced that there were no more  restrictions on public gatherings, meetings, schools, non-essential jobs or shopping centers. Though the lifting of the ban means that schools can open as usual on Monday after being closed on Sunday, several southern Israeli communities such as Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheba and Gan Yavne announced that schools would remain closed on Monday.

At least 39 rockets and mortars pounded Israel’s South over the weekend, including 11 on Sunday morning. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attacks. The attacks left an Israeli father of four dead and dozens wounded.

“We will do anything to defend Israeli civilians,” said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday afternoon following a meeting with security and intelligence officials. “I advise the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations not to test our capabilities.”

Early Sunday afternoon, reports that Islamic Jihad had accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire surfaced following several hours of calm. That cease-fire came to an end Sunday afternoon when Israel’s Air Force struck a terror cell about to launch a rocket from Gaza to Israel.

At least one member of the terror cell was killed in the Sunday afternoon attack, according to reports.

Several long-range Grad missiles hit in and near cities throughout southern Israel, including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne and Beersheba. A school and a private home were damaged in the attacks, and several cars were burned. Some 200,000 children stayed home from school, and several colleges and Ben-Gurion University did not open for the start of the new academic year on Sunday as scheduled….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief October 30, 2011: Social protest rally held in Tel Aviv, other Israel cities



Social protest rally held in Tel Aviv, other cities

Source: JTA, 10-30-11

Some 20,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv for Israel’s first social protest in two months.

Saturday night’s gathering, joined simultaneously by smaller protests in Jerusalem, Haifa and Kiryat Shemona, among others, attracted a fraction of the 450,000 people across Israel that demonstrated at the end of the summer.

A protest in Beersheba was canceled due to rocket fire from Gaza.

The Tel Aviv rally began on Rothschild Boulevard, where the first and largest tent city from last summer’s protests was located, and moved to Rabin Square.

Israel Political Brief October 28, 2011: Israel Hits Gaza After Rocket Attack



Israel Hits Gaza After Rocket Attack

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, JTA, 10-28-11

Israeli airstrikes struck terrorist sites in Gaza in response to rocket fire on southern Israel.

Shortly after a long-range Grad rocket was fired from Gaza late Wednesday night, Israel said its Air Force hit three “terror activity sites in the Central Gaza Strip” and a weapons storage facility in southern Gaza.

The Grad rocket had landed in an open area near the city of Ashdod, which has more than 200,000 residents. Color Red warning sirens also went off in Rehovot, Rishon Lezion and other area communities, according to reports.

It was the first rocket attack from Gaza since the Shalit prisoner swap last week. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The last time rockets were fired from Gaza on Israel was three weeks ago.

Also Wednesday night, a roadside bomb damaged an Israeli army vehicle on patrol near the West Bank settlement of Efrat.


Israel Political Brief October 27, 2011: Turkey Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Says Accepting Israeli Aid Changes Nothing in Countrys’ Relationships



Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-27-11

The fact that Turkey agreed to accept aid from Israel to assist in rescue efforts of the thousands who were injured or killed has no political meaning, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday. Speaking at a news conference in Amman with Jordanian leader King Abdullah II and his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh, Davutoglu said that “political conditions between the two countries remain as they were”, and that Turkey’s views on the Middle East remained “principled.”

On Monday, after a lengthy period in which they did not communicate, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to offer Israel’s assistance in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit eastern Turkey. Erdogan initially turned down the offer, but on Tuesday, Ankara changed its mind. turkey earthquakeAn Israeli plane with prefabricated mobile homes and other aid for quake victims arrived in Turkey Thursday. At least three more planes will arrive in the next few days, Israeli officials said.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both stressed that Israel was appreciative of Turkey’s assistance in battling the Carmel forest last year, and that Jerusalem saw aiding in regional crises as part of its responsibility to the international community. Defense Ministry spokesperson Josh Hantman said that Israel did not see the aid as “a diplomatic matter, but a humanitarian one aimed at keeping men, women and children safe and warm.”

Speaking about the Israel-PA negotiating process, Judeh said that both Jordan and Turkey agreed on the need for the establishment of an Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem – the “two state solution” – as the basis of Middle East peace. “We do not want peace negotiations to start from scratch. There are agreements already signed and we want any future negotiations to be based on them,” he said.

