Tuesday, August 23, 2011

PMO: 'Israel isn't rushing to launch a military operation in Gaza'

(Shlomo Cesana-Israelhayom). Israel is not planning to launch a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip following last week's terror attack near Eilat and the escalation of rocket fire on southern Israeli towns, a top government official from the Prime Minister's Office said Monday. The official explained that Israel's decision was influenced largely by current events in Egypt, Libya and Syria.

The official's comments follow the decision by the Forum of Eight senior ministers on Sunday to respond to attacks from Gaza using targeted air strikes rather than a large-scale offensive.

"You cannot consider a military operation only based on the operation itself," the official said. "We are acting out of caution and responsibility, and are carefully following our relations with the U.S., Egypt and other countries amid developments in the Middle East," the official added. "We are not rushing to war, and will only consider it as a last resort."

The PMO official said that at no point did Israel engage in cease-fire negotiations with Hamas or Egypt during the recent escalation of violence, and that even when the U.S., Europe and the U.N. offered to mediate, Israel declined the offer, leaving Hamas to declare a unilateral cease-fire.

Commenting on the current tension with Egypt, the official said Israel did not apologize to Egypt for the deaths of five Egyptian policemen mistakenly killed by Israeli soldiers pursuing terrorists responsible for last Thursday's deadly attack, but expressed sorrow over, and agreed to a joint investigation of the circumstances surrounding, the deaths.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak also commented on the fragile diplomatic situation with Egypt. "I did what was necessary, considering that we are currently involved in a very sensitive point in our relations with Egypt," Barak said in an interview with Channel 2 news. Government officials in Cairo said that Israel's expression of remorse was not enough, and Egypt expects Israel to issue a formal apology and take the necessary steps to avoid the occurrence of a similar incident in the future.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Yoav Limor/ Israel's restraint - Focusing on the bigger picture

(Yoav limor-Israelhayom).Israel has decided to swallow its pride and refrain from a forceful response to the rocket fire from Gaza out of a desire to serve two broader interests: stability ahead of the upcoming Palestinian declaration of statehood in September and maintaining the peace with Egypt.

This decision was made possible by a successful Egyptian effort to recruit support for a cease-fire on the Palestinian side. In intense talks with Hamas, it was decided that all factions would cease firing upon Israel and adhere to the agreement, on the condition that Israel hold its fire as well. The barrages fired Sunday night [around the time that the cease-fire went into effect at 9 p.m.] were apparently an attempt by the Popular Resistance Committees to have the last word, and nothing more than that. If no dramatic change takes place, we will move toward calm.

Not everyone in Israel supported the decision to not respond harshly to the deadly rocket fire on Beersheba over the weekend. In the defense establishment and in the Forum of Eight senior ministers, some were of the opinion that a forceful response against Hamas was necessary to make it clear that they had crossed several red lines. In the end, Israel decided to go with a moderate response, with minor attacks on two abandoned positions, in order to keep further escalation at bay.

The main reason for this move is the upcoming bid for Palestinian statehood at the U.N. in September, as well as the concern that a massive clash in Gaza would increase international support for a Palestinian state, while uniting the West Bank and Gaza (and Fatah and Hamas) in a defensive effort against an Israeli attack. The declaration from the Spanish foreign minister, Trinidad Jimenez, on Sunday night that she will attempt to persuade her Western European colleagues to support the establishment of a Palestinian state was a sign of what's to come.

Another reason is Egypt. The past few days have exposed the gap between two different Cairos: the declarative and the productive. While Cairo openly protests and condemns, threatens to return its Israeli ambassador and demands an apology for the killing of its people, privately it agrees to meet with the head of the IDF Planning Directorate, mediates between Israel and the Palestinians, continues to act against al-Qaida and agrees to a joint investigation with Israel of the terrorist attacks last week in Eilat.

Israel feared that an escalation in the south would strengthen radical elements in Egypt, while constricting the more pragmatic elements who wish to continue to defend the peace treaty.

For these reasons and others, Israel decided to act with restraint, even though it meant feeling as though we did not win this round. One hopes that, despite this, Israel's deterrence remains sufficiently strong, because otherwise we will find ourselves facing a flood of events that will exploit the chaos in Egypt and the events of September in an attempt to challenge Israel. Israel, for its part, will be forced to continue using its head, and not its gut, to make wise decisions, as its regional and international leeway continue to shrink.

Hanoch Daum/ Last thing we need is Gaza operation that would unite Arab world against us

(Hanoch Daum-Yediot).Just when Defense Minister Ehud Barak was joking with the GOC Southern Command during Thursday’s improvised press conference on the Egypt border, showing him with odd glee where the camera was positioned, the police’s anti-terrorism unit lost one of its top fighters. That was a symbolic incident that illustrated the limits of power.

The defense minister was indeed confident in the army’s ability to defeat the terrorists, yet given the tough topographic conditions, with terrorists ambushing the troops while hiding between rocks and across the border, there is no significance whatsoever to the army’s strength or to its technological prowess. There is also no significance to the defense minister’s high spirits.

The last thing Israel needs at this time is to enable the whole Arab world to unite. The last thing Israel needs now is to allow the Arab world to divert the discussion away from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s despicable acts against his own countrymen and direct it at IDF troops operating in Gaza.

Arab citizens in the region are rising up and seeking freedom, and we should allow this process to continue. A ground operation in Gaza at this time will also infuriate Egypt, bury the remaining chances of securing Gilad Shalit’s release and provoke global criticism at a highly sensitive junction – September, ahead of the expected Palestinian declaration of independence and UN vote. Furthermore, such operation will not achieve anything with the exception of intensified attacks on the south.

At the end of the day, what can we gain from such operation in Gaza? What will a ground operation involving tanks and infantry reservists achieve that cannot be achieved by aerial assaults? Deterrence? After all, surgical strikes have already proven themselves as the most effective deterrent. Calm? We already learned that there is no way to fully prevent rocket attacks by taking over territory.

There will always be terrorists who can come out of the garage for a moment, fire yet another rocket, and go back to hiding among civilians. Israel must respond with force to every act of terror, but embarking on a ground operation would not constitute a forceful response, but rather, a case of falling into a trap laid by the other side.

PM's spox: 'PA silence over terror raises questions about statehood'

The Palestinian silence regarding Thursday’s terrorist attack in the South was “deafening,” and raises serious questions about the Palestinian Authority’s readiness for independence, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said Sunday.
“The Palestinian leadership’s failure to condemn Thursday’s attack against civilians raises serious questions about their readiness for independence, and their commitment to fight terrorism,Their silence was deafening.”
Regev said the goal of the military actions in Gaza was twofold: “One, to prevent the launching of missiles and rockets on Israeli cities; and two, to target those responsible for attacks on Israelis.”
"Netanyahu instructed the military to make pinpoint, surgical attacks, adding that every possible effort must be made to avoid harming Gaza’s civilians who are not our enemies.”
"15 of the 16 fatalities in Gaza since Thursday’s attack in the South have been 'legitimate' targets. Our response is measured and surgical".

Netanyahu tells Majority leader: 'Just as Iran threatens us, so too it threatens US'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with 25 Republican members of the US House of Representatives on Monday led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and thanked them for their support of Israel.
"Those who fire missiles at Israel are supported by Iran with weapons, money and training. They constitute a forward Iranian post on our borders,"Just as Iran threatens us, so too it threatens the US."
The prime minister also spoke about the Iron Dome's effectiveness in intercepting missiles and his intention to station additional batteries.

Cantor voiced the most strenuous objections to the recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a state at the United Nations. He also warned that if the Palestinians realized their objective, their funding will be in jeopardy. "It essentially obviates all agreements of the past" said Cantor who also expressed his serious objection to the Palestinian Authority alliance with Hamas.

