Iranian Cash Already in West Bank

(Photo: flickr/ crazymaq)

(Photo: flickr/ crazymaq)

While Iran’s intention to attain nuclear capabilities remains perhaps the Islamic Republic’s most troubling goal, we have also been following its reach across the Middle East. Writing at The Times of Israel, Arieh Dan Spitzen says that Iranian funds are now being used to buy influence in the West Bank, among Hamas and Palestinian Authority followers alike:

This has led critics to worry that Iran will gain immediate access to enormous sums of money that it can use to bolster Hezbollah and strengthen Hamas in Gaza. In fact, very recently, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported that Iran has given Hamas millions of dollars to reconstruct the tunnels in the Gaza Strip that were destroyed by the IDF in last summer’s fighting. But even without the enormous new flow of funds promised by the removal of US and international sanctions, Iran has not limited its financial contributions in the Palestinian arena to Hamas or to Gaza.

Instead, the evidence suggests that it has been funneling money to the Palestinian Authority through its Shari’a courts and buying influence with the Palestinian public in the West Bank as well…

Standing alone, this Iranian financial support can only be considered a small beachhead in that nation’s efforts to gain influence with the PA and West Bank Palestinians, but it remains unclear whether there are other, less open financial streams flowing from Tehran to Ramallah. More importantly, the willingness of the Palestinian Authority to allow its postal service and government department to be used as a channel for financial support from an Iranian financed and US designated Hezbollah organization raises further questions about both the PA’s internal cohesion and its ultimate sympathies. The only thing that is clear is that Tehran, through its renewed support for Hamas and its coordination with the PA to fund payments to the families of “martyrs” in the West Bank, is seeking a key position of influence in the Palestinian territories.

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Monday, May 11th, 2015 at 8:37 AM  | Stand For Israel

Muzzled Democracy

(Photo: White House/ Paul Morse)

(Photo: White House/ Paul Morse)

Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas has now been in power for a decade (after winning a four-year term), ruling the West Bank as a dictator. Hamas, the Gaza-based terror organization, is now gaining favor in the same area. The Economist notes that whoever has control over the Palestinian people – Hamas or Abbas’ Fatah – it is not a good situation:

Campus politics offers young Palestinians their only chance to vote. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, started a four-year term ten years ago. The legislature has not been re-elected since Hamas’s surprise victory in the 2006 ballot. So student elections are seen as bellwethers for public opinion. Candidates at Birzeit argued over the best way to fight the Israeli occupation: should they fire rockets or pursue Israel at the United Nations? The outcome was discussed for days on Palestinian television.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007, while its nationalist rival, Fatah, controls the West Bank. They tried to end the split in June, when they signed a reconciliation agreement and installed a new technocratic government. The deal called for elections within six months, but Mr Abbas is dithering. Last year’s 50-day war against Israel earned Hamas new admirers in the West Bank, where the president’s Fatah movement is seen as corrupt and out-of-touch. A recent poll showed that trend reversing slightly, though his approval rating stands at just 40%; four out of five Palestinians are unhappy with the performance of the consensus government. “The outcome here is a warning to the Palestinian Authority,” said Ghassan Khatib, a vice-president of Birzeit. “The system is losing its legitimacy.”

But Hamas has concerns, too. Its popularity has slipped in Gaza, after repeated wars that have only immiserated the territory. Tens of thousands of civil servants have not been paid in nearly a year, owing to an internecine dispute over who is responsible for their salaries. A delegation of ministers travelled from Ramallah to Gaza last week to resolve the crisis, but they were…

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Monday, May 11th, 2015 at 8:20 AM  | Stand For Israel

Israel Honors WWII Vets 70 Years After V-E Day

(Photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

(Photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

May 8, 1945, is remembered as V-E Day, when the Allied forces at last defeated the Nazi regime in Europe. 70 years later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin honored the Jewish veterans of WWII:

Israeli leaders marked the 70th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany on Thursday evening, with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu honoring US, British and Russian Jewish war vets at a ceremony at the IDF tank memorial in Latrun…

“Around one and a half million Jews served in the Second World War, around eight percent of the entire Jewish population, and around half a million of whom, fell in battle,” Rivlin said at the ceremony. “Jewish servicemen fell as submarine commanders, fighter pilots, tank and infantry commanders, in the engineers and artillery corps, riflemen and regular soldiers. In every branch of the military, of each army which fought against the Nazis, were found decorated and dedicated Jewish heroes…”

The World War II vets at the ceremony were a link in the chain connecting the Maccabees of Jewish history to the future, “faces of the soldiers and commanders of the Israel Defense Forces,” the president said. “You are all links in the intricate chain of Jewish heroes, whose roots are in the pages of the Bible, and whose responsibility today, is to the defense of the people and land of Israel.”

