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Al-Qaeda Calls on Muslims to 'Rise and Attack Jews, Americans'

By AFP & JTA

A senior Al-Qaeda leader has called on Muslims "everywhere" to rise up and kill Jews and Americans in response to President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

In a video released Monday, Khalid Batarfi said Trump's decision was "a declaration of a new Jewish-Crusader war" and every Muslim had a duty to "liberate" the holy city, the SITE Intelligence monitoring group reported.

"No Muslim has the right to cede Jerusalem no matter what happens," said Batarfi, a top commander with the group's powerful Yemen-based branch. "Only a traitor would give it up or hand it over." "Let them [Muslims] rise and attack the Jews and the Americans everywhere," he said, in the 18-minute video entitled "Our Duty Towards Our Jerusalem".

In the video, Batarfi dismissed US allies' protests as not genuine and "nothing but dust thrown in the eyes. The greatest responsibility lies upon the Muslims in America and the Western countries in the world," he said. "The Muslims inside the occupied land must kill every Jew, by running him over, or stabbing him, or by using against him any weapon, or by burning their homes."

Batarfi is a senior figure with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), described by the US as the worldwide jihadist network's most dangerous branch. The group has abducted foreigners and claimed responsibility for the deadly 2015 attack in Paris on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, targeted for its cartoons of Mohammed.

Batarfi was placed on the U.S. State Department's list of global terrorists a day after he called on Muslims to "attack the Jews and the Americans everywhere" in response to the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

According to the State Department announcement Tuesday. "This designation seeks to deny Batarfi the resources he needs to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks." Among the consequences of the designation, "all of Batarfi's property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with him."


Poll: Deep Partisan Divide Among Americans Over Israel

By VOA News

The bitter divisions in the United States are being felt across the world in the Middle East, where Israel is emerging as an increasingly partisan issue in the Trump era. A new opinion poll released Tuesday showed U.S. Republicans to be far more supportive of Israel than their Democratic counterparts. It also found Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a close ally of President Donald Trump, to be a divisive figure.

The findings by the Pew Research Center could be a cause for concern for Israel, which has traditionally relied on broad bipartisan support in America. "I think it's a very concerning trend," said Sallai Meridor, who served as Israeli ambassador to the U.S. a decade ago. "For Israel, the bipartisan support of the American people is a strategic asset." The Pew survey questioned 1,503 people from January 10-15 and had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

He said the poll is "concerning and saddening" because the countries have so much in common. "There are many reasons for Democrats to see in Israel a mirror of their deep values and beliefs," he said, pointing to his country's commitment to free speech, a universal health care system and its support for gay rights.

The poll, however, found a far different sentiment. It showed that 79% of Republicans sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, compared with just 27% of Democrats. It said the partisan divide was the widest it has been since 1978, the earliest year it provided for comparison. Just 49% of Republicans and 44% of Democrats sympathized with Israel in 1978, Pew said.

Netanyahu also is seen through a partisan lens. Fifty-two percent of Republicans view him favorably, compared to just 18% of Democrats. The survey did not analyze the reasons for the partisan divide, but Netanyahu's close ties with Trump, a polarizing leader beloved by his supporters and reviled by his opponents, appears to be a factor. That friendship was on display during this week's warm reception for Vice President Mike Pence in Israel. The share of liberal Democrats who sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians has plummeted from 33% to 19% since 2016 alone, the survey found.

Netanyahu's hard-liner policies toward the Palestinians, characterized by his strong support for West Bank settlement construction and a four-year breakdown in negotiations, may also be alienating Democrats. "America is terribly divided today and Israel is perceived to be very close to a president that the other part of America is very much against," Meridor said. "Over time I think it has its toll."

Meridor said Israel must be careful to reach out to all segments of American society. He also suggested a serious peace push with the Palestinians would help. "I think it's very important that we always make an effort to reach accommodation and peace with our neighbors. It would help in maintaining more support among Democrats in America," he said, declining to discuss specific Israeli policies.

In another sign of trouble for Israel, the survey said young people are more divided in their sympathies, with 32% of people under 30 favoring Israel, and 23% sympathizing more with the Palestinians. Respondents ages 50-64, for instance, favored Israel by a margin of 56% to 12%.

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which sponsors educational trips for Israeli politicians to meet American Jews, said the results were not surprising given the deep divisions in American society. He said that with most American Jews supporting the Democrats, Netanyahu's close alliance with Trump is risky. "It's not playing well to the vast majority of Americans. I don't think it's playing well to the vast majority of the Jewish community," he said.

With Trump facing midterm elections later this year, Ruderman said Netanyahu should be hedging his bets. "That short-term alliance with Trump could have devastating effects," he said. "Things could look very different at the end of this year." Netanyahu was traveling on Tuesday and aides were not reachable for comment.

Marc Zell, chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, said he too was concerned by the partisan divide in the U.S., but rejected the idea that Netanyahu was responsible. Instead, he claimed the Democratic Party has lost its way. "Israel should be concerned about the fact that the Democratic Party has moved leftwards and is now adopting a lot of radical positions," he said.

Abbas Fails to Garner European Support for `Palestine'

By World Israel News

Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas urged the European Union countries to recognize the `State of Palestine' but failed to garner any substantial support.

