EGYPT: Makes Way for Imports of Israeli Natural Gas

From HAARETZ:

New law promises to put an end to years of uncertainty and could lead to big contracts for Tamar and Leviathan gas fields.

After years of delays and uncertainty, Egypt could be on its way to becoming a major market for Israeli natural gas exports after President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi signed legislation on Tuesday forming a gas regulatory authority and permitting private sector companies to import gas.

Egypt, along with Turkey, is one of two regional markets that could buy large quantities of gas from Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs, but none of the deals reached in the past have panned out.

In March 2015, the Tamar partners signed a seven-year deal with Dolphinus Holdings, a firm that represents nongovernmental, industrial and commercial consumers in Egypt, to sell it at least five billion cubic meters in the first three years. But the EMG, the company that owns and operates a gas pipeline linking Egypt and Israel, balked and regulatory approvals from Israel and Egypt never came.

A few months later, the Leviathan partners reached a nonbinding agreement to supply Dolphinus with up to four BCM annually for a period of 10 to 15 years. That also required EMG’s consent.

But the new Egyptian law should make it easier for these deals – and perhaps others – to go through. David Stover, CEO of the American oil and natural gas company Noble Energy, the operating partner in the Tamar and Leviathan fields, hinted as much last week.

“The [Leviathan] team continues to progress on new contract discussions with customers in Israel, Jordan and Egypt. I’m confident that the gross 1.2 billion cubic feet per day of Leviathan Phase 1 capacity will be mostly filled by start-ups,” he told analysts last Thursday.

The new authority and the law are expected to pave the way for private sector companies to import and distribute gas within the country using Egypt’s domestic pipeline network, activities currently monopolized by the government.

In addition, Egypt is home to two big foreign-owned liquefied natural gas plants – one owned by Royal Dutch Shell and the other by Union Fenosa – both of which have been shut since 2011 because the supply of local natural gas slated for export as LNG was cut off.

But the new law is part of what Egypt has said is a plan to become a regional hub for the trade in LNG. After a string of major discoveries led by the giant Zohr field, the country will end many years of gas shortages and once again become gas self-sufficient by the end of 2018. Nevertheless, imported Israeli gas could be a key part of the equation.

The new law, called Resolution No. 196 of 2017 and aimed at attracting greater private sector participation in the country’s rapidly expanding gas sector, will go into effect later this year. Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Tarek El-Molla is due to issue regulations and then the government company EGAS will begin issuing export licenses.

Apart from Dolphinus, at least four other Egyptian companies have expressed an interest in importing gas, according to local media reports.

Interview With Israeli Activist Hananya Naftali, Part II

From the Daily Wire:

In part I of my interview with Hananya Naftali, we talked about serving in the IDF, the possibility of compromise between Israel and the Palestinians, and the biggest misconceptions Westerners have about Israel.

Here’s part II of my exclusive chat with the Israeli social media influencer.

Israel vs. The West

When we spoke about why many in the West — especially in Europe — seem to be so dead set against Israel, Naftali made a salient point, noting that once someone has settled upon their personal “truth,” it’s very difficult to change their mind:

“Years ago, Israel failed to properly explain itself; they failed to project the truth. I’ve heard from a lot a people that they didn’t see the truth in the media — and I’m quoting people who don’t hate Israel. They looked for the truth, and it was hard for them to find it. It was a failure. Obviously, it’s not like that today, but it’s very hard to tell the truth once people think that they know their truth.”

He also placed some of the blame on the United Nations:

“I think that the United Nations is biased against Israel because it is trying to be politically correct. It’s very easy to portray the weaker people as the victims; it’s very right in the eyes of the Western world. I think that’s ridiculous.” He added that “perhaps the U.N. is tending more to the Palestinian side because it’s getting a lot of money from Arab countries.”

Despite the U.N.’s stiff neck, Naftali said that Israel is “very happy to have Nikki Haley at the United Nations to tell the truth and to represent us. Something like that is powerful when it comes from an ally — someone who is not an Israeli, but knows the truth.”

Anti-Semitism

“Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is on the rise,” Naftali stated flatly. “Only last week, we heard about the Al Quds march in London, and it’s shocking to hear statements like ‘We are fed up with the rabbis,’ ‘We are fed up with their synagogues,’ and ‘We are fed up with Zionists.’ It’s the most hateful anti-Semitic statement I’ve heard in a while in the streets of a capital city. It is evil.”

Al Quds Day, “which Iran initiated in 1979 to express support for the Palestinians and opposition of Israel’s existence…is held on the last Friday of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

Speaking further of anti-Israel sentiment, Naftali said that he believes “people are so sure of their truth that they are unwilling to listen to anything else.”

