The White House on late Thursday issued a statement in which it announced it partially opposes a new bipartisan trade bill, specifying only one part of the bill that calls to strengthen bilateral economic ties with Israel and fight BDS efforts to boycott the Jewish state.
The bill, entitled the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 or H.R.644, easily passed a bipartisan vote in Congress. According to the statement, US President Barack Obama intends to sign the bill into law.
However, the statement goes on to say: "As with any bipartisan compromise legislation, there are provisions in this bill that we do not support, including a provision that contravenes longstanding U.S. policy towards Israel and the occupied territories, including with regard to Israeli settlement activity."
No other opposition to the bill was expressed, indicating Obama's particular rejection of the section against BDS and the labeling of Jewish goods from certain regions. Obama has given his backing to the recent EU decision to label Jewish goods from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.
He also in late January issued orders to importers to label all products from Judea and Samaria as not being from "Israel." A legal group has argued the orders were not merely "reissued" as the White House claimed, but rather indicated a policy change.
"Obama actively delegitimizes Israel"
A senior congressional aide involved in the matters of the bill was quoted by Washington Free Beacon as expressing shock at the White House statement, and the way it singles out Israel.
"This administration never misses an opportunity to take a swipe at Israel - even if it means criticizing bipartisan anti-BDS measures passed unanimously in the House and Senate,” said the source.
“Don’t fall for any White House doublespeak: Opposing efforts to combat BDS equates to supporting BDS. That’s why history will show that President Obama actively advanced a movement solely aimed at delegitimizing the State of Israel.”
The bill in question calls among other things to "discourage actions by potential trading partners that directly or indirectly prejudice or otherwise discourage commercial activity solely between the United States and Israel."
It also calls on Obama to submit to Congress within 180 days of the ratification of the bill "a report on politically motivated boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel."
That report is to include "decisions by foreign persons, including corporate entities and state-affiliated financial institutions, that limit or prohibit economic relations with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in any territory controlled by Israel."
The bill furthermore rules that domestic courts will not be able to recognize or enforce a foreign judgment against an American who "conducts business operations in Israel, or any territory controlled by Israel," if that foreign judgment is in any way based on a ruling of a foreign court finding that doing business in "any territory controlled by Israel" is a violation of law.
A massive force of 97 terrorists, including three commanders, were arrested in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi just before launching an enormous mission to free the murderer of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, according to the Pakistani military on Friday.
The terrorists hailed from Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) according to Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa, in remarks made to a press conference as reported by Reuters.
According to Bajwa, LeJ commanders Naeem Bokhari and Sabir Khan, as well as Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) deputy chief Farooq Bhatti, were among those arrested in the raids after taking part in several large attacks on Pakistani airbases, a major airport, and police facilities.
He revealed that a number of the terrorists, including Bokhari, were in advanced stages of planning an attempt to free the terrorist Khalid Omar Sheikh from Hyderabad Central Jail.
Sheikh, a British-born terrorist, abducted and beheaded Pearl in 2002.
Pearl, 38, was the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi on January 23, 2002, while researching a story about Islamist terrorists.
A horrific video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in the city nearly a month later. In the video, Pearl confirmed to his captors that he was Jewish - his last words were the Shema Yisrael prayer, recited by Jews before death.
For over eight years the Israeli company SodaStream has been dealing with ongoing attacks by the BDS movement, calling to boycott it over its factory in Mishor Adumim to the east of Jerusalem that eventually it was forced to move to the Negev in late 2014.
Large economic losses inflicted by the BDS boycott movement forced the company to make the move - but the big losers in the story are the hundreds of Palestinian Arab employees of SodaStream who lost their jobs and income.
SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum spoke to Yedioth Aharonoth about the hardships which came to the company not only from hostile foreign sources, but also from within Israel.
"The state of Israel failed time after time in dealing with the matter. I struggled alone. My war is for 74 workers, although I believe that we need to absorb 100,000," said Birnbaum.
Under Birnbaum the company first began employing Palestinian Arab workers. Under his watch 2,500 workers were employed by the company, 1,300 of them at Mishor Adumim, with nearly 600 of those workers being Palestinian Arabs from Judea and Samaria.
"We were an island of peace," said Birnbaum. "We were the largest employer of Palestinians in the territories. The workers came to us on organized transport from eastern Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hevron, Jericho, Shechem (Nablus)."
