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Obama Continues to Blast Netanyahu, Reassesses Options

By DEBKAfile &

In an interview to the Huffington Post, President Barack Obama attacked Binyamin Netanyahu on the Palestinian issue and Israeli Arabs, asserting: "I did indicate to him that we continue to believe that a two-state solution is the only way for the long-term security of Israel, if it wants to stay both a Jewish state and democratic," adding "I indicated to him that given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible."

Obama was referring to Netanyahu's declaration during his campaign for re-election that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch. The prime minister has since said he has not retracted from his original support for a two-state solution, but circumstances in the region had changed radically and any Israeli withdrawal from land would endanger its security. Obama said he was taking Netanyahu at his word from before the election, insisting that the US would perform a policy reassessment in view of the fact that the status quo with the Palestinians was "unsustainable and a recipe for chaos in the region."

Obama will not support an independent Palestinian diplomatic initiative to declare a state, but may try to advance a joint American-European initiative for a two-state solution, according to Israel's Channel 1 television.

The American-European initiative, which is to be presented to the UN Security Council, will provide the "contours" of any future agreement, according to the report, which cited sources in the Obama administration. The plan will not include a timetable, but will join Resolutions 242 and 338 as blueprints for a peace deal that the international community favors. Israel is reportedly opposed to this idea.

The US is also reportedly considering revealing the understandings that Secretary of State John Kerry reached in his talks with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. These will serve as guidelines for future negotiations.

Obama warned Friday that the White House was "evaluating its options" on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and specifically regarding the US's commitment to veto unilateral Palestinian moves at the UN. Asked whether the US would "continue to oppose Palestinian efforts to gain statehood at the United Nations", Obama added that "we're evaluating what's taking place."


Is the US Embracing Iran at Israel's Expense?

By Israel Hayom

Israel is "very concerned" about the American government's eagerness to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, Israeli officials said on Saturday night. According to the officials, Israel's assessment is that President Barack Obama is "rushing to an agreement" with Iran.

Israeli officials also believe that elements within the international community will try to apply pressure on Israeli regarding the peace process with the Palestinians as a means of distracting attention away from the emerging "bad deal" with Iran.

International Relations, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz and National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen will travel to Europe this week for a series of meetings on the Iranian nuclear issue. Ahead of their departure, an Israeli official said on Saturday that the Israeli government has been trying to influence the international discussion about the negotiations with Iran but this effort has not been successful.

"Israel will continue to act and speak out against the deal with Iran," the official said. "[Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] has received a renewed mandate from the people to lead and advance along his path."

Another Israeli official said, "A look at the negotiations between the U.S. and Iran shows an alarming situation in which there is a concern that [the Obama administration] is embracing Iran at Israel's expense. We will obviously oppose [the deal with Iran] and stand behind our position, which is the correct one."

The Israeli position on Iran received backing over the weekend from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. Speaking with Fox News, Graham warned he would move to cut American funding to the U.N. if Obama asked the U.N. to lift sanctions on Iran as part of a nuclear deal. In 2015, the U.S. has earmarked $654 million for the U.N.

"Twenty-two percent of the funding for the United Nations comes from the American taxpayers, and I'm in charge of that account," Graham said. "I'm not going to allow the United Nations to be used as a way to get around the United States Congress for a deal that affects the very existence of Israel and our own national security.

"If they go to the U.N. Security Council, and the U.N. Security Council lifts all sanctions before we ever get a chance to look at this deal, absolutely I would suspend funding the United Nations, because I don't think your money should go to an organization that irresponsible."

Graham said the Obama administration was about to "make a mistake for the ages" by reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Gang of 20 Men Attack Historic London Synagogue

By DEBKAfile

Six people were arrested after an 'anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in London's Stamford Hill by a gang of 20 men in the early hours of Sunday. Part of the disturbance was captured on camera showing members of the synagogue in a tense confrontation with the assailants, a group of drunken men who tried to enter the building. They first threw chairs through the double doors, breaking the glass panels and injuring one man. A small number did briefly gain entry to the synagogue before being removed by security staff.

The video was posted on YouTube and viewed hundreds of times. Many described it as a pogrom. Haringey police are treating the attack as an anti-Semitic incident. Six men are in custody for public order offenses and assault. Police patrols have been increased in the Stamford Hill area for the largely Jewish community.

The Associated Press reported that about 20 graves have been vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in Hungary. The leader of a small local Jewish community, Peter Weisz, said the damage to the graves in the northeastern city of Gyongyos, including the scattering of human remains, was "unprecedented."