Davutoglu added that the need to resolve the conflict was “crucial,” and that international pressure was key to pushing Israel to make a deal.


Related Stories:

Turkey Rejects Help Offers After 7.6 Quake
Shalit Deal Could Repair Israel-Turkey Relations
Turkey Now Accepts Israel’s Aid Offer


Israel Political Brief October 27, 2011: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Rides the Shalit Wave in Israel Polls



Netanyahu Rides the Shalit Wave

Source: Virtual Jerusalem 10-27-11

There is no doubt that the results of the latest poll by the Smith Institute for “Globes” indicate a honeymoon for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The month, which began with his speech to the UN to frustrate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s attempt to gain UN recognition for a Palestinian state, peaked with the return of Gilad Shalit. Netanyahu is seeing his broadest public support since the elections: were elections held today, the Likud would win 33 seats.

Likud voters are even more pleased with Netanyahu: nearly 80% of them who voted Likud in 2009 would do so again. The right wing-haredi (ultra-orthodox) bloc has reached a peak of 70 Knesset seats.

Netanyahu can definitely enjoy the polls, but he should remember President Shimon Peres’ remark that polls are like perfume: good to smell, but not to drink. As time passes, the Shalit effect will wane, and Netanyahu is liable to weaken.

The Shalit effect widened the gap between the coalition and leader of the opposition, Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni.

gilad shalit

Kadima’s loss of support, which began with the start of the summer’s social protest, is continuing, and the party is down to 17 Knesset seats, were elections held today.

After Livni failed to exploit the protest’s momentum to win support, her remarks about the Shalit prisoner exchange worsened her standing in the polls. Her infuriating remarks about the media coverage of Shalit’s return as a reality show apparently hit Israelis in a sensitive spot. We have not even mentioned MK Shaul Mofaz who is breathing down her neck.

The public prefers to support the Shalit deal. The poll clearly shows that it remembers only the short-term profit side of the deal, and that it is avoiding an examination of its negative consequences. Anyone who argues, as did Livni and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman, who honestly expressed his position, that there is long-term danger in the deal, loses Knesset seats.

In contrast, Labor’s new chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich, who supported the Shalit deal from the opposition benches, saw an immediate gain. Labor would win 20 Knesset were elections held today, becoming the second largest party in the house.

Netanyahu and the Likud are reaping a dividend from nurturing Yacimovich. Likud’s support for her has brought results – she is hitting Kadima and strengthening at its expense.

Which party would you vote for were elections held today?

Figures in brackets are numbers of seats won at the last election.

Kadima: 17 Knesset seats, down from 25 in August. (28)
Likud: 33 seats, up from 26 in August. (27)
Israel Beitenu: 14 seats, down from 15 in August. (15)
Labor: 20 seats, up from 11 in August. (13)
Shas: 10 seats, down from 12 in August. (11)
United Torah Judaism: 6 seats, unchanged. (5)
National Union: 4 seats, down from 5 in August. (4)
Habayit Hayehudi: 3 seats, unchanged. (3)
Meretz: 3 seats, down from 4 in August. (3)
Arab parties: 10 seats, down from 11 in August.(11)
Green Party 0, down from 2 in August. (-)

The survey was carried out among a representative sample of 500 people.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news –

Israel Political Brief October 27, 2011: Ilan Grapel Lands at Ben Gurion Airport



Ilan Grapel Lands at Ben Gurion

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-27-11

Ilan Grapel was released from an Egyptian jail and boarded a jet bound for Israel on Thursday afternoon as a part of an ilan grapel ben gurion exchange for 25 Egyptians held in Israeli prisons, Reuters reported.

Grapel, 27, who has been held in Egypt for five months on spying charges, landed at Israel’s Ben Gurioun Airport shortly after 7PM local time.

Israeli representatives reported that Grapel was in good health and is happy to be free. His mother Irene met him at Ben-Gurion Airport. Grapel is expected to meet briefly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening.
Ilan Grapel Hugs with his Mother Upon Arrival Avi Ohayon/GPO/FLASH90

Grapel was being escorted to Israel by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho, and Kadima MK and former deputy Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yisrael Hasson. Both men were insturmental in negotiating his release.

