Monday, August 31, 2009

President Peres on FOX news: Obama Putting Too Much Focus on Settlement Freeze

(FOXNews)Israeli President Shimon Peres suggested that President Obama is putting too much focus on trying to halt settlement construction in the Palestinian territories, urging all sides to broaden the scope of Mideast peace talks.

Peres discussed the controversial issue with FOX News ahead of a planned summit between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In an exclusive interview, Peres said a deal on Settlements is possible but that the issue is still unresolved, as he urged all sides not to over-emphasize the matter.

"I think it would be right for the Obama administration and for our administration and for the Palestinians to handle the whole set of steps, not a single one, because if you are singling out one, maybe the least important is becoming the most important, and that's the case of natural growth," he said, when asked if Obama was right to push early on for a settlement freeze.

"On that particular issue, there is not yet an agreement. Negotiations are going on. I do believe there is a solution for it as well. ... It must be soon. It's very hard to convince your own people to make so many concessions -- to take so many risks," the Israeli president said.

"(Netanyahu) is aware of the choice, and he knows there is no chance, no escape, no alternative to go ahead and make peace. He knows he must do it ... it's just not a simple proposition."

Peres defended Israel's right to respond to attacks from Hamas. Peres said in the interview Sunday that Israel will "reply immediately" if attacked by Hamas -- one day after Israeli Air Force planes bombed a tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip in response to a rocket fired by Palestinian militants into an Israeli town.

"They know immediately there will be retaliation," he said. "There is an unwritten game between us and them. They know if they won't respect it, they will pay heavily."

Another issue sure to come up in the Abbas-Netanyahu-Obama meeting, if it occurs, is Iran. Peres told FOX News he's convinced by intelligence he's seen that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, and that Israel must work to convince other nations Iran is not only a threat to Israel.

"I think that Israel must be very careful not to create the impression that Iran is a danger only to Israel," Peres said. "Iran is a world danger and Israel shouldn't monopolize this danger."

Peres on FOX: Obama Expected to Moderate Meeting Between Netanyahu, Abbas

(FOXNews).President Obama is expected to moderate a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in late September, a discussion that could lead to the resumption of peace negotiations, Israeli President Shimon Peres told FOX News.

In an exclusive interview, Peres said plans are for Abbas and Netanyahu to meet at the end of September at the United Nations.

"Yes, I think they will meet by the end of September. President Obama will chair it, and I think that at least there is a chance that they will decide they are going to reopen negotiations," Peres said. "But that will not include Hamas."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bibi’s politics of survival - Netanyahu may prove to be Israel's next Ben-Gurion

(Moshe Dann-Ynet).As much as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking ahead, he's looking over his shoulder. Unlike President Obama, he doesn't want to save the world; his focus is on Israel. More important, unlike Obama, whose term of office is guaranteed for four years, Netanyahu can be thrown out by a Knesset vote of no-confidence.

Swept into power by the Right, Netanyahu turned to the left, filling key positions with Labor, and tried to entice his biggest rival, Kadima, to join his coalition. That has given him a stable backing and, if Kadima splits and joins the government, he will have accomplished a political coup.

By broadening his coalition to include opponents, he has created a new form of consensus politics in Israel, and destroyed his most potent political rivals. Marginalized, the extreme Left and Arab parties are irrelevant. That provides the government with not only political clout, but true national position as well. That may well have changed the face of Israeli politics.

Having succeeded scandal-ridden regimes of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, former Likudniks who broke away and led Kadima to power, Netanyahu's mandate was not only to restore a sense of responsibility to government, but ensure that Likud would become Israel's leading party. His primary concern is not Obama's demands, or EU's anti-Israel policies, but creating a political base upon which he can rely and from which he can lead.

If Netanyahu can convince members of Kadima that it is their and the national interest to join his government, he will ensure his survival, eliminate Kadima as a serious rival, and establish himself as Israel's most important political leader.

Netanyahu's second strategic move is to change the international alignment against Israel; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been overwhelmingly successful in reaching out to Russia's Putin and the bureaucracy. That they speak the same language is an enormous advantage, which may influence Russia's antipathy to Israel. By drawing Russia into the picture, Israel has sent a message to the US: you are not the only player. That could be a brilliant move, and, although it doesn't compare with Russian interests in Iran, it might blunt Obama's crusade against Israel.

The success of Netanyahu's tightrope walk, however, like Obama's high-flying trapeze act, will depend on the strength of the economy. More tightly controlled, Israel's banking system is in better shape than America's. Israel's real estate and housing markets – the key to economic stability and expansion - have not collapsed, but are quite strong, and must be allowed to grow. No Israeli government can afford to ignore this reality.

Where, however, will Israelis be allowed to build? With all the talk about a Palestinian state, there is a growing divergence between what some believe is a political necessity and the need to provide housing for Israel's burgeoning population. Shifting priorities to the Negev and Galilee may be important politically, but irrelevant without adequate infrastructure.

In the foreseeable future, therefore, settlements in Judea and Samaria must expand not only because they are strategic assets, but because of economic necessity. People need homes they can afford near places where they can work. That may be politically unacceptable for those who look forward to another Arab Palestinian state devoid of Jews, but no Israeli government will commit suicide to satisfy them.

Put simply, the process of settlement or "occupation" of Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem and Golan, is far too extensive to uproot. Jews who moved into these territories are no less entitled to live there than Arabs; their forcible removal would be a clear violation of civil and humanitarian law.

A Palestinian state of the kind demanded by Arab leaders, the EU and now Obama is unrealistic not only because an overwhelming majority of Israelis would not accept it, but because Palestinians themselves are, at best, ambivalent. They don't like Israel, but they don't trust the PA.

Forcing a solution, as President Clinton tried in 2000, will probably provoke the next violent outburst against Israel. The reason is because Palestinian leaders see any plan that does not meet their basic demands - return to the 1949 Armistice lines, eastern Jerusalem, return of "refugees," etc. - as defeat. That was confirmed at Fatah's recent convention. Palestinians define their identity in terms of the absence of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian nationalism must replace Israel, not co-exist.

Despite the Arab world's rhetoric, they don't care about the Palestinians; they never supported them, except as proxy warriors against Israel, because they view a Palestinian state as a threat to their regimes. Status quo, therefore, a Middle East without a second Arab Palestinian state, may not be as bad as some think.

Whether or not Obama learns the facts of life in the Middle East and facts of history, Netanyahu's mandate is to keep Israel strong and viable - not to establish a Palestinian state. Netanyahu may not have a vision, but he has a strategy; Obama has a vision, but no strategy.

If politics is the art of survival, then Bibi may prove to be Israel's next Ben-Gurion. His canonization, however, will take longer; Barack Hussein Obama’s has already begun.

YES SHE CAN!!! Roni Dalumi is the winner of "Star is Born" 7

(Ynet).Ronny Dalumy was voted Israel's new singing star by the seventh "Star is Born" competition – the Israeli equivalent of American Idol.

President Peres on FOX Calls Deal on Shalit - 'Close'

(Foxnews).President Shimon Peres said talks with Hamas to try to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit are continuing and that “the gap has narrowed.”

"We’re in the middle of negotiations… but we didn’t reach an agreement. And in that case, we wouldn’t want to endanger his life,” Peres said Sunday in an exclusive interview with FOX News.

Asked if he thought a prisoner exchange would happen soon, President Peres said, “I think there is a chance it will happen soon, but Hamas is not an organized group of people and what they say today – they may change tomorrow.”

German magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday that German mediators are involved in the talks, and that a new proposal includes Israel releasing more than 400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

Asked about that decision, Peres told Fox News, “You’re right. It is a very difficult decision and it’s very painful. But, according to our set of values and to our way of life – the life of a single person is worth the whole world. We take care of every individual as though he would be the collective sum of many people.”

Netanyahu Says ‘No Agreement’ Yet on Settlements With U.S.

(Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there is as yet “no agreement” with the U.S. over President Barack Obama’s demand for a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.

“There are many rumors and reports,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel Army Radio. “We haven’t agreed to anything.”

Netanyahu met last week with Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, to discuss a formula that would satisfy U.S. demands for an end to settlement building and allow negotiations with the Palestinians to resume.

“The discussions are in order to achieve two goals, to start a diplomatic process toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians while at the same time ensuring that the needs of the West Bank residents are met,” Netanyahu said in the interview.

In First interview on Anti Voilence Day PM Netanyahu Reveals Anti-Violence Plan

( The government’s new “Zero Tolerance for Violence” policy includes a crackdown on alcohol sales, stiffer punishments, increased police presence, anti-violence educational programs, new school policies, and closed-circuit camera networks, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu revealed Sunday morning in radio interviews with Voice of Israel government radio and IDF Army Radio.