He stated that while “the United States is very stable and strong in its opinion regarding anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism,” other nations are failing to speak the truth:

“If world leaders continue in their political correctness, they will fail to be leaders. They were put in their position to lead, and not be afraid of other peoples’ opinions. A great example of being politically correct — a few days ago, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, refused to answer a question regarding the Al Quds march, which supports Hezbollah, a well-known terrorist organization. Many leaders behave in this way, and it leads to anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.”

“I think it’s time to stop this. People are going to be offended whether you say A or you say B. There will always be people who disagree, so the better choice is to not be politically correct.”

Is Peace Possible?

In a rather unexpected moment, Naftali said he indeed believes peace is achievable:

“I would say that peace is possible. I would also say the fewer countries that get involved, the better, because it’s something that Israel and the Palestinians should resolve themselves. When a lot of leaders get involved, it becomes more complicated, and harder to resolve. There are certain conditions that Israel will not compromise on, such as funding terror. I think that’s a basic demand. That said, I think peace is achievable.”

Change of Heart

Naftali noted that he’s not trying to change hardened hearts, but that his videos are made for “the people who have no opinion; the people that are not sure about what’s happening. I don’t target anti-Israeli people because they tend to be hateful, and not listen to your opinion.”

Incredible Stories

During our nearly hour-long interview, Naftali told me two remarkable stories that left me stunned:

“I have a few interesting stories regarding people who changed their opinion. I once got a message from an Egyptian student who told me that he intended to enter Israel via Jordan, and stab Jews — because that’s what society taught him, to hate Jews. Somehow, he stumbled on my videos, and he told me that his opinion was completely changed. Now he loves the Jews. I was incredibly touched by his story, but he has to keep his change of heart to himself because his society would kill him.”

“Another message I got was from a guy in Ramallah, which is where the Palestinian Authority is based. He sent me a message saying that his society taught him to hate Israel — that’s how he grew up — but he always felt like there was something they weren’t telling him. He found my content on YouTube, and he was fascinated by — first of all, seeing that I’m not a monster like his society portrays me — and seeing that I’m a human being, just like him. I want peace; I want to be loved.”

“He told me that he started to support Israel, but unfortunately, he’s not able to share it with anyone because he knows that as soon as he tells anybody that he loves Israel, that he supports the Jewish nation, he would get himself killed.”

“I’ve gotten messages from Palestinian people, from Egyptian people, from Iranian people. I know that within those countries, there are people that support Israel, but because of their society, they are not able to share it because they need to protect themselves.”

Theocracy?

I made sure to ask about the notion that the Israeli government is at risk of becoming a theocracy — a seemingly common notion among progressives. When I brought up the idea, Naftali was incredulous: “In Israel, there is a complex of people with their opinions, and their cultures. When someone is elected, like Benjamin Netanyahu, he needs to build a coalition. He has to compromise; he has to give a stage to the Palestinian people, the Arab people, the Christian people, and the religious people.”

He noted that the right-wing religious parties could conceivably gain a majority, but even if they did, they would have to compromise, and build a coalition.

The Finale

At the end of our conversation, I left the floor open for Naftali to say anything he wanted. He concluded with a direct and powerful message:

“I’d like to tell your readers not to listen to everything they hear in the media. It’s very easy to twist the truth — to put some videos together, or to take some words out of context. It happens a lot. Israel is the Western world’s base in the Middle East. We share common values. As the Middle East is on fire — with the civil war in Syria, and the terrorist organizations that are building themselves with the help of Iran — Israel remains the most stable country in the region.

“I would encourage your readers to read more about what’s happening in the Middle East because it’s very interesting how Israel is able to remain stable, how Israel is able to remain humane, and how Israel promotes the Palestinians. They live among us, and I, as an Israeli, want their good; I love them, and I cannot hate them because they are human beings, just like me.”

Click the respective links to follow Hananya Naftali on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. I highly recommend it. He’s a strong voice for Israel, and someone who’s presence will make an indelible impact in the coming years.

‘Joseph’ Musical Removes ‘Israel’ From Its Lyrics

From The Daily Wire:

Most of us are familiar with the Biblical story of Joseph and his multicolored coat, which his father, Jacob, made for him as a sign of his favor. Joseph’s brothers became jealous, threw him into a pit, and then sold him as a slave, and Joseph ended up in Egypt, eventually becoming second-in-command to Pharaoh himself. When the brothers eventually traveled to Egypt to look for food, Joseph as the viceroy, who was unbeknownst to them, revealed himself to them.