“You have taught them the secret of heroism and humanity, the ethics of battle, and bravery,” Rivlin said. “Your tremendous valor, dear veterans, is deserving of a fitting commemoration.”

Netanyahu also spoke at the ceremony…The lesson learned from the Second World War and the Holocaust “was that we must be capable, prepared and able to defend ourselves by ourselves against any threat. That is the lesson of 70 years since the victory over Nazism.”

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Friday, May 8th, 2015 at 1:43 PM  | Stand For Israel

Photo Friday: Her Children Arise and Call Her Blessed

(Photo: PikiWiki/Ramat-Hacovesh Archive)

(Photo: PikiWiki/Ramat-Hacovesh Archive)

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed… (Proverbs 31:25-28)

In this photo from the 1950s, a blessed Israeli mother tends to children in the field during the harvest. Happy Mother’s Day, and Shabbat shalom, friends.

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Friday, May 8th, 2015 at 12:52 PM  | Stand for Israel

At IDF Hospital in Nepal, Healing and Heartbreak

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

When the recent earthquake left the nation of Nepal in ruins, we told you about the IDF’s efforts to help the Nepalese people recover from the disaster and its effects. The Jewish Week’s Nathan Jeffay reports on the healing and heartbreak that is still being witnessed at the field hospital set up by the caring men and women of Israel’s military:

An 18-year-old lies on a bed at the entrance of a tent, with an injured head and just a stub where his right arm used to be. “When I saw him I thought he was dead,” said his father, Bim Mahi.

Nearby, there’s a new baby in an incubator, a woman clinging to life in the intensive care unit, a soldier praying in the synagogue, and a triage full of Nepalese who are flocking here based on word-of-mouth reports about the treatment on offer.

It’s just a normal day at Israel’s field hospital in Nepal, still reeling after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked the country on April 25; the death toll now stands at more than 7,500.

One of the first faces that many of the patients see here is that of Avi Alpert, a U.S. immigrant to Israel who had no obligation to conscript to the army but signed up and put himself through basic training at age 42. Now, seven years later, the sense of duty that first got him into uniform has brought him to this makeshift Kathmandu facility.

As of Tuesday night, the field hospital has treated almost 1,000 patients, delivered seven babies — all of them healthy — and performed 50 surgeries. Its team, consisting of nearly 150 medical professionals here as part of their full-time army service or as reservists, sleeps in tiny one-man or two-man tents: even revered doctors like Jonathan Halevy, director-general of Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, finds rest under canvas after a grueling shift.

Around here, Alpert is Mr. Clockwork: the man who keeps the emergency room running smoothly, which, in turn, keeps the whole place running smoothly. Despite the…

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Friday, May 8th, 2015 at 11:26 AM  | Stand For Israel

Yael Eckstein on Cover of Israeli Women’s Magazine

(Photo: Nashim Magazine)

(Photo: Nashim Magazine)

The Fellowship‘s Senior Vice President, Yael Eckstein, was recently featured on the cover of Nashim (Women) magazine! Here’s the translation of the cover story:

See the Hebrew version here

Going to the Defense

by Shira Hershkovitz

Yael Eckstein, daughter of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and senior vice-president of “The Fellowship,” in her first full interview with “Nashim,” talks about coping with the allegations against The Fellowship, her great appreciation for her father, the touching moments during her work with The Fellowship and also answers the most difficult questions

A year ago, the Ministry of Education announced the “Summer of Fellowship” or “Schools of the Summer Vacation,” camps that were supposed to be financed by “The Fellowship” with funds that come from the pockets of Christians, mostly evangelicals, from the United States. The announcement by the Minister of Education, Shai Piron, caused a large reverberation in the religious sector and resulted in a lot of noise and angry reactions from the rabbis, educators, parents and community leaders who called for a boycott of the camps. This re-awakened an ancient debate about accepting donations from Gentiles.

Some, like Rabbi Stav, head of the “Tzohar” organization, maintained that it’s permissible to accept these funds. In a letter which he published, the Rabbi wrote: “At the factual level, the money provided by ‘The Fellowship’ was donated by evangelical Christians. This movement supports the Jewish people and believes that Israel should guard its religion, and the return of the Jewish people to Israel is part of the fulfillment of the Jewish mission.” Rabbi Stav also emphasized in his letter that the donors have no direct personal acquaintance with those who benefit from the money.

