Posts Tagged ‘Netanyahu’

Iran sends Hezbollah GPS parts to turn rockets into precision missiles — report

October 20, 2018

Most recent shipment arrived in Beirut on Tuesday; Lebanon has previously denied Netanyahu’s claim that Iran operates weapons factories on its soil

In this April 1996 photo, two fighters from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah stand near Katyusha rockets in the southern village of Ein Qana, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

In this April 1996 photo, two fighters from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah stand near Katyusha rockets in the southern village of Ein Qana, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Iran has delivered advanced GPS components to Hezbollah which will allow the terrorist group to make previously unguided rockets into precision guided-missiles, thus increasing the threat to Israel, Fox News reported Friday.

According to the media outlet, American and western intelligence services believe Iran has been increasing its shipments to Hezbollah, with one flight arriving in Beirut as recently as three days ago with the parts to convert weaponry at Iranian factories in Lebanon.

The existence of these factories was revealed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last month. The Israeli military later released satellite images of three sites in Beirut that it said were being used by the Iran-backed terror group to hide underground precision missile production facilities.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has said Netanyahu’s allegations are “baseless.”

Screen capture from video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showing a diagram of what he said was Hezbollah terror group sites near Beirut during his address to the 73rd UN General Assembly in New York, September 27, 2018. (United Nations)

Fox News tracked Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm flight number QFZ-9950, which departed Tehran International Airport on Tuesday at 9:33 a.m. before flying to an unknown destination, according to flight data. Later that same day, the Boeing 747 jet reportedly landed in Damascus before its final leg to Beirut.

On Wednesday evening the plane reportedly took off from Beirut to Doha before returning to Tehran.

Illustrative: A Qeshm Fars Air cargo plane (Wikimedia commons)

Western intelligence sources said the plane was carrying weapons components, including GPS technology, to make precision-guided missiles in the Iranian factories located near the airport in Beirut.

Institute for National Security Studies Chairman Amos Yadlin attends the Annual International Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv January 23, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“Israel is determined not to let it happen,” for Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told Fox News. “This is a source of concern because if the Iranians, on the one hand, are determined to build this precision project with ballistic missiles, and the Israelis are determined not to let it happen—this is a recipe for collision.”

“The Iranians are building a formidable military presence in Syria with ballistic missiles, precise ballistic missiles, UAV, air defense. Israel is not going to allow Iran to duplicate Hezbollah in Syria,” Yadlin said.

The target of the Israeli airstrike last month, in which a Russian spy plane was inadvertently shot down by Syrian air defenses, was machinery used in the production of precision missiles, which was en route to Hezbollah, The Times of Israel learned.

In response to that incident, Russia delivered the advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria. Netanyahu has said he has told Russia that Israel must continue to hit hostile targets in Syria, despite Moscow’s decision. There have been no reports of Israeli strikes in Syria since the downing of the Russian plane.

According to Netanyahu, these precision missiles are capable of striking with 10 meters (32 feet) of their given target. Hezbollah is believed to have an arsenal of between 100,000 and 150,000 rockets and missiles, though the vast majority are thought to lack precision technology.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, Hezbollah began working on these surface-to-surface missile facilities last year.

Reports that Iran was constructing underground missile conversion factories in Lebanon first emerged in March 2017. Since then, Israeli officials have repeatedly said that Israel would not abide such facilities.

In January, Netanyahu said Lebanon “is becoming a factory for precision-guided missiles that threaten Israel. These missiles pose a grave threat to Israel, and we will cannot accept this threat.”

One of the alleged sites is located under a soccer field used by a Hezbollah-sponsored team; another is just north of the Rafik Hariri International Airport; and the third is underneath the Beirut port and less than 500 meters from the airport’s tarmac.

A satellite image released by the Israel Defense Forces showing a site near Beirut’s international airport that the army says is being used by Hezbollah to convert regular missiles into precision-guided munitions, on September 27, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

These three are not the only facilities that the IDF believes are being used by Hezbollah for the manufacturing and storage of precision missiles.

