Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met tonight in Jerusalem for over five hours with Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump's Special Representative for International Negotiations.
They reaffirmed the joint commitment of both Israel and the United States to advance a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians that strengthens the security of Israel and enhances stability in the region.
The Prime Minister told Mr. Greenblatt that he believes that under President Trump's leadership, it is possible to advance peace between Israel and all its neighbors, including the Palestinians, and he looks forward to working closely with President Trump to achieve that goal.
Mr. Greenblatt reaffirmed President Trump's commitment to Israel's security and to the effort to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve a lasting peace through direct negotiations.
The Prime Minister and Mr. Greenblatt continued discussions relating to settlement construction in the hope of working out an approach that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security.
Mr. Greenblatt stressed how important enabling the growth of the Palestinian economy and improving the quality of life for Palestinians are to President Trump.
The Prime Minister assured Mr. Greenblatt that he was fully committed to broadening prosperity for Palestinians and sees it as a means of bolstering the prospects for peace.
Some of Israel’s brightest young diplomats gathered at the Yachad Modi’in High School on Sunday, passing a number of resolutions promoting women’s rights and empowerment. YachadMUN, the first Model United Nations (MUN) conference to be held in Modi’in, united Arab and Jewish girls and boys from more than 15 schools and cities around Israel for a full day of intensive debates and negotiations before finally voting on 5 resolutions.
YachadMUN was the latest MUN conference run by Debate for Peace (DfP), a program offering free MUN conferences to students all over Israel. DfP is run in DfP coordination with the Interfaith Encounters Association (IEA) and the Jerusalem Peacebuilders (JPB). DfP was able to provide transportation to participating schools thanks to a grant from the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, its newest partner.
At the conference, the 150 participants, ranging from 13 to 18 years old, discussed topics of global importance related to women’s rights: women’s education; women’s health; women’s role in developing economies; sex trafficking, and women’s rights in Muslim countries. After four hours of rigorous debates and negotiations, all five committees passed resolutions.
During the closing ceremony, Mrs. Sassie Yona, the Yachad MUN club advisor, and a teacher in the English and Diplomacy program, thanked everyone who had helped make the conference happen, the guests and the participants. She was followed by the principal of Yachad, Mr. Sagiv Elbaz, who thanked Mrs. Yona for her commitment to MUN at Yachad, essentially creating a dominant program from scratch.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Iris Truman, barrister at law. Dr. Truman, who holds a PhD in law and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Leicester in England, has also served as a business mentor for young entrepreneurs for more than two decades.An expert in international law and trade agreements and managing complex negotiations, Dr. Truman is the chairman of the ICSCD committee of the Israeli Bar Association. She talked to the students about her latest initiative—a new international commercial court to settle disputes between countries and multinational companies, using practical examples relevant to the conference’s topics.
Following the formal speeches, came the awards section of the evening. Mr. Jack Karn read out the students who had earned scholarships to JPB interfaith programs in the United States this summer: Shai Lenman (Ort Binyamina); Alia Habib Allah (Al-Bashaer); Tal Tzipori (Yachad Modi’in); Lana Wattad (Jatt); Ariel Haguel-Gutman (Darca Begin); Jameel Ghantous (Al-Bashaer); Almog Bar (Ort Gan Yavne); Saba Tahaa (Jadeeda); Omri Zait (Ort Binyamina), and Donia Daghash (Al-Bashaer).
The chairs for each committee then came to the podium and announced the winners of the Best and Outstanding Delegates: In the HRC, Mor Atsmon, Ariel Zinman and Zohar Baskin; in ECOSOC, Chai Margalit and Omri Zait; in OIC, Shaked Offenbach and Donia Daghash, in UNESCO, Or Moshe, Tal Tzipori and Carmel Kenneth, and in the WHO, Yoav Lev Sagie, Hila Krokovski, Omar Masalha and Itai Shalev.
After the event, Mrs. Yona discussed how pleased she was with hosting Modi’in’s first MUN conference:
“My students and I put in countless hours of preparation for this event, and the day went off almost exactly as I had imagined and hoped it would.
Hosting YachadMUN has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my teaching career. This has given students unique opportunities, and I have seen shy, introverted boys and girls shine as they challenge themselves to stand up and represent a country whose policy they may not necessarily agree with.”
Nooralhuda Hoji, co-Director of the Debate for Peace program said that “bringing together so many young students from around Israel to tackle such important topics is proof that we can work together to empower women and change perspectives on key issues, some of DfP’s most important goals.”
Steven Aiello is the founder and co-director of the Debate for Peace program & a part of www.diplomacy.co.il Team
PM Netanyahu and Australian PM Turnbull issued a Joint Declaration today in Sydney. The declaration reflects the mutual commitment of Israel and Australia to their deep friendship and their determination to elevate their bilateral cooperation.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Australian PM Malcom Turnbull, this morning (Thursday, 23 February 2017), issued a Joint Declaration:
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP Prime Minister of Australia
His Excellency Benjamin Netanyahu Prime Minister of the State of Israel
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Sydney on 22 February 2016, during the first visit by an Israeli Head of Government to Australia. Leaders welcomed the opportunity of the visit to reaffirm the strength of the relationship and its importance to both countries. The friendship between Israel and Australia dates back to Israel’s earliest days, and is anchored in our shared values, commitment to democracy and mutual interest in a rules-based international system. Both leaders committed to invigorate the relationship to maximise the opportunities it presents and to enable it to meet today’s challenges.
Australia re-affirmed its commitment to Israel’s right to exist, as the nation-state of the Jewish people, in peace within secure borders, and its steadfast opposition to attempts to undermine Israel’s legitimacy. Israel thanked Australia for its consistent support in this regard. Both countries re-stated their support for a directly negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Australia affirmed its support for a two-state solution.
Australia and Israel remain committed to a stable and secure Middle East. Leaders discussed current security challenges in the Middle East, including terrorism. Both countries agreed that Iran must fully implement its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, and expressed concern about Iran’s ballistic missile program. They also expressed concern over Iran's support inter alia for Hizballah and the threat Hizballah poses to regional security. Israel welcomed Australia’s ongoing military contribution to stabilisation efforts in the region, including the anti-ISIL coalition, the UN Truce Supervision Organisation, and Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai. Leaders agreed to maintain and to enhance close coordination and dialogue in the defence and security spheres.
Both sides reiterated their strong common resolve to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the financing, supporting, harbouring, training and equipping of terrorists. Both sides emphasised the importance of strengthening bilateral, regional and international cooperation required to meet this challenge; and reaffirmed that violent extremism constitutes a serious common concern for both states.
Australia and Israel agreed to explore opportunities for bilateral cooperation in the field of cyber as well as promote global cybersecurity efforts that enhance an open, free and secure Internet. Leaders noted the importance of cyber capability in ensuring the resilience of their national security systems, as well as the opportunities it offers in the commercial context, and expressed their intention to enhance dialogue between their respective government and private sectors.
Both sides affirmed the importance of bilateral defence cooperation in areas of mutual benefit. They also agreed to review opportunities to enhance exchanges between the defence authorities of the two countries.
Leaders committed to support the expansion of trade, investment and commercial links between Australia and Israel, for their mutual benefit and prosperity. Leaders welcomed the signature of a bilateral Air Services Agreement facilitating enhanced air links between our countries. They also welcomed the signing of an MOU between airline companies from both countries, which will enhance connectivity between Australia and Israel, expanding business and tourism links. They resolved to work towards concluding a Double Taxation Agreement which would remove tax impediments to bilateral economic activity and enhance the integrity of our respective tax systems. They welcomed the success of the Working Holiday Visa arrangement in promoting greater tourism flows.
Recognising that productivity and innovation are national priorities of both countries, leaders vowed to strengthen linkages in this area. Israel welcomed the establishment of Australia’s Landing Pad in Israel, intended to facilitate Australian entrepreneurs accessing Israel’s high-tech economy.
Leaders welcomed the signature of an Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation in Technological Innovation and Research and Development as a further enabler, and committed to negotiations on an Agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation. Leaders also committed to strengthen ties on education and innovation, including through possible teacher, academic and entrepreneur exchanges, to build science, technology, engineering and mathematical capabilities and foster a collaborative culture of innovation.
Leaders committed to explore opportunities for future collaboration in the areas of agriculture, water, energy and oil and gas. The two leaders also agreed to promote collaboration in the field of environmental protection, including sharing of knowledge and experience between both countries. To this end, the Australian Minister for the Environment and Energy will visit Israel in the first half of 2017.
Australia and Israel recognise the historical significance of the Battle of Beer Sheva as a foundation stone for the relationship between the two countries. Leaders committed to host a major commemoration in Israel, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Battle, in October 2017.
Leaders affirmed the importance of the role played by Australia’s Jewish community in underpinning and giving vitality to the relationship, and in the major contribution it has made to all sectors of Australian life.
This joint declaration reflects the mutual commitment of Australia and Israel to their deep friendship, and their determination to elevate their bilateral cooperation for the benefit of their two countries. Towards this end, Prime Minister Netanyahu invited Prime Minister Turnbull to visit Israel at the earliest opportunity.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Wednesday, 15 February 2017), in Washington DC, at the White House, made the following remarks at the start of his joint press conference with US President Donald Trump:
"President Trump, thank you for the truly warm hospitality you and Melania have shown me, my wife Sara, our entire delegation. I deeply value your friendship to me, to the State of Israel. It was so clearly evident in the words you just spoke. Israel has no better ally than the United States, and I want to assure you, the United States has no better ally than Israel.
Our alliance has been remarkably strong, but under your leadership, I'm confident it will get even stronger. I look forward to working with you to dramatically upgrade our alliance in every field, in security, in technology, in cyber and trade and so many others. And I certainly welcome your forthright call to ensure that Israel is treated fairly in international forums and that the slander and boycotts of Israel are resisted mightily by the power and moral position of the United States of America.
As you have said, our alliance is based on a deep bond of common values and common interest. And increasingly, those values and interests are under attack by one malevolent force: Radical Islamic terror.
Mr. President, you've shown great clarity and courage in confronting this challenge head-on. You call for confronting Iran's terrorist regime, preventing Iran from realizing this terrible deal into a nuclear arsenal, and you have said that the United States is committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons. You call for the defeat of ISIS.
Under your leadership, I believe we can reverse the rising tide of radical Islam. And in this great task, as in so many others, Israel stands with you and I stand with you.
Mr. President, in rolling back militant Islam, we can seize an historic opportunity, because for the first time in my lifetime and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but increasingly – as an ally.
I believe that under your leadership, this change in our region creates an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen security and advance peace. Let us seize this moment together; let us bolster security; let us seek new avenues of peace; and let us bring the remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States to even greater heights.
Jewish, Christian and Muslim prayer rights in Jerusalem; the 1947 Partition Plan; incitement in social media, and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. While each of these topics can be politically divisive for even seasoned diplomats, on Wednesday January 18th some of Israel’s youngest future diplomats tackled these issues and more with poise and grace at QASMUN. QASMUN is the latest Debate for Peace (DfP) Model UN Conference, and was the first conference to be hosted by the prestigious Al-Qasemi High School and the first of its kind to be held in Baqa al-Gharabiya.
Over 150 Arab and Jewish 8th-12th grade students from more than a dozen schools and cities around Israel participated in the conference. There were six committees, discussing Education; Holy Sites and Religious Freedom; Incitement vs. Freedom of Speech; and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Two historical committees went back to 1947 and 1973, to look at an alternative Partition Plan and deal with the 1973 Yom Kippur War respectively.
The students made opening speeches, debated and negotiated on their way to passing resolutions on their different topics (aside from the Security Council negotiations committee, which ran into a veto from the US delegate). The conference afforded an opportunity for young Arab and Jewish leaders to debate some of the most critical issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to build bridges and make new friends in the process.
Mr. JonChessoni, Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of Kenya, joined the students during the conference. In addition to listening to each of the sessions, Mr. Chessoni met with each of the students who were representing Kenya in the different committees.
At the end of the evening the delegates enjoyed a gala dinner at the College of Engineering, before attending the closing ceremony. At the ceremony, Mr. Morsi Abu Mokh greeted all of the guests on behalf of the Baqa al-Gharabiya municipality. Dr. Dalia Fadila, principal of Al-Qassemi High School and dean of the Engineering College, thanked everyone for coming and promised that this was only the first of what will be an annual conference. Students heard from Dr. Yehuda Stolov of the Interfaith Encounters Association (IEA) and Dr. Omer Salem, visiting from Cairo, who spoke about religion as a force for peace and reconciliation. Reham Abu Asba, the Al-Qassemi staff member who oversaw the conference preparation, spoke about her pride and hope in the important steps that had been taken during the conference by students learning to represent different viewpoints. A statement was also read on behalf of Mr. Yoni Eshpar, political adviser to the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO).
The keynote speaker was Mr. Drew Peterson, Vice Consul and Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador in Israel. Mr. Peterson recalled his own MUN and career experiences, and talked about the life and diplomatic skills that students can acquire through MUN.
Following the speeches were the awards—top delegates from each committee receiving certificates for their performances: Lebanon (Jamal Majadly) and Turkey (Muhammad Samara) in UNESCO; Egypt (Zuhra Issa) and Israel (Shimi Katavi) in ECOSOC; Italy (Naseem Zahalka) and Spain (Hila Krakowski) in the HRC; Belgium (Omri Harpaz) and Greece (Tasneem Abu Hussien) in the UNGA 1947; the US (Omar Masalha) and France (Rula Abo Mokh) in the Security Council and the USSR (Omri Weinstock) and Israel (Adan Masri) in the UNSC Crisis committee.
Jack Karn announced the students who had been chosen for Jerusalem Peacebuilders (JPB) programs in the US this summer on the basis of their participation: Amit Lipperman; Muhammad Samara; Omri Weinstock; Naseem Zahalka; Omer Sharir; Marsel Badir; Amit Ner Gaon and Ben Chelsky.
Sana Zahalka, the QASMUN Secretary-General, explained that “our goal was to bring together students from all over the country and teach them how to present a perspective while having respect and understanding of others.” Hala Majadley, the Under-Secretary-General reiterated that “it was a very successful, fruitful, fun first QASMUN conference, and now we’ll just have to wait for the next one!”Omer Sharir, a Jewish student from Gedera who represented Palestine in the negotiations committee, said that “it was very challenging to represent the Palestinian Authority in the Security Council…because the PA represents the opposite of what I believe in, but the more I got into it, the more I learned and the more I researched about the topic, the more I enjoyed the actual day.”
QASMUN was part of the Debate for Peace (DfP) MUN program run in coordination with the IEA and JPB.
The next DfP conference will be YachadMUN, on February 26th in Modi’in, focusing on Women’s Rights and Empowerment.
The Palestinian Authority’s campaign against the Balfour Declaration indicates that its leadership refuses to recognize the legitimate historical right of the Jews to their national homeland and casts serious doubts about Palestinian intentions.
November 2 2016 marks the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, one of the earliest measures taken by a major international actor to recognize the right of the Jewish people to reestablish sovereignty over their national homeland.The Declaration recognizes the fact that the Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel and have had a continual presence there for millennia. Jews have been striving to reconstitute their national homeland since the destruction of the Judean Kingdom in 70 CE, but the successful fulfillment of this goal began only in the 19th century when the political movement to return to the Jewish homeland began to establish national institutions at the Zionist Congress in 1897.The Balfour Declaration was issued on 2 November 1917 by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur James Balfour, and states:
“His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
It is important to note that at the time the Declaration was issued, Palestine referred to a geographic area, not to any political entity as no such independent or sovereign entity existed.Recognition by the International Community International recognition of the Jewish people’s inalienable right to reestablish sovereignty in its ancestral homeland quickly followed the Balfour Declaration.Most significantly, the League of Nations [the precursor to the United Nations] recognized this right in its 24 July 1922 decision to establish the Palestine/Land of Israel Mandate. In that international legislative act, the League appointed Great Britain to be responsible for putting the Balfour Declaration into effect, with the goal of “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The legally-binding League of Nations Mandate acknowledged the “historic connection of the Jewish people” to the area rightly known as the Land of Israel/Judea/the Holy Land.The League of Nations mandate of 1922 transformed the Balfour Declaration and its call for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people from a policy position into an international legal obligation accepted by the international community as a whole. Legitimate Jewish Rights The importance of both the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations decision lays in the international recognition of preexisting natural, historical, and legal rights of the Jewish people to their homeland, in which there had been a continuous Jewish presence throughout the centuries. The official acknowledgment by the international community of the Jewish people’s historic ties to the land is further emphasized by the language used in the League’s Mandate decision. The Palestine/Land of Israel Mandate specifically calls to “reconstitute” the national home of the Jewish people, not to constitute anything new. The International Community and the Establishment of the State of Israel The Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations decision and the subsequent United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 all recognized the Jewish people’s right to a sovereign state in its historic homeland. These international decisions played an important role in galvanizing support for the establishment of the future State of Israel. Palestinian Attempts to Undermine the Balfour DeclarationThe essence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from 1917 until today has been the systematic and total rejection by the Palestinian leadership of the Jewish people's legitimate national rights in the Land of Israel.Current Palestinian attempts to undermine the Balfour Declaration are part and parcel of their campaign to undermine the basic rights of Jewish peoplehood and the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Rejecting the Balfour Declaration is tantamount to rejecting the internationally-recognized natural rights of the Jewish people to a national home in the Land of Israel.While Israel has repeatedly stressed its adherence to the principle of two states for two people, these Palestinian attempts prove yet again that their leaders are less interested in establishing their own state alongside Israel than they are in forging it instead of Israel. The Palestinian Authority’s incongruous threat, first announced this past July, to sue the British government over the Balfour Declaration amply demonstrates that Palestinian leaders remain fixated on unfounded allegations from the past instead of moving forward to a better future for both peoples. This historical denial of internationally-recognized Jewish rights by the Palestinian leadership is also refl ected in the recent attempts in UNESCO to erase the Jewish and Christian heritage of Jerusalem.Respect for the Rights of AllBoth the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations decision included specific provisions to ensure respect for the civil and religious rights of all inhabitants in the land of Israel, irrespective of their ethnic orientation or religion. Israel itself has always fervently strived to protect the rights of all its citizens – Jews and Arabs alike. Even before Israel became a state in 1948, the Jewish national movement deemed respect for the basic rights of all the inhabitants of the land as one of its most important values. Indeed, Israel enshrined these rights in its Declaration of Independence:
“THE STATE OF ISRAEL […] will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
The Quest for PeaceIn the hope of fulfilling its dream of peaceful coexistence, Israel – and the Jewish national movement that preceded it - continually demonstrated their readiness to make painful compromises with their Arab neighbors.In contrast, the rejectionist policies of the Palestinian leaders have not changed since 1917. Tragically, these Palestinian policies have not been limited to the political sphere. In 1947, the UN Partition Plan - which was accepted by the Jews - was rejected by the Arabs, who chose to wage a war of annihilation instead of accepting the compromise that would have averted all the wars that followed. Current activities by the Palestinian Authority, including its campaign against the Balfour Declaration, indicate that the Palestinian leadership continues to claim exclusive rights to the entire land, refusing to recognize the legitimate historical right of the Jews to their national homeland. These actions cast serious doubts about Palestinian intentions.These actions, together with the systematic distortion of Jewish history, are morally unacceptable and factually unfounded. They are inimical to the international community’s – and Israel’s – desire for peace. It is long past time for the international community to step up and demand that the Palestinians stop perpetuating the conflict against Israel and finally answer Israel’s repeated calls to return to direct negotiations for a genuine peace.
PM Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly
I have not given up on peace. I remain committed to a vision of peace based on two states for two peoples. I believe as never before that changes taking place in the Arab world today offer a unique opportunity to advance that peace.
Following is a transcript of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks today (Thursday, 22 September 2016), at the United Nations General Assembly in New York:
"Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
What I'm about to say is going to shock you: Israel has a bright future at the UN.
Now I know that hearing that from me must surely come as a surprise, because year after year I've stood at this very podium and slammed the UN for its obsessive bias against Israel. And the UN deserved every scathing word – for the disgrace of the General Assembly that last year passed 20 resolutions against the democratic State of Israel and a grand total of three resolutions against all the other countries on the planet.
Israel – twenty; rest of the world – three.
And what about the joke called the UN Human Rights Council, which each year condemns Israel more than all the countries of the world combined. As women are being systematically raped, murdered, sold into slavery across the world, which is the only country that the UN's Commission on Women chose to condemn this year? Yep, you guessed it – Israel. Israel. Israel where women fly fighter jets, lead major corporations, head universities, preside – twice – over the Supreme Court, and have served as Speaker of the Knesset and Prime Minister.
And this circus continues at UNESCO. UNESCO, the UN body charged with preserving world heritage. Now, this is hard to believe but UNESCO just denied the 4,000 year connection between the Jewish people and its holiest site, the Temple Mount. That's just as absurd as denying the connection between the Great Wall of China and China.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The UN, begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce. So when it comes to Israel at the UN, you'd probably think nothing w ill ever change, right? Well think again. You see, everything will change and a lot sooner than you think. The change will happen in this hall, because back home, your governments are rapidly changing their attitudes towards Israel. And sooner or later, that's going to change the way you vote on Israel at the UN.
More and more nations in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, more and more nations see Israel as a potent partner – a partner in fighting the terrorism of today, a partner in developing the technology of tomorrow.
Today Israel has diplomatic relations with over 160 countries. That's nearly double the number that we had when I served here as Israel's ambassador some 30 years ago. And those ties are getting broader and deeper every day. World leaders increasingly appreciate that Israel is a powerful country with one of the best intelligence services on earth. Because of our unmatched experience and proven capabilities in fighting terrori sm, many of your governments seek our help in keeping your countries safe.
Many also seek to benefit from Israel's ingenuity in agriculture, in health, in water, in cyber and in the fusion of big data, connectivity and artificial intelligence – that fusion that is changing our world in every way.
You might consider this: Israel leads the world in recycling wastewater. We recycle about 90% of our wastewater. Now, how remarkable is that? Well, given that the next country on the list only recycles about 20% of its wastewater, Israel is a global water power. So if you have a thirsty world, and we do, there's no better ally than Israel.
How about cybersecurity? That's an issue that affects everyone. Israel accounts for one-tenth of one percent of the world's population, yet last year we attracted some 20% of the global private investment in cybersecurity. I want you to digest that number. In cyber, Israel is punching a whopping 200 times above its weight. So Israel is also a global cyber power. If hackers are targeting your banks, your planes, your power grids and just about everything else, Israel can offer indispensable help.
Governments are changing their attitudes towards Israel because they know that Israel can help them protect their peoples, can help them feed them, can help them better their lives.
This summer I had an unbelievable opportunity to see this change so vividly during an unforgettable visit to four African countries. This is the first visit to Africa by an Israeli prime minister in decades. Later today, I'll be meeting with leaders from 17 African countries. We'll discuss how Israeli technology can help them in their efforts to transform their countries.
