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Closer to Annexation, Amusement Park of Terror, Unity in Haifa

Israeli bill legalizing settlements passes first hurdle

John Reed, Financial Times, December 5th 2016


Setting the stage for a confrontation with the international community,

Israel’s ruling coalition passed the first reading of a law that will legalize Jewish settlements in the West Bank built on privately owned Palestinian land. A bill must pass three readings to become law.

The Context:

  • Palestinians seek to build their future state in the West Bank however Jews & Christians also have deep historical and religious ties to the territory. Israel captured the area in 1967 after it emerged victorious following a war waged by Egypt, Syria & Jordan.

  • Approximately 400,000 Jews live in the West Bank spread across 120 government-approved settlements and 100 additional outposts not recognized by the Israeli government [1]. The international community deems all Israeli activity in the West Bank illegal.

  • Israeli lawmakers approved the preliminary draft of the regulation law, which retroactively legalizes Jewish settlements built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank. The bill affects 55 outposts containing 4,000 homes [2].

  • Education Minister Naftali Bennett hailed the bill as a step towards Israeli annexation of the West Bank, opposition leader Isaac Herzog equated it to "national suicide" [3] and Israel’s Attorney General questioned the bill’s overall legality.

  • Following the vote, the Palestinian Authority (PA) called on the US to officially recognize the state of Palestine and support a United Nations (UN) resolution against Israeli settlements. Although US Secretary of State John Kerry derides Israeli West Bank settlements as a “barrier to peace [4]“, he declined to put forth “any resolution that is unfair and biased against Israel [5].”

  • 137 countries already recognize the state of Palestine.

Conversation Points:

  • Was the regulation bill put forth as a step towards Israel’s annexation of the West Bank?

  • What is more perilous for the Jewish state, a One or Two-State solution?

  • If Israel annexes the West Bank, will Palestinians living in the area be afforded the same rights as Israelis? Would Palestinians vote in Israeli elections and, theoretically, could a Palestinian become a Prime Minister of Israel?

Iran Opens Amusement Park to Teach Kids to Fight Israel, USA

Middle East Media Research Institute, December 1st 2016


Iran’s City of Games for Revolutionary Children amusement park encourages children to wage war against Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia. The successful exhibition is in its second year [6].

The Context:

  • At the City of Games for Revolutionary Children, Iranian youth can simulate fighting in the Iran-Iraq War, train to attack Saudi Arabia’s royal family and launch plastic missiles at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

  • Park Manager Hamid Sadeqi says the complimentary program “has been in great demand [7]” and is successfully training “children in the fields of war [8].”

  • The US and Iran signed a landmark nuclear deal in July 2015 that lifted international sanctions from Iran in exchange for limitations on its nuclear program. President Elect Donald Trump called the deal “catastrophic” and vowed to abolish it. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised that his country would not allow the dismantling of the accords [9].

Conversation Points:

  • Is there a difference between the City of Games for Revolutionary Children and ISIS’ recruitment & indoctrination of children?

  • Has Iran’s position towards the US changed for better or worse since the signing of the Iranian accords?

Israeli Muslims donate wood to rebuild Haifa synagogue

Viva Sarah Press, Israel21c, December 5th 2016


Israeli Muslims donate trees and wood to help rebuild the Moriah synagogue in Haifa following the recent wave of wildfires. “I had tears in my eyes when I heard what was happening,” said Moriah Rabbi Dov Hiyon.

The Context:

  • The Moriah synagogue – Israel’s oldest Conservative synagogue— suffered extensive damage during November’s wildfires.

  • Congregants turned to a Jewish carpenter for help in rebuilding the synagogue. The carpenter agreed to provide his services free of charge but asked the synagogue to supply the wood. Arab lumber suppliers Walid abu-Ahmed and Ziad Yunis stepped in and donated enough wood for 10 tables.

  • “Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa, and there is no discrimination. We must continue with this coexistence and promote peace,” said abu-Ahmed. “It was so emotional to hear that Muslims were asking to donate to a Jewish synagogue. I’ve invited them to evening prayers to personally thank them” said Rabbi Hiyon.

  • An Arab man from Baqa al-Gharbiyye also donated 20 saplings to the synagogue to replace the courtyard trees that had been burned in the fires.

Conversation Points:

  • Why are optimistic stories, like joint efforts between Muslims and Jews to rebuild the Moriah synagogue, unlikely to make international headlines?


  1. Knesset advances bill to legalize outposts, Al Jazeera, December 6th 2016

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid.

  4. In Harsh Terms, Kerry Says Israel Is Undermining Peace Efforts, New York Times, December 4th 2016

  5. Palestinians slam outpost bill, demand US recognize Palestine, Dov Lieber, Times of Israel, December 6th 2016

  6. Military theme park in Iran markets war, violence, Masoud Alzahid, Al Arabiya, September 30th 2016

  7. Iranian ‘Military-Religious Amusement Park’ Lets Kids Practice Attacks on Israel, John Hayward, Breitbart, December 6th 2016

  8. Military theme park in Iran markets war, violence, Masoud Alzahid, Al Arabiya, September 30th 2016

  9. Rouhani: Iran won’t allow Trump to ‘tear up’ nuclear deal, Times of Israel, December 6th 2016

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