Meanwhile, the 25 Egyptian prisoners to be swapped for Grapel crossed into Egypt via the Taba crossing. According to the Israel Prison Service all of the Egyptian prisoners were serving time for criminal – rather than security-related – offenses.

ilan grapel ben gurion On Wednesday, MK Michael Ben Air took issue which that characterization saying, as weapons smugglers [who sold arms to terrorists -ed.] they should be classified as terrorists.

The United States, which provides Egypt with billions of dollars in military aid, took a hand in the negotiations due to Grapel’s dual American-Israeli citizenship.

The US-brokered exchange deal was reached on the heels of an Egyptian-brokered swap between Israel and Hamas that freed captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners.

As a part of the deal to release him, the US has reportedly promised to Egypt’s ruling junta the F-16 strike fighter.


Israel Political Brief October 27, 2011: Illan Grapel Freed in Prisoner Exchange with Egypt



Grapel Freed in Prisoner Exchange with Egypt

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, JTA, 10-27-11

Dual American-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel reportedly has been handed over to Israeli authorities in Egypt.

Thursday afternoon’s release of Grapel, who has been held in Egypt since June and accused of being a spy, is part of the prisoner exchange between Egypt and Israel. He is scheduled to fly from Egypt to Israel on Thursday evening,

At the same time, 25 Egyptians were released from Israeli prisons and taken to the Taba border crossing for release. ilan grapel alleged israeli spy arrested in egyptThe Egyptians to be released under the Grapel deal, including three minors, are criminal and not security, prisoners, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) arrived in Israel late Wednesday to escort Grapel back to his parents’ home in New York, a statement from his office said. Grapel’s parents are Ackerman’s constituents and Grapel worked as an intern for the congressman.

Ackerman’s office said that the congressman had “personally” intervened with the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the prime minister of Israel and the U.S. State Department to secure Grapel’s release.

Grapel, who has refuted the spying charges, is scheduled to be debriefed by Israeli defense officials before he leaves for New York.

Arab reports, including in the Palestinian news agency Maan, assert that the United States, which was heavily involved in the prisoner swap negotiations, agreed to sell to Egypt several F-16 fighter planes in order to grease the wheels of the swap.

Grapel, arrested in Cairo in June, was accused of espionage. Later he was accused as well of incitement and the attempted arson of the country’s Interior Ministry building and police headquarters in Cairo during January’s riots in the capital.

The agreement comes a little more than a week after captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in an agreement reached with the terrorist organization Hamas.

Egyptian security officials said Grapel entered the country shortly after the start of the Jan. 25 uprising that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and posed as a foreign correspondent. A law student at Emory University, Grapel allegedly said he was Muslim on the visa application that he filed with the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv and then entered Egypt using his American passport.

Grapel moved to Israel following his graduation from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, served as a paratrooper during the Second Lebanon War and was wounded in Southern Lebanon in August 2006.


Arie Hasit: Keeping the Jewish flame alive, even from afar


Arie Hasit: Keeping the Jewish flame alive, even from afar

Students who participate in programs in Israel return home impassioned and engaged; the challenge is for Jewish communities abroad to reach these excited, newly captivated students to maintain their level of interest in their Jewish roots and Israel.

Source: Haaretz, 10-27-11

Like most Israelis, I spent Tuesday, October 18 glued to the television. I listened to the radio incessantly and checked my phone for news updates every few minutes. I wanted to keep as up to date about Gilad Shalit’s return to Israel as possible, and I wanted to share it with as many people as I could.

But more than anything, I wanted to share my excitement about the news with my friends and loved ones abroad.

Of course, I was not the only one excited about this historical event – my Facebook newsfeed was loaded with status updates and shared articles on the prisoner exchange. However, I was particularly pleased to see how many of my former students and campers from Jewish programs that I have worked with over the years were eager to share the news as well.

Over the last number of years, I have been involved with different programs that give Jewish high school students the opportunity to come to Israel from anywhere from six weeks to four months. Once in Israel, these students undergo a transformative experience.

