Posts Tagged ‘ The Zionism Plague ’

Israel’s Gantz, Netanyahu hold talks to break gov’t deadlock

October 27, 2019

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister and his main rival opened a new round of unity talks Sunday in the latest effort to break a political stalemate and avoid an unprecedented third parliamentary election in less than a year.

Israel has been paralyzed by political deadlock following an inconclusive election last month, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud nor the rival Blue and White party in control of a 61-seat majority in parliament.

After nearly a month of efforts, Netanyahu last week said he had failed to cobble together a coalition. Israel’s president has now given the task to Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz. Gantz, a former military chief, met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv to discuss a possible power-sharing agreement. Gantz’s party issued a statement that the two discussed possible options and agreed to a second meeting.

Ahead of the talks, Netanyahu expressed support for a “broad national unity government.” Speaking to his Cabinet, Netanyahu said such a coalition is essential for Israel to face what he said were mounting security challenges around the region.

“We must make tough decisions that require a government with broad shoulders,” he said. “This is not a political question, but a national and security question of the highest order. I hope that we can advance this goal in the coming days.”

With Blue and White controlling 33 seats in parliament and Likud holding 32, the two parties together have enough support to form a government together. While both men support the idea of a unity deal, they have disagreed over who should lead it.

Netanyahu wants his traditional religious and nationalist allies to sit with Likud and Blue and White. Gantz has been cool to sitting together with Netanyahu’s hardline allies. He also refuses to serve under a Netanyahu-led government while the long-serving leader faces possible indictment for corruption charges. Israel’s attorney general is to decide on whether to charge Netanyahu in the coming weeks.

Ahead of their meeting, negotiators from the two parties met for preparatory talks that were “held in good spirits,” according to a Blue and White statement. It is the first time in more than a decade that a candidate other than Netanyahu has been given the opportunity to form a government.

But without Likud, Gantz’s options are limited. He can try to break up Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc and win over smaller hard-line parties. So far, there is no sign of that happening. His remaining potential partners include a diverse group of parties that have little in common, including the secular ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, dovish Jewish parties and a grouping of Arab parties, which have never sat in a government before.

The country has faced political paralysis since Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman refused to sit in a government with Netanyahu’s ultra-religious partners following April’s election. That decision robbed Netanyahu of a parliamentary majority, leading to last month’s inconclusive election.

Lieberman has refused to endorse either candidate for prime minister and demands they reach a unity deal. If the sides fail, Israel could face a third election early next year.

Anger as Israel official attends Morocco conference

October 16, 2019

Moroccan anti-normalization activists have expressed their anger as a former Israeli interior minister attended an international symposium in Marrakech and gave a presentation, a move the activists described as a “crime of penetration”.

Former Knesset member Meir Sheetrit attended the World Policy Conference, which was held last weekend in Marrakech. The event was attended by ministers and officials from Moroccan and all over the world, according to Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

The Morocco Observatory Against Normalisation with Israel said the presence of Sheetrit is a “new Zionist crime of penetration”, denouncing conferences in Morocco that allow current and former Israeli officials to attend.

No Arab country has established formal political, economic, or cultural relations with the occupying state, except for Jordan and Egypt, which have signed peace agreements with Israel.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20191016-anger-as-israel-official-attends-morocco-conference/.

Israel opens natural spring to visitors – except Palestinians

October 16, 2019

Israeli authorities have opened a natural spring in southern Jerusalem to visitors, “but on the explicit condition that Palestinians not be allowed to enter the site”, reported Haaretz.

The decision by police yesterday meant that the Ein Hanya spring “was kept under heavy guard by the police and Border Police, which even closed the road leading to Palestinian towns”.

Meanwhile, “hundreds of Israelis visited the site”, said Haaretz.

As described by the paper, Ein Hanya “is one of the largest and most important natural springs in the Jerusalem area”.

While it is located within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, Palestinian residents of neighboring village Al-Walaja “regularly visit it”.

Much of Al-Walaja’s land has been confiscated by Israeli authorities over the decades, with village land straddling the 1967 ‘Green Line’

The official opening of the spring as a tourism site was subject to repeated delays, thanks to “a dispute over whether entry fees should be charged”, as well as the “police’s demand that Palestinians not be allowed to enter”.

