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Kerry Wants Major Israeli Concessions for Palestinians

By DEBKAfile

Secretary of State John Kerry put a package of proposals for reviving the moribund Israel-Palestinian peace process before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and peace negotiator Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

He keeps the package's contents firmly under his hat. However, according to some of the details revealed here for the first time by DEBKAfile's sources, Kerry's top-secret plan places on Israel the onus of major concessions including strategic and national assets, for the sake of buying the Palestinian leader's consent to sit down and talk. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is not required to pay anything real in return - although it was he that stalled the peace negotiations in the first place.

As the first of these concessions, Kerry wants Israel to permit the Palestinians to build in Jericho for their prospective state an international airport for direct civilian flights to and from America and Europe. Those flights would cross Israeli air space and be coordinated with Israeli flight control authorities. Our exclusive sources further disclose that, while Palestinian authorities would be in charge of security at the future Jericho airport, Israel would maintain control of passengers and freight traffic by means of computer and surveillance camera networks.

Kerry envisages the transformation of the entire Jericho region north of the Dead Sea and near the Jordanian border into a busy hub for galvanizing the economy of the future Palestinian state. He wants Israel to hand over to the Palestinians the Kalia region on the northern shore of the Dead Sea. Kibbutz Kalia, albeit part of sovereign Israel from its inception in 1948, is nonetheless one of the assets Kerry wants Israel to cede to the Palestinians. The fate of the veteran Israeli kibbutz is left up in the air.

Israeli concessions would not end at the northern Dead Sea coast, according to the secret Kerry plan; it would be just the first in a series of land and sovereignty handovers granted the Palestinians in trilateral negotiations among Israel, the Palestinians and the United States.

Syrian Rebels Near Israel Border Stole UN's Two `Virtually Indestructible' Armored Trucks

By The Times of Israel

A Syrian rebel group that twice abducted United Nations peacekeepers near the Israeli border in the past three months stole several UN vehicles, a UN Peacekeeping spokesperson acknowledged to The Times of Israel — including at least two sophisticated armored personnel carriers. An Israeli expert warned that the sophisticated UN-marked vehicles could be used in surprise border attacks.

Video footage uploaded by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, the Syrian rebel group that claimed responsibility for the March 6 hijacking, showed the hijacked vehicles, which included a UN-marked Renault water tanker and two RG-31 Nyala armored personnel carriers.

The RG-31 Nyala is a South African-made, mine- and IED-resistant eight-metric-ton behemoth capable of carrying up to 10 men, and has a price tag of approximately $670,000, according to analyst estimates. According to a Canadian news report from 2005, the Nyala is "virtually indestructible" and is "designed to be able to resist two simultaneous blasts from anti-tank mines."

Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Stategic Studies, said that while the vehicles didn't confer a game-changing strategic advantage to the Syrian rebels, they were a platform by which the Yarmouk Brigade could launch potentially deadly surprise attacks against IDF positions along the border.

Such a maneuver would hark back to tactics employed last August, when Sinai-based terrorists launched a sneak attack on an Egyptian army base located near the Gaza Strip and the Israeli border. The attackers killed 16 Egyptian soldiers, hijacked an armored vehicle and careened the juggernaut through the Israeli border crossing. Speeding nearly a kilometer into Israeli territory, the stolen vehicle almost reached a nearby kibbutz, but was stopped in its tracks by a last-ditch airstrike.

In response to inquiries about the possible threat the trucks may pose to soldiers on the Israeli border and nearby communities, an army spokesperson stated that "the IDF is fully confident in its ability to defend Israel's borders."

Lieberman : 'Iran Nuclear, Syria Chemical, Hizbullah Rockets: Axis has Crossed all Red Lines'

By Israel Hayom

The radical axis of Iran, Syria and Hizbullah has crossed all red lines recently, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said. Speaking at a meeting of his committee, Lieberman said that Iran was moving at a "crazy pace" toward obtaining a nuclear weapon, and that he hoped Israel would be able to make the correct decisions.

He also said there was no doubt that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons. He said the international community had done nothing while 90,000 people were massacred in Syria.

Lieberman noted that Hizbullah has missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel. He expressed concern about a situation in which any terrorist group could strike Israel. "I know the answer is more funding, but I think what is required is more decisiveness and determination," Lieberman said.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the elections in Iran next month would have no effect on the country's nuclear program. Steinitz said a nuclear Iran would equal 30 North Koreas. He assessed that "the next few months, a year or so" remain for the Iranian nuclear standoff to be resolved.