As Jewish educators in Israel we have unique opportunities that our North American counterparts lack. For many participants, being abroad without parental supervision is an adventure, and a new culture and language give the experience added appeal. More importantly, we have students excited to be in Israel not for the beach, but to become more intimately acquainted with their Jewish roots….

I am proud of my students who have made aliyah, as well as those who volunteer in underprivileged communities and even become educators themselves. These individuals have been inspired by their time in Israel and wish to impart their values on another generation.

Although knowing that I, along with other educators in Israel, have had a role in these achievements, it is up to the Jewish community in North America to give these teenagers and others like them the opportunity to stay involved with Israel even after their return home.

birthright - Erez Ozir - February 11 2011 Birthright participants at the organization’s ‘Mega Event’ in Jerusalem, February 2011.
Photo by: Erez Ozir

It is inspirational events like the return of Shalit that remind us of the lasting impression that positive experiences in Israel can have on Diaspora youth, and maintaining their impassioned relationship with Judaism and Israel for years to come.

Arie Hasit is an educator at Ramah Programs in Israel and is beginning the Israeli bet midrash program at the Schechter institute.


Israel Political Brief October 26, 2011: Gilad Shalit Was Not Checked by Red Cross Prior to Egypt TV Interview



Shalit Was Not Checked by Red Cross

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, JTA, 10-26-11

Red Cross doctors did not interview freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit before his notorious interview with Egyptian state television, contrary to what the interviewer said.

Investigative journalist Richard Behar writes in Forbes magazine Wednesday that a Red Cross spokesman reported thatgilad shalit released an International Committee of the Red Cross doctor did not examine Shalit before the Oct. 18 interview, as the interviewer, Egyptian journalist Shahira Amin, claimed in an e-mail to Behar and in an open letter published in The Jerusalem Post.

Amin defended her decision to interview Shalit, saying that the interview was conducted “AFTER [her caps] he had been released by Hamas and had a medical checkup by the Red Cross.”

The Red Cross disputes the claim.

“ICRC representatives met Mr. Shalit briefly after his transfer to the Egyptian authorities,” Red Cross spokesman Hicham Hassan told Behar. “However, he was not met by an IRC doctor as this has [sic] not been solicited.”

In a statement issued by the Red Cross on the day that Shalit was released, the ICRC said that it “helped ensure that the release operation ran smoothly. ICRC delegates interviewed each detainee in private prior to his or her release to verify that they accepted their release. The ICRC also facilitated the transportation of the detainees into the West Bank and from the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip.”

Shalit was seen in the interview breathing heavily and having trouble focusing.


Israel Political Brief October 25, 2011: Shalits Try to Adjust to New Normal



Shalits Try to Adjust to New Normal

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, JTA, 10-25-11

A week after Gilad Shalit returned to Israel after being held in captivity for more than five years in Gaza, things were getting back to normal at the Shalit family home — sort of.

The Israel Police said they would remove a barrier placed in front of the family’s house in Mitzpe Hila. The flowers, placards and other paraphernalia that littered the streets of the northern Israeli town following the celebration marking Shalit’s return have been cleaned up. Even the Shalit protest tent opposite the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem was taken down and carted away.

But with the 10-day moratorium on Israeli media intrusion in the Shalits’ town set to expire, and with Israelis still eager for images of the newly released soldier, it’s unlikely that Gilad, 25, will be able to have a normal life anytime soon.

On Monday, Israeli President Shimon Peres paid a visit to the Shalit family home, the first visit by an Israeli official. Almost immediately, photos and video of Peres and Gilad Shalit sitting side by side on the family couch landed on Israeli news websites and TV programs.

“You have no idea how thrilled I am to meet you here in your home alive, healthy and whole,” Peres said. “I came to express to you how proud I am, and how proud the entire nation is, by your ability to withstand extremely difficult conditions in captivity.”

Shalit thanked the president.peres and shalit

A day earlier, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, head of the Kadima Party, slammed the prisoner swap that brought Shalit home Oct. 18 in exchange for the release of 1,027 Arab prisoners, saying it has weakened Israel and strengthened Hamas.

Her criticism during interviews with the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot and Reshet Bet Radio did not sit well with lawmakers in the coalition or the opposition. They swiftly assailed Livni for waiting until Shalit was freed to voice her opposition to the deal, saying it showed a lack of leadership. Livni reportedly did not go public earlier with her dissent at the request of Noam Shalit, the soldier’s father.

The Israeli Cabinet approved the deal by a 26-3 vote.

In the few days since his release, Shalit has been captured by news photographers lying in wait for his next move. He was pictured taking a short walk with his mother — and several security guards — on the first morning following his release and riding a bicycle near his home. He also has played Ping-Pong. On the Simchat Torah holiday, he met with old friends, his father told reporters.

The Shalits are starting to learn that they have to maneuver to avoid the paparazzi. On Saturday, Shalit and his father left home early and took a side road to evade photographers on their way to a beach outing reportedly at Gilad’s request. But a photographer from Haaretz was camping on the beach with his family and snapped a photo of the soldier swimming near the shore as his father watched over him.

“In the last few years I have taken many photographs of the Shalit family surrounded by countless cameras,” photographer Yaron Kaminsky told his newspaper. “It was nice to just run into them like that, at the beach, during Gilad’s first Saturday since being freed from captivity.”

Kaminsky said he told Noam Shalit that he had taken the photo and received his tacit approval to publish it.

Meanwhile, supporters and curiosity seekers continue to flock to Mitzpe Hila for a glimpse of Gilad or simply to have their photo taken in front of the Shalit family home. Many are leaving flowers, drawings and packages containing candy and other gifts for the family.

Noam has provided reporters with several updates since his son returned. On Oct. 20, he said he does not believe Hamas’ claims that Gilad was not tortured while in captivity.

“Gilad went through harsh things, at least in the first period. It is correct that after that, after that first period, the way he was treated improved,” the elder Shalit said.

During the same news conference in front of the family home, Noam Shalit also told reporters that Gilad had an appetite for food but that he was having trouble sleeping through the night. On the day of his release, Gilad appeared wan and pale.

Noam added that his son had few requests and that he was “going with the flow.”


Israel Political Brief October 24, 2011: Egypt Will Release Illan Grapel for Egyptian Prisoners



Egypt Will Release Grapel for Egyptian Prisoners

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, JTA, 10-24-11

Egypt has agreed to release dual American-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel in exchange for 25 Egyptians being held in Israeli prisons.ilan grapel alleged israeli spy arrested in egypt

The Egyptians, including three minors, are not security prisoners, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on the deal released Monday evening. They are being held on charges such as crossing the border illegally, drug trafficking and holding unlicensed weapons, according to reports.

Grapel, arrested in Cairo in June, was accused of espionage. Later he was accused as well of incitement and the attempted arson of the country’s Interior Ministry building and police headquarters in Cairo during January’s riots in the capital.

The agreement is subject to the approval of Israel’s Security Cabinet, which will meet to discuss the swap Tuesday, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The agreement comes less than a week after captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in an agreement reached with the terrorist organization Hamas.

Egyptian security officials said Grapel entered the country shortly after the start of the Jan. 25 uprising that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and posed as a foreign correspondent. A law student at Emory University, Grapel allegedly said he was Muslim on the visa application that he filed with the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv and then entered Egypt using his American passport.

Grapel denies he is a spy. He says he came to Egypt to intern for a nongovernmental organization that assists refugees from Sudan and elsewhere.

Grapel is a New Yorker who moved to Israel following his graduation from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He joined the Israeli army, served as a paratrooper during the Second Lebanon War and was wounded in Southern Lebanon in August 2006.


Israel Political Brief October 24, 2011: Former PM Ariel Sharon is Responsive



Source: Virtual Jerusalem, JTA, 10-24-11

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is responsive and has gained weight, his son told The New York Times.arik sharon

Sharon, who has been in a coma since suffering a stroke nearly six years ago, moves his fingers when requested and looks at people when he is awake, Gilad Sharon told the newspaper on Oct. 20, in advance of the release of his biography of his father, “Sharon: The Life of a Leader,” set to be released in Hebrew and English on Oct. 26.

Ariel Sharon, 83, remains in a hospital near Tel Aviv following a brief stay at his ranch in southern Israel.

Gilad Sharon wrote in his book that he gave his father the idea of unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza, according to the Times. His accounts of his father’s dealings with current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are unflattering to Netanyahu.