Police have also insisted that a checkpoint be relocated further south, “so that it would separate Palestinian towns from the spring”, at an estimated cost of 12 million shekels ($3.4 million).

The spring has now opened for just three days, before closing again “until the checkpoint is moved”.

According to Haaretz, “over the past few days, police have stepped up enforcement against Palestinian farmers seeking to work land near the spring”, and have “even forced a farmer to leave”.

Shaul Goldstein, the nature authority’s director, “said his agency has no objection to Palestinians visiting the spring, nor does it have any interest in moving the checkpoint.”

However, he noted that “since Ein Hanya is located in Jerusalem, from the defense establishment’s perspective, any Palestinian who goes there is in the capital illegally.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20191016-israel-opens-natural-spring-to-visitors-except-palestinians/.

Netanyahu, rightist allies appear to fall short of majority

September 18, 2019

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fell short of securing a parliamentary majority with his natural religious and nationalist allies in national elections Tuesday, partial results indicated, setting the stage for a period of coalition negotiations that could threaten his political future and even clear the way for him to be tried on corruption charges.

Initial partial results showed challenger Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party tied with Netanyahu’s Likud. While the results do not guarantee that Gantz will be the next prime minister, they signaled that Netanyahu, who has led the country for over 10 years, could have trouble holding on to the job.

Addressing his supporters early Wednesday, Netanyahu refused to concede defeat and vowed to work to form a new government that excludes Arab parties. His campaign focused heavily on attacking and questioning the loyalty of the country’s Arab minority — a strategy that drew accusations of racism and incitement from Arab leaders.

“In the coming days we will convene negotiations to assemble a strong Zionist government and to prevent a dangerous anti-Zionist government,” he said. He claimed that Arab parties “negate the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” and “glorify bloodthirsty murderers.”

The partial results released Wednesday by the Central Election Commission were based on 35 percent of the vote counted. The three Israeli TV channels reported the same outcome, based on more than 90 percent of the vote counted, but did not explain the discrepancy with the commission’s percentage.

Final results are expected Wednesday and could still swing in Netanyahu’s favor. According to the partial results, the parties of Gantz and Netanyahu received 32 seats each in the 120-member parliament. Likud with its natural allies of religious and ultra-nationalist parties mustered 56 seats — or five short of the needed majority.

This means both Likud and Blue and White will have difficulty setting up a governing coalition without the support of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party. That put Lieberman, a former protege of Netanyahu’s who has become one of the prime minister’s fiercest rivals, in the position of kingmaker.

Arab parties, which have never before sat in an Israeli government, also finished strong, and exit polls predicted they would form the third-largest party in parliament. Addressing his supporters late Tuesday, a jubilant Lieberman said he saw only “one option”: a broad, secular coalition with both Blue and White and Likud.

“We’ve always said that a unity government is only possible in emergency situations. And I tell you and I tell every citizen today watching us on television: the situation, both security-wise and economically, are emergency situations,” he said. “The country, therefore, requires a broad government.”

Early Wednesday, Gantz told a cheering rally of supporters that while it was too soon to declare victory, he had begun speaking to potential partners and hoped to form a unity government. “Starting tonight we will work to form a broad unity government that will express the will of the people,” he said.

Attention will now focus on Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, who is to choose the candidate he believes has the best chance of forming a stable coalition. Rivlin is to consult with all parties in the coming days before making his decision.

After that, the prime minister designate would have up to six weeks to form a coalition. If that fails, Rivlin could give another candidate for prime minister 28 days to form a coalition. And if that doesn’t work, new elections would be triggered yet again. Rivlin has said he will do everything possible to avoid such a scenario.

Lieberman called for an immediate start to negotiations and predicted it could be wrapped up quickly. But such a deal promises to be complicated. Gantz, a former military chief who has presented himself as a unifying figure in a divided nation, has ruled out a partnership with Likud if Netanyahu remains at the helm at a time when he is expected to be indicted on criminal charges.