This major biblical event was the precursor to the Israelites becoming slaves in Egypt until God, with the help of Moses, took them out, an event which Jews commemorate on Passover.

The story of Joseph is a major catalyst, if not the main precursor, to most of the Torah (Five books of Moses). The entire story of the Exodus is based on it. And no one would deny that it was the children of Israel who went to Egypt and later left based on this event

A children’s production of the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, originally written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, scheduled to play in September at the Artsplash Festival in New Zealand, was criticized by the original musical’s lyricist Tim Rice for replacing the phrase “Children of Israel” with “Children of Kindness” without his permission.

The change in lyrics was noticed when song sheets were handed out to the participants. One astute woman saw the change and questioned on Twitter why they changed the lyrics and if they had permission to do this.

The Wellington City Council, which partially funds the festival, promised Rice it will force the production company to put the original lyrics back in. But as reported by Christian Today, Artsplash coordinator Mary Prichard and her team made the changes in order to “keep life simple” for the schoolchildren. Prichard added that she wanted the music to cover kids from all countries and backgrounds. She then apologized on Facebook, saying how she “would never consider doing anything racist or anti any religion.”

However, according to New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman, it was a clear case of unnecessary political correctness. Additionally, Jewish academic Dr. Irene Lancaster said that the move is clearly part of an anti-Semitic agenda that is plaguing the West.

It is sad to say that this story is not surprising in the least. This incident comes from the same mentality that leads to the failed and naïve notion that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can be achieved and that giving away half of Israel would do that. It is the same worldview that thinks that both Muslims and Jews have equal claim to Jerusalem and that it is not the capital of Israel. And it is truly egregious that most world leaders believe that even the Western Wall, the one remnant of the Jewish Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. (600 years before the rise of Islam) and currently the holiest site in Judaism, does not belong to the Jews.

This is what happens when a worldview is based in feelings and not in facts. As Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro has stated, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” But when feelings take over, facts fall by the wayside, and these types of stunts, such as the one of the Artsplash festival’s blatant whitewash of history, are the fruit that is borne.

IN DC, JORDAN’S KING DISCUSSES US EMBASSY IN ISRAEL, ISIS, SYRIA

kamptae

Jordan’s King Abdullah is the first Arab leader in Washington for talks with the Trump administration.

Abdullah held a private breakfast with US Vice President Mike Pence and then met US Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon.

Pence and Abdullah discussed a range of issues from speeding up the fight against Islamic State, the crisis in Syria, and efforts to reach an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, the White House said.

Abdullah also raised the issue of potential changes to the US embassy in Israel, the White House said in a statement.

Abdullah has just finished a visit to Russia where President Vladimir Putin thanked Jordan for supporting the Syrian peace process. Jordan is part of a US-led military campaign against Islamic State militants in Syria.

Less than a week into his presidency, Trump said in a television interview on Wednesday that he would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria” for refugees fleeing violence and that Europe had made a mistake by admitting millions of refugees from Syria.

The creation of safe zones would ratchet up US military involvement in Syria and mark a major departure from former President Barack Obama’s more cautious approach. Increased US or allied air power would be required if Trump chose to enforce “no fly” restrictions, and ground forces might also be needed to protect civilians in those areas.

Abdullah’s visit comes as Trump signed an executive order that would include a temporary ban on all refugees, and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran.

Jordan has been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees since the Syrian conflict began. The vast majority of refugees referred by the UN refugee agency to the United States come from Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq.

Trump is expected to greet Abdullah at a prayer event in Washington on Thursday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer separately told reporters in a daily briefing.

Original Article: The Jerusalem Post

 

UN Security Council passes anti-settlement resolution, US abstains

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After the United States abstained from voting, the UN Security Council on Friday passed a resolution demanding Israel stop building settlements on Palestinian territory, a reversal of US practice to protect Israel from United Nations action.

The resolution was put forward at the 15-member council for a vote on Friday by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal a day after Egypt withdrew it under pressure from Israel and US President-elect Donald Trump. Israel and Trump had called on the United States to veto the measure.

It was adopted with 14 votes in favor, to a round of applause. It is the first resolution the Security Council has adopted on Israel and the Palestinians in nearly eight years.

Original Article: The Jerusalem Post

UN Seeks To Target Israeli Settlements, Trump SLAMS

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The Obama administration suggested Thursday that it would refrain from attempting to block an anti-Israel UN security council resolution calling for an end to settlement building activities. Throwing out years of pro-Israel advocacy in the United Nations, the administration’s decision marked a major break from de facto US policy. According to Reuters, “two Western officials said that U.S. President Barack Obama had intended to abstain from the vote, a relatively rare step by the United States to register criticism of the building on occupied land that the Palestinians want for a state.”

