Saturday, June 20, 2015

From Ian:

Israeli man killed in West Bank terror attack
An Israeli man who was critically injured Friday afternoon in a shooting attack in the West Bank succumbed to his wounds later Friday. He was named as Danny Gonen, 25, from the central city of Lod.
Gonen was shot in the upper body near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Jerusalem. He was found unconscious and transferred to Tel Hashomer Hospital by IDF helicopter where he died over an hour after the attack.
Gonen was an electrical engineering student and the eldest of five siblings.
A second man, whose identity was not immediately made public, was moderately hurt in the attack and was being treated at Tel Hashomer.
The two men were traveling in their car after visiting a spring near Dolev, when they were flagged down by a Palestinian man, seemingly asking them for assistance. He then pulled a gun out of a bag he was carrying and opened fire on them at point-blank range, mortally wounding Gonen.
“The Palestinian asked for information regarding a nearby spring moments before drawing a gun and shooting the passengers at close range,” according to a statement released by the IDF.
Michael Oren: Why Obama is wrong about Iran being 'rational' on nukes
Simply put: Those in the “rational” camp see a regime that wants to remain in power and achieve regional hegemony and will therefore cooperate, rather than languish under international sanctions that threaten to deny it both. The other side cannot accept that religious fanatics who deny the Holocaust, blame all evil on the Jews and pledge to annihilate the 6 million of them in Israel can be trusted with a nuclear program capable of producing the world's most destructive weapon in a single year.
The rational/irrational dispute was ever-present in the intimate discussions between the United States and Israel on the Iranian nuclear issue during my term as Israel's ambassador to Washington, from 2009 to the end of 2013. I took part in those talks and was impressed by their candor. Experts assessed the progress in Iran's program: the growing number of centrifuges in its expanding underground facilities, the rising stockpile of enriched uranium that could be used in not one but several bombs, and the time that would be required for Iran to “break out” or “sneak out” from international inspectors and become a nuclear power.
Both nations' technical estimates on Iran largely dovetailed. Where the two sides differed was over the nature of the Islamic Republic. The Americans tended to see Iranian leaders as logical actors who understood that the world would never allow them to attain nuclear weapons and would penalize them mercilessly — even militarily — for any attempt to try.
By contrast, most Israelis viewed the ayatollahs as radical jihadists who claimed they took instructions from the Shiite “Hidden Imam,” tortured homosexuals and executed women accused of adultery, and strove to commit genocide against Jews. Israelis could not rule out the possibility that the Iranians would be willing to sacrifice half of their people as martyrs in a war intended to “wipe Israel off the map.”
The Americans tended to see Iranian leaders as logical actors... By contrast, most Israelis viewed the ayatollahs as radical jihadists. -
As famed Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis once observed, “Mutually assured destruction” for the Iranian regime “is not a deterrent — it's an inducement.”
How Obama Opened His Heart to the ‘Muslim World’
And got it stomped on. Israel’s former ambassador to the United States on the president’s naiveté as peacemaker, blinders to terrorism, and alienation of allies.
Yet, tragically perhaps, Obama — and his outreach to the Muslim world — would not be accepted. With the outbreak of the Arab Spring, the vision of a United States at peace with the Muslim Middle East was supplanted by a patchwork of policies — military intervention in Libya, aerial bombing in Iraq, indifference to Syria, and entanglement with Egypt. Drone strikes, many of them personally approved by the president, killed hundreds of terrorists, but also untold numbers of civilians. Indeed, the killing of a Muslim — Osama bin Laden — rather than reconciling with one, remains one of Obama’s most memorable achievements.
Diplomatically, too, Obama’s outreach to Muslims was largely rebuffed. During his term in office, support for America among the peoples of the Middle East — and especially among Turks and Palestinians — reached an all-time nadir. Back in 2007, President Bush succeeded in convening Israeli and Arab leaders, together with the representatives of some 40 states, at the Annapolis peace conference. In May 2015, Obama had difficulty convincing several Arab leaders to attend a Camp David summit on the Iranian issue. The president who pledged to bring Arabs and Israelis together ultimately did so not through peace, but out of their common anxiety over his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and his determination to reach a nuclear accord with Iran.
