Monthly Archives: June 2016

Israel, Turkey Shake Hands

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By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — June 27, 2016 … Turkey announced the restoration of diplomatic relations with Israel today after a six-year break in ties. Turkey is seeking to ease a sense of isolation on the world stage as Israel views enormous financial and security benefits.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the following statement at a press conference in Rome:

“Israel has reached an agreement of strategic importance for the State of Israel, for security, for regional stability and for the Israeli economy. As Prime Minister of Israel, it is my responsibility to be concerned with its strategic interests, to take a broad and long-term view, based on an understanding of the international arena as well as of our security and economic needs, at present and in the future.

Last night and this morning, I spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry. Last night I spoke with US Vice President Joe Biden and have spoken just now with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Of course, they all welcomed the agreement. They think that it will greatly strengthen the State of Israel and its position in the region. Of course, the US says this based on that same strong and fundamental alliance that is a cornerstone of our international relations. But we know that we need to add centers of stability. The world and the Middle East are in turmoil and my policy is to create centers of stability in this unstable and stormy region.

We are doing so with our close neighbors, Arab countries. We are doing so with Greece and Cyprus. We are doing so with Russia. We are also doing so with Turkey. Of course, we are doing all of this in full coordination with our greatest ally, the United States. This is part of a clear strategy, to create centers of stability in the stormy Middle East. Now, Israel and Turkey are two major powers in the region and the break between us is not good for our vital interests and prevents us from cooperating in those instances, and there are more than a few, in which cooperation is warranted.

The first thing in this agreement is protection for IDF commanders and soldiers from criminal and civil claims, both those being prosecuted now and those that might be prosecuted in the future. As of now there are very many such claims and their scope is increasing; they could reach many millions of dollars and prevent the free movement of our soldiers, their freedom of activity – all of this is cancelled. The agreement will ensure that our soldiers and commanders will not be exposed to claims by Turkey. Moreover, the agreement also stipulates that the Turkish parliament will pass a law cancelling all of these processes in Turkey.

The second thing that this agreement gives is maintaining the maritime security blockade of the Gaza Strip. This is our supreme security interest; I was not prepared to compromise on it. This interest is vital to prevent the strengthening of Hamas and it remains as it has been. Of course, we are allowing ships to dock at Ashdod port and unload civilian and humanitarian cargoes there for the Gaza Strip. We have never prevented this, of course, and we are making it possible now.

The third thing that this agreement does, along with maintaining the security arrangement, is to allow for dealing with humanitarian issues in the Gaza Strip, subject to Israel’s security procedures and considerations.

I would like to explain that beyond the humanitarian consideration, this is also an outstanding interest of Israel’s, especially in two areas – water and electricity. Water: When there is not enough water in Gaza, and Gaza is in the process of gradually drying up, the aquifers become polluted and when the aquifers become polluted, this is not limited to the Gaza side of the aquifer but also passes over to the aquifer on our side.

Therefore, it is in Israel’s clear interest to deal with the water problem in the Gaza Strip.

Electricity: When there is not enough electricity, various problems arise, including those having to do with sanitation, and when there are outbreaks, the outbreaks do not stop at the fences. This is both a humanitarian interest and an outstanding Israeli interest. Therefore, we are allowing these infrastructures to be dealt with. Just like other countries, from Norway to Arab states, so too will Turkey be able to help on this matter. Of course, we will hold discussions with Turkey on these issues.

An additional thing that the agreement gives is a commitment to prevent all terrorist or military activity against Israel from Turkish soil, including collecting funds for these purposes. This is an important – even primary – commitment that we have not had up until now.

In addition, we received a letter according to which the President of Turkey has instructed the relevant Turkish agencies to assist in every way in returning the prisoners and MIAs on a humanitarian basis. I understand the suffering of the families. I speak with them and I know what they are going through, and I would like to assure them: I promise you, members of the families, I promise you that we will not stop and we will not rest until we bring the boys back home. This is a personal, national and moral commitment. I think that the letter which accompanies the agreement gives us another tool to use in this holy work.

Also, this agreement requires Turkey to assist Israel in entering into all international organizations that Turkey is a member of. Now, we have already had one case before the signing which is very important from our point-of-view and it is based on goodwill, and this is Turkey dropping its opposition to Israel establishing a NATO office. Israel is now working to open an office with NATO; this has been a goal of ours for many years and it is being realized.

