Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized for condemning an incident which three Arabs raped a 20-year-old mentally disabled Jewish girl for "nationalistic" motives Thursday night, saying Friday that he "regretted" commenting on it.
"As reported, the incident caused me deep pain and shock," Netanyahu posted on Facebook Friday. "With that, I had no right to relate to it until the issue was investigated, and I regret that."
In a post on his Facebook page Thursday, Netanyahu wrote that the rape “is a horrifying crime that requires wall to wall condemnation, but such condemnation has for some reason not been heard – neither in the media nor across the political spectrum.”
“One can only imagine what would happen if it were the opposite (Jews raping an Arab for nationalistic reasons –ed.),” the Prime Minister charged. “We will do justice to the full extent of the law with all those involved in this brutal act.”
This is not the first time Netanyahu has judged an incident before it has been investigated in a court of law. Earlier this year, he condemned IDF soldier Elor Azariya for controversially shooting a neutralized terrorist based on misinformation - but never apologized for that snap judgement.
Merav Michaeli takes Netanyahu to task
MK Shelly Yechimovich (Zionist Union) fired back and said that it is actually Netanyahu who continuously remains silent when it comes to sexual offenses.
But Netanyahu's retraction has also been linked to comments from MK Merav Michael (Zionist Union), who took the Prime Minister to task Friday.
"For over 20 years I have struggled against rape and sexual assault," she said. "I have and have had male and female partners in this struggle from different parts of the political rainbow. But I haven't heard a single condemnation from Netanyahu to a single act of rape or sexual assault."
"During his term as Prime Minister hundreds of cases like this have been exposed," she continued. "Shocking gang rape that continued months and years, serious cases of incest, abuse of the helpless - he never condemned a single one of them."
"But yesterday, when a rape committed by Arabs on a Jewish woman was publicized, he published a post accusing others who didn't condemn it," she added. "The conclusion is of course that Netanyahu is only against the rape of a Jewish woman by Arabs. When Jewish men rape Jewish women he has no problem with that. Why not?"
"So Mr. Netanyahu, I will continue to struggle against rape for being rape and you will continue to incite against Arabs for being Arabs. Very soon the public will understand where it is better to be, and that is not with you," Michaeli concluded.
Michaeli also released a scathing response following Netanyahu's retraction.
"Netanyahu doesn't condemn rape," she said. "He takes advantage of awful rape in order to incite against me. Against me and against other female MKs who dedicated and dedicate a significant part of our life to the struggle against rape."
"Netanyahu is inciting against me. He accuses me that I don't condemn rape."
Michaeli further accused Netanyahu of not speaking out about sexual abuse scandals in the police and elsewhere.
"Netanyahu only discovers the violence against women when he can use it against other women, who struggle against violence towards women," she added. "So Mr. Netanyahu, you continue to incite against me and I will continue to struggle against rape and violence for being as they are. The day is not far when the public will realize that the one (in feminine tense - ed.) who takes care of her and him is not you."
Michaeli never actually condemned the nationalistic rape; no other MK spoke about the issue except for MK Nava Boker (Likud).
Yesh Atid chairperson MK Yair Lapid backed Jewish Home chairperson Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday, over his demand to have military secretaries appointed to every member of the Security Cabinet as a condition for supporting an expansion of the coalition.
"Bennett is right. As a condition to expand the coalition he is demanding only one thing: a deep repair in the work of the Security Cabinet. As someone who sat with him in the Cabinet, I can testify that the current situation is not reasonable," wrote Lapid on Facebook.
The support may be a first sign of a resurgent alliance between the two; back in the 2013 elections Lapid and Bennett signed an agreement vowing only to enter the government together, and their parties pushed joint legislation such as the controversial haredi draft law before the two finally had a falling out.
In his backing of Bennett, the former Finance Minister wrote that Cabinet ministers do not receive in-depth information or go through any training process for their roles.
"For those who are interested in the topic, I recommend reading the chapters dealing with the work of the Cabinet in Ofer Shelah's book 'The Courage to Win.' As a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Ofer brings a clear and precise analysis there of the failings of the Cabinet (including in Protective Edge) and the required corrections in its work," wrote Lapid.