Contrary to the opinion of Rabbi Stav other claims arose, such as that of Rabbi Aviner who maintained that if, during the two thousand years of Diaspora, when we were persecuted, poor and unfortunate we didn’t agree to accept missionary funds, then how much more so should we refuse during these times. Last summer Rabbi Aviner also called upon citizens not…

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Friday, May 8th, 2015 at 9:14 AM  | Stand For Israel

An IDF Soldier’s Letter to His Mother

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, when we all show appreciation for the important mothers in our lives. The brave men and women of the IDF are no different – they each learned their strength and virtue from someone. The Friends of the IDF (FIDF) has provided this moving letter from a 24-year-old officer in the Israeli Navy that states these sentiments about his own “ima” (“mother” in Hebrew):

My mother is an incredibly strong woman, and has always been there for her children, through thick and thin. In the intense first stage of my training in Eilat, in the Naval Officer’s Course, our cell phones were taken and we had only a few minutes on Fridays to call home. A week after I began the course, my commander surprised me by handing me a few letters, one for each day since I’d arrived. From that day onwards and throughout those difficult months, I received a letter from my Ima every single day. Those letters kept me going, especially when my older brother, serving in the Paratroopers Brigade, was participating in an operation and I had little news of him because of my training. It is her strength that has always made me strong and still keeps me going. Love you, Ima.


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Friday, May 8th, 2015 at 8:14 AM  | Stand For Israel

Reminders About Iran

(Photo: U.S. Dept. of State)

(Photo: U.S. Dept. of State)

Yesterday, we brought you an analysis that warned that Iran is not and will not be a partner for the West. Today, former national security adviser Elliott Abrams provides some more reminders about the Islamic Republic, “the nature of its regime, its defiance of international law, and its contempt for the United States”:

So it is interesting to see how Iran is conducting itself during this period. The answer is clear: it is practicing no restraint whatsoever. The best example of this may be its seizure of the cargo ship Maersk Tigris which was plying the waters of the Gulf. This seizure has forced the United States to provide naval escorts to some American and British ships, and it served notice on the world that Iran would use military force when it pleased, negotiations or no negotiations.

A second example is the espionage charge against the imprisoned Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. He has been in an Iranian jail since July, 2014, and the ludicrous espionage charge is not simply a reminder of the nature of Iran’s “legal” system…

Meanwhile Foreign Minister Zarif travels the world, offering assurances of Iran’s good faith and pacific intent. Zarif is a salesman, or put more nicely a diplomat, but not a policymaker, and the policymakers are showing us week after week the true nature of the regime. If we pay more attention to Zarif’s speeches and interviews than to the actual conduct of the regime, we have nothing and no one to blame but ourselves and our illusions about the Islamic Republic.

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Friday, May 8th, 2015 at 8:01 AM  | Stand For Israel

Israel’s UN Ambassador Honors 70th Anniversary of V-E Day

iitnThis weekend marks the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe, or V-E Day, when Nazi Germany officially surrendered, ending World War II. In his address to the U.N., Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor said the Jewish people learned from this conflict to never entrust Jewish lives to another people or nation.

Also this week in Israel in the News:

• In eleventh-hour negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded in forming a new coalition government, giving him a narrow majority of one seat in the Knesset.
• Protests are underway in Israel after police were caught on tape beating an Israeli Ethiopian soldier.

This week’s Israel in the News Perspective features The Fellowship’s founder and President Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein on the need to pray for our nations.

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Thursday, May 7th, 2015 at 5:00 PM  | Stand for Israel

Senate Passes Bill Giving Congress Review of Iran Deal

(Photo: U.S. Government)

(Photo: U.S. Government)

When Western powers and Iran recently agreed on a framework to a nuclear agreement, many were left worried, American legislators included. The Times of Israel’s Rebecca Shimoni Stoil reports that the U.S. Senate has passed bipartisan legislation (by a vote of 98-1) that will allow Congress to review any future  deal with Iran:

A key bill to increase congressional oversight of a future nuclear agreement with Iran passed the Senate by an overwhelming majority of 98-1 Thursday, in a move that could limit President Barack Obama’s maneuverability in negotiations with Tehran…

The bill will allow Congress a 52-day review period of any agreement that the US reaches with Iran over its nuclear program in the framework of ongoing talks between Tehran and the six world powers. It will also require regular reports from the president on the progress of Iranian steps to scale down its nuclear program, and will curb the president’s ability to negate Congress-imposed sanctions by signing repeated waivers.

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Thursday, May 7th, 2015 at 3:24 PM  | Stand for Israel