Only Iran, in fact, still holds out the promise of sustaining Obama’s initial hopes for a fresh start with Muslims. “[I]f we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion,” he told the New Yorker, “you could see an equilibrium developing between [it and] Sunni … Gulf states.” The assumption that a nuclear deal with Iran will render it “a very successful regional power” capable of healing, rather than inflaming, historic schisms remained central to Obama’s thinking. That assumption was scarcely shared by Sunni Muslims, many of whom watched with deep concern at what they perceived as an emerging U.S.-Iranian alliance.
Six years after offering to “extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,” President Obama has seen that hand repeatedly shunned by Muslims. His speeches no longer recall his Muslim family members, and only his detractors now mention his middle name. And yet, to a remarkable extent, his policies remain unchanged. He still argues forcibly for the right of Muslim women to wear — rather than refuse to wear — the veil and insists on calling “violent extremists” those who kill in Islam’s name. “All of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam,” he declared in February, using an acronym for the Islamic State. The term “Muslim world” is still part of his vocabulary.
Historians will likely look back at Obama’s policy toward Islam with a combination of curiosity and incredulousness. While some may credit the president for his good intentions, others might fault him for being naïve and detached from a complex and increasingly lethal reality. For the Middle East continues to fracture and pose multiple threats to America and its allies. Even if he succeeds in concluding a nuclear deal with Iran, the expansion of the Islamic State and other jihadi movements will underscore the failure of Obama’s outreach to Muslims. The need to engage them — militarily, culturally, philanthropically, and even theologically — will meanwhile mount. The president’s successor, whether Democrat or Republican, will have to grapple with that reality from the moment she or he enters the White House. The first decision should be to recognize that those who kill in Islam’s name are not mere violent extremists but fanatics driven by a specific religion’s zeal. And their victims are anything but random.

Oren: Obama may reach out to Islam because 2 Muslim father figures abandoned him
In an op-ed published Friday, Kulanu Knesset member and former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren speculates that President Barack Obama’s relentless outreach to the Muslim world may stem from the fact that he was abandoned by the two Muslim father figures in his life and therefore seeks acceptance by their co-religionists.
In the article, in Foreign Policy Magazine, Oren also posits that the world may look back on Obama’s approach to Middle East issues as naive and hard to credit.
The piece marks Oren’s third op-ed critical of Obama published in major US media in less than a week. In the first of the series, the former ambassador published “How Obama abandoned Israel” in the Wall Street Journal, followed by “Why Obama is wrong about Iran being ‘rational’ on nukes,” in the Los Angeles Times. He also gave a lengthy interview to the Times of Israel this week in which he echoed charges in his new book, “Ally,” to the effect that aspects of US-Israel ties are “in tatters” because of the president.
Michael Totten: The "Snap Back" Delusion
The West's will is already sapped even without billions of dollars in cash on the table. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the State Department is three years behind its own Iranian sanctions implementation.
“Our analysis,” reads the report, “demonstrates that State is falling further and further behind in providing the reports and is now juggling a backlog of draft reports at different stages of that process. The imposition of sanctions no sooner than 3 or more years after the transfer occurred may diminish the credibility of the threatened sanction.”
We haven't even reached the point yet where money is on the table.
Last week a panel of United Nations monitors released a report complaining that both the US and Europe have been deliberately ignoring Iranian sanctions violations.
“The current situation with reporting,” the report says, “could reflect a general reduction of procurement activities by the Iranian side or a political decision by some member states to refrain from reporting to avoid a possible negative impact on ongoing negotiations.”
It's not just the United States that isn't reporting Iranian misbehavior to the United Nations. No country is reporting Iranian misbehavior to the United Nations, not even misbehavior that's unfolding, as Sangwon Yoon put it in Bloomberg, in plain sight.