Lapid heaped praise on his erstwhile ally, writing, "Bennett is also worthy of appreciation for how in the cynical atmosphere in which everyone is busy only with the question of how comfortable their arm chair will be and how much money will go to those who are close to them, he placed a demand touching on the security of the state and the running of the government."
"But in this government those who make a list of cynical demands and only ask for portfolios and honor turn into someone who everyone wants to work with. On the other hand, those who don't ask anything for themselves but rather try to improve the workings of the political echelon are accused of opportunism and receive threats of being fired."
Lapid's comment refers to a report Thursday night in Channel 2 revealing how officials are trying to convince Bennett to support incoming Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman's entry to the coalition government, and threatening Jewish Home ministers with being fired if the party does not support the widening of the coalition.
Bennett's demand for military secretaries and easier access to sensitive intelligence information comes after a report revealing faults in the Security Cabinet's functioning in Operation Protective Edge and the Second Lebanon War.
US President Barack Obama's administration has not exercised its right under US law to sanction the Russian sale of an advanced weapon system to Iran, leading some in Congress to demand clarifications and accuse the administration of appeasing Tehran.
Obama can declare Russia's sale of the S-300 missile defense system as illegal and enact sanctions against it. The deal, said to be completed by the end of the year, is highly controversial because the advanced missile system would leave Iran's nuclear system - and potentially its nuclear arsenal - nearly impervious to attack.
Aside from declaring the sale illegal under US law, Obama can also veto the arms sale at the UN Security Council - he has so far refused to take either action, and his administration has not responded to repeated queries as to whether it intends to take action.
In response to a query, a State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon that the administration has not yet decided whether or not to issue sanctions on the imminent S-300 sale.
“We’re continuing to closely follow reports concerning the delivery of the S-300 defensive missile system from Russia to Iran,” the official said.
“We have not made a determination as to whether this delivery, if and when complete, would trigger any actions under US authorities.”
Representative's inquiry ignored
Washington Free Beacon revealed on Thursday that Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH) sent a inquiry to the White House over a month ago on April 7 about the S-300 sale. The White House has not seen fit to reply.
“Given the serious implications for the United States and our allies in the region, I respectfully request that you quickly determine that Russia’s transfer of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems advance Iran’s efforts to acquire ‘destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons’ and impose the necessary US sanctions once the Russian delivery takes place," Chabot wrote.
The Representative expressed his concern "that without such a determination the United States may be viewed as acquiescing to this transfer."
Chabot told Washington Free Beacon on Thursday that "despite multiple inquires to the US Department of State, I still have not received a response on Russia’s S300 surface-to-air missile system transfer to Iran."
"This apparent dismissal leaves me wondering what exactly the Administration is hiding. I am really asking a simple question – is the introduction of a sophisticated weapon system into Iran, that has not been there previously, going to elicit the appropriate US sanctions response? I am not sure why the Administration has found it so hard to come to a determination."
He warned that "the S300 is one of the most advanced anti-aircraft missile system’s in the world and significantly bolsters Iran’s offensive capabilities and stands as a serious hurdle to our efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear armed state. This is absolutely a destabilizing conventional weapon system."
"These systems would significantly bolster Iran’s offensive capabilities and introduce new obstacles to our efforts to eliminate the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon. I believe existing US sanctions should be used to deter Russia from transferring this or other dangerous weapons systems to Iran," Chabot said.
"Obama just trying to preserve nuclear deal"
Aside from a veto at the UN Security Council against the weapons deal, the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992 allows the president to sanction the sale of "advanced conventional weapons" to Iran by any country.
In his letter to the White House, Cabot noted this, saying, "US law provides your administration with the authority to apply US sanctions in response."
"For example, the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act and the Iran Sanctions Act provide authority for you to sanction individuals or countries that you determine are aiding Iran’s efforts to acquire or develop ‘destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.’”
Noting the rationale for the sanctions, Chabot pointed to the destabilizing factor the advanced missile system would play in the hands of the leading state sponsor of terror in the world.
