Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lieberman on Time's top 100 list

(Ynet).– Time Magazine published its list of the world's 100 most influential people in 2009 on Thursday, which includes two Israelis this year.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman appears in the "Leaders and Revolutionaries" category.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni appeared on the list in 2008. She was the only Israeli politician to make the cut that year.

The article on Lieberman in Time was written by historian Benny Morris. He writes: "Though a question mark hangs over Lieberman's prominence in Israel's decision-making (he is under investigation for corruption), he will be one of the most vigorous advocates of a pre-emptive Israeli strike to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities should Western diplomacy fail to curb the Iranian project."

Netanyahu to visit Egypt in early May

AFP).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to visit Egypt in the first half of May at the invitation of President Hosni Mubarak, his office said on Thursday.

"The prime minister has responded positively to President Hosni Mubarak's invitation and will travel to Egypt in the first half of May," a statement said.

The statement said the visit would come before a planned trip by Netanyahu to Washington, the date of which has yet to be confirmed but which could begin on May 18.

Netanyahu, Livni meet

(JTA) -- Benjamin Netanyahu met with opposition leader Tzipi Livni to update her on security and diplomatic issues.

It was the first meeting for Netanyahu with the head of the Kadima Party since he assumed the prime minister's post.

They agreed to hold such meetings periodically, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

Obama advisor Summers: Netanyahu to get warm welcome

(Globes).White House National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers praised Israel's economy at an Independence Day reception hosted by the Israeli Embassy in Washington yesterday. Summers represented the Obama administration at the event.

Summers said that he "comes from the world of economics" and noted that the Israeli economy had made extraordinary achievements since independence, especially given the wars and constant threats with which the country must cope with.

Summers added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can expect a warm welcome during his upcoming visit to the White House in May. Summers said that economics will be one of the topics on the agenda. The Obama administration's efforts to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace will top the agenda, but Summers said that this was not a case of peace at any price, but peace that would not reward terrorism and which would be in line with Israel's security. He reiterated President Barack Obama's commitment to Israel's security.

PM Netanyahu Independence day Message in English

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Minister Ben Eliezer: Netanyahu is much more open, patient and relaxed; He is going to surprise us all!

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to conduct "serious negotiations" with the Palestinians and the Syrians, Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) told Haaretz. The full interview will appear Friday in Week's End.

"Netanyahu is going to surprise us all," said Ben-Eliezer, who is industry, trade and employment minister, after several tete-a-tetes with the prime minister over the past month. He said Netanyahu had assured him, both before and after he set up the government, that he would continue negotiating with the Syrians.

Regarding the Palestinians, Netanyahu's plan will be based on a two-state solution, said Ben-Eliezer. "It's not the same Bibi," Ben-Eliezer said. "He's much more open, patient and relaxed. He's not alarmed or dogmatic. Something happened to him. He realizes that he cannot afford another crash like the one in his previous term.

Barak: 'Israel hasn't been quiet for over 40 years'

The State of Israel has not been quiet in over 40 years, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday night. Speaking at an official Independence Day reception at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Barak said, "The reality is that threats against us continue. [We live] in a situation in which the country is not quiet, it hasn't been for some 40 years." The defense minister went on to praise Israel on its 61st birthday, saying, "We established a magnificent country with a unique, intimidating spirit." "Israel is strong… and no one should doubt our existence. We won't let our enemies even dare. We know very well how to defend ourselves," he added.

Foreign Min. official warns Europe to stop criticizing gov't

A Foreign Ministry official has been warning European countries that unless they curtail criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu's government, Israel will block the European Union from participating in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. The main target of the offensive is EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who recently called for a freeze in upgrading ties with Israel over its peace process policies.

Several days ago, the deputy director for Europe at the Foreign Ministry, Rafi Barak, began calling European ambassadors in Israel regarding the attitude toward the new government. The first conversations were with France's Jean-Michel Casa, Britain's Tom Phillips and the Charge d'Affaires of the German embassy. Barak sharply protested the criticism by European ministers and senior EU officials about Israel's government. Barak singled out Ferrero-Waldner in his rebuke and said her statements were troubling in their form, style and timing. "For some weeks now, we have been telling everyone in Europe that Israel's government needs time to reformulate policies, and not to begin a war in the press," Barak told the diplomats.

He also noted that the European Union had not made an official decision on freezing the upgrading of ties, and therefore it was unclear what gave Ferrero-Waldner the authority to make her statements. "We want the European Union to be a partner [in the diplomatic process] but it is important to hold a mature and discreet dialogue and not to resort to public declarations," Barak told the diplomats. "A public confrontation was created that required Prime Minister Netanyahu, and even opposition head Tzipi Livni, to intervene. We have noted that the large European countries have respected our request and are granting the government time, but it is important that Europe be uniform in this matter," Barak added. Barak concluded by "warning" that Europe's influence in the area would be undermined by such behavior. "Israel is asking Europe to lower the tone and conduct a discreet dialog," he said. "However, if these declarations continue, Europe will not be able to be part of the diplomatic process, and both sides will lose."

Poll: Israelis positive, optimistic

(Ynet).Despite the financial crisis and the looming threat from Iran, the War and Peace Index, published on Israel's 61st Independence Day, found that the majority of the Israeli public is positive, optimistic and satisfied with the state of the nation.

The survey found that 80% of the Jews polled defined their personal status as "very good" or "good," 90% said they think Israel is doing "very well" as a nation; and 81% said they were "very optimistic" or "optimistic" as to the nation's future.

Some 81% also said that given their choice of countries to live in, they would prefer to stay in Israel.

Among the Israeli Arabs polled, 51% said their personal status was "very good," as opposed to 36% that described it as "bad" or "very bad." Two-thirds said that the nation's achievements are "good" or "fairly good," and a similar percentage expressed optimism as to the nation's future. An overwhelming majority – 94% – said they want to keep living in Israel.

Eighty-one percent of the Israelis surveyed said the State faired best in the fields of military and security, defining its accomplishments in those avenues as "very good."

The War and Peace Index also found that 71% of Israelis think that people are not as patriotic as they use to be in the past. Other figures indicated that 59% think that Israel has been able to create a stable, modern economy and 53% think it has become a successful democracy.

Netanyahu: We're committed to bringing Gilad Schalit home

(Jpost).Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday vowed that Israel would do all it could to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.

Speaking during the annual Independence Day reception at the President's Residence for past and present IDF commanders, Netanyahu said that "we are committed to bringing Gilad Schalit home in one piece to his parents."

"Every combat soldier knows that we will do all within our power to bring him home alive and well," he stressed. "Israel has full faith in the armed forces of the General Staff."

Also in attendance at the ceremony were President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as past and present IDF generals, former presidents and prime ministers, and heads of the intelligence and police communities.

Peres said that although Israel was a small country in size, it was powerful with respect to the challenges it had overcome.

"There is no other country in the world that has been attacked seven times in 60 years, and that is in addition to two intifadas and an incessant war on terror," he said. "Israel has faced existential threats, expulsion and wars, but when the history books judge us, we will be a proof that it's possible to surpass expectations and go beyond available resources."

Peres rejected the criticism leveled at Israel for Operation Cast Lead.

"They attack Israel from the inside and from the outside as if we invited this war and it wasn't forced upon us, as if it's possible to fight a war without victims," he said.

Peres went on to hail those who had fought for Israel's future.

"We asked you all to come here today in order to salute you," said the president. "We can safely say after 61 years that you have brought great victories both on the battlefield and with the young generation you have groomed. One can only be proud of your achievements."

During the ceremony, 120 soldiers received citations for excellence.

PM Netanyahu's message to the Nation on Independence day

In a video message at the official ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent out his blessing on this day of independence, saying "the sharp transition between the silence of memorial day and the joy of independence day is not simple, but precisely at this clear moment, the full meaning of the existence of the state of Israel becomes apparent, the dream of generations of our people, the safe haven for which we have prayed and hoped, for generations upon generations of Jews."

"I want to congratulate you, Israel's citizens, on this day," Netanyahu continued, "for the victory of our collective dream, a victory of the spirit, a victory of faith, a victory of persistence, hope and work."

"Thanks to all these, we have surmounted enormous obstacles. We rose from the depths of death and ovens; we came together from west and east and embarked on a path to life and resurrection. We revived our ancient language, we took the Hebrew language from the scriptures and brought it into our daily lives, our schools, our universities, our culture and science, and we also never forgot the scriptures," Netanyahu went on to say.

"Unfortunately, Israel remains under threat," the prime minister said. "An Iranian regime that is feverishly pursuing nuclear weapons brazenly calls for our destruction. Terror organizations on our southern and northern borders grow stronger by the day."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

President Peres to meet Obama next week

(AP) — Israel's ceremonial president, Shimon Peres, meets next week with President Barack Obama, before the American leader sees Israel's new prime minister.

A statement from Peres' office says he will represent Israel at the annual conference of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby. He'll meet Obama while he is in the U.S.