“There's a direct correlation between this administration not wanting to sanction anyone or any violation and their lack of reporting on those violations,” said US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “And it's sending a signal to the international community that the United States is not serious about any of our sanctions, that if you talk to the right folks at certain agencies and get a pass.”
Is any of this going to change after the sanctions are lifted? No one can know for sure, but the real question is, why would it? (h/t Serious Black)
US: Iran’s sponsorship of global terror is ‘undiminished’
Less than two weeks before the deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran, the US State Department’s annual report on terror activity noted that Iran’s “state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished.”
The lengthy report, released Friday morning, also discussed Palestinian terrorism and attacks launched by Jewish Israelis against Palestinians and Christian and Muslim houses of worship.
The 388-page report, which warns that terror attacks worldwide rose 35% from 2013 to 2014, describes Iran’s attempts to spread its influence across the globe, using the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as the “primary mechanism” for accessing terror groups throughout the Middle East, and with ties as far as South America.
“While its main effort focused on supporting goals in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Iran and its proxies also continued subtle efforts at growing influence elsewhere including in Africa, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America,” the report warned.
The report detailed Iranian support for Hezbollah and its role in propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as its restated willingness to re-arm Hamas following last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.
Steinitz: US report on Iran terrorism should end delusions about nuclear program
The latest State Department report detailing Iran’s continued sponsorship of international terrorism proves that Tehran cannot be trusted to curb its nuclear program, Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Yuval Steinitz said on Saturday.
Steinitz was reacting to the annual report issued by Washington which determined that terrorist attacks worldwide surged by more than a third and fatalities soared by 81 percent in 2014.
Last year also saw Islamic State eclipse al-Qaida as the leading jihadist militant group, the State Department said on Friday.
Steinitz, however, was more concerned with the report’s findings on Iran. The minister said the report’s conclusions “dealt a death knell” to “the American delusion according to which an easing of sanctions as part of an interim nuclear treaty would lead to a moderation of its position.”
“That’s why the report should serve as a warning sign for anyone who thinks Iran will moderate its behavior after a final-status nuclear treaty,” Steinitz said.
Herzog to French FM: Israel, world will pay heavy price for mistake in Iran negotiations
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog spoke with France's foreign minister on Friday, ahead of Laurent Fabius official's visit to the region.
Fabius heads to the Middle East today to drum up support for an initiative aimed at bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, under an international framework.
Iran, however, took center stage during the "lengthy" phone call, according to a statement released by Herzog's office, with the Zionist Union leader saying Israel could not "feel safe or certain" in the face of agreements being reached with Iran.
Herzog, who is currently in London on an official state visit, told Fabius it was "vital" that world powers negotiating with Iran "won't compromise on important issues such as oversight" on the country's uranium enrichment and nuclear plants.
"Any mistake in negotiations" between six world powers and Iran, he cautioned, "means Israel – and the rest of the world – will pay a heavy price."
How to Con America - And Get a Nuclear Bomb! - Iran Film Series #5

Dozens of Saudi students visited Israeli Embassy in US
As transparency website WikiLeaks began publishing more than 500,000 Saudi diplomatic documents to the Internet, one such document translated by the Associated Press on Saturday revealed significant concern over a visit by Saudi students to the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
In the August 14, 2008 message marked “classified and very urgent,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry wrote to the Saudi Embassy in the US capital to warn that dozens of students from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries had visited the Israeli Embassy in DC as part of an international leadership program.
“They listened to diplomats’ briefings from the embassy employees, they asked questions and then they took pictures,” the message said, asking the embassy for a speedy update on the situation.
Another leaked Saudi document quoted by the Sudan Times, which highlighted Riyadh’s concerns over Iran’s push for increased regional influence, claimed that the Sudanese government was asked by Tehran to host an Iranian military base in its territory.