Asked how America would react to a barrage of rockets such as the onslaught against Israel, Cantor replied "America would not tolerate rockets being launched against our citizens."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

IAF strikes numerous Hamas targets in Gaza Strip overnight

(Ynet, Maannews).Gaza under attack: The Air Force launched a wave of assaults in Gaza early Friday according to Palestinian sources, targeting numerous sites within the Strip in the wake of a terror offensive in southern Israel that left eight people dead Thursday.

Earlier, Israeli aircraft killed the terror masterminds behind the multipronged offensive that targeted a bus, civilian cars and IDF soldiers near Eilat.

The airstrike hit a home belonging to Popular Resistance Committees official Khaled Shaath, who was killed instantly. His two-year-old son Malek later died of injuries sustained in the strike.

The attacks killed four others in Rafah. Among them were PRC military wing chief Abu Awad Nayrab and PRC operatives Imad Hamad, Abu Jamil Shaath and Khaled Masri, medical officials said.

According to Palestinian reports early Friday, the Air force struck a home in Gaza City located near the former Palestinian intelligence headquarters. The attack reportedly caused a large fire in the area, leaving one boy dead and wounding up to 17 people.

Elsewhere, Israeli aircraft reportedly fired three missiles at a Hamas security forces building in Gaza City. In a third strike, at least one missile was fired at an open area in a town located in the southern part of the Strip. No casualties were reported in the strike.

According to the reports pouring in from Gaza, the Air Force also struck several targets in the northern Strip, including a Hamas military wing building.

Palestinian sources added that the Air Force bombed yet another outpost belonging to Hamas’ military wing in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis. Eyewitnesses reported loud explosions at the site of the attack,

Later at night, the Palestinians said that the Air Force struck several more targets around the Philadelphi route. The army was believed to have targeted smuggling tunnels in the strike.

The explosions in Gaza were clearly heard in southern Israel communities as well, with many local residents reporting the blasts to Ynet via the Red Email. Southern resident Shani wrote: “I just heard three explosions reminiscent of what we hear when mortar shells land here…I don’t know what’s going on.”

Senior Fatah official Saeb Erekat warned Israel Thursday night against ‘irresponsible’ retaliation in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the terror offensive in southern Israel earlier in the day.

“We are warning Israel not to launch an offensive or impose collective punishment against the civilian population,” the senior Palestinian official said.

US: The United States and Israel are united in the fight against terror

The White House White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement, denounced the attacks,and expressed hope those responsible "will be brought to justice swiftly."

"We condemn the brutal terrorist attacks in southern Israel today in the strongest terms".

"Our deepest condolences go to the victims, their families and loved ones, and we wish those injured a speedy recovery. The US and Israel stand united against terror and we hope that those behind this attack will be brought to justice swiftly".

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also spoke out against the attacks:
"The United States condemns today's attacks in southern Israel and all acts of terrorism in the strongest terms. These brutal and cowardly attacks appear to be premeditated acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. Our deepest condolences go out to the victims, their families and loved ones.

This violence only underscores our strong concerns about the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula. Recent commitments by the Egyptian government to address the security situation in the Sinai are important, and we urge the Egyptian government to find a lasting resolution.

The United States and Israel are united in the fight against terror. We hope that those involved in the planning of these gruesome attacks will be brought to swift justice. We stand by Israel as our friend, partner and ally -- now and always".
Statement From Bob Turner - republican Congressional candidate for Sep. 13th election in NY9 district, on Today’s Terror Attacks on Israel:
“My deepest sympathies go out to the Israeli people today who again have suffered a detestable terror attack on their soil, which Hamas is already praising. It is a reminder of blind hatred arrayed against our Mideast ally – and of America’s moral obligation to stand steadfastly beside the brave Israeli people.”

“Meanwhile, the Obama Administration continues to send American tax dollars to the Palestinian Authority, which in turns pays terrorists in Israeli prisons for their murderous deeds. All U.S. Funding should be cut off to the PA until payments to terrorists stop.”

“Ten years after 9/11, the evil of terrorism continues. We must remain vigilant.”

Netanyahu: Those who gave the order to murder our citizens, are no longer Alive

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded Thursday evening to a series of deadly terror attacks that left eight dead and dozens wounded in southern Israel, saying Israel will respond firmly “when Israeli lives are hurt.”

"We all witnessed today an attempt to escalate the terrorist war against Israel by launching of attacks from the Sinai. If there is someone who thinks that the State of Israel will let this pass, he is mistaken.

I have set out a principle - when the citizens of Israel are attacked, we respond immediately and with strength. That principle was implemented today. Those who gave the order to murder our citizens, while hiding in Gaza, are no longer among the living.

I commend the IDF and the security services who eliminated today in Gaza the senior figures of the organization which carried out the terror attacks in the south. I commend the soldiers, police, and members of the security services who acted swiftly, determinately and bravely against the terrorists, and who thereby prevented an even greater tragedy.

If the terrorist organizations believe that they can attack our citizens and get away with it, they will soon learn how wrong they are. We will exact a price, a very heavy price.

Seven Israelis (2 Kids) killed in coordinated terror attacks near Eilat

(Isralehayom).Seven Israelis, including four civilians from the same family and three soldiers, were reportedly killed and at least 30 wounded in a series of five near-simultaneous, coordinated terror attacks against Israeli vehicles traveling near the Egyptian border in Israel's southern region on Thursday afternoon.

Four of the dead were reported to be from a family traveling in their private vehicle near the Egyptian border, when an RPG rocket hit their car. Two of those killed were children aged four and six. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said soldiers were amongst the seven Israelis killed in Thursdays attacks.

At least seven terrorists were reported killed in exchanges of fire with Israeli Special Forces following the initial attacks. As the day continued, Israeli forces battled several terror groups, and some three hours after the initial attack, the incident was brought under control. The army declared the area a closed military zone and closed all the roads leading to Eilat, causing massive traffic jams.

IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai said the terror cell responsible for the attacks was "large and divided into several units." Mordechai added that the terror cell originated in the Gaza Strip and made use of "terror infrastructure in the Sinai Peninsula."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the incident a "serious terror attack in several locations, which shows the weakening of Egyptian authority in the Sinai Peninsula."

Speaking at a situation assessment with the IDF General Staff at the Kiriya military headquarters in Tel-Aviv on Thursday afternoon, Barak said the source of the attacks, which occurred near Israel's border with Egypt, was in Gaza, and that Israel would act harshly against the source of the attacks. An Israeli response was "obvious," Barak added.

International news media were reporting that Hamas officials had gone underground on Thursday afternoon, and that many of the terror group's facilities were shut down in anticipation of an Israeli retaliation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's English-language spokesman Mark Regev said, "We have specific and concrete information that these terrorists came from Gaza," CNN reported.

Egyptian authorities have denied all connection to the attacks, saying no fire emanated from inside Egyptian territory, Channel 10TV reported. Israeli witnesses said they saw Egyptian soldiers, in camouflage uniforms, firing on their vehicles.

The army declared the area a closed military zone as special police and military units battled the terrorists. One terror cell was reportedly subdued some two hours after the initial attack took place, but reports surfaced that another shooting attack had occurred at a checkpoint not far from the border area. Medical emergency crews could not reach several of the severely wounded from some of the attacks due to the heavy exchanges of fire in the area.

The first attack occurred shortly after noon when a cell of two to three gunmen opened fire on Egged bus No. 392, headed from Beersheba toward the southern Israeli resort town of Eilat along Highway 12, about 30 kilometers north of Eilat near the Netafim Junction. Seven people were wounded in this attack, one seriously. Twenty people suffered from shock. A spokesman for Magen David Adom emergency services said that the seven wounded suffered gunshot wounds to their arms and legs and were taken to Yoseftal Medical Center in Eilat, and later transferred to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. Their injuries were listed at light to moderate.