“I think that the current situation is unacceptable,” said Netanyahu. “We have a situation where a person could leave his house for a day trip to the sea and be a victim of a shocking, violent murder; or that the elderly are nearly beaten to death in their homes; or that children suffer violence at schools; or that teenagers stab each other for entertainment. I, as prime minister, do not accept this situation.”

The prime minister shared details of his anti-violence plan, which includes stronger penalties for offenders. The Minister of Finance has been instructed to submit new legislation that insures that “murderers and thugs will pay a heavy price for their crimes,” he said. Police presence on the streets will also be increased, including the addition of 10 units recently dispatched to major city centers.

Netanyahu called for better resource management by the police department and an increased focus on visibility. He praised the force for its efforts in several recent investigations and said that the department could be more effective without the need for a budgetary increase.

The increase in school violence will be handled via a new curriculum, implemented by Education Minister Gideon Saar, designed to increase discipline and reduce violence. The prime minister mentioned recently changed laws which enable school administrators to immediately isolate students involved in extreme violence.

The new program includes a strong focus on alcohol, including a ban on sales after 9:00 pm and forbidding sales at gas stations and convenience stores. It remains unclear if the bans will be enforced across the board or target only those under a certain age. Stricter laws for drunk drivers and blood-alcohol levels will also be included in the policy. “Alcohol is a national calamity,” said Netanyahu.

Netanyahu: No basis to claim that Shalit deal only days away

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday denied reports of a breakthrough in talks with Hamas to return captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, and said people should not expect a deal to be brokered in the coming days.

"Discussions about a deal [for Gilad Shalit] being secured in the next few days have no basis," Netanyahu told a closed cabinet meeting on Sunday.

"We must return Shalit home safe and sound, but nonetheless, there is a great deal of exaggeration and inaccurate information out there", Netanyahu told the meeting.

Analysis: Netanyahu uses silence to capture his objective

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sat in front of the Israeli press for 45 minutes here on Wednesday, just a few hours after meeting US envoy George Mitchell in London and deflected with great acumen the journalists' repeated attempts to pry out of him any real piece of information about what happened during their four-hour meeting.

One journalist after the next asked the prime minister the same question, but from a slightly different angle: What was agreed upon regarding a settlements freeze?

But try as the journalists may, Netanyahu would say nothing - nothing - about the agreement that is apparently being stitched together.

Much has been written about the purported agreement, with one paper saying that the settlement freeze was linked to a tougher American position on Iran, and another paper saying Netanyahu agreed to a nine-month freeze.

But these reports were largely based on speculation, or on third- and fourth-hand information, because the principles are simply not talking.

The reason for the silence, sources in the Prime Minister's Office explain, is because the negotiations are at such a delicate and sensitive stage that one leak could bring the whole agreement down.

And while there is undoubtedly something to this, there is certainly much more to the prolonged silence - the veritable drought of information on the US-Israeli discussions - and it has to do with Israeli domestic politics.

Netanyahu, a former commando in Sayeret Matkal, wants to capture the hill without those defending it knowing that he has even arrived.

The less that comes out about the duration of a settlement freeze, or what exactly it will entail, the better it is for Netanyahu from a tactical political standpoint.

Netanyahu was in Europe discussing possible limitations on settlement construction, but besides for a few noises coming from his right, he is not facing any real opposition. And the reason is simple: no one really knows any of the details about what is being discussed. It is difficult, as Netanyahu´s political opponents are discovering, to oppose something if you really don't know exactly what it is.

At a certain point, however, Netanyahu will have to unveil the agreement, and when he does he will certainly face blistering criticism from the Right both in his party, the coalition, and outside of it.

But he will unveil the plan when he sees fit, highlighting what he sees fit, and couching it in terms that will certainly win over much of the public.

And by that time he will be standing squarely on the hill, and his detractors will be able to do little but scream - noise that he will easily deflect.

Netanyahu and his team spoke with Mitchell and his team for four hours on Wednesday. Major diplomatic moves are afoot, with the public knowing little about the details.

And this suits Netanyahu just fine. His hope is that when the details emerge, and his political opponents begin to organize, it will by then be too late: the hill will already be in his hands.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Der Spiegel Report: Hamas given 3 days to respond to new Shalit offer

(Haaretz).A German mediator in negotiations to secure the release of captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit has presented Hamas with a new Israeli offer for a prisoner exchange, the Germany weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday.

According to Der Spiegel, Hamas has until the first of September to respond to the offer. According to the report, the new offer includes the release of 450 Hamas prisoners in exchange for Shalit's release. That clause is identical to one presented when Ehud Olmert was prime minister. Advertisement The mediator also included another clause in which Israel would release several hundred more Palestinian prisoners at a later date, without a direct connection to the proposed prisoner exchange. That clause is similar to one that was included in Israel's deal with Hezbollah in 2008 in which the bodies of IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were brought back to Israel.

The report added that the release of the extra Palestinian prisoners would not be subject to a timetable, and would take place at a date chosen by Israel. According to Der Spiegel, the German official began his role as a mediator in the negotiations in mid-July, following a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller praises PM's settlements freeze formula

(YNET).Knesset Member Otniel Schneller (Kadima) welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's achievements in his visit to Europe, saying that "the distinction between Jerusalem and the settlements question, and a possible agreement on settlements freeze, excluding the natural growth issue - will constitute an impressive achievement.

"Most of the Israeli public will be able to support Israel's government…and we will be able to resume talks with Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas). The formula of freezing for the purpose of negotiations is the correct balance and should be congratulated," he added.

Netanyahu's effort to compromise for Peace are not welcomed well by hardliners in his own Likud party

(Jpost).Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will return from his European trip to find that two Likud rallies have been organized to express opposition to the settlement freeze he reportedly negotiated with US envoy George Mitchell in London.

The first, scheduled for Tuesday at Tel Aviv's Azrieli Tower, was organized by Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled. It is not officially an anti-Netanyahu rally but rather a "pro-Jerusalem event," and yet MKs who attend are expected to bash the deal the prime minister is negotiating with the Americans.

The second, set for September 9 at the Likud's Tel Aviv headquarters, openly opposes any freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria and will launch a "National Forum" in the Likud that will actively oppose concessions to the US.

Three ministers have told organizers they will attend the event: Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein. Organizers still hope to attract Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon and Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin to the rally.

Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, who will attend both events, said she did not believe either was a rebellion against the prime minister.

"The government was formed on the basis of Judea and Samaria being legitimate and no different than Jerusalem," she said. "We must keep our campaign promises against freezing growth. We aren't trying to topple Netanyahu but to pressure him to stay loyal to what he believes in, despite international pressure."

But Likud MK Danny Danon had no problem with criticizing Netanyahu personally. He condemned the prospect of restarted peace talks with the Palestinians.

"The Middle East is not a Hollywood movie," Danon said. "The Americans are trying to create an imaginary partner for negotiations that is neither interested, nor able, to reach peace with Israel.

"Netanyahu's surrender to American pressure on freezing construction will only lead to more demands and concessions, without receiving anything in return from the Palestinian side," he said.

Only 4% Israelis believe Obama is Pro-Israel

(Jpost).Only 4 percent of Jewish Israelis believe President Barack Obama's policies are pro-Israel, and 50 percent oppose a temporary freeze of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a poll out on Friday showed.

The survey showed 51 percent considered Obama's administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli, as compared with 50 percent in June, the Jerusalem Post said.

The percentage of Jewish Israelis who consider Obama as pro-Israel was down to four percent from six percent in the June 19 poll. By comparison, 88 percent of those interviewed for the June survey thought former U.S. President George W. Bush was pro-Israel.

Obama's popularity among Israelis has been plummeting since a May 17 Post poll on the eve of a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Obama at the White House. In that poll, 31% labeled Obama pro-Israel, 14% considered him pro-Palestinian, 40% said he was neutral, and 15% declined to give an opinion.

Obama has pressed Israel to freeze settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, causing friction with the close US ally. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted natural growth makes a total halt of housing construction in settlements impossible.

Asked whether they would support a one-year freeze, which has been raised as part of efforts to push forward the hobbled peace process with the Palestinians, 50 percent of the opinion poll's respondents said no and 41 percent said yes.

23rd Birthday for Gilad Shalit - Arab singer dedicates song to Gilad Shalit

(Ynet).Shai (Shadi) Biter, an Arab singer from Jaffa, did not remain indifferent after watching television interviews with Aviva Shalit. The story of her son Gilad's kidnapping moved him to tears, prompting him to record a song calling for the abducted soldier's release, in Arabic and in Hebrew.

"He was kidnapped on my birthday, and since then I am not celebrating till he returns," he says.

Biter graduated from the ORT Shapira school in Tel Aviv, and remained on his own while all his Jewish friends joined the army. The road to crime was short, and he began forging identity cards, driving licenses and driving theory tests. After five years of criminal activity, Biter was arrested, charged with forgery and sent to jail for a year.