On Syria, Steinitz said Israel was not ruling out any scenario in the Syrian civil war, including a victory by the Assad regime. He warned that the S-300 anti-aircraft system that Russia plans to sell to Syria could potentially be used to shoot down civilian aircraft over Tel Aviv. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Tuesday that the S-300 system destined for Syria has not left Russia yet, but Israel will know how to act if it does.

Yaalon's remarks appeared to contradict Israel's air force chief, who said last week the shipment of S-300 missiles was "on its way" to Assad. Israel is alarmed by the prospect of Russia supplying advanced weapon systems to Syria, saying such arms could end up in the hands of Iran or Hizbullah.


Arab Knesset Members Seek to Outlaw Cartoon Images of Muhammad. Moses and Jesus

By Israel Hayom

Arab MK Ibrahim Sarsur (Ra'am-Ta'al) has reintroduced legislation that would lower the threshold for what is considered a racist offense and would ban the publication of materials that disparage the Prophet Muhammad through a "cartoon, defamation and insult." Sarsur is one of three sponsors of the bill, all of whom are from Arab parties.

Under Israeli law, a person whose actions are "crudely offensive" towards a religion and its believers is liable to one-year prison sentence. The new bill, which is an amendment to the Israeli penal code, would make the law less open to interpretation by omitting the word "crudely" and specifying some of the instances where the stipulated punishment would be applicable, such as the drawing of the Prophet Muhammad.

The language of the bill, which is the latest iteration of a bill first drafted in 2008, also makes it illegal to denigrate Moses, Jesus and various religious scriptures. "The publication of a cartoon that depicts the Prophet Muhammad is highly insulting towards Muslim believers as Islamic law forbids any attempt to draw the prophet or try to portray the image of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him," writes Sarsur in the preamble to his bill.

"There has recently been a noticeable increase in the attempts to hurt members of various faiths, whether directly or indirectly, including Muslims," he explains, noting that the attacks have been in the form of direct slurs and other "acts that cast a negative light on Islamic symbols." Sarsur says his bill would improve interfaith relations and address the need to "preserve the foundations of our religions and keep the honor of all faiths and cultures."

In 2012, the French government defended the right of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons that played off of the U.S.-produced film YouTube "The Innocence of Muslims." Riot police were ordered to take up positions outside the offices of the magazine, which was firebombed in 2011 after it released an edition that mocked radical Islam.

JC Penney is Advertising a 'Hitler Kettle'


American retailer JC Penney has been criticized on Twitter and Reddit for advertising a kettle that bore a remarkable resemblance to Adolf Hitler, the Huffington Post reported.

The 10-foot tall billboard, which stands on Highway 405 near Culver City in California, has led several motorists to stop and take pictures, posting images of the appliance across microblogging sites. "That Hitler looks like a kettle," commented one user of Reddit. "He even has his right arm extended," wrote another, while a third added: "I'm a little Nazi, short and stout."

According to the British Daily Mail newspaper, another motorist tweeted: "Every time I see that JC Penney billboard with the teapot, I keep seeing Hitler. Seriously, the thing looks exactly like Hitler."

Proving the billboard may not be the best advertising for the retailer, another commuter tweeted: "Uh, no thanks, JC Penney. I don't think I want your HITLER teapot." Other social media users added that they dreaded to think what the store's pressure cookers must look like.

The kettle - officially the Michael Graves Design Bells and Whistles Stainless Steel Tea Kettle - retails for $50 on the JC Penney website. This stainless steel tea kettle has all the bells and whistles you'll need - a cool-touch handle, space-saving design and a delightful whistle to let you know when it's ready to pour," the website stated.

Holocaust Documentary Raises Questions of Guilt


Claude Lanzmann's 'The Last of the Unjust' explores moral dilemma: When your enemy is sworn to exterminate every one of you, should you try to cut a deal with him to at least save some lives knowing that others are doomed? The question lies at the heart of a new documentary by Lanzmann, author of "Shoah," the hugely-acclaimed tableau of the Holocaust.

"The Last of the Unjust," which premiered at Cannes on Sunday, explores a moral dilemma that Lanzmann briefly touches on his 1985 masterpiece. For three and a half hours, the viewer is taken through an exploration of Benjamin Murmelstein, the last president of the Jewish Council in the "model ghetto" of Theresienstadt in Nazi-annexed Czechoslovakia.