PM Netanyahu in personal message to the Nation celebrating Independence day

Barak: Israel can and must make peace within three years By Gidi Weitz Tags: Israel News, Mideast Peace "I am certain it is possible and certainly n

"I am certain it is possible and certainly necessary to act with all our might to achieve peace even before I turn 70, which will be in three years," said Defense Minister Ehud Barak in his first extensive interview since joining the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"You have to understand that in their consciousness, the leaders are not so far apart in terms of what the final settlement will look like," Barak said, adding that he believes Netanyahu will present the U.S. administration a diplomatic plan in line with the principle of "two states for two nations" during his upcoming visit to Washington.

"Bibi [Netanyahu] accepted the Oslo accords at the time. And it is clear that when a political settlement is signed with all the neighbors, it will stipulate a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel, with the two living side by side. I believe that even now, during Netanyahu's visit to Washington, Israel should come up with a formula about how it intends to move ahead, and that formula will not propose three states for eight nations," he said.

"Bibi has a hard choice to make: Does he want to be [Yitzhak] Shamir or [Menachem] Begin?" he asked. "There is deep understanding between us on the need to address the political issue, and that it is impossible to leave things in a state of paralysis. If we sink into paralysis, we may find the world losing interest in Israel and in this conflict - or, in an even worse scenario, acceptance by the world that the solution is not two states for two nations, but one state for two nations, which for us is a concrete risk, a slippery slope."

On Iran's nuclear program, Barak struck a blustery yet pragmatic tone. "There is no one who will dare try to destroy Israel. We are not in a position of being able to tell the Americans whether to talk to the Iranians. I told American leaders: First learn from the professionals about what is going on in Iran, what they are doing behind the smoke screen, acquaint yourselves with the intelligence material, and from this you will understand they are working determinedly to deceive, confuse and blur things, and that under the headline of 'nuclear power for peaceful purposes,' they are trying to achieve military nuclear capability.

"I told them negotiations should be short and have a deadline, accompanied by 'soft' sanctions such as limitations on money transfers, while preparing the ground for harsh sanctions that involve authorizing action afterward. This has to be done in deep cooperation with the Russians and the Chinese, and we say we are not removing any option from the table. We have a tendency to hope for a heroic operation that will end everything, as with the bombing of the Iraqi reactor in 1981. Is that realistic?

"There is no comparison," he said. "In the Iraqi case there was one target that existed and was working, and a surgical strike eliminated it. We thought we were delaying the project for three to four years, whereas in practice it was delayed forever. Here we are up against something far more complex, sophisticated and extensive."

"The Iranians don't play backgammon, they play chess, and in fact they invented the game. They are proceeding with far greater sophistication and are far more methodical. The Iranian nation is a collection of people held together by an identity that includes the perception of being an empire from the dawn of history. Part of their nuclear pretensions have nothing to do with Israel, but with their place in the world and the Orient."

PM Netanyahu's Independence Day Message to Diaspora Communities

Today, Israel celebrates its 61st birthday. Each year that we mark the
rebirth of the Jewish state after long centuries of exile is a great cause
for celebration.

After centuries of powerlessness, the Jewish people returned to the stage of
history and to their rightful place among the nations. With the rebirth of
Israel, we were once again able to chart our own destiny and determine our
own future.

The past 61 years show just what a free and independent Jewish nation can
achieve. With scarce resources, we brought a barren land back to life and
absorbed millions of immigrants. Through innovation and determination, the
genius of our people has made us a leader in agriculture, medicine and
science, while our creativity spawned a high-tech industry that continues to
amaze the world. We have achieved peace with Egypt and Jordan and we will
continue to seek peace with all our neighbors.

All this has been achieved even though Israel has lived under constant
threat for 61 years. Unfortunately, Israel remains under threat. An Iranian
regime that is feverishly pursuing nuclear weapons brazenly calls for our
destruction. Terror organizations on our southern and northern borders grow
stronger by the day. And a rising tide of anti-Semitism is sweeping the
civilized world.

To address these challenges in the years ahead, unity among our people, both
inside and outside Israel, will be more important than ever. That is why it
is vital that we continue to strengthen the bonds between Israel and the
Diaspora. These bonds are a source of mutual strength and a powerful
reminder of the unique role that Israel plays in the world and in the
history of our people.

On this Independence Day, let us take pride in all we have accomplished and
let us look forward to a time of security, prosperity and peace. If we stand
together as brothers and sisters, if we stand together with courage and
conviction, that time will surely come.

Chag Sameach!
Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu: Israel will never cease to defend itself

Speaking at the main ceremony at Jerusalem's Mt. Herzl Cemetery, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu turned to the country's bereaved families, saying that the rest of the nation embraced them throughout the year.

"At this hour," he said, "here, and in all of the military cemeteries around the country, stand members of bereaved families, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, orphans and widows.

"I know that bereaved parents have no comfort and no forgetting," Netanyahu continued, alluding to the loss of his own brother, Yoni, who was killed during the Entebbe rescue operation in 1976. "Israel, including all of its citizens, is gathered around the families of the fallen, embracing them, bowing its head and remembering its heroes."

Netanyahu warned that despite striving for peace Israel would never compromise on its security and relinquish control of its future.

"We have no choice but to fight terror until it is obliterated and to defend our lives," he told The bereaved families.

"This is what we have done and what we are doing. The State of Israel, through the Israel Defense Forces, has responded with war, determination and diligence, with courage and sophistication, using an incomparable morality of combat," he said.

"Terror is a war crime, the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians," the prime minister added.

"Our hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors. But our enemies should not misunderstand: We shall never compromise on our security, the security of the state of Israel. That is our obligation to the fallen, that is our obligation to the citizens of Israel, that is our obligation to coming generations," Netanyahu said.

''What has changed in Jewish history'', he continued, ''is not the hatred of the Jewish people, but our ability to defend ourselves. We will never abandon our fate again''.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Barak: Iran is a threat to entire world

(Jpost).While stressing that Israel was not in existential danger, Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted on Monday that Iran was a central threat not only to the Jewish state, but to the entire world.

"We are not under any existential threat; I don't see anyone who would try to destroy our country," Barak said in an interview with Channel 10. "But Iran is a central threat to Israel both because of its pursuit of nuclear weapons and because it supports Hamas and Hizbullah."

Iran, he said, was "a threat to the entire world, as it is interested in changing the entire international order and is a source of instability in the Middle East and throughout the world."

When asked about overtures made by US President Barack Obama, Barak said that while Israel was "not in a position" to demand that the US not engage in talks with Iran, it was "certainly in a position to tell the international community to limit the diplomatic efforts within a set time frame and to have sanctions ready."

The defense minister hinted that Israel was not ruling out a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, saying that "Israel is prepared for all the options."

IDF chief warns Israel's enemies: Don't test our strength

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi delivered his address at the service in which he also issued a warning to Israel's enemies.

"Even after dozens of years of struggle, we have still not lost our hope to live by your side in peace and mutual respect; but I don't recommend that anyone tests the strength and determination of the IDF," said Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi.

"Whoever wants to harm the citizens of the state will find that a determined army that responds with a harsh strike," he added.

"Here, in front of the Wailing Wall, I stand together with all of the IDF soldiers and salute all those who died in defense of our country," the IDF chief of general staff said.

"In this time, when speculations and allegations are being made about the moral code of the IDF following Operation Cast Lead, I would like to tell you about the sacrifices being made in fighting terrorism," said Ashkenazi. "The IDF is committed to saving human life and our enemies take advantage of our high morals when firing at us from within centers of civilian population."

Ashkenazi praised the IDF soldiers, saying that "as their commander I want to tell you - our advantage over our enemies is because of our soldiers; we can and should be proud of them."

He went on to pledge that "the moral and ethical code will continue to lead the IDF in its operations and efforts to defend the citizens of Israel."

President Peres: If War is forced upon us, I suggest to our enemies and friends as one, to be on the right side, our side

The official state ceremony marking the start of Israel's Memorial Day began immediately after the siren at Jerusalem's Western Wall Plaza, in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, and bereaved families.

"They say the pain dissolves as times moves on, as years pass. And I know it isn't so: Pain just becomes sharper as the days and years go by," Peres said at the start of the ceremony. "You see a soldier in IDF uniform in the street and your eyes well up.

"You hear steps in the stairwell and you think maybe he returned, maybe he's coming home," he continued. "But no, it's not him. You participate in a family gathering and your heart is broken. Everybody dances and laughs and you make an effort to break into a smile so as not to spoil the fun.

"This year, also, we lost the best of our boys and girls, some of the in Operation Cast Lead. This year also we returned to the cemeteries, to bury our dead, mourn their loss and cry with the families," the president said.

"For 61 years we have been burying our children and the end of this is still not on our horizon," Peres said. "Again and again the boys are called to protect their fathers and the mothers; again and again the commanders lead their troops and fall in battle, because the best of our men always go down first."

Although the country has faced its share of threats, Peres predicted even more to come, but insisted at once that Israel wanted peace but was ready for war.

"This year, too, the threat on our existence persists, and yet, we do not run away from the battlefield. We do not want war, but if it is forced upon us, I suggest to our enemies and friends as one, to be on the right side, our side, the side that has always won and will always win," he said.

"The fallen have left behind them a strong and assured country," Peres concluded.