In Africa, things are changing. In China, India, Russia, Japan, attitudes towards Israel have changed as well. These powerful nations know that, despite Israel's small size, it can make a big difference in many, many areas that are important to them.
But now I'm going to surprise you even more. You see, the biggest change in attitudes towards Israel is taking place elsewhere. It's taking place in the Arab world. Our peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan continue to be anchors of stability in the volatile Middle East. But I have to tell you this: For the first time in my lifetime, many other states in the region recognize that Israel is not their enemy. They recognize that Israel is their ally. Our common enemies are Iran and ISIS. Our common goals are security, prosperity and peace. I believe that in the years ahead we will work together to achieve these goals, work together openly.
So Israel's diplomatic relations are undergoing nothing less than a revolution. But in this revolution, we never forget that our most cherished alliance, our deepest friendship is with the United States of America, the most powerful and the most genero us nation on earth. Our unbreakable bond with the United States of America transcends parties and politics. It reflects, above all else, the overwhelming support for Israel among the American people, support which is at record highs and for which we are deeply grateful.
The United Nations denounces Israel; the United States supports Israel. And a central pillar of that defense has been America's consistent support for Israel at the UN. I appreciate President Obama's commitment to that longstanding US policy. In fact, the only time that the United States cast a UN Security Council veto during the Obama presidency was against an anti-Israel resolution in 2011. As President Obama rightly declared at this podium, peace will not come from statements and resolutions at the United Nations.
I believe the day is not far off when Israel will be able to rely on many, many countries to stand with us at the UN. Slowly but surely, the days when UN ambassadors reflexively condemn Israel, those days are coming to an end.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today's automatic majority against Israel at the UN reminds me of the story, the incredible story of Hiroo Onada. Hiroo was a Japanese soldier who was sent to the Philippines in 1944. He lived in the jungle. He scavenged for food. He evaded capture. Eventually he surrendered, but that didn't happen until 1974, some 30 years after World War II ended. For decades, Hiroo refused to believe the war was over. As Hiroo was hiding in the jungle, Japanese tourists were swimming in pools in American luxury hotels in nearby Manila. Finally, mercifully, Hiroo's former commanding officer was sent to persuade him to come out of hiding. Only then did Hiroo lay down his arms.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished delegates from so many lands,
I have one message for you today: Lay down your arms. The war against Israel at the UN is over. Perhaps some of you don't know it yet, but I am confident that one day in the not too distant future you will also get the message from your president or from your prime minister informing you that the war against Israel at the United Nations has ended. Yes, I know, there might be a storm before the calm. I know there is talk about ganging up on Israel at the UN later this year. Given its history of hostility towards Israel, does anyone really believe that Israel will let the UN determine our security and our vital national interests?
We will not accept any attempt by the UN to dictate terms to Israel. The road to peace runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through New York.
But regardless of what happens in the months ahead, I have total confidence that in the years ahead the revolution in Israel's standing among the nations will finally penetrate this hall of nations. I have so much confidence, in fact, that I predict that a decade f rom now an Israeli prime minister will stand right here where I am standing and actually applaud the UN. But I want to ask you: Why do we have to wait a decade? Why keep vilifying Israel? Perhaps because some of you don't appreciate that the obsessive bias against Israel is not just a problem for my country, it's a problem for your countries too. Because if the UN spends so much time condemning the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, it has far less time to address war, disease, poverty, climate change and all the other serious problems that plague the planet.
Are the half million slaughtered Syrians helped by your condemnation of Israel? The same Israel that has treated thousands of injured Syrians in our hospitals, including a field hospital that I built right along the Golan Heights border with Syria. Are the gays hanging from cranes in Iran helped by your denigration of Israel? That same Israel where gays march proudly in our streets and serve in our parliament, including I'm proud to say in my own Likud party. Are the starving children in North Korea's brutal tyranny, are they helped by your demonization of Israel? Israel, whose agricultural knowhow is feeding the hungry throughout the developing world?
The sooner the UN's obsession with Israel ends, the better. The better for Israel, the better for your countries, the better for the UN itself.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If UN habits die hard, Palestinian habits die even harder. President Abbas just attacked from this podium the Balfour Declaration. He's preparing a lawsuit against Britain for that declaration from 1917. That's almost 100 years ago – talk about being stuck in the past. The Palestinians may just as well sue Iran for the Cyrus Declaration, which enabled the Jews to rebuild our Temple in Jerusalem 2,500 years ago. Come to think of it, why not a Palestinian class action suit against Abraham for buying that plot of land in Hebron where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish people were buried 4,000 years ago? You're not laughing. It's as absurd as that. To sue the British government for the Balfour Declaration? Is he kidding? And this is taken seriously here?
President Abbas attacked the Balfour Declaration because it recognized the right of the Jewish people to a national home in the land of Israel. When the United Nations supported the establishment of a Jewish state in 1947, it recognized our historical and our moral rights in our homeland and to our homeland. Yet today, nearly 70 years later, the Palestinians still refuse to recognize those rights – not our right to a homeland, not our right to a state, not our right to anything. And this remains the true core of the conflict, the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any boundary. You see, this conflict is not about the settlements. It never was.
The conflict raged for decades before there was a single settlement, when Judea Samaria [the West Bank] and Gaza were all in Arab hands. The West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands and they attacked us again and again and again. And when we uprooted all 21 settlements in Gaza and withdrew from every last inch of Gaza, we didn't get peace from Gaza – we got thousands of rockets fired at us from Gaza.
This conflict rages because for the Palestinians, the real settlements they're after are Haifa, Jaffa and Tel Aviv.
Now mind you, the issue of settlements is a real one and it can and must be resolved in final status negotiations. But this conflict has never been about the settlements or about establishing a Palestinian state. It's always been about the existence of a Jewish state, a Jewish state in any boundary.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Israel is ready, I am ready to negotiate all final status issues but one thing I will never negotiate: Our right to the one and only Jewish state.
Wow, sustained applause for the Prime Minister of Israel in the General Assembly? The change may be coming sooner than I thought.
Had the Palestinians said yes to a Jewish state in 1947, there would have been no war, no refugees and no conflict. And when the Palestinians finally say yes to a Jewish state, we will be able to end this conflict once and for all.
Now here's the tragedy, because, see, the Palestinians are not only trapped in the past, their leaders are poisoning the future.
I want you to imagine a day in the life of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, I'll call him Ali. Ali wakes up before school, he goes to practice with a soccer team named after Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian terrorist responsible for the murder of a busload of 37 Israelis. At school, Ali attends an event sponsored by the Palestinian Ministry of Education honoring Baha Alyan, who last year murdered three Israeli civilians. On his walk home, Ali looks up at a towering statue erected just a few weeks ago by the Palestinian Authority to honor Abu Sukar, who detonated a bomb in the center of Jerusalem, killing 15 Israelis.
When Ali gets home, he turns on the TV and sees an interview with a senior Palestinian official, Jibril Rajoub, who says that if he had a nuclear bomb, he'd detonate it over Israel that very day. Ali then turns on the radio and he hears President Abbas's adviser, Sultan Abu al-Einein, urging Palestinians, here's a quote, "to slit the throats of Israelis wherever you find them." Ali checks his Facebook and he sees a recent post by President Abbas's Fatah Party calling the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics a "heroic act". On YouTube, Ali watches a clip of President Abbas himself saying, "We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem." Direct quote.
Over dinner, Ali asks his mother what wou ld happen if he killed a Jew and went to an Israeli prison? Here's what she tells him. She tells him he'd be paid thousands of dollars each month by the Palestinian Authority. In fact, she tells him, the more Jews he would kill, the more money he'd get. Oh, and when he gets out of prison, Ali would be guaranteed a job with the Palestinian Authority.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All this is real. It happens every day, all the time. Sadly, Ali represents hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children who are indoctrinated with hate every moment, every hour.
This is child abuse.
Imagine your child undergoing this brainwashing. Imagine what it takes for a young boy or girl to break free out of this culture of hate. Some do but far too many don't. How can any of us expect young Palestinians to support peace when their leaders poison their minds against peace?
We in Israel don't do this. We educate our children for peace. In fact, we recently launched a pilot program, my government did, to make the study of Arabic mandatory for Jewish children so that we can better understand each other, so that we can live together side-by-side in peace.
Of course, like all societies Israel has fringe elements. But it's our response to those fringe elements, it's our response to those fringe elements that makes all the difference.
Take the tragic case of Ahmed Dawabsha. I'll never forget visiting Ahmed in the hospital just hours after he was attacked. A little boy, really a baby, he was badly burned. Ahmed was the victim of a horrible terrorist act perpetrated by Jews. He lay bandaged and unconscious as Israeli doctors worked around the clock to save him.
No words can bring comfort to this boy or to his family. Still, as I stood by his bedside I told his uncle, "This is not our people. This is not our way." I then ordered extraordinary measures to br ing Ahmed's assailants to justice and today the Jewish citizens of Israel accused of attacking the Dawabsha family are in jail awaiting trial.
Now, for some, this story shows that both sides have their extremists and both sides are equally responsible for this seemingly endless conflict.
But what Ahmed's story actually proves is the very opposite. It illustrates the profound difference between our two societies, because while Israeli leaders condemn terrorists, all terrorists, Arabs and Jews alike, Palestinian leaders celebrate terrorists. While Israel jails the handful of Jewish terrorists among us, the Palestinians pay thousands of terrorists among them.
So I call on President Abbas: you have a choice to make. You can continue to stoke hatred as you did today or you can finally confront hatred and work with me to establish peace between our two peoples.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I hear the buzz. I know that many of you have given up on peace. But I want you to know – I have not given up on peace. I remain committed to a vision of peace based on two states for two peoples. I believe as never before that changes taking place in the Arab world today offer a unique opportunity to advance that peace.
I commend President el-Sisi of Egypt for his efforts to advance peace and stability in our region. Israel welcomes the spirit of the Arab peace initiative and welcomes a dialogue with Arab states to advance a broader peace. I believe that for that broader peace to be fully achieved the Palestinians have to be part of it. I'm ready to begin negotiations to achieve this today – not tomorrow, not next week, today.
President Abbas spoke here an hour ago. Wouldn't it be better if instead of speaking past each other we were speaking to one another? President Abbas, instead of railing against Israel at the United Nations in New York, I invi te you to speak to the Israeli people at the Knesset in Jerusalem. And I would gladly come to speak to the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While Israel seeks peace with all our neighbors, we also know that peace has no greater enemy than the forces of militant Islam. The bloody trail of this fanaticism runs through all the continents represented here. It runs through Paris and Nice, Brussels and Baghdad, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Minnesota and New York, from Sydney to San Bernardino. So many have suffered its savagery: Christians and Jews, women and gays, Yazidis and Kurds and many, many others.
Yet the heaviest price, the heaviest price of all has been paid by innocent Muslims. Hundreds of thousands unmercifully slaughtered. Millions turned into desperate refugees, tens of millions brutally subjugated. The defeat of militant Islam will thus be a victory for all humanity, but it would especially be a victor y for those many Muslims who seek a life without fear, a life of peace, a life of hope.
But to defeat the forces of militant Islam, we must fight them relentlessly. We must fight them in the real world. We must fight them in the virtual world. We must dismantle their networks, disrupt their funding, discredit their ideology. We can defeat them and we will defeat them. Medievalism is no match for modernity. Hope is stronger than hate, freedom mightier than fear.
We can do this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Israel fights this fateful battle against the forces of militant Islam every day. We keep our borders safe from ISIS, we prevent the smuggling of game-changing weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, we thwart Palestinian terror attacks in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, and we deter missile attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
That's the same Hamas terror organization that cruelly, unbelievably cruelly refuses to return three of our citizens and the bodies of our fallen soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin. Hadar Goldin's parents, Leah and Simcha Goldin, are here with us today. They have one request – to bury their beloved son in Israel. All they ask for is one simple thing – to be able to visit the grave of their fallen son Hadar in Israel. Hamas refuses. They couldn't care less.
I implore you to stand with them, with us, with all that's decent in our world against the inhumanity of Hamas – all that is indecent and barbaric. Hamas breaks every humanitarian rule in the book, throw the book at them.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The greatest threat to my country, to our region, and ultimately to our world remains the militant Islamic regime of Iran. Iran openly seeks Israel's annihilation. It threatens countries across the Middle East, it sponsors terror worldwide.
This year, Iran has fired ballistic missiles in direct defiance of Security Council Resolutions. It has expended its aggression in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen. Iran, the world's foremost sponsor of terrorism continued to build its global terror network. That terror network now spans five continents.
So my point to you is this: The threat Iran poses to all of us is not behind us, it's before us. In the coming years, there must be a sustained and united effort to push back against Iran's aggression and Iran's terror. With the nuclear constraints on Iran one year closer to being removed, let me be clear: Israel will not allow the terrorist regime in Iran to develop nuclear weapons – not now, not in a decade, not ever.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I stand before you today at a time when Israel's former president, Shimon Peres, is fighting for his life. Shimon is one of Israel's founding fathers, one of its boldest statesmen, one of its most respected leaders. I know you wi ll all join me and join all the people of Israel in wishing him refuah shlemah Shimon, a speedy recovery.
I've always admired Shimon's boundless optimism, and like him, I too am filled with hope. I am filled with hope because Israel is capable of defending itself by itself against any threat. I am filled with hope because the valor of our fighting men and women is second to none. I am filled with hope because I know the forces of civilization will ultimately triumph over the forces of terror. I am filled with hope because in the age of innovation, Israel – the innovation nation – is thriving as never before. I am filled with hope because Israel works tirelessly to advance equality and opportunity for all its citizens: Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, everyone. And I am filled with hope because despite all the naysayers, I believe that in the years ahead, Israel will forge a lasting peace with all our neighbors.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am hopeful about what Israel can accomplish because I've seen what Israel has accomplished. In 1948, the year of Israel's independence, our population was 800,000. Our main export was oranges. People said then we were too small, too weak, too isolated, too demographically outnumbered to survive, let alone thrive. The skeptics were wrong about Israel then; the skeptics are wrong about Israel now.
Israel's population has grown tenfold, our economy fortyfold. Today our biggest export is technology – Israeli technology, which powers the world's computers, cellphones, cars and so much more.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The future belongs to those who innovate and this is why the future belongs to countries like Israel. Israel wants to be your partner in seizing that future, so I call on all of you: Cooperate with Israel, embrace Israel, dream with Israel. Dream of the future that we can build together, a future of breathtaking progress, a future of security, prosperity and peace, a future of hope for all humanity, a future where even at the UN, even in this hall, Israel will finally, inevitably, take its rightful place among the nations.
PM Netanyahu addressing the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: GPO/Kobi Gideon.
Prime Minister's Office Statement on Turkish Parliament Decision
Israel welcomes the Turkish Parliament's decision to approve the deal recently concluded by the two governments and looks forward to the next steps of its implementation, including the return of our respective ambassadors.
Discussions focused on producing recommendations for a successful reconciliation process, and on mapping possible implications of the Israel-Turkey deal on regional dynamics, the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Following the meeting in Istanbul, the Mitvim Institute and GPoT Center have published a joint policy brief, "Policy Recommendations for Israel-Turkey Reconciliation," which delineates a number of steps that both countries should take in order to ensure a successful reconciliation process.
TEL AVIV NOTES: "The 'Trust and Reform' Party: New Arab Politics in Israel?" - June 16, 2016
Arik Rudnitzky, the Project Manager for Tel Aviv University's Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, explains the background of the founders of a new political party in Israel and what the party means for Arab politics in Israel.
On April 11, 2016, an important event took place in the sphere of Arab politics in Israel. A new political party, “Trust and Reform” (al-wafaaʾ wal-islah) was established, led by Shaykh Hussam Abu Leil, an Imam from the community of Ayn Mahel, adjacent to Nazareth. The announcement aroused great public and media interest in the Arab sector, despite taking place between election cycles. Neither general elections for the Knesset nor elections for local councils are on the horizon. What drew attention to the announcement was the identity of the new party’s founders.
The five members of the party’s founding committee are identified with the northern faction of the Islamic Movement (IM) in Israel, which espouses dogmatic ideas about the Israeli establishment and Israeli society and consistently refrained from taking part in Israeli politics. Abu Leil is a senior figure in the IM, and is considered “number three” among its top leadership, after Shaykh Raed Salah and Shaykh Kamal Khatib. Professor Ibrahim Abu Jaber and Dr. Hasan Sunʿallah, are senior researchers at the Center for Contemporary Studies (markaz al-dirasat al-muʿaasirah – an institute established in 1988, and based in Umm al-Fahm, that is identified with the northern faction of the IM. Mohammed Subhi Jabareen, who will be deputy head of the party, is a lawyer and was a member of the Umm al-Fahm city council from 2004 to 2014; Hiba ʿAwawdy, from Kufr Kana, has a Master’s degree in pedagogy from Hebrew University and is the wife of Dr. Yusuf ʿAwawdy, the head of foreign relations for the northern faction of the IM. The identities of the party’s founders, and the fact that the party was established less than six months after the Israeli government outlawed the northern faction of the IM, have led the media and analysts to raise the question of whether “Trust and Reform” is a new Islamist political party.
The party’s founders emphasized that the party is completely independent, not linked to the northern faction of the IM and not intended to replace it. A detailed policy agenda has not been officially published, but Jabareen outlined the party’s principles and goals on the day the party’s establishment was announced. He clarified that the Palestinians in the “interior” [referring to Israel’s Arab citizens] are an inseparable part of the Palestinian people (al-shaʾb al-filastini) and the Arab and Islamic umma(nation - al-umma al-ʿarabiyah wal-islamiyah). He added that the party advocates the principles of liberty, justice, and respect for political and religious pluralism in Arab society, and views the al-Aqsa Mosque compound as belonging exclusively to Muslims. The party’s goal is to strengthen the identity and national attributes of the Arab public, to emphasize the standing of the Arab language as a fundamental principle of identity, and to strengthen the standing of women in Arab society. Jabareen pointed out that one of the party’s founders was a woman and that she was a source of pride for the party.
The party’s founders stress that the principal reason for its establishment was the feeling that the existing political parties do not provide an appropriate response to the real problems facing the Arab public: “Arab society suffers from many afflictions,” explained Abu Leil, adding that “until now, everyone talks about the disease but no one talks about the cure or the solution. First and foremost, negative trends like violence, weapons, and drugs should be uprooted.” The party’s name suggests the rationale for its establishment. The expression al-wafaaʾ means loyalty to a promise and the obligation to fulfill it. The promise of the party is to work honestly to bring about social change and to reform the Arab public in Israel. The party defines itself as “non-parliamentarian,” and therefore at this stage does not intend to participate in elections to Knesset or to the local councils, but rather to focus its activities on Arab youth.
Despite declarations that there is no connection to the IM, one can hardly ignore the connection between the party’s founders and their ties to the IM. The party’s “bottom-up” strategy, focusing on fundamental social problems and non-participation in electoral politics, are the hallmarks of the northern branch of the IM.
Since its establishment, the party has issued three public declarations, all of which were published on the internet site identified with the Islamic Movement, www.pls48.net. The first declaration (April 19) condemned the decision of the court to sentence Shaykh Raed Salah to nine months in prison. The second (April 21) included the declaration that the al-Aqsa Mosque is a purely Islamic heritage site; it was only in the party’s third communique (April 23) that it outlined its guiding principles, including a condemnation of the wave of violence spreading in Arab society, in light of the murder of two citizens of Umm al-Fahm, who had been engaged in a personal feud.
In October 2015, www.pls48.net published detailed position papers on behalf of Shaykh Salah on four key issues: 1) Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque; 2) education, values, and morals; 3) the political path of the IM; and 4) religion and fatwas. Salah retained the IM’s view that there will be a future Islamic Caliphate in the region, and outlined the three basic principles that guide the Islamic Movement: empowering the Arab public as a whole; broad societal cooperation in fashioning policy, including an openness to criticism; and adopting wasatiyya (“the middle path”) with respect to religious law. Salah clarified that the northern faction of the IM is not glued to a dogmatic approach, but attentive to the mainstream Arab public in all of its diversity.
These developments strengthened the assumption that the “Trust and Reform” party was rooted in Salah’s thinking. Indeed, some in the Arab public identify the new party as “the Islamic Movement in a civil framework,” a “new version of the Islamic Movement that was outlawed.” However, the internal discussion in the northern faction about establishing a political party had in fact began a year earlier, and there was no connection between the establishment of the new party and the IM’s ban. Ibrahim Khatib, a former researcher at the Center for Contemporary Studies, explained that the new party “heralds a change in political operations, and especially those based on the Islamic dimension.” One of the challenges facing the party will be “to instill the wasatiyya in the Islamic discourse as a way to deal with the political differences that exist in our society.” These comments are consistent with Salah’s statements in mid-November 2015, just a few days before the northern faction of the IM was outlawed. He admitted that the question of establishing a political party on behalf of the IM was under internal discussion and not yet decided. The establishment of such a party, he stressed, was likely to come at the expense of taking part in elections to the Knesset, which Salah views as totally unacceptable, from both the Islamist and Palestinian-national points of view. Salah’s position is similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan, and to the Islamic movements in Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia. In these states, the Islamic movements established political parties with a milder discourse than the dogmatic discourse of the movement. However, intellectuals close to the northern faction reject these comparisons, and claim that the new party is not an alternative to the IM, does not operate on its behalf, and is not presenting a challenge to the leadership of Raed Salah. Furthermore, the new party entirely rejects the government’s decision to ban the IM.
What is it then, if the new party is not an “Islamic party” and not even a new “Islamic movement”? Asʿad Ghanem and Mohanad Mustafa’s definition of “Islamic activism” may provide an answer. They argue that “Islamic activism” tries to find a balance between traditional society subjected to the destabilizing influence of modernization on the one hand, and the failure of national movements on the other. Islamic activists want to establish a movement for effective Islamic change in the present while relying on Islamic values of the past. This approach combines dogmatism and flexibility, and adapts itself to the challenges of the external environment at both the local and regional levels.
The Islamic current in Israel is influenced not only by the Palestinian national movement – which has been in a crisis for more than decade – but to a great extent influenced even more by other forces in Arab society, like the "Arab Spring" and its aftermath, which introduced new Islamist movements in Syria and Iraq, such as the Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusrah. It is too early to conclusively define the “Trust and Reform” party, which is still in the process of establishing itself. Nevertheless, it can said that the establishment of this new party expresses the intentions of the IM to reassess its path, particularly in the social and political fields.
 Taha Aghbariya, “Advocate Muhammed Subhi Jabareen, Deputy Head of the ‘Trust and Reform’ Party”: The doors of the party are open to every group and sector of our people,” www.pls48.net[Arabic], April 12, 2016.
 This doctrine, which was designed in the 1990s and is associated with Egyptian Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, combines adherence to the principles of Islamic religious law with flexibility, according to changing societal conditions.