Gilad Sharon, a member of his father’s Kadima Party, is said to be interested in entering politics.


Israel Political Brief October 24, 2011: President Shimon Peres Visits Gilad Shalit



Peres Meets Shalit

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-24-11

President Shimon Peres visited the Shalit residence at Mitzpe Hila in the Galilee Monday and met freed hostage Gilad Shalit and his parents, Aviva and Noam.

The Shalits waited for Peres at the entrance to their home and shook hands with him heartily. The president then hugged Gilad and said, “You have no idea how excited I am to meet you here in your home, alive, healthy and whole.”
He praised Shalit for his ability to survive the harsh experience of captivity and isolation.shalit peres

The president said that “the entire nation, from the tender ages to the veteran citizens, was mobilized to bring you back. It was a mobilization from depths of love and devotion and your homecoming is an amazing personal and national event.”
Peres told the Shalits that he is “glad that they were stubborn and did not let up for a moment.”

Gilad Shalit said, “Thank you for all of the support and assistance you gave to my family.” His father Noam said, “We appreciate and thank you for all that you did during all these years, we know that you were involved behind the scenes and we needed all the help we could get.”
Aviva Shalit said that her son was “a true hero.” She thanked Peres, but also thanked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, “who took a courageous decision to bring Gilad back to life and to prove that mutual commitment are not just hollow words but a value and I believe that the entire nation of Israel thanks you for this.”


Israel Political Brief October 19, 2011: Gilad Shalit’s First Full Day of Freedom, Shalit, mother take a walk



PM Benjamin Netanyahu: I am pleased to see the pictures of Gilad walking with his mother outside the family home today. I am happy to see that Gilad is starting to get back into his routine

Shalit, mother take a walk

Source: JTA, 10-19-11

Gilad Shalit took a walk with his mother near their home.

Israel media reported that Shalit, dressed in a T-shirt, sunglasses and a baseball cap with an IDF insignia, took a short walk Wednesday morning.

Also Wednesday, military doctors visited Shalit at his home. Doctors will see the former captive in the coming days to get a complete picture of his condition.

Following tests Tuesday, Shalit was found to have shrapnel wounds from his capture in June 2006 and to be suffering from malnutrition.

Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: Bereaved Families File Suit to Stop Terrorist Release



Bereaved Families File Suit to Stop Terrorist Release

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-18-11
shalitRelatives of victims of terrorist attacks have filed an emergency lawsuit against the release of terrorists in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The suit was filed with the help of the Almagor organization for victims of terror.
The government has agreed to release more than 1,000 terrorists in exchange for Shalit, including murderers and those who took part in previous kidnappings of IDF soldiers. The release deal has been controversial, with some warning that it will cause a wave of terrorism, while others argue that the state has an obligation to return kidnapped soldiers.

The families of those murdered in the Sbarro spearheaded a suit against the release and have launched a campaign to remove the Sbarro murderess who drove the bomber to the site from the list of those to be released.. Fifteen people lost their lives in the suicide bombing. The number to call to join the campaign is 0524239870.

Among those filing suit is Hovev Nuriel, whose father Sasson was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in 2005. The terrorists who murdered Sasson are to be released in the exchange.

Nuriel spoke to Arutz Sheva on Friday and explained that his primary concern is not for his own family, but for future victims.

“This [prisoner exchange] deal will lead to the loss of hundreds of lives, and will create more bereaved families and add to the pain and loss suffered by thousands of Israelis,” he said. “The deal sends the message that it is possible to deal with Israel through kidnapping and murder of Israeli citizens.”

“I know my father is not coming back,” he continued, “I am not speaking from a place of revenge, but rather, from solidarity. I am concerned for every citizen of Israel who could be hurt, whether by these same murderers or by other terrorists who get the message that they can continue to murder – because that is the message that the state and the government are sending.”

Another issue is justice, he said. “Where is the meaning of the judges’ verdict? Where is the justice in the state of Israel?” Murderers sentenced to life in prison are to be released after serving fewer than five years in prison, he noted.

Sayeed Ibrahim Mohammed Shalada, who stabbed Sasson Nuriel to death while the latter’s hands were tied, was sentenced to life in prison in 2007. In their verdict, the judges wrote, “The perpetrator took a person’s life with his own hands, acting calmly and with great cruelty. His actions force us to put him behind bars for the rest of his life.”


Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: US, Obama Administration Criticizing Gilad Shalit Prisoner Swap Deal



US Now Criticizing Shalit Deal

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-18-11

US officials criticized Tuesday evening the deal brokered for the freedom of Gilad Shalit, which set hundreds of terrorists, including those who had murdered Israelis, free.

The criticism came after it became clear that the released terrorists included those who had murdered Jews with US citizenship.

Earlier on Tuesday, US President Barak Obama had, despite his own nation’s strict policy of not negotiating with terrorists for the release of its citizens, said he was pleased with the deal that set Shalit was free.

Obama also expressed the hope Israel and officials in Ramallah would take the steps necessary to return to the negotiating table.

Previously, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton also praised Israel for negotiating with terrorists to secure Shalit’s release.

French President Sarkozy welcomed the release of Gilad Shalit, saying France had breathed a sigh of relief. Visiting the port city of Nice, Sarkozy’s opined Shalit’s French citizenship helped keep him alive. He added that Gilad will visit France soon.

Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague also welcomed the release of Gilad Shalit, and like Obama, added he hoped the terrorists-for-Shalit deal would provide positive momentum allowing the resumption of peace talks.

It is unclear why the Shalit deal would provide any such momentum. Israel’s deal to release 1,027 security prisoners, some 450 convicted on terrorism charges, for Shalit was made with the Hamas terror organization in Gaza and not Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.

Hamas had vowed never to negotiate with Israel.


Israel Political Brief Full Text Interview October 18, 2011: Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren Discusses with NPR Gilad Shalit Prisoner Swap



Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren Discusses with NPR Gilad Shalit Prisoner Swap

Five years after he was captured by Hamas militants in Gaza in a cross-border raid, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was returned to his home country. Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the U.S., talks with Robert Siegel about the deal that will free more than one thousand Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for Shalit’s release Tuesday.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Joining us in the studio is Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States. Mr. Ambassador, welcome once again.

MICHAEL OREN: Always good to be here, Robert.

SIEGEL: I want to ask you first about Israel’s dealings with Hamas over the prisoner swap. The Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told Israeli army radio the other day that Palestinian President Abbas, a negotiator with Israel for a million years and hasn’t achieved a deal like this one. Has this agreement, in effect, elevated the standing of Hamas among Palestinians and in the world community at large?

OREN: Well, listen, there was a poll published just today by a Palestinian research center in Ramallah that shows that Hamas is imploding in terms of its political support, not only in the West Bank, but in Gaza itself. The economic situation in Gaza is miserable, for want of a better word, and Palestinians are looking from Gaza at the West Bank where there’s extraordinary economic growth, where hundreds of checkpoints have been removed and they’re asking their leadership, how come this isn’t happening here.

So, maybe they’ll receive a blip of support from the release of these prisoners today. But in the long run, their constituents are going to still be asking the hard questions. Why don’t we have the same future that Palestinians on the West Bank have?

SIEGEL: The head of the Israeli security agency, the Shin Bet, was quoted as saying in defense of this agreement, Hamas had to show some flexibility as we did. Was the description of a balanced negotiation, albeit through Egyptian mediators, do you and other Israelis come away from this with any hope for any more extensive negotiations with Hamas?

OREN: With Hamas? No. I mean, Hamas still is committed to Israel’s destruction. If you read its covenant, it’s committed not only to the annihilation of Israel, but to the obliteration of the Jews worldwide. It’s a genocidal covenant. And Hamas does not meet the criterion established by the quartet for joining negotiations. But what today’s events do prove is that the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is capable of making very hard, very painful decisions.

And if I were a Palestinian leader on the West Bank, I’d be looking at this government and saying, this is government that can deliver. This is a government that can make the hard choices and reach an historic peace with us.

SIEGEL: But if I were a Palestinian not in the government, wouldn’t I look at this and say, well, these Hamas people, they’ve been trying to isolate them for years. But in the clutch, when it came down to getting one Israeli soldier home, the Israelis delivered 1,100 prisoners to them.