PM Netanyahu:Our existence as a nation and country depends on our unity

"In spite of the opposition of our enemies, Israel signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and despite the difficulties, we will continue our efforts to complete the circle of peace with the rest of our neighbors, until we are successful," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday evening during a memorial service in honor of Israel's fallen soldiers.

"The unity that we feel during this day is natural and clear," Netanyahu said at a ceremony at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. "But I must say especially on this day of unity, that this [kind of unity must continue] every day of the year.

"It is this unity which helps us through times of despair and difficulties, and it is this which will also help us tomorrow to face great challenges," he continued. "Our existence as a people and a nation depends on this unity."

He vowed that the government would spare no effort to "track down the missing Israeli soldiers and bring kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit home.

"We are a nation that desires life, and as such and we will continue to strengthen our shield. The IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet, Border Police and all the arms of the security forces guarantee (our) security and the conditions for peace," he said.

Addressing the bereaved families who attended the ceremony, Netanyahu said "the battlefields of Israel's ongoing war, in which the protectors of the land have fallen, are scattered throughout the country and its borders. It did not help those who hate Israel. The State of Israel triumphed.

"The price we have paid and are still paying is unbearable, I know," the PM said. "My family has also been struck by bereavement; your sorrow is my sorrow. I feel the pain deep in my heart and carry with me the memory, the yearning and the burden of the loss."

Moshe Ya’alon:‘West Must Stand Up To, Confront Iran’

Jerusalem Post - Without a clear time frame and set benchmarks, the dialogue US President Barack Obama plans to hold with Iran will fail to stop the Islamic republic from obtaining nuclear weapons, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon has told The Jerusalem Post.

“I have no doubt that the Iranians will use any dialogue to stall for time if there will not be a clear time frame and clear benchmarks like telling them that they have two months to stop the enrichment,” Ya’alon said.

“These are the type of benchmarks that can test the Iranians, since anything else will be a waste of time. This time will be used by the Iranians to continue to move towards a nuclear military capability.”

The West has to understand that it needs to confront the Iranians and cannot make concessions, he said.

“What is happening between the Western world and the Islamic jihadists of Iran is a process that is built on previous surrenders and concessions,” he said. “What the West needs to do is stand up against this wave and confront it.”

Ya’alon refused to comment on whether the IDF could stage an effective strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

“We need to hope that the job will be done by someone else and at the same time, as the Talmudic sage Hillel said, ‘If I am not for myself who will be?’” he said.

At Memorial Day service, Netanyahu vows to 'spare no effort' for Shalit

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Monday to spare no effort to secure the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, speaking at the official opening ceremony of Israel's Memorial Day.

"We'll spare no effort to bring back the abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit," said Netanyahu at Jerusalem's Ammunition Hill, the site of a hard-fought battle in the 1967 Six Day War.

In his speech, Netanyahu praised the achievements of the army and its soldiers.

"We are a nation that desires life," he said, "and as such and we will continue to strengthen our shield. The IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet, Border Police and all the arms of the security forces guarantee [our] security and the conditions for peace."

The prime minister also spoke of his own personal loss, referring to the death of his brother Jonathan in the 1976 IDF raid on Entebbe.

"The price we have paid and are still paying is unbearable, I know," he said. "My family has also been struck by bereavement; your sorrow is my sorrow. I feel the pain deep in my heart and carry with me the memory, the yearning and the burden of the loss."

FM:Recognition of 'Jewish state' is crucial

(Jpost).The Foreign Ministry on Monday evening responded to remarks made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who said that he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and stressed that Palestinian recognition of the Jewish nature of the country is a crucial step in the peace process.

"Recognizing Israel as the sovereign state of the Jewish people is a crucial and necessary stage in the historical reconciliation process between Israelis and the Palestinians," the ministry said in a statement. "The sooner the Palestinians internalize this basic fact, the sooner the peace between our nations will progress."

Abbas: I won't recognize Israel as a Jewish state

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed on Monday calls by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, an issue emerging as a main obstacle to peacemaking.

"I do not accept it," the Western-backed Abbas said. "It is not my job to give a description of the state. Name yourself the Hebrew Socialist Republic - it is none of my business."

Netanyahu said in a statement last week it would be impossible to make progress on the diplomatic track and reach a peace agreement without Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lieberman: Iran is an international problem,Israel will not solve it alone

Israel will not attack Iran even if the international sanctions against Tehran fail to convince President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give up his country's nuclear program, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Austrian daily Kleine Zeitung.In an interview published this weekend, Lieberman was asked whether Israel planned to strike Iran as a last resort.

"We are not talking about a military attack. Israel cannot resolve militarily the entire world's problem. I propose that the United States, as the largest power in the world, take responsibility for resolving the Iranian question," Lieberman told the paper.

"The best way to stop Iran's nuclear program is through severe sanctions, very severe sanctions," he said. "The resolutions of the UN Security Council are insufficient. Iran must be presented with harsher and more effective sanctions. It worked against Libya. We must isolate Iran; only this way will results be possible."

Lieberman reiterated his position that Iran is an international problem.

"It is unacceptable that a head of state, a member state of the UN, calls daily for Israel's destruction. Iran's cooperation with North Korea, [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez and Syria is evil incarnate, but this is not our problem," he said.

"It's a problem of the entire region and the whole international community. Representatives of the Arab world have discussed with us recently not the Palestinians, but Iran. The Arabs recognize that their existence is not threatened by Israel, but by Iran."

Netanyahu meets with Barak: Defense establishment faces unprecedented challanges

(Ynet).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak met Saturday night to discuss the planned cutbacks in the government's budget, which are bound to affect the Defense Ministry.

Barak, who is adamantly against any cuts to the defense establishment's budget, detailed his reservations, saying that "the Iranian threat has budgetary implications."

The defense minister, along with several other security officials, implored Netanyahu to adhere to the Brodet Report, which recommended additional funds be given to the Defense Ministry, over several years. The Brodet recommendations were approved by the former government.

"Israel faces complex security challenges – the Iranian threat, Hizbullah's threat and the perils of Hamas. Brodet's budget would allow us to meet these challenges."

According to Barak, "The existence of life in the Middle East should precede quality of life. The defense establishment is a key player in the Israeli market and it includes the military industries, exports and social ventures.

"These funds cannot be compromised because the challenges we face are unprecedented," he said.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lieberman: Syria not a peace partner

Syria is supporting Palestinian and Lebanese terror groups and therefore is not a partner for peace, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview published in Austria on Saturday.

"We need to look at the reality. Even today, Syria hosts the headquarters of terror organizations such as Hamas and the [Islamic] Jihad," Lieberman told the Austrian Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

"Syria supports Hizbullah and its arms trafficking into southern Lebanon. Syria supports Iran's nuclear program. That is why I cannot see in Syria a real partner for any type of agreement," Lieberman was quoted as saying.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Oren says he hasn’t been offered ambassadorship

(JTA).Michael Oren says he'd be honored to serve at Israel's ambassador to the United States, but has not been offered the job.

Oren was responding to a flurry of media reports in recent days speculating that he was a leading candidate for the ambassador post. A Maariv article earlier in the week (link in Hebrew) said, without citing any named sources, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had selected Oren, and on Tuesday Laura Rozen at reported that "sources in Israel and Washington" said Oren was the choice. Rozen updated the story on Wednesday, though, with a Yediot Ahronoth story which cited sources in the Prime Minister's office saying that Oren was one of a number of candidates for the job and that Dore Gold was considered the leading contender for the ambassadorship.

Eyal Gabbai tapped to head Prime Minister's Office

(Haaretz).Eyal Gabbai, former director of the Government Companies Authority, is expected to be appointed director general of the Prime Minister's Office this week, replacing Ra'anan Dinur in the post.

Once this position is filled, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be able to relax a little, secure in the knowledge that he has a full complement of senior economic advisers. The other members of this team are former Finance Ministry budgets director Uri Yogev, who is chairman of the new National Economics Council's advisory committee, and Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg, the head of that council.

This will be Gabbai's third stint working with Netanyahu. In 1998-1999, during Netanyahu's first term as premier, Gabbai, now 42, was director of economic affairs in the Prime Minister's Office. In 2003-2005, when Netanyahu served as finance minister under prime minister Ariel Sharon, Gabbai was director of the Government Companies Authority.

Gabbai is considered one of the more successful directors of the companies authority, having overseen the privatization of companies such as El Al airlines, Bezeq, and Oil Refineries Haifa and Ashdod, as well as the introduction of structural changes in both the ports and the Railway Authority.

Netanyahu not to be Mr. yes man for Obama

(Aluf ben-Haaretz).His meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington next month will be a formative event in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political career.

The prime minister is aware of the assumption of many that his rejection of the idea of a Palestinian state, and opposition to withdrawals from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, will result in an inevitable crisis in relations with Obama and propel Israel into political isolation. But he is not afraid. The way he sees it, it's better to come to the White House with a list of demands and requests, and to condition any concession on a quid pro quo, than it is to play the role of yes man to the president and gain nothing in return.

