Archive for January, 2018

Netanyahu makes first visit to India by Israeli PM in 15 years

2018-01-14

NEW DELHI – Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in New Delhi on Sunday for the first visit by an Israeli leader to India in 15 years, promising closer ties with the regional power.

Netanyahu and his wife Sara were welcomed at the international airport in New Delhi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who made history in July when he became the first Indian leader to visit Israel.

“This visit is an opportunity to enhance cooperation with a global economic, security, technology and tourism power,” Netanyahu said in a statement ahead of his visit.

“Indian Prime Minister Modi is a close friend of Israel and of mine.”

Modi — who will accompany Netanyahu for large parts of his five-day tour — embraced the Israeli prime minister on the tarmac before the pair set off to pay homage at a war memorial in the Indian capital.

“Your visit to India is historic and special. It will further cement the close friendship between our nations,” Modi said on Twitter.

Netanyahu will be only the second Israeli PM to visit India and the first since Ariel Sharon in 2003.

He is accompanied by the largest-ever business delegation to travel with an Israeli leader. Executives in technology, agriculture and defense are among those making the journey as Tel Aviv pursues deals with Asia’s third-largest economy.

The build up to Netanyahu’s visit was soured this month when India called off a deal to buy 8,000 anti-tank guided missiles from Israel’s state-owned defense contractor Rafael.

The Indian army and the government are discussing ways to revive the $500 million order, which was scrapped when the country’s own state-run defense contractor offered to build similar missiles locally.

Israel is a major weapons supplier to India, exporting an average of $1 billion of military equipment each year, but Modi wants to end India’s status as the world’s top defense importer.

Netanyahu and Modi kicked off the visit with a stop at a memorial to Indian soldiers who fought in World War I to help liberate the Israeli city of Haifa.

The Israeli leader will later meet with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj before a private dinner with Modi.

Netanyahu expects to sign new agreements in fields of energy, aviation and cinema production, with stops at the Taj Mahal, a visit to Modi’s home state of Gujarat and meetings with Bollywood luminaries in Mumbai.

But he will also make an emotional visit to a Jewish center targeted in the 2008 Mumbai attacks during his tour, a symbolic gesture to India’s tiny and shrinking Jewish community.

Netanyahu will accompany 11-year-old Moshe Holtzberg as the boy returns for the first time to the house where his parents were killed in the attacks that left 166 people dead.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86769.

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Israel’s Likud party members call for annexing settlements

January 01, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — The ruling Likud Party’s central committee has unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for the annexation of West Bank settlements, sending a tough message to the Palestinians in the wake of President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israel’s capital.

The decision Sunday night marked the latest step by Likud to distance itself from the internationally backed idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state as part of a future peace deal. The Palestinians condemned the decision and accused Trump of emboldening the Likud party.

The central committee is only an advisory body, and Sunday’s vote did not reflect an official policy change. But its decisions reflect the prevailing opinions in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party.

Several leading politicians, including senior members of Netanyahu’s cabinet, joined the vote to “impose Israeli law on all liberated areas of settlement in Judea and Samaria.” Among them were Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Netanyahu, however, skipped the vote, and his office declined to comment. Erdan said the Likud party was responsible for annexing Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the 1980s, and it would do so with West Bank settlements as well. “Our right to the land of Israel begins with Judea and Samaria,” he said.

“Two states for two peoples is a concept that has disappeared from the world,” Science Minister Ofir Akunis was quoted as saying by the Haaretz daily. “And to my joy, U.S. President Trump is sitting in the White House and does not accept this mistaken concept.”

Trump has said he hopes to broker what he calls the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians, and he has appointed a high-level team, headed by his son in law and adviser Jared Kushner, to come up with a peace plan. But after nearly a year on the job, they still have not floated a proposal.

In a departure from his predecessors, Trump last month said he was upending decades of U.S. policy and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. While Trump said his decision was not meant to prejudge negotiations on the city’s final borders, it infuriated the Palestinians, who accused him of siding with Israel. The Palestinians seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, home to key holy sites, as their capital, and the international community has long said that the city’s fate should be decided through negotiations.