In May, Netanyahu said Israel was “operating against the transfer of deadly weapons from Syria to Lebanon or their manufacture in Lebanon.”

In recent years, Israel has acknowledged conducting hundreds of airstrikes in Syria, which it says were aimed at both preventing Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria and blocking the transfer of advanced munitions to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Israeli Air Force has largely abstained from conducting raids inside Lebanon itself, though it has indicated that it was prepared to do so.

Earlier this year, IAF chief Amiram Norkin showed visiting generals a picture of an Israeli F-35 stealth fighter flying next to Beirut’s airport, in what was seen as a direct message to Hezbollah.

Israel fought a punishing war with Hezbollah in 2006. Jerusalem believes the group has since re-armed with tens of thousands of missiles that can threaten all of Israel.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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Israel Strikes Gaza After a Rocket Is Fired, in a Sharp Escalation of Tensions

October 17, 2018

Israeli fighter jets attacked targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the military said, hours after a rocket fired overnight by militants in the territory struck a house in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, a sharp escalation after months of simmering tensions along the Israel-Gaza border.

The residents of the house — a woman and her three young children — were treated for shock, according to the Israeli emergency services, and the Israeli military said a second rocket fell into the sea after it was fired overnight toward the crowded coastal area of central Israel.

Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Israeli military said it had struck 20 targets in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas sites, but Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the other main militant group in Gaza, issued a joint statement soon after the first Israeli strikes denying responsibility for the rocket fire against Israel.

It would be unusual for a smaller, rogue group to fire longer-range rockets that can reach the central coastal area and, in any case, Israeli officials said they held Hamas responsible for the attacks.

By  Isabel Kershner
The New York Times

Smoke billowed from the Gaza city of Rafah on Wednesday after an Israeli airstrike. Credit Said Khatib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hamas controls Gaza, and Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said only Hamas and Islamic Jihad possessed the midrange, locally produced rockets that were used overnight, “which narrows it down.”

Israel has fought three wars against Palestinian militant groups in Gaza over the last decade, with deadly and devastating consequences. The most recent was in 2014, a 50-day war in which thousands of rockets were fired out of Gaza at Israel and that ended only after widespread destruction to the territory.

Tensions have burst out in brief bouts of fierce, cross-border fighting at least twice in recent months but international mediators were able to quickly restore the fragile cease-fire.

The house in Beersheba, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired overnight from the Gaza Strip. Credit Abir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock

Israel also said it had targeted a squad of militants who were trying to launch more rockets into southern Israel. One Palestinian militant was killed, according to Gaza health officials, and three Palestinians were injured in earlier airstrikes on militant targets in Rafah, in southern Gaza.

The overnight exchange came after seven Palestinians were killed on Friday by Israeli fire during a particularly stormy day of protests. Four of the dead had crossed the fence that separates Gaza from Israeli territory and tried to reach an army sniper’s post, and one was armed with a knife, according to Israeli forces at the scene.

In recent weeks, the Palestinians have also resumed flying incendiary balloons from Gaza, some rigged with small explosive devices and others designed to set fires in Israel.

The Israeli defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, warned during a visit to the Gaza Division of the Israeli military on Tuesday, “We have all come to the understanding that the situation as it is today cannot continue.”

Mr. Lieberman, who is known for taking a hard-line stance toward the Palestinians, said Israel had tried using peaceful means to reduce tensions in the area, which have risen since border protests began in late March, including cooperating with international mediation efforts to restore and stabilize the cease-fire that ended the war in 2014.

“We have exhausted all the options, all the possibilities,” he said. “Now is the time for decisions.”

Israel needed to “deal Hamas a strong blow,” Mr. Lieberman added, referring to the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza.