Netanyahu prefers to enter into negotiations with maximalist positions rather than to begin with concessions that may win the world's approval but won't satisfy the other side. He is ready to pay the political price this will exact abroad for the sake of appearing consistent in his positions and preserving his coalition at home.

With the Washington trip on the horizon, Netanyahu has filled the international media with hints that Israel is ready to launch a preemptive strike against Iran, and with the demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, something he said would be a precondition for Israeli recognition of a future state. Obama replied to these messages with a call for goodwill gestures and confidence-building measures, and with a reminder of the commitments made by Netanyahu's predecessors - i.e., a freeze on settlement construction, the evacuation of outposts and the removal of checkpoints in the West Bank.

Translated from diplomatic-speak, it means something like this: Netanyahu threatens to disrupt Obama's "new order" in the region, if he sends the air force to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities; Obama threatens to undermine Netanyahu's coalition, if he demands that the Israeli rein in the settlers. This equation, "Itamar [the West Bank settlement] for Natanz," was posed before, during the Olmert-Bush era, but both leaders were too weak to make the threats credible it - Bush because of Iraq and Olmert because of Lebanon. Their successors currently enjoy a burst of political strength, at this early point in their tenure, and so the "mutually assured destruction" equation relevant once again.

Despite their different approaches, Netanyahu is encouraged by Obama's realism, and it gives him hope that they will be able to develop a cooperative and understanding work relationship. The prime minister admires the president's knack for leadership and his well-honed political instincts. The prime minister construed this as understanding on Obama's part for the political constraints faced by a fellow leader, and as a hint that the president will not try to impose on him moves that would be too difficult to digest.

Netanyahu is probably looking forward to meeting Obama at a time when the president has left the campaign slogans behind, gotten a taste of actual statesmanship and come to realize that the bad guys are still the same bad guys, regardless of who's in power in Washington.

But the cards that these leaders hold in their hands are much more important in the diplomatic poker game, and none is more important than political support. The positions Netanyahu has outlined since his return to power need to be viewed in this light. He knows the Democratic-controlled Congress will back Obama's peace overtures in the Middle East and that Israel will not be able to outflank the president via Capitol Hill if it is perceived there as being contrary and unyielding. But members of Congress will also insist that America meet its commitments to Israel's security. Netanyahu wants to come to Washington with the broadest possible support back home, so as to prevent the Americans from doing anything that might destabilize his government.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

World leaders must drop 'land for peace' slogan,Focus on the Real threat and stop Iran

(Jpost).The international community has to "stop speaking in slogans" if it really wants to help the new Israeli government work toward a solution to the Palestinian conflict and help bring stability to the Middle East, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, in his first interview with an Israeli newspaper since taking the job.

"Over the last two weeks I've had many conversations with my colleagues around the world," he said. "Just today, I saw the political adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Chinese foreign minister and the Czech prime minister. And everybody, you know, speaks with you like you're in a campaign: Occupation, settlements, settlers..."

Slogans like these, and others Lieberman cited, such as "land for peace" and "two-state solution," were both overly simplistic and ignored the root causes of the ongoing conflict, he said.

The fact was, said the Israel Beiteinu leader, that the Palestinian issue was "deadlocked" despite the best efforts of a series of dovish Israeli governments. "Israel has proved its good intentions, our desire for peace," he said.

The path forward, he said, lay in ensuring security for Israel, an improved economy for the Palestinians, and stability for both.

"Economy, security, stability," he repeated. "It's impossible to artificially impose any political solution. It will fail, for sure. You cannot start any peace process from nothing. You must create the right situation, the right focus, the right conditions."

The real reason for the deadlock with the Palestinians, said Lieberman, "is not occupation, not settlements and not settlers. This conflict is really a very deep conflict. It started like other national conflicts. [But] today it's a more religious conflict. Today you have the influence of some nonrational players, like al-Qaida."

And the biggest obstacle to any comprehensive solution, he said, "is not Israel. It is not the Palestinians. It's the Iranians."

Lieberman said the prime responsibility for thwarting Iran's march to a nuclear capability lay with the international community, not Israel, and especially the five permanent members of the Security Council. He was confident that stringent economic sanctions could yet achieve the desired result, and said he did not even "want to think about the consequences of a crazy nuclear arms race in the region."

He said it would be "impossible to resolve any problem in our region without resolving the Iranian problem."

Asked whether it troubled him to be perceived as an extremist in some circles, including overseas, Lieberman laughed and said, "So it's easy for me to surprise them."

He said he believed his international colleagues "respect me, and that they understand that I say what I mean, and I mean every word that I say."

Netanyahu gets Tough: Europe will not dictate policy to Israel

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday dismissed European calls to suspend the upgrade in Israel's relations with the European Union. "Don't set conditions for us," Netanyahu told Mirek Topolanek during the Czech premier's visit to Israel. Netanyahu said Israel's relationship to Europe should not be linked to its relationship to the Palestinians.

"Peace is in Israel's interest no less than it is in Europe's interest, and there's no need to make the upgrade in relations with Israel conditional on progress on the peace process," Netanyahu said. "We are in the process of reviewing our policy; don't rush us."

Topolanek is the first foreign government leader to visit Israel since the Netanyahu cabinet was sworn in three weeks ago. The talks between the two were reportedly conducted in a relaxed atmosphere. But Topolanek, whose country holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, brought up the issue of construction in West Bank settlements and European concerns that this could prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"If Israelis can't build homes in the West Bank then Palestinians shouldn't be allowed to either," Netanyahu said in response. He told the Czech leader he has no intention of halting the expansion of existing settlements. "I have no plans to build new settlements, but if someone wants to build a new home [in an existing one], I don't think there's a problem." He characterized the West Bank as "disputed territory" over which negotiations must be held.

Topolanek asked Netanyahu whether he intended to evacuate the illegal outposts on the West Bank, as Israel has promised in the past in the road map and other agreements. Netanyahu said the outposts are both a domestic and foreign issue. "I intend to enforce the law with regard to the outposts," he said.

Obama: It is our duty to prevent another Holocaust

(AP).President Barack Obama paid tribute Thursday to the memory of Jews murdered in the Holocaust and said it is the duty of the living all over the world to end such atrocities forever.

Speaking at a Holocaust Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, Obama warned against what he called the dangers of silence.

"Every day," he said, "people should resist the urge to turn away when scenes of horror unfold across the world and fight the impulse to turn the channel when we see images that disturb us or wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others' sufferings are not our own."

The president also urged people to make a habit of empathy, "to recognize ourselves in each other."

Obama noted that the risk of genocide has not been eliminated since about 6 million Jews were systematically murdered by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. Many were gassed in death camps, while others were killed en masse in other ways, including shooting and starvation.

"We've seen it, in this century, in the mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground and children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war," he said.

Netanyahu ally Yogev to chair economic advisory c'ttee

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to appoint an associate, Uri Yogev as chairman of the advisory committee of the National Economics Council.

Uri Yogev advises Netanyahu on economics, but he has not had an official position, so not had to sign a prevention of conflict of interests declaration.

PM Netanyahu presents economic rescue plan:"We have succeeded in doing this before and we will succeed in doing this again".

(jpost).Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Thursday presented the government's emergency economic plan for 2009 and 2010 in a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office. They will present the plan, dubbed Containment and Momentum, in Sunday's cabinet meeting.

The main points presented in the plan were issues discussed recently, such as tax cuts, budget cuts, fighting unemployment, investment in infrastructure, giving credit to businesses and cancellation of the Goshen Plan, which would give governmental guarantees on corporate bonds.

Tax cuts will begin only in two years' time, the 'negative income tax' incentive program will be expanded, but the plan will not include assistance to capital holders.

Netanyahu explained that "since we are in the midst of a very serious crisis, of global dimensions, and we need and are also able to save the Israeli economy, our mission is two-fold: to preserve jobs and to jump-start the market. We have succeeded in doing this before and we will succeed in doing this again."

"We're in a great crisis, but we must, and we can, save the economy, save jobs, and boost the economy. We've done it before. The economy is like a plane in a dive. We'll stop the fall, after which it will soar upward," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of today's press conference to present his economic plan for 2009-10.

Netanyahu went on, "The plan comprises brakes and accelerators. The fact that we know that there are growth engines in itself helps to stop the fall. The plan combines blocking and growth measures. In addition, the most important thing is renew growth."

Netanyahu said, "Our economic policy must take us from freefall to growth. The finance minister and I have held dozens of meetings, mostly at night, and we working together on an agreed-upon strategy.

Regarding his cooperation with Steinitz, Netanyahu said metaphorically that when a plane is diving in free fall, it is important that two pilots man the cockpit.

"Another important thing - it's important to have a pilot, in fact two pilots, and a direction of action. These are critical. Today, we're outlining the principles and thereby lifting a lot of uncertainty. We're collaborating with the Histadrut and the employers, which is a new approach."

Steinitz said, "We're entering a difficult time of emergency. Not only the unemployed and businesspeople are feeling the crisis. Every household feels it. We'll take courageous measures to halt the slowdown and the increase in unemployment, and to boost growth in the near future, although this will not happen immediately, but within a year or two, so that we'll already see renewed strong growth."

