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Netanyahu secures new governing coalition at the eleventh hour

WJC, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu's fourth government is expected to be sworn in next week after he managed to cobble together a coalition of five parties which has a narrow 61-seat majority in the 120-member Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

Jewish Home leader Bennett shaking hands with PM NetanyahuJewish Home leader Bennett shaking hands with PM NetanyahuNearly two months after his election victory, and barely two hours ahead of the deadline to form a government, Netanyahu informed Israel's President Reuven Rivlin that he had reached the necessary agreements with his coalition partners, among them the nationalist Jewish Home party, two ultra-Orthodox religious parties and the center-right Kulanu party.

A Netanyahu spokesman said Thursday that the prime minister would also assume the post of foreign minister, which he would like to offer to opposition leader Isaac Herzog "if things work out". Unnamed Likud officials told the newspaper 'Israel Hayom' that Netanyahu was seeking to expand the government beyond its current fragile majority, and that he would pursue negotiations with Herzog's Zionist Union on the matter over the coming weeks.

However, Herzog - who is the chairman of the center-left Labor Party and was the main challenger of Netanyahu in the March election, made it clear on Thursday that he would not to be swayed from going to the opposition. "I will not be a fifth wheel in the Netanyahu government," he said.

Herzog slammed the new Netanyahu Cabinet as a “national failure of a government" which "lacks responsibility, stability and governance."

In a statement Wednesday, after the deal between Likud and Jewish Home was announced, he said: “Tonight we are filled with hope that we will march Israel’s security, economy and all other fields forward.” As part of the deal, Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party will be appointed justice minister and become a member of the Security Cabinet.

Netanyahu sent Rivlin a letter confirming that he had clinched a coalition agreement, and he now has until next Wednesday to swear in his new Cabinet, which needs to pass a confidence vote in the Knesset.
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PM Netanyahu meets with delegation of US senators

​PM Netanyahu: I think the most important thing is to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a path to the bomb and that Iran’s aggression in Yemen and elsewhere, including around Israel’s borders, is stopped.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a delegation of US senators led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Intelligence Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz also attended the meeting.

At the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

"We are very much concerned for our common interests by the developments in the Middle East. As we are speaking, Iran is rampaging through Yemen; it is conquering the Middle East.

This is correctly seen by all the countries in the Middle East as a strategic move to dominate the region and therefore we are witnessing something quite unprecedented.

And as Israel and the Arab countries see Iran progressing with its aggression to conquer Yemen and the Bab el-Mandeb straits, talks continue as usual and go on, on a deal that from everything that we hear paves Iran’s way to the bomb.
Will this increase or decrease Iran’s aggression? Will the fact that Iran, while it’s still under sanctions, does not yet have an easy path to the bomb, but is conquering the Middle East in ways that are unprecedented? Will this make their move forward more moderate or will it make it more extreme? I think it’s a no-brainer. But this is happening before our eyes and I think the most important thing is to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a path to the bomb and that Iran’s aggression in Yemen and elsewhere, including around Israel’s borders is stopped."

Prime Minister Netanyahu added:

"Senator McConnell, Mitch, and friends. It’s very good to see you here in Israel. But I’m delighted always to see you and all Representatives from the US Congress and Senators. We have a strong bipartisan base of support for alliance. I spoke the other day with Harry Reid, congratulated him on his years of service and also his years of support for the Israeli-American alliance. This is something that I think cuts across the aisle in the United States. And I believe will continue to do so."

Senator McConnell said:

"Mr. Prime Minister, let me add on our behalf, first, we were all extraordinarily impressed with your address to the joint session a few weeks ago.

I want to assure all Israelis that the US-Israel relationship is still, no matter what’s been said recently, in very, very strong shape on a bipartisan basis in the US Congress.

The group who are here share your concerns about this potential agreement and there are options that the United States has in a wake of an agreement and if there is no agreement. The option if there’s an agreement is a bill that we intend to vote on that enjoys bipartisan support to require that agreement come to Congress for approval.

If there’s no deal, then the view of this group, similar to your own, is that ratcheting up sanctions might be the best direction to take in the wake of a deal that does not come together."
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20th Knesset to be sworn in March 31, 2015

Forty new MKs will serve in the incoming Knesset. Of the 120 Knesset members, 29 will be women. This marks a new record in the number of female lawmakers, two more than the 19th Knesset.

The festive opening ceremony of the 20th Knesset will take place on March 31, with the participation of President Reuven Rivlin. Forty new MKs will serve in the incoming Knesset. Likud will have the most new MKs with 11, followed by the Zionist Union (9 new MKs), Kulanu (9), the Joint (Arab) List (6), HaBayit HaYehudi (2), Yisrael Beitenu (2) and Yesh Atid (1).