But in his speech, he made no such conditions. “I intend to speak with everyone,” he said, without mentioning Netanyahu. Lieberman, who leads a nationalist but secular party, is unlikely to sit with Arab parties on the left or ultra-Orthodox religious parties on the right.

That could limit both Gantz’s and Netanyahu’s ability to maneuver and could potentially put pressure on the longtime leader, who has ruled for over a decade, to step aside. Likud members said they remained behind their leader.

“We have the basic principle of standing by the party leader who was elected in the party primary, which is why we won’t take action against Netanyahu,” said lawmaker Micky Zohar, a Netanyahu loyalist.

Netanyahu had sought an outright majority with his allies in hopes of passing legislation to give him immunity from the expected indictment. Israel’s attorney general has recommended charging Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three scandals, pending a hearing scheduled next month. A formal indictment would increase the pressure on Netanyahu to step aside if he does not have immunity.

Netanyahu tried to portray himself as a seasoned statesman uniquely qualified to lead the country through challenging times during an alarmist campaign marked by mudslinging and slogans that were condemned as racist. Gantz tried to paint Netanyahu as divisive and scandal-plagued, offering himself as a calming influence and honest alternative.

Netanyahu’s campaign promoted images of him jetting off to world capitals and boasting of warm relations with powerful leaders, most notably President Donald Trump. At the same time, he issued repeated doomsday warnings that his opponents were scheming with politicians from the country’s Arab minority to “steal” the election.

He tried, and failed, to pass legislation that would allow cameras in polling stations, a step he said was needed to crack down on alleged fraud in Arab towns. Facebook suspended his account for 24 hours last week after it published a post saying that “Arabs want to annihilate all of us.”

Netanyahu also sought to appeal to his hard-line base with a number of election promises, including plans to annex all of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank. His proposal, which could extinguish any remaining hopes for a Palestinian state, were condemned by much of the world, including important Arab countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia. But the U.S. remained muted, suggesting he had coordinated with Washington ahead of time.

Netanyahu’s frenetic warnings about Arabs appeared to backfire, turning off some Jewish voters and driving heavy turnout in the Arab sector. Ayman Odeh, leader of the main Arab faction in parliament, said Netanyahu’s repeated attacks had boosted turnout and hurt Netanyahu in the end.

“There’s a heavy price to pay for incitement,” he told Channel 13 TV. The election was Israel’s second of the year. In April’s vote, Netanyahu appeared to have the upper hand, with his traditional allies of nationalist and ultra-religious Jewish parties controlling a parliamentary majority.

But Lieberman, his mercurial ally-turned-rival, refused to join the new coalition, citing excessive influence it granted the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. Without a parliamentary majority, Netanyahu dissolved parliament and called a new election.

Lieberman’s gamble paid off Tuesday, and partial results indicated his party had nearly doubled in strength, with nine seats. Israel’s election commission said 69.4% of all eligible voters cast ballots by the time polls closed on Tuesday evening, a slightly larger number than took part in April’s vote. Turnout in April’s elections was 68.5%.

Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.

Israel’s left-wing party Meretz elects new leader

June 28, 2019

One of Israel’s left-wing parties Meretz has elected a new leader ahead of the country’s upcoming general election on 17 September.

Nitzan Horowitz – a journalist with Israeli daily Haaretz and two-time Knesset Member (MK) – was elected as party chair in Meretz’s primaries yesterday. His victory sees him oust previous chairwoman Tamar Zandberg, who led the party in Israel’s last election on 9 April.

Giving a victory speech in Tel Aviv, Horowitz said that “Meretz has a clear, straight path, of love for humans, and belief in equality and freedom”. “This is the path I have walked my whole life and continue to walk,” he explained, adding that “this way of life is under attack and Meretz will fight for freedom for all, from darkness, racism and coercion”.

Commentators expect Horowitz’s victory over Zandberg to impact Meretz’s potential alliances ahead of the September election; whereas Zandberg was said to be weighing an alliance with the newly-reformed Joint List, Horowitz is thought to prefer an alliance with other left-wing Jewish-Israeli parties, such as the Israeli Labor Party or the as-yet-unnamed party announced this week by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Horowitz, however, stressed that Meretz “is prepared for talks and cooperation based on our values,” which includes “alliances with new groups and the heads of Arab and Druze society”.