Steinitz continued, "We'll emerge from this crisis stronger, with an efficient and strong economy, and with a stronger society. This requires everyone to work together. It requires all of us to join hands, and requires all sectors of the economy. We have two components that are actually one: halting the slide, and the measures that will ensure growth."

Steinitz said he hoped that within a year to two years Israel would see signs of new growth. He emphasized that the plan's outline was being presented only in broad terms since many of its details were still being processed.

Lieberman won't accompany Netanyahu to Egypt, says Mubarak

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Thursday that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would not accompany Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on an upcoming visit to Egypt.

"Some say... that [Netanyahu] will bring his foreign minister with him," AFP quoted Mubarak as saying during a speech to mark the end of Israel's 15-year occupation of the Sinai peninsula in 1982.

"The Israeli prime minister is coming alone. His cabinet chief will come with him. He will not bring any other minister with him," Mubarak said, according to the news agency

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz will present their long-awaited economic stimulus plan today

Barak fires Eitan Cabel from party secretary-general post

After years of conflict in the Labor Party, Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak took what many saw as a step Wednesday evening to unify the party around him and informed party secretary-general, MK Eitan Cabel, that he planned on beginning the process of removing him from his position.

Barak told Cabel during a meeting that he would remove Cabel from his position after Cabel refused to bow to the decision of the party's steering committee to enter the government. Instead, Cabel accused Barak of "burying" the Labor Party, and was absent from the floor when the Knesset voted to approve the new government.

Cabel told Barak that the Labor chairman could not simply decide to fire him, and that he would need to call together the Labor Party Committee in order to seek to remove Cabel and replace him. In the meantime, Barak said that a director-general would be appointed to oversee the daily management of the beleaguered party.

Netanyahu to offer U.S. 'laundry list' for peace talks

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is developing a "laundry list" that he will present to U.S. President Barack Obama when they meet next month in Washington. The Israeli premier will present Obama with a three-part plan involving halting Iran's nuclear program, closer relations with moderate Arab states and dealing with the Palestinian issue through several channels.

Netanyahu will tell Obama that he will not recognize a nation-state providing Palestinian self-determination if the Palestinians don't recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. From the standpoint of the Israeli prime minister, the requirement that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is a fundamental demand in any negotiations on a final settlement. It is not a precondition to conducting negotiations, but rather necessary to progress towards an agreement.

During the course of negotiations to form his coalition government, Netanyahu revealed that the Olmert government demanded recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in its talks with the Palestinians, but withdrew that demand within just 24 hours because of opposition from the Palestinian negotiators.

Netanyahu wants to present an Israeli demand for recognition of national rights as a counterweight to the demand that Israel recognize "Palestinian rights." Second, he is concerned that if the Palestinians evade such recognition in political negotiations, they will also refrain from telling their constituency that Israel is the state of the Jewish people, and will continue to pursue the conflict even after a settlement is reached. Third, recognition of a Jewish state will neutralize the Palestinian demand for the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees.

The prime minister also has political considerations, however. To mobilize support from the Israeli public and from the U.S. Congress for his positions in the face of possible pressure from Obama, Netanyahu needs to build a common denominator across party and factional lines. The principle of the "Jewish state" enjoys wide support among relevant sectors of the public, and it is much easier to mobilize support for this than a policy opposing withdrawal from territories.

Netanyahu is also seeking to come to an agreement with the United States defining "limitations on sovereignty" to be imposed on a future Palestinian entity. This includes prohibiting it from maintaining an army or forging military agreements or alliances, and Israel continuing to monitor its external borders, airspace and electromagnetic spectrum. The prime minister's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, unsuccessfully tried to secure such guarantees from the Bush administration, despite having proposed a withdrawal from almost all of the West Bank. Netanyahu accords great importance to security guarantees from the Americans, and thinks he will be more successful in securing them than Olmert had been.

In deliberations Netanyahu is conducting to develop his peace plan, there will also be consideration of gestures which Israel will make to the Palestinians, as well as Israel's response to the demand to freeze construction in the settlements, vacate outposts and remove roadblocks. The prime minister intends to bring the issue of the settlements to a decision by the cabinet, and it is assumed he will only present his position right before his trip to the White House.

Iran will be central to the plans Netanyahu will present to Obama. He will explain to the American president that the existence of Israel is the guarantor of the continued existence of the Jewish people following the Holocaust and that nuclear weapons cannot fall into the hands of those who deny the existence of the Jewish state. Netanyahu would prefer that the U.S. deal with the Iranian threat.

Israeli intel warns Netanyahu on Obama policy: 'We have become an obstacle'

(Worldtribune).— A classified assessment relayed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Obama and his senior advisers would incrementally diminish U.S. strategic cooperation with Israel developed over the last 20 years.

"Obama wants to make friends with our worst enemies and until now the worst enemies of the United States," an Israeli source familiar with the intelligence assessment said.

"Under this policy, we are more than irrelevant. We have become an obstacle."

Israeli sources said the administration would reject Israel intelligence on such threats as Iran and Syria while advancing the Obama agenda to reconcile with the two states, both listed as state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Dept.

On April 20, Israeli military intelligence commander Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin warned the Cabinet that Obama was prepared to allow Iran to retain its capability to assemble nuclear weapons and support Hamas and Hizbullah.

"Obama wants to advance the peace process in the direction of realistic discussions with extremist elements," Yadlin said.

The Israeli intelligence assessment envisioned that Obama would maintain his reconciliation policy with Iran and Syria through at least 2010. The sources said the assessment determined that Obama was convinced that such a policy would enable a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Obama will want to show Iran, Syria and radical Muslims that the United States could pressure Israel on a strategic level," the source said. "The pressure has already begun and will intensify throughout the next year or two."

The military intelligence chief said Obama was also courting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Yadlin said both Damascus and Teheran have not significantly reduced their support for insurgency groups throughout the region.

"President Bashar Assad hopes to turn over a new leaf with U.S. President Barack Obama," Yadlin said. "However, while Western powers are being hosted at the palace in Damascus, Syria is continuing to be used as the back yard of the axis of evil. Assad is letting Hizbullah and Iranian forces freely conduct their affairs in Syria and use its territory for Hizbullah deployment."

Yadlin said Obama's policies have generated dismay among Arab allies of the United States. He said Arab countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia were concerned that U.S. reconciliation efforts would merely encourage Teheran and its proxies to intensify destabilization efforts. In April 2009, Egypt reported a Hizbullah network that operated in Cairo and the Sinai Peninsula.

"The Arab world is starting to understand that Iranian proxies are a threat to the region," Yadlin said. "The Hizbullah activity in Egypt is not an isolated incident. Iran has infrastructures across the world seeking to perpetrate terror attacks against Israel."

At the same time, the Obama administration was expected to restrict U.S. arms exports to Israel in an effort to deny systems that could be used in any attack against Iran or Syria. The intelligence sources said this policy was implemented during the last year of the Bush administration and would intensify under Obama.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Suleiman meets FM Lieberman, invites him to Cairo

In an apparent about-turn by Egypt, visiting Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman met Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday evening and invited him to visit Cairo.

The meeting came a week after Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that until the attitude of his Israeli counterpart toward his country changed, Cairo would not work with him, nor would he be welcome in Egypt.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the meeting was "good and useful," and that it was "conducted in a friendly atmosphere."

"Lieberman expressed his appreciation for Egypt's leading role in the region, for its leader, President Hosni Mubarak and for Suleiman," continued the statement, adding that "Israel and Egypt will continue their vital cooperation to ensure stability, security and peace in the Middle East."

Israel says Netanyahu invited to Egypt

(AFP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to visit Egypt during a meeting on Wednesday with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the premier's office said.

Suleiman issued the invitation on behalf of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak during the first meeting between a high-level Egyptian official and the new right-wing Israeli leader since Netanyahu took office on March 31.

The visit could take place in the "coming weeks," an official said

Natoinal security Cabinet meet in Jerusalem

Netanyahu's government held its first National Security Cabinet meeting, beginning with a detailed security briefing by senior defense establishment officials.

The ministers were briefed on the routine procedures pertaining to the cabinet's operations – standard work protocol, preparing for meetings and various follow-up procedures.

Also attending the meeting were Uzi Arad, head of the National Security Council and Netanyahu's security advisor, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin, Mossad Chief Meir Dagan and IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi.

Arad reviewed the protocol for the 12 ministers making up the cabinet and the prime minister urged his minister to exercise maximum discretion and responsibility

Historian Michael Oren(supported Mccain) to be Israel's ambassador to Washington

Michael Oren, a senior fellow and scholar of Middle Eastern diplomatic and military history at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's choice to be his ambassador to Washington, sources in Israel and Washington say.

Oren, a New Jersey native who emigrated to Israel in the 1970s, is a published historian and contributing editor to The New Republic. He spoke to NPR during Israel's recent Gaza campaign in his capacity as a reservist serving as a spokesman for the Israeli military.

Noam Shalit: halt demontrations, give Netanyahu 100 days of benevolence

Lieberman: U.S. will accept any Israeli decision

(Haaretz).The Obama Administration will put forth new peace initiatives only if Israel wants it to, said Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in his first comprehensive interview on foreign policy since taking office.