I would like to touch on an additional point, which I think is critical, and this is in the economic sphere. This agreement opens the way to cooperation on economic and energy matters, including the gas issue. Gas is so important and contains the possibility of strengthening the Israeli economy and state coffers with vast capital. But the gas issue is composed of several things: One, extracting it from the sea and we have dealt with this; I will not go into detail on this issue here. But the second thing is creating markets for the gas that we are extracting from the sea. I remind you that 60% of every shekel that comes out of the sea goes to the state treasury. These are vast sums but we need markets. Leviathan could supply both the Egyptian market that we intend to work with and also the Turkish market as well as the supply of gas through Turkey to Europe, and this is a strategic issue for the State of Israel. This could not have come sooner without this agreement and now we will work to advance it.

I updated the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Greece, Russia and, of course, our American friends, on this development. We updated them on every aspect that we focused on in this agreement. This took a lot of time, including recently. But I would like to update you on something: There are two people here who worked very hard on this matter. I would like to thank Yaakov Nagal from the National Security Council, who did very loyal – and I must say quiet – work. I would also like to thank someone who, not for the first time, has aided the State of Israel, and he has done exceptional work, Yossi Ciechanover. Yossi did marvelous work dealing with the Palmer reportin wake of the Marmara incident. He dealt with it, the results are known, one of the few cases in which Israel came out on top in a UN report, and this was greatly due to Yossi. Yossi worked diligently on this agreement and I want to offer him the heartfelt gratitude of the citizens of the State of Israel. Thank you to you both.”

Alan Weinkrantz – An Israeli PR Soldier

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By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Tel Aviv, Israel — June 19, 2016 … Alan Weinkrantz was a mensch. A highly skilled Texas PR professional who was there for Israel when fax machines were used, was there for Israel as Facebook and Twitter evolved.

Alan was one of a rare handful of seasoned, Anglo public relations professionals who dedicated much of his work to Israel. He taught the Israeli start up community valuable skills in connecting with the media. Alan taught us how important it is to give. To be helpful.
Alan taught us to live every day, every hour as we know not when death arrives.

For Alan, it was not cancer or heart disease. It was not an act of terrorism. Who would ever suspect that while eating a Chinese meal in Tel Aviv, in seconds one’s life would be stolen by a runaway car?

Alan loved Israel. He was seduced by it’s beauty, it’s historical, biblical charm and by the warm, direct and honest relations that Israelis are known for. If there was a hi tech conference scheduled for Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, Alan was there. He would sit in the front row asking questions to a Google executive or take notes and upload a live Internet stream as a Prime Minister spoke.

Alan Weinkrantz may have never have worn an IDF uniform but he contributed to the state as if he did. He engaged Israeli industry and strengthened our home front. Alan realized that of all aspects of Israeli culture, none was and is as critical than a thriving economy. That Israel has been and remains in desperate need of experienced, international PR professionals who with their native English are able to create B2B bridges with North America, Europe and Asia.

Alan knew that the money was in the States. That he would be better off with PR retainers from New York, Chicago or Dallas. Alan’s love for Israel transcended all personal financial considerations. He, as American-Israeli PR pro Charley Levine before him, placed Israel first and we will never forget.

Alan’s family has created a Website where we can donate for his funeral expenses.
www.gofundme.com

Alan was a beloved father to his daughter Lauren and son Aaron.

Baruch Dayan Emet. 

Israel: Orlando, Tel Aviv Terrorism Was Jihad, Not Occupation

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By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — June 14, 2016 … Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today in Jerusalem, met with ambassadors from NATO member states and told them at the start of the meeting:

“Thank you to all of the ambassadors representing the NATO countries that are here today. I look forward to this opportunity to discuss our common interests, based on our common values. I want to thank NATO for inviting Israel to open an office in your headquarters in Brussels.

This meeting obviously comes at a difficult time. Two days ago, a terrorist walked into a nightclub in Orlando and murdered nearly 50 innocent people, men and women. These people were doing nothing wrong. They were dancing with friends and enjoying music with loved ones. The terrorist murdered them because he was driven by intolerance to the LGBT community and driven by hatred for freedom and diversity.

Now, days before that, a terrorist walked into a café in Tel Aviv and murdered four civilians. They too did nothing wrong. They were drinking coffee and enjoying the celebration of birthdays.

Paris, Brussels, London, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bali, Mumbai, New York, San Bernardino and now Orlando and so many other cities have been struck by the same evil. Terror knows no bounds, and that is why our cooperation in the battle against terrorism must know no bounds as well.