Several months after his release from prison, Biter's mother passed away and his girlfriend left him. One evening he arrived at one of his Jewish friends' recording studio and spotted on the table a piece of paper containing the words for a song about Gilad Shalit, written for another singer.

The two began talking about Shalit's condition and about his mother Aviva. "We spoke about her pain, about how far he is from her," says Biter. "I connect to Shalit. Every time I see an article about him it hurts me."

Biter and his friend, Meni Chen, decided to record another song about the kidnapped soldier. "I want Arabs to listen to this song too," he pleads. "This might make them understand that we don't all want war. I cannot change the world, but this is my way of expressing my pain over this situation."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Photo album of PM Netnayahu's visit in Germany

TRANSCRIPT of Joint Press Conference of PM Netanyahu and Chancellor of Germany Merkel in Berlin

PM at Wannsee Villa in Berlin :"Am Yisrael Chai"

(Ynet).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening visited Wannsee Villa in Berlin – the site where the "Final Solution" for the destruction of Europe's Jews was planned in 1942 by Adolf Hitler and leaders of the Third Reich.

"The destruction of the Jewish people was planned in detail in this place," Netanyahu said. "As the prime minister of Israel, I have three words to say here, and I have written them down in the guestbook: 'Am Yisrael Chai' (the Jewish people live)."

During his visit, Netanyahu received a thorough briefing from the historian running the place, asked many questions and was presented with original documents displayed on the site, including some documenting the historic conference.

Netanyahu presented with the architectural blueprints for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp

(Reuters).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on a visit to Germany on Thursday that one lesson Israel drew from the Holocaust was that threats to its existence could not go unchallenged and must be "nipped in the bud".

German journalists handed a portfolio of 29 plans from the Auschwitz death camp discovered last year.

With his wife Sara at his side, Netanyahu said her father's family had been nearly wiped out by Nazis in World War Two: "We cannot allow evil to prepare the mass death of innocents. The most important thing to do is to nip it in the bud," said Netanyahu, alluding to past threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the map.

Netanyahu thanked the paper, published by Axel Springer Verlag, for giving the documents to him to take back to Yad Vashem in Israel.

"There are those who deny that the Holocaust happened," the prime minister said. "Let them come to Jerusalem and look at these plans, these plans for the factory of death."

Netanyahu in Berlin: Attempts to bridge the Gap with US on settlements; calls for ‘crippling sanctions’ against Iran

(JTA, Ynet).At a news conference in Berlin on Thursday following his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu also said the Palestinians first must recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state before negotiations could be held.

Merkel said Israel must stop building settlements in the West Bank if there is to be progress in peace talks with Palestinians. The two leaders also discussed Iran. Merkel said that if Iran’s government does not respond to overtures from the West by September and halting its uranium enrichment program, the international community should seriously consider tougher trade sanctions against the Islamic Republic, particularly in energy and finance.

Netanyahu said the sanctions should “really hurt,” and that if the U.N. Security Council does not act, a “coalition of the willing” should. It’s not clear that U.N. Security Council members Russia and China would support tougher sanctions against Iran. The other three permanent members of the council, Britain, France and the United States, would be likely to do so.

When asked by a German reporter whether it was time Israel be disarmed its nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said, "We always say we will not be the first to bring nuclear weapons into the Middle East. Here, this is not just our problem. It is Iran that wishes to wipe my country off the map. Iran supports Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in Gaza.

"Iran is producing weapons and building nuclear weapons and this fact should concern not only my country, but the rest of the countries of the world. This is a threat on the entire world."

Netanyahu also denied reports saying he is willing to agree to a freeze of construction in settlements.

The prime minister said, "There are no agreements and no decisions, there are only baseless rumors, attempts are being made to bridge the gaps, but the reports of decisions being made are simply unfounded."

MK Ofir Akunis warns against rebellion in Likud

(Jpost).A day after Likud MK Tzipi Hotevely convened a conference in the Knesset with settler leaders to protest reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had agreed to a settlement freeze during talks with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell in London, MK Ophir Akunis came to the defense of the prime minister, saying that the "most important thing is to back him."

"If peace talks with the Palestinians really do resume, the Likud government - the national unity government - will change the pattern of those talks," he told Israel Radio. "Half a year ago, we had a government that just gave and gave. One side gave and the other just took. We got nothing in return."

"If and when we conduct negotiations, we will first and foremost set demands that haven't been set for years," he continued, saying those conditions were the Palestinians' recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as well as a "real fight" against terror and a halt to incitement.

Akunis responded cautiously to reports of an agreement between Netanyahu and Mitchell, saying that although he "could not accept a stop to natural growth," he would meet with the prime minister next week and would prefer to hear about the London talks from him rather than discuss "contradictory reports."

Hotevely had told the radio station earlier that she would continue her protest activities, and that three ministers were joining her campaign against the reported settlement freeze deal.

Akunis cautioned against rebellious actions of Likud members.

"Those that toppled Shamir and toppled Netanyahu in his first term regretted it," warned Akunis. "We must not repeat the mistakes of the past."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Israeli Palin making more Headache for Netanyahu

(Ynet).Knesset Member Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) held a conference in the Knesset Wednesday for the heads of Judea and Samaria settlers, in order to create a united front against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to freeze construction in settlements.

Officials said the freeze may create problems for the prime minister with rightists in the coalition. However a refusal to halt construction may harm relations with the Labor Party.

The gathering was attended by 20 leaders of settlements in the West Bank. They agreed that over the next month more pressure should be placed on Netanyahu to renege on the decision to freeze.

Noam Arnon, of the leaders of the Jewish settlement in Hebron, said the settlers must limit Netanyahu as his government could not legitimately halt construction. "We can't have a government that behaves worse than that of Olmert," one speaker said. "We won't allow a construction freeze; we won't allow him to break left."

The anti-Netanyahu sentiment demonstrates a departure from the settlers' policy of attacking Defense Minister Ehud Barak for their grievances. "Barak is no longer the only address. We need to put pressure on the prime minister," the Yesha Council stated.

The leaders plan to hold various Likud conferences bringing together those MKs who oppose Netanyahu's initiative, including Gilad Erdan, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Hotovely, and Danny Danon, among others.

Video: Netanyahu and Brown joint press conference in London

Netanyahu in Germany welcomes Abbas first Positive Move towards Peace talks

(Ynet).BERLIN - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening welcomed a positive signal on the part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a possibility that the two leaders will meet next month.

Netanyahu spoke during a press briefing following his meeting with German President Horst Köhler in Berlin.

"I believed such moves should be made," Netanyahu said, referring to Abbas' willingness to meet with him. "I view this announcement as a positive thing, perhaps the first one. I have yet to look into it, but I have said that we must convene and sit down without any preconditions. This is the simplest and most convenient thing for resuming the process," he said.

The prime minister also spoke of his meeting earlier Wednesday with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in London. "The discussions have moved us forward in the process, but there are still matters which have not been finalized. The talks between us and the US will continue next week. My team will meet Mitchell, and the envoy himself will probably come to Israel during the second week of September.

"My goal is to move forward while balancing between two needs – maintaining the quality of life of the settlements' residents on the one hand, and launching a diplomatic process on the other hand. Progress was made today and there was a good atmosphere. I don’t want to refer to the content of talks, but don't rely on rumors saying that we agreed or did not agree to certain demands."

Addressing a report by British Guardian newspaper that the United State and Europe would support sanctions against Iran in return for an Israeli commitment to freeze settlement construction, the prime minister said that "the American attitude towards the Iranian issue stands for itself."

Netanyahu denied a link between sanctions required against Iran and the peace process as one deal. He added, however, "I have said in the past that Iran's armament will cloud over peace. This doesn’t mean we are not doing anything for peace.

"Look what Iran is doing with its emissaries in order to thwart this. Iran is arming Hezbollah to its teeth and Hamas. It's doing it without a nuclear weapon, so what will it do when it does have a nuclear weapon? Anyone who wishes to strengthen peace must bolster the moderates and weaken the extremists. This does not contradict the peace process. These things are completely compatible."

As for the possibility that the Palestinians would demand that the negotiations on the core issue begin from the point the talks with the Olmert government left off, Netanyahu said, "They will raise all the issues they consider as core, and we will raise the issues we consider as core.

"I spoke to the German president and told him that the root of the conflict is not in the communities, not in the borders, not in a dispute over one territory or another. This is not the root of the conflict. The root of the conflict is the need to recognize the Jewish people's state, and I used the phrase 'Judenstaat'. I will not let go of this matter. It's a core issue as far as I am concerned."

For the first time, the prime minister addressed demand that Saudi Arabia join the regional process, saying after landing in Berlin, "We need regional peace and normalization. Saudi Arabia is a very important country for establishing peace and strengthening it.

"I can say that if a peace process does open, it must have a regional component, a political one, an economic one, and other fields. We support such a process."

Video: Netanyahu Mitchell meeting in London

Report: Shalit deal to be declared by High Holy Days

(Ynet).Filistin al-Youm, a Palestinian website affiliated with the Islamic Jihad, revealed on Wednesday that German intelligence chief Ernest Uhrlau was the one spearheading mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas ahead of a prisoner exchange deal to bring about the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

According to another report, the deal was actually already closed after countries willing to take in freed Hamas prisoners Israel demands be deported were found.

Independent east Jerusalem newspaper al-Manar reported that according to European sources, the end of talks, and the execution of the prisoner exchange deal will be declared ahead of the High Holy Days next month.

This after the Germans got Syria, Sudan and a number of European countries to agree to take in Hamas exiles, under the condition that they return to their original place of residence after a year.

According to Filistin al-Youm's commentator on Israeli affairs, Uhrlau met with Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's special envoy on Shalit negotiations, Hagai Hadas, National Security Advisor Uzi Arad, and Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin.

Uhrlau also reportedly met with intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and his team in Egypt, and with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, Hamas official Izzat al-Rishk, and possibly with Mahmoud al-Zahar during his last visit to Damascus.

The website reported that the only remaining hurdle standing in the way of the execution of a prisoner exchange deal is the release of former Fatah Secretary-General Marwan Barghouti.

The Netanyahu government has reportedly already agreed on almost all the names of Palestinian prisoners on Hamas' list that the previous government refused to have released, except for Barghouti's.

According to the report, most of the Israeli Labor ministers are in favor of his release, but the majority of Likud ministers oppose. Netanyahu however, "seems to have had a change of heart and now supports Barghouti's release," the website said.

On Thursday, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and according to the report, a large portion of the meeting will be dedicated to the Shalit issue.

Palestinian officials: 'Abbas willing to meet with Netanyahu'

(Jpost).Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is open to a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the United Nations next month, Palestinian officials said Wednesday.

The meeting would be the first between the two leaders since Netanyahu took office in March.

Abbas has refused to reopen peace talks until Netanyahu halts all construction in settlements in the West Bank, though the prime minister rejects this demand.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because a formal meeting had not been set, the Palestinian officials stressed that Abbas was not dropping his conditions. They said that the meeting would be a chance to talk, but would not amount to negotiations.

Netanyahu and Mitchell: 'positive' outcome toward resuming peace talks

(Haaretz, JC).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday his government was making progress toward reopening talks with the Palestinians and hoped to be able to do so shortly.

Speaking in London ahead of a meeting with the United States envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell, Netanyahu said: "We are making headway. My government has taken steps both in words and deeds to move forward."

The prime minister, whose comments during a photo opportunity were relayed to reporters by his spokesman, expressed hope the two sides would "shortly be able to resume normal talks."

"The goal is a wider peace, which is our common goal," he said.

Israeli officials were upbeat and optimistic today that a framework for resumed peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would be announced "between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur," almost certainly at the UN General Assembly session in New York.

Speculation on a positive outcome to the ongoing talks between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the American special envoy in London, George Mitchell, rose as the four-hour discussions concluded.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Netanyahu assails group which alleged IDF wrongdoing in Gaza

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a scathing attack on Tuesday against a leftist human rights organization comprised of Israeli army veterans who have collected testimonies from soldiers who served in the Palestinian territories.

The group, Breaking the Silence, caused a stir after it commissioned a report in which unnamed Israel Defense Forces soldiers alleged that Palestinians were used as "human shields" during Operation Cast Lead,The organization receives financial assistance from a number of European Union governments

In a briefing to reporters who are accompanying Netanyahu on his trip to Europe, the prime minister said he expects all European governments to cease aid to groups of this kind.

"They are breaking their silence about the only democracy in the Middle East that has an independent legal system and an investigative press that does not cease dealing with these issues," Netanyahu told reporters shortly after his meeting Tuesday with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose government is one of the group's donors.

"There is no silence to break," the prime minister said angrily. "What are they talking about?"

"Why don't they break the silence over what is happening in some of the regimes in the Middle East?" Netanyahu said. "Let them do it in places in which there is silencing of others, like the Hamas regime in Gaza."

"In the case of Hamas, I have not seen the same enthusiasm and the same concerted effort to break the silence over what is happening in Gaza," the prime minister added.

During his meeting with Brown, Netanyahu raised a number of sensitive issues, including efforts by some in Britain to charge IDF officers with war crimes for actions in the Palestinian territories.

"This is something that does not go hand in hand with morality and clear logic," Netanyahu told Brown. "Israel, like Britain, is fighting terrorism and is exercising its right to self-defense. There is no place for accusing IDF officers just as no one can accuse British officers operating in Afghanistan or Iraq. Ultimately, these things will also hurt [the British]."

Der Spiegel / Israelis say that they have never had it this good

(freeinternetpress)...Some Israelis say that they have almost never had it this good....For once, there is good news from the Holy Land. But in the Middle East, what may seem positive today could lead to even more catastrophic developments in the future.

Tel Aviv's beaches are packed with tourists, the hotels in Jerusalem are booked solid, and Israel is reporting record numbers of visitors for the first two weeks of August. The country's robust economy has returned to positive numbers this quarter. Even more important, an almost total calm has descended on Israel. Rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip have dwindled, there have been almost no Palestinian terrorist attacks from the West Bank, and the weapons have been silent on the Lebanese border.

The Palestinians are busy with their own problems, including deepening internal political divisions. The general congress of the moderate Fatah movement, which is in power in the West Bank, has just ended in Bethlehem. But Fatah was unable to swallow its pride and unequivocally recognize Israel. Instead, what emerged from the congress was a backward looking policy, only with younger faces presenting it.

The radical Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, makes no secret of its view of Fatah as its adversary and Israel as its mortal enemy. But Hamas is currently preoccupied with its bloody suppression of competing extremists with ties to al-Qaeda in its territory.

For many Israelis, it seems as if the Middle East conflict were on hold, and they are having little trouble getting used to the relatively comfortable status quo. They credit the hard-line administration of Netanyahu, 59, with the current calm. Netanyahu,who has been in office for close to five months, is serving as prime minister for the second time. His first term, from 1996 to 1999, is widely viewed as not having been very successful. But "Bibi," as Netanyahu is affectionately known, is popular at the moment, and so is his intransigence. As a result, he is traveling to meetings with allies armed with strong popular support. On Tuesday, Netanyahu meets in London with George Mitchell, the United States government's special envoy to the Middle East, and on Wednesday he is expected in Berlin.....

VIDEO: PM Netanyahu at press conference in London on Peace process and Iran

Britain PM Gordon Brown: I strongly welcome the PM Netanyahu recent moves..

Photo Album of Netanyahu's Visit in London

Photo Album #1 of PM Netanyahu's visit to London

PM Netanyahu meets PM Brown in London; clarifies:"Jerusalem is not a settlement".

( prime ministers of Britain and Israel have emerged from talks on continued settlement building.

Benjamin Netanyahu sounded a relatively contrite note on the issue, and stressed the moves Israel was making to ensure ease the suffering of Palestinians.

"We're working hard to advance a peace process that will lead to an actual peace result and we hope to move forward in the weeks and months ahead," he said,"We are not weak. We have already moved. My government has moved 147 checkpoints and roadblocks. The 14 remaining checkpoints… are manned 24 hours a day to facilitate movement.

"We have moved forward," he continued,"We intend to move forward. We expect our Palestinian partners to be courageous partners for peace that move forward. With the help of our friends… I hope we can achieve progress that may confound the cynics and surprise the world. But there is no substitute for courageous leadership

"Gordon is a true friend of Israel and a true friend of peace, a champion of decency."

Mr Brown stressed that Britain was committed to the peace process, but he sounded a cautious note when discussing the matter of settlements.

"We want a viable Palestinian economy so that people can see the benefits of prosperity from peaceful coexistence and working together. We want to involve the rest of the Arab states in making sure they are involved and support a peace process that works."

But the Israeli prime minister was stern when discussing Jerusalem.

"I've made it clear. Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel. We accept no limitations on our sovereignty," he said.

"To put a fine point on this - Jerusalem is not a settlement. The settlement issue is outstanding, it is one of the issues that have to be resolved. But our position is Jerusalem is the united capital of the Jewish people. We've only been around here for 3,500 years."

Furthermore, the Israeli prime minister evidently spent much of the meeting urging action on Iran.

"Time is running out," he said.

"It's late in the day but it's not too late. If there is a firm resolve by the international community to apply crippling sanctions I think this regime will have to make a very difficult decision about its future course. I think it's susceptible to these pressures.