The vote on the resolution was scheduled for Thursday afternoon, but Egypt, the country that initially proposed the draft to the resolution, delayed the vote until further notice. Early reports indicate that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi received a call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asking him to obstruct the vote. Western diplomats also told Reuters that el-Sisi’s decision was partly fueled by a desire not to prematurely offend President-elect Donald Trump who had vehemently opposed the resolution.

The Egyptian president’s office added that Sisi had spoke to Trump directly about the matter.

“The presidents agreed on the importance of affording the new U.S. administration the full chance to deal with all dimensions of the Palestinian case with a view of achieving a full and final settlement,” stated presidency spokesman Alaa Yousef.

The Trump transition team has signaled a sharp break from the hostile Israel policies of the Obama administration.

Over his nearly eight years in office, Obama has demonized Israel’s settlement building activities in the West Bank, suggesting that Jewish State’s supposedly belligerent behavior is a major impediment to the so-called peace process. Downplaying the terrorism of Palestinian jihadists, the White House once even insisted all future negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis should be based on pre-1967 borders, a provocation that angered Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cabinet.

But President-elect Trump’s choice of David Friedman as the next US ambassador to Israel has pushed all the right buttons in the anti-Israel Left. An ardent defender of settlements and pro-Israel hawk, Friedman has already said that he has plans to take the US embassy in Tel Aviv to its rightful place in the Jewish people’s eternal capital of Jerusalem.

Original Article: The Daily Wire

Former Israeli UNESCO Envoy: New Resolution Ignoring Jewish Ties to Jerusalem ‘Truly Scandalous’ But Will Have ‘No Real-World Impact’

fieturai

UNESCO’s approval of a resolution that ignored the Jewish people’s ties with Jerusalem holy sites was “truly scandalous” but will have “absolutely no real-world impact,” a former Israeli ambassador to the global cultural body told The Algemeiner on Thursday.

David Kornbluth — who worked as an Israeli diplomat for more than three decades and served as Israel’s UNESCO envoy between 2005 and 2009 — said such resolutions have only two tangible effects — “putting off Israelis with UNESCO and the UN” and “inciting extremists among the Arabs to carry on with fairytale propaganda.”

“Unfortunately, UNESCO has gone the wrong way,” Kornbluth told The Algemeiner. “The Executive Board, which passed this resolution, has always been very problematic. But until a few years ago, it didn’t dare to attempt to do anything that was so counter-intuitive and so contrary to the facts.”

The resolution, Kornbluth emphasized, “doesn’t help the Palestinians in any way and it doesn’t help get peace negotiations going.”

Furthermore, he noted, “it pushes any possibility of ever reaching an agreement on matters like Jerusalem even further away.”

At Thursday’s meeting of the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris, 24 countries voted in favor of the resolution and six — the US, UK, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Estonia — voted against. 26 countries abstained and two countries were missing from the vote.

Kornbluth took some solace in the fact that no European country backed the resolution.

“You can’t call it a diplomatic success, but it wasn’t a bad vote total for Israel,” he said. “It used to be just America, and maybe one or two other countries, who would vote with us on issues like this.”

“I think more countries have come to realize that these resolutions are destroying UNESCO,” Kornbluth continued. “I would’ve liked to have seen France vote against the resolution, but it’s hard to get Europeans to stand up and be counted. The United States, however, all through the last decades, has been a staunch ally of Israel at UNESCO.”

Kornbluth went on to say, “Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu has been saying for a while now that Israel’s status is improving at UN organizations and there will be more and more states that come out to support us or abstain. So this might be a step in that direction.”

Promoters of the resolution included a slew of authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes, Kornbluth pointed out, and the two biggest world powers to support it were China and Russia.

“In democracies, history is history and we don’t change it by UNESCO resolutions,” Kornbluth said. “But that is not the case with these dictatorship countries. These countries don’t have the same relationship as the Western world does with the facts. As [the late US Ambassador to the UN and New York Senator] Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, ‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.’ Hopefully, there will be even more Western states who realize that next time, as it’s really their history that is being challenged as well.”

The language of the resolution, which uses Arabic names for Jewish holy sites like the Temple Mount and Western Wall, “plays into the hands of those around the world seeking to delegitimize Israel,” Kornbluth said. “It plays into the old lie of Zionism is racism. It plays into all those old lies from decades ago. And it gives extremists more energy. But in truth, the whole thing will not get them very far. However, they do enjoy it in their propaganda world.”

Kornbluth did say there would be many people at UNESCO who would be upset by the resolution, as it would lessen the chances of the US Congress restoring funding to the organization — funding that was cut off after UNESCO admitted “Palestine” as a member state in 2011.