Netanyahu: We Will Find the Terrorist
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday evening responded to the shooting attack near the town of Dolev in the Binyamin region, vowing that Israel will find the terrorist responsible.
“The signs on the ground indicate that the shooting incident today near the community of Dolev was a terrorist attack. We are working to identify whoever carried out the attack,” Netanyahu said.
“We should not let the relative quiet deceive us,” he warned, adding, “The efforts to attack us continue constantly, just as we are operating constantly to prevent attacks with all the tools at our disposal.”
President Reuven Rivlin said the attack is “another step in the quiet and serious escalation in acts of terrorism we have witnessed in recent months.”
“We will not accept a situation in which a young hiker has his life taken from him in the land of Israel, because he is Jewish. Security forces will work tirelessly to bring to justice those responsible for this cruel and brutal act,” declared Rivlin.
UN Envoy Urges 'Restraint' After Shooting Attack
The UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, on Friday condemned the shooting attack near the community of Dolev in the Binyamin region, in which 25-year-old Danny Gonen was murdered.
“On this second day of Ramadan and at the start of the Shabbat, I call on all sides to exercise the utmost restraint, to maintain calm and promptly bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said in a statement.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said earlier on Friday evening that Israel will find the terrorist responsible for the shooting.
Hamas claims responsibility for West Bank terrorist attack
Hamas's military wing claimed responsibility for a fatal Friday shooting attack in the West Bank Israel Radio reported on Saturday. The report cited a statement released by a terror cell, named after Hamas operatives Marwan Al-Kuasma and Amar Abu Aisha - who kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers last year - as saying that it was behind the attack. The cell said it carried out an ambush on Israeli vehicles in the West Bank, and that an attacker opened fire from close range after ensuring that the two men were Israelis.
The terrorist killed one and moderately injured another in Friday's attack.
According to a senior IDF source, the two Israelis were near the West Bank settlement of Dolev, some six kilometers west of Ramallah.
BBC ignores another terror attack on Israelis – in English
There was no reporting on the incident on the BBC News website’s Middle East page either on Friday evening or Saturday morning.
BBC staff were however aware that a terror attack had taken place.
And a report on the incident did appear on the BBC’s Arabic language website.
At the time of writing that report has not been updated to inform audiences of Hamas’ claim of responsibility.
The BBC’s failure to report this fatal terror attack to English-speaking audiences should of course also be seen within the context of the corporation’s related abstention from reporting on the topic of Hamas activities in Judea & Samaria in general and their link to Hamas officials in Turkey.
Lebanese man to stand trial in Cyprus over alleged Hezbollah bomb plot
A Lebanese-Canadian accused of involvement in an alleged Hezbollah plot to stockpile explosives to target Israelis or Jews will stand trial in Cyprus on June 29, authorities said on Friday.
The 26-year-old man was arrested in late May after police discovered a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a potential explosive, in the basement of a home.
The man, whose name has not been made public, faces 16 charges including possession of explosives, conspiracy to commit a crime and aiding and abetting a terrorist organization, police spokesman Charalambos Zachariou said.
"It covers a period of time from 2012 to May 2015," he told reporters.
'The Druse of Aleppo are vulnerable to attack,' Israeli official says
The top Druse official in the Israeli government said on Saturday that members of his religious sect remain vulnerable to attack in the Syrian town of Aleppo.
Ayoob Kara, the deputy minister of regional cooperation, hosted a military briefing in his home in the Druse village of Daliat al-Carmel. Kara, the most senior Druse politician in the ruling Likud faction, invited a number of Druse IDF reservist officers to participate in the session.
“The situation in the village of Hader, not far from the border with Israel on the Golan Heights, is under control, contrary to press reports,” the deputy minister said. “As a Druse, my problem is what is taking place in Aleppo, which is the only place where the Druse community has no protection.”
“I am going through various channels to try and help them any way I can,” Kara said.
“The Jews fled Aleppo over the years due to persecution,” said the deputy minister, who traces his family origins to Aleppo. “I will do everything in my power so that the Druse do not disappear from there as well because of religious persecution.”