The bus was full of soldiers, some of whom returned fire at the attacking car. The bus driver continued driving, and reported that his bus came under fire not just from the passing car, but from inside the Egyptian border as well. The exchange of fire lasted three to four minutes. The attacking car fled and was reported to be involved in another incident several minutes later, firing at several other Israeli cars and another bus. Israeli special police forces were reported to have caught up with the suspected car and engaged the gunmen.

At 12:30, an Israeli military patrol vehicle that was sent to the area in response to the first attack was hit by a series of bombs detonated on a road near the Egyptian border. No casualties were reported from this incident, and exchanges of fire following the attack.

The third attack occurred at 12:35 when mortar shells were fired at Israeli vehicles, possibly military. No casualties were reported in this attack either.

At 13:10 an RPG rocket was fired at a vehicle, no injuries were caused.

At about 1:11 PM an anti-tank rocket was fired at a private vehicle traveling near the Egyptian border. Five people in the car were reportedly killed, four from the same family.

Passengers from the first bus attacked were evacuated after the first shooting, and large numbers of soldiers and police were deployed in the area in pursuit of the suspects. The Israeli forces soon caught up with the terrorists and a gunbattle ensued.

Roadblocks were set up in some major intersections in southern Israel and the road to Eilat was cordoned off by security forces. Road 90, the Arava road, was also blocked.

There were conflicting reports as to whether the gunmen opened fire on the fist bus from within Israeli territory or from Egyptian territory, although Egypt has officially denied that any fire came from its side of the border. One woman, who identifed herself on Israel's Channel 1 TV only as Sarah, said her car came under fire by an Egyptian soldier manning a small military outpost inside Egyptian territory. "He was lying down in a firing position, aimed his weapon at our car, and fired off several shots. About five bullets hit my car. It is a miracle that my two children, who were sitting in the back seat were not killed," Sarah, the witness, told the television station.

Israel Radio reported that there was a general warning issued recently about terrorists trying to infiltrate into Israel, but there were no specific warnings issued about when or where the attacks might take place. Israel's security establishment has recently warned of the consequences of increased lawlessness in the Sinai Peninsula following the revolution that removed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power. Channel 1 reported that al-Qaida elements have increased their presence in the peninsula in an attempt to turn the area into an Islamic emirate.

Egypt on Sunday sent hundreds of soldiers and police officers into the Sinai desert in an attempt to expel al-Qaida terrorist cells and hostile Bedouin gangs operating in the area. The move, code-named "Operation Eagle," utilized some 200 armored personnel carriers.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Palestinians pick UN Bid over negotiations; Israel: 'Regrettable move'

(IsraelHayom).Now it's official. The Palestinian Authority has announced that it will seek full membership from the U.N. on September 20th of this year. As peace talks with Israel remain deadlocked, the PA hopes to win U.N. endorsement for Palestinian statehood in the entire West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians have signaled they will seek an upgrading of their status from observer entity to non-member state. This is expected to pass as it does not require Security Council approval.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will send the request to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, on the occasion of the 66th General Assembly. The date was chosen by the PA because Qatar will chair the General Assembly and Lebanon will hold the rotating presidency of the Security Council, PA officials said.

Abbas is likely to send the request to the Security Council first where it will most likely be vetoed by the U.S. The request will then go to the General Assembly and is expected to be passed by a significant majority, changing the Palestinian Authority's observer status in the U.N. to 'non-member state.'

The Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem issued a terse statement to the Palestinian declaration:
"[PA President Mahmoud] Abbas has apparently chosen to avoid direct negotiations with Israel. It is an expected yet regrettable step,Only direct negotiations can advance the peace process, not unilateral decisions".
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "Forum of Eight" senior ministers is set to meet in the coming days to formulate an Israeli response to the Palestinian bid and discuss its national and security repercussions. Conclusions drawn from the Forum will then be taken to the Security Cabinet for discussion and vote.

Speaking on Army Radio Cabinet Secretary Zvika Hauser said:
"The Prime Minister’s hand is outstretched for peace still, and has been for some time. But it has been left suspended in the air. The Palestinians have decided not to go forward and look for a solution".

"The Palestinians have no chance [for their statehood bid] in the Security Council [where the U.S. has veto power], but in the General Assembly there is an automatic majority in favor of the Palestinians. If the Bin Laden assassination came up for a vote at the GA it would have received an overwhelming no vote".
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday that, while the vote is symbolic, it will unleash powerful pressure on Israel. "The sky won’t fall in September, but a process will start that delegitimizes Israel," Barak said on Army Radio.

Meanwhile, Kadima chairperson Tzipi Livni on Sunday laid the blame for the diplomatic impasse with the Palestinians squarely at the feet of the prime minister. "The Palestinian declaration is bad for Israel, and there is only one person responsible for this diplomatic failure - Netanyahu," the Opposition leader told Israel Radio on Sunday.

In response, Gilad Erdan, minister for Environmental Protection said, "Livni wants to deepen internal divides in Israeli society." It was Palestinian refusal and Abbas' preconditions that derailed negotiations, he said.

The Palestinian Authority has begun its advocacy campaign for its statehood bid at the U.N., named "Palestine - The 194th Nation." The Palestinian Authority has enlisted all of its diplomatic resources, Palestinian community leaders around the world and student organizations to advance their plight. Mass rallies and events in support of statehood are to be held throughout the West Bank on the day of the vote and Palestinian's around the world were asked to place PLO flags on their homes in support.  

Republican congressional candidate Bob Turner Tells Obama to Put Jerusalem Back in Israel

Major Jewish groups were set to file legal briefs this week in an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case with Jerusalem at its core, one that will test anew America’s stated goal of being an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At issue is the right of Naomi Zivotofsky to insist that the American passport she requested for her son Menachem from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv list “Israel” as his place of birth. He was born in Jerusalem in October 2002, about three weeks after President George W. Bush signed a bill directing the State Department to list “Israel” on the passports of American children born in Jerusalem if their parents requested it.

But the State Department denied the request, citing Bush’s comments at the bill signing in which he said the law “impermissibly interferes with the president’s constitutional authority to conduct the nation’s foreign affairs...”

The Weekly Standard‘s website quotes the State Department saying it doesn’t recognize people born in Jerusalem as Israeli.
"Current U.S. Government policy is that U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem may not have “Israel” listed in their passports as their place of birth. See the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual 7 FAM 1300 Appendix D for further details..."
Republican congressional candidate in NY CD9 running to replace Anthony Weiners's seat in a special September 13th election, expressed his dismay of US policy regarding Jerusalem:
“President Obama has found a new way to try to humiliate our Israeli allies and placate that nation’s enemies, and he needs to reverse himself immediately".
Turner added that State Department’s denial of Americans born in Jerusalem the right to stamp “Israel” as their nation of origin on their passports is a blatant insult to the State of Israel and to Israeli-Americans.
“The Obama Administration has spared no pains in finding ways large and small to ostracize the State of Israel on the world stage, Jerusalem is Israel’s beating heart, yet, through these actions, Mr. Obama’s State Department is denying that Jerusalem is even part of the Israeli nation. Symbolic slights like this, however small, are widely noticed by Israel’s enemies. They do not need any further invitations to aggression.”

Dem. House Whip Steny Hoyer: Let Israel build in East Jerusalem

(POLITICO 44).House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who is leading a congressional delegation on a week-long trip to Israel, broke with U.S. policy on Thursday and said the Jewish state should be allowed to build in disputed East Jerusalem.

Just two days after the State Department blasted Israel’s recent authorization of additional housing construction in the eastern section of the holy city, Hoyer told POLITICO in an interview that he sees the area as a Jewish neighborhood that must be expanded to accommodate growth.
“I view Jerusalem differently than I do other settlements, Essentially, this is a Jewish neighborhood. It may be in East Jerusalem, but it’s a Jewish neighborhood and it’s expanding.”

“This is not something that ought to undermine the much, much larger objective of reaching a peaceful resolution between the Palestinians and Israelis".
As the Hoyer winds down this visit — he and the rest of the delegation have met with many officials from both sides, including Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas since arriving Monday — he told POLITICO he sees the summer excursions to Israel as “very, very important to inform members to make better policy decisions.”