Read the rest:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-rocket-hamas.html

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Israel’s Defense Minister Signals War

October 16, 2018

Seeks a strong blow against Hamas — Defense minister says daily riots along security fence cannot continue, believes large military campaign could bring 4-5 years of calm

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday called on his fellow ministers to approve a large-scale military campaign against the Hamas terror group in Gaza in light of ongoing riots and violence along the Strip’s security fence.

“I’ve held a series of meetings with the head of the Southern Command, the head of the [Gaza] Division, the brigade commanders, the battalion commanders, also with soldiers. My impression is that they all have reached the understanding that the situation as it is today cannot continue,” Liberman said.

Image result for Avigdor Liberman, photos

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman

According to the defense minister’s assessment, a “serious blow” to Hamas would result in four to five years of calm along the Gaza border — akin to the quiet that persisted from the end of the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, until the start of the current round of clashes in late March, a few limited skirmishes notwithstanding.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots dubbed the “Great March of Return,” which have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

Some 155 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures; Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.

Palestinian protesters carry tires as smoke billows from burning tires at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza city, on October 12, 2018 (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The riots began as weekly events, but in recent weeks — due to both an internal Palestinian conflict and failed indirect negotiations with Israel — the clashes have become a daily event.

The defense minister said the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and convinced him that a full-scale military action was necessary in Gaza was the rioting that took place along the border last Friday evening, after Israel allowed additional fuel into the Strip that had been purchased by Qatar.

“We have exhausted all other options in Gaza,” Liberman said during a visit to the Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza Division headquarters near the Strip.

“Now is the time to make decisions,” he added.

Liberman said “persuasions and international cooperations” have failed to bring about a negotiated armistice with the Hamas terror group, leaving only the possibility of military action.

“We need to strike a serious blow at Hamas,” he said. “That’s the only way to bring back quiet.”

The security cabinet, which approves such military campaigns, met Sunday to discuss the possibility of an attack against Hamas, but ultimately decided to wait until the week’s end in order to give negotiators a chance to convince the group to abandon its current violent tactics.

An Egyptian military intelligence delegation reportedly arrived in Gaza on Tuesday to meet with Hamas officials in an attempt to calm the situation.

On Wednesday, the cabinet is due to meet again.

“[A strike on Hamas] must be the decision of the security cabinet,” Liberman told reporters following his meetings with senior IDF officers.

The defense minister said he was taking Hamas at its word that what it sought to achieve with the riots was an end to the blockade that Israel and Egypt have imposed on Gaza since Hamas took control of the Strip in 2007 — a measure that Jerusalem and Cairo say is in place to prevent arms and hostile forces from entering the coastal enclave.

“When Hamas says that it’s going to continue rioting on the border until there’s an end to the blockade, we need to accept that as it is, without interpretations,” Liberman said.

“Getting rid of the blockade has one meaning… allowing Hezbollah members and Iranians into Gaza,” he said, referring to the powerful Lebanon-based terror group.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl a stone during clashes at the Erez border crossing with Israel in the northern Gaza Strip on October 3, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Asked if the government was seeking to ensure lasting quiet for southern Israelis — beyond the four or five years that Liberman said a campaign would bring — the defense minister said that for now he was “only looking at the short term.”

“But if we get four or five years of quiet, we need to take advantage of it,” he said.

Liberman acknowledged that such a campaign would come at a cost to the IDF, as Hamas’s weapons have become more powerful and more accurate.

The defense minister also briefly discussed the criticism he has faced from within the security cabinet, notably from Education Minister Naftali Bennett, over the violence in Gaza.

Bennett has accused the defense minister of failing to address the problem and holding back the military from attacking Hamas.

Liberman brushed off Bennett’s critiques, saying he had “deleted” him from his life.

“I don’t know a Minister Bennett,” Liberman told reporters with a smirk.

Asked about the disappearance and alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government, the defense minister refused to comment.