"What has been revealed in the recent dramatic events of the Iranian election is this regime does not enjoy the support of the Iranian people. It is far weaker than meets the eye."He added: "The stronger those actions are today, the less need there will be for stronger actions tomorrow.

Mr Brown sounded similar rhetoric, saying: "We recognise the threat that is posed by Iran.We recognise that if they make the decision to go forward and provide nuclear weapons that has profound security implications".

"Iran has a choice. They can work with the international community… or they can find themselves ostracised and excluded because of their decision to break the NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty) and hide from the world what they're doing."

Meridor: We won't return to '67 lines

(Jpost)."Surely, nobody expects [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu to offer more than what [former prime minister Ehud] Olmert offered [to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas]," Intelligence Affairs Minister Dan Meridor [Likud] told German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published Tuesday.

Meridor rejected the interviewer's characterization of the current Israeli administration as "hard-line," and pointed out that Abbas currently refuses to negotiate until Israel completely freezes settlement activity, despite the fact that he negotiated with Olmert for three years during the reign of former US president George W. Bush, when Israel's settlement policy was, Meridor said, identical to Netanyahu's.

He also assessed that Abbas's current position was affected by internal issues. "Perhaps [Abbas] reacted the way he did because he doesn't control Gaza, where 40 percent of the territories' population lives and into which he cannot even travel. Perhaps [he] wants even more than just the Palestinian state; but there is nothing more to give," Meridor said.

When confronted with speeches made last week by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who on a recent tour of the West Bank expressed support for the settlers, Meridor countered: "Ours is a big coalition government with diverging views. What you describe is neither the official policy of Prime Minister Netanyahu nor the official policy of the government."

"We haven't built any new settlements, so we are fulfilling the understanding [we've reached with the previous US administration]. Now there are some ongoing discussions about a compromise," Meridor clarified.

Seemingly drawing a line in the sand, Meridor said, "The Old City with the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall will never be part of an Arab state; all the major Israeli parties share this conviction. There could be a compromise on land in Judea and Samaria. But all Israeli governments have agreed on having a united Jerusalem. This is our clear position, but we can negotiate about Jerusalem. There are no preconditions."

"Final borders," the minister added, "are open for discussion. But we will not return to the line of 1967 - that's for sure."

Meridor expressed optimism about the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, saying, "All in all, I am quite optimistic that things in the Middle East will develop in a positive way. There's something in the air."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Netanyahu close to deal with Hamas to free Gilad Shalit

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is close to concluding a deal with Hamas to free abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, Haaretz has learned.

At the end of former prime minister Ehud Olmert's term in March, Israel had refused to release 125 of the 450 prisoners Hamas was demanding in exchange for Shalit - those who committed the most serious offenses.

However, observers now report cautious optimism on both sides about the chances of concluding a deal.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his wife Nili yesterday visited the Shalit family in Mitzpeh Hila in northern Israel. Netanyahu is thought to have a better relationship with the Shalits than Olmert did, and the Shalits seem to have confidence in him. This could be the reason for their toned-down statements regarding the government.

Appointing Hagai Hadas as chief negotiator in place of Ofer Dekel has also improved the atmosphere. Hadas seems to have better relations with the Shalits, Netanyahu and the defense establishment heads.

Palestinian commentators said Hamas now appears interested in signing a deal: Hamas needs an achievement, given its defeat in the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip in January, Gaza's stalled rehabilitation and especially its diminishing status versus Fatah in Palestinian public opinion.

PM arrives in London ahead of meeting with Brown and Mitchell

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in a London airport Monday. During his visit to the United Kingdom Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as well as with US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.

Netanyahu to tell Mitchell: Israel won't accept limits on Jerusalem

(haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to tell the special U.S. Mideast envoy on Monday that Israel will not accept any limitations on its sovereignty over Jerusalem, and will allow settlers to continue to live in the West Bank.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

PM heads to Europe with backing of majority of the Sexet for settlement freeze

(Ynet).Behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's optimistic statement suggesting peace talks with the Palestinians may reignite by the end of September, is the apparent silent assurance that Yisrael Beiteinu chair and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will not extract his party from the coalition in the event Israel will comply with the US demand to halt all settlement expansion.

Should Netanyahu have to force the "sextet" to make a decision on the matter, and with Lieberman abstained on the vote, he would have a majority of four.

The six-man security forum includes Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Lieberman, Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon, Minister of Intelligence Services Dan Meridor and Minister Benny Begin. In case of a vote on ceasing settlement expansion, Netanyahu, Barak and Meridor will vote in favor of the move, while Begin and Yaalon are likely to object.

Earlier Sunday, Lieberman said that he would be "willing to give anyone who thinks they can find a diplomatic solution (to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) time to try." The foreign minister also said he "would not draw a line in the sand" over the settlements.

Prime Minister Netanyahu leaves for an official visit to Germany and the UK on Monday, and is likely to be urged, yet again, to freeze settlement construction and make goodwill gestures towards the Palestinians.

Wednesday will see Netanyahu meet with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell. The latter too, is expected to demand a one-year cessation in settlement expansion in the West Bank, in exchange for the US refraining form chiding Israel over the 2,500 housing units which are already under construction in the area.

Monday evening will see Netanyahu meet with the UK's top-10 leading newspaper editors, before meeting with Premier Gordon Brown in Tuesday. He will meet with Mitchell on Wednesday morning, before flying to Berlin. Netanyahu will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday morning and is expected back in Israel later that night.

Shalom, not Ya'alon, to replace Netanyahu while he's on European trip this week

(Jpost).When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu leaves for Europe on Monday, he will be replaced by Vice Premier Silvan Shalom and not Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon, officials in the Prime Minister's Office said on Sunday.

The officials said the decision had nothing to do with the controversy over Ya'alon's remarks last week about not being afraid of the Americans and calling Peace Now "a virus."

Shalom and Ya'alon have alternated in the role of acting prime minister in Netanyahu's three trips abroad since taking office in April. Shalom took the largely symbolic role when Netanyahu went to the United States in May and Ya'alon when Netanyahu went to France and Italy.

But it is not certain that the pattern will continue with Netanyahu's next trip abroad, which is expected to be to attend the UN General Assembly in September, where US President Barack Obama may announce a new framework for advancing Middle East peace.

Political sources said it is possible that for such a sensitive trip, the prime minister will choose the more moderate Shalom over Ya'alon.

Officials close to the prime minister were quoted over the weekend saying that Netanyahu regretted advancing the former IDF chief at Shalom's expense.

Ya'alon is one of six members of the inner cabinet that makes key decisions, while Shalom's request to be included in the panel was turned down.

Shalom has made a point of not criticizing Netanyahu publicly since the decision to appoint him Negev and Galilee Development minister and not to a more senior position. He has not granted an interview in more than four months.

"He has established a good working relationship with Netanyahu," a Shalom associate said

FM Lieberman predicts No Peace in the near Future; But wil not set red Lines for Netanyahu's efforts

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman offered a more somber prediction as to the fate of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process Sunday, at a press briefing held in Jerusalem.

"Despite giving everything, we were unable to strike peace 16 years after (the Oslo Accords). I'm willing to bet there won't be peace 16 years from now either, certainly not one based on the two-state solution," he said.

Lieberman argued that the peace process must be de-prioritized: "Some conflicts took many years to resolve...We have to improve the (Palestinians') state of the economy and security, but we can't create an illusion.

"Thinking we can have peace with the Palestinians within a year or two in unrealistic. (Former PM Ehud) Olmert and (Opposition Leader Tzipi) Livni couldn’t strike peace despite their offers. (Former PM Ariel) Sharon's government withdrew from Gush Katif and that didn’t bring peace. And didn’t (Defense Minister Ehud) Barak already offer everything in Camp David?"

Lieberman said that he would not impede the peace process: "We will not interfere in (US President Barack) Obama's efforts. I'm willing to give anyone who thinks they can find a diplomatic solution time to try.

"I don’t want to cause any problems with the US. I think that the prime minister really believes in the process and so I let him lead. It's not that I don’t want to reach a solution," he continued, "But I'm a realist. I hope I'm proven wrong and I will be the first to admit that."

When asked whether he will resign should Netanyahu decide to adhere to the American demand to halt settlement expansion, Lieberman said that "I'm not drawing any lines in the sand. I think that during a government's first year in office there shouldn’t be any such lines.

"We have to explore things and let others pursue moves they think have a chance to succeed. We joined a coalition with Labor, Shas, Habayit Hayehudi and the Likud and each party has its own way. I think this government will be able to reach a full term in office. I want to let the others have the chance to prove me wrong."

Turning his attention to the peace process with Syria, Lieberman said that "the important thing to understand is, that the thing that's holding (the process) back is the Golan Heights. Or maybe it isn’t. I can't rely only on what (Syrian President Bashar) Assad is saying.