A number of new MKs served as parliamentarians in the past (but not in the 19th Knesset). They are: Benny Begin, Moshe Kahlon, Avi Dichter, Ayoub Kara and Yoel Hasson.

Of the 120 Knesset members, 29 will be women. This marks a new record in the number of female lawmakers. The previous record was 27, in the 19th Knesset.

The following is a list of the new Knesset members:

Likud: David Bitan, Jackie Levy, Yoav Kish, David Amsalem, Nurit Koren, Miki Zohar, Anat Berko, Nava Boker, Avraham Nagosa, Yaron Mazuz, Oren Hazan

Zionist Union: Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, Revital Swid, Danny Attar, Zuhair Bahloul, Eitan Broshi, Ksenia Svetlova, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, Prof. Yossi Yona, Eyal Ben-Reuven

Kulanu: Yoav Galant, Eli Alalouf, Michael Oren, Rachel Azaria, Tali Ploskov, Yifat Shasha-Biton, Eli Cohen, Roy Folkman, Merav Ben Ari

Joint (Arab) List: Aiman Uda, Aida Touma-Sliman, Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya, Yosef Jabareen, Osama Sa`adi, Abdullah Abu Maaruf

HaBayit HaYehudi: Yinon Magal and Bezalel Smotrich

Yisrael Beitenu: Ilan Shohat and Sharon Gal

Yesh Atid: Haim Yalin
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FAQ: Elections in Israel

A bill to dissolve the 19th Knesset passed in the Knesset plenum on Monday, December 8, 2014 by unanimous vote. Elections to the 20th Knesset will be held on March 17, 2015.

1. What do Israelis vote for in elections?

The upcoming national elections in Israel will be held on March 17, 2015. These elections will determine the composition of the new Knesset and of the government to be established based on these results. 26 parties have submitted lists of candidates to the Central Elections Committee.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy. The Prime Minister, who heads Israel’s government, is chosen from among the members of the newly-elected Knesset, Israel’s parliament.


2. What are Israeli elections like?

Israel's elections reflect the strong democratic tradition of the State of Israel. Election campaigns are a lively affair, accompanied by vigorous debate of the issues. Israelis take great interest in political affairs, including internal policy and foreign relations, and actively participate in the electoral process.

3. What are the basic principles of Israel's election process?

The framework of the Israeli electoral system is defined in Article 4 of the "Basic Law: The Knesset," which states: "The Knesset shall be elected by general, national, direct, equal, secret and proportional elections, in accordance with the Knesset Elections Law."

Israel's election process

General: Every Israeli citizen aged 18 or older on election day has the right to vote.
National: The entire country constitutes a single electoral constituency. In Israel's proportional representation system, candidates represent national parties and not electoral districts or local constituencies.
Direct: The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, is elected directly by the voters, not through a body of electors. On election day, voters cast one ballot for a single political party to represent them in the Knesset.
Equal: All votes cast are equal in weight.
Secret: Elections are by secret ballot.
Proportional: The 120 Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party's percentage of the total national vote. However, the minimum required threshold for a party to be represented in the Knesset is currently 3.25% of the total votes cast.

4. When are elections held?

Elections to the Knesset are held every four years, unless one of the following situations occurs:

The Knesset passes a bill to disperse the Knesset;
The Knesset has not approved the budget within three months of the start of the financial year;
The Prime Minister asks the Knesset to disperse;
A no-confidence vote has passed and a new government has not formed.
The Knesset can also decide, by a special majority of 80 votes, to prolong its term beyond four years if there are special circumstances. This happened once, in 1973, when the elections to the Eighth Knesset were delayed by two months because of the Yom Kippur War.

5. Who can vote?

Voting is a right granted to every Israeli citizen who has reached the age of 18 or older on election day.

Israelis of all ethnic groups and religious beliefs, including Arab-Israelis, actively participate in the process.

Every eligible Israeli citizen is automatically registered. A total of 5,881,696 Israelis are eligible to vote in the March 17 elections.

6. Can soldiers, the disabled, the infirmed and prison inmates vote?

Soldiers on active duty vote in polling stations in their units. Particular arrangements are made for prison inmates to vote, as well as for those confined to hospitals. Disabled persons who are ambulatory can vote in one of the special voting stations designed for accessibility.

7. Are absentee ballots permitted?

Israeli law does not provide for absentee ballots and in general, voting takes place only on Israeli soil. Exceptions are made for Israeli citizens serving abroad on official business who can vote in Israeli embassies and consulates abroad or on Israeli ships.

8. How does voting take place?

The Israeli voting method is user-friendly, even to voters who have limited knowledge of Hebrew and Arabic. Every voter is given an envelope before entering the voting booth. Inside the booth is a tray holding slips of paper. Each slip has the name of a party and the "symbol" of the party (comprised of 1-4 letters). The voter selects the slip that represents their chosen party and seals the slip in the envelope. After exiting the voting booth, the voter places the envelope in the ballot box.