“Israel is the one example in this region of a free and open democracy that shares the values of the United States,” Hoyer said. “It is important that members of Congress in such a volatile part of the world have a better and fuller understanding of the issues.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rick Perry enters Republican race for Presidency, criticizes Obama on foreign policy

Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the Republican race on Saturday and announced his run for the presidency in 2012 at a gathering in South Carolina.

(Via Jennifer Rubin-WaPo).Perry had plenty of barbs for President Obama: “In reality, this is just the most recent downgrade. The fact is for nearly three years, President Obama has been downgrading American jobs, downgrading our standing in the world, downgrading our financial stability, downgrading confidence and downgrading the hope of a better future for our children.”

Perry did not shy away from foreign policy, either:
America’s standing in the world is in peril, not only because of disastrous economic policies, but from the incoherent muddle that they call foreign policy. Our president has insulted our friends and he’s encouraged our enemies, thumbing his nose at traditional allies like Israel. He seeks to dictate new borders for the Middle East and the oldest democracy there, Israel, while he is an abject failure in his constitutional duty to protect our borders in the United States.

His foreign policy seems to be based on alienating our traditional allies, while basing our domestic agenda on importing those failed Western European social values. We don’t need a president who apologizes for America. We need a president who protects and projects those values.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

NY Republican Candidate Turner slams Obama for beating up Israel on Tisha B'Av

Last week, an Israeli planning commission approved 930 new housing units in the Har Homa neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Actual building is at least two years off.

(AP) -- The Obama administration says it is "deeply concerned" by Israeli approval of new housing construction in disputed east Jerusalem.

The State Department says such "unilateral actions work against efforts to resume direct negotiations" and the spirit of the peace process. In a statement, the department says it has raised its objections with the Israeli government.

Alongside its rare rebuke of a close ally, the State Department said Israelis and Palestinians should settle their differences on Jerusalem through negotiation.

Statement by Businessman Bob Turner, Candidate for Congress (NY-9)on President Obama's Criticism of Israel:
"There goes President Obama again today, on the saddest day of the Hebrew Calendar, finding -- as he always does -- something or some way to beat up on Israel. This administration and the Democratic party never fail to find a way to slam our closest ally in the Middle East."

"Today is Tisha B'Av when Jews around the world commemorate the destruction of both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. And today the Obama administration criticized Israel for housing construction in East Jerusalem that will not take place for at least another two years."

NY Congressman Michael Grimm joining 20% of Congress visit to Israel

A press release from the Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn Congressman, the Co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus and the Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee’s Task Force on Foreign Policy,who is extremely hawkish on Israel foreign policy matters, and has visited Jonathan Pollard in prison.

Next week, Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R,C-Staten Island/Brooklyn) will travel to Israel on a week-long congressional trip to gain firsthand understanding of some of America’s most pressing foreign policy challenges. The purpose of the trip is to learn more about the U.S.-Israel relationship, the peace process, Israel’s security situation, and important political and economic trends in the region.
“Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East, with whom a strong partnership is essential to the security of the region and the United States,It is one of the most experienced countries in regards to counter-terrorism, defense, and law enforcement, as well as a thriving democracy that shares the same values that define the American way of life. I eagerly look forward to this opportunity to share experiences and learn from the Israelis as part of an ongoing effort to strengthen our relationship.”
81 members — 55 Republicans and 26 Democrats — will take the trip to the Jewish state, That breaks down to about 20 percent of the House who will spend a week of their August break in Israel.

The first group of visitors, made up of the 26 Democrats and headed by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), is set to arrive Monday. Two Republican delegations will follow, with one of the groups being led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

There are 47 freshmen members scheduled to take the week-long trips, the Jerusalem Post said, and for many it will be their first time in Israel.

The itinerary includes meetings with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, military and religious leaders, peace negotiators, and defense experts. Members of Congress will explore opportunities for bilateral economic and technological cooperation with the Israeli business community. They will also visit various religious and cultural sites.

The trip is being arranged by the American Israel Educational Foundation (AIEF), a charity affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIEF Israel seminars are considered among the most substantive, rigorous, and valuable opportunities for members of Congress to learn about the U.S.-Israel relationship. No tax dollars will be used to pay for the trip, as it is paid for by AIEF, which is privately funded by donations from American citizens. AEIF is hosting three week-long congressional trips in August, bringing a total of 84 House members to Israel this month.

The congressman will be posting real-time updates throughout the trip on Facebook (Rep. Michael Grimm) and Twitter (@repmichaelgrimm).

Netanyahu: I Understand i must change my fundamental positions on Israel's economic policy

(Barak Ravid-haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he understood he must change his fundamental positions on Israel's economic policy, a senior cabinet source said.

Netanyahu told Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, the head of the panel of experts who will talk with protest leaders, that he understood it was necessary to change economic policy. But Trajtenberg went further, telling Netanyahu he had to change his fundamental positions. Netanyahu agreed and said he had read a new book about how Herzl adapted himself to changing circumstances.

"I understand my views need to change," Netanyahu reportedly replied.

Netanyahu said he was ready to change the tax policy he had introduced in recent years, but Trajtenberg said this was not enough, and that priorities needed to be changed, the source said.

The two agreed that in any case, the government would not overspend its budget and the changes would apply to internal priorities.

Trajtenberg asked Netanyahu for several commitments, starting with a personal commitment to pass the panel's recommendations in the cabinet and prevent the politicians from dragging out the discussions indefinitely, as they had done with numerous committees in the past.

"There's a system in Israel to set up a committee and then kill the issue," Trajtenberg reportedly said. "Another panel with all the familiar faces will be no good here. Unless the political leadership unites behind the recommendations, it won't work," he said.

Netanyahu agreed to this demand as well, the source said.

Trajtenberg reportedly said in closed conversations that the global economic crisis must not be used as an excuse not to deal with the Israeli crisis seriously. He told Netanyahu a large part of the panel's work would be not only in formulating recommendations but in dialogue with the protesters.

"My daughters took part in the demonstrations," he told Netanyahu. "We must listen and touch base with the other side. We need social sensitivity not as a slogan but as a characteristic of the panel members."

Netanyahu agreed to give Trajtenberg a free hand in selecting the panel members and not to include politicians in the panel. "It's either ministers or a professional panel," he said. "The ministers are the deciders and we will submit our recommendations to the socio-economic cabinet."

The socio-economic cabinet will review the ideas and submit its own recommendations to Netanyahu by the end of October. Netanyahu may make additional changes, after which he will submit a final draft to the cabinet for approval. That is supposed to happen in late October or early November.

Trajtenberg intends to address the dialogue with the protest leaders in Tuesday's meeting, in a bid to hold talks with as many of them as possible. "This is not negotiations with a workers' union. We must hear the people, those 350,000 people who demonstrated because they hurt," he said in closed talks on Monday.

"We must leverage this protest for real change, it's burning in my bones. I don't know if I'll succeed. But we must take the risk," he reportedly said.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Netanyahu tells ambassadors that the Palestinians have shown no willingness for compromise on issue of refugees, Jewish state, or end conflict

(Jpost).Israel is prepared to make concessions, but the Palestinians have shown no indication of a willingness on their own for compromise, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday to a group of 18 ambassadors to Washington from Asian, European, African and Latin American countries who don't usually vote for Israel at the UN.

"Six prime ministers, including myself, have come out in support of a Palestinian state, and two offered far reaching concessions, but this hasn't helped," Netanyahu said, in a reference to the concessions offered by Ehud Barak in 2000, and Ehud Olmert in 2008.

Among the ambassadors were the envoys to the US from Albania, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Liberia, Macedonia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Slovakia, St. Lucia, Timor-Leste, Trinidad & Tobago and Uganda.