Trump also has softened his predecessors’ support for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, saying instead that he would support a two-state solution only if both sides agree to it. Netanyahu’s coalition is dominated by opponents to Palestinian statehood, and since Trump’s election, Netanyahu has stopped talking about a two-state solution.

Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements, built on land captured in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians for their future state, illegal. The Palestinians called the Likud vote “an outrageous violation” of international resolutions and “could not be taken without the full support of the U.S. administration.”

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog called the Likud decision “irresponsible, impractical and unnecessary.” Netanyahu’s nationalist coalition allies hailed the move, with Education Minister Naftali Bennett praising the Likud party for “adopting” his Jewish Home party’s plan to extend Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements.

Israel pushes NBA to delete ‘Occupied Palestine’ from website

December 30, 2017

America’s National Basketball Association has removed reference to the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” from its new website following complaints from Israeli ministers, it was reported on Friday. The name appeared on a list of countries which enables fans to vote for their favorite players for the 2018 All-Star Game.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that politics should not be mixed with sport. She claimed that referring to land “connected with the Jewish nation for thousands of years” as “occupied” is a mistake.

Her cabinet colleague, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, sent a letter to the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver calling on him to remove “Occupied Palestinian Territories” from the list. “I was surprised to discover that on the official website of the NBA… the state of ‘Palestine — Occupied Territory’ was listed as one of the many countries to which basketball fans belong,” she wrote. “Palestine is a country everyone knows doesn’t exist. I view the inclusion of ‘Occupied Palestine’ … as legitimizing the division of the State of Israel and as gross and blatant interference, in contrast to the official position of the American administration.”

Silver explained that the NBA does not produce the country listings for the NBA.com website. “As soon as we became aware of it, the site was updated. We apologize for this oversight, and have corrected it.”

Commentators have pointed out that the site was not incorrect in the first place. The State of Palestine is recognized by the UN, and its territories are designated as occupied in international law, including East Jerusalem. “This is yet another example of Israeli officials twisting reality to justify their brutal military occupation,” said MEMO’s senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt. “Their arrogance is breathtaking.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171230-israel-pushes-nba-to-delete-occupied-palestine-from-website/.

63 teenagers refuse to join Israel army over human rights violations

December 28, 2017

Some 63 Israeli teenagers from across the country are refusing to be enlisted into the army due to the perpetual human rights violations committed by Israeli forces, Yedioth Ahronoth reported yesterday.

In a letter addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Israeli army Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, the twelfth grade students wrote that their decision was motivated by “a commitment to the values of peace”.

The students also criticized the Separation Wall, the blockade on the Gaza Strip and illegal settlements in occupied territories, which they claimed “sever the Palestinians from each other in enclaves and strive to prevent territorial continuity”.

“Therefore we have decided not to take part in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian nation, which has divided human beings into two antagonistic camps. This ‘temporary’ situation has gone on for 50 long years now, and we won’t contribute to it.”

The high schoolers also highlighted the way in which the Israeli army prevented the truth about arrests from being heard: “The freedom to report and disseminate the information about what goes on is also denied, by journalist detentions and censorship.”

The teenagers also call on other high school students to join them in their boycott and refusal to join the army until the occupation of the West Bank is ended. They plan to take to the streets to further their call and gain more support.

Twenty-year-old Matan Helman, who is among the signatories, is currently serving jail time after his refusal to be drafted into the army.

Earlier this month, the Israeli army and the education ministry announced that they were working on a plan to boost enrollment, after enlistment rates fell and the number of dropouts increased.

The subject of conscription is a controversial one in Israel, with no allowance being made for conscientious objectors. In October, Israel jailed Noa Gur Golan for the fourth time, at the end of which she will have served 104 days, for refusing to take part in the occupation.

This year also witnessed ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews protesting a new law that would see them serve in the army despite their religious beliefs previously excusing them from service.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171228-63-teenagers-refuse-to-join-israel-army-over-human-rights-violations/.

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