"Believe me, America accepts all our decisions," Lieberman told the Russian daily Moskovskiy Komosolets.

Lieberman granted his first major interview to Alexander Rosensaft, the Israel correspondent of one of the oldest Russian dailies, not to an Israeli newspaper. The role of Israel is to "bring the U.S. and Russia closer," he declared.

During the interview, Lieberman said Iran is not Israel's biggest strategic threat; rather, Afghanistan and Pakistan are.

This comes after years of Lieberman warning about the growing Iranian threat. Now, he has dropped Tehran to number two, with Iraq coming third.

Lieberman also discussed Moscow's under-utilized role in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and said he aims to correct this. The newspaper emphasized Lieberman's intention to develop closer ties with Russia and to resolve international issues jointly.

"Russia has a special influence in the Muslim world, and I consider it a strategic partner that should play a key role in the Middle East," Lieberman said in the interview.

"I have argued for some time that Israel has insufficient appreciation for the 'Kremlin factor'; I intend to mend this gap," he said.

Political sources in the Commonwealth of Independent States have told Haaretz that they believe Lieberman's appointment will result in "greater understanding" between Israel and Russia.

Regarding his changing view on Israel's greatest threats, Lieberman said that since he began warning against the nuclear threat from Iran, nuclear threats have become more prevalent. Meanwhile, a more urgent problem has developed in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"Pakistan is nuclear and unstable, and Afghanistan is faced with a potential Taliban takeover, and the combination form a contiguous area of radicalism ruled in the spirit of Bin Laden," Lieberman said.

"I do not think that this makes anyone in China, Russia or the U.S. happy ... these countries [Pakistan and Afghanistan] are a threat not only to Israel, but to the global order as a whole."

In response to a question on Israel's role in countering these threats, Lieberman said, "Our role is that we should bring the U.S. and Russia closer ... it is unclear to me why the U.S. needs to confront Russia on Kosovo or Ukraine's entry to NATO; however, Russia needs to understand that close cooperation with Hugo Chavez does not build western confidence."

Later in the interview, the foreign minister spoke unkindly of the road map, which he called binding, unlike the Annapolis process, in his view. The Palestinians "are not very familiar with the document," he said. Lieberman called a two-state solution a nice slogan that lacks substance.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mitt Romney: military options should be on table for Iran

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) criticized President Obama's foreign policy today, arguing the President should make clear that military options are on the table to deal with North Korea and Iran. North Korea's recent missile test and Iran's announcement that it has mastered all stages of the uranium enrichment process are "game changing events," Romney said on CNN's "Situation Room."

"Obama not only hasn't taken bold action in this regard, he's indicated he's not going to," the former Republican presidential candidate contended. "I would make it very clear we're not taking military options off the table." Romney said the U.N. Security Council's resolution condemning the test and warning of sanctions was insufficient. "We have so many warnings from the United Nations about things North Korea's not supposed to do that it immediately flaunts," he said.

Romney also also criticized Obama's conduct during his overseas trips. Citing Obama's speeches at the G20 summit and the Summit of the Americas, Romney called on the President to "defend America" more forcefully. "In each case he has not risen to defend America or defend freedom," Romney said.

Axelrod: Bibi-Barack meeting ‘will happen in the very near future’

(JTA) -- A top adviser to President Obama said a meeting between the president and Israel's prime minister “will happen in the very near future.” “Of course he wants to meet with him,” David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president, said of a potential Obama-Benjamin Netanyahu meeting. Axelrod, who spoke to JTA on Monday after delivering a speech at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's biannual Consultation on Consicence, said such a meeting “is in the works.” He added that Obama and Netanyahu “had a good conversation” when they spoke on the phone after Netanyahu became Israel's prime minister earlier this month. In his remarks to the RAC, Axelrod detailed the administration's accomplishments in its first 100 days and talked about its future agenda. He stressed, “We believe strongly in the two-state solution,” because “we believe that's in our interest and Israel's interest.” “We want to see momentum moving forward, not backward,” he told the crowd. Asked afterward whether he was optimistic about reaching that goal, Axlerod said, “We're always optimists. That's what we're going to work for. I'm sure that when he and the prime minister meet they'll have a full discussion about that.

Netanyahu thanks Geneva boycotters:Your Decision restores sanity to world

(Ynet).Thank you from Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter of gratitude to the states that boycotted the UN anti-racism conference in Geneva this week. The PM also praised the countries whose representatives walked out during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the event

The decision to boycott the UN conference returned a "measure of sanity" to a world where an anti-racism conference grants a platform to a Holocaust-denying head of state who openly declares his wish to wipe out Israel, Netanyahu wrote in his letter.

Netanyahu praised foreign leaders for adopting a "clear and unequivocal moral stance" at the time when others undermine the "most basic human values."

The PM also expressed his hope that the decision to boycott the UN conference would mark a "moral turning point" in the world.

Obama invites Mideast leaders for separate talks

(Haaretz).President Barack Obama has invited Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian leaders for separate talks in the next few weeks on the Middle East peace process, the White House said on Tuesday.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the White House was trying to finalize dates for visits by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The visits were likely to take place before Obama's scheduled trip to France in June, he said.

"With each of them the president will discuss ways the United States can strengthen and deepen our partnerships with them, as well as the steps all parties must take to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and the Arab states," Gibbs told a news conference.

Obama, Abdullah Give Support for Two-State Process

(Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama and Jordan’s King Abdullah II reaffirmed their support for a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians as the path to peace in the region and said they expect a resumption of negotiations.

Israel and the Palestinians “can’t talk forever” and “have got to make a decision” to move forward, Obama said after meeting with Abdullah at the White House. “As hard as it is, as difficult as it may be, the prospect of peace still exists, but it’s going to require some hard choices, it’s going to require resolution on the part of all the actors involved.”

“Steps have to be taken so that people can see progress,” Obama said. “That will be something that we will expect to take place in the coming months,” he said, adding that the U.S. “is going to deeply engage in this process” to hasten progress.

Senator Demint first U.S. official to meet with Netanyahu - The shared principles and values that unite Israel and the US are at risk

Below is a copy of Sen. Jim Demint (R-SC)‘s blog about his recent trip to Israel to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu after he was sworn back into office as Israel’s Prime Minister…

Two weeks ago I took a trip to Europe and the Middle East. It was an honor to be the first member of the United States government to welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back to office. After meeting with him and many other leaders in Jerusalem during my visit, it is clear to me that Israel remains committed to a strong, special friendship with the United States.

However, during my trip it became evident that the U.S. policies in the Middle East are changing in a way that could undermine efforts to ensure peace and security in the region. The shared principles and values that unite Israel and the United States are at risk, and at the heart of the problem lies Iran.

Whether it is their exportation of terrorism, their funding and arming of Hamas and Hezbollah, or their single-minded pursuit of nuclear weapons, the Iranian regime’s behavior poses a clear and present danger to Israel. And no ally of the United States should have to live in fear of state-sponsored terror.

No evidence exists suggesting a diminishment of Iran’s penchant for violence and international mischief. Just last week, Iran announced it had enough centrifuges to produce enough uranium for a nuclear bomb. It is only a matter of time until Tehran, an unrepentant nexus of nuclear weapons and organized terrorism, represents the world’s biggest threat to the security of the United States, Israel, and the rest of the Middle East. Therefore, I believe it is time the United States confronts Iranian influence in the Middle East and takes the necessary steps toward improving the peace and prosperity of the region.

The United States should impose serious and targeted sanctions on Iran, including limits on their supply of refined gasoline. Unfortunately, the Obama administration would rather talk to Iran in the vain hope that its apocalyptic tyrants don’t actually want to produce a nuclear weapon. Such naiveté not only further erodes Israel’s security and destabilizes the entire Middle East, but it also subtly encourages Iran’s continued and unpunished mischief.

The Obama administration needs to stand by our allies, not force a false peace upon them. Though it is clear to me that Israel remains committed to working with the United States, we must do our part to protect Israel from Iran-sponsored terror, ultimately ensuring our friendship with them. If the administration wants to help Israel and the Palestinians, it needs to confront Iran and undo Iran’s capacity to support the terrorists that hold the entire region in a state of perpetual oppression.

Knesset speaker Rivlin in letter to parliment heads - 'The new Hitler speaks Persian'

(Haaretz).Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin sent a message to heads of parliament around the world Tuesday in which he compared Iranian President Mahhoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler.

"The hate expressed by the President of Iran is a warning to all humanity: We risk seeing a repetition of the Holocaust and it will be brought about by people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," Rivlin wrote.

"This time he has a beard and speaks Persian...But the words are the same words and the aspirations are the same aspirations and the determination to find the weapons to achieve those aspirations is the same menacing determination. Unfortunately, just as at that shameful Olympic event, the world has again given him a platform," he said.

"If there is one lesson to be learned from the destruction and devastation the first Hitler brought to the world, it is to be found in the realization that anyone who remains silent, anyone who ignores evil, anyone who deals with the devil - he too in the final analyses pays the price."