One day ISIS kills gays, the next day Yazidis and then Jews and Muslims and Christians. They have no bounds. Terror, the indiscriminate, systematic attack on innocent people, must always be confronted and must always be fought, and that doesn’t change. In any case, it doesn’t depend on the identity of the victims. It depends on the nature of the act.

The act is evil and is perpetrated by people with evil designs, and we, the people of the civilized world, have to band together to defeat it. We stand ready to help NATO in this collective struggle. We are prepared to share our intelligence and our experience to help in this common effort.

Now, in three weeks you’re going to have an important summit in Warsaw and I believe the combat against global terrorism has to be, should be and probably is already a central part of your agenda. Know that Israel stands ready to advance that agenda, and I have no doubt that if we work together, we can roll back this terror, and I have no doubt that we can defeat ISIS. I think it can be defeated.

I think with the right amount of international cooperation across the widest spectrum, this goal can be achieved, and I think that if we work together we’ll achieve it faster and we’ll defeat ISIS and terrorism faster.”

Israel To US: We Feel Your Tears, Defeat Terror Together

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By Israel News Agency Staff 

Jerusalem, Israel — June 12, 2016 … Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening issued the following statement following the Islamic terror attack in Orlando, Florida:

“On behalf of the people and government of Israel, I extend our deepest condolences to the American people following last night’s horrific attack on the LGBT community in Orlando.

Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States at this moment of tragic loss.

We send our heartfelt sympathies to the families of the victims and wish a full and speedy recovery to the wounded.”

An American born, Islamic terrorist murdered at least 50 people and injured 53 others in a gay nightclub in Florida early Sunday morning before police shot him dead.  US authorities have described the terror attack as the worst mass shooting in US history.

“Screaming Started, Then I Saw His Gun” – Israeli Survivor Tells Of Tel Aviv Massacre

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By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Tel Aviv, Israel — June 9, 2016 … Lt. Col. Peter Lerner is the commander of the International Branch of the IDF Spokesperson’s Office. As he was heading home to Israel after leading an IDF delegation to Germany, his telephone started to vibrate with a river of incoming text messages.

A terror attack had just taken place in Tel Aviv. With every bit of information flowing into his mobile phone regarding the massacre, one item was missing – one of his off duty soldiers was among those attacked. This is the traumatic story that Linda Dayan conveyed to Peter:

“I want to tell you about my night. It’s going to be in the news for a little while, and I want to remember it as it happened, not as the security camera footage shows. This is for me, but it’s also for you. Especially if you live in a place where these things barely make the news.

I was supposed to stay on base all weekend and for the holiday, so I wanted a night out with Jordan. We settled on Benedict at Sarona, a 15-minute walk from our apartment. When we got there, they asked if we wanted a table outside or inside. It was hot, and we decided on inside, even if it meant waiting an extra couple of minutes for a table to clear out. We were seated by the wall, glass from ceiling to floor. It was nice.

We sat, we ate. It was good.

We heard this popping noise. At first, I thought it was an electrical problem. Then the screaming started, and the people running past our window. I saw a man. I do not remember the man, but I remember the gun held by the man. There was fire coming from the barrel, and it was red, and it made the gun even more silver. Because I had worked on a video about these weapons, I knew it was a Carlo Gustav rifle. I did not notice that he was wearing black and white. He was on the other side of the window, four feet away, separated by glass. Very quickly, everyone at the restaurant either ran or fell to the ground. Jordan ran, I fell to the ground. You don’t coordinate these things.

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I lied there, facing away from the window. I really hoped he wouldn’t come into the restaurant or shoot at the glass wall. If he did, I would die.

My breathing was steady, and I noticed that the floor was wet, which was unpleasant, but not, you know, the worst part.
After the sounds of the shooting grew softer, someone from the restaurant shouted that we all need to run to the back in case they return, or enter the restaurant. I did. I ran, and I hoped he wasn’t still there outside, the gun and the man holding it. If he was, he could shoot me.
The people in the back of the restaurant – everyone who had been in the restaurant – were staring at me, and I looked down and saw that I was covered in blood. I had fallen on my chin. It was my own.

Jordan found me and cleaned off the blood. We hugged a lot. We told each other “I love you.” We called our families. I left a lot of voice messages.

When the police and Magen David Adom (Israel’s Red Cross) gave us the all-clear, we started to leave. We were “in shock,” which we didn’t feel like we were, because shock is a very calm feeling, actually. They loaded us onto an ambulance. They took us to the hospital. A physician’s assistant took my vital signs. He had an Arab name. A doctor glued my chin back up, and they had us see a psychiatrist, who was very nice and made us laugh.

We’re home now.