In a joint press conference on Monday with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels, Abbas insisted that the only way to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians is through negotiations "under international supervision. Notwithstanding the ongoing incitement in the PA-administered territories and the PA's funding of terror, Abbas reiterated what he described as his "commitment to fighting racism, violence, and extremism, on a local, regional and international level despite any obstacles that might get in the way of a political solution."

Abbas further called to implement the United Nations' Security Council and General Assembly resolutions against Israel on the ground. He said the EU is "a true peace partner in the region," calling on the EU countries to "swiftly" recognize the "State of Palestine," a step which he claimed would not create an obstacle to peace negotiations. "This would encourage the Palestinian people to keep hoping for peace and to wait until peace is brought about," Abbas stated.

European diplomats and officials told AFP that recognition of Palestine is not an option, that the EU leaves such a move in the hands of individual states, and that the best that Abbas could hope for is progress towards an "association agreement" with the bloc.


Palestinian Christians Reject Pence's Brand of Evangelical Christianity

By Israel Hayom

Vice President Mike Pence's speech in the Knesset Monday drew fire from the Palestinians, with Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat saying on Twitter that Pence's speech showed the U.S. administration was part of the problem rather than the solution. "The messianic discourse of Pence is a gift to extremists," he wrote. "His message to the rest of the world is clear: Violate international law and resolutions and the U.S. will reward you."

Meanwhile, Palestinian Christians are saying that Pence's brand of evangelical Christianity, with its fervent embrace of modern-day Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, lacks their faith's compassion and justice, including for the Palestinians in Israeli-controlled territories.

Pence's speech to the Knesset was filled with biblical references. Pence and Netanyahu publicly rejoiced in the Trump administration's decision to recognize contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Jerusalem declaration and a subsequent Trump decision to curb aid to Palestinian refugees – both aligned with the Netanyahu government's agenda – had been top priorities for Pence.

The vice president – by his own definition "a Christian, a conservative, a Republican, in that order" – has cited his religious beliefs as the source of his unwavering support of Israel.

Palestinian Christians consider Christian Zionist views as a negation of the teachings of Jesus on justice and compassion for all of humanity. They argue that such streams of evangelical Christianity have used religion to whitewash Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

"For me, it's a sick ideology," said Munib Younan, the recently retired bishop of the small Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and former president of the Lutheran World Federation, an umbrella for churches with millions of believers. "When I say Jesus is love, they want my Jesus to be a political Jesus," Younan, 67, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian, said in a recent interview at his West Bank church.

Younan said he supports a just solution to the conflict with Israel, including the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 borders – areas that include east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Jerusalem should be shared by Christians, Muslims and Jews, he said, adding that a peace deal would enhance Israel's security.

In Bethlehem, Mayor Anton Salman said Pence's comments contradict his declared aim of helping Christians in the Middle East. "He would need to change his thoughts and behavior … and recognize the rights of Arab Palestinian Christians who are the people of this land, to support their rights to have their independence, their freedom and east Jerusalem as our capital," said Salman, a Roman Catholic.


Bodies of Yemenite Children to be Exhumed for DNA Tests

By YnetNews.com

The remains of Yemenite Jewish children from 17 families will be exhumed to ascertain possible genetic familial ties with their living relatives. Responding to an appeal by the same 17 families, the State Attorney's Office said its decision was made while "paying attention to the public importance of learning the truth regarding the deaths and burials of minors from Yemen, the east and the Balkans, whose families were notified of their deaths after Israel was founded."

The move received prior approval from the Committee on Deceased Persons' Dignity, part of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, subject to conditions being in place allowing halachically to exhume the graves and carry out genetic tests on the remains. Considering the circumstances, the SAO has consented to issuing an order to open the graves and take DNA samples from remains entered therein to check for familial ties with the 17 petitioning families.


Dvora Sliman of Tel Mond, whose family only recently discovered her sister Rina—who disappeared when she was one year old—was buried in a Petah Tikva cemetery, said, "We welcome the State Attorney's decision to open the graves. Perhaps the findings will solve the mystery and bring some calm to my mother, who is still searching for Rina and cannot believe she's buried in that grave," she added.

The Achim Vekayamim (Kidnapped Children's Families Forum) non-profit organization said, "The organization welcomes the State Attorney's decision to open the graves and carry out genetic tests, and hopes this entire process will be carried out transparently and in full cooperation with the families.

"We do, however, wish to make clear this is but a partial, limited move, and one that is not sufficient. We demand the Israeli government accept responsibility, on behalf of the State of Israel, for the kidnapping of children, and commit to tangible measures to uncover the truth of this horrid affair. Only accepting responsibility and uncovering the truth in full will provide succor to the families, and Israeli society entire."

The disappearance of Jewish Yemenite children returned to headlines in 2016 after several NGOs demanded the state uncover archival materials related to the affair. The government authorized the release of such materials, which were originally meant to remain classified until 2070. Because of the government's decision, protocols of the various commissions of inquiry dealing with the subject were declassified and published.

A lobby was simultaneously created in the Knesset to bring closure to the affair, headed by MK Nurit Koren (Likud). The Knesset also decided to create a committee to collect testimony and draft a bill dealing with exhuming graves for genetic testing. Thousands participated in a Jerusalem demonstration demanding Israel recognize the children's disappearance in June of last year.


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