“Our way and values ??are the reason for our existence as a party. We have a historic responsibility to create a strong left. If need be, we will be a combative opposition that they [a right-wing government] will not forget,” he added.

Horowitz also took aim at the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) alliance, dismissing the centrist party as little more than a “soap bubble”.

Despite becoming Israel’s second-biggest party following a strong performance in April’s election, Blue and White – particularly its leader Benny Gantz – has been most noticeable by its absence since fresh elections were called last month.

This has led to speculation of discord between Gantz and co-leader Yair Lapid, as well as accusations that the party is “sleeping” when it could – or should – be working to weaken increasingly-embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Meretz could, however, find itself needing to collaborate with Blue and White if the center-left camp has any hope of reaching the 61 Knesset seats needed to form a majority government and challenge Netanyahu’s hegemony.

In the most recent polls, Blue and White was predicted to win 32 seats, once again the same number as Netanyahu’s Likud party. The Joint List was predicted to win 12 seats, Meretz six and Labor five, while Ehud Barak’s new party could win as many as six seats.

This would garner the 61 seats needed to form a center-left government, while the right-wing bloc would only win 52 seats. This calculation leaves out former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party – which is predicted to improve on its April performance to win seven seats – after Lieberman claimed he would sit neither in a Netanyahu nor Gantz-led government.

Whether the Joint List will agree to join a Gantz-led government is also unclear, after the former army Chief of Staff claimed to be looking for only “Jewish and Zionist” coalition partners ahead of April’s election. Though Arab-Israeli parties have held working arrangements with governments in the past, none have ever officially joined a ruling coalition.

This apparent deadlock has sparked calls from Likud officials – rumored to be at Netanyahu’s behest – to cancel the election. Though such a move has no constitutional precedent in Israel, Netanyahu’s increasingly-desperate attempts to hold on to power and avoid impending corruption charges could see him rip up the rule book once again.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190628-israels-left-wing-party-meretz-elects-new-leader/.

Israel faces new elections after parliament dissolves

May 30, 2019

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel embarked Thursday on an unprecedented snap election campaign — the second this year — after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition and instead dissolved parliament.

In what seemed an improbable scenario just days ago, Israel’s newly elected Knesset dissolved itself in an early morning 74-45 vote and set a new election date for Sept. 17. The developments were a shocking setback for Netanyahu, who had appeared to secure a comfortable win in last month’s election. But he was unable to build a parliamentary majority needed to rule because a traditional ally, Avigdor Lieberman, refused to bring his Yisrael Beiteinu faction into the coalition.

Netanyahu, who has led Israel for the past decade, now faces another challenge to his lengthy rule. It comes as he prepares for a pre-indictment hearing before expected criminal charges against him in a series of corruption cases.

Assuming they would sweep into power again, Netanyahu’s allies in the ruling Likud Party had already begun drafting a contentious bill aimed at granting him immunity from the various corruption charges awaiting him. He was also looking to push legislation limiting the power of Israel’s Supreme Court and paving his path to many more years in office.

But it was a separate issue that sparked the unprecedented crisis, and for the first time in history thrust Israel into a repeat election before a new government was even formed. Lieberman — a veteran nationalist and secular politician — demanded that current legislation mandating that young ultra-Orthodox men be drafted into the military run its course.

Years of exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men have generated widespread resentment among the rest of Jewish Israelis who serve. The ultra-Orthodox, backed by Netanyahu, refused to bend and the showdown quickly devolved into a full-blown crisis that imploded the perspective government.

“The public chose me, and Lieberman, unfortunately, deceived his voters. From the beginning he had no intention to do what he said,” Netanyahu said after the vote, accusing Lieberman of aligning with “the left.”

Lieberman, a former top aide to Netanyahu who has alternated between a close alliance and bitter rivalry with his former boss, retorted that the new election was a result of Netanyahu caving into the ultra-Orthodox.