"The Golan Heights are 464 sq. miles, on which some 20,000 Druze reside – hardly something pivotal for Syria," continued Lieberman. "The other thing is that Assad has clearly stated that he will not sever his ties with Iran and will not shut down Hamas and Jihad bureaus.

"What does he want – for us to give him the Golan Heights while he continues his ties with Iran and Hezbollah? Once we cede the Golan there will be no turning back. What I'm willing to do is offer Syria peace for peace."

PM: Talks with Palestinians to resume by end of September

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he intends to start talks with the Palestinians by the end of September.

Speaking during Sunday's cabinet meeting and ahead of his meeting with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, Netanyahu added that there has been "a certain closeness" building between the two sides.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Democratic rep.Berman criticizes Obama demand for Israeli settlement freeze  ‬

The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said last week that the Obama administration is making a mistake in demanding Israel completely freeze construction in the settlements. Congressman Howard Berman, a Democrat from California, made these comments during a closed meeting with Jewish leaders in Los Angeles. Berman said Israel and the U.S. are close to reaching an agreement that will "be face-saving for everyone." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to London tomorrow for a crucial meeting on Wednesday with special U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell. The meeting is meant to determine Israel's future construction policy in the settlements.

The U.S. administration is keen to gain a freeze on settlement construction for at least a year, but so far Israel has only offered to stop building for six months. But Israeli envoys Yitzhak Molcho and Brig. Gen. Mike Herzog recently briefed a six-minister advisory panel on what they called the narrowing differences between Jerusalem and Washington on settlements. However, Israeli officials said this weekend they believe Wednesday's meeting with Mitchell may not yield an agreement, and that several more meetings will be needed to solve the matter, which may even have to wait for the summit between Netanyahu and Obama planned for September. A political source in Jerusalem said Friday that ultimately it is likely the freeze will be for nine to 12 months and would not apply to East Jerusalem or include most of the housing units already under construction. On Wednesday afternoon.

Congressman Berman met on August 14 with Jewish leaders in Los Angeles. The senior congressman, who is in close touch with Mitchell and is updated regularly on developments in the Middle East, said during the meeting that the disagreement between Israel and the U.S. over the settlements will be resolved by the end of August in a manner that is satisfactory to both sides.

However, Berman was highly critical of the conduct of the Obama administration, saying the demand for absolute cessation of construction in the settlements was "mistaken." Berman blamed the stance of the administration on the settlements for having hardened the Palestinian position unjustifiably. "Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is waiting for the U.S. to present him Israel on a platter," Berman told the Jewish leaders. The Congressional leader said that this was a mistake, adding that the PA has responsibilities too, such as countering incitement against Israel.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rivlin urging Likud Ministers to Support and help PM Netanyahu

(Yossi Verter-Haaretz)......Before embarking on the visit, Ya'alon called Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who is on the far right of the Likud, and asked him to join the group. Rivlin declined. He explained to Ya'alon that the Knesset had passed the disengagement law and that visiting Homesh was a type of provocation against the law.

"I suggest that we focus on areas like E-1 [between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim], and on the efforts to revive the Bush letter, which allowed Israel to build in the settlement blocs," Rivlin advised Ya'alon - who did not take the advice.

In the past few weeks, Rivlin has tried to persuade Likud ministers to be a bit more flexible, "to cut Bibi [Netanyahu] some slack," as he puts it, to make it easier for the prime minister to cope with the American pressure, which is likely to intensify. "Let's show a little restraint. Netanyahu is in great distress. We have to help him. Let's work to make the Americans understand that not we but the Arabs are the obstacle to peace," Rivlin is telling the ministers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Economist / Bibi the happy juggler

(From The Economist print edition).It has been a good summer for the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. Five months into his term, his centre-right coalition looks solid, and he himself exudes an air of confidence. But more anxious times lie ahead as the Obama administration prepares to publish its own plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. A first draft will be unveiled in September, according to Egyptian officials who travelled with President Hosni Mubarak to Washington this week. Mr Netanyahu’s team expect the moment of truth in October. They are not looking forward to it.

For now though, Mr Netanyahu’s optimism stems from the fact that he is getting the domestic politics right. None of his coalition partners is threatening to walk out on him, an unusual bonus in Israeli coalitions where the partners-cum-rivals are forever eyeing alternative alliances. The fractured arithmetic of the present Knesset has led the politicians to conclude that Mr Netanyahu is the only realistic option, other than elections which no one wants to trigger so early in the term.

Mr Netanyahu has reinforced this reality by ramming through the Knesset a law that would enable seven members of a large party to secede as a block, and to take their state financing with them. It just so happens that Mr Netanyahu believes that seven members of Tsipi Livni’s Kadima, the main opposition party, may secede and join his coalition. Mr Netanyahu brushes aside accusations of unfair play. He says Ms Livni would do the same to his Likud if their roles were reversed.
In terms of policy, Mr Netanyahu has managed to juggle pressures from America and political pressures at home into a convenient holding pattern. An early confrontation with President Barack Obama over settlements has softened over the summer into an ongoing negotiation with the president’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, over how long and how extensive an Israeli building freeze might be. Building, by private contractors, goes on meanwhile in many of the settlements. Yet Mr Netanyahu won praise from Mr Obama on August 18th for an unannounced suspension of government-sponsored building projects. This was “movement in the right direction,” the president said, as was Israel’s removal of some of the checkpoints that hamper free movement for Palestinians on the West Bank.

Mr Obama also pointed to “increased economic activity” on the West Bank and praised the efforts of the American-trained Palestinian security forces which, he said, had “inspired confidence not just among the Israeli people but among the Palestinian people.” A steep decline in terror attacks against Israelis has boosted Mr Netanyahu’s standing at home and contributed to a widespread feeling that the conflict with the Palestinians is being contained and the dispute with Washington successfully smoothed over.

However, an Obama peace plan could sharply disturb Mr Netanyahu’s mood of calm. Just how sharply was signalled this week by four of his more hawkish ministers who chose to tour several of the “illegal” settlement-outposts on the West Bank which the government has pledged to dismantle. These settlements were not illegal, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party declared. Moshe Ya’alon of the Likud, one of Mr Netanyahu’s two vice-prime ministers, said the government should seriously consider restoring the settlement of Homesh which Israel dismantled as part of Ariel Sharon’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank in 2005.

Mr Netanyahu’s office said nothing. Officials there would like the summer never to end.

Emanuel, Axelrod closely monitoring reports on a Cabinet reshuffle?

(worldtribune)— The administration of President Barack Obama expects Israel to undergo a major government reshuffle that would significantly reduce the influence of supporters of Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Sources close to the administration said Obama has received messages that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could order a Cabinet shakeup and restructuring of his coalition over the next few weeks. They said the shakeup would be sparked by the indictment of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on corruption charges.

"Senior administration officials have been told that the indictment of Lieberman is imminent and then everything will change," a source close to the White House said.

The sources said the White House has been closely monitoring political developments in Netanyahu's Cabinet amid tense relations between Jerusalem and Washington. They said Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and White House senior adviser David Axelrod have received daily reports on the stability of the Israeli government ahead of U.S. plans to release a Middle East peace initiative in September 2009.

"The administration has concluded that the only way out of the settlement deadlock is for an expansion of the Israeli government coalition by centrist elements," the source said.

Under the scenario relayed to the White House, Lieberman would resign from office immediately after his indictment. At that point, the sources said, Netanyahu would invite the opposition Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset, to join the coalition.

The sources said some members of Kadima, particularly chairman Tzipi Livni, were not expected to join the Netanyahu government. But the majority of the 28-member Kadima parliamentary faction, led by Ms. Livni's rival, Shaul Mofaz, would enter the coalition and replace some of the right-wing ministers.

Under the scenario, Mofaz would be appointed defense minister, the sources said. The current defense minister, Ehud Barak, regarded as the most fervent supporter of Obama in Netanyahu's Cabinet, was expected to agree to assume the post of foreign minister.

Report: Obama and Netanyahu close to settlement construction accord - Jerusalem excluded

(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report).US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Yitzhak Molcho, special adviser to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, are tying up the last ends of an understanding on West Bank settlement construction between the Obama administration and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, DEBKAfile’s Washington sources disclose.

Our sources report that the understanding rests on four principles:

    1. Israel will maintain a freeze on new settlement construction. (This week, transport minister Eliahu Atias said that all new projects for West Bank settlements have been “on hold” in the five months since Netanyahu took office.) In the next three years, the prime minister’s office and defense ministry will only grant permits for some hundreds of building projects appearing on an agreed list. A joint US-Israeli team is now working on the final list.

    2. Obama will stop demanding a total freeze.

    3. The two governments agreed to disagree on construction in Jerusalem, including the eastern side, which will continue uninterrupted - as will Washington’s criticism on this point.