9. How are voters identified?

Voters must be identified by one of the following identification cards:

An official I.D. card (teudat ze’hut) with a picture (issued free to all Israelis from the age of 16);
A valid Israeli passport with a picture;
A valid driver’s license with a picture;
A Knesset member I.D. card.
The Interior Minister may approve identification without a photo I.D. in rare cases, such as Muslim women who wear a veil.

10. What happens on election day?

Election day is a holiday in order to enable all potential voters to participate. Free public transportation is available to voters who happen to be outside their polling districts on this day.

In the upcoming elections, most polls will open at 07:00 in the morning of election day and close at 22:00 (10pm). In smaller communities, hospitals and prisons voting takes place between 08:00 and 20:00 (8pm). If all the registered voters have voted at a particular station, that polling station may close early.

Voting may take place earlier in special cases. Polling is held twelve days before election day in Israeli diplomatic mission and ships, while the votes of soldiers may be collected up to 72 hours before election day.

11. Do Israelis vote for parties or individual candidates?

The parties competing for election to the Knesset reflect a wide range of outlooks and beliefs. Since the entire country is a single electoral constituency, the candidates run on lists representing their nation-wide party. They do not represent electoral districts or local constituencies.

Voters cast their ballot for the party of their choice and not for a particular candidate. Thus, there are no "candidates" for prime minister, but only party lists headed by the chosen leader of each.

The direct election of the Prime Minister was instituted in Israel in 1996. After two election rounds (1996 and 1999), the law was rescinded (2001).

12. Who is eligible for elected office?

Every citizen aged 21 or older is eligible for election to the Knesset, unless they are excluded by one of the exceptions under the law.

Examples of exceptions include:

An individual who holds a senior official position: the President, a Chief Rabbi, the State Comptroller, judges and senior public officials, as well as the chief-of-staff and high-ranking military officers may not stand for election to the Knesset unless they have resigned their position before the elections in the period specified by law;
Cases where a court has specifically restricted this right by virtue of a law.
According to the "Basic Law: The Knesset," the Central Elections Committee may prevent a candidates' list from participating in elections if its objectives or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people;
Negation of the democratic character of Israel;
Incitement to racism.
This decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court, which has reversed decisions by the Central Elections Committee.

13. What is the Central Elections Committee?

The Central Elections Committee is responsible for conducting and supervising the elections. It is headed by a Justice of the Supreme Court, currently Justice Salim Joubran, and includes representatives of the parties holding seats in the outgoing Knesset.

14. What do polling committees do?

Regional election committees oversee the functioning of local polling committees, which include representatives of at least three parties in the outgoing Knesset. Anyone aged 16 or older is eligible to serve on a polling committee.


15. What must parties do before the elections?

Prior to the elections, each party submits its list of candidates for the Knesset (in order of precedence).

The parties select their candidates for the Knesset in primaries or by other procedures.

Only registered parties or an alignment of two or more registered parties can present a list of candidates and participate in the elections.

16. How are campaigns financed?

a. The State of Israel covers most of the parties' budgets and only a small fraction of party financing originates from sources other than the state budget.

According to the Party Financing Law, a treasury allocation for election campaigns is granted to the factions. Each faction receives an allocation at the rate of one pre-defined "financing unit" per seat won in the previous Knesset elections plus retroactively one unit per mandate won in the new Knesset, divided by two, plus one additional financing unit. New factions receive a similar allocation, retroactively, based on the number of seats won in the elections.

b. The law concerning non-public financing, such as membership dues and contributions, is extremely strict and limiting

No faction may receive a contribution, directly or indirectly, from any person or his dependents in excess of the sum established by law and linked to the Consumer Price Index.

A faction or list of candidates may not receive a financial contribution from someone who is not eligible to vote in the elections, such as foreign nationals who do not also hold Israeli citizenship.

17. How do campaign ads meet the principle of equal opportunity?

Election broadcasts begin on television 21 days before the elections. All election advertising is broadcast free of charge on television and radio, although the parties are responsible for preparing the advertisements at their own expense. Under the principle of equal opportunity, it is prohibited to purchase broadcasting time.

The Election Law contains strict rules regarding the timing, length and content of television and radio election broadcasts. Parties participating in the elections receive broadcasting minutes according to a formula set in law. Each is given a basic and equal allocation of minutes for broadcasts on television and radio. Factions which have candidates who served in the outgoing Knesset are allocated an additional amount of time based on their number of former Members of Knesset (MKs).

For example, each party receives 7 basic minutes of advertising on television and an additional 2 minute per former MK. On radio, each party list receives 15 basic minutes and 4 additional ones per outgoing MK. Parties are also limited in the amount of inches of election advertising they can print in newspapers.