"I therefore call upon you, my colleagues around the world, not to remain silent, not to turn away and above all not to think for one moment that Ahmadinejad is not a threat to you too," Rivlin concluded .

Ashkenazi says Israel can strike anywhere our enemies exist

(Ynet)."Even today we still face elements that seek to destroy us, those who hate us, Holocaust deniers and various leaders who openly call for our extermination," Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, said on Monday evening at the Holocaust memorial ceremony held at the Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust.

Just hours after the widely denounced speech given by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN racism conference in Geneva, Ashkenazi said the IDF was "capable of striking the farthest enemy."

Having said this, the chief of staff added that "we insist on preserving the morals unique to the Jewish people since its inception through the way we fight and conduct ourselves. Those who spoke of the 'supreme race,' and sought to rob us of our humanity, should know that the Israeli people is alive, determined to face any challenge, ready to face even the most complex threats and defeat them," said Ashkenazi.

ADL Poll: American Jews Support Netanyahu and Israel's right to destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities

( steadfast support of American Jews for Israel, for Israel's action in Gaza and for Israel's right, if all else fails, to use military force to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, was reaffirmed by a survey commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).The findings show that, overwhelmingly, American Jews believe that Israel is committed to peace with the Palestinians and reject the notion that America
should pressure Israel to make peace.

Survey Highlights

. By a margin of 73%-2%, American Jews believe that Israel is doing more to
bring peace to the region than the Palestinians.

. 74% believe that Hamas is not interested in peace, while 52% believe
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is.

. 61% of American Jews support the future creation of a Palestinian state in
the West Bank and Gaza.

. There is eroding support for Israel's 2005 withdrawal from Gaza; as late
as January 2009, 63% of American Jews still supported it. Now, it's down to

. 74% approve of Israel's military action in Gaza, and by a margin of
66%-28%, American Jews supported the notion that Israel's military response
in Gaza was appropriate and not excessive.

. 73% support Israel's right to close the borders to Gaza to prevent
resupply of arms even if it slows down humanitarian relief.

. Regarding Iran, a significant majority (58%-27%) believe that if
diplomatic and economic steps fail to get Iran to halt its uranium
enrichment program, they would support Israel's right to destroy the Iranian
nuclear facilities. And, under similar circumstances, American Jews would
similarly support US military action by 55%-27%.

. 50% of American Jews support US direct negotiations with Iran without
preconditions, while 45% believe the US should not enter into negotiations
until Iran agrees to suspend its uranium enrichment.

Netanyahu most popular Israeli serving today:
Netanyahu 65%, Barak 55%, Livni 50%, Lieberman 31%

MI Chief Amos Yadlin: Obama Mideast policy threatens Israel

(Haaretz).Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin said Monday that the Middle East policy of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration could endanger Israel.

"The Obama administration is determined to take initiative and move forward central processes in the Middle East," Yadlin told ministers at a special cabinet meeting.

"Obama wants to advance the peace process in the direction of realistic discussions with extremist elements," Yadlin said, adding that the struggle between extremist and moderate elements in the region was worsening.

In a surprising shift, Yadlin also said that the Islamist Hamas movement has been deterred and is now interested in reaching a peace settlement with Israel.

Yadlin added that the struggle between moderates and extremists in the Middle East is intensifying and that the moderate Arab states understand that Iran is a threat to the region.

He said Hezbollah's operations expanded well beyond those uncovered recently in Egypt.

"Iran and Hezbollah have an infrastructure of terror around the world with the aim of striking against Israel," Yadlin said. "Hezbollah is restrained and deterred on the northern border because it fears an Israeli reaction during the upcoming elections in Lebanon."

Deputy PM Sivan Shalom at Auschwitz: Israel will continue to exist

(AP).Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom on Tuesday vowed from that Israel would continue to exist, speaking at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was later to take part in the annual March of the Living, held on at the site on Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Shalom made the comments in reference to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the Durban II racism conference, which he called shameful.

He also said, "Iran is trying to do everything they can in order to wipe Israel off the map and at the same time to undermine the moderate Arab Muslim regimes in the Middle East."

Transcrip of PM Netanyahu address on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Before the recent Pesach holiday, a Jewish hero passed away - David
Plonsky, also known as "Yurek", may his memory be blessed - the cigarette
salesman from the Triple Cross Square in Warsaw.

Yurek was only 14 when the Warsaw Ghetto was established. He turned
from child into adult overnight. He smuggled food into the ghetto and his
life was under constant threat. Yurek survived. He immigrated to Israel,
fought in the War of Independence, started a family and built a home at
Kibbutz Meggido. He lost his son Eitan during the Yom Kippur War, but found
the fortitude to overcome this tragedy as well. He continued living,
continued building and continued inculcating his legacy into thousands of

His life story and activities are, to a large extent, a mirror of the
Jewish people's transition from exile to liberty - a story of suffering,
supreme heroism, construction and renaissance; a story of bereavement, faith
and independence.

Yurek may have survived the inferno, but close to a million and a half
Jewish children did not survive and perished in the Holocaust. I think the
human mind cannot grasp this fact. We always see before us the famous
picture of the frightened Jewish child, raising his hands in front of the
barrels of German rifles. But this child was only one out of a million and a
half children, a million and a half pairs of frightened eyes. Each one of
them was an entire world of hopes and dreams, a mother's love and a father's
concern, a world transformed instantly into one of terror, suffering and

Some of them survived for months and years, hiding in dungeons and
forests, freezing in the snow, or starving to death. Children of ten or
twelve years-old, escaping like persecuted wild animals from the Nazi
hunters hunting them down in order to kill them. Some of these children
found shelter in churches and convents, separated from their parents, torn
by their longings, sometimes found shelter in the homes of the best of
humanity, non-Jews, Righteous Gentiles who risked not only their lives, but
also the lives of their families to rescue them from death.

Some of the children, like Yurek, in a reversal of roles became
children defending their parents. Children of eight or nine years-old who
risked their lives daily to bring food into the starved ghetto and a piece
of bread for mommy and daddy. Little heroes, awarded a medal by no one.The
majority of them left behind them neither a name nor a trace. The Nazi beast
devoured them and their parents, and there is no one to tell of their tale
of heroism.

However, even in moments of the most terrible despair of our people's
history, in the final moments of the Warsaw Ghetto, Jewish youngsters from
all streams fought an unparalleled war of heroism against the Nazi
oppressor. By doing so, they marked the great transformation that was about
to occur in the fate of our people several years later, with the
establishment of the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces.

Distinguished Guests,

"In every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy
One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand". He saves us through the
living spirit in our people and its representatives - judges, prophets,
kings, Maccabim.

However, in the case of the Holocaust, the rescue came late, too late
for six million of our people, and a new flame was rekindled in our
remaining survivors only with the establishment of the State of Israel in
the Land of Israel.

Anti-Semitism is an age-old historic phenomenon. However, if anyone
thought that after the horrors of the Holocaust, this malignant phenomenon
will vanish from the world, today it is clear that they were, unfortunately,
mistaken. Concurrently with human progress and enlightenment, the dark
shadows of hatred are again invading our people and State.

In our generation, only a few dozen years after the Holocaust, new
forces arise, clearly and openly stating their intention to wipe the Jewish
State off the face of the earth. And the response of the civilized world?
Instead of a firm denunciation - at best, we hear a faint voice.

The unfortunate fact is that while we are marking the events of the
Holocaust here at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, there are those who chose to
participate in a spectacle of hatred of Israel, conducted at this very hour
in the heart of Europe.

From here I turn to you, President of Switzerland, and I ask you: how
can you, as a head of an enlightened state, meet with those who deny the
Holocaust and strive for another one?

In opposition to this, we express our appreciation to those important
countries which chose to boycott this demonstration of hatred - including
the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Holland, Poland, Australia and
New Zealand, as well as representatives who left the hall during the hateful
words of the Iranian president.

We must awaken the nations' conscience, we must form alliances and
make connections, but above all, we must remember that our ability to repel
the threats to our people's existence stems from the strength of our State,
from our unity and our cohesion in times of trial.

We will not allow Holocaust deniers to carry out another Jewish
Holocaust. This is the supreme commitment of the State of Israel, and it is
my supreme commitment as Prime Minister of Israel.

The State of Israel is the shield; it is the comfort and hope of the
Jewish people. It is where we gather our exiles, where we build new cities
in the land of our forefathers, where we create, for the glory of our people
and for all mankind.

Israel's achievements in all fields - culture, technology, science,
agriculture, medicine and security are groundbreaking. Our people may be
small in number, but of great strength.

Distinguished Guests,

Six years ago, Yurek, may his memory be blessed, was one of the torch
lighters here at Yad Vashem. This evening, six Holocaust survivors will
light memorial torches. Each one of them has a touching human story and a
contribution to the building of the people and the state.

The Government of Israel has a deep commitment to you, Holocaust
survivors. In past years the state did not always meet your special needs.
Over the past several years things have changed. Today, I guarantee you that
we will continue to properly address your needs. You are clear evidence of
the transcendence of the Jewish spirit, this spirit which held the power to
rise up from the valley of death, return to our homeland and build our lives

In the words of Prophet Zachariah: "Thus said Hashem, Master of
Legions: My cities will once again spread out with bounty; Hashem will have
mercy on Zion once again and He will choose Jerusalem once again".