    4. The Obama administration has made it clear that any confrontation with the Netanyahu government is undesirable; relations between the White House and PMO will henceforth revert to their normal friendly level.

The two parties also agreed that the US-Israel understanding on the settlements and their limited expansion will not be published or brought before the government in Jerusalem for endorsement.

Defense minister Ehud Barak will be the only minister with full knowledge of its contents and in Washington, only Vice President Joe Biden, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Mitchell - seven individuals in all in both capitals.

Mitchell was the live wire pushing for an accord and smoothing away the obstacles and differences, according to one Washington source. It was he who prevailed on President Obama to step away from a showdown with Netanyahu.

Israeli's unite behind PM Binyamin Netanyahu

(WashingtonPost).For five months, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been fending off U.S. pressure to halt the expansion of West Bank settlements. Now he is reaping dividends for his defiance.

Although Israeli leaders have historically been reluctant to publicly break with the United States for fear of paying a price in domestic support, polls show that Netanyahu's strategy is working. And that means that after months of diplomacy, the quick breakthrough that President Obama had hoped would restart peace talks has instead turned into a familiar stalemate.

Arab states largely have rebuffed Obama's request for an overture to Israel until the settlement issue is resolved -- a stand that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak emphasized in a meeting with Obama on Tuesday -- and the Palestinians have said a settlement freeze is a precondition for resuming negotiations. Meanwhile, the Israeli public seems to have rallied around Netanyahu's refusal to halt all settlement construction, a backlash that intensified when the Obama administration made clear that it wanted Israel to stop building Jewish homes in some parts of Jerusalem as well as in the occupied West Bank.

In Israel, the dynamic seems to have shifted further from any dramatic concessions. Netanyahu "scored points" for standing up to Obama, said Yoel Hasson, a member of parliament from the opposition Kadima party. In contrast to the United States' public demands for a settlement freeze, signaled early in the relationship between the two new governments, "I think the U.S. understands that it is better for them to do everything with Netanyahu more quietly," Hasson said.

Noting that the Palestinians had negotiated with Israel until late last year despite ongoing construction in the West Bank, Dan Meridor, Israel's intelligence minister, said he found it "strange" that the issue became a precondition for talks after the White House made public demands on Israel.

The most recent War and Peace Index poll, conducted monthly by Tel Aviv University, showed overwhelming support for Netanyahu's decision to oppose the White House on settlement construction and particularly on building in East Jerusalem.

Members of Congress praised Netanyahu's first months in office on a recent tour of Israel, and even Obama allies such as House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested that the onus was on the Palestinians to open talks with or without a settlement freeze.

"There have been some very positive things that have happened under Netanyahu, and I think that [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas ought to take the opportunity to engage," Hoyer said in an interview last week with the Jerusalem Post while on a trip sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group. Despite the administration's concern that construction of Jewish housing in East Jerusalem neighborhoods could prejudge the future boundaries of a city that both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital, Hoyer said Jerusalem "is a whole," adding: "My view is that it will remain whole."

"From the point of view of Israeli public opinion, so far Netanyahu has maneuvered quite successfully," said Tel Aviv University professor Ephraim Yaar. His surveys have showed support for Netanyahu in his clash with Obama and distrust of the U.S. president. In his July poll of 512 Israelis, 60 percent said they did not trust Obama "to safeguard Israel's interests," and 46 percent said he favors the Palestinians, compared with 7 percent who think he favors Israel. The poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

In a June speech, Netanyahu endorsed for the first time the idea of a limited Palestinian state, a position crafted as a response to Obama's call in Cairo for renewed peace efforts in the region.

But so far he has largely pursued the path spelled out when he took office in March -- gradual steps to ease the Israeli military presence in the West Bank, a lifting of some roadblocks and a focus on improving the West Bank economy.

The two sides are still expected to reach some kind of compromise on the issue, though short of the initial demands made by the White House. Netanyahu is meeting U.S. special envoy George J. Mitchell in London this month, and he expects to meet with Obama when he visits the United States for a U.N. General Assembly meeting in September. Discussion has centered on freezing settlement activity for six months to a year.

Ya'alon tells PM he was misunderstood

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening reprimanded Vice Premier and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon for referring to left-wing movement Peace Now and Israel's elites as"a virus". Ya'alon told the prime minister that his remarks were "misinterpreted".

As far as Netanyahu is concerned, this is the end of the affair. At the end of the meeting, which also dealt with political issues, the prime minister invited Ya'alon to join a meeting of the narrow security-political forum.

During his meeting with Netanyahu at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv, the vice premier said he "took part in forming the government's policy," and added that as a minister and vice premier he "takes collective responsibility for this policy."

He added that his remarks contained no criticism over the government's policy or against its head, and said he regretted being misunderstood. He also clarified that he "acknowledges the importance of an open and democratic public discourse, and the importance of different opinions in society."

Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said that the vice premier's remarks during his meeting with Netanyahu were "only lip service". He added that "it's unfortunate that Ya'alon did not go back on the grave statements he made."

Vice-Premier Ya'alon's is spitting in Netanyahu's face

(Yossi Verter,Haaretz).Had we not seen it, we would not have believed it: The vice prime minister, a senior Likud member and close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a member of the six-member diplomatic-security forum, hanging around with the man whom Netanyahu tried with all his might to oust from Likud, the man Netanyahu defines as "a cancer at the heart of the movement."

What dybbuk has suddenly taken possession of Moshe Ya'alon? First he led a tour of the illegal settlement outposts earlier this week; next came his lunatic remark about rebuilding the dismantled West Bank settlement of Homesh. And, finally, Wednesday night, Channel 2 television revealed him in his natural setting, alongside Moshe Feiglin and his followers.

And then there is what he actually said: Peace Now and the "elites" are a "virus"; anytime politicians try to make peace, the army has to clean up after them; the Supreme Court and the media are contemptible. Is it any wonder Feiglin was overjoyed? Clearly, a man after his own heart.

There is no doubt that the warm handshake the two men exchanged afterward marks the start of a new political alliance - an alliance that will push Ya'alon to the margins of Likud and then out of politics altogether. If Netanyahu had any guts, he would summon him immediately and dismiss him from the inner cabinet and the diplomatic-security forum, if not from the government entirely.

Netanyahu has two vice premiers: Silvan Shalom and Ya'alon. Until now, the former has been marginalized, hated and feared, while the latter was in on everything, loved and trusted. Shalom was left out of the diplomatic-security forum; Ya'alon has a place of honor there. Netanyahu repeatedly humiliated Shalom; Ya'alon is the man he personally brought to Likud and flattered as "Israel's No. 1 soldier."

But since then, Ya'alon has spit in his face. First, he skipped the Knesset vote on Netanyahu's baby, the Israel Lands Administration reform; then came this week's incidents.

Ya'alon's political tactics are so transparent as to be embarrassing: He believes Netanyahu will cave under pressure, his party will rise up against him and then Ya'alon - the farmer from Kibbutz Grofit who once supported the Oslo Accords, but has now become the far right's representative in the government - will take over Likud with the aid of Feiglin's camp. Either that, or he has no plan at all - which is even scarier.

One could speculate that Ya'alon's delusional right-wing statements actually serve Netanyahu, by helping him convince the Americans that he faces tough domestic opposition. But Netanyahu's responses, both Wednesday night and after the outpost tour, lend no credence to this theory.

Netanyahu understands that the Americans are following Ya'alon's statements and wondering whether the premier is not behind them. After all, Ya'alon is the vice prime minister, a man deep in Netanyahu's inner circle. And with an ocean of suspicion already dividing Netanyahu from U.S. President Barack Obama, Ya'alon's comments will only make his dealings with the Americans even harder

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Netanyahu very upset with Ya'alon's criticism of US President Obama at appearance at Feiglin event

(Jpost).Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu summoned Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Wednesday to an urgent meeting following a report that Ya'alon spoke at an event on Sunday organized by Netanyahu's fiercest critic in the Likud, Moshe Feiglin. Netanyahu will meet with Ya'alon Thursday night, immediately upon the prime minister's return from his family vacation.

Sources close to Netanyahu said he was very upset with Ya'alon's criticism of US President Barack Obama and Ya'alon's visit to unauthorized West Bank outposts on Monday and he felt the matter had to be dealt with immediately.

They said the prime minister was "annoyed" about a series of events indicating pressure from the Right ahead of his key meeting with Obama envoy George Mitchell next week in London.

Netanyahu's office sent a beeper message to reporters announcing that he summoned Ya'alon 45 minutes after the Channel 2 report aired. A source close to Netanyahu said the prime minister "merely responded because the story was picking up steam."

Ya'alon's spokesman declined to comment about the summons, but he downplayed the importance of the speech to Manhigut Yehudit."He meets with Likud activists all over the country," the spokesman said. "He knew the speech was being taped. His views are clear, he wrote them in his book, and he stands by them."