“This whole thing is very sad for UNESCO,” Kornbluth said. “The passage of the resolution is worse for UNESCO than it is for Israel, that’s for sure.”

Original Article: Algemeiner

UNESCO Backs Motion Nullifying Jewish Ties to Temple Mount

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Due to Israeli efforts, no European country backed the motion, which describes the Temple Mount as holy to Muslims alone, without mentioning the site’s significance to Jews.

UNESCO adopted an anti-Israel resolution Thursday that disregards Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount and casts doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall.
Twenty-four countries voted in favor of the decision while six voted against and 26 abstained while just two were missing from the vote.
The U.S., Britain, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Estonia voted against the resolution.

A senior source said that the efforts of Israeli diplomats significantly changed the votes of European states, none of which supported the motion. Israeli efforts, he said, succeeded in swaying France, Sweden, Slovenia, Argentina, Togo and India to abstain from the vote.

The resolution, which condemns Israel on several issues regarding Jerusalem and its holy sites, was advanced by the Palestinians alongside Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan.
The resolution asserted that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. However, it includes a special section dealing with the Temple Mount, which says the site is sacred only to Muslims and fails to mention that it is sacred to the Jews as well. In fact, it mentions neither the Hebrew term for the site – Har HaBayit – nor its English equivalent, the Temple Mount. The site is referred to only by its Muslim names – Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram al-Sharif.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision as “absurd theater,” adding: “To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China and that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids.”
“With this absurd decision, UNESCO lost the little legitimization it had left. But I believe that the historical truth is stronger and the truth will win,” he said.
Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, said in response to the vote: “The Palestinians have lost all support in Europe, including France, Spain and even Sweden. Along with the shift of position of key countries such as India and Argentina to abstention, the vote constitutes a significant achievement [for Israel] compared to the opening conditions for prior votes.”
The UNESCO executive board made a similar resolution at the organization’s previous conference in April. The resolution was passed with the support of a number of European states, headed by France. This caused an acute diplomatic crisis between Israel and France, which included a harsh telephone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande.
The French president and other senior French officials promised after that incident that they would not support such resolutions in the future.
Chairman of the Zionist Union party and leader of the Israeli opposition, Isaac Herzog, urged UNESCO to withdraw the resolution, saying: “UNESCO betray their mission, and give a bad name to diplomacy and the international institutions. Whoever wants to rewrite history, to distort fact, and to completely invent the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people, is telling a terrible lie that only serves to increase hatred.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in response to the vote: “No forum or body in the world can say that there is no connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel and to Jerusalem.  A body that does so is simply humiliating itself.” The president added that “we also understand criticism, but history cannot be changed.”
For his part, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said: “This decision is a message to inciters and rewriters of history working tirelessly out of hate.”
In the past weeks Shama-Hacohen and Israeli ambassadors in dozens of capitals worldwide attempted to convince as many states as possible to oppose the resolution, or to at least abstain or not vote at all.
The Foreign Ministry issued a brochure with pictures of archaeological findings proving the historic affiliation between the Jews and Jerusalem in general and the Temple Mount in particular, as well as the existence of the Temple Mount at the site where the Al-Aqsa Mosque stands today.
One of the findings shown in the brochure is the Arch of Titus in Rome, on which images of holy artifacts that the Romans took as spoils from the Second Temple in Jerusalem are depicted. These include the Menorah, which is the symbol of the Israeli state today.
In a letter Shama-Hacohen distributed to the ambassadors of UNESCO’s executive board’s 58 member states, he wrote that without undermining other religions’ affiliation to Jerusalem’s holy sites, the archaeological facts and historical evidence presented by the accompanying brochure “leave no doubt…of the deepest and longest Jewish presence in Jerusalem since ancient times.”
He wrote that every attempt to distort history and undercut the Jewish people’s ties to Jerusalem “is an attempt to rewrite history in a dangerous, unfair and one-sided manner.”

A senior Foreign Ministry official said Israel received information over the past week that numerous Arab states, including those that signed the resolution proposal with the Palestinians, support it due to public opinion at home. “A number of Arab states have reportedly expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the Palestinians’ moves in UNESCO,” he said.