"They received the same salary, the same conditions and the same benefits like the other workers, including medical insurance for workers and their families. We provided for nearly 6,000 people - the workers and their families."
Support for anti-Israel violence
But then BDS began attacking the company, in a manner that Birnbaum details was almost too simple.
The anti-Israel activists contacted senior managers of stores and quoted false claims that in many cases were accompanied by protests outside the stores. SodaStream products were repeatedly vandalized in the stores, thrown on the floor, and shoppers were shouted at and intimidated.
"In many cases our products were damaged or vandalized with stickers of grotesque pictures accusing SodaStream of war crimes such as ethnic cleansing," related the CEO.
"The violent protest against a store in Brighton, England was particularly serious. The store was attacked by BDS activists twice a week for more than two years. Police made several arrests, but the media gave wide coverage, and British parliament members, in particular the representative of the Green party Caroline Lucas, verbally supported the violent attacks."
Birnbaum recalls that "the store was closed in the end, and in the victory celebrations the activists took over our office in Cambridge using smoke grenades, like in an attack by terrorists."
"The result: retail partners who wanted to distance themselves from the conflict ended their business relations with us."
No end in sight
According to the SodaStream CEO, his company was unable to act against these attacks, except in one case in France in which a lawsuit was filed against the BDS movement for libel.
"It happened following slander we suffered, including claims of butchering Palestinian children," said Birnbaum. "They published, for example, a picture of a soda bottle covered in blood, and over it the words 'one product is worth the slaughtering of a family.'"
He noted that "the court accepted our suit, ruled in our favor and fined the organization. That was the only time in the world that the (BDS) organization was sued, but that was also the only time that we sued."
Now that SodaStream no longer is functioning in Mishor Adumim, one might expect that BDS has left it alone - but one would be wrong.
"Now they claim that we are stealing natural resources from the Bedouins, in particular land and water," said Birnbaum.
"The claim is particularly ridiculous given that fact that Rahat Mayor Talal al-Krenawi invested great efforts to convince the Israeli government and SodaStream to establish the new factory there."
Israel on Friday denied claims it was set to withdraw its nomination of former Yesha Council leader Dani Dayan as ambassador to Brazil after a six-month standoff between the two governments.
In a dispute that has soured relations, Brasilia has still not accepted the nomination of Danny Dayan, made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last August.
Brazil's government reportedly opposes Dayan, who as the Yesha Council's head and later foreign envoy represented Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, because of his opposition to a Palestinian state and because Israel failed to consult over its choice.
Last Sunday, the chairman of the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, Tzachi Hanegbi, suggested the government had accepted defeat.
"We needn't delude ourselves; Dani Dayan will not be the ambassador to Brazil," Israeli media quoted him as saying.
Then on Thursday, Brazil approved the appointment of a lower level diplomat after a slight delay, sparking rumors of a deal.
But foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon rubbished suggestions Dayan had been sidelined.
"The official Israeli position is Dayan is the person appointed and we expect the Brazilian authorities to agree to the appointment," Nahshon told AFP.
"We don't have a fallback position," he added, calling the timing of Brazil's approval of a new consul general a coincidence.
Dayan was born in Argentina and moved to Israel in 1971, aged 15.
He headed the Yesha Council between 2007 and 2013 and is opposed to a Palestinian state.
Brazil recognized the Palestinian Authority as a "state" in 2010.
AFP contributed to this report.
The government in the Netherlands attempted to ban the export of dogs to Israel, claiming that the IDF uses them as "weapons," but was unable to find a legal means to do so.
EU Observer reports that Minister for Foreign Trade Lilianne Ploumen investigated the possibility through the European Commission and other supervisory organizations.
EU countries can only restrict exports in certain cases, and such cases are typically decided by the EU as a whole. Ploumen had suggested to the European Commission that service dogs could fall under the dual-use regulation, which deal with objects that have both civilian and military uses. This is the same classification under which Gazans are sometimes prevented from importing cement and other building materials.
The Commission responded that the dogs do not qualify because they always have civilian uses, even when serving in the military.
Plouman also tried to use the Working Party on Conventional Arms Export, a European forum focusing on the export of weapons to non-EU countries, to advance her cause, but her proposal was voted down.
The Dutch controversy over the IDF's use of dogs has been growing since last October, when the NRC Handelsblad claimed that the IDF uses dogs from Holland, some of whom have bitten Palestinians.