Thousands of Druze rally in support of Syrian brethren
Thousands of Druze citizens demonstrated in the village of Beit Jann in northern Israel on Saturday morning in support of their brethren in Syria, with organizers promising the rallies would “wash over Israel in the coming days.”
Demonstrators were protesting the killings of Syrian Druze by jihadist rebel groups and the threat posed by the rebels to the Druze communities near the Israeli border.
Jihadists consider the Druze, an offshoot of Islam, to be heretics. Members of the communities fear a rebel takeover of their villages could be followed by a demand that residents convert or face violent repercussions. Some have even warned of a possible massacre against the Druze.
Leading members of the minority in Israel have called on the government to help their brethren in Syria following the recent violence.
BDS movement seeks to empty Israel of Jews, former Spanish PM says
Amid the controversy surrounding the CEO of Orange's statement regarding the curtailing of his company's business in Israel, Aznar agreed to speak with The Jerusalem Post's Hebrew-language sister publication Maariv-Hashavua in order to express his steadfast objection to the BDS movement.
"I think BDS is an unfair, discriminatory movement based on a moral double standard that is, in the final analysis, anti-Semitic," Aznar told Maariv.
"Declaring its aim to put pressure on the Israel government, BDS is in fact trying to harm every Israeli citizen and not only the government. In reality what BDS wants is to make life in Israel intolerable so the Jewish nation will not be able to have a normal existence in its state. BDS does not only want to change the government's policy, it wants to empty the country of Jews," Aznar said.
The former prime minister also shared his criticism of the European Union over its anticipated publication of regulations regarding the labeling of products manufactured in the West Bank.
"People including the bureaucrats in the EU need to understand that companies that invest in the West Bank provide jobs and opportunities for the Palestinian nation," Aznar said, adding, "Getting companies to leave there [the West Bank] will not have a positive impact but just the opposite. Greater, not less, economic activity is required in the territories. The only way to create a Palestinian middle class is through investments and commerce."
"I think that governments must condemn all policy that discriminated unfairly against Israel. Such polices are not just unfair they are also idiotic. Israel is practically the laboratory of many innovations that the entire world enjoys, from high tech to health. Harming the connections with Israeli academics, scientists, artists and entrepreneurs, will have a negative impact on our culture and prosperity."
Daniel Gordis: It's too easy to be an anti-semite
The moment I heard that Stéphane Richard, the CEO of Orange, had said on Egyptian television that he wished his company could end its licensing agreement here “tomorrow morning,” I googled three words: “Orange,” “mobile” and “Syria.”
Lo and behold, there’s an Orange store in Aleppo. Hop in for an iPhone, for accessories, whatever you need. (The store even has a Facebook page.) Stéphane Richard, it seems, has no problem having an Orange store in the country that has gassed to death hundreds or thousands of its own children, that has killed hundreds of thousands of its own citizens and has turned literally millions of its own people into homeless refugees.
No, Stéphane Richard does not seem to have a problem with Syria, and it’s not Aleppo he wants Orange to exit. He has a problem with Israel, and it’s Tel Aviv he would like to leave.
Well, that is unless you take seriously his panicked and obsequious backpedaling once he had been “invited” (“summoned?”) to Israel and to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“It’s an honor to meet with you this morning, and it also gives me an opportunity to clear up the confusion that was created after those statements. I deeply regret this controversy,” stated Richard in front of the prime minister as the cameras were clicking.
Part of that was actually true. Richard clearly does regret the controversy – one can only imagine what his chief investors said to him in the hours after he accidentally revealed himself to be an unabashed anti-Semite. For were Richard’s objections to the conduct of conflict, Orange would have been out of Syria long before he ever thought of Israel.
Israeli TV: Mofaz in danger of being arrested for war crimes in London
According to Channel 2, Mofaz was en route to London on Saturday evening to take part in a conference. He is expected to land late Saturday, after which it is uncertain whether he can evade arrest.