 Wadiʾ ʿAwawdy, “An Islamic Movement – in a civil framework?,” www.arab48.com [Arabic], April 11, 2016.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken & Former U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger to Participate in 2016 Herzliya Conference
Majority of Israeli Ministers and Opposition Leaders to address the Conference which takes place June 14th-16th
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken has confirmed he will address the 16th annual Herzliya Conference. The event will be held June 14th-16th.
This year, the first day of the Conference, June 14th, will be held at the residence of the President of Israel where President Reuven Rivlin will discuss the continuation of the Tikva (Hope) project, a joint venture with the Institute for Policy & Strategy, which was announced at last year’s Conference.
The Conference will continue on June 15th & 16th on IDC Herzliya campus.
On the evening of June 15th, Former U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, will address the Conference and be awarded an Honorary Fellowship from IDC Herzliya.
Among the international speakers scheduled to address the conference: Amb. Edward Djerejain - Former US Amb. to Syria & Israel, Jay Footlik – Former Special Assistant to U.S. President Bill Clinton, Jane Harman – U.S. Democratic party leader, Bernard Henri Levy – French author and intellectual, Mike Huckabee – Republican party leader & former Arkansas Governor, Jan Jambon – Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Interior Affairs of Belgium, Amb. Daniel Kurtzer – Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt and Israel, Amb. Ronald Lauder – President of the World Jewish Congress, Amb. Dan Shapiro – U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Witold Waszczykowski – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland.
The majority of ministers from the Israeli Government, key members of the opposition as well as other leading figures are scheduled to address the conference including: Ehud Barak - Former Israeli Prime Minister, MKNaftali Bennett – Minister of Education, H.E. Danny Danon – Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, MK Aryeh Deri – Minister of the Interior, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel – Israeli Air Force Commander, MKGilad Erdan – Minister of Public Security & Strategic Affairs, MKYoav Galant – Construction & Housing Minister, MKZehava Gal-On – Chairman of the “Meretz” party, Amb. Dan Gillerman - Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Amb. Dore Gold – Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maj. Gen (Res.) Amos Gilad – Director of Policy & Political-Military Affairs of the Ministry of Defense, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi – Chief of Military Intelligence of the IDF, MK Isaac Herzog – Head of the Zionist Union & leader of the opposition, MKYisrael Katz – Minister of Transportation, MKYair Lapid – Chairman & Founder of the “Yesh Atid” party, MK Avigdor Lieberman – Minister of Defense, MKYaakov Litzman – Minister of Health, MKTzipi Livni – Zionist Union party & former Foreign Minister, Judge Miriam Naor - President of the Supreme Court of Israel, MKAyman Odeh – Chairman of the “Joint List” party, Shimon Peres – Former Israeli President, Amb. Ron Prosor – Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Shabtai Shavit – Former Head of the Mossad, Amb. Gabriella Shalev - Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations,MKYuval Steinitz – Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy & Water Resources, Moshe Ya’alon – former Minister of Defense.
Figures from the Arab world are also expected to participate.
From the financial world, both Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Chairperson of the Bank of Israel Karnit Flug will be speaking at the Conference along with top executives from AXA France, Bank Hapoalim, Bombardier, General Motors, JVP Cyber Labs, LionTree LLC, Medasense Biometrics, Moovit, Phillips Israel, Rothschild Group, SkyTran – Nasa Space Act, Teva & UBER.
The Conference will conclude with the “Herzliya Address” which has traditionally been reserved for remarks by the Israeli Prime Minister.
The Herzliya Conference is the flagship of the Institute of Policy and Strategy (IPS) at the Lauder School of Government of IDC Herzliya. The Herzliya Conference addresses Israel’s national agenda by encouraging public debate and influencing the country’s public policy planning. This is achieved through convening Israeli and international elite policy makers, conducting cutting edge research, fostering a global network of contacts in a public forum by attracting the best and the brightest to take part in the conference and its discussions.
Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the NATO announcement and called it an important step in enhancing Israel’s security.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced that Israel will be able to open an office at NATO headquarters in Brussels and to complete the process of accrediting its delegates. The announcement comes after diplomatic efforts by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense and the National Security Council. Israel wishes to thank its friends among NATO member states for their support and efforts in this matter.
Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the NATO announcement and called it an important step in enhancing Israel’s security. He stated that the move demonstrates the desire to cooperate with Israel in the field of security.
"Israel's Youngest Diplomats Address the Syrian Conflict"
The youngest diplomats in Israeli history participated in a unique conference in Petah Tikva on Sunday, April 10th. The Young Ambassadors School in Petah Tikva, which is used to training young leaders and marking historic occasions, welcomed its youngest students in the Model United Nations (MUN) program. Approximately thirty 5th and 6th grade students represented countries ranging from Australia to the United Arab Emirates, and spent 2.5 hours addressing the conflict in Syria.
As the youngest MUN students in Israeli history, the students spent weeks preparing for the conference by studying rules for how to interact in a diplomatic conference, and the complexities of the Syrian conflict, from the issue of Kurdish sovereignty to the threat of Jabhat al-Nusra to replace the presence of Islamic State.
The conference, the third one this year organized by the Young Ambassadors School in partnership with the Interfaith Encounters Association, also included three committees for older students—one dealing with Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, one addressing the threat of Islamic State (Daesh), and a crisis committee simulating an Israeli airstrike on Iran. Participants included 7th-12th grade students from the Young Ambassadors School, as well as the Yachad Modiin team, and individual students from other cities. Students from Khadeja Junior High School in Umm al-Fahem and AlJadedah High School in Kfar Kasem also attended as observers in hopes of establishing their own MUN programs in the future.
Following the debates and negotiations, each committee voted on and passed a separate resolution. For the Syrian Conflict committee that meant deciding to partition Syria into distinct, autonomous areas, with one overarching central government to unite the different areas.
At the end of the evening, those who represented their countries the best were called up to the podium to receive awards. These included Eden Peri (Iran), Uri Haimovitch (China), Itay Ozer (Saudi Arabia) and Mika Galperin (USA) in the Syrian Conflict committee; Almog Vilder (Lebanon), Sarah Frydman (Syria) and Niv Geva (Iraq) in the ISIS committee; Arielle Lieberman (USA), Tamar Shahar (Canada) and Oz Alfy (Italy) in the Human Rights Council, and Austen Hamilton (Israel) and Omri Weinstock (Iran) in the Crisis Committee.
Or Shipperman from Elimelekh Kaner Elementary School, who represented Russia in the 5th-6th grade group, said that she enjoyed herself immensely, and that it had been an incredible experience. "I learned about how the conflict looks from a different perspective, and of course how to represent a different view than my personal one" she said. Ori Vikel, from Neve Oz Elementary School, added that in her view, the experience of learning to make speeches and represent countries was preparation for the job of representing Israel for which the Young Ambassadors program prepares students. Judging by the conference, Israel's diplomatic future, rests in some capable young hands.
For more information and to attend future conferences, please contact Steven Aiello, Director of the Model UN program at the Young Ambassadors School
Contributing Analyst -- Wikistrat.com
Model UN and Debate Instructor -- School for Young Ambassadors
PM Netanyahu attends launch of Knesset caucus for Israel-Africa relations
Both as Prime Minister and as Foreign Minister, we are making a deliberate African strategy, and I've received an invitation from the President of Kenya and from others to come and visit Africa
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Monday, 29 February 2016), at the Knesset, attended the launch of the Knesset Caucus for Israel-Africa Relations, which was initiated by MK Dr. Avraham Naguisa. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, MKs and African ambassadors were also in attendance. The Prime Minister spoke with the ambassadors, all of whom invited him to visit their countries.
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "Israel is coming back to Africa; Africa is coming back to Israel. It's happening in a big way. It's happening now, but it should have happened a long time ago. It's happening now because it's so clear that this is good for Africa and it's good for Israel. We face a multitude of challenges and opportunities. Both as Prime Minister and as Foreign Minister, we are making a deliberate, what I call African strategy, and I've received an invitation from the President of Kenya and from others to come and visit Africa.
I intend to do so around the 40th anniversary of the raid at Entebbe that was for us a very dramatic national experience. For me, obviously, one of great personal consequence, but we view that as an opportunity to give practical meaning to what I said before: Israel is coming back to Africa; Africa is coming back to Israel.
And in fact, what I'd like to see, given this new reality, given the confluence of interests - that means the meeting of the minds, the meeting of the minds and the meeting of hearts. Now we understand that we have these two great things before us: overcoming the dark forces of militant Islamic terrorism and seizing the opportunities of the future with technology and everything else we can bring to bear. What I'd like to see is the closeness of our relationship reflected also in the voting pattern of the African Union.
I would like to eventually get to that point with the African Union, because you should vote for the interests of your own countries and you should vote for the interests of Africa. And I have no doubt whatsoever that today the interests of Africa and the interests of Israel cohere. They're almost identical, and in some respects and in many respects they are identical. So, I want to see that reflected in our bilateral relationship and also in our multilateral relationship. And as I said, Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel, and I intend to make good at it by literally coming to Africa. For too long you have come here and we have not come there, and we are going to change that.
The greatest challenge we face together - the entire world faces - is the surge of militant Islamist extremism and the terrorism that it espouses. It threatens every land in Africa. In my opinion, it threatens the entire globe. Its nexus is in the Middle East, but it is rapidly spreading.
It can be defeated. It can only be defeated if the nations that are attacked by it, make common cause. We understand the dangers of Al-Shabab. We understand the dangers of the other militancies that threaten your countries in Africa, and we are prepared to work with you to defeat them. And it is possible to do so.
I think that many countries from Africa, and may I say not only from Africa, are coming to Israel because of a demonstrated capacity to stand up to the forces of militant Islam, do battle with them, roll them back. And we are prepared to put our expertise at your disposal. That's the first reason that there has been such a marked change in the appreciation of Africa and Israel to one another.
Israel is ready to help in every way - in agriculture, in health care, in water, in irrigation, in science, in technology, in investment, tourism, cyber. Every country can be brought to its knees today if it doesn't have adequate cyber protection, just the basic services that you have - communications, banking, airlines and so on. And Israel is now a world power in cyber security and my policy is to make some of our experience available to our friends. We consider you great friends. So we want to be able to cooperate with you in these two fields: fighting the forces of terror and seizing the opportunities of tomorrow. And they go hand in hand."
Photo PM Netanyahu attends launch of Knesset caucus for Israel-Africa relations
Israel condemns announcement by Iran's ambassador in Lebanon
His announcement that Iran would give financial support to Palestinian terrorists and their families is further proof of Iran’s deep involvement in encouraging terrorism against Israel.
Israel condemns the statement made by the Iranian ambassador in Lebanon at a press conference in which he announced that Iran would give financial support to Palestinian terrorists and their families.
This is further proof of Iran’s deep involvement in encouraging terrorism against Israel. Following the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the world powers, Iran is allowing itself to be once again a central player in global terror.
One of the most important climate conferences ever is taking place in Paris in December 2015. The 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP 21, of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is being held from November 30-December 11, 2015. The Paris Climate Conference is considered so significant because a new, binding agreement on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which will be applicable to all countries, is expected to be adopted there. Israel's has committed to reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions to 7.7 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) by 2030. This constitutes a reduction of 26% below the 2005 GHG emissions level.
Israel's GHG Emissions Reduction Target
While Israel has been a Party to the UNFCCC since 1996 and to the Kyoto Protocol since 2004, it was defined by Kyoto to be a developing, or non-Annex 1 country. Thus, it was not legally obligated to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. At the UNFCCC in Copenhagen in 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres announced Israel's intention to reduce GHG emissions 20% by 2020, compared to a business-as-usual scenario. The government formulated a national GHG reduction program in 2010. But the Finance Ministry froze the program in 2013, making it unlikely the country will reach its 20% reduction target. Under a new agreement expected to be adopted at the 2015 Paris conference, all countries, including Israel, will be obligated to reduce GHG emissions.
2015: A New Target In Sept. 2015, an inter-ministerial committee submitted a recommendation to the Israeli government that it approve a program to reduce GHG emissions 25% by 2030. In October 2015, the Israeli government submitted its official GHG reduction target to the UNFCCC.
The mitigation target is a per capita emissions reduction of 7.7 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) by 2030. This constitutes a reduction of 26% below the level in 2005 of 10.4 tCO2e per capita. An interim target of 8.8 tCO2e is expected by 2025.
There are also sector-specific targets for 2030:
17% reduction in electricity consumption relative to BAU (business as usual) scenario 17% of the electricity consumed will be from renewable sources (Currently 2% of Israel's electricity is generated by renewables.) 20% shift from private to public transportation relative to BAU scenario, transition from diesel to compressed natural gas for heavy vehicles The emissions target is part of Israel's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), all the climate actions Israel intends to take under the new agreement. Back to top
Preparations in Israel for the Paris Climate Conference
Conference on Sustainable Innovation: Towards the UN Convention on Climate Change, July 14, 2015 Hosts: Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP), Israel Ministry of Economy, German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. English presentations: New Climate Economy: An Action Agenda for Sustainable Economic Growth A Universal Climate Agreement: Convergence of Moral and Economic Imperatives Energy Efficiency on (and Beyond) the Road to Paris 2015 Comparative Findings on Climate Policy Among OECD Members
In addition, head of the MoEP's Climate Change Division presented conclusions of the inter-ministerial committee that was analyzing Israel's potential for reducing energy consumption and GHGs. In accordance with the committee's findings, the MoEP recommended a reduction target of 30% of greenhouse gases by 2030, compared to a business as usual scenario. These reductions would come from sectors such as: electricity, industry, transportation, residential and commercial buildings, waste, and agriculture. (Ultimately, a slightly lower target was submitted. See GHG Emissions Reduction Target above.) Article on conference, German Environment Ministry Website: "Climate action is a driver of innovation," July 14, 2015 More about the Sustainable Innovation Conference.
Hosts: MoEP and other government ministries and agencies dealing with climate change adaptation Topics included: Creating a strategy and action plan to prepare Israel for climate change The climate treaty expected to be adopted at the Paris Climate Conference Climate trends and forecasts The expected impact of climate change and adaptation efforts being made in Israel. Areas expected to be affected include: agriculture, biodiversity, rivers and streams, forestation, health, education, security, energy, planning and building, water, technologies, and more.
Israeli Delegation at COP 21 The delegation includes: Nearly 70 people altogether; 12 from the MoEP Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay, Director General Yisrael Dancziger Knesset (Parliament) members, Officials from other ministries and agencies Representatives from environmental NGOs, academia, business executives
Side events: Three side events are being organized by members of the Israeli delegation. Topics of the side events are: Alternative refrigerants. (The use of alternative refrigerants, instead of GHG-producing HFCs, to replace HCFCs that are being phased out as a result of the Montreal Protocol.) More about the HCFC phase-out and alternative refrigerants.
Organizers: MoEP and its counterpart in Bavaria, Germany, which is partnering with Israel on a project to promote alternative refrigerants in Israel. Deforestation. Organizers: Jewish National Fund, Montenegro organization Renewable Energies. Organizers: Israel Foreign Ministry
Israeli Speakers: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the conference on Day One, Nov. 30th.
Photo :Israeli and German Environment Ministers Avi Gabbay and Dr. Barbara Hendricks at the Sustainable Innovation Conference
The Nuclear Deal with Iran: Commentary & Analysis from the Mitvim Institute
The Nuclear Deal with Iran: Commentary & Analysis
The deal reached between Iran and the six world powers is likely to have significant implications for Israel’s foreign policy, Israel-US relations, domestic American politics, next steps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Iran’s role in the region. This document includes commentary and analysis on these issues by Mitvim Institute experts: Prof. Moshe Ma’oz, Dr. Nimrod Goren, Dr. Ilai Saltzman, and Brian Reeves. It is also available in Hebrew.
An Israeli campaign against the deal will further damage Israel-US relations
Dr. Ilai Saltzman, The Mitvim Institute and Claremont McKenna College
The signing of a nuclear deal with Iran will further aggravate the already tense relations between Israel and the US regardless of the exact details of the agreement or the nature of the mechanisms put in place to make it work. To be more specific, this dramatic development will bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama further apart. The Prime Minister presented no coherent and practical alternative; he merely advocated maintaining the sanctions against Iran and dismantling its nuclear program, even by force. This “all or nothing” approach was utterly unacceptable and unfeasible from Obama’s vantage point and mutual criticism lasted until the very last minute.
The signing of the nuclear agreement will mark a new stage in Netanyahu’s anti-agreement crusade. Given the fact the American Congress will now have 60 days to review and assess the signed accords before lifting the sanctions on Iran, we should expect a massive Israeli campaign against its approval. While Netanyahu will not be invited to give another anti-agreement speech on Capitol Hill, he will use every possible asset to prevent Congress from lifting the sanctions. Netanyahu’s proxies including Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and AIPAC will engage every legislator, Republican or Democrat, and will be extremely vocal in the public sphere, criticizing the agreement and the president’s handling of the negotiations.
Regardless of the outcomes of the battle in Congress, one obvious casualty will be US-Israel relations. Israel has become a partisan political issue, dividing Congress and the Jewish community, forcing people to choose between their President and their support of Israel, as Netanyahu’s speech in Congress vividly showed. Obama will do anything in his power to prevent Congress from interfering in what he believes to be one of the most significant diplomatic achievements of his administration. The crossfire will certainly take its toll and the only question is the exact price Israel will pay.
Netanyahu’s maximalist and uncompromising approach throughout the nuclear talks left Israel marginalized and disengaged from the negotiations. In the post-deal period, the Israeli government must engage the Administration in good faith and regain access to the decision-making process, in order to influence the way the agreement is enforced and Iran’s nuclear facilities are monitored. Moreover, in the long-term, Israel should seek a reversal of Iran’s destabilizing policies in the region through encouraging US-Iranian rapprochement induced by the nuclear agreement.
A veto-proof majority in Congress against the deal is unlikely
Brian Reeves, The Mitvim Institute
Now, that an Iranian nuclear deal has been reached, the US Congress must decide whether it risks being a hindrance or abettor to this historic compromise. Particularly in the Senate, where it can still plausibly go either way on whether the chamber can muster a veto-proof, two-thirds majority against an agreement, the reputation of many Democratic members on the fence hangs in the balance.
With this in mind, recent statements from leading senators appear to corroborate the prevailing assessment that this two-thirds majority cannot be achieved. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) repeatedly called an expected deal a “hard sell,” but refused to impart a more forceful response. Senior Senator Lindsey Graham (R) contended he was in favor of the interim deal and applauded Secretary John Kerry’s efforts, while qualifying these comments with a formulaic critique of President Obama’s supposed willingness to give concessions. Senior Democratic Senator and known hawk on Iran, Robert Menendez, voiced his concerns but would not rule out support for a deal.
Given the influence of these three senators, their statements are of considerable import. They each demonstrate pains to hedge their bets on the passing and long-term success of a deal, and more importantly to help prepare their constituencies for coming to terms with that deal. This latter, critical aspect of helping one’s nation take advantage of any new, significant reality is now also being practiced by Iranian President Rouhani.
With a deal soon to be reached and under review in Congress, Israel’s leadership now has a choice. It can either continue to level unrestrained rebuke at its American counterparts and pronounce doomsday predictions. Or it can still voice its legitimate concerns, but through language and actions mindful of its relationship with the US, while preparing new regional policies and its citizens for both the challenges and opportunities that this new paradigm in the Middle East may present. If strategy, not ideology, is to prevail, then it should adopt the second option.
The international community can now re-engage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Dr. Nimrod Goren, The Mitvim Institute and the Hebrew University
Israeli politicians, from the coalition and opposition alike, were quick to state unequivocally that the deal poses grave danger to Israel. They did so before even having the chance to read the text of the final agreement. This is characteristic of Israeli statesmanship, which tends to emphasize the risks and the negative aspects of international and regional developments. The problem with this approach is that it lessens the ability to identify opportunities in a timely manner. Moreover, it tends to create tensions between Israel and its Western allies, which often distance Israel from international decision-making processes relating to international issues of historical significance.
Israel would be wise to react positively to the efforts invested by the six world powers, among which are Israel’s two greatest allies – the US and Germany, to address a major security threat that Israel faces. Israel would also be wise to refrain from launching a new struggle against the deal that has been reached. Instead, and despite its reservations from the deal, Israel should now work together with the US and the broader international community, and seek to leverage the deal to promote its diplomatic and security interests.
The fact that a deal has been reached on the Iranian nuclear program also means that the international community’s self-imposed hiatus from dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has come to an end. As a result of the recent Israeli elections and the negotiations with Iran, international efforts on this issue have been frozen for over half a year. However, Israel did not use this respite to propose its own framework for advancing the two-state solution and now, the international powers are likely to return to these issues with greater urgency and perhaps in a more coordinated fashion in light of their successful model of joint negotiations vis-à-vis the Iranians.
In the coming months, the US and the Europeans are expected to promote initiatives that will bring more clarity to the parameters for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the potential fruits of peace, and the prices of its absence. Israel should be as engaged as possible in the shaping of these efforts and should avoid slamming the door on its Western allies, as she did on the Iranian nuclear talks. If the current Israeli government does not do so, the Opposition will have an opportunity to carve a significant political-diplomatic role for itself, vis-à-vis both the international community and the Israeli public.
Iran’s regional role after the deal: Fighting IS while promoting a “Shi’i Crescent”
Prof. Moshe Ma’oz, The Hebrew University and the Mitvim Institute
The nuclear deal will increase Iran’s strategic, political and economic power.The crucial question is whetheror not Tehran will employ its new advantages to advance stability in the Middle East and to settle its ideological and strategic disputes with Sunni Muslim countries.
Iran is likely to expand its military and economic efforts to contain, if not defeat, IS forces in Iraq and Syria, which are threatening Tehran's allies in Baghdad, Damascus and Hizballah, and are also main factors of regional instability. By doing so, it will contribute to regional stability. But simultaneously, Iran is likely to continue its regional “Shi'i Crescent” strategy, which widens frictions between Shi'is and Sunnis in several Arab countries, thus also contributing to instability.
Shi'i Iran by no means can afford to forsake the most important Shi'i shrines in Najaf and Karbala (Southern Iraq) and the majority (60%) Shi'i state of Iraq. Nor could Tehran abandon its Alawi (pseudo-Shi'i) ally in Damascus, being a crucial link to its Shi'i proxy, Hizballah, in Lebanon, as well as to its “Shi'i Crescent" strategy. Indeed, it may be also predicted that Iran will also use its new grand position to strengthen its would-be Shi'i Crescent by fostering the Shi'i communities in oil-producing Gulf state such as Bahrain, Kuwait and even Saudi Arabia, as well as Yemen.
In view of this possible scenario, Israel should find ways to establish a solid strategic cooperation with Sunni-Muslim states in the region aiming at curbing this common Shi'i threat. A major condition for such strategic cooperation is for Israel to settle the Palestinian problem. Such bold policy may also reduce Iran's immense antagonism to Israel.