Netanyahu summons Ya`alon for clarification of comments;" Ya'alon's statements unacceptable"

The prime minister's office in response to Ya'alon's remarks ,and his joining the forum of Likud activist and head of Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership Movement) Moshe Feiglin ,said that Netanyahu, who is currently on a private vacation, will summon Ya'alon for a closed conversation when he returns.

(Ynet).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Minister Moshe Ya'alon's statements about Peace Now are "unacceptable, not in their essence, nor in style, and don't represent the government's position."

According to him, "In the face of pluralism of opinions in the Israeli public, the prime minister believes that we must maintain mutual respect and national unity. This is true of any time, but especially now."

Deputy PM Ya'alon: I'm not afraid of the Americans;calls Peace Now 'a virus'

(Haaretz).Minister of Strategic Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) told a closed-door meeting of far-right activists last week that he was "not afraid of the Americans", Channel 2 reported on Wednesday.

The statements, referring to the United States' role in the Middle East peace progress, came to light after video footage taken by a cellular phone was leaked to the Israeli television station.

At a forum last week chaired by Moshe Feiglin, head of the far-right Jewish Leadership Party, a delegate asked Ya'alon: "Why should we be afraid of the Americans?"

Ya'alon, who is a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, told the crowd: "I am not afraid of the Americans" adding, "there are moments where we must say 'we've had it up to here'".

Ya'alon also referred to the Israeli anti-settlement organization Peace Now and the s-called Israeli "elites" as "viruses... causing grave damage to the state of Israel."

The strategic affairs minister warned delegates that the Israeli media "has enough power that if they want, they can influence the prime minister".

When asked what he planned to do to prevent the evacuation of the unauthorized Bnei Adam outpost in the West Bank, Ya'alon responded "in my opinion, Jews can and must be in every corner of the Land of Israel".

Ya'alon made a reference to his years as the top Israel Defense Forces officer, saying "when I was chief of staff, I told several closed forums that any time politicians bring forth the dove of peace, its up to the army to clean up after them".

The far-right Feiglin who failed in his bid to win a spot on the Likud Knesset list in the past elections, told Ya'alon "God willing, we will be able to do great things together".

During a tour of the northern West Bank on Wednesday, Ya'alon urged Israel to consider resettling the settlement of Homesh - evacuated during the 2005 disengagement - calling it a strategic asset in the face of Palestinian terrorism.

The minister then termed the area "significant territory," adding that the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank in 2005 gave "tailwind to the Islamic jihadism."

Senior Likud officials called Ya'alon's comments "a downright shame" that represented "a bizarre alliance between a group of anti-Zionists who support draft dodging and the refusal to follow orders and a former IDF chief of staff."

The officials called on Ya'alon to apologize for remarks and said that his "race to the extreme right will not strengthen his position in the Likud, no matter what he thinks".

Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded to the comments by saying: "Peace Now is an important part of the peace camp and an integral part of the democratic dialogue in Israeli society."

Israel reports further drop in unemployment

(Haaretz).In June 2009, unemployment dropped 2 percent from the previous month's rate according to data from Employment Services. The drop in June put the total number of unemployed at 225,600. The total number of people fired in June was 16,500.

In the same month the number of newly employed persons totaled 12,500 - a drop of 1.8 percent in comparison to June of last year, when the number of employed totaled 12,700.

Nonetheless, 23,400 job seekers received services from the unemployment office, which is a 6 percent drop from the previous month.

In June, the number of jobseekers without an academic degree dropped by 1.7 percent compared to the previous month. The number of jobseekers with an academic degree dropped by 2.7 percent. The number of Jobseekers with an academic degree who applied for an unemployment stipend dropped by 2.4 percent

"It is too soon to asses the change in unemployment trends," said Yossi Farhi, the director general of the Employment Service. "It is appropriate to note that the numbers of newly employed persons are changing. The numbers began to drop in March which correlates with data showing a reduction in the number of people laid off around the same time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PM Netanyahu does exclusive interview to congratulate President Peres on his 86th Bitrhday

Special Interview on the “As of This Morning” Radio Show with Niv Raskin

Niv Raskin: Mr. President, I would like to introduce a very important friend of yours who is on the line with us right now who wants to congratulate you and wish you a happy birthday. I am speaking of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Hello, sir.

PM Netanyahu: Hello, good morning. Shimon, congratulations, from the bottom of not only my heart, but the heart of the entire nation.

Raskin: Mr. Netanyahu, can you share with us a shared moment in your biography and that of President Peres that brought you together?

PM: I met Shimon during one of the most difficult moments in my life, when my brother Yoni was killed during the Entebbe Operation, and in fact my first meeting with Shimon was when he gave that wonderful eulogy – there is no other word for it – the wonderful and moving eulogy for my brother at Mount Herzl. That was our first meeting.

After that, in his numerous meetings with my father and my family, including my brother, I was profoundly impressed by the way that he treated us and how he referred to Yoni, and that created a bond that – believe it or not – was stronger over the years than the ups and downs of politics. It was so and it remains so because at that moment, I realized that Shimon Peres’s commitment to the State of Israel, to its existence, its future, its security, to achieving peace with its neighbors – these were things that were pronounced then and they have accompanied his vast activities over the years. His work on behalf of the State of Israel illustrates the revival of our people in the new era. I think that his integration of the human with the national is one of the wonderful things that lead to the great appreciation and love that I, and many others, have for him.

Raskin: Mr. Peres, do you remember meeting with the Netanyahu family, with Bibi, with Yoni?

President Peres: I certainly do remember. I knew Yoni before, of course, when he was still alive. I met Bibi as he described it. It was truly a very, very moving meeting for all of us, as Yoni was a special person, and as Bibi can also move people, and I thank him for his words.

Raskin: Mr. Netanyahu, these very strong emotions that you mentioned in your bond through Yoni actually takes me back to perhaps another time, to 1996. You mentioned the ups and downs of politics – that was a difficult election, very close and dramatic. During that election campaign, was there a moment when you thought, “I’m actually running against, I want to defeat, I want to win against a man that I actually love and very much appreciate”?

PM: Yes, I must admit that I thought about that quite a bit and I at least tried, on a human level, to avoid certain things, those things that are a part of politics and which are not necessary – and those are statements about a person’s character. I always thought that Shimon’s goals, his way of thinking, his intentions were always for the benefit of the State of Israel. There can always be disagreements, and by the way, those disagreements can be overcome and we can try to unite the people around a broad point of view to achieve peace and security, something we are doing now, together.

Raskin: Did you have a conversation after that dramatic election where you discussed these things?

PM: Do you think we only had one conversation? We had many.

Raskin: Tell us about them, we’re on tenterhooks.

PM: There were many conversations, and we have met many times since I was elected in 1996, and I discussed things with Shimon because I invited him, I asked to hear from him then as I want to hear his opinions today. Shimon is a world leader; he is a tremendous asset for the State of Israel; he holds within him experience that is very important for our nation; and he is one of the most well-known, if not the most well-known figure in the world, certainly the most well-known Israeli on five continents. I think he has a wonderful ability to open doors. I certainly wanted to consult with him then, and did so – and I do so today. I must say that the State only benefits from this.

Raskin: Mr. Peres, I’m blushing for you.

President: Good that you are, I don’t have the cheeks for it. I thank the Prime Minister for his moving and beautiful words.

PM: Thank you, Shimon.

Raskin: Mr. Netanyahu, one more thing, with your permission, before we finish. I know this is a festive interview, but in any event, could you please share what you’re thinking after the horrifying murder in Tel Aviv, the brutal attack on Rrik Carp?

PM: You said the key word. It is horrifying. A man leaves his house with his wife and daughter and his life ends at the hands of violent and brutal hooliganism. When I heard about this case, I immediately called the Minister of Internal Security, Aharonovitz. He told me the details of how the investigation has progressed since then, and I think that, in this case, the police acted quickly, and that is good. However, we agreed, also in light of this horrifying incident and in light of other incidents, that we will intensify the steps that have long been planned, and we made some preliminary decisions, including bolstering urban policing, the urban police force, because the ability to carry out these crimes against the citizens of Israel will significantly decrease if there are more police officers spread out in the field, operating in ways in which crime was reduced overseas that we can learn from.

This is the main thing that we must do. I think that our commitment, as a government, is to provide the citizens and State of Israel with security, including personal security. Personal security is not only vis-à-vis terrorists, it also refers to the domestic terror or crime, and we will act determinedly, and I hope also successfully, against it.

Raskin: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thank you.

PM: Shimon, with all my heart, congratulations.

President: Bibi, you truly are one of a kind. Thank you, and I know that your words were from the heart and very moving. It’s good that we have birthdays so that we can hear such things. You also deserve a great deal of gratitude and appreciation.

PM: Thank you, Shimon, and all the best.