Two officials from the Israeli embassy in London are on their way to the airport to greet Mofaz. The Foreign Ministry said it is prepared for any eventuality.
Mofaz was chief of staff during the second intifada. After entering politics, he assumed the post of defense minister.
Four years ago, the British government approved a change to the controversial universal jurisdiction law, used by activists to obtain arrest warrants for alleged war crimes aimed at Israeli dignitaries who visit the UK.
The law previously allowed private complaints of war crimes to be lodged against military personnel even if they were not British citizens and the alleged crimes were committed elsewhere. High profile targets in recent years have included former foreign minister Tzipi Livni and former defense minister Ehud Barak.
Former British Labour Leader Miliband Threatens to Sue Jewish Paper Over Israel Remarks
Former British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband threatened to sue a Jewish newspaper in the U.K. if it published comments media mogul Richard Desmond said he made that were critical of Israel, the Jewish Telegraph reported on Friday.
“The former Labour leader was furious over allegations that he had made offensive remarks to Desmond about Israeli action against Palestinians,” the Telegraph reported.“The Daily Express owner had told the Jewish Telegraph that Miliband had verbally attacked Israel during a chance encounter on London’s Hampstead Heath.”
“Desmond suggested Miliband had been in such a rage. I couldn’t stop him – he was going berserk [about Israel’s actions],” according to the Jewish Telegraph.
“Miliband’s spokesman, who had seen a full transcript of Desmond’s interview, said: ‘You should expect legal action and/or a complaint to the press watchdog if you go ahead with publication,’” according to the report.
The newspaper said it had decided not to print Miliband’s comments.
Another Former Al Jazeera America Employee Sues, Alleges Extreme Anti-Women & Anti-Semitic Bias
The former head of Al Jazeera America’s documentary team is suing the network for millions of dollars, alleging that the Doha-based organization has extreme anti-women, pro-Arab, anti-Semitic biases, and promotes 9/11 truther conspiracy theories.
Shannon High-Bassalik claims her former boss, Ehab Al Shihabi, who served as Al Jazeera America’s (AJAM) chief executive, would shout down women if they dared to complain about the organization. Shihabi, who allegedly would often leave meetings in the midst of when women were speaking, would dismiss his female colleagues of “simply being emotional,” the lawsuit alleges.
In her lawsuit against Al Jazeera America, Ms. High-Bassalik alleges that the network is advancing “a pro-Arabic/Middle Eastern agenda, often at the expense of the Jewish people.”
Turkish Official Blames Jews and ‘Crusaders’ for Election Losses
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost a parliamentary majority it had enjoyed for 13 years in voting last Sunday.
Voters had many reasons to back candidates from other parties – including a desire to blunt President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hopes of using Parliament to entrench his own power. Erdogan “asked the Turks to grant him 400 deputies – who would then rewrite the constitution to pave the way for his elected sultanate,” Hürriyet Daily News columnist Burak Bekdil wrote in a column republished by the Middle East Forum, where he is a fellow.
But a senior member of Erdogan’s party had another theory – it was the “Jewish lobby” and “Crusaders” who swayed Turkish voters.
“There’s an economic lobby in the world, which is under the hand of the Jewish lobby, and these are the ones who want the AKP to fall,” Muhammed Akar, chairman of AKP’s Diyarbakir branch, said in an interview with Foreign Policy. “Not only the Jewish lobby, there is another movement – the Crusaders. Because the AKP government is the voice of the Muslims in Turkey, and all the world.”
How a Holocaust heroine is finally written into the annals of history
Reick left Slovakia in 1938 and founded a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz in British Mandate Palestine. In early 1944 the British military recruited Reick from the Palmach, the elite fighting force of the Haganah, and sent her back to Slovakia where she served in British Intelligence and organized the remnants of a Jewish population living in Nazi occupied territory.
Together with three parachutists, Reick set up a camp in the Slovak mountains.