Weisz said a number of graves dating as far back as the late 1800s were of ancestors of some of the 80 current members of the recently re-established Jewish community in Gyongyos. He added relations with other religious groups in the city of 30,000 people were "exemplary," according to the AP report. The office of Prime Minister Viktor Orban condemned the "barbaric deed" and vowed to launch a program this year to renovate neglected cemeteries.

Hungary has seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic attacks over the past several years, many of which were perpetrated by members and supporters of the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik party. In November of 2012, one of Jobbik's members released a statement saying that a list should be compiled of all of the Jewish members of government. He was followed by another Jobbik member who called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship.

Last summer, at the height of Israel's counterterrorism Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, a town mayor linked to Jobbik was filmed ordering the hanging of effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres in protest against the conflict.

Funeral Begins for Seven Children Killed in Flatbush Fire

By & Reuters

The funeral for seven children who died on Shabbat in a blaze at their home in Flatbush, New York took place Sunday. Elian (16), David (12), Rivka (11), Yehoshua (10), Moshe (8), Sara (6), and Yaakov (5) Sassoon died after hot plate apparently malfunctioned. Orthodox Jews leave hot plates on during Shabbat to keep food warm according to halakha (Jewish law - ed.). The blaze trapped the family inside their home as they slept.

The funeral procession began Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn, and will end in Jerusalem, where the bodies will be buried. The mother of the family, Gail, 45, and daughter Tzipora, 14, escaped by jumping out of a window. They are currently in critical condition in a New York hospital. The Sassoon's father was attending a conference at the time and was not home at the time of the fire.

A neighbor, who gave her name as Rachel, stated that the family were "amazing people who invested everything they had into their children's education" and that Gail "is a noble, righteous woman who always takes care to help others."

The family lived in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof for many years, and only moved to Brooklyn recently. "We arrived at the scene and discovered a terrible sight here, seven bodies of small children," ZAKA's Lachish region commander, Yossi Landau, stated to Arutz Sheva on Sunday. ZAKA's Operations Manager Haim Weingarten also arrived at the scene Saturday night, to assist in the organization's work of retrieving bodies for a proper Jewish burial.

"The Jewish community is in shock due to this exceptionally difficult incident, like the US hasn't seen in years," Landau continued. "We are here to try to help as much as possible."

The father told hundreds of mourners at their funeral on Sunday that the only way he can survive the tragedy was "complete, utter and total surrender" to his religious beliefs. The grieving man, Gabriel Sassoon, spoke at a packed funeral chapel where white curtains separated hundreds of men wearing black hats and yarmulkes from women in modest dress.

His eulogy for the seven children, ages 5 to 16, was broadcast to an even bigger crowd outside. Many of the mourners rocked back and forth in reverence as he spoke. "My children, they were so pure," he said.

The children's grief-stricken father broke down in tears during his eulogy. "They all had faces of angels. Hashem (God) knows how much I love them," Sassoon said, according to local media outlets. "People forget what's important in life," said Sassoon. "My kids were the best, but really, every child is the best and most beautiful child in the world."

New York newspapers described a heart wrenching scene as the father began sobbing while reciting the children's names. "Too many names. They are seven complete pure sheep. There's nothing else to say." About 1,000 mourners arrived for the service, said the New York Post.

The fire department blamed a malfunctioning electric hotplate for the fire that raced through the home at around 12:30 AM on Saturday, killing the children. Crowd-control barricades were set up outside the Shomrei Hadas Chapels in Brooklyn, where a rabbi led for the children, laid out in seven coffins.

Jewish rules in observance of the Sabbath day of rest, which lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, prohibit turning on and off electric appliances and prohibit all other forms of what is considered work, said state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents the heavily Jewish district. "A lot of people use these hotplates to keep food warm for the next day," Hikind said. "They put them on Friday and they are left on for the entire Sabbath, 25 hours."

It was the city's fourth deadly fire in 15 years sparked by hotplates or use of ritual candles, according to the Jewish Forward newspaper, including a 2000 fire in Williamsburg that killed the granddaughter of the Satmar Grand Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum and her 5-month old baby.

Israeli Magician 'Floats in Air'


Israeli magician Hezi Dean baffled a crowd in Tel Aviv on Sunday as he appeared to be floating in the air with one hand touching the outer wall of Dizengoff Center – the city's main shopping mall.

Dean has come to be known as a daring illusionist in Israel. His resume of acts includes spending 64 hours in a large ice cube that was placed in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and hanging on a burning wire at the Azrieli skyscrapers.

According to Dean's public relations team, the act is an illusion that causes passersby to wonder how the trick is done.

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