Set up by SS Col. Adolf Eichmann as a bogus town run by Jews themselves – a Potemkin village designed to dupe the world – Theresienstadt was one of the grimmest chapters in the long record of Nazi atrocities. It housed 50,000 Jews at its peak periods. Over four years, more than 150,000 inhabitants were killed, many of them shipped to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

"It was the peak of Nazi cruelty and perversity... a unique combination of lies and naked violence," Lanzmann, 87, said in an interview with AFP in February. To run Theresienstadt, the Nazis formed a Jewish Council, comprising 12 members and a leader, "the Elder of the Jews," or Judenaeltester in German. Those who refused the appointment were killed. The first Elder was sent to Auschwitz in 1943 and killed six months later; the second was executed in Theresienstadt in 1944.

The documentary describes the extraordinary and controversial tale of Benjamin Murmelstein, a former Grand Rabbi of Vienna who became the third and final Elder in Theresienstadt and the only one in all of eastern Europe to survive the war.

Survival meant that he became a target. In the early 1960s, Murmelstein was bitterly attacked by some Holocaust survivors, who accused him of collaboration. There were even calls for him to be hanged, like Eichmann, whom Murmelstein knew intimately from Vienna. The documentary is based on hours of filmed interviews that Lanzmann had with Murmelstein in 1975, 14 years before his death.

In it, Murmelstein comes across as hugely compelling, a man fiercely intelligent, courageous and ironic, harsh with others but also with himself. Every day, he faced demands from the Nazis that he was obliged to comply with - but he did his utmost to delay or subvert them, and in the process enabled some to avoid the death marches ordered by Hitler, yet knowing that others were doomed.

He is far from being a stooge or power-mesmerized monster, as other Elders in the eastern European ghettos were and as he himself was later portrayed. "By taking huge risks (in Vienna), he managed to get 120,000 Austrian Jews out of the clutches of their persecutors, and what he recounts is a magisterial lesson in history," said Lanzmann.

"(...) One of the lessons of 'The Last of the Unjust,' in my view, is that at a certain point you no longer have any other choice than to comply and obey, that all resistance becomes impossible. That said, Benjamin Murmelstein fought tirelessly right to the end against the killers. As he said, the Nazis wanted to make him into a puppet, but the puppet had learned to pull the strings."

As the holder of a diplomatic passport issued by the Red Cross, Murmelstein could have fled abroad after the war. Instead, he voluntarily put himself forward for arrest by the Czechoslovak authorities after a number of Jews accused him of collaborating with the enemy. He spent 18 months in prison before being acquitted of all charges. He went into exile in Rome, where he found life tough, but he never went to Israel.

Murmelstein's recollections, said Lanzmann, are doubly precious, as they prompt a new interpretation of Eichmann, who was kidnapped by Mossad agents in Argentina and hauled to Israel for trial, culminating in his execution in 1962.

German philosopher Hannah Arendt, in her account of the trial, described Eichmann as the stereotypical bureaucrat, embodying "the banality of evil." But Murmelstein portrays Eichmann as a "demon," fanatical in his anti-Semitism, violent and corrupt.

A Holocaust Survivor's German Rifle

By Boaz Dvir (Commentary in The Times of Israel)

After the 1991 Gulf War – during which I gathered real-time information about Saddam's Scud assaults for Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Nachman Shai – I earned my first military leave. Friends invited me to reef dive Eilat's crystal clear Red Sea and bodysurf Caesarea's Roman aqueduct-framed beach. To everyone's surprise, including my grandfather's, I opted to spend the week at his Talmud tome-filled apartment in the ultra-Orthodox enclave of Bnei Brak.

"Wouldn't you rather `hang out' with your friends?" Ozer Grundman, a Hasidic Holocaust survivor, asked his secular grandson.

"I rather hang out here," I said, "and interview you about your life."

"You'll be wasting your time," he said, walking away.

My grandpa had separated his past from the present much as he kept milk and meat apart in his glatt-kosher kitchen. My grandma, Rivka Grundman, a Czechoslovakian Jew who died of diabetic complications 13 years earlier, had been similarly silent and so we never learned about what she went through at Auschwitz.