The Nazis caught Reick and her comrades in November 1944. She was shot in the neck on the edge of a mass grave wearing a British uniform and dog tags. At war’s end her body was transferred to Prague. Today she is buried in Mount Herzl.
Although a heroine of the Holocaust, Reick’s story is not well known. Granted, in Israel there are streets named for her, but in America, “nobody to speak of knows about her,” said Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel, founder and executive director of the New York-based Remember the Women Institute.
That few know Reick’s story speaks to a greater issue: the absence of women in history, Saidel said.
“Women have been left out of history since the beginning of history. In general women’s experience as women in the Holocaust and World War II have been overlooked in the historical narrative,” Saidel said.
The dangerous good deeds of Gal Lusky
Gal Lusky chose Frank Sinatra’s classic “Fly Me to the Moon” as her mobile phone’s ringtone.
“The moon is just about the only place I know that’s peaceful right now,” quips the founder and CEO of Israeli Flying Aid, a nonprofit volunteer organization that provides lifesaving aid in areas of natural disaster or conflict.
Lusky was one of seven female and seven male Israelis chosen to light torches at the 67th Independence Day ceremony on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl.
Her inclusion in this illustrious group is all the more remarkable considering that many of her missions are to nations normally off limits to Israelis, such as Pakistan, Sudan, Indonesia, Iraq and other places she is not at liberty to identify.
That the Ministry of Culture and Sport approved her nomination for the honor is a testament to Israel’s democratic principles, says Lusky. “The government knows how strongly I love my country.”
Lusky tells ISRAEL21c she established Israeli Flying Aid because no other Israeli NGO was dealing with disasters in hostile territories. “I believe Israel does amazing work where it’s invited to do so, but I wanted to compensate the other parts of the world.”
Israeli Science Minister Eyes Sending First Israeli Female Astronaut to Space
Israeli Science, Technology and Space Minister Danny Danon has asked the Israel Space Agency (ISA) to begin searching for the first female Israeli astronaut to be sent to space.
Danon’s quest comes 12 years after the first Israeli astronaut of any gender in space, Ilan Ramon, tragically died along with the rest of the crew aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia when it burned up upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Danon spoke with America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) earlier this week about the possibility of working together with Israel on future manned space flights. He said that although finding an astronaut is a long process that requires both funding and coordination within Israel and with the U.S., he has asked the ISA to begin the current search right away.
NASA’s Space Shuttle Program wound down in 2011, putting the brakes on American human spaceflight for the immediate future. But NASA still sends astronauts to the International Space Station via Russian spacecraft. The ISA and NASA are in talks about the possibility of including an Israeli astronaut in a future mission to space. Danon stressed the importance of having a strong female presence in the sciences.
Israel and World Bank sign water tech deal
Israel signed a deal this week with the World Bank to provide water-technology knowledge and expertise for use in the developing world. Under the deal, Israel has committed $500,000 to the World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice to enhance water knowledge in developing countries facing complex water security challenges.
The deal will also see Israeli water experts travel to countries to present technologies and techniques to prevent water waste and to reclaim resources. Delegations from abroad will also come to Israel to observe first-hand Israeli innovations in areas such as desalination, water filtration and sanitation, drip irrigation and more.
“Israel has had to manage water services while operating under extreme conditions of scarcity, and has done so very impressively,” said Jennifer Sara, director for water at the World Bank. “Its innovative practices are globally recognized — both from technological and institutional perspectives — and will undoubtedly carry lessons for many of the World Bank Group’s clients facing water-security challenges.”
Israel, located in one of the driest regions in the world, has been dealing with an ongoing shortage of water. This scarcity has worsened over the past years, due to prolonged droughts and to an increasing population. To tackle the issue, Israel has developed innovative approaches — to the point where much of the country’s water now comes from desalination or filtered and recycled water.
Israeli 3D tech promises more woes for brick-and-mortar stores
Israel’s Tridshops just may be about to hammer another nail into the coffin of “brick-and-mortar” retail stores, at least for the ones selling items like shoes, toys and electronics.