"Iran’s acquisition of these systems would embolden Tehran to adopt a more threatening regional posture and to pursue offensive activities detrimental to regional stability in the belief that the systems would deter retaliation," he warned.
A foreign policy adviser who works with Congress on Iran told Washington Free Beacon that Obama can no longer keep silent on the S-300 sale.
"The administration tried to look the other way, but got called out for it by Congress. Then they spent a month and a half hoping that the whole thing would go away," said the adviser.
"Now I don’t know what they’re going to do, since it’s obvious that they’re letting Iran import advanced weapons in violation of US law just to preserve the nuclear deal."
In an article published on Wednesday for the 16th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon, the Lebanese paper Al-Safir detailed the deployment of the Hezbollah terrorist organization on the border - and revealed the Iran-proxy is digging tunnels into Israel.
The article, which was translated and exposed by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), also discusses Hezbollah's activities in Syria where it is propping up Bashar al-Assad's regime, and it defined the Syrian front as a larger challenge than the fight with Israel, due to the terrorist group's losses there and the damage to its operational abilities.
The Lebanese daily, which is considered supportive of Hezbollah, talks about how the group - even as it fights in Syria - is continuing to prepare against Israel.
Terrorists of the organization work day and night on the Israeli border "conducting observations, preparing, and digging tunnels that cause the settlers and enemy soldiers to lose sleep," according to the report.
Al-Safir mentioned the tunnels again, noting that in fighting the Syrian rebel forces Hezbollah was forced to deal with an enemy that dug tunnels as well, and that up until this point the group was used to its members being the only ones diggin tunnels. It also described that Hezbollah had taught the methods of tunnel digging to the rest of the "resistance fighters," particularly Palestinian groups in Gaza.
For well over a year Israelis on the northern border have warned that Hezbollah is digging attack tunnels under the border, and they have even documented the sounds of digging and warned about the vibrations that shake their homes.
The IDF has largely played down the threat even as it has at times ordered investigations; outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon infamously claimed that one case of tunnel digging sounds was a neighbor's "horse stomping with his hooves."
Al-Safir's revelations on the tunnel program echo the warnings of Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Langotzki, a leading expert in the fight against the terror tunnels, who recently told Arutz Sheva that the Lebanese border is becoming a growing threat.
He warned that the northern border is no less of a threat in terms of terror tunnels than the Gaza border, where Hamas has used its tunnels to lethal effect and is working to rebuild its network.
When asked if the harder ground in the north and the distances there do not change things regarding the tunnels, Langotzki said that while there is a difference one must merely look at the incredibly long tunnels dug by the North Korean regime to enable attacks on its southern neighbor in order to understand the very real nature of the threat.
He pointed out the North Korean tunnels were dug through granite which is harder than the dolomite on the Lebanese border, and noted on the close ties between North Korea and Hezbollah.
"I have argued for ten years that it is not possible that something like this couldn't happen in our territory. If they just dig one meter every day you can reach a total of 1,000 meters in our territory within three years," warned Langotzki.
"We know that the Lebanese know how to dig tunnels from the two wars in Lebanon," he said. "Look on Google how Hezbollah dug tunnels from Lebanon to Syria. It's the most trivial thing that could be, but in order to calm the residents they said there are no tunnels, so they calmed them."
Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabay (Kulanu) resigned from his post Friday, in protest over the appointment of Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman to the post of Defense Minister.
"Despite the great importance I see in the office and the significant actions we have furthered to reduce air pollution [...] the latest political moves and the replacement of the defense minister are terrible moves in my eyes which ignore what's truly important for the country's security, and will cause further radicalization and rifts among the people," he stated.
Gabay's resignation as Minister also removes him from politics, as he is a member of the government but not of the Knesset.
"I would like to thank the Chairman of Kulanu for the support, trust and assistance [he has provided] and I have no doubt that the Kulanu movement will continue to achieve the goals we set at the time of its inception," he added.
The Environmental Protection Ministry is expected to remain in Kulanu's hands.
MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) commented on Gabay's resignation Friday, praising him for taking a stand against Liberman.
"The Environmental Minister smelled moral pollution and resigned, as Kahlon continues to hold the hand of the hilltop youth government and thinks no one will notice."
"I call on the Minister of Finance to discover the straight path and stop this extremism," he continued. "You're not absolved of responsibility."
"[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu made history when he appointed the most extremist government in Israeli history, where even its own ministers do not approve of where it's going, and know you can't rely on it," MK Ayelet Nachmias-Varbin (Zionist Union) fired Friday. "The Environmental Protection Minister has proven, over the past year, that the only thing he cares about is what's good for the environment and for the State of Israel - in contrast to Netanyahu, who only cares about keeping his seat."
Former MK Nissim Ze'ev, one of the founders of the Shas party, is calling on Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to cancel the dance performance "More than Naked" which is scheduled for Friday at the Jerusalem Theater as part of the Israel Festival.
In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Ze'ev noted that during the performance 12 completely nude dancers are to take the stage in a dance piece choreographed by Doris Uhlich of Austria.
The ex-MK expressed shock at the planned provocative piece, and surprise that no religious or haredi city council members have protested it.
"There is a culture here of sinners and I am surprised about the city council members, most of whom are religious and haredi, who let it pass by and do not protest or raise a cry," said Ze'ev. "It cannot be that the Jerusalem municipality would close its eyes and say it doesn't get involved in the contents."
Ze'ev explained the dance performance is not "culture," but rather crass "prostitution."
"This is an artistic prostitution-like program, which is considered as if it was culture. It isn't culture and it isn't education. We have values and principles in Judaism and we must not give youth the impression that everything is permissible," he warned.
"We have to stop the celebration of abominations in Jerusalem. Unfortunately there is no limit to permissiveness and every time they go down another rung into the abyss, we are already below zero."
According to the former MK, even a secular mayor like Barkat should recognize the performance is in bad taste.
"When we're talking about Jerusalem our capital, the Holy City, I expect that the mayor will cancel this performance. Because if this performance is held that will be a precedent for other nude performances."
"This is the destruction of Jerusalem and I expect (action from) the mayor - he may be secular but it is impossible to show contempt for democracy, and most residents of this city are religious and haredi and also Arabs, all are against this," he said.
Gilad Ach, chairman of the Ad Kan nationalist group that has infiltrated and exposed radical leftist organizations, responded on Friday to the announcement of B'Tselem from Wednesday when it said it was cutting its cooperation with the IDF.
In the announcement the far leftist group said it will no longer work with the military prosecution to submit complaints on "war crimes" alegedly committed by the IDF against Palestinian Arabs, saying its cooperation has been essentially "serving the continued justification of the occupation instead of leading to improved Palestinian rights.”
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Ach condemned the B'Tselem statement.
"This declaration is another performance in the theater of the absurd of the anti-Israeli organizations that call themselves human rights organizations," he said.
He noted that B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence and other similar radical leftist groups "gather information about IDF soldiers in order to slander Israel in the world."
Ach spoke about the "human rights" group B'Tselem, pointing out that activists of the group were recently exposed by Ad Kan as having turned over Arabs who wanted to sell land to Jews to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to be tortured and executed.
The Ad Kan chairperson called on Israel to respond in kind to B'Tselem's cutting of cooperation with the IDF by stopping all cooperation with the group, and he urged first of all to stop considering volunteer work in the organization as national service.
The Dutch parliament met Thursday to discuss the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Jews in Judea and Samaria, where they controversially declared the damaging movement as protected by free speech.
Arutz Sheva discussed the development with Attorney Nati Rom, head of the Lev Haolam organization that fights BDS by selling goods from small businesses in Judea-Samaria directly to customers worldwide.
Rom distributed products from Judea-Samaria to the parliamentarians ahead of the ruling, and organized a counter-protest which he said drew a lot of supporters.
"We are here to stay that we are taking a stand for Israel and we will not be silent anymore," he added. "After what happened in Europe seventy years ago, we will not be silent when we see that they label Jewish products."