I saw on TV that they’re handing out candies in Hebron. I’m scared to read the American headlines or any news at all. They kept playing the footage in the hospital waiting room. The terrorists are younger than me. They’re heroes back home.

I’m thinking about all the “devil’s advocates” I’ve known, the “they have no other venues for protest” camp, the “it’s justifiable in a conflict like this” college students I shared desks with. Please consider, if you’ve read this far: if we hadn’t sat outside, if the shooters came into the restaurant, if one had turned slightly to the left and fired, I would be dead right now. I don’t care what “side” you’re on. I don’t care about your politics. If you care about me, call out terror for what it is.

Call men shooting at screaming civilians who are running for their lives – terrorism.

Tell the people you know that it’s never okay to target innocent men, women, and children, even if you don’t like where they live. Stand up for the people who didn’t want to wait, for the people who said “the weather is nice, let’s sit outside,” for the four people who will never come home again after tonight.

Stand up for the workers, the parents, the grandparents, the friends, the off-duty soldiers who laid there on the floor and breathed softly, praying the glass would hold. Stand up to anyone who says my life isn’t worth it. Because when they say it, I’ve learned, they mean it.

I’m alive. I’m alive. The world is beautiful, and I’m alive.”

Palestinian Terrorists Murder 4 In Tel Aviv

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By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Tel Aviv, Israel — June 8, 2016 … Dressed in black suits, they ordered desserts at the Max Brenner restaurant in Tel Aviv. Many were out to relax and enjoy a beautiful summer’s evening over a fine dinner, homemade chocolate and strong Israeli coffee. As the waiter walked away with their order, two Palestinian terrorists took out automatic weapons and started to shoot at point blank range at the customers. Within a few minutes, these terrorists had murdered 4 people and wounded several others in Tel Aviv’s newly built Sarona Market complex.

Dozens of civilians, screaming, ran frantically out of the restaurant, as the terrorists continued to calmly shoot whoever was in range. Telephones throughout Israel started ringing, vibrating with urgent text messages saying “peeguya” Hebrew for terror attack. “WTF – I’m OK – shooting at restaurant. Get police.”

Tel Aviv Police head Asst.-Chief Moshe Edri described the barbaric  scene as a “serious terrorist attack.” He said that two terrorists came to the elegant market and opened fire randomly at civilians. Eyewitnesses said that the terrorists were disguised as religious Jews and wore kippot.

The Sarona Market was recently created partly from expensive property that the IDF uses as its headquarters. The highly secured, walled IDF and Defense Ministry are directly across the street.

Edri  said police have increased deployments in the city but that school would be open on Thursday and the public can keep their normal routine, though he also implored that they  exercise caution and report suspicious persons.

The two terrorists were relatives from Yata in the South Hebron Hills and were said to be in their twenties. Hebron is a known Hamas stronghold.

Shooting was also reported on Ha’arbaa Street next to the Cinematheque, where at least one of the terrorists was arrested after running from the scene.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said that while Tel Aviv “is a target for terrorists, we will continue to live in this city… terrorism will not defeat us and we must strive for peace.”

Dr. Pini Halperin, head of the emergency room at Ichilov Hospital, said the hospital received 10 wounded people, three of whom later died of their wounds. He said one of the terrorists was among the wounded being treated in the hospital, and was listed in serious condition on Wednesday night.

MK Amir Ohana, a former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agent, drove to the site of the attack after hearing about it while in his car not far away.

“The scene was totally upside down: chairs overturned, broken glass, half-eaten cakes left on tables, and a ton of blood,” he described. “I could see that terrorists shot with automatic weapons, and they were caught soon after.”

He said there was nothing for him to do to help once he had arrived, because Magen David Adom “worked very fast, did great work.”

Netanyahu who just returned from Moscow and his new defense minister Liberman were briefed on details of the incident by the district commander of the police force.

Netanyahu was also introduced to a security guard, responsible for shooting and neutralizing one of the terrorists, who recounted the night’s turn-of-events.

“A very tragic event took place here – a cold-blooded murder by ruthless terrorists,” Netanyahu said.

“First of all, I would like to send my condolences to the families whose worlds have been turned upside down,” he said. “And wishes for a fast recovery to those that have been injured.”

He praised the bravery and quick-action of a civilian and security guard on site who, through their individual actions, saved quite a few lives. Netanyahu also praised the police officer who captured and neutralized one of the terrorists.

“We are at the peak of a difficult period,” Netanyahu said.  “We will act with resoluteness and with intelligence.”