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President Rivlin makes ‘Israeli Hope: Towards a new Israeli order’ address at the 15th Annual Herzliya Conference, marking a year since his election.
In the speech, the President stressed;
The make-up of the ‘stakeholders’ of Israeli society, and of the State of Israel, is changing before our eyes In the State of Israel the basic systems that form people's consciousness are tribal and separate, and will most likely remain so If we do not reduce the current gaps in the rate of participation in the work force and in the salary levels of the Arab and Haredi populations - who are soon to become one half of the work force - Israel will not be able to continue to be a developed economy.
The President posed the following challenging questions;
Are we, the members of the Zionist population, able to accept the fact that two significant groups, a half of the future population of Israel, do not define themselves as Zionists? They do not watch the torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl on Independence Day. They do not sing the national anthem with eyes glistening.
Are we willing to give up military service, as an entry ticket into Israeli society and economy, and settle for civilian or community service?
Are the Arab and Haredi publics willing to commit to contributing their share in molding Israeli identity and the Israeli economy, and to participating in civil national and community service, with a sense of responsibility and commitment?
The President stressed that;
The Haredi, the secular, the religious, or the Arab individual must not feel that the issues most sensitive to them are in danger or under threat.
The sense of security that my basic identity is not threatened is a fundamental prerequisite for the ability of each one of us to hold out a hand to the other.
No tribe is exempt from proposing solutions to deal with the challenge of defending the security of the State; from facing the economic challenges, or maintaining the international status of Israel as a member of the family of nations. Partnership demands responsibility.
The developing Israeli mosaic offers a tremendous opportunity. It encompasses cultural richness, inspiration, humanity and sensitivity.
President Reuven Rivlin this afternoon, (Sunday), addressed the 15th annual Herzliya Conference of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at IDC Herzliya, marking the first year of his term as the Tenth President of the State of Israel. In the speech, entitled "Israeli Hope: Towards a new Israeli order", the President spoke about the various developments within the different camps in Israeli society, and of the obligation as a society to actively work to expand the partnership and cooperation as a crucial prerequisite for the State of Israel. The President warned against the deterioration of Israeli society in light of the demographic trends and the alienation between the various groups in the society; Haredim, Arabs, national religious Jews, and secular.
The President said, “I have never regarded, nor will I ever regard any persons or groups comprising Israeli society as a danger, or, God forbid, as a threat. But, I am standing here today, because I have identified a very real threat in our collective suppression of the transformations that Israeli society has been undergoing in recent decades; in neglecting to confront what I call the ‘new Israeli order’, the significance of which I want to deal with today.”
The President continued, “In the 1990s (as can be seen in the slide behind me), Israeli society comprised a clear and firm majority, with minority groups alongside it. A large secular Zionist majority, and beside it three minority groups: a national-religious minority, an Arab minority, and a Haredi minority. Although this pattern remains frozen in the minds of much of the Israeli public, in the press, in the political system, all the while, the reality has totally changed.
“Today, the first grade classes are composed of about 38% secular Jews, about 15% national religious, about one quarter Arabs, and close to a quarter Haredim. While it is true that numbers and definitions are dynamic, neither identities nor birth-rates remain static over time. But one thing is clear, the demographic processes that are restructuring or redesigning the shape of Israeli society, have, in fact, created a ‘new Israeli order’. A reality in which there is no longer a clear majority, nor clear minority groups. A reality in which Israeli society is comprised of four population sectors, or, if you will, four principal ‘tribes’, essentially different from each other, and growing closer in size. Whether we like it or not, the make-up of the ‘stakeholders’ of Israeli society, and of the State of Israel, is changing before our eyes.”
The President added, “In the State of Israel the basic systems that form people's consciousness are tribal and separate, and will most likely remain so. The ‘new Israeli order’ is not a creative sociological differentiation; it is, rather, a reality with far-reaching consequences for our national resilience, for the future of us all. From an economic viewpoint, the current reality is not viable. The mathematics is simple, any child can see it. If we do not reduce the current gaps in the rate of participation in the work force and in the salary levels of the Arab and Haredi populations - who are soon to become one half of the work force - Israel will not be able to continue to be a developed economy. The severe and painful epidemic of poverty that is already having a major effect in Israel, will only expand and worsen.”
The President concluded by saying, “During my first year in office, I have worked to rouse each sector among us, to see the other sector - even when difficult - to hear the other sector, even when it grates on ones ears. To hold out a hand to them. At the end of that year, I now stand here before you, seeking to say these things openly and clearly, feeling deeply that Israeli society is today in need of a wake-up call. I call on you all today to join me in facing this challenge. I am a partner to anyone ready and willing to play their part in this task. I am here at your service, at the service of all of Israeli society. Only in this way, together and in partnership, shall we be able to rekindle the Israeli hope.”
In his speech, the President highlighted the need for four key principles of partnership for Israeli society:
The first is a sense of security for each sector, that entry into this partnership does not require giving up basic elements of their identity. The Haredi, the secular, the religious, or the Arab individual must not feel that the issues most sensitive to them are in danger or under threat. Whether this be the Haredi way of education in the Yeshivot; the national religious concept of redemption; the liberal lifestyle of a secular Jew, or the Arab-Palestinian identity. The sense of security that my basic identity is not threatened is a fundamental prerequisite for the ability of each one of us to hold out a hand to the other. To understand their pain and fears. The ability of us all, to establish a partnership here between the various sectors. We cannot do this unless we can learn to know each other, unless we gain an understanding of the most sensitive issues of each sector, and learn how to respect and safeguard them – even when this is difficult or even frustrating.
The second pillar is shared responsibility. When no tribe is a minority, no side can escape bearing responsibility for the destiny and the future of the State of Israel, and of Israeli society in general. So, no tribe is exempt from proposing solutions to deal with the challenge of defending the security of the State; from facing the economic challenges, or maintaining the international status of Israel as a member of the family of nations. Partnership demands responsibility.
The third pillar, is equity and equality. In order to ensure the partnership between us, we must ensure that no citizen is discriminated against, nor favored, simply because they belong to a specific sector. The current situation of structural gaps between the partners, whether in budgets, infrastructures or land, is intolerable. There are clear tribal aspects to poverty in Israel, and the majority of senior positions in the economy are held by the members of one or two sectors. In such a situation it is not possible to build a shared future here. In order to create a strong basis for the partnership between us, we will have to ensure an accessible ‘Israeli dream’ that can be realized by each and every young person, judged only on the basis of their talents, and not according to their ethnic or social origins.
The fourth, and the most challenging pillar, is the creation of a shared Israeli character - a shared ‘Israeliness’. Despite the challenges the ‘new Israeli order’ poses, we must recognize that we are not condemned to be punished by the developing Israeli mosaic – but rather it offers a tremendous opportunity. It encompasses cultural richness, inspiration, humanity and sensitivity. We must not allow the ‘new Israeli order’ to cajole us into sectarianism and separation. We must not give up on the concept of ‘Israeliness’; we should rather open up its gates and expand its language.
The President’s speech marked a year since his election to office, and a year of activity in the field of building and encouraging educational, economic and social cooperation across Israeli society. Accordingly, the the Herzliya Conference of the Institute for Policy and Strategy, in close cooperation with the President's office has created a steering committee composed of public figures and opinion leaders, along with academics and business executives from all sectors of Israeli society.
Over the next year, the committee will meet to discuss four subjects which will be held in four communities representing the main 'tribes' within Israeli society.
On the eve of the 2016 Herzliya Conference, the steering committee will submit a report to the President that will include lines of agreement and disagreement, as well as policy recommendations in the following four issues:
Equality, rights and obligations of the new Israeli agenda (service, budgeting, land, etc) The community and state within the new Israeli agenda (education, public sphere, "cultural autonomy") Joint economy and society in the new Israeli agenda (fighting poverty, equal opportunity, and the "Israeli dream") What is a "joint Israeli society" in the new Israeli agenda? (Symbols / ceremonies, education).
The full report (4 chapters) shall be submitted to the President, leading up to the 2016 Herzliya Conference, during which an extended discussion will take place with Ministers and Members of Knesset, looking at the report's findings and recommendations, entitled "Israeli Hope: Towards a New Israeli Agenda".
The committee's work will be accompanied by a process of public participation process in which the public will be asked questions on the subjects of the various sessions through an internet platform. Furthermore, a public opinion survey with key questions about the above issues will take place.
PM Netanyahu: The threats in the region also create opportunities. We will take every opportunity to translate regional cooperation into processes for stability and peace, including attempts to reach a responsible political settlement with the Palestinians.
President Reuven Rivlin today (Tuesday, 19 May 2015), together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stood for the traditional photograph at the President's Residence with the ministers of the newly sworn-in 34th Government of Israel.
At the beginning of the event, the President and Prime Minister delivered brief statements, and toasted, with the ministers, the success of the new government.
President Rivlin began by referring to the great challenges that face the new government, "There are governments that receive a grace period of one hundred days. However, there are great challenges that this government must deal with from the outset, without a 100 day grace period. Previous governments did not face such challenges in the same way or with the same intensity. With regard to foreign affairs, you are required to deal with international pressure in a manner that demands endurance and the ability to make considered decisions which will not lead the State of Israel to isolation, but will preserve the red lines of Israeli diplomacy. On the domestic front, you face the urgent and crucial mission to present a budget which will provide an answer to the social and economic needs of the citizens of Israel - from housing and employment to welfare."
President Rivlin addressed the ministers and spoke of the criticism of the size of the government. He said, "On your shoulders rests the task and the duty to prove your ability to manage the affairs of the state with its complexities and sensitivities, for the benefit of all citizens. Much noise was made on the issue of the size of the government which was sworn in, and ostensibly relating to its legitimacy. However, in Israeli democracy a government of sixty-one Members of Knesset is as democratic and legitimate as a government of ninety Members of Knesset. We must remember that the most dramatic moves in Israel's political history, including the Oslo Agreement, were decided by a single vote. Equally today, we must respect and obey the rule of democracy. A narrow government must be, and is able to be, a good government as long as it is faithful to its internal cohesion, and to the public interests of all the citizens of Israel."
The President concluded by wishing the new government success, "On my own behalf and on behalf of citizens of Israel, I want to wish success to the Prime Minister and all the new ministers and Members of Knesset in general. Together with all the people, I am filled with hope and prayers for your success."
Prime Minster Netanyahu said, "Also for the fourth time, just as the first, I am greatly moved and honored to present to you today, the ministers of the Government of Israel. This government has been established at a time of great challenges and opportunities. Our first challenge is to ensure the security of Israel in the face of accumulating threats around us. Radical Islam is lapping at all our borders, nearly all in the form of factions and forces led by Iran and other radical elements. At the same time, aided by the agreement proposed to it, Iran is making progress in achieving a nuclear weapon. All the enemies of Israel know that in the face of these threats, we have red lines.
Until today, Mr. President, we have been successful in keeping Israel out of the turmoil and atrocities affecting the region. We will continue to guard the security of Israel. The threats in the region also create opportunities. Many states around us have common interests with us, they see eye to eye with us on the dangers, and they see Israel as central partner in fending them off. We will make every effort to translate this cooperation into processes for stability and peace, including attempts to reach a responsible political settlement with the Palestinians, which will safeguard Israel's essential interests. We will continue to promote deeper ties with the US Administration and the American people. Even at times of disagreements, this bond is stronger than any difference of opinion.
"Mr. President, the welfare of the citizens of Israel is our top priority. We will work to reduce the cost of living, and the cost of housing. Already today, at the cabinet meeting which took place this morning at the Israel Museum, we made decisions aimed at these goals.
"The People of Israel returned to its land, and established here the State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic state, a state which preserves the rule of law and respects every human being. Here in our eternal capital of Jerusalem, the Prophets of Israel embedded the eternal values of humanity, but also embedded the eternal values of our people – to which we are committed in each generation. I am proud to be the Prime Minister of Israel, and I will do all in my power, together with my ministers, to honor the mandate we have been given by the citizens of Israel. There is nothing more valuable than that."
On March 31, sixteen recently elected Arab and Druze Knesset members were sworn in and took their seats in the 20th Knesset. Of this group, 12 belong to "the Joint List" while each of the remaining four represent different Jewish-Zionist parties, including the center-left Zionist Camp, the left-wing opposition Meretz, the victorious Likud (led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu), and Yisrael Beitenu, a member of the previous governing coalition. This is the largest number of Arab and Druze MKs elected to the Knesset since its establishment in 1949. Perhaps even more noteworthy, the Joint List, which is now the Arab public's major political representative body in the Knesset, is the third largest faction in parliament, with a total of 13 seats (including 1 Jewish MK), trailing only Likud (with 30 seats) and the Zionist Camp (with 24).
The Moshe Dayan Center publishes TEL AVIV NOTES, an analytical update on current affairs in the Middle East, on approximately the 10th and 26th of every month, as well as occasional Special Editions.
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President Reuven Rivlin, on Sunday evening, met with Nobel Peace Prize winner and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. During their discussions, the two discussed a range of issues facing Israel, and spoke about the long history of Israel-US relations. The President thanked Mr. Kissinger for the meeting and said, "We appreciate you and cherish your opinions and positions. The leadership you displayed throughout your many roles was inspiring. You stood alongside Israel in both good times and bad, and while of course we did not always see eye to eye on everything, we always felt your concern and desire for the prosperity of the State of Israel."
Mr. Kissinger expressed great interest in processes currently taking place in the Middle East, and the various options to initiate a renewal of the peace process.
At the conclusion of the meeting, they exchanged views on soccer, and discussed recent games they had seen.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met in NYC, Jan. 25, 2015.
To the nations that continue to allow prejudice to prevail over truth, I say "J'accuse." I accuse you of hypocrisy. I accuse you of duplicity. I accuse you of lending legitimacy to those who seek to destroy our State.
I stand before the world as a proud representative of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I stand tall before you knowing that truth and morality are on my side. And yet, I stand here knowing that today in this Assembly, truth will be turned on its head and morality cast aside.
The fact of the matter is that when members of the international community speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a fog descends to cloud all logic and moral clarity. The result isn't realpolitik, its surrealpolitik.
The world's unrelenting focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an injustice to tens of millions of victims of tyranny and terrorism in the Middle East. As we speak, Yazidis, Bahai, Kurds, Christians and Muslims are being executed and expelled by radical extremists at a rate of 1,000 people per month.
How many resolutions did you pass last week to address this crisis? And how many special sessions did you call for? The answer is zero. What does this say about international concern for human life? Not much, but it speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of the international community.
I stand before you to speak the truth. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, less than half a percent are truly free - and they are all citizens of Israel. Israeli Arabs are some of the most educated Arabs in the world. They are our leading physicians and surgeons, they are elected to our parliament, and they serve as judges on our Supreme Court. Millions of men and women in the Middle East would welcome these opportunities and freedoms.
Nonetheless, nation after nation, will stand at this podium today and criticize Israel - the small island of democracy in a region plagued by tyranny and oppression.
Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state.
Sixty seven years ago this week, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Simple. The Jews said yes. The Arabs said no. But they didn't just say no. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon launched a war of annihilation against our newborn state.
This is the historical truth that the Arabs are trying to distort. The Arabs' historic mistake continues to be felt - in lives lost in war, lives lost to terrorism, and lives scarred by the Arab's narrow political interests.
According to the United Nations, about 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in the war initiated by the Arabs themselves. At the same time, some 850,000 Jews were forced to flee from Arab countries.
Why is it, that 67 years later, the displacement of the Jews has been completely forgotten by this institution while the displacement of the Palestinians is the subject of an annual debate? The difference is that Israel did its utmost to integrate the Jewish refugees into society. The Arabs did just the opposite.
The worst oppression of the Palestinian people takes place in Arab nations. In most of the Arab world, Palestinians are denied citizenship and are aggressively discriminated against. They are barred from owning land and prevented from entering certain professions.
And yet none - not one - of these crimes are mentioned in the resolutions before you.
If you were truly concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people there would be one, just one, resolution to address the thousands of Palestinians killed in Syria. And if you were so truly concerned about the Palestinians there would be at least one resolution to denounce the treatment of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps.
But there isn't. The reason is that today's debate is not about speaking for peace or speaking for the Palestinian people - it is about speaking against Israel. It is nothing but a hate and bashing festival against Israel.
The European nations claim to stand for Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité - freedom, equality, and brotherhood - but nothing could be farther from the truth.
I often hear European leaders proclaim that Israel has the right to exist in secure borders. That's very nice. But I have to say - it makes about as much sense as me standing here and proclaiming Sweden's right to exist in secure borders.
When it comes to matters of security, Israel learned the hard way that we cannot rely on others - certainly not Europe.
In 1973, on Yom Kippur - the holiest day on the Jewish calendar - the surrounding Arab nations launched an attack against Israel. In the hours before the war began, Golda Meir, our Prime Minister then, made the difficult decision not to launch a preemptive strike. The Israeli Government understood that if we launched a preemptive strike, we would lose the support of the international community.
As the Arab armies advanced on every front, the situation in Israel grew dire. Our casualty count was growing and we were running dangerously low on weapons and ammunition. In this, our hour of need, President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, agreed to send Galaxy planes loaded with tanks and ammunition to resupply our troops. The only problem was that the Galaxy planes needed to refuel on route to Israel.
The Arab States were closing in and our very existence was threatened - and yet, Europe was not even willing to let the planes refuel. The U.S. stepped in once again and negotiated that the planes be allowed to refuel in the Azores. The government and people of Israel will never forget that when our very existence was at stake, only one country came to our aid - the United States of America.
Israel is tired of hollow promises from European leaders. The Jewish people have a long memory. We will never ever forget that you failed us in the 1940s. You failed us in 1973. And you are failing us again today.
Every European parliament that voted to prematurely and unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state is giving the Palestinians exactly what they want - statehood without peace. By handing them a state on a silver platter, you are rewarding unilateral actions and taking away any incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate or compromise or renounce violence. You are sending the message that the Palestinian Authority can sit in a government with terrorists and incite violence against Israel without paying any price.
The first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state was Sweden. One has to wonder why the Swedish Government was so anxious to take this step. When it comes to other conflicts in our region, the Swedish Government calls for direct negotiations between the parties - but for the Palestinians, surprise, surprise, they roll out the red carpet. State Secretary Söder may think she is here to celebrate her government's so-called historic recognition, when in reality it's nothing more than an historic mistake.
The Swedish Government may host the Nobel Prize ceremony, but there is nothing noble about their cynical political campaign to appease the Arabs in order to get a seat on the Security Council. Nations on the Security Council should have sense, sensitivity, and sensibility. Well, the Swedish Government has shown no sense, no sensitivity and no sensibility. Just nonsense.
Israel learned the hard way that listening to the international community can bring about devastating consequences. In 2005, we unilaterally dismantled every settlement and removed every citizen from the Gaza Strip. Did this bring us any closer to peace? Not at all. It paved the way for Iran to send its terrorist proxies to establish a terror stronghold on our doorstep.
I can assure you that we won't make the same mistake again. When it comes to our security, we cannot and will not rely on others - Israel must be able to defend itself by itself.
The State of Israel is the land of our forefathers - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the land where Moses led the Jewish people, where David built his palace, where Solomon built the Jewish Temple, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace.
For thousands of years, Jews have lived continuously in the land of Israel. We endured through the rise and fall of the Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman Empires. And we endured through thousands of years of persecution, expulsions and crusades. The bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land is unbreakable.
Nothing can change one simple truth - Israel is our home and Jerusalem is our eternal capital.
At the same time, we recognize that Jerusalem has special meaning for other faiths. Under Israeli sovereignty, all people - and I will repeat that, all people - regardless of religion and nationality can visit the city's holy sites. And we intend to keep it this way. The only ones trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount are Palestinian leaders.
President Abbas is telling his people that Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount. He has called for days of rage and urged Palestinians to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount using (quote) "all means" necessary. These words are as irresponsible as they are unacceptable.
You don't have to be Catholic to visit the Vatican, you don't have to be Jewish to visit the Western Wall, but some Palestinians would like to see the day when only Muslims can visit the Temple Mount.
You, the international community, are lending a hand to extremists and fanatics. You, who preach tolerance and religious freedom, should be ashamed. Israel will never let this happen. We will make sure that the holy places remain open to all people of all faiths for all time.
No one wants peace more than Israel. No one needs to explain the importance of peace to parents who have sent their child to defend our homeland. No one knows the stakes of success or failure better than we Israelis do. The people of Israel have shed too many tears and buried too many sons and daughters.
We are ready for peace, but we are not naïve. Israel's security is paramount. Only a strong and secure Israel can achieve a comprehensive peace.
The past month should make it clear to anyone that Israel has immediate and pressing security needs. In recent weeks, Palestinian terrorists have shot and stabbed our citizens and twice driven their cars into crowds of pedestrians. Just a few days ago, terrorists armed with axes and a gun savagely attacked Jewish worshipers during morning prayers. We have reached the point when Israelis can't even find sanctuary from terrorism in the sanctuary of a synagogue.
These attacks didn't emerge out of a vacuum. They are the results of years of indoctrination and incitement. A Jewish proverb teaches: "The instruments of both death and life are in the power of the tongue."
As a Jew and as an Israeli, I know with utter certainly that when our enemies say they want to attack us, they mean it.
Hamas's genocidal charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews worldwide. For years, Hamas and other terrorist groups have sent suicide bombers into our cities, launched rockets into our towns, and sent terrorists to kidnap and murder our citizens.
And what about the Palestinian Authority? It is leading a systemic campaign of incitement. In schools, children are being taught that 'Palestine' will stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. In mosques, religious leaders are spreading vicious libels accusing Jews of destroying Muslim holy sites. In sports stadiums, teams are named after terrorists. And in newspapers, cartoons urge Palestinians to commit terror attacks against Israelis.
Children in most of the world grow up watching cartoons of Mickey Mouse singing and dancing. Palestinian children also grow up watching Mickey Mouse, but on Palestinians national television, a twisted figure dressed as Mickey Mouse dances in an explosive belt and chants "Death to America and death to the Jews."
I challenge you to stand up here today and do something constructive for a change. Publically denounce the violence, denounce the incitement, and denounce the culture of hate.
Most people believe that at its core, the conflict is a battle between Jews and Arabs or Israelis and Palestinians. They are wrong. The battle that we are witnessing is a battle between those who sanctify life and those who celebrate death.
Following the savage attack in a Jerusalem synagogue, celebrations erupted in Palestinian towns and villages. People were dancing in the street and distributing candy. Young men posed with axes, loudspeakers at mosques called out congratulations, and the terrorists were hailed as "martyrs" and "heroes."
This isn't the first time that we saw the Palestinians celebrate the murder of innocent civilians. We saw them rejoice after every terrorist attack on Israeli civilians and they even took to the streets to celebrate the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center right here in New York City.