In recent days it has been revealed that two top American pop icons, Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez, are to perform in Israel this coming summer - in response anti-Israel activists have launched predictable efforts to try and shame the two into boycotting the Jewish state.
For both singers it will be their first time performing in Israel.
Just this Thursday it was revealed that Beyonce is to hold two performances at Tel Aviv's Park Hayarkon in early August, as part of a world tour promoting a new album. She has yet to officially announce the performance, and it appears the performance deal is currently being sealed.
It was also reported in early January that Lopez is likewise to perform at Park Hayarkon in early summer, marking her first performance in Israel.
But Israel haters lost no time in taking to social media and stirring up a ruckus to try and force the two pop stars into discriminating against the Jewish state.
The same Thursday that initial speculation was confirmed in Israeli media indicating that Beyonce is set to perform in Tel Aviv, at least two online petitions had already surfaced demanding that she boycott Israel.
"There have been several news stories indicating that Beyonce's management is in final negotiations for a concert in Tel Aviv," Evan Greer, the anti-Israel activist behind the "Tell Beyonce not to play apartheid Israel!" petition, told Al Jazeera.
He demanded that her management "publicly clarify that she will not be performing in Tel Aviv, and issue a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people."
Lopez was also singled out, with documentary filmmaker Ronan Tynan saying he was "shocked" that she "could let herself down so badly backing Israel's brutal apartheid occupation (by) playing Tel Aviv."
Beyonce was reported to be set to perform in Israel in 2014, but despite the hype and anticipation fans were let down when the reports were later denied and the performance did not materialize. It remains to be seen if the singer will ignore the anti-Israel backlash and make her first appearance this year.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) took a tour on Thursday in the Binyamin regional council of Samaria, where he was met with a surprise.
The regional council heads had decided to give Levin a treat, setting up for him an active experience filled tour as one of a group of tourists.
Thursday's tour began with camel riding to "Abraham's tent" at Genesis Land, a tour and theme center located northeast of Jerusalem. During the ride Levin met with two actors playing warriors from the period of the Biblical kingdom, and was given the name "Yariv ben Achishafat, minister of the journeys of the children of Israel."
The warriors dramatized the stories from the Biblical period, bringing the history of the ancient land to life.
Levin's tour ended with a visit to ancient Shiloh, where the minister together with an excited group of Korean tourists viewed a performance at the location of Israel's first capital, which was the site of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) that preceded the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Binyamin tourism director Moshe Rontzki presented Levin with the regional council's vision for tourism in the area, along with tourism figures from the Binyamin district.
Also present was Binyamin regional council head Avi Roeh, who stressed the importance of the connection of the people of Israel and tourists from around the worldwide with the locations where the stories of the Bible took place.
Levin was impressed with the activities of the regional council members, saying, "you succeeded in surprising me with the scope of action, the development, and the figures of incoming tourism."
"There is huge potential here, and we see how it is starting to be realized."
Just before leaving his post as Border Police Commander, Maj. Gen. Amos Ya'akov made a final action of honoring the heroic officer Raz Bibi, who after being stabbed and critically wounded by an Arab terrorist in Jerusalem last May struggled through rehabilitation and returned to the force in November.
Video posted to the official Israel police Facebook page on Friday morning captures Ya'akov affixing his own green beret to the shoulder of the visibly jubilant Bibi, and taking the brave officer's beret in exchange. The footage can be seen by clicking the image below.
Ya'akov is being replaced by Brig. Gen. Ya'akov Shabtai, who is to be promoted to major-general, in a re-shuffling of police leadership that has included the replacement of all district commanders.
In the attack last May, Bibi was caught by surprise and stabbed at the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem's Old City, but despite his grave injuries heroically managed to shoot his attacker dead. Video from the scene showed Arab passersby fawning over the dead terrorist.
Roughly a month after the attack he was discharged from hospital and directly went to the Kotel (Western Wall) to pray and offer thanks for his miraculous recovery. Following another few months of heavy rehabilitation he once again showed his heroism by electing to return to active duty in the capital.
"From the moment when I opened my eyes in the hospital I knew I would return to wear the uniform of the Border Police. Today I'm happy that I returned to serve alongside my comrades in arms," Bibi said on returning to service. He noted he was returning to his unit "to continue defending the nation of Israel."