Other restrictions on advertising include:

No use of children under the age of 15;
No use of the IDF that creates the impression that the army identifies with a particular party;
No use of the names or images of victims of terrorism without their permission or that of their surviving family.

18. How is the Knesset formed?

Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party's percentage of the total national vote.

The number and order of members entering the new Knesset for each party corresponds to its list of candidates as presented for election. However, each party must receive at least a certain percentage of the votes to enter the Knesset. Currently, the minimum qualifying threshold to be elected is 3.25% of the total votes cast.

A party's surplus votes, which are insufficient for an additional seat, can be transferred to another party according to agreements made between them prior to the election. If no agreement exists, the surplus votes are distributed according to the parties' proportional sizes in the elections.

19. How is the Prime Minister chosen?

The Prime Minister is selected from among the elected Knesset members. The President of the State assigns the task to the Knesset member considered to have the best chance of forming a viable coalition government in light of the Knesset election results.

20. How is the government formed?

a. The government (cabinet of ministers) is the executive authority of the state, charged with administering internal and foreign affairs, including security matters.

b. When a new government is to be formed, the President of the State - after consulting with representatives of the parties elected to the Knesset - assigns the task of forming the government to a Knesset member. This Knesset member is usually the leader of the party with the largest Knesset representation or the head of the party that leads a coalition of more than 60 members.

c. Since a government requires the Knesset's confidence to function, it must have a supporting coalition of at least 61 of the 120 Knesset members.

To date, no single party has received enough Knesset seats to be able to form a government by itself; thus all Israeli governments have been based on coalitions of several parties. Those remaining outside the government compose the opposition.

d. The Knesset member to whom the task is assigned has a period of 28 days to form a government. The President may extend the term by an additional period of time, not exceeding 14 days.

If this period (up to 42 days) has passed and the designated Knesset member has not succeeded in forming a government, the President may then assign the task of forming a government to another Knesset member. This Knesset member has a period of 28 days for the fulfillment of the task. There are no further extensions.

If a government still has not been formed, an absolute majority of Knesset members (61) has the option of applying in writing to the President, asking him to assign the task to a particular Knesset member. Such a precedent has yet to occur.

e. When a government has been formed, the designated Prime Minister presents it to the Knesset within 45 days of publication of election results in the official gazette. At this time, he announces its composition, the basic guidelines of its policy and the distribution of functions among its ministers.

The Prime Minister then asks the Knesset for an expression of confidence. The government is installed when the Knesset has expressed confidence in it by a majority of 61 Knesset members. Then the new ministers assume their offices.

Like the Knesset, the government is chosen for four years. Its tenure may be shortened if the Prime Minister is unable to continue in office due to death, resignation, permanent incapacitation, impeachment or if the Prime Minister ceases to function as a member of the Knesset. However, the government may appoint one of its other members who is a Knesset member as acting Prime Minister.
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PM Netanyahu's speech to a joint session of the US Congress

​History has placed us at a fateful crossroads. One path leads to a bad deal that will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran. The second path would prevent a nuclearized Iran, a nuclearized Middle East and the horrific consequences of both to all of humanity.


Following is the transcript of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of the US Congress:

"Speaker of the House John Boehner,

President Pro Tem Senator Orrin Hatch,

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi,

And House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy,

I also want to acknowledge Senator, Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Harry, it's good to see you back on your feet. I guess it's true what they say, you can't keep a good man down.

My friends, I'm deeply humbled by the opportunity to speak for a third time before the most important legislative body in the world, the U.S. Congress. I want to thank you all for being here today. I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy. I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention.

I want to thank you, Democrats and Republicans, for your common support for Israel, year after year, decade after decade. I know that no matter on which side of the aisle you sit, you stand with Israel. The remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States has always been above politics. It must always remain above politics. Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope. Israel is grateful for the support of America's people and of America's presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel. Now, some of that is widely known. Some of that is widely known, like strengthening security cooperation and intelligence sharing, opposing anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.

Some of what the president has done for Israel is less well-known. I called him in 2010 when we had the Carmel forest fire, and he immediately agreed to respond to my request for urgent aid. In 2011, we had our embassy in Cairo under siege, and again, he provided vital assistance at the crucial moment. Or his support for more missile interceptors during our operation last summer when we took on Hamas terrorists. In each of those moments, I called the president, and he was there.

And some of what the president has done for Israel might never be known, because it touches on some of the most sensitive and strategic issues that arise between an American president and an Israeli prime minister. But I know it, and I will always be grateful to President Obama for that support.

And Israel is grateful to you, the American Congress, for your support, for supporting us in so many ways, especially in generous military assistance and missile defense, including Iron Dome. Last summer, millions of Israelis were protected from thousands of Hamas rockets because this capital dome helped build our Iron Dome.