As a journalist and the eldest grandchild, I felt determined to document my grandpa's story, whether he liked it or not. So I showed up at sunrise on my first day off from the IDF, a reporter's notebook at hand, a pen clicked at the ready.

Initially, my grandpa stuck to his guns. But I stuck around and on the second night, he started talking – a harrowing memory here, a gut-wrenching snippet there. Soon, it all came pouring out. Over the next four days, until the get-ready-for-the-Sabbath alert sounded across Bnei Brak, he told me about his childhood in Poland as the firstborn son of German-Jewish immigrants, his days at a Warsaw yeshiva, his short-lived escapes from Nazi stormtroopers, his years of terror and hunger in Nazi concentration camps and his liberation from Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia.

After the war, he met my grandma at the Theresienstadt DP (displaced person) camp. They married a few weeks later. In 1946, she gave birth to my mother and her twin brother. In 1947, when the United Nations ended the British Mandate of Palestine and split the land between the Jews and the Arabs, my grandpa planned to move to Israel.

My grandma fought him, fearing the British- and French-backed Arab armies would slaughter Palestine's ill-supplied 600,000 Jews. Indeed, an international arms embargo enforced by the United States and nearly every nation appeared to doom Israel. But it failed to deter my grandpa, who tricked his wife into relocating to the besieged newborn state by claiming they were boarding a New York-bound ship.

Although she felt bitterly disappointed to disembark in Haifa instead of Ellis Island, my grandma quickly composed herself to see her husband off to war. Tasked with warding off the Egyptians in the Negev Desert, my grandpa's battalion possessed no machine guns, no artillery and just one rifle and a handful of bullets for every four soldiers.

One day, weapons arrived like manna from heaven. When his sergeant handed him a rifle, IDF Private Grundman gripped it with reverence. Holding it against the desert sun, he noticed … no, it couldn't be. He did a double take. It was still there. He pressed his nose against the metal to eyeball an engraved German eagle.

"Was this the epitome of irony?" I asked. "Irony, coincidences – those notions exist only in the minds of nonbelievers," my grandpa said. "Did seeing the German insignia upset you?""Nah," he said, "I was just happy to finally be able to protect myself and my people."

We sat quietly for a few moments. Then my grandpa asked me a non-rhetorical question that altered the trajectory of my journalistic journey: "Do you know how Israel secured those rifles?"

I had no idea. It all sounded crazy to me. So I told him I'd find out. Over the following two decades, I interviewed the men who brought those rifles to Israel for newspaper articles and my upcoming documentary, "A Wing and a Prayer."

The German rifles and other Nazi-surplus weapons, including ammunition and fighter planes, came from German WWII factories in Czechoslovakia. Everything had to be transported to Israel by planes from this landlocked country – even the Messerschmitt ME-109s, which had a flying range of 400-500 miles (Czechoslovakia and Israel are 1,600 miles apart).

To airlift the weapons, a group of WWII-veteran aviators – Jews and Christians from around the world, particularly the US, Canada and South Africa – carried out a mission so secret it remains virtually unknown to this day. Led by Al Schwimmer, who went on to create and run Israel Aircraft (now Aerospace) Industries, they bought, repaired and manned decommissioned US transport planes (mainly Curtiss C-46 Commandos). Outfoxing the US State Department, FBI, CIA and MI5, which aimed to ground them, they launched a bogus Panamanian airline and smuggled in the Nazi-surplus weapons from behind the Iron Curtain.

They also flew the Messerschmitts, drove away the Egyptian Spitfires and bombers that wreaked havoc on Tel Aviv, and gained crucial aerial control over the Jewish state. Thus, besides putting rifles in the hands of Israeli soldiers, this group of daredevil aviators created the Israeli Air Force, which celebrates its 65th anniversary May 29.

By the time I figured out the answer to my grandpa's question, I was living in Florida. I thought about calling him but decided to wait to tell him in person.

In 2003, my uncle called to say my grandpa had been diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. I flew to Tel Aviv the next day. During one of our afternoons at a Bnei Brak park, I told Private Grundman how that German gun ended up in his hands. My grandpa sat quietly for a while. Then he smiled and said, "We wouldn't be here today without that rifle."

Boaz Dvir is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and freelance writer in Gainesville, Florida; His first documentary, "Jessie's Dad," won Best Documentary at the ITN Distribution Film & New Media Festival in Los Angeles and the CINE Special Jury Award; "A Wing and a Prayer" is slated to be released in 2014

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