Jordan gets German military vehicles for border control

January 14, 2018

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Germany’s defense minister says her country is delivering millions of dollars’ worth of equipment to Jordan’s military to improve the kingdom’s border surveillance. Jordan borders Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State extremists held large areas until being pushed back in recent months by a U.S.-led military campaign. Jordan is a key ally in the battle against IS.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen attended a handover ceremony near Jordan’s capital, Amman, on Sunday. Germany is providing two training planes and dozens of military support vehicles to Jordan, worth a total of $22 million.

Von der Leyen says the equipment is meant to “improve mobility at the border,” as part of a plan to support Jordan. She praised Jordan as an anchor of stability in a violence-wracked region.

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Bitcoin appeal beats ban and warnings in Jordan

2018-01-14

By Roufan Nahhas – Amman

Amman – Despite its uncertain value and an official warning against trading with it, Jordanians are seeking to make transactions with bitcoin, the cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system that has been providing fast and big profits. While some are attracted to the digital currency, which has sky­rocketed in value over the past year, others look at it with skepticism.

The Central Bank of Jordan and the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission warned against deal­ings with any virtual currency, es­pecially bitcoin, but trades through financial brokers are still being con­ducted, though in a very limited way, the Jordanian Exchange Asso­ciation said.

“The whole world is doing it, so why not us?” asked one bitcoin dealer, who spoke to The Arab Weekly on condition of anonym­ity. “I bought some digital currency last year and I saw my money grow more than 200%. I can cash the money anytime but I don’t need it now so I am waiting for the right moment.”

“I know that there are many doubts surrounding the bitcoin but I have many friends in the United States who have made big fortunes there. The digital currency world is happening and we need to be part of it,” said the 31-year-old, adding that his initial $1,000 investment saw big returns in just four months.

“There are other options that are strong, too, and worth investing in. I am being careful not to invest a lot of money (in bitcoin) but it is fine with me to focus on one currency and see how things go,” he said.

While digital currencies are a trendy trading item, many Jordani­an economists have raised concerns about dealing with them.

“We are happy that the authori­ties banned dealings in such a vir­tual world because these curren­cies are not controlled by the price of gold or in any other normal way. Still, there is some interest here in Jordan to invest in them,” said jour­nalist Ziad Momani.

“The virtual world is full of threats and this could be one way for laundering money. So it is better to forget about it though some Eu­ropean countries allowed dealings with it.”

Fahed Khaled, 40, a business­man, said he is interested in invest­ing in digital currency but finds it risky and unclear.

“It is a kind of revolution on tra­ditional currency and, despite all warnings, many people are making money depending on how much you are willing to invest,” he said. “I find it a bit risky but I am sure every­one will follow soon as the world is catching up. We can see, for exam­ple, the British Central Bank plans to issue its own digital currency, so it is a matter of time only.”

“Today, there are many options in which a person can invest digi­tal currency but the general feel­ing, at least here, is not encourag­ing, although around the world and in the United States, for instance, there are machines in the streets where you can buy or sell bitcoins, which means it is legal to do so and I am sure soon it will be all over the world,” he added.

Some countries, such as Austral­ia, the United Kingdom, the Unit­ed States, Finland, South Korea, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Estonia have taken a positive stance towards bitcoin, others have banned the use of vir­tual currencies. In the Arab world, those restricting the use of bitcoin include Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

Innovations often take time to be accepted in the Arab region. Egypt announced a ban on using any type of virtual currency and the coun­try’s top Islamic cleric issued a fat­wa against the currency. However, many people are trying to demon­strate the positive aspect of dealing with bitcoin, taking to social media to encourage others to trade with it.

“Bitcoin Egypt” is a Facebook page managed by Atef al-Khateeb, a Cairo-based bitcoin trader, with more than 2,000 followers. Khateeb said he is lucky to trade with bitcoin and invites followers to follow suit.

Last year in Dubai, the company behind a $325 million luxury hous­ing development said it would accept bitcoin payments, which shows confidence in the currency.

“The world cannot be wrong and if respectful companies are saying OK to bitcoin, I think there should be some truth in it,” Khaled said. “What is wrong about making mon­ey the easy way, many people are (doing it), bitcoin or no bitcoin.”

While many Arabs are hoping to become the next Erik Finman, the teenage bitcoin investor who reput­edly turned $1,000 into more than $5 million, they need to wait until their governments agree to enter the new world, even a virtual one.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86774.

Israel plans for railway connecting it with Saudi Arabia

January 16, 2018

The Israeli government has begun preparing plans to build a railway linking Israel with Saudi Arabia to transfer goods and people, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported yesterday.

Reporting the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the London-based website said that the 15 million shekels ($4.5 million) cost of the plans for this project was included in the 2019 budget, which was approved three days earlier.

The initial plan for the project is to build a railway station in the city of Bisan with a railway network which travels through Jordan to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Currently, Yedioth Ahronoth said, Israel is transporting goods arriving in Haifa Port and heading to Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States through Jordan, noting that the war in Syria led these countries to use Israeli ports instead of those in Syria.

The paper reported that the Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called this railway the “Peace Line”, adding that Israel would open a new commercial crossing to deal with goods exported by the Gulf States and Iraq through Israeli ports.

According to the Israeli newspaper, the Israeli Railway Commission has already formed a team of experts to lay down plans for this project, which, it said, would improve Israel’s international status as the railway will connect Europe with the Middle East.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180116-israel-plans-for-railway-connecting-it-with-saudi-arabia/.

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.

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/.