Thank you, America. Thank you for everything you've done for Israel.

My friends,

I've come here today because, as Prime Minister of Israel, I feel a profound obligation to speak to you about an issue that could well threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people: Iran's quest for nuclear weapons.

We're an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we'll read the Book of Esther. We'll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies. The plot was foiled. Our people were saved.

Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of antisemitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated – he tweets. You know, in Iran, there isn't exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.

For those who believe that Iran threatens the Jewish state, but not the Jewish people, listen to Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, Iran's chief terrorist proxy. He said: If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.

But Iran's regime is not merely a Jewish problem, any more than the Nazi regime was merely a Jewish problem. The 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis were but a fraction of the 60 million people killed in World War II. So, too, Iran's regime poses a grave threat, not only to Israel, but also the peace of the entire world. To understand just how dangerous Iran would be with nuclear weapons, we must fully understand the nature of the regime. The people of Iran are very talented people. They're heirs to one of the world's great civilizations. But in 1979, they were hijacked by religious zealots – religious zealots who imposed on them immediately a dark and brutal dictatorship.

That year, the zealots drafted a constitution, a new one for Iran. It directed the revolutionary guards not only to protect Iran's borders, but also to fulfill the ideological mission of jihad. The regime's founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, exhorted his followers to 'export the revolution throughout the world.'

I'm standing here in Washington, D.C. and the difference is so stark. America's founding document promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Iran's founding document pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad. And as states are collapsing across the Middle East, Iran is charging into the void to do just that.

Iran's goons in Gaza, its lackeys in Lebanon, its revolutionary guards on the Golan Heights are clutching Israel with three tentacles of terror. Backed by Iran, Assad is slaughtering Syrians. Backed by Iran, Shiite militias are rampaging through Iraq. Backed by Iran, Houthis are seizing control of Yemen, threatening the strategic straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. Along with the Straits of Hormuz, that would give Iran a second choke-point on the world's oil supply. Just last week, near Hormuz, Iran carried out a military exercise blowing up a mock U.S. aircraft carrier. That's just last week, while they're having nuclear talks with the United States. But unfortunately, for the last 36 years, Iran's attacks against the United States have been anything but mock. And the targets have been all too real.

Iran took dozens of Americans hostage in Tehran, murdered hundreds of American soldiers, Marines, in Beirut, and was responsible for killing and maiming thousands of American service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beyond the Middle East, Iran attacks America and its allies through its global terror network. It blew up the Jewish community center and the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. It helped al-Qaeda bomb U.S. embassies in Africa. It even attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, right here in Washington, D.C.

In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran's aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.

So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations. We must all stand together to stop Iran's march of conquest, subjugation and terror.

Now, two years ago, we were told to give President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif a chance to bring change and moderation to Iran. Some change! Some moderation! Rouhani's government hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists and executes even more prisoners than before.

Last year, the same Zarif who charms Western diplomats laid a wreath at the grave of Imad Mughniyeh. Imad Mughniyeh is the terrorist mastermind who spilled more American blood than any other terrorist besides Osama bin Laden. I'd like to see someone ask him a question about that.

Iran's regime is as radical as ever, its cries of "Death to America," that same America that it calls the "Great Satan," as loud as ever. Now, this shouldn't be surprising, because the ideology of Iran's revolutionary regime is deeply rooted in militant Islam, and that's why this regime will always be an enemy of America.

Don't be fooled. The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn't turn Iran into a friend of America. Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.

In this deadly game of thrones, there's no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don't share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone. So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.

The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs. We must always remember – I'll say it one more time – the greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle, but lose the war. We can't let that happen.

But that, my friends, is exactly what could happen, if the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran. That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them.

Let me explain why. While the final deal has not yet been signed, certain elements of any potential deal are now a matter of public record. You don't need intelligence agencies and secret information to know this. You can Google it. Absent a dramatic change, we know for sure that any deal with Iran will include two major concessions to Iran.

The first major concession would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure, providing it with a short breakout time to the bomb. Breakout time is the time it takes to amass enough weapons-grade uranium or plutonium for a nuclear bomb.

According to the deal, not a single nuclear facility would be demolished. Thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium would be left spinning. Thousands more would be temporarily disconnected, but not destroyed.

Because Iran's nuclear program would be left largely intact, Iran's breakout time would be very short – about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israel's.

And if Iran's work on advanced centrifuges, faster and faster centrifuges, is not stopped, that breakout time could still be shorter, a lot shorter.

True, certain restrictions would be imposed on Iran's nuclear program and Iran's adherence to those restrictions would be supervised by international inspectors. But here's the problem. You see, inspectors document violations; they don't stop them.