Monday, April 20, 2009

MK Yaakov Katz (NU) writes in letter to Emanuel: Don't forget you'r Jewish, urges him to protect Israel's interests

National Union chairman Ya'acov "Ketzele" Katz sent a letter to White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel last week admonishing him not to forget his Jewish and Israeli origins.

Katz's missive came in response to a reported verbal exchange between Emanuel and an unidentified American Jewish leader. Katz claims that in a private meeting with the unnamed leader, Emanuel said, "In the next four years, there will be a peace agreement with the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it does not matter to us who is the prime minister." In the letter, a Hebrew version of which was provided to The Jerusalem Post by Katz's parliamentary aide, Katz wrote: "For many Israelis, this report is a cause for worry because it reveals a condescending attitude toward our prime minister and Israeli public opinion. This is an attitude that Israel does not expect from a real friend such as the US, and all the more so from an Israeli Jew who has succeeded in being appointed White House chief-of-staff."

Katz went on to compare Emanuel to the biblical Esther, who ended up at using her influence with Persian King Ahashverosh to intervene on behalf of the Jews of the Persian Empire. "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Katz wrote, quoting from the Book of Esther (4:14). Katz was hinting that Emanuel should use his influence to protect Israeli interests, which, he believes, are best served by preventing the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Western leaders demonstrate and walk out from hall as Ahmadinejad claims "Israel is a racist government"

Peres to meet Obama before Netanyahu?

(Ynet) – Will President Shimon Peres be the first Israeli leader to meet with US President Barack Obama at the White House? Such an option is being looked into in Washington these days, as Peres may replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and address the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.

Netanyahu met with Peres during the Passover holiday, informed him that he would not be able to attend the AIPAC conference in early May, and asked him to represent Israel at the event in his place.

The prime minister decided not to travel to the conference in order to use the coming weeks to form an Israeli policy on the negotiations with the Palestinians and the Syrians before his important meeting with President Obama.

A day after the meeting between Peres and Netanyahu, the President's Residence received an official invitation from AIPAC. Peres has yet to decide whether to accept the invitation. His close advisors are looking into the possibility of preparing an itinerary for the president within less than two weeks.

The decision is expected to be made in the coming days and depends on whether a meeting will be set between Peres and Obama.

PM Netanyahu at Yad Vashem: We won't let Holocaust deniers carry out another against the Jewish people

Prime Minister Binyamin Netnayahu mentioned the Geneva conference in his speech, lamenting the fact that "there are those who chose to participate in the display of hate."

Netanyahu directed a personal question at Swiss president Hans-Rudolf Merz, who earlier in the day defended his decision to meet Ahmadinejad in Geneva, prior to the opening of the conference.

"I turn to you, the Swiss president, and ask you: How can you meet someone who denies the Holocaust and wishes for a new holocaust to occur?"

Netanyahu praised "important countries" that chose to distance themselves from the conference, mentioning the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Poland, Australia and New Zealand.

Netanyahu called Ahmadinejad a Holocaust denier who wants to perpetrate another massacre of Jews.

"We will not allow the Holocaust deniers to carry out another Holocaust against the Jewish people. This is the supreme duty of the state of Israel. This is my supreme duty as prime minister of Israel," Netanyahu said.

"Israel," Netanyahu went on, is "the shield and the hope of the Jewish people. Here we create for the glory of our people and all of mankind. The country's achievements in every field - culture and science, medicine and security - are groundbreaking. We are a nation small in number but of great fortitude," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also hinted Israel had to be prepared to act alone against Iran if necessary.

Although he only mentioned the word Iran once, he devoted nearly all his speech to the Iranian threat. "Only a matter of a few decades after the Holocaust, new forces have arisen that openly declare their intention to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the earth," he said.

Netanyahu also discussed diplomacy he hoped would foil Iran's nuclear plans.

"We must appeal to the world's conscience and forge alliances," he said. "We must remember that our ability to fend off the dangers to our people's existence rests on the strength of our state, our cohesion and our unity at the moment of truth," he said. "The State of Israel is the shield and the hope of the Jewish people."

To the Holocaust survivors Netanyahu said: "The government has a deep commitment to you. In years past the state has not always known how to provide you with what you need, but things have changed over the last years. Today I promise you that we will continue to give the adequate response to your unique needs."

Watch the speech here

Peres: Like Hitler, Ahmadinejad singles out the Jews

(Haaretz).President Shimon Peres on Monday denounced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, likening him to World War II-era dictators for his strong rhetoric against Israel.

"It is hard to fathom why despots such as Hitler the Nazi, Stalin the Bolshevik and Ahmadinejad the Persian chose the Jews as the main target for their hatred, their madness and their violence," Peres said in a speech comemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"Perhaps they targeted the Jewish people because of its spiritual power - a nation poor in material possessions, but rich in values - for he who is infected with megalomania fears the power of the spirit."

"The Jews did not worship idols or authority, and their God gave mankind its conscience," the president said. "We were the first to believe that every person is created in God's image, and we were commanded to sanctify life and prevent murder and discrimination.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bank of Israel Sees Recovery Signs, Fisher says: Economy is in a relatively good condition

(huliq).The governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer says that the country's economy was hard hit in 2008 but that it is dealing with the current crisis relatively well.

The governor presented the Bank of Israel's report to President Shimon Peres and the country's new finance minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday morning.

Asked by the president if he saw signs that the country was emerging from the crisis, he said "we see it in the financial markets which have been recovering. But what we have yet to see is a recovery in the real market."

"The report shows that we are coping relatively well with the economic crisis," Fisher told Peres. "Safeguarding financial stability in 2008 was a special challenge in light of the global crisis. In my opinion, we have coped very well with this test, but we still have not reached the end of the story, and we still have not seen the low point of the recession."

Peres told Fisher at the beginning of their meeting that "Our mood can have an influence on the economy -- and we can control our mood. I think it is important that we not sink into melancholy. As your reports say, in comparison to other countries, we find ourselves performing above the average. I am sure that the encouragement of Israeli creation and inventiveness can bring positive change to the economy."

Fisher told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon the presentation of the report, "The fact is that the Israeli economy is in relatively good condition -- that is, much better than most of the states in the U.S., Europe and even some Asian countries."

Minister Steinitz says he is presently meeting with his economic advisors to come up with a program that will encourage growth.

Sources: Netanyahu to re-examine Shalit case, plans to replace envoy

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is re-examining the handling of the Gilad Shalit case and will soon remove Ofer Dekel as special negotiator for bringing the abducted soldier back. A source in Netanyahu's bureau said that "everything related to the Shalit affair is under reconsideration and everything is open."

A week ago Netanyahu met with Dekel, who was former prime minister Ehud Olmert's special envoy concerning Shalit. The two discussed the contacts over Shalit's release since the soldier was abducted to Gaza in June 2006. The two will meet again Thursday, when Netanyahu is expected to tell Dekel he will appoint a new negotiating team.

The Shalit family met Netanyahu last week and asked him to replace Dekel, Channel 2 reported Sunday. Family members said they had lost faith in Dekel and Netanyahu has agreed to the request, Channel 2 reported. Shalit's father, however, has denied he has lost faith in Dekel.

In any case, the prime minister is expected to consider new possibilities concerning the case, even if he has yet to come up with a specific plan or candidate to replace Dekel, said a source in the Prime Minister's Bureau.

"We are still studying the matter and I have yet to formulate the appropriate direction for continuing negotiations," Netanyahu reportedly said.

General Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, will arrive in Israel on Wednesday and meet with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He will discuss the Shalit affair among many other issues.

Netanyahu taps MK Akunis for head of Reaction Team

Mk Ofir Akunis together with Mk's Miri regev and Tzipi Hotobely will serve as a reaction team that will deal with the Political subjects on the Agenda.

Obama defends decision to boycut the Un derban summit

(AFP) — President Barack Obama vowed Sunday to work with UN efforts to battle racism despite his government's boycott of a major UN conference on the problem this week.
Asked about the boycott during Sunday's press conference, Obama defended the decision.

"I would love to be involved in a useful conference that addressed continuing issues of racism and discrimination around the globe," he said.

But the US president said inclusion of anti-Israel language that was "oftentimes completely hypocritical and counterproductive" in the draft final communique was a red line for his administration.

"We expressed in the run-up to this conference our concerns that if you incorporated, if you adopted, all the language from 2001, that's just not something we can sign up for," he said.

Netanyahu won't attend AIPAC summit, asks Peres to represent Israel

(Jpost).Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday canceled his plans to attend the upcoming AIPAC summit, after it became clear that US President Barack Obama would not meet him during the conference.

Netanyahu announced that while he will not attend the conference in person, he will send a video-taped message to Washington.

Army Radio reported that the prime minister asked President Shimon Peres to represent Israel at the summit, scheduled to take place in Washington in the beginning of May.

According to the radio station, sources in the president's bureau confirmed that Peres had received a request from Netanyahu and AIPAC officials to attend the summit, but noted that the president had not yet decided whether to accept the invitation.