OREN: Oh, I’d actually flip that around and say, look, Hamas, in order to get – in exchange for one Israeli prisoner, they received 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. I’d be looking at the great asymmetry of that and saying, what’s wrong with this picture. Wouldn’t it be better, instead of exchanging a soldier who was kidnapped on Israeli soil for people who are basically mass murderers, is that the best way of ensuring the future for my children and my grandchildren?

SIEGEL: Well, what would you say to those Israelis who were critical of this swap, who said, indeed, the people being freed include, say, the young woman who masterminded the bombing of the pizzeria in Jerusalem that claimed the lives of women and children, she’s out. She’s not repentant. She could be planning another plot in a couple years.

OREN: Well, I think that there’s a valid argument there. And as I say, we share in the joy of the Shalit family. We also partake in the pain of those who are victims of these terrorists. And I’m speaking as a – personal, as an Israeli, not just as the ambassador. I have three children who have been in the army, one who’s still serving. But my family has also been – has also suffered the loss of a very close family member in a bus bombing in Jerusalem. My eldest son was shot trying to apprehend one of these Hamas leaders. He’s fine today, but we bear these scars. So we understand the pain and we understand the risks.

But at the end of the day, Robert, Israel is a democracy that has a citizens army. And when we send our sons and our daughters off to defend our country, they have to know that if they fall captive or, God forbid, anything worse happens to them, that the state will do everything in their power to get them back. And that is the source of our strength.

SIEGEL: But Ambassador Oren, does the deal with Hamas make it more difficult for Israel to fault those who would negotiate with people they describe as terrorists? That is, Israel regards Hamas as terrorist. You had to deal with them. If you wanted Gilad Shalit back, you had to negotiate in some way with them. You did. Shouldn’t other countries do the same?

OREN: I’m not splitting hairs here by saying that we didn’t negotiate. We negotiated through the Egyptians and the Germans and we negotiated about a prisoner exchange. We didn’t negotiate peace. We didn’t negotiate territory for peace. It’s not about that because Hamas is not interested in peace. It’s about comparing lists and seeing, you know, which lists were palatable to us and which ones that Hamas could accept.

Eventually, we reached a deal. It’s a better deal that we reached today than we could’ve reached at any time in the last five years. And with the great changes sweeping the Arab world, we thought we had an opportunity here that might not exist in the coming months.

SIEGEL: Ambassador Oren, thank you very much for talking with us.

OREN: No problem.

SIEGEL: That’s Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. And later in the program, you can hear an interview with a representative of the group on the other side of that prisoner exchange, Hamas.

Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: Gilad Shalit Returns Home to Israel



Gilad Shalit Returns Home

Source: PMO

Gilad Shalit’s Meeting with IDF Representatives (video)

Shalit Family at Tel Nof IAF Base
Gilad Shalit with PM Netanyahu at Tel Nof IAF base
Gilad Shalit Meets with his Father Noam
Gilad Shalit with his Father Noam, PM Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Barak
Gilad Shalit Salutes PM Netanyahu
Gilad Shalit speaks with his family
PM Netanyahu Meets with Gilad Shalit

     גלעד שליט חזר הביתה

גלעד שליט ובני משפחתו עולים למסוק שלוקח אותם בחזרה הביתה למצפה הילה (וידאו)

גלעד שליט נוחת בבסיס חיל האויר תל נוף ומתקבל על ידי ראש הממשלה נתניהו, שר הביטחון ברק והרמטכ”ל רא”ל גנץ (וידאו)

ראש הממשלה נפגש עם המתווך הגרמני ועם נציג הקנצלרית מרקל

דברי ראש הממשלה נתניהו לאחר שחרור גלעד שליט

החייל גלעד שליט פגש את הוריו

גלעד שליט במפגש ראשוני עם נציגי צה”ל (וידאו)

ראש הממשלה נתניהו פוגש את גלעד שליט
גלעד שליט עם אביו נועם, ראש הממשלה נתניהו ושר הביטחון ברק
החייל גלעד שליט מצדיע לראש הממשלה נתניהו
משפחת שליט בבסיס תל נוף
גלעד שליט עם ראש הממשלה בהגעתו לבסיס בתל-נוף
גלעד שליט משוחח עם בני משפחתו
גלעד שליט נפגש עם אביו נועם
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