Inspectors knew when North Korea broke to the bomb, but that didn't stop anything. North Korea turned off the cameras, kicked out the inspectors. Within a few years, it got the bomb.

Now, we're warned that within five years North Korea could have an arsenal of 100 nuclear bombs.

Like North Korea, Iran, too, has defied international inspectors. It's done that on at least three separate occasions – 2005, 2006, 2010. Like North Korea, Iran broke the locks, shut off the cameras. Now, I know this is not going to come as a shock to any of you, but Iran not only defies inspectors, it also plays a pretty good game of hide-and-cheat with them.

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, said again yesterday that Iran still refuses to come clean about its military nuclear program. Iran was also caught – caught twice, not once, twice – operating secret nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom, facilities that inspectors didn't even know existed.

Right now, Iran could be hiding nuclear facilities that we don't know about, the U.S. and Israel. As the former head of inspections for the IAEA said in 2013, he said, 'If there's no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn't have one.' Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted. And that's why the first major concession is a source of great concern. It leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and relies on inspectors to prevent a breakout. That concession creates a real danger that Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal.

But the second major concession creates an even greater danger that Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal. Because virtually all the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade. Now, a decade may seem like a long time in political life, but it's the blink of an eye in the life of a nation. It's a blink of an eye in the life of our children. We all have a responsibility to consider what will happen when Iran's nuclear capabilities are virtually unrestricted and all the sanctions will have been lifted. Iran would then be free to build a huge nuclear capacity that could produce many, many nuclear bombs.

Iran's Supreme Leader says that openly. He says Iran plans to have 190,000 centrifuges, not 6,000 or even the 19,000 that Iran has today, but 10 times that amount – 190,000 centrifuges enriching uranium. With this massive capacity, Iran could make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal and this in a matter of weeks, once it makes that decision.

My long-time friend, John Kerry, Secretary of State, confirmed last week that Iran could legitimately possess that massive centrifuge capacity when the deal expires.

Now I want you to think about that. The foremost sponsor of global terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons and this with full international legitimacy.

And by the way, if Iran's intercontinental ballistic missile program is not part of the deal, and so far, Iran refuses to even put it on the negotiating table. Well, Iran could have the means to deliver that nuclear arsenal to the far-reaching corners of the Earth, including to every part of the United States. So you see, my friends, this deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. That's why this deal is so bad. It doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb; it paves Iran's path to the bomb.

So why would anyone make this deal? Because they hope that Iran will change for the better in the coming years, or they believe that the alternative to this deal is worse?

Well, I disagree. I don't believe that Iran's radical regime will change for the better after this deal. This regime has been in power for 36 years, and its voracious appetite for aggression grows with each passing year. This deal would only whet Iran's appetite for more.

Would Iran be less aggressive when sanctions are removed and its economy is stronger? If Iran is gobbling up four countries right now while it's under sanctions, how many more countries will Iran devour when sanctions are lifted? Would Iran fund less terrorism when it has mountains of cash with which to fund more terrorism?

Why should Iran's radical regime change for the better when it can enjoy the best of both worlds: aggression abroad, prosperity at home?

This is a question that everyone asks in our region. Israel's neighbors, Iran's neighbors, know that Iran will become even more aggressive and sponsor even more terrorism when its economy is unshackled and it's been given a clear path to the bomb. And many of these neighbors say they'll respond by racing to get nuclear weapons of their own. So this deal won't change Iran for the better; it will only change the Middle East for the worse. A deal that's supposed to prevent nuclear proliferation would instead spark a nuclear arms race in the most dangerous part of the planet.

This deal won't be a farewell to arms. It would be a farewell to arms control. And the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires. A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.

If anyone thinks this deal kicks the can down the road, think again. When we get down that road, we'll face a much more dangerous Iran, a Middle East littered with nuclear bombs and a countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I've come here today to tell you we don't have to bet the security of the world on the hope that Iran will change for the better. We don't have to gamble with our future and with our children's future.

We can insist that restrictions on Iran's nuclear program not be lifted for as long as Iran continues its aggression in the region and in the world. Before lifting those restrictions, the world should demand that Iran do three things. First, stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East. Second, stop supporting terrorism around the world. And third, stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state.

If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires. If Iran changes its behavior, the restrictions would be lifted. If Iran doesn't change its behavior, the restrictions should not be lifted. If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country.

My friends,
What about the argument that there's no alternative to this deal, that Iran's nuclear know-how cannot be erased, that its nuclear program is so advanced that the best we can do is delay the inevitable, which is essentially what the proposed deal seeks to do?

Well, nuclear know-how without nuclear infrastructure doesn't get you very much. A racecar driver without a car can't drive. A pilot without a plane can't fly. Without thousands of centrifuges, tons of enriched uranium or heavy water facilities, Iran can't make nuclear weapons.