“I’ll leave that to the international community. We have enough problems here,” he said

https://www.timesofisrael.com/signaling-war-liberman-urges-cabinet-to-okay-serious-blow-to-hamas-in-gaza/

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Israel’s Netanyahu threatens Hamas with ‘very strong blows’

October 14, 2018

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday threatened to inflict “very strong blows” on Hamas after fresh violence along the border with the Gaza Strip controlled by the Islamist group.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatens Islamist group Hamas over Gaza Strip violence. (AP)

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“Hamas has apparently not understood the message — if these attacks do not stop, they will be stopped in another way, in the form of very, very strong blows,” Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting.

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Seven Palestinians were killed in clashes along the Gaza border on Friday and Israel suspended fuel deliveries, having accused Hamas of using demonstrations as cover for attacks against the Jewish state.

AFP

Officials warn of risks in warming business ties with China

October 14, 2018

With Beijing’s VP set to visit, observers tell Economist Israel would be wise to regard attention from the Asian giant with caution

Times of Israel

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Wang Qishan after Wang was elected vice-president during a plenary session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, March 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Wang Qishan after Wang was elected vice-president during a plenary session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, March 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Ahead of a state visit to Israel next week by a senior Chinese official – the most high-ranking to visit the country in years – Israeli defense officials have flagged burgeoning trade with the Asian giant as a possible security risk.

According to a report by The Economist, officials in Israel are concerned on two fronts: the participation of Chinese companies in massive infrastructure projects, and the sale of Israeli technology to Beijing.

Officials quoted in the report warned that some infrastructure projects could introduce the possibility of China spying on some of Israel’s most sensitive assets. The report noted that a Chinese company, Shanghai International Port Group, has been building a new commercial shipping facility in Haifa, Israel’s busiest port, where the country’s fleet of submarines, believed to possess nuclear capability, docks.

The report cited one unnamed Israeli minister as saying that it was “astonishing” that neither the cabinet nor the National Security Council had had any input on the deal with Shanghai International Port Group.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aboard the new submarine ‘Rahav’ at the Israeli navy base in Haifa, on January 12, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

While Israel cut off weapons sales to Beijing in 2005 amid protests from the United States, the report said officials are concerned about “dual-use” products being sold to China, such as artificial intelligence and cyber-tech, which can be used for policing and military purposes such as intelligence gathering and surveillance.

The report quoted Israeli businessmen as saying the Chinese are eager to obtain such dual-use products, and that although there is some regulation in place, there are many loopholes.

“Israel has to do business with China, of course, but there is no serious mechanism to make sure that we don’t sell off key economic assets and valuable technological knowledge,” Efraim Halevy, a former head of Mossad, was quoted as saying.

Israeli exports to China increased dramatically, by 62 percent, in the first eight months of 2018 compared to last year — from $2.14 billion in 2017 to $3.5 billion — according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Imports from China increased by 10%, from $4.45 billion last year to $4.9 billion in 2018.

Before that, China, the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy, was still regarded a “relatively minor player” in the Israeli economy, focusing almost exclusively on strategic investments and making up at most 5% of the total activity in Israel, a report by IVC Research Center said in February.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who last year met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing and is keen on further building up the commercial ties, has reportedly been less than eager to create a government agency that would provide more rigorous oversight of trade.

China’s vice president will participate in an “innovation” event in Israel this month, making him the highest-ranked Chinese official to visit the Jewish state in more than a decade.

Wang Qishan will head a Chinese delegation to the fourth installation of the Israeli Innovation Summit, organized by the Prime Minister’s Office, on October 24-25. Netanyahu will attend both days of the event.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Alibaba founder Jack Ma on May 2, 2018. (Haim Tzach/GPO)

Qishan, considered a close ally of President Xi, is in charge of financial issues and is a dominant figure in Beijing’s diplomatic relations, particularly with the US.

He will land in Israel on October 22 and will head the delegation in discussions meant to expand business and trade opportunities and cooperation between Jerusalem and Beijing.