“This is a complete surrender of Likud to the ultra-Orthodox,” he said. A new election complicates Netanyahu’s efforts to pass the proposed bills to protect himself from prosecution. Even if Netanyahu wins the election, it is unlikely he will be able to form a government and lock down the required political support for an immunity deal before an expected indictment. That would force him to stand trial, and in turn put heavy pressure on him to step aside. No one in Likud has yet challenged him publicly.

The political uncertainty could also spell trouble for the White House’s Mideast peace efforts. The U.S. has scheduled a conference next month in Bahrain to unveil what it says is the first phase of its peace plan, an initiative aimed at drawing investment into the Palestinian territories. The Trump administration had vowed to unveil its plan after the Israeli election and it’s unclear how the current political shakeup will affect that rollout.

Israeli spacecraft crashes during moon landing: mission control

By Stephen Weizman

Jerusalem (AFP)

April 11, 2019

Israel’s attempt at a moon landing failed at the last minute on Thursday when the craft suffered an engine failure as it prepared to land and apparently crashed onto the lunar surface.

“We didn’t make it, but we definitely tried,” project originator and major backer Morris Kahn said in a live videocast from mission control near Tel Aviv.

“I think that the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous, I think we can be proud,” he said.

During the broadcast, control staff could be heard saying that engines meant to slow the craft’s descent and allow a soft landing had failed and contact with it had been lost.

“We are on the moon but not in the way we wanted,” one unidentified staffer said.

“We are the seventh country to orbit the moon and the fourth to reach the moon’s surface,” said another.

Only Russia, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometre (239,000-mile) journey and landed safely on the Moon.

“If at first you don’t succeed, you try again,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the control room, where he had been watching along with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

“We reached the moon but we’d like to land more comfortably,” he added. “That will be for the next attempt.”

The 585-kilogram (1,290-pound) unmanned spacecraft named Beresheet, which means “Genesis” in Hebrew, resembles a tall, oddly shaped table with round fuel tanks under the top.

Israeli NGO SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the project’s two main partners, have described it as the “world’s first spacecraft built in a non-governmental mission”.

Khan, a philanthropist and chairman of SpaceIL, put up $40 million of the project’s $100 million budget.

Other partners who joined later are from “the private sector, government and academia,” according to the IAI website.

Just before the landing attempt Netanyahu said that he was thinking about initiating a national space project.

“I am seriously considering investing in a space program,” he said in the webcast.

“It has national implications for Israel and implications for humanity.”

The country’s president, Reuven Rivlin, viewed the broadcast with 80 middle school space buffs at his official Jerusalem residence, his office said in a statement.

“We are full of admiration for the wonderful people who brought the spacecraft to the moon,” he said after the crash. “True, not as we had hoped, but we will succeed in the end. This is a great achievement that we have not yet completed.”

Although the journey is 384,000 kilometers, Beresheet will have traveled a total of 6.5 million kilometers due to a series of orbits.

It was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on February 22 with a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s private US-based SpaceX company.

Its speed has reached 10 kilometers per second, (36,000 kilometers per hour).

The one-way trip was to have included an attempt to measure the lunar magnetic field, which would have helped understanding of the moon’s formation.

– Google prize –

The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million in awards to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-cost moon missions.

Although the Google prize expired in March without a winner, Israel’s team pledged to push forward.

The Israeli mission came amid renewed global interest in the moon, 50 years after American astronauts first walked on its surface.

China’s Chang’e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon on January 3, after a probe sent by Beijing made a lunar landing elsewhere in 2013.

US President Donald Trump’s administration announced in March it was speeding up plans to send American astronauts back to the moon, bringing forward the target date from 2028 to 2024.

India hopes to become the next lunar country in the spring with its Chandrayaan-2 mission. It aims to put a craft with a rover onto the moon’s surface to collect data.

Japan plans to send a small lunar lander, called SLIM, to study a volcanic area around 2020-2021.

The United States remains the only country to have walked on the moon, with 12 astronauts having taken part in six missions between 1969 and 1972.

Source: Moon Daily.

Link: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/Israeli_spacecraft_crashes_during_moon_landing_mission_control_999.html.