They speak out sharply against the Palestinians and say they exaggerate and become more radical but stress they have no choice but to support the resolution out of domestic political considerations.”
Shama-Hacohen told Haaretz the move is a blow to UNESCO, as such acts are the reason for the United States’ continued suspension of its membership fees to the organization.
“The Palestinians’ persistence is costing UNESCO about 100 million euros in American membership fees,” he said. “Just a few days ago the American ambassador said in public for the first time at a debate in UNESCO that decisions about Jerusalem prevent the administration from obtaining a majority in Congress to approve the payment.
“Albert Einstein has already said that insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. The Palestinians and Arabs apparently disagree with him, and try time and time again in the same failed manner to sever the strongest tie between a nation and a certain location in human history,” said Shama-Hacohen. “There is no older, deeper and stronger connection than that of the Jewish people to Jerusalem in general and the holy sites in particular.”
Original Article: HAARETZ

United States Criticizes Israel Over West Bank Settlement Plan

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The Obama administration on Wednesday castigated the Israeli government for approving plans to create a new Jewish settlement on the West Bank, three weeks after it signed a lucrative military aid package with the United States and just as President Obama was traveling to Jerusalem for the funeral of Shimon Peres.

In an uncommonly harsh statement, the State Department “strongly condemned” the move, asserting that it violated Israel’s pledge not to construct new settlements and ran counter to the long-term security interests Israel was seeking to protect with the military deal, which provides $38 billion in assistance over the next decade.

The new settlement, one of a string of housing complexes that threaten to bisect the West Bank, is designed to house settlers from a nearby illegal outpost, Amona, which an Israeli court has ordered demolished.

The timing of the approval especially infuriated the White House, American officials said, because it came after Mr. Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations. Mr. Netanyahu, they said, gave the president no advance warning, even though Mr. Obama expressed deep concerns about Israel’s continuing settlement construction. The officials declined to speak for attribution owing to the sensitivity of the issue.

“It is disheartening that while Israel and the world mourned the passing of President Shimon Peres, and leaders from the U.S. and other nations prepared to honor one of the great champions of peace, plans were advanced that would seriously undermine the prospects for a two-state solution that he so passionately supported,” the State Department’s deputy spokesman, Mark Toner, said in the four-paragraph statement.

The harsh words also rekindled speculation that Mr. Obama might lay down guidelines for a proposed peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians before he leaves office, either in a speech or, less likely, by backing a resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

“The administration has been escalating its rhetoric in opposition to West Bank settlement activity for more than a year,” said Martin S. Indyk, who served as Mr. Obama’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. “The government of Israel doesn’t seem to be listening.”

“At a certain point,” said Mr. Indyk, who is now the executive vice president of the Brookings Institution, “the administration may well decide that there needs to be consequences for what it now sees as an effort to close off the two-state solution.”

Mr. Obama, officials said, has kept his own counsel about whether to thrust himself back into the peace process. After two failed attempts to broker an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, the president is leery of getting involved in another hopeless effort, aides say. He would also likely consult with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, were she to win to make sure his move did not complicate her plans.

The plan for a new settlement grows out of a bitter impasse between the Israeli authorities and settlers in Amona, which sits on a hilltop near the Palestinian administrative capital, Ramallah. Israel’s High Court of Justice has ordered the residents of Amona, which is built on private, Palestinian-owned land, to leave by Dec. 25.

The government’s plan is to move them to the newly approved settlement, built on public land, which would initially have 98 houses and eventually could accommodate up to 300 houses. The settlers have so far refused, creating an acute political crisis for Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition government.

The Israeli authorities have dealt with other such standoffs by seeking to retroactively legalize the settlements. But because Amona is built on private Palestinian land, it cannot solve the problem with legal machinations. Israeli authorities view the settlement as a “satellite” of another settlement, Shvut Rachel, which itself was retroactively legalized and lies within the redrawn boundaries of an established settlement, Shilo.

“The 98 housing units approved in Shilo do not constitute a ‘new settlement,’ ” Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “Israel,” the ministry added, “remains committed to a solution of two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel.”

For American officials, the problem is that Israel is establishing a string of settlements, which the administration’s statement said “effectively divide the West Bank and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote.” The latest settlement, the State Department said, was “deep in the West Bank, far closer to Jordan than to Israel.”

No matter how strongly worded its condemnations, some former diplomats said, it would do little to change Israel’s behavior. They urged Mr. Obama to lay down his version of a road map to a peace deal.

“Of course he should,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel and Egypt. “These statements are meaningless if there is no action. The U.S. should expect Israel not to do these things, especially as ‘compensation’ for removal of an illegal outpost.”

Israel has a long history of ill-timed announcements on settlements.

In 2010, four months after Mr. Netanyahu had agreed to a moratorium on the construction of settlements in the West Bank, municipal authorities in Jerusalem approved 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem that had been excluded from the agreement. The announcement came as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was visiting Israel, and was viewed in Washington as a slap in the face.