Imagine the type of state this society would produce. Does the Middle East really need another terror-ocracy? Some members of the international community are aiding and abetting its creation.
As we came into the United Nations, we passed the flags of all 193 member States. If you take the time to count, you will discover that there are 15 flags with a crescent and 25 flags with a cross. And then there is one flag with a Jewish Star of David. Amidst all the nations of the world there is one state - just one small nation state for the Jewish people.
And for some people, that is one too many.
As I stand before you today I am reminded of all the years when Jewish people paid for the world's ignorance and indifference in blood. Those days are no more. We will never apologize for being a free and independent people in our sovereign state. And we will never apologize for defending ourselves.
To the nations that continue to allow prejudice to prevail over truth, I say "J'accuse." I accuse you of hypocrisy. I accuse you of duplicity. I accuse you of lending legitimacy to those who seek to destroy our State. I accuse you of speaking about Israel's right of self-defense in theory, but denying it in practice. And I accuse you of demanding concessions from Israel, but asking nothing of the Palestinians.
In the face of these offenses, the verdict is clear. You are not for peace and you are not for the Palestinian people. You are simply against Israel.
Members of the international community have a choice to make.
You can recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, or permit the Palestinian leadership to deny our history without consequence.
You can publically proclaim that the so-called "claim of return" is a non-starter, or you can allow this claim to remain the major obstacle to any peace agreement.
You can work to end Palestinian incitement, or stand by as hatred and extremism take root for generations to come.
You can prematurely recognize a Palestinian state, or you can encourage the Palestinian Authority to break its pact with Hamas and return to direct negotiations.
The choice is yours. You can continue to steer the Palestinians off course or pave the way to real and lasting peace.
Egypt's President ʿAbdel Fattah al-Sisi's harsh attitude towards Hamas, which he treats as an enemy, is conditioned by the circumstances that brought him to power in July 2013. One year after the election of Mohammed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party to the office of president, Sisi ousted him in the name of "the people's will" (eradat al-shaʿb). After assuming power, Sisi declared war on the Muslim Brotherhood. He outlawed the movement, declared it a terrorist organization, and then ruthlessly pursued jihadi terrorist groups in the Sinai. Sisi has made little distinction between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian offshoot, Hamas. He has destroyed hundreds of Hamas tunnels used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip, and from Gaza to the global jihadi groups active in Sinai.
Sisi has devoted much of his time and energy to rehabilitating Egypt after almost four chaotic years of political turmoil.The economy is on the brink of collapse, poverty has swelled, and the number of the unemployed – 70% of which are youth, between the ages of 15-29 – increased. Tourism, one of the drivers of the Egyptian economy, has declined precipitously in the absence of public security. Last week, during a visit to Ismailia, Sisi announced his plan to expand the Suez Canal with a 45 mile parallel waterway in order to increase capacity through Suez from 49 to 97 ships per day. This ambitious project will add four new seaports, a new industrial zone, and a "technology valley." It is expected to create one million new jobs and will be financed by the private Egyptian sector as well as by loans from neighboring allies. Sisi declared that the first phase of the project will be completed by July 26, 2015, the 59th anniversary of Gamal ʿAbdel Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal. The date is no coincidence, as Sisi has been actively cultivating an image of himself as the new Gamal ʿAbdel Nasser.
Sisi recognizes that although he is perceived as someone capable of restoring stability, security and economic growth to Egypt, he does not have unlimited time or authority. Ibrahim Daoud, in the daily newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabea, noted that "the president understands that his people, who have put two presidents in prison...will not hesitate to do it a third time if the president will follow one of their paths." Young activists in Egypt have also launched a number of websites under the name "Sisimeter" to "serve as a measure of the achievements of the president."
Therefore, Egypt's position during Israel's military operation against Hamas ("Operation Protective Edge") should be understood in the context of Egypt's internal challenges and Sisi's position as a president "on probation." Sisi perceives Hamas as an affiliate to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood that is threatening Egypt's borders and endangering its security. He also views Hamas as jeopardizing Egypt's attempts to revive tourism in the Sinai and improve the socio-economic standing of the Bedouin population in the peninsula.
The Sinai population was neglected for generations by the various regimes in Egypt and, as a result, many have supported the jihadi groups active in the northern Sinai, near Gaza. Sisi believes Hamas was responsible for attacks by these groups on the Egyptian military and security services. In February 2011, following Mubarak's ouster, several Egyptian police officers were abducted in the Sinai and reportedly held hostage in the Gaza Strip, where they were used as a bargaining chip for the release of political prisoners. In August 2012, an attack in Rafah killed 16 Egyptian soldiers during the Iftar meal (that follows the Ramadan day-time fast). Additionally, in May 2013, seven Egyptian soldiers were abducted in Rafah: the incident was intended to embarrass Sisi, who was serving as Defense Minister.
Just over two weeks ago, on July 23, Sisi delivered an important speech to mark the anniversary of the 1952 Egyptian Free Officers Revolution that brought Gamal ʿAbdel Nasser to power. Sisi used the occasion to refute the claim that Egypt was turning its back on the Palestinian people. He stated that throughout the long history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Egypt has sacrificed one hundred thousand people for the Palestinian cause. Sisi criticized Hamas for adhering to armed resistance (muqawama), declaring that after forty years of going in this direction, it was time to stop and weigh the balance of achievements and failures. He concluded with the unequivocal declaration that Egypt's policy would be governed by Egypt's national security needs.
The Egyptian media has stood behind Sisi's position, conveying the unambiguous message of "Egypt first" (misr awalan). In other words, Egypt's difficult economic and social problems should take priority over the troubles of their Palestinian brethren. " Mashʿal [Hamas Political Bureau head], we are tired of defending the Palestinian cause...We have enough problems of our own," wrote Hamdi Rizq in his column in Al-Masry Al-Youm.ʿAmr al-Shobaki, another columnist, stated that "no one should place the Egyptian army in an external war that has nothing to do with the protection of its national land." Mahmoud Sultan, one of the editors of Al-Mesryoon, wondered "how a hungry civilian, deprived of health care and proper education, who does not sleep safely in his home, is not healthy, and has nothing to feed his children, can be asked to soldier in the battle for the liberation of Jerusalem?"
According to Sisi's supporters, this policy does not contradict the solidarity and empathy they feel towards the Palestinian people in general and those residing in the Gaza Strip in particular, because Palestine is not just Gaza and Gaza is not just Hamas. Egypt, they emphasize, differentiates between the Palestinian people and their leaders. Hamas, they say, has abandoned the Palestinian national interest, works for foreign interests – primarily those of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Iran – and has forsaken the Palestinian people in their quest for power.
Some Egyptian analysts view Egypt's behavior as an attempt to drive a wedge between the Palestinian public in the Gaza Strip and Hamas, in order to prove that the election of Hamas in 2006 was a mistake. Doing so would pave the way for the return of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, who hopefully would rescue Gaza from the disaster brought upon it by the Hamas leadership. For these Egyptians, Abbas, who has long given up the option of armed struggle and chosen to pursue the goal of Palestinian statehood through negotiations – reminds them of Egypt's late president Anwar Sadat. Sadat ultimately abandoned war after 1973, which had exhausted the Egyptian people and impoverished it, and chose peace as an alternative, through which Egypt was able to restore its dignity and territory.
In this spirit, Gamal Abu Hassan published an article in Al-Masry Al-Youm one day after Sisi's speech, titled "Why Don't the Egyptians shed tears for Gaza?", Egypt, he stated, is opposed to the self-proclaimed "heroic" strategy of Hamas and believes that its disadvantages outweigh its advantages. In fact, he claims, Egypt hasn't changed its position on the Palestinian issue in the last three years, since it realized the risks entailed by the "Resistance" strategy. Egypt, Abu Hassan emphasized, has adopted a different strategy, which has proven to be much more effective in this complex conflict.
Egypt's official policy regarding Hamas naturally affects its position towards Israel as well. The sympathetic opinions voiced in Egypt's state-run media regarding Israel's posture towards Hamas even before "Operation Protective Edge" were unprecedented. Tawfik Okasha, the principal anchor and owner of the Al-Faraʿeen satellite television channel, said, "I'm taking my hat off to Israel, and I'm telling the Israeli army, people, and leadership – you are men." This expression of naked admiration notwithstanding, Egypt's position towards Israel during its conflict with Hamas is driven by raison d'état. Egyptian Petroleum Minister, Sherif Ismaʿil, told the Egyptian Daily News that importing gas from Israel "is a must... whatever is in Egypt's interest must be implemented immediately, as we are dealing with an energy crisis. The president and the government working indirectly with Israel is no longer taboo." Furthermore, in the security realm, Sisi's Egypt has been persistent in its destruction of the tunnels connecting Sinai to Gaza, consistently thwarted attempts to fire missiles from Sinai into Israel, and stopped suicide bombers' attempts to cross into Israel and carry out attacks. The Rafah crossing has been tightly managed, and only opened for infrequent, short periods of time for humanitarian purposes.
None of these measures have led to mass protests in the Egyptian streets. It seems as though most sectors of Egyptian society realize that the increasingly tight economic and security cooperation with Israel is indeed in Egypt's interest. The Tamarud movement has been an exception, calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Cairo. There have also been isolated individual and group initiatives to collect donations for people in the Gaza Strip, but this support for the suffering of the Gazan people is not necessarily an expression of support for Hamas. It seems that when faced with the choice between the Egyptian home and the Muslim collective, between the uncompromising defense of the Egyptian border in Sinai and the protection of Gaza and its inhabitants, Egyptians have, for the time being, chosen "Egypt first."
Mira Tzoreff is a Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies (MDC), Tel Aviv University.
 Summer Said and Nicolas Parasie, "Suez Canal Set for First Major Expansion," The Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2014.
 Dina Ezzat, "Mega Projects make a Comeback," Al-Ahram Weekly, August 7, 2014.
 Y. Graff, "Egyptian Intellectuals Columnists Warn against al-Sisi Presidential Candidacy," Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 1079, March 28, 2014.
 Ahmed Fouad, "'Sisimeter' Keeps Tabs on Egypt's new president," Al-Monitor, June 6, 2014.
 Al-Masry Al-Youm, July 10, 2014.
 Al-Mesryoon, July 10, 2014.
 Gamal Abu Hassan, "Why Don't the Egyptians Shed tears For Gaza?", Al-Arabiya, July 14, 2014.
 Mohamed Ayyad, "No Shame in Egypt Using Israeli Gas through British Oil Company," Daily News-Egypt, July 6, 2014.
The Moshe Dayan Center publishes TEL AVIV NOTES, an analytical update on current affairs in the Middle East, on approximately the 10th and 26th of every month, as well as occasional Special Editions.
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Summary of the Herzliya Conference's Unique Roundtable Event
Following the opening address by MK Lt. Gen. (res.) Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon, Minister of Defense on the third and final day of the 14th annual Herzliya Conference, Iranian experts sat down to discuss and simulate the regional and global implications that the world could be facing the day following an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
The simulation game was divided into two parts, first with participants answering questions related to Iranian military activity in Syria, namely the movement of missiles there; while the second dealt with the potential of Iran inciting a situation in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia designed to add to its regional power and take control of oil reserves in those areas.
Representative countries in the simulation game included Israel, the United States, China, Saudi Arabia and the GCC, Russia and Iran. A control group assisted in tying the various elements under discussion together.
The overwhelming idea pervading the session was the need for proper measurement channels to ensure that Iran is kept in check in the event of an agreement regarding its nuclear program. As noted by Dr. Shaul Shay, Director of Studies, Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS), IDC Herzliya, "what are the red lines regarding Iranian activities in Syria?" What is unacceptable for Israel or the United States?" In short, "it really matters what the agreement says", said Dr. Anthony H. Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), who sat in the control group.
The Honorable James B. Steinberg, Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and Dr. Gary Samore, Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), representatives from the United States, explained that the nuclear problem has been a problem in its own right, but it is symptomatic of a bigger problem and that it should be made clear that a deal regarding the nuclear program "is not a shield" against the U.S. or other powers taking the necessary steps if Iran chooses to take other undesirable steps – even if they do not defy the principles of the nuclear agreement. "Just because the nuclear file is on track does not mean we are indifferent to Iran trying to dominate the region." The United States would need to make it absolutely clear that Iran is to be held accountable for all hostile threats that it
communicates, even in other countries. "Iran has not been given a hand to act badly in other respects, even if it lives up to terms of the agreement."
According to the Saudi point of view, imparted by Dr. Jon B. Alterman, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy and Director of the Middle East Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in the event of Iran attempting to militarize Syria, the Saudis do not view the problem with Iran as a nuclear issue anyway. "If someone has a gun to your head, what does it matter if they put a cannon to your back?" Regarding possible instigation in Bahrain, Alterman said that Bahrain is perceived to be a domestic issue by Saudi Arabia and that in the event of any provocation; they would be to activate the US and all its antennae.
Prof. Wang Suolao, Director, Center for Middle East Studies, School of International Studies, Peking University, expressed his view that China would welcome a comprehensive deal between Iran and the P5+1.
From the Russian perspective, Prof. Sergey A. Karaganov, Honorary Chairman, Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy of Russia Honorary Chairman, Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy of Russia, noted that potential assertive or aggressive Iranian behavior in the Lavant would be dealt with from the understanding that the actions of the Iranians are not being directed at Russia. "A nuclear Iran is not that big a danger for Russia ... but it is a danger for regional peace." It was added that much of Russia's response would be dependent on its relationship with the US at the time. Dr. Jennifer Shkabatur added that Russia would probably also welcome the attempt of a world power to help and solve the conflict in Syria and as such, would probably join the efforts.
Karaganov also hinted at the need for a new peace process in and for the Middle East as "the security void there is deepening." He said that the problem wasn't the Iranians but rather that "the Middle Eastern area is in a shambles." He added that NATO was a problem-creating institution and that "it would be better for us if NATO shrinks back to its original purpose." He agreed that a multi-national institution in the European sense of the word could not be created in the Middle East but said that something in that sense was needed.
Meir Javedanfar, IDC Herzliya, representing Iran, said that he felt that it would be very provocative for Iran to send missiles to Syria as it would pit the Saudis against Iran and generally create a lot of tension within Iranian politics. In addition, with the number of missiles in Syria which are reported to have been attacked and destroyed by foreign countries, sending missiles to Syria would be risking them being attacked.
Prof. Alireza Nader, Senior International Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation, also on behalf of Iran, added that such action would leave Iran's foreign policy "dead in the water." Javedanfar added, "It's a very sensitive time for Iran to take such a step." Similarly, on the topic of a hypothetical instigation in Bahrain, Nader said that foreign investment was a goal of the current Iranian government and that instigation was in complete opposition to those goals.
Speaking for the European Union and NATO, Rafael L. Bardaji, Former Spanish National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Aznar, noted that Europe's first concern was its own safety and any possibility of Israeli action against Iran, even against Iranian interests in Syria, would negatively impact on Europe. Discussing how to keep Iran from becoming emboldened, he stated that Europe had always been led by the United States from the "front seat" and "we don't know how to be led from behind."
Amb. Zalman Shoval, Former Ambassador of Israel to the US said that after any Iranian nuclear agreement, Israel's role would be as the "watch dog of the watch dog," explaining that what looks less dangerous to those in America, looks far more dangerous to us in Israel.
The Herzliya Conference is the flagship of the Institute of Policy and Strategy (IPS) at the Lauder School of Government of IDC Herzliya. The Herzliya Conference addresses Israel's national agenda by encouraging public debate and influencing the country's public policy planning. This is achieved through convening Israeli and international elite policy makers, conducting cutting edge research, fostering a global network of contacts in a public forum by attracting the best and the brightest to take part in the conference and its discussions.
The Knesset elected Reuven Rivlin as the State of Israel's 10th president on Tuesday. The Likud-Yisrael Beitenu MK received 63 of 116 valid votes in a runoff election against MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatenua), who won 53 votes.
Rivlin and Sheetrit went to a second round runoff after none of the candidates succeeded in obtaining a majority 61 votes in the first round of voting at the plenum.
Of the 119 ballots cast in the first round (MK Meir Porush was overseas), Rivlin received the most votes, 44, followed by Sheetrit with 31. Former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik received 28 votes, followed by former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, 13, and Nobel laureate Dan Shechtman, who received only one vote. Two votes were disqualified.
Rivlin, who will serve a single, seven-year term, will be ceremoniously sworn in as first citizen of Israel on July 24, 2014, replacing outgoing President Shimon Peres.
Rivlin, who served two terms as speaker of the Knesset, was born in Jerusalem in 1939. He is married and has four children. A lawyer by training, Rivlin served as director and chairman of the Beitar Jerusalem Sports Association, as a member of the Jerusalem city council for a decade and as chairman of the Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene. He also served as Minister of Communications in the Sharon government at the start of the previous decade.
Head of Israel's Top Political Parties outlined their visions for the Mideast peace process at the annual Herzliya Conference which runs through June 10th at the IDC Herzliya Campus
The leaders of Israel's top political parties outlined their visions for the peace process and regional security in keynote addresses at the Herzliya Conference tonight.
MK Naftali Bennett, Minister of the Economy, Minister of Religious Services, Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs; Head, Habayit Hayehudi Party claimed that the era of the Oslo Accords is over and called on the government to implement a sovereignty plan starting with the Gush Etzion block.
"With the establishment of the Palestinian unity government - the era of Oslo has ended. Now the time has come to admit that it simply didn't work. We need to think in a different way to create a better reality, and I hereby outline The Sovereignty Plan. The State of Israel would have gradual sovereignty over half of Judea and Samaria where there is a tremendous majority of Jews, while creating an upgraded situation with freedom and mobility for Arabs without roadblocks between villages. The first implementation of this plan would take place across the Gush Etzion block". "Over time, in areas A and B there would be an upgraded autonomy. Israel would also upgrade the infrastructure in those areas and the Arab civilians would enjoy a better life with free mobility". "Together we will develop a startup region so for burgeoning, prosperous growth, including improvements in import-export situation. However the prerequisite for this is peace in the field, calm in the field itself". "21 years we gave the left every opportunity, now it's our turn".
MK Yair Lapid, Minister of Finance; Chairman, Yesh Atid Party spoke about the risk of ending negotiations and claimed that Israel cannot and does not want to rule over four million Palestinians.
"The risks of ending the negotiations include terrorism, international isolation and our own economic challenges. We must stop asking what do the Palestinians want and begin asking 'what do the Israeli people want'. The answer is security and to be separate. "Israel has to decide what its borders are. We must come with detailed maps express a national consensus through a three-phase solution: Preparation phase including withdrawal from those areas that do not protect Israel's security. During this time there is no additional construction of settlements A trust building phase during which Israel will withdraw from isolated settlements while establishing security in the settlement blocs. Adjustments, including land swaps and permanent talks. "Ever since we joined the government we have struggled against the isolated settlements. The damage is great in the international arena and there is a financial price that we feel in our pockets. We have lost billions in economic activity that could go towards reducing taxes, improving healthcare and education, reinforcing the IDF, etc. We need a concrete, predictive map that will determine where construction can increase and where it should cease. Israel should initiate rather than react and in order to do that we must draw our own borders = first on paper, and then on the ground".
MK Tzipi Livni, Minister of Justice; Chairperson, Hatenouah Party promoted a two-state solution as a way to present the values of a Jewish, democratic state. "The most important decision we need to make stems from the question: what do we want from ourselves? A Jewish democratic state living in harmony with our neighbors or a binational state with ongoing bloodshed. This is a decision that must be made now". "I am sick of being politically correct, and I want to say some truths. The settlements are a financial burden. They were designed to prevent us from reaching an agreement ever and they are taking up huge budgets at the expense of health, welfare, education and more, and I blame the leadership of the settlement movement". "Hamas has not changed and we must continue with their de-legitimization in the world, but we must continue negotiations with Abu Mazen's government in order to promote our own interests". "Hatenua and Yesh Atid believe in two states. Our cooperation is more important than ever".
MK Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Opposition; Chairman, Labor Party called on MK Yair Lapid to leave the government and join him and others in stopping the funding to the settlements. Herzog called for "a cohesive leadership that can bring together all the different hues of Israeli society".
MK Gideon Saar, Minister of the Interior; Likud Party questioned if alternatives to the status quo are practical, and if they are better than the current state of affairs. Saar claimed that over the past two decades Israel has taken dramatic steps to change the status quo including the Oslo Accords and the unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip – and that bottom line, these steps did not improve Israel's security situation or bring Israel any nearer to peace.
For more information including VOD of all proceedings please log onto: www.herzliyaconference.org/eng
The Middle East's leading security & policy gathering runs through June 10th at the IDC Herzliya Campus
“Why is Iran seeking nuclear capabilities?” questioned Dr. Anthony H. Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) during his address during the panel on Iran’s Domestic Power Struggle and the Regional Balance of Power: Implications for the Iran-P5+1 Negotiations on the second day of the 14th annual Herzliya Conference.
Cordesman explained that more than being a country with nuclear ambitions, Iran is a country that sees itself under siege with very little really modern military equipment, serious performance limitations in the area of its aircrafts, and a major surface navy that has not improved much since 1987 and 1988. It sees the US expanding and improving its capabilities, a heavily armed Israel and a buildup of military strength in the Gulf, while also being caught up in a struggle between the Sunnis and Shiites.
“This is a country that is a very real threat… its asymmetric capabilities are very real and it is building up its missile capabilities…” but he said that when looking at the balance of power, one could see why they are building up their capabilities.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli author, commentator and lecturer at IDC Herzliya explained that 2014 was an important year of decisions for Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei and told his audience that he believed the chance of success for the current nuclear talks was currently 60:40, contrary to US President Barack Obama’s 50:50 prediction.
He explained that his optimism came from Khamenei having made three mistakes. Firstly, he got the 2009 elections wrong, turned against the instigators of the revolution and lost legitimacy among his people. Secondly, he has turned down Obama’s overtures and proven that Iran’s leadership is more scared of peace than war. Lastly, he thought that Iran could make it through the debilitating sanctions and that people would continue to rally behind the flag. Instead, the latter has not occurred and $200 billion is missing from the $650 billion earned during former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reign. “It’s a critical stage for the Iranian economy.”
Prof. Alireza Nader, Senior International Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation, expounded on his views as to positive changes with regard to Iran’s current attitude toward negotiations.
He explained that current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had been allowed to run for election by the regime in order to fix the disaster that followed the 2009 elections and the leadership of Ahmadinejad, “who was a disaster for the Islamic republic as a whole.”
The current consensus within the establishment, Nader said, was that Iran was facing a bigger internal and external crisis than in many years. He said that Rouhani is seen as a fixer and good manager and was seen by the people of Iran as the least disastrous of the eight candidates on offer.
Dr. Gary Samore, Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) said that “he was deeply skeptical that any nuclear deal acceptable to Iran will exist.” He said that he believed that Iran would have acquired these capabilities years ago had it not been for US efforts.