Netanyahu told the ambassadors, brought to Israel for a week of high level meetings by The Israel Project, that the Palestinians have shown no willingness for compromise on the issue of refugees, Israel as a Jewish state, or that a future agreement would constitute an end to the conflict.

Netanyahu said that efforts were still underway to come up with a formula that would enable negotiations and keep the PA from turning to the UN. He said that this formula could include elements that both the sides could have reservations about, but that this should not keep them from entering talks.

Israeli officials said that Jerusalem has agreed to a formula calling for negotiations based on the 1967 lines, with mutual agreed swaps, as long as the Palestinians agree that the goal of the talks will be two states: a Palestinian one and a Jewish one. So far the Palestinians have balked at that type of language.

One Israeli official said that among the ambassadors were a number from countries "in the automatic block that votes against Israel" at the UN. "This is a group not known for voting for Israel, so the goal is to engage them, and any change in their voting pattern would be a plus."

Netanyahu promises to provide negotiations team with 'tools' to help 'lighten citizens' burden'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday with the newly appointed head of the "Rothschild team", Professor Manuel Trachtenberg, for the first time.

According to the PM's Office, Netanyahu pledged to provide Trachtenberg with any assistance he may need:
"You asked me whether I, as prime minster, would be willing to modify priorities in order to lighten the burden of the citizen. I answered 'yes.' I'm going to provide you with the tools to do so."
Trachtenberg had mentioned that his team was comprised of young members as well, "who can understand the public's state of mind these days."

Meanwhile, almost a month since the tent protest begun, the social protest leaders published a document introducing their vision for a "just Israel" as they see it. In their official position paper – formed by student representatives, tent city organizers and social organization delegates – the protesters called for a "more just, more humane State that cares for its citizens."

The protest leaders demand some of the following reforms:
* Bridging social, economical, national and gender-based gaps and creating a social consistent needed for the State's existence.
* Altering the economic system so as to allow for proper and satisfactory budgeting for the basic needs of the citizens.
* Reducing housing expenses, reaching full and fair employment and obtaining governmental supervision on fundamental products.
* Providing clear preferential treatment to the social and geographical periphery in the form of governmental attentiveness and allocations of resources and infrastructures.
* Promoting and caring for the essential needs of weaker social echelons, in particular of handicapped, elderly and sick populations.
* Investing in the citizen's education, health, personal security issues and more by the State
* Offering real solutions for the vital needs in the fields of housings, transportation, public infrastructure via governmental intervention

Sunday, August 7, 2011

History in the making - Israeli's take their voice to the streets against high cost of living

(Israelhayom). On Saturday night the middle class proved that it was not about to give up. More than 300,000 people filled the streets of Tel Aviv and other cities across the country to state their case for social justice loudly and clearly, taking the mass protests sweeping the country to a level never seen before in Israel.

The march in Tel Aviv, which some estimates say was 250,000-strong, started at Habima Square at 9 p.m. As the evening progressed and the crowds neared the government compound across from Tel Aviv's iconic Azrieli towers, it became evident that this would be one of the largest demonstrations the country has ever seen. Huge television screens flanked the sides of major roads, showing real-time video of speakers and performers, including stars Shlomo Artzi, Yehudit Ravitz and Rita, all on hand to support the cause.

Protest organizer Yonatan Levy:
“We must make it known that the people are taking the country into their own hands,We are not going anywhere until our demands are met. The protests are about a government that is disconnected from 90 percent of its citizens. It's a display of power the likes of which hasn't been seen in this country for years.”
Yael, a protester in Tel Aviv:
“The atmosphere here is fantastic, exciting,There is a feeling that we are making history, and I hope that the government does not try to sweep this under the rug with spins and false promises. There is solidarity here. People understand that we have power now and we can't be ignored.”
Singer Rita, before performing the song “It Will Come.”:
“If they would have told me a few weeks ago that the people of Israel would hit the streets to demand better living conditions, I would have said that this was a dream.”
National Student Union chairman Itzik Shmuli:
“Hundreds of thousands have joined us in the streets. They are here to tell one another and the state, that they love Israel with all their hearts. Perhaps this country is ready to give up on us, but we are not ready to give up on this country. We are not ready to give up on our dream to build a home here, to raise our children here. We, the young people, the students, are here now to shout, ‘We have the power to change things!'”

“We are not talking about replacing any specific leader. We are not asking for a replacement of the coalition, which was elected by the people. We, the youth, are only demanding a replacement of cruel economic policies. We demand a more humanitarian economy, rather than the current one that is trampling us. We want an economy that understands people's distress, not one that is only focused on calculating numbers. We demand a better balance between a free economy and a humanitarian economy. We demand a more serious approach to closing social gaps, and a broader solution to basic citizens’ needs, particularly for the weaker among us.”

Shmuli also addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly, saying: 
“Netanyahu, we are not modern slaves. You don't give us hope. We are the cream of the crop, and we want change.”
Shlomo Artzi, one of Israel's most iconic and popular singers, took the stage and asked the crowds, “What should I sing for you?”

“The people want social justice!" the crowd yelled back. Artzi invited several protest organizers onto the stage to sing with him, including Stav Shapir, Daphni Leef and Regev Kuntas.

Steinitz and Netanyahu calls on protesters to show responsibility for Israel's economy

"We cannot meet all the desires and demands. We live in the real world, and we still have heavy defense expenses that Norway and Sweden lack," Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz told “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal), as he called on the social protest leaders to show responsibility, not indifference to the debt crisis in Europe and the US.

Asked about the 320,000 protesters in last night's demonstrations across the country, Steinitz said"
"This was an impressive civic demonstration. Irrespective of its content, if our citizens care, that has positive aspects."

"Just as we should listen to the murmurings of the public's heart, and fight the high cost of living and high home prices, the public should listen to what is happening around the world. We're still navigating the Israeli economy in tough times. We must be responsible, act carefully and with proper caution. We must preserve the general economic policy structure and budget framework."
Steinitz promised that the Rothschild team that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established today in response to the protesters' demands would submit its recommendations for dealing with the high cost of living by September. However, he reiterated his warning about not breaching the budget framework, saying, "Countries that used to live beyond their means are now paying dearly for it. We don’t want to end up like Greece, Spain, or other countries in the world."

"I'm attentive to the protest, but we can't satisfy everyone," Netanyahu stressed at the cabinet meeting. "We'll listen to everyone. We'll act sensitively and responsibly ... We'll conduct a real dialogue. We won't present lip-service solutions; we want to bring real solutions. In the end, we'll be judged on our practical solutions."

Netanyahu said that Trajtenberg's panel will submit recommendations on the following issues: 
"One, a change in priorities, with the goal of easing the economic burdens on Israel's citizens. Two, a change in the mix of tax payments. Three, expanding access to social services. Four, increasing competition and efficiency in the goods and services markets, with the goal of reducing prices. Five, implementing the housing plan we've already launched.

"The panel's recommendations will reflect the need to maintain fiscal responsibility in the state budget,Such responsibility is especially necessary at a time of economic uncertainty."

US Ambassador Shaprio: Social protests - The Strength of Israel's Democracy

(JTA).US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro posts on his Facebook page (in Hebrew) about #J14, Israel's self-proclaimed 'social justice' protests.
"The United States has no position on the internal matters of the state of Israel. But we admire the strength of Israeli democracy. The citizens of Israel know that they can demonstrate in the streets without fear of violence, and that's not the case in many other places in the region. The people and the government will decide together how they will deal with the serious social and economic problems about which people are demonstrating. And we are confident our democratic partner will come out of this period even stronger..."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Maagar Mohot poll: Likud 29 Kadima 25 - Right wing Bloc= 70 seats

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 506 adult Israelis (including Israeli Arabs) carried out by Maagar Mohot Survey Institute (headed by Professor Yitzchak Katz) the week of August 1 for Makor Rishon and published on 5 August.

If elections held today (expressed in Knesset seats) Current Knesset seats in [brackets].

29 [27] Likud
25 [28] Kadima
16 [15] Yisrael Beiteinu
11 [13] Labor (Headed by Shelly Yacimovich)
13 [11] Shas
05 [05] Yahadut Hatorah
04 [04] Nat'l Union
04 [03] Meretz
03 [03] Jewish Home/NRP
09 [11] Arab parties

Who is most appropriate to serve as prime minister? Netanyahu, Livni, Lieberman or Yacimovich?
Netanyahu 51% Livni 28% Liberman 17% Yacimovich 4%

Heated debate on Israel in NY Congressional race - Republican and Democrat vs. Obama

(via Brooklynpolitics.com, Nypost, The Empire Blog). The campaign of businessman Bob Turner (R), who is running for the Brooklyn-Queens congressional seat recently vacated by disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9), today offered a $1,000 reward for any New Yorker who can clearly explain Democratic candidate and career politician David Weprin’s position on cutting off U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until rocket fire on Israeli citizens stops, and until the Authority stops using U.S. taxpayer dollars to pay Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons, based on Mr. Weprin’s remarks on “The Brian Lehrer Show” yesterday.

The show can be heard here. Mr. Weprin’s remarks on this issue run from the 7:09 mark to the 9:38 mark.

Mr. Turner, who has been endorsed for the seat for Democratic former mayor Ed Koch and House Homeland Security Committee chairman Pete King (R) because of his unwavering support of Israel, has called on Congress to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority until the payments to convicted terrorists stop and until the rocket fire ceases.

“This issue is cut and dry; not a single American dollar should be going to the Palestinian Authority while it is paying terrorists and condoning rocket attacks on Israeli families,” Mr. Turner said. “David Weprin was given several opportunities to take a position on this yesterday, and once again he hedged like a politician. There can be no hedging on clear moral issues like this.”

Meanwhile the Jewish Democratic candidate David Weprin, distanced himself from President Obama today — by refusing to say whether he backed the president’s re-election.

“I’m running myself right now. On Sept. 14, I’ll be happy to address the president’s election,” State Assemblyman David Weprin said following a press conference at Queens Borough Hall, where he was endorsed by a bevy of female elected leaders.

“Don’t read anything into it,” Weprin insisted of his refusal to give fellow Democrat Obama a thumbs up.

Thursday on “The Brian Lehrer Show.” Weprin was asked about former Mayor Ed Koch’s endorsement of his opponent over Israel and what the differences were between him and Turner on the issue, Weprin’s exhaustion about the topic was nearly audible.
“I don’t think we differ too much for our strength for the state of Israel, But I think we have to really talk about the other issues where there’s really a major difference.”
Later, when discussing the issue again, Weprin gave the distilled pitch he’s making on the issue.  he said:
“If you disagree with the president, as I have, with his Mideast policies, the best way to get that message to him and the administration is through his own party, as opposed to a freshman Republican that’ll be dismissed as partisan politics.”

Polls: Netanyahu viewed as most qualified to lead; Kadima party has been hardest hit by wave of protests

(Israelhayom). While much of the antagonism expressed in recent weeks by protesters demanding lower housing costs has been directed at the government, a number of polls conducted recently have shown that Kadima, the largest opposition party, would bear the brunt of voters' dissatisfaction were elections held today.

The polls reveal that the number of undecided voters stands at a record high, pointing to the general disappointment people feel in the political parties for which they voted in the country's last election. These polling data make it difficult for analysts to accurately project the Knesset makeup in the next election.

One poll conducted by the Sarid Institute for Channel 2 news shows that 39 Knesset seats, a record high, would be up for grabs if elections were held today. According to the poll, Kadima would win 14 seats (down from its current 28), while Likud would win 22 seats (down from 27), Labor would win 11 (up from 10), and Meretz would win four (up from three).

The poll, conducted at the beginning of the week, suggests Kadima has been the hardest-hit by the wave of protests, and that it would dwindle to half its current size.It differs from other polls in that it refers to undecided voters, while others polls make no mention of them.

Another poll conducted this week by the Likud party also showed that Kadima has significantly lost strength since the protests erupted on July 14. This poll also showed that if elections were held today, Kadima would drop to 22 mandates from its current 28, while Likud would win 32 mandates (a rise of five seats), Labor would see its number of seats increase by one to 11, Meretz would rise to six (from three) and coalition partner Yisrael Beitenu would garner 16 seats (up from its current 15).

The Likud poll also asked respondents who could do a better job leading the country, with more than half of respondents (54.2%) saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the most qualified to be at the helm. Slightly more than a fifth (20.8%) said there is a better alternative to the prime minister, with 24.9% having no opinion. Perhaps this can explain the Likud's rise in the polls as of late, against the backdrop of the wave of protests.

The polls reveal a trend of Kadima voters returning to the parties on the left that they have traditionally voted for, such as Labor and Meretz. Both of these parties would register significant increases in their mandates compared with their current proportion of the Knesset. Despite the public's discontent over policies of current or past governments, overwhelming numbers believe that Netanyahu is the one best prepared to handle the current situation and lead the country toward meaningful economic change.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Israel's tent protest reaches the White House in Washington - Natasha Mozgovaya reports

(Haartez). A group of Israeli artists has organized their own tent protest outside the White House in Washington, in a show of solidarity with the social protests that have swept Israel in recent weeks.

“We are a band called ‘Punk Hapoalim,’ we came to Washington to set up the first tent protest outside the White House,” one of the protesters, Yaron Atar, said.
“As we found out that it is illegal to pitch the tent, we decided to walk with our tent held up in the air. We started the march around the White House carrying a sign that says 'the people demand social justice' in Hebrew, as this is the symbol of the protest in Israel. In this way we are showing our solidarity with the protest and struggle in Israel, and bringing them to the attention of the American public".
In the video below, Natasha Mozgavaya interviews some of the tent protesters outside the White House. The video starts in Hebrew, but click ahead to hear some of the interviews in English. 

Netanyahu seizes opportunity; to put forward plan that will 'change the face of the country';

(Yossi Verter-Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees no danger to his coalition government as a result of the current wave of public protest, political figures quoted him as saying Wednesday.

In about six weeks, before the high holidays, Netanyahu will present a plan that will "change the face of the country," the sources quoted him as saying.

Netanyahu said the plan's main points were to break the monopolies that are preventing competition and to slash indirect taxes.

Netanyahu said he identifies with the grievances that are at the basis of the protest.
"This can be our great opportunity,No one can complain about the economy. The economy is working. But there are complaints, justified complaints, about the hardships of daily life, about the high cost of living.

"Everyone is asking me how I plan to deal with the political situation. My political strategy for the coming year is simple: Take real and serious care of these problems. My goal is not to dismantle the tents. They will not be dismantled. They are there to be there."
As the Knesset went into its long summer recess Wednesday until October 31, Netanyahu reportedly left the building in good spirits. His pet legislation, the bill to set up new housing committees, has been passed. Before acceding to some of the protesters' demands, he showed protest leader Daphni Leef and her friends from the Rothschild Boulevard tents who's boss. Now, after he has proved that he cannot be pressured, he can allow himself to be generous.

Netanyahu believes that in a year and a half, before the next elections, the results of this reform will be felt throughout the country in the addition of tens of thousands of apartments and a real decline in purchase and rental prices.
"They say they want cheap housing. The purpose of the National Housing Committees Law is to flood the country with housing, That will bring down prices. So why are they against it? Think about it."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Netanyahu: Populism Sweeping Country - Solutions must be given while preserving the tree

Speaking in a special Knesset session to discuss the protests was proposed by the Opposition and held under the heading "the failure of the Netanyahu government in diplomatic, economic and social spheres", Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the large housing protests:
"A wave of populism has been sweeping the country in recent weeks...There is a serious statement about problems, and there are much less serious statements about the solutions".
Netanyahu compared the economy to a tree.
"The tree yields fruit and one may pick them, Three years down the line, if you have finished picking but you have not been hoeing and watering, then the tree withers up and gradually yields less, until it gives nothing at all."

"Problems that need to be solved needs to be done in a responsible manner,The solutions must be given while preserving the tree – the free economy – and providing solutions to social problems at the same time."

"The worst option is that you not only neglect to water the tree, but you cut it down – because that is how you reach an avalanche. You cannot cut down the tree if you want to enjoy its fruit... Some European economies are like forests that have been cut down – or are almost at that stage".

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Channel 10 investigative and political reporter: Social Protests Media Driven

Channel 10 investigative and political Reporter Raviv Drucker told Army Radio on Tuesday, that the high-profile 'social protests' that have dominated the airwaves are a result the Israeli media's political agenda.
"Without a doubt the media have a political agenda,The way the media has pushed this protest is unprecedented."

"It's more a protest by the media because media people identify with struggles in general."
Drucker opined the the Israeli media's solidarity with this particular protest resulted from two factors.
"Most media people are middle class. Many work hard to succeed in their jobs and still live with their parents".

"No doubt there is also a political agenda. Most media people think Bibi is a prime minister whose policy shows a lack of vision. The media wants to stir up resistance to his rule to effect change."

Poll: Social party could win 20 seats, Does not change Right/left political map

(via Jpost and Globes).A Smith Research poll taken for The Jerusalem Post and Globes finds that a new socioeconomic party led by the current leaders of the housing protests could win as many as 20 seats if elections were held now,

When only the parties currently represented in the Knesset were given as choices, the results were similar to the makeup of the current Knesset, except that Likud would win one more mandate (28) than Kadima (27), rather than Kadima's present one-seat advantage.

But when a new socioeconomic party was included as a choice, the new party captured 4-5 seats from Opposition part Kadima, 2-3 from ruling party - Likud, 2-3 from Labor, and Meretz, as well as floating voters. The new party does not take mandates away from Arab, religious or right-wing parties, whose supporters have not endorsed the protests.

Asked whether the next Knesset elections will be held  on or advanced from its current date of October 22 2013 due to the protests and the expected United Nations General Assembly vote on a Palestinian state next month, 50% believe it will be held on time, while only 29% think it might lead to earlier elections, 21% did not have an opinion.

Among Likud voters, 60% said the election would be held on time while 25% thought otherwise. Even among Kadima voters 47-40 believe the elections would be held on time.

When asked about their economic views, 47% said they wanted more governmental intervention in the economy and personal welfare, while 37% preferred to let market forces take their course with minimal governmental intervention. Sixteen percent did not express an opinion.

The poll also provided insight into the public's attitudes toward the tent protest movement and how it feels the protesters should go about achieving their goals.

45% said the protesters should compromise and  negotiate with the government to try to obtain their demands, 29% said the demonstrations should go on in their current format, and 9% said the protesters should become more political, try to bring down the government, and run for the next Knesset.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Progress in US-Israel deal on framework to resume peace talks

Prime minister Netanyahu has agreed to negotiate the borders of a Palestinian state based on the cease-fire line that marks off the West Bank, Channel 2 TV station reported Monday.

According to the report, Netanyahu has agreed to consider beginning negotiations that would include land swaps by both sides on the condition that the Palestinians drop a bid to be recognized as an independent state by the U. N. General Assembly next month.

“We are willing in a framework of restarting the peace talks to accept a proposal that would contain elements that would be difficult for Israel and we would find very difficult to endorse,” an anonymous Israeli official told the AP.

According to a report on Israeli public radio, Netanyahu put his position in writing - expressing in a document that he is not willing to return to the borders that predate the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 and will insist that demographic changes - meaning Jewish settlement of the West Bank - since then be taken into account.

When questioned by Agence France Presse, a senior Israeli official, who requested anonymity, confirmed that “Israel is ready to be flexible regarding efforts to resume a direct dialogue with the Palestinians.”

The official added that “Israel did not dismiss the American proposals aimed at establishing the future borders” of a Palestinian state.

Pm Netanyahu appearing before the Foreign affairs and defense committee hinted at such deal gaining progress:

"we are interacting with the US to put together a document [for an agreement with the Palestinians] using language from [US President Barack] Obama's second speech, Such a document would say that final borders would not be on pre-1967 lines".

Based on previous reports, its believed that in exchange for such a formula, President Obama will restore in writing President Bush' letter to PM Sharon in 2004, stating that the final peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians should reflect “new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers,” and that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”..

UPDATE: in a matter of fact Yisrael Hayom newspapers reports: Netanyahu: Obama administration ratified the guarantees of the Bush letter • meaning - no return to '67 borders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that he had reached a written agreement with the Obama administration according to which Israel would not be required to return to the 1967 borders in any future peace deal with the Palestinians. In addition, any future peace talks would take into account established "realities on the ground" - a term generally used in reference to Israel's large settlement blocs of Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion.

Netanyahu's statements would mean an effective American ratification of a letter sent in 2004 by former U.S. President George W. Bush to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon which guaranteed that the settlement blocs would remain a part of Israel in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians. The current administration, under President Barack Obama, has not publicly endorsed Bush's letter to Sharon. In 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there was no acknowledgment of any such agreement in the official negotiating record between Israel and the Bush administration. "There is no memorialization of any informal and oral agreements. If they did occur, which of course people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the U.S. government," Clinton said.

The current U.S. administration has recently made it clear to Israel that Obama's position is in line with the second speech he delivered at the AIPAC conference in May 2011 -- in which he clarified that the U.S. believes negotiations should be based on 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps and not the borders that existed on June 4, 1967 -- and not his first speech, to which Netanyahu reacted angrily.

The Prime Minister's Office now views the agreement with the Obama Administration as an achievement.

The document was prepared prior to the Quartet meeting in early July, during which the Americans and Europeans tried to relaunch negotiations ahead of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood at the United Nations in September. The Quartet had been hoping to issue a statement saying that negotiations would be based on the 1967 borders framework articulated in Obama's speech, together with recognition of Israel as a Jewish state -- implying that the Palestinians would forego the right of return for refugees. However, the Palestinians rejected the draft and no statement was issued.

Prime Minister's Office spokesman Gidi Shmerling clarified on Monday night that the understanding with the U.S. does not include an Israeli agreement to return to the 1967 borders. Rather, the U.S. has acknowledged that any future talks would take into consideration the changes on the ground as well as Israel's security concerns.

NY Republican Congressional candidate: US Embassy belongs in the Jewish capital of Jerusalem

New York Business man Bob Turner, the Republican contender in the upcoming September 13th election for Anthony Weiner’s recently vacated congressional seat in a district that encompasses several largely Jewish neighborhoods (over a third of registered voters are Orthodox Jews), spoke with the Orthodox largest news site VIN news - Vosizneias, and discussed various issues, in large Israel and Middle east policy.

Israel has become a hot campaign issue, with former Mayor Ed Koch crossing party lines and endorsing Bob Turner,as “a shot across President Obama’s bow”, a message to President Obama to change course on hostile treatment of the jewish State.
“If Jewish New Yorkers and others who support Israel were to turn away from the Democratic Party in that congressional election and elect the Republican candidate to Congress in 2011, it might very well cause President Obama to change his hostile position on the state of Israel and to re-establish the special relationship presidents before him had supported".
The 70 year old former cable company executive calls Israel America’s “outpost in that area” and insists that the United States must respect Israel’s sovereignty.

Asked about his view on moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, he responded in saying:
"The United States Embassy belongs in the Capital of the Jewish state and that is Jerusalem... there have been a few laws co-sponsored by quite a number of people, that are still sitting there not reaching out of a committee, i would like to move it out of committee, and make it a reality...and this would be a very good time, in the troubles in the Nation's history, to something dramatic like that, as a firm statement of where America stands here".

Turner also said that the US must repudiate the Palestinians intention to seek a Palestinian statehood recognition at the UN as soon as possible, and claims that developing democracy and true freedom in the Arab world is of great importance and will benefit both Israel and the Western world.

Netanyahu: Social justice depends on the free market; We're fixing mistakes of years of socioeconomic injustice

With prosperity comes socioeconomic problems that Israel must confront, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Monday at a special Knesset session to commemorate Zionist leader and Likud inspiration Zeev Jabotinsky.
"When the state was founded in 1948, the quality of life wasn't higher than surrounding the states,Since then we've flourished. We've become a technological superpower.

"But,with prosperity comes socioeconomic problems that the state must address".

"Jabotisnky said existence starts with the 'iron wall',But in order for there to be an iron wall we have to build it and it costs money."
Speaking on recent protests against the high cost of living in the country, Netanyahu put reducing hunger and poverty at the top of his priorities, but stressed that,
"The state should stop poverty but cannot limit success and pursuit of happiness, Jabotinsky believed in a free market and not just competition for its own sake but because it is just."

"A healthy economy is based on a vibrant private sector. We cannot cut down the tree from which we pick fruit".

"I believe in Jabotinsky's method, that a democratic state can absorb shocks and include them to promise endless opportunities for improvement.

"That's what we're doing now, We're fixing mistakes of years of injustice".

"Jabotinsky's view is correct. Not only does social justice not oppose a free market, social justice depends on the free market."

Netanyahu: Despite our willingness ,Abbas determined to declare Palestinian State at UN

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Foreign affairs and defense committee that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is determined to bring Palestinian statehood to a UN vote in September.
"Abbas made a strategic decision to go to the UN, because the price for him will be low, For us, recognition of a state will only pass through the security council."

"We are working to ensure a US veto in the UN Security Council, but that will not prevent a majority in the General Assembly, unilateral steps [by the Palestinians] will distance peace, not bring it closer."

"we are interacting with the US to put together a document [for an agreement with the Palestinians] using language from [US President Barack] Obama's second speech, Such a document would say that final borders would not be on pre-1967 lines".

"The Israeli goal is direct negotiations with the Palestinians, without preconditions, There have been attempts to find a way to start talks, but it does not seem to have great chances."

"I am prepared to meet Abbas at any moment – even tonight, However, this will not happen because the Palestinians want to go to the UN no matter what, and declare a state without making compromises."

"Israel is a real partner for peace, Israel proved its willingness to negotiate by freezing construction in settlements and taking down checkpoints".

"No one can say that the Israeli side did not show willingness to negotiate, as opposed to the Palestinians, who have never been willing to compromise, even in the time of Oslo".

Netanyahu also mentioned Turkey, saying that the government is "checking whether or not to apologize."

"An apology would protect our soldiers, but will not prevent lawsuits from Turkish citizens".

"I expressed sorrow at the lives lost, but it is important to say that the soldiers acted in self-defense".
He also expressed optimism that the Palmer Committee's findings on last summer's flotilla incident will "put Israel in a better place."

Union Leader Eini: The aim is not to topple Netanyahu

(Globes).Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini was interviewed on “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) today, and made clear the Histadrut's (General Federation of Labor in Israel) role in the protests. "I do not intend to lead this struggle. The Histadrut did not begin it; this is a people's protest, not a Histadrut protest, but it will help the struggle," he said.

"Galei Zahal": "Are you beginning to sense internal cracks between the protesters?

Eini: "Everyone thinks that there is real distress, and that the housing shortage and the high cost of living must be dealt with."

Some people think that the central objective is to oust the prime minister.

"If the objective is to topple Netanyahu - I am not a party to that objective, and I won't be there. We're a democratic country; we're not Egypt or Syria."

What about demands for public talks between the protesters and Netanyahyu?

"There's a limit to how much it is possible to humiliate the prime minister - he isn't a man, but an institution. It is the citizen's duty to respect it. If you want - replace him democratically. It is necessary to change the social agenda, but we must not shatter the national agenda.

"There is a regime in Israel and it is permitted to protest, but it must be done right. The protest leaders will meet tomorrow to formulate a joint document, which will be submitted to the prime minister. The Histadrut supports the protest, and our people will come to the demonstrations. We must make real change here."

Hezi Sternlicht/ Look at them and look at us

(Hezi Sternlicht-IsraelHayom).Political circus on the one hand, bankruptcy on the other. To put it lightly, the U.S. is not really looking its best these days. Who would have believed that a failure of what amounts to technical legislation would, in hindsight, be able to bring the U.S. economy to the point of insolvency? The U.S.'s temporary bankruptcy, one which may render the country unable to pay off its own deficit as well as massive international debts, may lead the rest of the world into economic doom.

And here? A cottage cheese boycott, a housing protest, a general sense of daily struggle.

If we could forget our daily struggles for just one moment and put things into perspective, then maybe -- just maybe -- we would see the bigger picture: The U.S. is an economic power still (barely) leading the rest of the free world, brought to its knees by officials caught up in a ridiculous round of political arm wrestling.

Washington is looking worse for wear these days, even circus-like. Things don't bode well for the U.S. economy, which dampens the outlook further for the global markets. What can be done? The U.S.'s fiscal recovery is influencing our jobs all the way over here in the Middle East. It also affects our cost of living, an issue no less sensitive during these intense times.

The U.S. must make a decision on its role in the debt ceiling crisis. At least we in Israel don't have this type of worry. If the organizers of our current protests are able to tip the state budget in their favor, and the Israeli government irresponsibly decides to acquiesce to any new social whim, then we, too, will find ourselves battling a crisis over the debt ceiling. Only here, we can't rely on a printing press to make more dollars. Look at them, and look at us.

Fischer: Protests took me by surprise - The economy is in good shape

(Globes).Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer spoke about the tent protest for the first time today, 18 days after it began. At a press conference he admitted that he was surprised by the social protest, and said that four issues must be dealt with: high home prices, the high cost of living, taxes, and the government's ability to provide the services that the public needs and expects to receive efficiently.
"The situation is very dramatic. The recent developments in the Israeli economy came as a surprise to me, and I assume that is true for most people, because there were no prior signs, This was also a surprise because the economy is in very good shape by every measure, with a low unemployment rate. But it is impossible not to be impressed by what is happening in the tents and in the 150,000-person demonstration".

"There is a debt problem in the periphery. There has been in attitude to small countries; they are prepared to thinking about cutting debt in countries with very high debt. The Europeans can deal with the small countries, but it will be much harder to deal with larger countries if they face more serious problems. Growth forecasts for Europe are starting to be lowered. The current situation is even worse than we thought a few months ago."
Fischer warned against the consequences about the global economic conditions for the Israeli economy, which is export oriented. As for the diplomatic situation, he said, "We're not seeing any progress in peace talks with our neighbors, the Palestinians, and this is not good for the future of the Israeli economy."

Fischer then moved on to the most burning issue of the past two weeks - the middle class protest, and he called for budget changes, while keeping budget discipline.
"We mustn’t pull solutions out of a hat within a day or two. We must examine the issues, and analyze them, because they are complicated. We must form an operational plan and implement it".
Fischer praised the tent protesters, but hinted that some of their motives were political:
"They are the nation's backbone. They are the people who greatly contribute to the economy and the country. We must seriously examine their demands, assess the cost of the demands, and decide what to do - responsibly. I hope that they will consider what they want and make the serious analysis that are needed now. Some of their demands are political, and I won't talk about them, but they contribute to the quality of politics in Israel. But people who want to influence politics cannot only work through protests. If none of the protesters enter politics, both they and we will lose."
Fischer summed up on a pessimistic note. 
"We're entering a difficult time because of the global economic conditions. Therefore, we must not breach the budget framework, because we'll pay a very price. We did that in 1995 and it cost us dearly. We mustn’t do it again. We see what's happening in countries that didn’t deal with their budgets. We're in good shape, but we must not become complacent."