Iran's nuclear program can be rolled back well-beyond the current proposal by insisting on a better deal and keeping up the pressure on a very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse in the price of oil.

Now, if Iran threatens to walk away from the table – and this often happens in a Persian bazaar – call their bluff. They'll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.

And by maintaining the pressure on Iran and on those who do business with Iran, you have the power to make them need it even more. My friends, for over a year, we've been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It's a very bad deal. We're better off without it.

Now we're being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That's just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal: a better deal that doesn't leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and such a short breakout time; a better deal that keeps the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program in place until Iran's aggression ends; a better deal that won't give Iran an easy path to the bomb; a better deal that Israel and its neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally. And no country has a greater stake – no country has a greater stake than Israel in a good deal that peacefully removes this threat.

Ladies and gentlemen,

History has placed us at a fateful crossroads. We must now choose between two paths. One path leads to a bad deal that will at best curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions for a while, but it will inexorably lead to a nuclear-armed Iran whose unbridled aggression will inevitably lead to war. The second path, however difficult, could lead to a much better deal, that would prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclearized Middle East and the horrific consequences of both to all of humanity.

You don't have to read Robert Frost to know. You have to live life to know that the difficult path is usually the one less traveled, but it will make all the difference for the future of my country, the security of the Middle East and the peace of the world, the peace we all desire.

My friends, standing up to Iran is not easy. Standing up to dark and murderous regimes never is. With us today is Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel. Elie, your life and work inspires to give meaning to the words, 'Never Again.' And I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Not to sacrifice the future for the present; not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.

But I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over. We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves. We restored our sovereignty in our ancient home. And the soldiers who defend our home have boundless courage. For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.

This is why as Prime Minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand. But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel. I know that you stand with Israel. You stand with Israel because you know that the story of Israel is not only the story of the Jewish people but of the human spirit that refuses again and again to succumb to history's horrors.

Facing me right up there in the gallery, overlooking all of us in this chamber is the image of Moses. Moses led our people from slavery to the gates of the Promised Land. And before the people of Israel entered the Land of Israel, Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years. I leave you with his message today, 'Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.'

My friends, may Israel and America always stand together, strong and resolute. May we neither fear nor dread the challenges ahead. May we face the future with confidence, strength and hope.

May God bless the State of Israel and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you. You're wonderful. Thank you, America."
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President Rivlin meets Israel's ambassadors to Latin America

The growing economic relations between Israel and Latin America is a source of pride to the Israeli economy and testament to its strength as a hothouse of innovation and entrepreneurship.

President Reuven Rivlin met at the President's Residence with 20 Israeli ambassadors to Latin America, both currently serving and newly appointed.

The President thanked the ambassadors for their efforts and said, "I salute you, who serve as our representatives in states where such representation is so needed, at times under difficult conditions and far from home. The people of Israel owe you a debt of gratitude. The growing economic relations between Israel and Latin America is a source of pride to the Israeli economy and testament to its strength as a hothouse of innovation and entrepreneurship. I view this meeting as a unique opportunity for the State of Israel to thank each of you for the work you do in the countries in which you represent our country."

Modi Ephraim, Deputy Director General of the Foreign Ministry's Division for Central and South America and Head of the Political Directorate, presented the ambassadors, saying: "The ambassador here serve in the Latin American continent. This is a friendly continent, with which we have had good relations throughout the years. There are however several countries which are more critical. There are many anti-Israeli initiatives and unfortunately also manifestations of antisemitism which we had not witnessed before. We are striving to improve Israel's position in the region, and have been accepted as an observer in the Pacific Alliance, a growing economic bloc in the continent. Israel is today a leader in innovation and cooperation, in the fields of agriculture and security."
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Rockets Fired from Syria Hit Northern Israel: Two rocket hits were identified in the Golan; IDF returned fire, fighter jets were sent forward

Alarm sounded in several towns near the border. Local residents were instructed to stay close to the protected spaces

Alarm sounded today (Tuesday) afternoon in the communities of: Redness, Al-Rom, Bukaata, Massadeh Majdal Shams, restaurant, Neve Ati''b, Nimrod and 'Ein Qiniya Golan Heights. The army said that four launches were identified from Syria, and that the two falls were located in northern plateau. The IDF returned fire and fired dozens of artillery shells at the area of Syria. At the same time, planes and helicopters were sent forward to the border area.

Home Front Command ordered the residents of the area to remain close to the protected spaces, and ordered farmers to move away from agricultural areas near the border with Syria. In addition, the police blocked main roads to avoid civilian vehicles to get to the border area.

Just last week, Lt. Gen. Benjamin “Benny” Gantz spoke of the situation in northern Israel. “IDF forces are closely monitoring the events taking place here [in northern Israel], and are prepared, alert, and ready to act if necessary,” he said.