He said that people close to the Iranian leadership have noted that owing to Iran being surrounded by nuclear armed powers that were potential threats, Iran needed some kind of “virtual nuclear weapons capacity”. But, he said, whatever the nature of deterrence that they would demand – real or virtual – there was no indication that Iran would be willing to concede to any of the conditions being put forward by the P5+1.
The Herzliya Conference is the flagship of the Institute of Policy and Strategy (IPS) at the Lauder School of Government of IDC Herzliya. The Herzliya Conference addresses Israel’s national agenda by encouraging public debate and influencing the country’s public policy planning. This is achieved through convening Israeli and international elite policy makers, conducting cutting edge research, fostering a global network of contacts in a public forum by attracting the best and the brightest to take part in the conference and its discussions.
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The war in Syria is pushing out secular Syrians in favor of Islamic fighters and Global Jihadists, according to Brig. General Itai Brun, head of the research division of IDF intelligence.
"About 80 percent of the rebels have an Islamic agenda," Brun said Monday at the Herzliya Conference.
The turmoil in Syria is part of the changing landscape of Israel's security, he said. There are positive elements - the threat from Syria has dropped significantly and "most of its chemical weapons have either been removed or destroyed." The camp of moderate Arabs has also been strengthened.
But there are also negative developments. Hezbollah now holds an enormous number of rockets and has the ability to strike any part of Israel. "It has 170,000 rockets," he said. "This is a huge amount and it's an established fact, not an estimate."
The goal of Hezbollah – and those arming it – is to neutralize Israel's naval and air superiority. They also hope to use the rockets as a deterrent by aiming them at Israel's home front, he said.
If major fighting broke out, they would look "for a massive attack to cause us considerable pain and damage and make us not want to continue fighting," Brun said.
Israel's deterrent, however, remains strong. "None of Israel's enemies are interested in a long war. The exception could be World Jihad, with whom deterrence works differently," he said.
"The Middle East is still in a transitional period," he said, "An old period has collapsed and a new one that has not yet formed. The hostility towards Israel is the one common denominator among those who want to bring about a new order and even those who want to restore the old order. "
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The Herzliya Conference is the flagship of the Institute of Policy and Strategy (IPS) at the Lauder School of Government of IDC Herzliya. The Herzliya Conference addresses Israel's national agenda by encouraging public debate and influencing the country's public policy planning. This is achieved through convening Israeli and international elite policy makers, conducting cutting edge research, fostering a global network of contacts in a public forum by attracting the best and the brightest to take part in the conference and its discussions.
The Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, visited Japan on 11 – 14 May 2014 and held a summit meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe. Both sides confirmed their intention to build a new comprehensive partnership in order to further enhance the bilateral relations as well as to strengthen cooperation on promoting international peace and stability. The following joint statement was issued:
1 Bilateral issues Both sides confirmed to increase exchanges between the two countries at the levels of Prime Ministers, Ministers and high ranking officials. Having held their first summit dialogue meeting on national security, both sides expressed their expectation to hold the second round on the occasion of Prime Minister Abe's early visit to Israel. Both sides welcomed the launch of an exchange of views between Japan's National Security Secretariat and Israel's National Security Council and confirmed to hold the next meeting in Israel. Both sides confirmed the necessity of cooperation in the field of cyber security and expressed their expectation to hold talks between the relevant agencies of the two countries. Both sides affirmed the importance of bilateral defense cooperation and concurred on increasing the exchanges between the defense authorities of the two countries including exchanges at ministerial level. They concurred with the visit of officers of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to Israel. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the bilateral working group on economy. They welcomed the recent visits between the two countries' business circles and the expanded investment, and confirmed to start working on the launch of negotiations on an investment agreement in order to further encourage this trend. Both sides affirmed to make further efforts for exploring a possible cooperation to promote joint industrial research and development. Both sides expect to increase mutual visits through tourism promotion. Both sides also shared the intention to work on realizing the already agreed service of direct flights. Both sides confirmed the importance of cooperation on agriculture and fishery, including trade promotion and exchanges among the two countries' agricultural research institutes. Prime Minister Abe welcomed Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to lift import restrictions applied by Israel following the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Both sides confirmed their commitment to promote cooperation in the fields of advanced science and technology and innovation. They highly appreciated the work of Japan-Israel Science and Technology Joint Committee as well as active exchanges between relevant organizations. For the purpose of expanding further exchanges, they shared the intention of promoting dialogue through various measures. Both sides shared the intention to promote exchanges among the two countries' space related agencies. Both sides acknowledged that empowering women is vital to realize sustainable and healthy economic and social development, and stressed the importance to promote cooperation in this field. Both sides confirmed the launch of consultations to introduce the Working Holiday Visa program to promote youth exchanges. They affirmed cooperation on increasing exchanges between members of the Diet and Knesset, and enlarging educational exchanges including increasing the number of students studying in each other's country. Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed the program of "Sport for Tomorrow" launched by Japan toward the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games. Both sides emphasized the importance of the extensive and active cultural cooperation and confirmed to seek new exchange opportunities based on the rich cultural heritage of both nations. Both sides shared the view to encourage exchanges of food culture through both embassies in Japan and Israel.
2 Cooperation for regional stability Both sides affirmed the importance of universal values such as freedom, democracy, human-rights, and rule of law, and confirmed to strengthen their dialogue and cooperation toward peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern regions. Prime Minister Abe expressed Japan's determination to contribute even more actively in securing peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the international community, through the policy of "Proactive Contribution to Peace" based on the principle of international cooperation, while Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed such a policy. Both sides emphasized the necessity for achieving peace through a "two-state solution" toward stability and prosperity of the Middle Eastern region. Prime Minister Abe called upon all concerned parties to further endeavor to advance the direct negotiations and expressed his intention to make best efforts for achieving peace.
Prime Minister Abe also presented the development of Japan's initiatives for "the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity", including Jericho Agricultural Industrial park (JAIP), and requested Israel to offer further assistance on the issue of possible access routes from the site to Jordan in order to promote JAIP's activities. Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed further active roles of Japan in the Middle East peace process and expressed his intention to cooperate on the development of Japan's initiatives for "the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity". Both sides emphasized the significance of Japan's confidence- building measures such as invitation programs for the Israeli and Palestinian youth, sports exchanges, trilateral cooperation among Japan and Israel for regional economic development and so forth. Both sides concurred as to the necessity to achieve a real solution of the Iranian nuclear issue. Both sides expressed their grave concern on the current situation in Syria and stressed the importance of improving the humanitarian situation as well as achieving political solution. Prime Minister Abe expressed his determination to strengthen support for the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) deployed in the Sinai Peninsula so as to further contribute to regional stability. Prime Minister Netanyahu appreciated this effort. Both sides stressed their opposition to terrorism. Both sides exchanged views on the security environment in East Asia, which is becoming more challenging, and confirmed the importance to maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Particularly, they expressed their strong hope for the early resolution of various issues of concerns regarding North Korea, including its nuclear development, missile development and the abductions issue.
Tokyo, 12 May 2014
Shinzo Abe Benjamin Netanyahu Prime Minister of Japan Prime Minister of the State of Israel
Photo : Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo May 12, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Across the Middle East, Kurdish politics are growing more assertive and self-confident. The status quo is increasingly untenable, but the United States appears to have no game plan.
In recent months, owing in part to the fallout from the Syrian civil war, belated signs ofintellectualmovement regarding the future of Kurdish politics have emerged from some Western analysts. We need a deeper understanding of history and context to evaluate this movement, however, because the role of U.S. policy will be crucial in whatever the future brings.
For the greater part of the 20th century American foreign policy and national security officials kept a studied distance from the Kurdish issue as such. The main reason is that U.S. administrations have evinced a strong Westphalian bias, always prioritizing the integrity of the territorial states that had emerged from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. In this the United States followed in the Mideastern footsteps of Great Britain, which had prioritized the integrity of the Iraqi state it had created over earlier British promises concerning the establishment of a Kurdish state. After World War II and the Truman Doctrine, U.S. policymakers also had to take into consideration the sensitivities of its two major allies with large Kurdish minorities: Iran (an ally before the 1978 Islamic revolution) and Turkey. U.S. policymakers were extremely sensitive to Ankara’s apprehensions of the Kurdish issue not just at home, but in the neighboring countries as well. Additionally, in the early years of the Cold War, U.S. policymakers tended to identify the Kurds with the Soviet Union and Communism. American suspicions were fed by the fact that Mulla Mustafa Barzani and some 700 Kurdish fighters accepted asylum in the Soviet Union for an entire decade following the collapse of the short-lived, Soviet-abetted Republic of Mahabad in 1947. Nor was the Marxist-Leninist ideology of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiye Karkeren Kurdistan, PKK) in Turkey more palatable to the United States. In short, from any point of view, association with the Kurds or support for them was out of the question. The only exception was the limited, secret support the United States granted the Kurds in 1972–75, when two allies of the time, Israel and Iran, prevailed over it to supply such support.
Developments on the ground in more recent years have forced U.S. policymakers to change their policies, if not their thinking. From the 1990s onward the Kurds began to play a growing role in regional politics, starting with the Kurds of Iraq and continuing with the rising prominence of the Kurdish issue in Turkey, and most recently with the Kurdish dimension of internal tumult in Syria and to a lesser extent in Iran as well.
Moreover, the rise of Kurdish issues in all four states has changed the internal dynamics of Kurdish nationalism. An evolving trans-border current has produced a de facto Kurdish regional subsystem whose manifestations are several. First, the Kurds now imagine themselves to be one nation deserving to live on one united territory; this is new. Thus, the new mind’s-eye Kurdistan is portrayed as one unit divided into four parts: north Kurdistan (bakur) corresponding to the Kurdish region in Turkey, south Kurdistan (bashur) to that in Iraq, east Kurdistan (rojhelat) to that in Iran, and west Kurdistan (rojava) to that in Syria. No one should discount the power of having a common geopolitical language in a nationalist ambition.
As things stand, the KRG in northern Iraq is the center of gravity of this new subsystem. It functions simultaneously as a quasi-state and as a political center for the other three parts of Kurdistan, as well as for the large number of Kurds in the diaspora.1Despite a strong legacy of civil war, jealousy and rivalry, most Kurds now look upon the KRG with great pride and view it as a model. For many Kurds, too, the KRG also provides safe haven from persecution and hardship in their own countries. For example, as of September 2013 more than 200,000 Kurds from Syria have found refuge in the KRG. Similarly, Kurds from all parts of “Greater Kurdistan” come to the KRG to consult with the government and, at times, to forge common policies.2
That goes for the military-security level, among others. The KRG has turned its guerrilla force, thepeshmerga, into an army of some 200,000 soldiers with heavy arms, including “a large fleet of Russian-made warplanes left over from the Saddam era” as well as tanks taken as booty from the two wars of 1991 and 2003. Furthermore, in September 2013 the KRG approached an American company to purchase 12 new helicopters. Concurrently, the KRG has been providing bases for all the Kurdish guerrilla forces from the other parts of Kurdistan. These include bases for the PKK from Turkey, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistane, PJAK) and other groupings from Iran, as well as an umbrella organization from Syria. The KRG has of late even started to train Syrian Kurds with a view to sending them back to the Kurdish autonomous region in Syria. This means, among other things, that the borders between all parts of Kurdistan will no longer be sealed as the KRG devises ways to have a say throughout all of Kurdistan.
Kurdish collective identity has also received a significant boost in recent years as the Kurdish language, which had been outlawed by the four host states for the greater part of the 20th century, has begun to flourish.the Kurdish language, which had been outlawed by the four host states for the greater part of the 20th century, has begun to flourish. One cannot overestimate this development, because for the Kurds the most important symbol of nationhood is the Kurdish language, alongside that of a common conception of Kurdish territory.3 The Kurds also have common symbols such as the colors of the flag, which has the yellow in its midst symbolizing the sun; a common anthem and a common ethos built around the epos of Mem u Zin, written by Ahmed Xani at the end of the 17th century.
On the international organizational level there is now an all-Kurdish umbrella organization based in Brussels. The Kurdistan National Congress (Kongra Netewiya Kurdistan, KNK) is a coalition of Kurdish organizations from across Europe whose main purpose is “to lobby national governments, the EU, the UN and other international organizations [and] raise awareness of the situation in Kurdistan through the media and in public forums.” No doubt its lobbying campaign has brought about the Europeanization of the Kurdish issue; Kurds are in the European press as never before. At the same time the new media, the new social networks and the opening of new channels of transborder interaction have fostered greater cooperation between the diaspora and the homeland.
The sweeping changes in the Kurdish subsystem, together with the geopolitical changes in the region during the past decade, have forced the host states to change their approach toward the Kurds. Iraq started the chain reaction when, for the first time in the modern history of the Middle East, Baghdad in 2005 acquiesced to a federal system. This in turn helped trigger dramatic changes in Turkey’s stance both with respect to its own Kurds as well as those of the KRG in Iraq. The changing paradigm of Turkey’s approach to the KRG can be summarized as follows: While in the past the KRG was perceived as part of Turkey’s internal Kurdish problem, in the past few years the KRG came to be perceived as a partner to the solution. (The Turkish National Intelligence Organization began secret contact with the KRG in 2006, but this came to fruition in 2009.)
Economic interests helped catalyze the change: The rich oil and gas resources in the Kurdistan region proved so attractive to the Turkish government that it agreed to the building of two oil pipelines and one gas pipeline from the KRG passing through Turkey, over strong objections from Baghdad. When completed these pipelines may enable the KRG to achieve economic independence, which is key to sustaining future political independence. Thus, within a few years Turkey became the main player in Iraqi Kurdistan by using soft power as its main tool.
Nonetheless, geopolitics is still trump. Turks see the stable and prosperous Kurdistan region as a benign buffer between Turkey and the turbulent Arab part of Iraq. It is also a safety valve against the spread of Shi‘a influence into Turkey. No less important, the fact that Irbil, not Baghdad, controls the border turns the KRG into a more important partner for security cooperation. Similarly, the latent and sometimes open competition between Turkey and Iran for spheres of influence in Iraq and elsewhere in the region make the contiguous KRG a natural choice for Turkish influence.
Still, it is Turkey’s internal Kurdish portfolio that tipped the balance in Ankara’s decision to befriend the KRG. The fact that Ankara initiated simultaneously the opening toward its own Kurds and the KRG in 2008 speaks for itself. It has been clear from the start that Turkish leaders saw the KRG and its leader, Masud Barzani, as a means to help contain or pacify Turkey’s own Kurds. Cengiz Aktar, director of the EU Center at Bahcesehir University,aptly described the shift as an effort to “to subcontract the solution of its own Kurdish problem to him.” Indeed, the KRG, especially President Barzani, has assumed an important role in the mediation between Ankara and the PKK in the new phase of the peace process that started in early 2013. Furthermore, contributing its own crucial part to the AKP-PKK deal, the KRG agreed to the withdrawal of PKK militants to its own region.
Map by Lindsey Burrows
The third state forced to change policies toward its Kurdish population is Syria. The upheavals that began in March 2011 created a political vacuum in Syria’s Kurdish region, and Syria’s Kurds rushed in the summer of 2012 to fill it with an autonomous region for themselves. The Ba‘athi regime, then struggling for survival, accepted this as a fait accompli at least, or may even have backed it tacitly as part of a longstanding policy to ally with non-Sunni Arab elements in the population. Turkey viewed the development of Kurdish autonomy in Syria with great anxiety, however, not least because Syrian Kurds, insofar as they are organized and politicized, seem to be more or less aligned with traditional PKK-style thinking. The AKP leadership worried about a spillover effect on its own Kurds, and that no doubt played a role in Ankara’s opening toward the Kurds in March 2013. Meanwhile, too, Turkey began to perceive the KRG as a possible pacifier of the Kurdish region in Syria, and a balance against PKK influence there (though the PKK has retained the upper hand).
Last of the four, but not necessarily least in the fullness of time, is Iran. Tehran has not changed its policies toward its Kurds as dramatically as have its three neighbors, but the rising wave of Kurdish nationalism within Iran may soon force a change. That is because, on balance, old ways of managing the Kurds have become ineffective and obsolete as an integral Kurdish national movement has gained traction. The geopolitical map of the region in the early 21st century is completely different from the 20th-century version. Moreover, if new leadership in Iran is serious about relaxing regime constraints, the wave of Kurdish energy manifest in Iraq, Syria and Turkey is bound to flow into Iran. There is no practical way to stop it.
In light of all this, the American approach to Kurdish issues is utterly bewildering. The U.S. policy “brain” seems somehow stuck in amber, this despite the fact that it has been U.S. behavior, more than anything else, that has propelled Kurdish dynamics over the past twenty-some years. It was the two American-led wars of 1991 and 2003 that inadvertently enabled the establishment of the KRG and its flourishing, yet Washington has not adapted its policies to a changing situation largely of its own making.
The erosion of America’s non-engagement policy with the Kurds of Iraq started in the 1991 Gulf War when the George H.W. Bush Administration decided to establish a “safe haven” for the Kurds—from which Kurdish autonomy rather predictably emerged. From that time U.S. policy has been enmeshed in the Kurdish issue in Iraq, the main inflection point coming in the aftermath of the 2003 war. Since the Kurds played a pivotal positive role in that war, U.S. policy in effect “rewarded” them by granting them a leading role in the formation of post-Saddam Iraqi state. That role also presumed a more entrenched Kurdish autonomy in Iraq, and that obviously meant a shakeup of Kurdish relations with the Turkish, Syrian and Iranian states.
This policy conflicted with two other principles: preserving the integrity of the Iraqi state and assuaging Turkish concerns about Kurdish power. Amazingly, no senior official in Washington seemed to notice the contradiction, or at any rate to care much about it. Thus in his first visit to Turkey in April 2009, President Obama called for closer Turkish cooperation not only with the central government in Baghdad but also with the Kurds. He evinced not the slightest sense of irony. So Washington continued to advocate the integrity of Iraq even while further empowering the KRG. It then found itself, not surprisingly, having to play pacifier between the KRG and Turkey, until Turkish policy finally shifted and made the U.S. role (at least temporarily) marginally unnecessary.
Now, in a policy that was self-aware and well-connected to its own parts, this development, particularly the Ankara-based part of it, could easily be viewed as a signal success. Moving the Turks off their ultimately self-defeating nihilism regarding the Kurds is a good thing for all concerned. Even the ambiguity and internal contradictions in the U.S. policy could be seen as a shrewd way to gain leverage over all parties, even though that isn’t at all what motivated it. So imagine the astonishment in the region when, in just the past few years, Washington made a 180 degree turn, trying to no avail to limit the developing relationship between Ankara and Irbil.
Contrary to Obama’s April 2009 declaration, when Ankara and Irbil decided to build direct oil and gas pipelines that could enhance the KRG’s economic independence, Washington opposed it. Washington was reportedly “gravely concerned that any deal could undo Iraq.” Indeed, during his March visit to Iraq Secretary of State John Kerry called Masud Barzani and told him “to give up attempts to export oil from the region to Turkey via pipelines without Baghdad’s consent.” To no avail. As the joke in Turkish diplomatic circles has gone, “the United States wanted Turkey and Iraq’s Kurds to become friends, not to get married.”As the joke in Turkish diplomatic circles has gone, “the United States wanted Turkey and Iraq’s Kurds to become friends, not to get married.”
The simplest way to explain the American shift is that in the aftermath of the full withdrawal of American forces in 2011, the Obama Administration does not want to be held responsible for destroying the territorial integrity of Iraq, and by so doing risk shattering the Westphalian façade imposed on the region in the early 1920s. But that may happen anyway as a spillover from its passivity in Syria. Thanks in large part to the new freedom seized by Syria’s Kurds, the Turks are also having second thoughts about their peace process with the PKK, which was a bold and somewhat risky policy, but not enough second thoughts, apparently, to reverse the momentum of the economic relationship. Ankara and Irbil are still building the pipelines that might change the geopolitical map of the region, and, in a sure sign of the times, neither is paying the slightest attention to U.S. warnings to desist.
We must be careful about assessing what U.S. policy can and cannot accomplish in the region. It was never in the power of American decision-makers to micromanage any aspect of regional politics, and certainly not, for example, to spread liberal democracy over a vast region that was a stranger to democratic habits of the heart. By the same token, it is an exaggeration to claim that American power in the region is now nil. Since the end of Ottoman times, there has been no hegemon in control of regional dynamics. Britain and France together came close to such a position before World War II, and the bipolarity of the Cold War subsequently constrained choices both within and outside the region to some degree. But today even those constraints are gone, subsumed by powerful social changes from beneath the political line of sight. As a consequence no one is “in change”, and no one can be. That is what gives national initiatives, such as the Turkish one toward the Kurds, their risk quotients, and it is what makes the tensions between national integrities and ethno-linguistic “identity politics” a virtually permanent feature of the region’s political environment today and into the foreseeable future.
This general situation of inconclusive fluidity is not going to change anytime soon. No regional hegemon will emerge over all, and no order-giving imperial power entering the region from outside is in the offing. Rather, regional dynamics will acquire their own logic—such as, for example, the likely re-establishment of a very old rivalry between Iran and Turkey—even as other outside actors (China, India and again perhaps Russia) impinge at the margins. In that light, what options are open to the United States?
Any analysis of policy options is a function of a clearheaded assessment of interests—or at least it should be. (These days, it seems, one can take nothing for granted about U.S. politics, domestic or foreign.) But for the sake of parsimony, if not also our sanity, let us assume that we know what basic U.S. interests in the Middle East are: the prevention of a hostile hegemon from suborning all or major parts of the region and its resources; the minimization of violence within and among state units, not least the minimization of arms races and WMD proliferation; the minimization of ungoverned zones liable to be exploited by terrorists; and the gradual but steady economic, social and political development of the region toward shared prosperity and pluralist norms. These four interests are generally considered to be mutually reinforcing, and rightly so; but at the tactical level at any given moment they may portend tradeoffs.
With this in mind, what alternatives does the U.S. government have in dealing with the Kurds? There are three main options: continue the status quo; formally recognize and support the KRG as an independent sovereign entity; or support the accession to the KRG/Kurdistan of Kurdish-majority areas in Syria and Iran (but not Turkey). How do these options look in light of American interests?
Option I. The easiest approach lies in perpetuating the ambiguous status quo because it forces no difficult decisions yet seems to carry no major short-term risks. It is a passive option in an Administration that is prone to foreign policy passivity for a variety of reasons, some justifiable and some perhaps not. This option is thus nearly over-determined, but it is nonetheless shortsighted in many ways.
Above all, a status quo policy is prone to being steamrolled by events. The U.S. commitment to the “integrity” of the Iraqi state already spites reality, and the distance between pretense and the real world is growing sharply. That could have severe negative consequences for U.S. standing in the longer run as both regional and international players actively try to carve off a slice of the Kurdistani pie. Consider the warming of relations between Russia and the KRG, evidenced by President Barzani’s three visits to Russia in the past year. Russia wants to do business with the KRG, especially in the field of oil and gas, and it is vying to fill the vacuum left by the United States following the withdrawal of all its forces at the end of 2011. Russia’s effort fits with its other regional exertions to restore its former USSR-era standing in the region.
