Netanyahu meets with Ethiopian-Israeli soldier beaten by police
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Ethiopian-Israeli soldier who was beaten by police officers for coming out against violence, calling it “true leadership.”
On Monday, Netanyahu met with Damas Pakada, whose beating last week was captured on videotape. The attack spurred violent demonstrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu told Pakada that he was shocked by the beating and said it cannot be accepted.
“The police will do whatever it takes to correct itself, but we need to fix Israeli society,” Netanyahu said. He called the violent protests a result of “genuine distress.”
Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino apologized to Pakada on behalf of the Israel Police and informed him that the officer who beat him was fired immediately.
Also Monday, President Reuven Rivlin said Israeli society has “erred” when it comes to the plight of Ethiopian Jews in Israel.
“The protesters, in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv, revealed an open and raw wound at the heart of Israeli society,” Rivlin said. “The pain of a community crying out over a sense of discrimination, racism and of being unanswered. We must look directly at this open wound. We have erred. We did not look, and we did not listen enough.”
Addressing the demonstration Sunday night in Tel Aviv that injured more than 40 police and demonstrators, Rivlin made his remarks prior to a meeting with the heads of haredi Orthodox municipalities and local councils.
“Among the protesters on the streets were some of our finest sons and daughters: outstanding students, those who served in the IDF. We owe them answers,” Rivlin said.
The president said that protests are “an essential tool in democracy,” but added that “violence is neither the way nor the solution” and that “we must not allow a handful of violent trouble makers to drown-out the legitimate voices of protest.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky in a statement called on all Israelis to “listen carefully, help foster a more constructive discourse, and mobilize to improve the situation in a real and tangible way.” He called on protesters “to exercise good judgment and moderation, to respect the law and public order, and to utilize the societal conversation that has been started” to achieve their goals.
Liberman: Yisrael Beiteinu party to sit in opposition
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Avigdor Liberman said his Yisrael Beiteinu party would not join the new government coalition and he was resigning as foreign minister.
Liberman, who heads the right-wing party, said in an announcement on Monday that he would submit a letter of resignation later in the day and that Yisrael Beiteinu would enter the opposition.
Liberman’s party garnered six Knesset seats in March’s election. In the January 2013 election, Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ran on a joint ticket and won 31 seats, leading all parties.
Liberman charged in a news conference that Netanyahu plans to open up the government to the left-wing Zionist Union and form a national unity government. He also said that the new government “has no intention of building housing, neither in major settlement blocs nor in Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu has less than three days left to form a new government coalition. He already has signed agreements with the centrist Kulanu led by former Likud lawmaker Moshe Kahlon, as well as Orthodox United Torah Judaism for a total of 46 Knesset seats. A minimum 61 seats is required to form a government.
Jimmy Carter: Hamas leader favors peace, Netanyahu not committed to 2 states
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Hamas leader Khaled Meshal is in favor of the peace process with Israel and that Hamas is not a terrorist organization.
Carter also told Israel Channel 2 on Saturday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not in favor of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
“I don’t see that deep commitment on the part of Netanyahu to make concessions which [former prime minister] Menachem Begin did to find peace with his potential enemies,” Carter said.
Of Meshal, the ex-U.S. leader said, “I don’t believe that he’s a terrorist. He’s strongly in favor of the peace process.” Carter added that he “deplored” terrorist acts by Hamas and would support moderate members of the group.
Carter completed a three-day visit to Israel and the West Bank on Saturday. He did not meet with Netanyahu or President Reuven Rivlin.
Israeli media had reported that Netanyahu and Rivlin turned down requests for meetings due to what they called Carter’s “anti-Israel stances.” Carter reportedly said he did not request a meeting with Netanyahu because he knew he would be turned down.
During a meeting Saturday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Carter called for Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections in the West Bank and Gaza to reunify the Palestinians. Abbas has remained in office despite his term ending in 2009 due to the lack of an election. Abbas’ Fatah Party and Hamas signed a unity agreement last year.
“We hope that sometime we’ll see elections all over the Palestinian area and east Jerusalem and Gaza and also in the West Bank,” he said in Ramallah.
Carter called the lack of reconstruction in Gaza following Israel’s operation there last summer “intolerable.”
“Eight months after a devastating war, not one destroyed house has been rebuilt, and people cannot live with the respect and dignity they deserve,” he said.
Carter, who wrote a book titled “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid,” has called for the labeling of goods that originate in the West Bank, and said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was among the factors that led to the deadly attacks in January in Paris.
Israeli veterans say lax rules of engagement led to destruction in Gaza
(JTA) — Testimonies from over 60 Israeli soldiers who fought in last summer’s Gaza war said that “permissive” rules of engagement led to indiscriminate artillery fire that caused unnecessary damage to Palestinian civilians.
The 237-page report released by the group Breaking the Silence on Monday called the Israel Defense Forces’ behavior during the military operation titled Protective Edge an “ethical failure … from the top of the chain of command.” The report features interviews with combatants and soldiers who served in command centers.
The soldiers described shooting at innocent civilians and aimlessly destroying property and vegetation.
“If we don’t see someone waving a white flag, screaming, ‘I give up’ or something — then he’s a threat and there’s authorization to open fire,” said a first sergeant serving in the Mechanized Infantry in Gaza.
The IDF repudiated the report.
“Unfortunately, as in the past, Breaking the Silence has refused to provide the IDF with any proof of their claims,” an IDF spokeswoman told Reuters.
Over 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the conflict last July and August compared to 66 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians. The number of civilian casualties among the Palestinians sparked accusations of war crimes against Israeli soldiers.
Israel has denied any wrongdoing and launched investigations in response to the accusations.
2 U.N. peacekeepers injured on Golan by Syrian mortars
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two U.N. peacekeepers on the Golan Heights were injured by mortar shells fired from Syria.
The shells hit a United Nations Disengagement Observer Force base on the Israeli side of the Golan, as well as Kibbutz Ein Zivan, according to the Israeli military. The peacekeepers, whose nationalities were not known, were taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment.
The Israel Defense Forces said the shells were errant fire from the fighting between Syria’s army and the rebels as part of the country’s 4-year-old civil war. Several stray rockets and shells have landed in Israel in recent months.
Jerusalem light rail attacker shot by security guards
JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian man was shot by security guards at a Jerusalem light rail stop after attempting to attack a guard and several civilians.
The man, 35, is alleged to have been attempting to stab people with a knife on Monday morning at a stop in the French Hill neighborhood, near the border of eastern and western Jerusalem. He was shot in the legs by security guards, according to Israel Police.
No injuries were reported in the incident.
A light rail security guard said the Palestinian man attacked him from behind, and then ran toward civilians waiting at the stop. Other guards believed he was trying to pull a knife from his pocket in order to stab the waiting Israelis.
Police are investigating the incident.
The incident comes a day after two Palestinians attempted to stab Israeli soldiers guarding the entrance to the Yakir Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank.