Archive for September 16th, 2013

Israel airlifts 450 Ethiopians to the Jewish state

August 28, 2013

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli authorities have completed what they say is the final large airlift of Ethiopian immigrants, ending decades of efforts to bring the remnants of an ancient community to the Jewish state.

Tali Aronsky, spokeswoman for the semi-official Jewish Agency, says 450 people arrived Wednesday. They are Falash Mura, a community whose ancestors converted from Judaism to Christianity under duress about 100 years ago, but managed to keep some Jewish customs.

Aronsky said the airlift caps a three-year operation that brought in 7,000 Falash Mura. Thousands of Ethiopian Jews live in Israel. Many arrived in secret airlifts in 1984 and 1990. Small numbers of Falash Mura remain behind in Ethiopia. Dozens of their relatives held a protest at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem Wednesday to demand Israel bring them over.

Israel pushes forth with settlement plans

August 26, 2013

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel pushed forward Sunday with plans to construct 1,500 apartments in east Jerusalem in a move that could undermine recently renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

City spokeswoman Brachie Sprung said city officials had approved plans to lay down infrastructure for the project. She called the move a “standard and bureaucratic process” and said final government approval was still required. Actual construction is still years away, she said.

Still, the move comes just after Israelis and Palestinians resumed talks after a five-year stalemate. Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is one of the thornier issues separating the two sides.

The city is pushing development in the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, a project that has also raised tensions with the U.S. Israel first announced the plans in 2010 during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, sparking a diplomatic rift with Washington that took months to mend.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem following its 1967 war with its Arab neighbors and claims the area as an inseparable part of its capital. The Palestinians also claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their hoped-for state. About 200,000 Jews and roughly 250,000 Palestinians live in east Jerusalem, which is home to sensitive Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites.

While Israelis consider east Jerusalem enclaves neighborhoods like others in the city, the international community doesn’t recognize Israel’s annexation of the area and rejects the areas as illegal or illegitimate settlements.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi accused Israel of playing a “dangerous game” by moving ahead with the plans. “It seems they’re pushing ahead with infrastructure as though this is not a basic part of settlement activity!” she wrote in an email.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment.

Israeli navy grapples with defending Med gas fields

Haifa, Israel (UPI)
Jul 26, 2013

Amid signs Israel’s effort to patch up relations with one-time ally Turkey is in difficulties, the prospect of exporting gas from offshore fields to Europe via a pipeline under the eastern Mediterranean to Turkey would seem to be dimming.

That suggests more interest in a liquefied gas system aimed at lucrative exports to Asia via the Red Sea.

Either way, Israel’s navy is trying to figure out how best to protect the Jewish state’s expanding gas industry– and if current plans work out, oil production as well — from a wide spectrum of security threats that seem to be growing by the day amid the violence convulsing the Middle East.

Israel’s Globes business daily reports the navy’s at odds with the Defense Ministry over two bids to supply naval vessels from Germany and South Korea.

It seems the navy’s top brass decided in April in favor of the German vessel, while the ministry favors the South Korean even though it’s $105.4 million more expensive.

Globes said if the ministry decides to put the issue to tender, “it means a delay of almost three years in protecting the gas rigs, protection which was supposed to be ready this year.”

The navy has said it needs a minimum of four 1,200-ton patrol-class warships to protect the offshore platforms, of which there are likely to end up being at least 20, up to 80 miles off Israel’s coastline.

These will need to be armed with a range of weapons systems to counter different kinds of attack — armed speedboats, torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, frogmen, suicide strikes, possibly even suicide air attacks.

The navy estimates the system will cost $700 million, plus $100 million more annually to maintain — this at a time the Defense Ministry’s having to make hefty budget cuts.

But the gas fields, currently estimated to contain around 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, are vital strategic assets that will earn an estimated $60 billion in export revenue over the next two decades.

Discussions between Israel and Turkey to end a rupture triggered by the Israeli naval commandos killing nine Turks when the navy intercepted a Turkish flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip have deadlocked amid some acrimony, despite the personal intervention of U.S. President Barack Obama.

The Jerusalem Post Thursday quoted Israeli officials with knowledge of the deliberations as saying the Turks ” are not interested in a diplomatic reconciliation, but rather in humiliating it and bringing to its knees.”

There had been hopes the prospect of the undersea pipeline from Israel’s gas fields for eventual delivery to Europe, cutting its dependence on Russian gas, would bring the two military powers back together as U.S. allies in a region undergoing profound change.

But security experts say the Turkish option, which involves infrastructure outside Israeli waters, is less secure than the main alternative, establishing a floating liquefied natural gas plant within Israel’s security envelope.

Abraham Sofaer, former adviser to Noble Energy of Texas which discovered Israel’s gas fields and is the majority stakeholder, told an energy conference in Tel Aviv: “Since distribution and transportation infrastructure are the most vulnerable aspects of oil and gas production, additional infrastructure and transport requirements beyond Israel’s control could increase risks significantly.”

He stressed nearly 70 percent of terrorist attacks on oil and gas facilities in 1999-2005 targeted pipelines and transport networks, while only 15 percent hit production facilities.

By using a floating LNG plant, he said, “all security efforts would be concentrated at the drilling platform and FLNG facility, thereby reducing other, greater risks in natural gas production and transportation. Experts regard the risks of protecting vessels transporting LNG significantly lower than those of protecting pipelines and other stationary facilities.”

David Wurmser, founder and head of Washington’s Delphi Global Analysis Group, observed in a recent paper Israel “will likely send the bulk of any gas it exports eastward,” possibly from Eilat on the Red Sea, thus avoiding the Suez Canal.

“The new gas trade … will echo the shift already under way in Israel’s export patterns more broadly as Israel’s economy increases trade with Asia while deceasing trade with Europe.

“This new energy trade and expanding hydrocarbon exports to Asia will coincide with and reinforce Israel’s broader plan to offer a strategic alternative to the Suez Canal,” Wurmser noted.

Source: Energy-Daily.