At Mr. Obama’s behest, Mrs. Clinton, then secretary of state, delivered a 43-minute lecture to Mr. Netanyahu over the phone. Officials said the episode angered the president more than Mr. Biden himself.

Settlements have poisoned the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu from the earliest days of the administration. Mr. Obama demanded that Israel halt construction as a gesture to draw the Palestinians back to the bargaining table. Mr. Netanyahu complained that the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, frittered away most of the 10-month moratorium before sitting down to talk.

The timing of this approval, administration officials said, was particularly galling: Israeli authorities approved the settlement on the day that Mr. Peres, one of Israel’s founding fathers, died — and two days before Mr. Obama arrived in Jerusalem. That raised the possibility that the news could have leaked out while the president was at the funeral, which officials said would have dwarfed the diplomatic uproar during Mr. Biden’s visit.

For Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu, it is a bitter coda to a relationship that seemed to end on an uncharacteristically gracious note in New York, when the two men smiled for the cameras, and the prime minister invited the president to Israel to play golf at a course next to his house.

Privately, the president raised concerns with Mr. Netanyahu about settlement construction and what Mr. Obama regards as its corrosive effect on the peace process. On Wednesday, Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said the administration felt misled yet again by the Israelis.

“We did receive public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this announcement,” Mr. Earnest said. “I guess when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a source of serious concern as well.”

Original Article: New York Times

Saudi Arabia unblocks online access to ‘The Jerusalem Post’

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A reader in Saudi Arabia also wrote on Twitter on Monday that he can now access the site from there on his mobile device.

After years without reliable verification, a Saudi Arabian journalist confirmed on Monday that Saudis can now access The Jerusalem Post online from inside the Kingdom.

A reader in Saudi Arabia also wrote on Twitter on Monday that he can now access the site from there on his mobile device.

It is unclear when the Kingdom stopped censoring JPost.com, but it apparently blocked access to the site beginning in May 2013. The Post features extensive coverage of Saudi Arabia and its role in the Middle East peace process.

“Traffic in the Kingdom actually went back up in summer of 2014,” Ilan Yogev, the Post’s content collaboration manager said on Wednesday, adding he has not seen any change to suggest that something is different in recent months.

Ahmed Abdel-Raheem is an Egyptian artist and PhD student and lecturer at Al-Lith College for Girls at Saudi Arabia’s Um Al-Qura University.

In 2013, he wrote on the conservative British website The Commentator, “Over the past week I have tried to access the website of the newspaper The Jerusalem Post, but every time I click the link of the paper, I have received the message: ‘Sorry, the requested page is unavailable.’” At the time, Jpost.com’s managing editor said, “Since the start of May, there has been an almost 100% drop in the number of visits to Jpost.com from Saudi Arabia. Up until April 30, we were getting hundreds of visits from Saudi Arabia every day, and now it is less than 10. There is clearly a demand for news from The Jerusalem Post, and it is a shame that the Saudi regime is proving yet again that it is determined to stifle freedom of thought and expression among its own population.”

While it excluded the Post in 2013, the Kingdom at that time allowed other major Israeli news organizations to operate.

All major Israeli news websites are now accessible in the Kingdom, according to recent reports.

Original Article: The Jerusalem Post

Palestinians say ‘two states’ but not ‘for two peoples’

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Palestinian Authority officials have been using a deceptive version of the “two states for two peoples” motto when they speak to different audiences, according to a leading Israeli scholar.

Eytan Gilboa, professor of international communications at Bar-Ilan University and former consultant to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made the charge in his remarks at the 2016 National Israeli-American Conference held in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

More than 2,000 Israeli-Americans from around the country attended the conference. Gilboa’s panel, which attracted a standing-room only audience of about 150, also included Ron Prossor, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Dennis Ross, a former U.S. Mideast envoy, Koby Huberman, co-founder of Israel Peace Initiative, and Dana Weiss of Israel’s Channel 2 news network.

Gilboa said that PA officials who speak of “two states for two peoples” when addressing Western audiences, leave out the words “for two peoples” when speaking in Arabic to a different audience. “That’s because they do not accept the idea that the Jews are a national people with a right to national self-determination,” Gilboa said. “They still do not recognize the right of Israel to exist as a permanent Jewish state.”

This Palestinian rejectionism, Gilboa said, is reinforced by “the PA’s official maps, which still do not show Israel, and the textbooks they use in their schools, which do not recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Prossor was only slightly more optimistic than Gilboa about the chances for peace. Prossor said that while Saudi Arabian, Jordanian, or Moroccan officials sometimes seem to take a more positive attitude towards Israel than in the past, “the problem I discovered during my years at the U.N. was that the officials who were willing to go on the record with such comments were the ones who had the least influence within their governments.”