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FM Liberman on defeat of Palestinian draft resolution

The failure of the Palestinian resolution must teach the Palestinians that provocation and attempts to impose unilateral measures on Israel will not achieve anything.


Following the defeat of the Palestinian draft resolution in the UN Security Council, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said: "The failure of the Palestinian resolution must teach the Palestinians that provocation and attempts to impose unilateral measures on Israel will not achieve anything - to the contrary."

According to FM Liberman, "The Palestinians' contempt for the most important states in the international community, first and foremost the United States, stems in part from the support they enjoy from some of the European states. Every state that truly wishes to promote a solution to the conflict must behave responsibly and make it clear to the Palestinians that decisions are made only around the negotiating table."

FM Liberman praised the work of the Foreign Ministry staff who, for the second time in the past three years, succeeded in thwarting the Palestinian resolution, through a concerted effort and thanks to the diplomatic relations that Israel has cultivated and developed in Africa and in eastern and central Europe.
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Cross-border attack from Gaza

​In response to the unprovoked attack, in which an IDF combat soldier from the Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion was severely wounded, the IDF targeted Hamas positions in Gaza with tank fire and an airstrike.

​Following is a summary of events near the Gaza border earlier today (Wednesday, 24 December) according to media reports:

Today's events began with Palestinian sniper fire, including machine gun fire, on IDF troops protecting construction workers on the Israeli side of the border with the southern Gaza Strip. The laborers were working on the border fence near Kibbutz Kissufim.

As a result of the attack, an IDF combat soldier from the Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion suffered a severe chest injury and was evacuated to hospital for further medical treatment. The soldier's family has been notified.

In response to the unprovoked attack, the IDF targeted Hamas positions in Gaza with tank fire and an airstrike. According to Palestinian sources, the commander of the Hamas al-Qassam Brigades' observation unit was killed in the exchange of fire.

This morning's attack follows the launch of a rocket from Gaza into southern Israel on Friday (19 December). In response to that attack, the Israel Air Force struck a Hamas installation in the Gaza Strip, the first Israeli retaliatory strike since the summer's conflict with Hamas.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF Spokesman: "This attack, the second this week, is a lethal violation of the relative quiet along the Gaza border and is a blatant breach of Israel's sovereignty. The IDF will continue to use all necessary means in order to maintain the safety of the citizens of southern Israel and will not hesitate to respond to any attempt to harm IDF soldiers."
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Israel and Germany mark 50th jubilee of relations

Alongside memories of the past and a complex and variegated history, Israel and Germany share common values and a vision for the future, and are working to increase cooperation in a wide variety of fields.

On Wednesday, in Berlin, the Israel Foreign Ministry officially launched the events marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. The event took place in the residence of Israel Ambassador Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, with the participation of German President Joachim Gauck, who joined the ambassador in lighting the Hanukkah candles.

This event is an important landmark in the deep relations between the two countries. Alongside memories of the past and a complex and variegated history, Israel and Germany share common values and a vision for the future, and are working to increase cooperation in a wide variety of fields. Today, the special relations between the countries is expressed in many areas, including policy-making, diplomacy, business, science, culture and more.

Speaking at the ceremony, German President Gauck said: "We have begun the 50th jubilee year, during which Israeli President Rivlin will come to Germany for a state visit in May. While we will certainly not forget the past, more importantly: We will look forward, we will work together to ensure that our special, friendly relations continue to deepen. Germany will always stand on the side of Israel, with a friendship that has been proven even in difficult times."

Dozens of events in many fields will be held during the 50th anniversary year, both in Germany and in Israel. To this end, the government of Israel has allocated a special budget of NIS 4 million. These events, led by the Israel Foreign Ministry in coordination with other government ministries, are guided by the desire to strengthen the ties of the young generation in Germany to the State of Israel and Israeli society.

These events will include, for example, a visit to Israel by a delegation of promising young people from Germany, and an art exhibit by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to be displayed at the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum in Berlin. The annual book fair in Leipzig will be dedicated to Israel, and a children's theater festival in Berlin will focus on Israeli plays.

The jubilee program also includes official events and ceremonies. President Rivlin will visit Berlin in May to mark the anniversary of the establishment of relations with Germany (May 12), a joint event on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a joint Israeli-German postage stamp, and more.

Beyond these events, the year 2015 will provide an opportunity to launch new long-term cooperative projects, in order to further strengthen the ties between the two peoples. One such project is the "New Kibbutz", in which young Germans from Bavaria will spend several months as interns in Israeli high-tech companies. This project, which promises to be economically profitable while forging ties between young Israelis and Germans, is a good example of the varied and intentisve activity which we can expect to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.
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