Qishan will be the guest of honor in a gala event scheduled for October 24 and in the grand opening of a new innovation center at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation a day later.

Also attending the conference will be Jack Ma, the billionaire founder and CEO of retail giant Alibaba, who will be one of the keynote speakers at the conference, according to the reports.

It will be Ma’s second visit to Israel in six months, after a busy tour in May, during which he explored business opportunities in the country, visited the offices of several local startups and met Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

At the time, the Chinese business magnate, investor, and philanthropist noted that Israel was a much more peaceful country than he expected, with a strong economy and security. Netanyahu invited him to invest in Israel, saying “there are amazing opportunities here.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/officials-warn-of-risks-in-warming-business-ties-with-china/

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Netanyahu, Putin to meet after Syria friendly fire incident — Bibi Restates Israel’s Strong Stand Against Iran

October 7, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss coordination in Syria after the accidental downing of a Russian plane led to tensions.

Netanyahu said he had spoken with Putin and the two agreed “to meet soon in order to continue the important inter-military security coordination”.

Speaking at the start of a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu again pledged to stop “Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria and to thwart the transfer of lethal weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon”.

The meeting would be the first since the Russian plane was downed by Syrian air defences, which fired in response to an Israeli raid in the country.

© POOL/AFP | Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018

Putin and Netanyahu have spoken at least three times by phone since the September 17 incident.

Fifteen Russians were killed in the incident that Moscow blamed on Israel, accusing its pilots of using the larger Russian plane as cover.

Israel disputes the Russian findings and says its jets were back in Israeli airspace when the plane was downed.

Russia announced new security measures to protect its military in Syria, including supplying the Syrian army with S-300 air defence systems and jamming radars of nearby warplanes.

Those measures have led to concern in Israel that it will be forced to limit its strikes against what it calls Iranian and Hezbollah targets in the neighbouring country.

It has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah.

Russia and Israel set up a hotline in 2015 to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.

Both Iran and Hezbollah — enemies of Israel — are supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in his country’s civil war alongside Russia.

AFP

John Kerry says chances of war on the rise as US sanctions Iran

October 5, 2018

Former secretary of state John Kerry voiced fear Friday of conflict with Iran after the United States pulled out of a denuclearization deal, saying regional leaders had privately pressed him for military strikes.

Kerry spearheaded diplomacy that led to the 2015 agreement in which Iran promised Western powers, Russia and China to scale back its nuclear program drastically in return for sanctions relief.

By pulling out of the accord, President Donald Trump has “made it more likely that there will be conflict in the region because there are people there who would love to have the United States of America bomb Iran,” the former senator and presidential candidate told the Council on Foreign Relations as he promotes his memoir, “Every Day is Extra.”

© AFP/File | Kerry spearheaded diplomacy that led to the 2015 agreement in which Iran promised Western powers, Russia and China to scale back its nuclear program drastically in return for sanctions relief

Kerry said that Saudi Arabia’s late king Abdullah and Egypt’s ousted president Hosni Mubarak had both told him that the United States should attack Iran, even while they would not take the position publicly.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an outspoken critic of the Iran deal, had also asked then US president Barack Obama for the green light to bomb Iran, Kerry said.

While UN inspectors found that Iran was complying with the accord, Trump declared the deal to be a disaster for not addressing other US concerns with Iran including threats to Israel, support for Islamist militant moves such as Hezbollah and Tehran’s missile program.

But Kerry said the United States was “actually getting them to do things, quietly,” including on easing the conflict in war-ravaged Yemen, and believed that President Hassan Rouhani was “trying to move the country in a different direction.”

“What Trump has done is now empower the guys in Iran who said don’t deal with the United States, they’ll burn you,” Kerry said.