What’s unclear is whether unofficial expressions by moderate Arabs could turn into practical steps to advance a comprehensive regional peace with Israel, Prossor said. While doing a spot-on imitation of the voice of former Israeli president Shimon Peres, Prossor said that Peres “probably would say something like, ‘We need solutions, not resolutions.’”

The cautious perspective offered by Gilboa and Prossor at the conference contrasted sharply with Ross, who said he believes there is “a new reality, a new landscape” in the Middle East. He urged the next U.S. president to undertake a behind-the-scenes diplomatic initiative there.

Ross said that Israel should announce that “there won’t be any Israeli sovereignty east of the security barrier,” a position which went further than his recent calls for Israel to halt all housing construction east of the barrier. Ross’s new position would mean that Israel would retreat to approximately the pre-1967 armistice lines.

While Ross cited Egypt’s current cooperation with Israel as evidence that a regional peace might be possible, Prossor and Gilboa sounded a cautionary note regarding Israel’s relations with Egypt. “We have had peace with Egypt since 1979, and no territorial conflict with them, yet Egypt’s media and school textbooks are still very anti-Israel and even anti-Jewish,” said Prossor, who is also the former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “This shows what a big challenge we still face–there may be a chance for broader peace, but we have a long way to go.”

Gilboa said between Israel and Egypt there “is a peace only at the leadership level–it is not a warm peace, a peace between ordinary people.” Gilboa pointed out that the Egyptian government “has for so many years been educating the Egyptian people to hate Israel, it will take many, many years to reverse that problem.”

Orgininal Article: JNS.ORG

Israel is gearing up for a scenario-summer

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In any future war, Israel will be hit with the largest rocket salvos seen in its history – that was the stark warning issued by Brig.-Gen.

Zvika Haimovich, commander of air defenses in the Israel Air Force on Monday.

Speaking at the Israel Air Missile Defense Conference at Rishon Lezion, which was organized by the iHLS website, he said that Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas were carrying out joint research and development of rockets, adding, “We can see a lot of live tests in Gaza with Hamas, and with Iran and Hezbollah [in Lebanon]. They have put in a lot of effort into increasing and improving their skills.”

Hostile entities will seek to overwhelm air defenses with heavy salvos, Haimovich said.

“In the future, we will meet and engage much bigger salvos,” he said. They will come from multiple directions, and a “regional war” is a more realistic scenario than a single-front escalation.

Gazan and southern Lebanese weapons storage facilities house many thousands of rockets, Haimovich said, adding, “It doesn’t matter how many. We are dealing with a complicated environment.”

Israel’s enemies have concluded that firing large numbers of inaccurate rockets is insufficient, and in recent years, they have begun moving away from that tactic, and toward accurate, guided projectiles, he said. With rockets becoming accurate, the difference between rockets and missiles has become fudged, he added.

Hezbollah can cover more than 75 percent of Israeli territory with its rockets and missiles. “If we are talking about the multi-directional threat, this is much more complicated than what we faced five to 10 years ago. We will deal with very big numbers of salvos, of more than 50 to 100 [projectiles]. It doesn’t matter if this is [fired] by Hezbollah or Hamas. We will meet new surprises on the battlefield, that’s for sure,” the air defense chief said.

Additionally, enemies will fire cruise missiles at Israel in the next war, he warned.

“It’s not a nightmare. It’s a very realistic scenario.

This is the way we prepare and train our commands and units to be ready for the next event.”

The appearance of Islamic State in Sinai has added to the list of entities that can fire projectiles at Israel, Haimovich said.

In response to the mounting threats, the IAF’s air defense units are focused on creating flexibility, and updating their battle doctrine, to ensure they are dealing with future, rather than the past.

The IAF’s air defense units will need to be able to select the right targets out of a very crowded sky in any future conflict, Haimovich said, describing that task as a “huge challenge.”

He admitted that Israel has a lack of resources, and not enough interceptors to defend against the full range of aerial threat. “This means we have to maximize our interceptors. It [also] means that rockets and missiles will hit the State of Israel in the next escalation,” he armed.

The IAF’s mission is to minimize the damage, he added.

He called for the acquisition of more air defense batteries and interceptors, but added, “This isn’t enough.” Integrating the various air defense systems, creating cross-branch IDF cooperation, and working with the US are all needed, he argued.

“We need to prepare our units. I really don’t know when next war will occur. It’s a kind of race between us and the other side. Our challenge is to always be in front, and to be one step ahead of our enemies and neighbors,” Haimovich said.

“It’s not very optimistic, but this is a realistic scenario.”

 

Original Article: The Jerusalem Post