Using advanced algorithms that take advantage of high-speed Internet and advanced graphics tech, the company has created a platform that allows retailers to quickly set up an easy-to-navigate on-line store that convincingly mimics the actual buyer experience, with shoppers “moving” on a virtual walkway past 3D renderings of products which they can pick up, examine and manipulate from a 360 degree point of view.
The system is almost ready for prime time, according to Dror Sorek, the founder and CEO of Tridshops. The company — developed together with Israeli software house OneCode — is putting the finishing touches on a deal with a large Israeli retailer, which after the summer, will set up a virtual store using the technology. If that works out well, the company will begin setting up stores for retailers abroad.
“We are negotiating with a number of leading brands about the use of our platform,” said Sorek. “We believe that a growing number of leading retail chains will soon adopt out platform.”
IBM’s Watson ‘graduates’ Medical School in Haifa
IBM’s cognitive computing platform, which will give a “secure and open platform for physicians, researchers, insurers and companies focused on health and wellness solutions,” recently graduated from a research project for studying medicine holistically at its R&D lab in Haifa.
“Watson went to medical school, and now it’s set to graduate,” Dr Aya Soffer, director of big data and cognitive analytics at the Israel unit, told Times Of Israel. “We’ve had it study the medical literature, and now it’s ready to apply its natural language processing skills to real-life applications.”
The cloud-based interface includes 13 modules that “help developers showcase integrated technology into customer services and applications.” Soffer said the researchers at Haifa added significant value to the platform.
Earlier this year, IBM announced its plan to dramatically advance the quality and effectiveness of personal healthcare with its Watson Health Cloud, which comprises an intelligent analysis and understanding of medical data.
IBM’s partners Johnson and Johnson, Medtronic, and Apple will use the Watson Health Cloud to access the aggregated clinical, research and social health data.
UK-Israeli Trade Doubled Under Resigning Ambassador Taub
Trade between Israel and the U.K. doubled during the four-year tenure of Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub, who will resign this summer, the Israeli Embassy in the United Kingdom announced on Friday.
“The four years since Ambassador Taub took his post have seen Israel-U.K. trade double and a significant deepening of academic, business and cultural links between the two countries,” said a statement released by the Israeli embassy.
British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sajid Javid told an audience at the British Israeli Business Awards earlier this month that total trade between the two countries has entered a “golden era.” Over 300 Israeli businesses have set up operations in the U.K., according to the Israel-Britain Chamber of Commerce, and annual bilateral trade is over $5.5 billion. Javid had put the figure closer to $7 billion.
Taub, who was born in the U.K., became Israeli ambassador in 2011. Once, as a peace negotiator, he traveled to Northern Ireland with his Palestinian counterpart to learn from the situation there.
Mirren ‘utterly moved’ by WJC award
Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren was typically gracious Friday as she received a top Jewish citation for her new film role as a woman fighting to reclaim Nazi-looted art.
WJC President Ronald S. Lauder presented the thespian with the WJC Recognition Award for her work in the film “Woman in Gold.” Mirren portrays Maria Altmann, who fought the Austrian government for years to secure the return of five Gustav Klimt paintings stolen from her Jewish family during World War II.
“Being a part of this film and preserving Maria Altmann’s legacy has been a truly exceptional experience from the start,” Mirren said as she accepted the award.
“I am utterly moved to receive this award from the World Jewish Congress, an organization that does such important work all over the globe in advocating for Jewish rights.”
The eponymous “woman” is Altmann’s aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, who is featured in a 1907 portrait by Klimt which hangs today in New York’s Neue Galerie.
Bloch-Bauer was part of a prominent Austrian-Jewish family, patrons of the arts whose belongings were plundered by the Nazis. Among the works stolen were two portraits of Adele by Klimt, commissioned by her husband. After World War II, surviving members of the Bloch-Bauer family escaped to the United States. Their artwork remained behind.

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