“He has made it more likely that if there is an implosion in Iran internally through pressure or otherwise, it will not be an unknown Jeffersonian democrat who is going to appear and take over, it will be the IRGC or another Ahmadinejad, and we will be worse off and the people of Iran will be worse off,” he said, referring to the hardline Revolutionary Guards and former firebrand president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Trump has lashed out at Kerry for meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif since leaving office, accusing him of violating an obscure US law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating on disputes with foreign governments.

Kerry said Trump was seeking to distract from his own scandal related to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and said it was normal for former officials to maintain communication with foreign counterparts.

AFP

Germany’s Angela Merkel in Israel amid deep divisions

October 4, 2018

Israel and Germany have restarted bilateral consultations after longstanding disagreements about settlement building. Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to press the German leader to leave the Iran nuclear deal.

    
Angela Merkel and Benjamin Netanyahu

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Israel on Thursday, a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused European leaders of “coddling Iran’s dictators.” The two leaders were set to resume regular government consultations between the two nations that were paused in 2017 after Merkel expressed her disapproval of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

There had been no shortage of controversy ahead of the visit, with Netanyahu expected to press Merkel and other EU leaders to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly last week, Netanyahu claimed that the EU had adopted a policy of “appeasement” towards Tehran, a word evoking how European leaders had failed to stand up to Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. He also mentioned the EU’s “absolutely crazy” demands of Israel, including the call to stop displacing Palestinians for settlement building.

Germany opposes demolition of village

Ahead of her arrival on Wednesday, children in the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar put up posters imploring the chancellor to stop the demolition of their homes. Merkel had previously voiced opposition to plans to raze the village. Israel maintains that the hamlet was built illegally and dangerously close to a highway.

Merkel also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on Thursday and was set to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa.

The leader said that they planned to discuss trade and innovation, but concerns about rising anti-Semitism in Germany were also likely to be addressed.

es/ng (AFP, dpa)

https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-angela-merkel-in-israel-amid-deep-divisions/a-45745537

Palestinians in West Bank strike over Israel’s nation law

October 1, 2018

Palestinians are on a general strike across the West Bank in solidarity with Arab citizens of Israel over a contentious law that defines Israel as a Jewish state.

The streets of Ramallah and other West Bank cities were largely empty on Monday as schools, universities, government offices and private business were closed. (File/AFP)

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The streets of Ramallah and other West Bank cities were largely empty on Monday as schools, universities, government offices and private business were closed. Public transportation also wasn’t available.

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For the Palestinians, the strike is a rare foray into domestic Israeli politics.

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Critics of Israel’s Jewish nation state law, passed last month, say it sidelines Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.

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Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence defined the country as a Jewish and democratic state. The government says the new law merely enshrines Israel’s existing character, but critics say it undercuts Israel’s democratic values and marginalizes the Arab minority, about 20 percent of the population.

AP

US envoy urges world to join America in ‘being direct, frank with Palestinians’

September 28, 2018

Defending aid cuts, Jason Greenblatt cites need for ‘sustainable’ path to peace, says Washington provided support to Palestinians ‘year after year’ while they squandered it

US President's peace process envoy Jason Greenblatt, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the President's office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

US President’s peace process envoy Jason Greenblatt, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the President’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

NEW YORK — US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt on Thursday defended the US administration’s drastic funding cuts to the Palestinians, arguing that billions given to this cause over decades have failed to significantly advance the matter.

Rather, he said in a speech to a conference of international donors, it was time to “realistically evaluate what works and what does not,” and to embark on “a new, sustainable path.” While he declined to provide any details of the peace proposal he and other White House officials have been working on for months, he asked members of the international community to study it carefully and be open for new ideas.

“It is time to look at the situation realistically. We could continue the same pattern for years to come, but that would be folly,” Greenblatt told participants of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee’s annual meeting at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“Clearly, none of our financial assistance is getting Israelis and Palestinians closer to a solution.”

The US recently decided to divert all its foreign aid to the Palestinians to other “regional priorities,” a move that has caused alarm among the international community, which has struggled to come up with alternative sources of funding for agencies such as UNRWA, which provides health and educational services to Palestinian refugees.