American inaction in Syria might have even more severe consequences. Right now a struggle for preeminence is taking place in the Kurdish area of Syria. It pits the Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat, PYD), a Kurdish group linked to the PKK, and various mainly non-Kurdish jihadi groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Dawlat al-‘Iraq wal-Sham al-Islamiyya, the latter being an outgrowth of Dawlat al-Islam al-‘Iraqiyya. U.S. interests lie in the Kurds, who are mainly secular and Western oriented, gaining and keeping the upper hand. Note too that, unlike the PKK, the PYD has never been listed as a terrorist group. Moreover, even Turkey, which at one point supported Jabhat al-Nusra against the PYD, reportedly via the ministrations of Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, has sent feelers toward the PYD. Turkish officials met its leader, Salih Muslim, twice, in July and August 2013. Obviously, the mess in Syria presents the Turks with a dilemma. They have to decide who threatens them more: Syrian Kurds who might crush their initiative toward the PKK, or radical salafis who might infect home-grown Turkish radicals for whom the AKP’s Islamic credentials are too weak. For the time being anyway, Ankara seems stuck..
Clearly, if Washington does not back the Kurds against the jihadists the latter might gain the upper hand, with the likely result being the Afghanization of this part of Syria—unless some other actor decides to intervene to prevent it. And U.S. passivity could also put its policy out of step with Turkish policy, which now seems aimed at associating with and taming Syrian Kurdish energies. Ultimately, the U.S. interest is to encourage Turkish liberality toward the Kurds within Turkey and thus suppress tendencies that might one day threaten the integrity of the Turkish state. So as long as Turkey is more an ally than not, despite changes within its domestic political culture away from secular republican attitudes, the current Turkish approach aligns with U.S. interests. A passive status quo policy is thus simply incoherent as a response to change.
Option II.Several considerations support U.S. recognition of the KRG as an independent Kurdish state. First, the Kurds have proven to be much better and more reliable allies over an extended period than any Iraqi government, including the Iran-friendly Maliki one, or even than the Turkish AKP government. So there is little to be lost by irritating the current Iraqi leadership, which, for sectarian reasons, has even opposed U.S. interests in Syria. By contrast, the KRG is likely to provide strategic support to the United States and accommodate American needs, up to and including military basing facilities in its territory. Moreover, recognizing the KRG solves the clash of interests between American oil companies and the American Administration. Exxon Mobil wants to do business with Irbil at the expense of Baghdad, but the Administration is loath to let it. It is foolish to swim against the tide.
Second, the Kurds are not only friendly to the United States; they seem competent state-builders as well. Within a short period the Kurds have built a strong entity with all the trappings of an independent state, including a parliament and cabinet, an army, separate elections, a flag and an anthem.Within a short period the Kurds have built a strong entity with all the trappings of an independent state, including a parliament and cabinet, an army, separate elections, a flag and an anthem. A thumbnail comparison between the Kurdish and Arab parts of Iraq produces a vivid contrast. The KRG is stable; Iraqi Arabs are falling into a new iteration of a civil war—which is reflected in the fact that not even one American soldier has lost his life in the KRG since March 2003 compared to more than 4,400 in the Arab parts of the country. The KRG has always abjured terrorism; Iraqi Arabs of both Sunni and Shi‘a persuasion often seem to prefer it. The political ethos of the KRG is secular and at least proto-democratic; the Arab parts of Iraq are truly neither. The KRG economy is flourishing; the rest of Iraq is an economic mess. The Turks have obviously figured all this out; why can’t the Americans?
Moral considerations and historical justice are worth at least a footnote. The United States owes the Kurds a debt for their support during the 2003 war, if not also for abandoning them and the Shi‘a to Saddam Hussein’s brutality after the 1991 war. Then there is the consideration that if the KRG is ever amalgamated back into an administratively competent Iraqi state, its people might be subject to murderous treatment. The Kurds of Iraq were on the verge of annihilation after the Halabja and Anfal chemical attacks and the destruction of thousands of villages in 1988 and 1989. Does the U.S. government want to risk being responsible for a replay?
Then there is the matter of double standards—not that there is anything necessarily wrong with double standards inasmuch as no two situations are really equivalent. But consider: The U.S. government lent support to the establishment of South Sudan in 2011, had no problems with the birth of an independent Eritrea in 1991, and has expended enormous effort over decades now to bring about an independent Palestinian state. Yet the Kurds of Iraq started their struggle long before the South Sudanese or the Eritreans, and the Kurdish entity is more prosperous, more viable and stable, than either South Sudan or Eritrea. The KRG is also much more viable economically, politically and militarily, than any imaginable Palestinian state.
The disadvantages of American support for an independent Kurdistan are not to be dismissed, however. It would likely set much of the Arab world against the United States, but the attitudes of only a few of these states should really matter to Washington. It might end up putting more pressure on Washington to produce an independent Palestine, even one that would be a prelude to war or state failure or both. It might antagonize Iran, which is a good thing or not depending on the state of play in that bilateral relationship. And the same may be said for relations with Turkey, suggesting that a unilateral American policy shift would be inferior to one that is coordinated with Turkey—again, depending on the state of play in that relationship.
Option III.U.S. support for bringing the Kurdish regions of Syria and Iran into the KRG could follow a formal recognition of an independent KRG, or it could proceed in lieu of it. Such a policy appears revolutionary, but the Kurds themselves have been moving in that direction. Assuming the Turks do not stop them, the Kurds are growing stronger than both the Syrian and Iraqi regimes and may soon be in a position to impose a fait accompli on those states. Most likely, such an expansion of the KRG would take place in phases, beginning with Syria, which would enable the Kurdish entity to reach out toward the sea nearest the ancient city of Antioch. This would turn it into a still more viable entity, able then to claim its currently Iranian region.
There is plenty to be gained for the United States in being, and being seen as, a founding ally of such a “greater” Kurdish state. If one likes an historical analogy, the French project of creating a unified Italy in order to keep the Hapsburgs north of the Alps comes to mind—and a brilliant strategic project it was, too. But there is no point going into detail about the advantages of such an approach because such an American policy is inconceivable at the present time. Not only is it much too bold, and demanding of greater patience and perseverance than Americans can typically summon in foreign policy except sometimes during a shooting war, but it is simply beyond the strategic imagination of the present Administration.
Option II thus commends itself as the most advisable and realistic choice for the United States. The Kurds would be better, more useful and more democratic allies than the Iraqis, and the Turks are arguably amendable to the shift so long as the United States acknowledges their interests and concerns. Given the all-too-chummy state of Iraq-Iran relations, the regional state that would stand to suffer most from all this would be Iran, which is good and which would help ameliorate whatever Saudi misgivings might emerge over such a U.S. policy shift. Such a shift might also give Washington more leverage when the time comes (if it ever does) to reconstitute some semblance of a Syrian state. Right now Washington has about none.
Finally, Option II makes sense if only because the status quo is no longer very “quo.” Things are changing rapidly on the ground; all the other actors are adjusting, but U.S. policy is atavistically frozen somewhere in the past century. The Americans can do better than that, can’t they?
1 Out of a total Kurdish population of about 24 million, there are 850,000 Kurds in Europe, about 20,000 in the United States and 6,000 in Canada; there are also Kurds in Central Asia, Australia and other states as well.
2 On 22 July 2013, for example, Masud Barzani convened an all-Kurdish conference in Irbil with the participation of 39 Kurdish parties from all parts of Kurdistan as well as the Diaspora. On 16 November 2013 he concluded an historical visit to Diyarbakir, the biggest Kurdish city in Turkey, where he met with Turkish PM Erdoğan and Kurdish leaders from that city.
3 See Martin van Bruinessen, Transnational Aspects of the Kurdish Question, Working paper, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Florence, 2000.
Ofra Bengio is senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies and professor of history at Tel Aviv University.
On Monday, November 11, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro spoke at the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly in Jerusalem. “There is no greater priority for the United States and for Israel than preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. On this crucial issue, the United States and Israel share an identical objective. President Obama has been crystal clear in stating that he will not permit Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, period. And we are prepared to use all elements of our national power to ensure that we are successful.
Our coordination with Israel in support of this shared goal has been intensive, continuous, and highly effective. Together with many other nations, we have put in place the strongest sanctions regime in history, which has brought Iran to the negotiating table. In these negotiations in Geneva, we will not squander the leverage that sanctions have given us. No deal is better than a bad deal, and we will not agree to a bad deal.
We are seeking, with our P5+1 partners, to test whether Iran is prepared to ensure that its nuclear program can only be used for peaceful purposes. We are trying to first reach an agreement on an initial six-month phase that freezes and rolls back the Iranian program. Iran could get very limited sanctions relief during this period, while the main oil and banking sanctions that have brought them to the table would remain in place, and the pressure would increase. With the time that gives us, we will seek to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that ensures Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon.
Our goal is clear: to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, through diplomacy and sanctions if possible, but using other means, including a military option, if necessary. We will not fail to achieve this goal.
The Cabinet, this morning (Sunday, 14 July 2013), approved the 2013-2017 national Negev development plan worth approximately NIS 500 million. The plan will be spread over five years and constitutes the civilian response to the IDF's move to the Negev. The plan was formulated by an inter-ministerial committee led by Prime Minister's Office Director General Harel Locker and Negev and Galilee Development Ministry Director General Orna Hosman-Bechor and is designed to advance the development of the Negev as part of the preparations for moving IDF bases to the Negev. The expectation is that as a result of the move, by 2020, there will be a NIS 1.4-1.7 billion increase in economic activity in the Negev per annum. At the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom presented the main points of the plan.
The plan includes extensive and significant investments in all areas of life. The plan focuses on economic development, housing solutions, strengthening [local] authorities, developing high-tech and emphasizes quality of life for residents. The plan accelerates economic development by subsidizing industrial zones and the establishment of three new industrial parks, provides incentives for companies to relocate to the Negev by subsidizing the salaries of high-tech workers, budgets for training employees, etc. Inter alia, the plan also specifies that an outline will be formulated for turning Be'er Sheva into a cyber center. Increasing the number of Negev residents who serve in IDF technological units will create an employment track for the Israeli 'silicon valley'.
According to the plan, in Be'er Sheva, Dimona, Yerucham, Arad, Ofakim and the Merhavim Regional Council will be declared national priority communities and defined as target communities for the plan. In these aforesaid communities, unique plans will be implemented in order to strengthen local authorities, which will be eligible for upgraded assistance and support, especially in managing long-term planning. The five-year plan will assure that the target communities will benefit from the potential inherent in the move of IDF units to the Negev. The Negev and Galilee Development Ministry will be responsible for the overall Government work in implementing the plan.
In order to encourage young people and young families to move to the Negev, the supply of housing will be increased, culture and recreation will be expanded, a campaign to brand the Negev as a housing target and attractive place of opportunity will be launched, and additional civilian infrastructures will be developed in order to close the gaps between Negev communities and the center of the country.
The decision joins the Government's five-year plan for the socio-economic development of the Bedouin population in the Negev, which is now in its second year, and adds industrial, commercial and environmental aspects to it.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "We will make a very great effort, and I think that it is a historic move in the context of Government decisions to approve a national plan for the development of the Negev. The plan that we are submitting today for the development of the Negev entails an additional investment of NIS 500 million and this investment will be in all the main aspects of life in the Negev in order to raise the quality of life. It is concentrated in employment, with an emphasis on high-tech. The Negev especially Be'er Sheva, is going to quickly become an important high-tech center for the State of Israel. The plan deals with economic development, strengthening infrastructures and housing solutions. It embraces all of the main communities in the Negev – Be'er Sheva, Dimona, Yerucham, Arad, Ofakim and the Merhavim Regional Council. It will also develop Be'er Sheva as a cyber center. In coordination with the Israel National Cyber Bureau<http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/PrimeMinistersOffice/DivisionsAndAuthorities/cyber/Pages/default.aspx> (INCB), we are implementing joint projects and this is also a sign for the future, a better future for Be'er Sheva and the communities of the entire Negev."
Negev and Galilee Development Minister Shalom said, "The Negev and Galilee Development Ministry will be responsible for managing and implementing the decision in order to ensure that the Negev will receive significant support that will cause IDF career families and other strong populations to move to the Negev. The Ministry, in coordination with the local authorities in the Negev, will manage a campaign to change the image of the Negev. In recent years, the Negev has undergone a revolution, is drawing strong populations and is developing in all aspects of life. This additional investment will provide an additional urgency to the Negev and will upgrade the entire region as well as its residents."
Finance Minister Yair Lapid said, "In addition to the major benefit to the development of the Negev, the transfer of IDF bases to the Negev will allow for the advancement of many housing starts in areas in demand and will lead to a lowering of housing prices."
The following bodies are involved in the project, led by the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office: Finance ministry, Economy Ministry, Defense Ministry, Transportation and Road Safety Ministry, the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Culture and Sports Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Construction and Housing Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Education Ministry, the Tourism Ministry, the INCB and the staff that is implementing the plan for the socio-economic development of the Bedouin population in the Negev.
In the context of the five-year Negev development plan, the INCB, which was established at the behest of Prime Minister Netanyahu approximately 18 months ago, will formulate a plan to establish Be'er Sheva as a unique Negev cyber center that will advance and concentrate research and development, industry and human capital in this field. The outline will advance the unique combination in Be'er Sheva of the IDF technological units that will move there, the research and teaching base at Ben-Gurion University and the city's developing elite industries, in cooperation with the relevant government ministries and local authorities and the Council for Higher Education Planning and Budget Committee.
In the framework of the decision, inter alia, NIS 40 million will be allocated to support the establishment of centers of leading cyber companies as part of Economy Ministry and INCB assistance for the absorption of new workers. Several meetings have been held in recent weeks, led by Be'er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilowitz and INCB head Dr. Matania.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to appoint Ron Dermer as Israel's next Ambassador to the US. Over the past four years, Dermer has served as Prime Minister Netanyahu's senior adviser and previously (2005-2008) served as the economic attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Dermer is 42, married and the father of five children. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and holds a master's degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford.
In 2004, Natan Sharansky and Dermer wrote The Case For Democracy: The Power Of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny And Terror, which became a best-seller and has been translated into ten languages.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "Ron Dermer has all the qualities necessary to successfully fill this important post. I have known him for many years and I know that Ron will faithfully represent the State of Israel in the capital of our greatest ally – the USA. On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I wish him great success."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Transportation and Road Safety Minister Yisrael Katz, this morning (Wednesday, 3 July 2013), held a press conference following the publication of the tenders for new seaports. The decision to issue the tenders for the two ports was made in the wake of the great interest by international elements. The tender still reserves the possibility of building a single port.
Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs and International Relations Dr. Yuval Steinitz, this afternoon (Tuesday, 2 July 2013), in Berlin, met with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and with German Finance Minister Dr. Wolfgang Schauble in order to discuss the continuation of international sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program.
Earlier, in their joint statements, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:
"We want peace. I want peace. We want to restart peace negotiations as soon as possible, without any obstacles. We have to get into the tent and stay in the tent and seek to end this conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. That’s our goal. That is Secretary Kerry’s efforts, which I think deserve consistent and constant European support, and I’m sure that Italy will give that support.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon (Monday, 1 July 2013), met with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer and told him that he was very pleased to meet him, adding that the State of Israel would continue to cooperate with the ICRC. The two men discussed the possibility in Israeli water and health technologies.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Thursday, 30 May 2013), visited the headquarters of the Israel Security Agency and met with ISA Director Yoram Cohen and senior ISA officials. The Prime Minister was briefed on ISA activities in various fields and the direction of its future operations. He was also presented with its advanced operational and technological capabilities including those used in dealing with the threats facing the State of Israel.
"I would like to draw your attention to three things: First, the peace process. I held a third meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry last night until the early morning, along with my colleagues on the negotiating team. Israel is ready to begin negotiations without delay, without pre-conditions. We are not putting up any impediments on the resumption of the permanent talks and a peace agreement between us and the Palestinians. There are things that we will strongly insist on in the talks themselves, especially security. We will not compromise on security and there will be no agreement that will endanger Israelis' security, and I believe, I think, that it is necessary that any agreement, if it is achieved, be submitted to the people for a decision.
"The Israel Air Force is the best in the world – it has the ability to deal with the challenges and threats we face"
"You are the young guard – the next generation of the best air force in the world"
The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, delivered remarks this afternoon at the Israeli Air Force Graduation Ceremony. President Peres addressed the threats and challenges Israel is facing and said, "Over the past 50 years, Israel's Air Force remains the best in the world. When you throw your berets in the air you will become the young guard – the next generation of the best air force in the world. You will hold in your hands the controls of the airplane which are also the controls of the security of the State of Israel and protect the country and its skies. Israel is facing complex and multiple challenges. The IDF, and the IAF, has the ability to deal with those challenges and threats. The reputation of the IAF is part of Israel's deterrent system."
"A binational state contradicts the vision of Herzl, it endangers the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel."
“There is a chance to renew the peace process, and it is not to be missed. We welcome the arrival of Secretary of State Kerry, to Israel. This is an effort to revive the process and we will all help it to suceed.”
The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, delivered remarks this morning at the State Memorial Ceremony in memory of Benjamin Zeev (Theodor) Herzl. President Peres addressed Secretary of State Jon Kerry's peace initiative, and Herzl's Zionist vision that Israel will live in peace with its neighbors: "Peace is a moral foundation of Judaism, it is an existential need of the Jewish state. A binational state contradicts the vision of Herzl, it endangs the Jewish and democratic state of Israel. There is a chance to renew the peace process, and it is not to be missed. We welcome the arrival of Secretary of State Kerry, to Israel. This is an effort to revive the process and we will all help it to succeed.”
Following is an excerpt from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks, today (Thursday, 27 June 2013), at the state memorial ceremony for Binyamin Zeev (Theodor) Herzl at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem:
"Let no one among us delude him or herself that if we make a peace agreement with the Palestinians, that this agreement would eliminate the wild defamation of the state of the Jews. What has been the lot of the Jews beforehand, for generations, today is the lot of the state of the Jews. Peace is desirable in and of itself. Peace is based on security. It is not based on goodwill and legitimacy as is believed. It is based, first of all, on our ability to defend ourselves. Without security, without the army, the establishment of which Herzl called for, we will be unable to defend the peace, we will be unable to defend ourselves if the peace frays. A basic condition for the existence of peace, for achieving it and for preserving it is security."
"The exercise that we are doing here is not theoretical. The reality around us is changing very quickly. It is explosive and dynamic and we need to be ready accordingly. What has impressed me today on yet another visit to a Golani Brigade exercise is that we are moving over time with an exceptional combination of commanders, soldiers and technology.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, this morning (Tuesday, 25 June 2013), made the following statements at the start of their meeting:
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "Prime Minister Ivanishvili, it's a pleasure to welcome you here in Jerusalem. I've been looking forward to our meeting. It will be an important step in continuing the great relationship between Georgia and Israel. We want to expand this relationship in every way – in trade, in agriculture, in cultural exchanges, and I would say strengthening and building on the human bridge between our two societies. We have a very proud community of Jews that came from Georgia, that have been there for thousands of years, and in addition, we have the modern states that have a deep and instinctive friendship between us.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, outgoing Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer and incoming Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Jacob Frenkel made the following statements today (Monday, 24 June 2013):
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "My friend, the Finance Minister and I decided together on the appointment of Jacob Frenkel as the next Governor of the Bank of Israel. This was a difficult search among excellent candidates.
This is a dark day for UNESCO, a day the organization will want to erase from its history as it demonstrates that it is acting outside the boundary of reality. Today, in the debates held by the World Heritage Committee in Phnom Penh, a Palestinian resolution on Jerusalem was submitted to a vote.
On June 19, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released the 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts. Israel, for the second year, received a “Tier 1” ranking for the Government of Israel’s efforts to prevent human trafficking, prosecute offenders, and protect trafficking victims.
Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Doha, New Delhi, Jeddah, Kuwait City, Amman, Jerusalem, and Bandar Seri Begawan from June 21 to July 2.
On June 22-23 in Doha, the Secretary is scheduled to meet with senior Qatari officials to discuss bilateral and regional issues. The Secretary will also participate in a meeting with the “London 11” foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Syria, including support to the Syrian opposition and efforts to advance a political solution.
A diverse plenary panel consisting of a Nobel Laureate, the chief architect of President Barack Obama's two successful presidential campaigns, a New York Times best-selling scholar, and an award-winning Hollywood actress participated in a spirited discussion on the psychological aspects of attaining Israeli-Palestinian peace, online dating and leadership. The panel was moderated by Tamar Ish Shalom, host of the daily evening news on Israel's Channel Ten, and included Prof. Daniel Kahneman; David Axelrod; Prof. Dan Ariely; and Sharon Stone.
Long thought as a Middle Eastern country without energy resources, Israel has had several significant natural gas finds off the Mediterranean coast over the last several years. These new, potentially game-changing discoveries were the topic of discussion at an afternoon panel at the Fifth Annual Israeli Presidential Conference.
Shmuel Rosner, a columnist, editor and fellow at The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), led an expert panel on the future of Jewish leadership in which participants outlined their own journeys to leadership and highlighted current challenges and criteria for building the next generation of leaders.
Remarks by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton before her meeting with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Thank you. Prime Minister. Can I just say what a great pleasure it is to see you, to be back in Jerusalem, back in this great nation, to say first of all that I'm fully supportive of the work that Secretary Kerry is undertaking. I know he's travelled many times already to talk with you, to talk with President Abbas. And as I've made clear, I'm fully supportive of his work. I said this in Ramallah last night, I say it here in Jerusalem, that we want this to be the way forward, to bring direct negotiations, and Europe will support that wholeheartedly. It is, as you rightly indicate, the way forward.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton accepted Israel’s President’s Award from Israeli President Shimon Peres, the sixth recipient of the award, in a ceremony today at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center.
“(President Clinton) became a leader of humanity by inspiring and not imposing,” said President Peres. “Your unwavering commitment to the Jewish people and your moving support for the State of Israel will always be cherished. The future will hang upon your immeasurable contribution.”
Ms. Jane Eisner, Editor-in-Chief of The Jewish Daily Forward, monitored the discussion, whose speakers included Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC, Richard Plepler, CEO of HBO, Ed Morissey, the lead blogger on HotAir, Aluf Benn, Editor-in-Chief of Haaretz newspaper, and Dr. Renana Peres, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Hebrew University.
Director of UN World Food Bank Program, Ertharin Cousin: “We can have a vision, but a vision without investment is simply a hallucination”
June 19, 2013 – Jerusalem, Israel – Dr. Miriam Haran, Director of the M.B.A. studies at Ono Academic College, led an expert panel addressing the question “Is there Hope for a Greener Tomorrow?”