Surveillance footage from a cafe near the shooting scene showed chaos as panicked customers knocked over chairs and tables as they rushed to escape. People crawled across the floor and others carried children in their arms.

The Jerusalem Post reported in April that Tel Aviv police wanted to close the market because of “security flaws and safety shortcomings that present a risk to the public’s safety.”

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner issued a statement condemning “today’s horrific terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in the strongest possible terms.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon called on the Security Council to condemn the attack. “Today’s heinous attack sadly proves that when the international community refuses to condemn terror against Israelis, the next attack is only a matter of time,” he said in a statement.

“Terror in Tel Aviv must be treated the same as terror in Paris or Istanbul.”

The victims were: Ido Ben Ari, 42, from Ramat Gan; Ilana Nave, 39, from Tel Aviv; Michael Fayge, 58, from Midreshet Ben-Gurion; and Mila Mishaev, 32, from Rishon Lezion.

Thousands To Attend Celebrate Israel Parade in New York

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By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

New York — June 2, 2016 … The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) has announced that Fifth Avenue will once again turn blue and white on Sunday, June 5, 2016, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

More than 30 floats with musical performers, 15 world-class marching bands and 40,000 marchers entertain hundreds of thousands of spectators for the largest celebration of Israel in the world, the annual Celebrate Israel Parade.

Organizers estimate that over 300,000 people will be participating and or viewing this majestic event.

This year marks the 52nd anniversary of what has become one of the largest parades in New York City, growing exponentially each year in attendance and excitement since its founding in 1965.
The Parade is the marquee event of the JCRC-NY’s Celebrate Israel Initiative – a project in cooperation with UJA-Federation of New York and the Consulate General of Israel in New York – that celebrates the positive impact the Jewish and democratic state of Israel has on the lives of people in New York and around the world.

Masses of people who support Israel from around the country will converge on Fifth Avenue for the Parade, including several top Israeli music artists and special Israeli guests who will draw even larger crowds to this year’s Parade.

Television host, playwright, producer, singer, songwriter and actress, Kathie Lee Gifford will lead the 2016 Celebrate Israel Parade up Fifth Avenue as the Honorary Grand Marshal. This year’s Grand Marshal is Moshe Gil of Brooklyn.

Among those marching are: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; Senator Charles Schumer; Representatives Charles Rangel and Kathleen Rice; Consul General of Israel in New York Amb. Ido Aharoni; Israeli Knesset Members David Bitan (Likud); Nurit Koren (Likud); Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union); Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union); Yakov Margi (Shas); and Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid).

CORRECTS SPELLING OF NAME TO MAAYAN SHMID INSTEAD OF MAAYDN SHMID - Maayan Shmid, of Israel, smiles as he participates in the Celebrate Israel Parade, Sunday, June 1, 2014, in New York. Among the 35,000 marchers were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Israeli diplomats and members of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

New this year, cast members from the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof will ride a specially designed float up Fifth Avenue, singing some of the most recognizable songs from the musical and performing live for the TV audience from the Grand Stand area.

More than 250 organizations are scheduled to march along Fifth Avenue, from 57th Street to 74th Street, including groups of rollerbladers, motorcyclists, dance groups, and juggling clowns.

The 2016 creative theme for marching groups and floats is “Israel: Sight, Sound and Spirit!” Each group works with Parade staff to develop a presentation of colorful banners, costumes and props related to the theme in some way.

For the sixth year in a row, the Parade will be televised live by FOX affiliate, WWOR-TV My9 from 12–2 p.m., and streamed online from 12-3 p.m., so Israelis and Israel supporters throughout the world can watch.

“For more than 50 years, supporters of Israel have gathered from the metropolitan region and beyond in New York City in celebration of the State of Israel,” said JCRC-NY Executive Vice President and CEO Michael Miller. “Year after year, the parade never ceases to be a thrilling experience, bringing the unflagging spirit of Israel to the streets of New York.”

“It’s a joy to see throngs of supporters of Israel from across the metropolitan area and beyond come together to celebrate at the annual parade,” said Jennifer Falk and Judy Kaufthal, co-chairs of the Celebrate Israel parade. “We are so excited for our newest additions which we hope will draw an even larger crowd as we all stand to support Israel.”

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In honor of the Celebrate Israel Parade and the state of Israel, the Empire State Building will shine its world-famous tower lights blue and white on Saturday, June 4.

For the latest information on the Celebrate Israel Parade, please visit their Parade website at celebrateisraelny.org or follow on Twitter @celebrateisrael or visit their Facebook page: Celebrate Israel Parade.