On Thursday, several countries raised nearly $120 million for UNRWA. The European Union, which together with the US cosponsors the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, alone pledged an additional 40 million euros for the agency. Over the last three years, the EU and its members states have give 1.2 billion to UNRWA.

“Supporting the agency means supporting peace and security in the Middle East. And this is in our strategic interest,” the union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini said at a ministerial meeting focused on UNRWA.

A Palestinian man transports bags of flour outside an aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip ,on September 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Greenblatt, in his speech to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, hailed the international community’s “noble effort,” but at the same time implied that money given to UNRWA and other Palestinian causes was wasted if things don’t change dramatically.

For instance, he accused Hamas but also the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas of not using other countries’ taxpayers money responsibly.

“We must all ask ourselves why we should keep struggling to raise money when everyone can plainly see the Hamas regime and the PA are squandering the opportunities our money provides for a better future for Palestinians,” he said.

“We cannot continue to provide aid year after year to areas whose leadership, for political purposes, thwarts our efforts to improve the economic well-being of Palestinians.”

Turning to the political dimension of the peace process, Greenblatt dismissed the “the standard talking points about the solutions to this conflict,” noting that they have failed to advance a peace agreement.

“Another hundred resolutions in the UN General Assembly won’t make the lives of Palestinians in Gaza more bearable,” he said.

“Another hundred resolutions will be ignored by Hamas, which continues to hold the missing Israeli soldiers and civilians, who must be returned, and which indiscriminately launches rockets and flaming kites displaying Swastikas into Israel.”

Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The status quo is “unsustainable for both sides,” Greenblatt said. “We must focus on realistic ways forward. If Palestinian lives are going to be changed for the better, their leaders need to change their behavior. It needs to start with Hamas in Gaza. I will say it clearly: We will not fund a situation that empowers Hamas, an unrepentant terrorist organization. It’s that simple.”

Americans are a generous people and continue to be inclined to provide humanitarian aid, Greenblatt went on. However, the administration “will not reward provocations and violence.”

Since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there, Palestinian officials have declared Trump unfit to mediate between them and Israel.

“Insults and attacks directed at President Trump and members of the Administration will not help the Palestinian people,” Greenblatt said. “While some may be uncomfortable with our direct, frank message, the United States will continue speaking directly and frankly because we must tell the truth. We do this because we care about the Palestinian people and their future.”

Returning to the issue of financial aid to the Palestinians, Greenblatt said that the administration will no longer pay for “temporary solutions that only prolong the cycle of suffering and violence.”

Many countries are or will soon be unable to contribute large sums for foreign aid, Greenblatt said, citing private conversations with representatives from donor countries.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP)

“We have had enough of the status quo. We have had enough of Hamas diverting funds donated by the generous, well-meaning countries sitting around this table, and using those funds for illicit activity,” he said. “We have had enough of Hamas taking all of our and your generous donations to the Palestinians and then failing to provide even the most basic services – safe water, electricity and hospitals to those who they purport to govern.”

Greenblatt then urged the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee donor countries to join the US in “being direct and frank with the Palestinian Authority about charting a new, sustainable path – one that improves all Palestinian lives.”

The US peace proposal aims at improving the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, he said.

“We are working on a plan that both sides will gain more from than they give; a plan that is realistic, fair, and implementable. Neither side will like everything in the plan, but we are confident both sides will understand why we came to the conclusions that we did — if they are willing to engage.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to engage with the US, citing Trump’s alleged bias in favor of Israel.

But, Greenblatt said, “leaders must have the courage to guide their people to a better future.”

It was time to “stop focusing on tired talking points and throwing more money at the same things we have been doing since 1993,” he continued. “It is time to realistically evaluate what works and what does not.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-envoy-urges-world-to-join-us-in-being-direct-and-frank-with-palestinians/

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A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
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U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

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