While participants are hopeful that tomorrow will be “greener”, they highlighted a number of potential obstacles that must be overcome, including greater global collaboration, investment and governmental support of green technology.
Israeli economist Manuel Trajtenberg calls for a “conceptual revolution” in relationship between government, private sector
Dr. Manuel Trajtenberg, whose committee submitted recommendations on social and economic reforms to the Israeli government following the country’s 2011 social protests, participated in an animated panel discussion on the challenges of balancing economic principles – particularly the aims of capitalism – with social values. The panel, moderated by Guy Rolnick, Editor-in-Chief of leading Israeli economics publication, The Marker, also included Sir Ronald Cohen (UK), Chairman of Big Society Capital; Adrian Gore (South Africa), CEO of Discovery; Abby Joseph Cohen (USA), President of the Global Markets Institute; and Lord Professor Robert Skidelsky (UK), author of an award-winning, three-volume biography of British economist John Maynard Keynes.
Leading academics David Agus and Dan Gilbert and activist Ayaan Hirsi-Ali debated the question “Will Tomorrow be Better” at the afternoon plenary session of the 2103 Israeli Presidential Conference.
Hirsi-Ali, a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Founder of The AHA Foundation, a women’s rights organization, focused on a number of different aspects of how she thinks tomorrow will look, but stressed the need for society to be unafraid of failure. “Cultures that encourage experimentation will outlast the others - as long as we continue trying and failing, we will be on top of the world.”
Gary Rosenblatt, Editor and Publisher of The Jewish Week of New York, led a panel discussion today at the Israeli Presidential Conference focused on Tikkun Olam in the Jewish world. Panelists included Michael Siegal, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federations of America, Israeli singer and activist Alma Zohar, Jude Williams, Chief Executive of the NGO Tzedek, Gal Lousky, CEO and founder of Israeli Flying Aid, and Dyonna Ginsburg, Director of Jewish Service learning at the Jewish Agency
Dear Friends and my dearest friend President Bill Clinton,
When I call you my friend I know that I speak for the entire people of Israel.
Your unwavering commitment to the Jewish People and your moving support for the State of Israel will always be cherished by each and every one of us.
Your love extended far beyond the American shores, reaching over seas and mountains, straight into our hearts. Your unique ability to connect with people on a personal level, the amazing combination between your intellectual and emotional intelligence made you the most beloved leader on earth.
You were the first leader in the era of globalization and you recognized and harnessed its qualities. Your empathy crossed divides and borders. You transferred the "zero sum" mentality into win-win situations for the people, from Northern Ireland to the Balkans, and from Africa to the Middle East. Where possible - with an embrace. Where needed - with strength. And always with charm.
You invested great wisdom, boundless energy and skill to promote peace between us and our neighbors. You presided over the signing of the Israeli – Jordanian peace treaty. Your work laid the foundations which will one day bring peace to our region – the two sates solution. You trail blazed the way to that desired destination. And although the work is not yet complete, the future will hang upon your immeasurable contribution.
My friend, we were moved when you used the meaningful Hebrew word for friend. It was the perfect way to remember Yitzhak Rabin. Your friend. Our leader. My partner.
It became a symbol for feelings of loss that we all felt, and still feel. Bill, I don't think that you have achieved less out of office than in office. Seeing all you are accomplishing through the Clinton Foundation, you are tempting me into retirement. The Clinton Global Initiative reminds us that one man can inspire an entire generation. To change lives for the better. You mobilized troops of goodwill. And you encouraged aspirations in a visionary and imaginative way, across oceans and seas. You offered to all of us what we call in Hebrew "Tikun Olam", which means making the world a better place.
Hillary and you have both been great friends to my country every step of the way. I was privileged to witness this unusual attitude. Both of you have shown unmatched friendship to my country in times of need and occasions of hope. Bill, you are an amazing story of a selfless young man who became a leader. A youngster from Arkansas who matured into the leader of the free world.
The greatest contribution you have offer us, Bill, goes beyond your state, your country, your language. You became a leader of humanity by inspiring, not imposing. You became a servant of humanity without ruling. You are the American dream that became a hope for the world.
It is my privilege for me to confer upon you today the highest honor of Israel, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Through this modest gesture, the entirety of my country and my people thank you for your support, for your care, for your friendship. Toda rabba, Bill. God bless you.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, and Bank of Israel Governor Prof. Stanley Fischer, today (Wednesday, 19 June 2013), decided to increase to 60% the amount of natural gas designated for the Israeli market.
President Peres conducted a diplomatic work meeting with the Foreign Minister of Holland, Mr. Frans Timmermans. During the meeting the two discussed strengthening the diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Foreign Minister expressed to President Peres the importance of the initiative by John Kerry to restart negotiations and Holland's support for the two state solution. President Peres thanked Foreign Minister Timmermans and said, "I thank you for your support and am grateful for the excellent relations between Israel and Holland." Foreign Minister Timmermans conveyed an invitation from the King of Holland for President Peres to visit Holland.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Tuesday, 18 June 2013), at the start of his meeting with Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky on the issue of advancing Jewish education in the Diaspora, referred to the vandalism of vehicles and spraypainting of graffiti in Abu Ghosh:
"What happened today in Abu Ghosh contravenes the precepts of Judaism, and the values of our people and our state. Just this week we passed decisions that will enable us to take strong action against those who perpetrate such crimes and we will do so with full force."
JERUSALEM -The decision today by the Budapest Investigative Prosecutors to indict Laszlo Csatary , the former senior police officer and ghetto commandant in Kosice , demonstrates that even after 70 years, justice can be attained and dignity can be restored.
This indictment also sends a significant educational message to the younger generation in Hungary, as the country struggles with its history during World War II.
Israel welcomes the decision and hopes that the Hungarian authorities will do their utmost to expedite the trial in view of the defendant's advanced age.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Tuesday, 18 June 2013), met with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and made the following remarks at the start of the meeting: "It is a real pleasure to welcome you again to Jerusalem.
Last month Canada imposed a total trade ban on Iran. Prime Minister Harper should be praised for his important leadership on this crucial issue. Today, it is imperative to continue that pressure.
Israel, through MASHAV, cooperates on an ongoing basis with the World Food Programme in coping with the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa.
In the course of her visit, Ms. Cousin will take part in the Israeli Presidential Conference and will hold meetings with professionals in the fields of development and food. She will meet with President Shimon Peres, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, and MFA Deputy Director General for MASHAV (Israel Agency for International Development Cooperation) Daniel Carmon. She will also meet with heads of food companies in the private sector, tour the Volcani Institute of Agricultural Research and deliver a lecture at Tel-Aviv University.
The International Program in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Tel Aviv University colloquium with representatives of the multinational peacekeeping forces in the region.
Tuesday 18 June, 2013, Naftali Building of Social Sciences in Efter Hall (Room 001)
The International Program in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Tel Aviv University is hosting the second academic colloquium entitled "Can Peacekeepers Keep the Peace?" with representatives of the multinational peacekeeping forces in the region.
On behalf of the Governments of the State of Israel and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans have agreed today to begin preparations for the establishment of the bilateral Dutch-Israeli Cooperation Forum.The Forum’s objective is to strengthen bilateral relations by increasing cooperation in the field of innovation and by bringing together representatives from the business sector, academia, civil society and the government, and to explore new fields of possible cooperation. The Forum will explore specific areas of cooperation, such as innovation in water management, energy/gas, agriculture and IT/high tech. It will also provide an opportunity for consultations on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues at the political level.
The Cabinet, this evening (Sunday, 16 June 2013), approved a decision that significantly expands the investigative and judicial tools available to the security forces and law enforcement authorities against so-called 'Price Tag' actions.
In its decision, the Cabinet authorized Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to use his authority under defense regulations to declare 'Price Tag' activists an illegal association. This will significantly strengthen the ability to fight 'Price Tag' phenomena.
At the same time, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni will continue to advance prevention of terrorism legislation that will – inter alia – deal with the issue.
The Cabinet, today (Sunday, 16 June 2013), approved the establishment of an inter-ministerial team on upgrading the level of protection for existing residential buildings.
The committee was established in the wake of instructions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to work toward significantly bridging the gaps in protection in light of the security threats against Israel and the failure of previous efforts to bring about a broad solution to the challenges of ant-missile protection.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Sunday, 16 June 2013), made the following remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting:
"Regarding the results of the elections in Iran, let us not delude ourselves. The international community must not become caught up in wishes and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program. It must be remembered that the Iranian ruler, at the outset, disqualified candidates who did not fit his extremist outlook and from among those whose candidacies he allowed was elected the candidate who was seen as less identified with the regime, who still defines the State of Israel as "the great Zionist Satan."
The President-elect in Iran had been shortlisted by the Ayatollah Khamenei, who has disqualified and removed candidates who did not conform his extremist views. Iran's nuclear program has so far been determined by Khamenei, and not by Iran's President.
After the elections, Iran will continue to be judged by its actions, in the nuclear sphere as well as on the issue of terror. Iran must abide by the demands of the international community to stop its nuclear program and cease the dissemination of terror throughout the world.
Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt reiterated the UK’s commitment to Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to secure a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, during a four day visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Mr Burt met Israel’s Minister for Justice and Chief Negotiator, Tzipi Livni, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s peace envoy, Yitzhak Molho as well as the Minister for Strategic Affairs, Yuval Steinitz. The meetings covered a range of issues, including the peace process, regional security concerns and the UK-Israel bilateral relationship. Mr Burt also emphasised the UK’s understanding of Israel’s unique security needs.
The UK's Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt kicked off a coexistence football project in Jerusalem today. The Minister was joined by the English FA's Chairman, David Bernstein, the former captain of the Israeli national football team, Avi Nimni, and the British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould.
The event brought together Arab and Jewish Israeli and Palestinian children for a football game in southwest Jerusalem through the Neighbourhood League organisation. The Neighbourhood League is a sporting organisation which aims to improve the quality of life through football and education for children from Jewish, Arab and Palestinian communities.
The Minister joined the children in a football match. For most of the participants, it was a chance to play with children from other backgrounds that they would not ordinarily meet.
Commenting on the event, the Minister said:
"We have ambitious plans to launch a coexistence project in Israel working closely with the FA. We want to use football as a tool to bring together Arab and Jewish Israelis, and Palestinians, closer together. We are determined to give children the skills they need to become better footballers, while fulfilling an educational role and advancing the core values of living in peace and having respect for each other."
David Bernstein, Chairman of The FA said: “The FA fully supports projects such as we have seen today which encourage integration and social inclusion through football.
“We endorse the initiative of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and its Embassy here in Israel in engaging with football experts and local communities to give children from all backgrounds the opportunity to come together through the shared values of our sport".
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Thursday, 13 June 2013), made the following remarks at the dedication ceremony for the permanent pavilion at Block 27 at Auschwitz-Birkenau
"The leaders of the Allies knew about the Holocaust in real time. They understood exactly what was happening in the death camps. They were asked to act, they could have acted, and they did not. To we Jews the lesson is clear. We must not be complacent in the face of threats of annihilation. We must not bury our heads in the sand or allow others to do the work for us.
Reports have appeared in recent days in the Israeli media suggesting that the European Union took a decision earlier this month not to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.
These reports are not founded on fact. No such decision has been taken. Discussions are continuing between the EU Member States on the issue of listing Hezbollah. Any decision requires the unanimous support of all EU Member States.
Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks today (Wednesday, 12 June 2013), at the inter-governmental consultations in Poland:
"I want peace. To achieve peace, we must negotiate peace. We want to see this American effort succeed. Israel is ready for the resumption of direct negotiations for peace without pre-conditions. I think it is time to stop squabbling over preconditions. I think it's time to stop negotiating about the negotiations. I think we have to start peace talks immediately. My goal is to see a historic compromise that ends the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians once and for all. This will entail a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, with iron clad security arrangements for Israel – recognition, security, demilitarization. I believe that these are the elements for peace. I don't pose them as preconditions for negotiations. I look forward to enter those negotiations without preconditions without delay. I am ready for such a peace. I hope the Palestinians are ready too.
Israeli and German environment ministries to work together on preparing new legislation for integrated pollution prevention and control
The Ministry of Environmental Protection's goal of drafting a "green licensing law" will receive a significant boost by means of an EU-funded "Twinning" project to be officially launched today in Jaffa Port.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel was notified today by its Austrian counterpart about the decision of the Austrian government to withdraw their soldiers from UNDOF. While appreciating Austria's longtime contribution and commitment to peacekeeping in the Middle East, we nevertheless regret this decision and hope that it will not be conducive to further escalation in the region. Israel expects the United Nations to uphold its commitment under Security Council Resolution 350 (1974), in virtue of which UNDOF has been established.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates Susan Rice on being chosen as US National Security Adviser and thanks outgoing US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon "Israel and the US are strategic allies, and I am certain that bilateral security cooperation, which has been greatly enhanced in recent years, will continue in the years ahead," the Prime Minister said.
Earlier today (Wednesday, 5 June 2013), National Security Adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror spoke with his outgoing American counterpart, Tom Donilon, and thanked him for his contribution to enhancing the strategic alliance between Israel and the US, for the joint work between Prime Minister Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama, and for his efforts to advance the two countries' common interests. Amidror also wished success to Susan Rice, with whom Israel had coordinated vis-à-vis the common challenges at the UN.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Sunday, 2 June 2013), made the following remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting:
"The Middle East is going through an especially sensitive period of shocks and upheavals in many sectors. While we have no interest in being party to the conflicts around us, we are acting and we are committed to prevent dangers to Israel's security, and we have a clear policy of responding to attempted attacks against our territory. Also, I would like to strongly condemn recent phenomena of racism against Israeli Arabs and hooliganism against Palestinians, which were without any provocation or justification whatsoever. We strongly reject these phenomena and will act with all legal means at our disposal to stop them."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Thursday, 30 May 2013), attended a meeting of the Emergency Economy Committee to summarize this week's home front drill and made the following remarks at the start of the meeting: "We are deep in the era of missiles that are aimed at civilian population areas. Operation Pillar of Defense is a small example of the substantial changes in modes of attack. We must prepare defensively and offensively for the new era of warfare. The State of Israel is the most threatened state in the world. Around us are tens of thousands of missiles and rockets that could hit our home front. Defensive preparations, first of all, mean preparing the spirit of the nation to be steadfast in order to allow the military to strike the enemy that wants to destroy us. It is important to maintain functional continuity in the home front that is under fire. The Israeli home front is more accessible to the enemy than it has been. Defense requires both materials and many resources and this demands a change in our national order of priorities, including legislative changes."
Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs and International Relations Dr. Yuval Steinitz, today (Thursday, 30 May 2013), met with Russian Ambassador to Israel Sergey Yakovlev. The two men discussed various bilateral issues, as well as strategic issues regarding the region, and agreed that Israel and Russia would continue to maintain an ongoing dialogue and cooperate.
HAIFA, Israel, 29 April 2013, (BWNS) ― More than 1,000 Baha'is from 157 countries cast their ballots today in the election to choose the nine members of the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Baha'i Faith.
For some three hours, the delegates to the 11th International Baha'i Convention filed one by one across the stage, each dropping a ballot into a simple wooden box. The event was characterized by a spirit of reverence and joy, with each voter being called by name, in alphabetical order by country.
The delegates to the convention are the members of Baha'i National Spiritual Assemblies, who were themselves elected by delegates chosen at the grassroots level in their own countries. Thus, virtually every adult Baha'i in the world has the opportunity to participate in the election of the Universal House of Justice.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Wednesday, 29 May 2013), met with Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and made the following remarks at the start of the meeting: "Welcome to Israel. We were just commenting on the similar colors of the flags, and that shouldn’t be a surprise because Jerusalem and Athens are the foundation of Western civilization. In the last four years links between us have grown dramatically and there’s much more to be done, and that’s what we’re going to discuss. It’s good to see you in Jerusalem, we’re two sister democracies in the eastern Mediterranean. There are not too many around."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Wednesday, 29 May 2013), met with US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and made the following remarks at the start of the meeting: "Senator, I would like to welcome you as a great friend of Israel. You did it again. Your bill supporting Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat was passed by an amazing majority, I think 99 to 0. Very few people can accomplish something like that and it’s the second time you’ve done it, because you’ve also had the important sanctions bill. And we know that you stand with us, as do the American people and the American Government, the American congress, against the greatest security threat of our time, which is Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. I think it’s the greatest security threat to the United States, to the free world and to international peace. And these are our two goals: security and peace. On peace, we applaud Secretary Kerry’s efforts. I stand ready to resume negotiations immediately, and I think there’s an abiding interest to achieve a secure peace. And we’re prepared to get on with it. The one thing that unites all Israelis: the support and friendship of the United States. It’s very strong because of people like you. Thank you."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, today (Tuesday, 28 May 2013), in Ramle, at IDF Home Front Command HQ, said in response to a question about potential conflict with Syria: "That is not the intelligence assessment. The Syrian regime treats us differently than its citizens. It is deterred by us, but not by its citizens. We will be prepared and ready for any future developments. In our assessment, we do not see anyone who is about to try and test us in the area of unconventional attacks in the foreseeable future."
In response to a question about the S-300 missile system, Minister Ya'alon said: "Regarding the S-300, the matter obviously came up because of Russia's intention to provide Syria with this missile system. Clearly this move is a threat to us, even though at this point I cannot say that there is a step-up in the shipment of the S-300. The deliveries have not taken place, I can attest to this, and I hope they do not. But if, by some misfortune, they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do."
In Israel he met the Minister for International Relations and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz, the Head of the Israeli National Cyber Bureau, Dr Eviatar Matania and the President of the Technion University Professor Peretz Lavie. The Minister also met a number of private companies, including Soluto, WCK and Hybrid Security to discuss Cyber. Commenting on the visit Mr Maude said:
"I came to Israel because I had heard about the amazing cyber and digital innovation here. My visit has not disappointed. I have met start-ups, visited the Technion, and been briefed by the Israeli Government. What I have seen is immensely impressive.
The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) and its partner Statistics Denmark are launching a European Union Twinning project on Tuesday, May 28 at 14:00 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. At the kick-off event, representatives from the EU Delegation to Israel, the Danish Embassy in Israel, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will address the participants.
The newly appointed Government Statistician, Prof. Danny Pfeffermann, will officially invite partners of ICBS in the development, production and consumption of official statistics in Israel, including top Israeli researchers, and main official producers and customers in ministries and public organizations, to participate actively in the relevant project activities.
The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, addressed the world's press upon his arrival at the World Economic Forum and addressed the importance of restarting the peace process
"Good morning, this is the time for peace. It is the time for peace. I believe this is the general desire and the clear option. With the nomination of Secretary Kerry and the overall expressions supporting peace we shouldn’t be cynical. It is urgent; we shouldn’t lose the opportunity because it will be replaced by a great disappointment. We have to overcome skepticism and doubts. I believe it is a real possibility. As far as the Palestinians are concerned we have a functioning beginning and an agreed solution. The solution is the two state solution – living in peace and dignity. I am aware of the missing links residing between the two ends. From my experience I believe it is possible to overcome them, it doesn’t require too much time. It is the real interest of all parties concerned. This is an important opportunity to reiterate our will, not to waste time and to return to negotiations and complete the peace process with the Palestinians based on two states for two peoples – an Israeli state and a Palestinian state living as good neighbours and cooperating economically for the good of future generations."
"We must not miss the opportunity for peace – only at the negotiating table will the disagreements be overcome."
The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, met with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas this evening on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Jordan. During the meeting the two discussed the obstacles to restarting negotiations and possible ways to overcome those obstacles. President Peres stressed the importance of quickly resuming the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He said that a window of opportunity has been created which is enhanced by the support from President Obama's administration in the United States which is committed a peace deal as seen by Secretary of State John Kerry's initiative: "Peace will be based on the principle of two states for two peoples – a Jewish state, Israel, living side by side in peace and security with an Arab state of Palestine." President Peres stressed that Secretary Kerry's peace initiative is serious and can provide an economic framework for a diplomatic process, "We must not miss the opportunity for peace, we must find a way to return to the negotiating table, only through negotiations will the disagreements be overcome."
President Shimon Peres, this morning (Friday, 24 May 2013), met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. President Peres conveyed his condolences, and those of the State of Israel, for the attack yesterday in London. The two discussed the changes in the Middle East, ways to restart the peace process with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear threat, the situation in Syria and strategic relations between Israel and Britain. President Peres began by saying, "I'm really glad to see you here, you made your positions extremely clear on the major issue, on Iran, on terror, on the need to move forward with the peace process and we feel your friendship and understanding. I think our relations are in a good shape and I'm glad you added scientific cooperation to it. Trade and investment between our two countries is flourishing. Your visit is timely and important. In spite of all the difficulties the time is right for peace. I can see positive developments on our side, on the Palestinian side and on the Arab side. I think that Arab Initiative is a departure from a strategy of war to a strategy of peace, which is important. I see that quietly things are moving." President Peres expressed his condolences for the attack in London and said, "I want to express our sympathy to the family of the soldier who was so brutally killed. We know what it is like and our hearts are with you. I sent a letter to Her Majesty expressing our sympathy and support."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Thursday, 23 May 2013), in Jerusalem, made the following remarks at the start of his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry:
"John, it’s a pleasure to welcome you in Jerusalem. You’re an old personal friend and a long-standing friend of Israel, and that friendship was demonstrated in President Obama’s historic visit here in March. It was demonstrated yesterday in an extraordinary resolution by the U.S. Senate to stand with Israel against Iran’s nuclear program. I want to commend the House Foreign Affairs Committee for upgrading the sanctions so we’ll discuss Iran; we’ll discuss the terrible carnage and instability in Syria, but above all, what we want to do is to restart the peace talks with the Palestinians. You’ve been working at it a great deal. We’ve been working at it together. It’s something I want, it’s something you want. It’s something I hope the Palestinians want as well and we ought to be successful for a simple reason. When there’s a will, we’ll find a way. Thank you. So welcome."
Jerusalem 28-30 May 2013 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs are holding the 4th International Conference of the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism on 28-30 May 2013. The delegates are convening to discuss ways of combating the different manifestations of current Antisemitism at a 3-day conference in Jerusalem. This conference serves as a followup mechanism to previous conferences, and aims at discussing, through 10 different Working Groups, viable models for facing the global challenge of Antisemitism, and coming up with a practical Action Plan.
Dear Guests, We appreciate your choosing to participate in the 4th conference of the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism , taking place here in Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Israel. Antisemitism has taken many different forms in the course of its long history. While old Antisemitism still exists, new forms of Antisemitism are manifesting themselves in recent years putting into use new technology and modern media to spread an ancient hate. Increasingly anti-Israeli tendencies and activities are inseparable from Antisemitism, with Israel being attacked as the new collective Jew, while Iran develops military nuclear capabilities and her leaders deny the Holocaust and threaten Israel with destruction.