Letter to HR Federica Mogherini and to EP President Martin Schulz

Today a group of 13 MEPs, who support Israel and are friends of EIPA or sit on our Advisory committee, sent a letter to High Representative Federica Mogherini and European Parliament President Martin Schulz calling on them to issue a clear and unambiguous statement to Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, that inflammatory language and his silence in refusing to condemn the recent murders and stabbings against Israeli citizens will not be tolerated by the EU.

A highly appreciated action in these difficult times.

Brussels, 7 October 2015

Dear High Representative Mogherini, Dear President Schulz,

We, as Members of the European Parliament, Members of EIPA’s Advisory Committee and friends of EIPA, are deeply concerned at the recent increase in inflammatory language coming from the Palestinian Authority leadership, and Mahmoud Abbas in particular.
We are equally concerned at the silence and lack of condemnatory statements from Mr Abbas with regards to the murders of two parents in front of their children in the West Bank on Thursday, and the resounding silence following the stabbing murders and injuries inflicted against Israeli citizens this weekend in Jerusalem.
UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon had already condemned Mr Abbas, fearing that his recent inflammatory statements on events at the Temple Mount would increase tensions in Jerusalem. His fears were well founded.

Following Mr Abbas’ speech at the UN General Assembly last week – in which he stated that the Palestinian Authority no longer felt bound by the Oslo Accord Framework – The military wing of Fatah claimed responsibility for the murders of the young Israeli parents Eitam and Na’ama Henkin.

A Hamas spokesman praised the attack by the “brave resistance,” calling the murderous act “heroic,” and called for its members to carry out more attacks against Israel. The Popular Resistance Committees also “blessed” the attack, saying it was a natural reaction to “Israeli crimes.”

Israel has, in stark contrast, immediately condemned and brought the full weight of justice to bear on Israeli citizens who attack and murder Palestinian citizens.

We take note and welcome the EEAS statements in light of the murders and events in Jerusalem. You will also be aware of the Israeli Prime Minister’s desire to begin peace process negotiations immediately and without pre-conditions. This offer, which must be grasped, is still on the table.
High Representative, President, events in Israel and the West Bank are taking a worrying turn. Many are claiming that a third intifada has already begun.
We press upon you the need for an unambiguous and clear European repudiation of the language used by Mr. Abbas to date, his silence in the face of brutal and unwarranted murders of Israeli citizens, and his failure to properly respond and engage with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer of peace negotiations.
We urge you to issue this clear and unambiguous statement as soon as possible, so that the Palestinian leadership understands that incitement to hatred, and silence in the face of Palestinian terror attacks against Israel’s population have consequences and will not be tolerated by the European Union.
Yours Faithfully,

MEP Fulvio Martusciello (EPP, Italy)
MEP Frédérique Ries (ALDE, Belgium)
MEP Boris Zala (S&D, Slovakia)
MEP Ramon Tremosa Balcells (ALDE, Spain)
MEP Lars Adaktusson (EPP, Sweden)
MEP Petro Auštrevičiaus biuras (ALDE, Lithuania)
MEP Milan Zver EPP, Slovenia)
MEP Marijana Petir (EPP, Croatia)
MEP Bas Belder (ECR, the Netherlands)
MEP Hannu Takkula (ALDE, Finland)
MEP Arne Gericke (ECR, Germany)
MEP Cristian Preda (EPP, Romania)
MEP Branislav Škripek (ECR, Slovakia)


Israel to EU: Halt funding of NGOs working against us

Italian PM Matteo Renzi and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely

Italian PM Matteo Renzi and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely

Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely meets European officials to demand governments stop providing cash to allegedly anti-Israel organizations.
Israel is demanding that European Union member states halt funding to non-governmental organizations allegedly working to delegitimize the Jewish state. The Foreign Ministry claims that European governments provide 100-200 million euros annually to said groups.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has begun a series of consultations with European foreign ministers, their deputies, and ambassadors of several European countries, in which she is presenting evidence that their governments provide financial assistance to organizations that support boycotts against Israel, “blacken its face around the world, accuse it of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and war crimes; deprive the Jewish people of their right to self-determination, call to prosecute Israel in the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and support the right of return”.

Hotovely claimed that some of these organizations are associated with and actively support terror groups.

Hotovely has met withthe Dutch foreign minister, the Spanish deputy foreign minister, and the ambassadors of Sweden, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Switzerland.

According to Hotovely, the diplomats were presented with detailed documents collected by the Foreign Ministry and the NGO Monitor organization that prove the “problematic” funding. She emphasized that Israel sees support for organizations opposing its right to exist as crossing a red line.

Hotovely has instructed Israeli ambassadors in Europe to demand that ministries increase thier overview of funds given to such groups, warning that if her premptive diplomatic move fails, Israel will be forced to adopt legislation forbidding foreign countries from backing organizations with a clear anti-Israel bent.

According to Deputy Minister Hotovely, these are some of the European investments in such organizations in recent years:

The Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat, managed by the Institute of Law at Birzeit University in the West Bank, which received $10.5 million from the governments of Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. The funds were to go to 24 political organizations over three years.

In 2014, the governments of Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the EU provided NIS 415,741 to the Coalition of Women for Peace, an organization that supports aspects of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

The Netherlands provided NIS 13 million in the last three years to numerous NGOs, including Who Profits, Al-Haq, the Coalition of Women for Peace, and Al-Mezan.

Denmark provided NIS 23 million in the last three years to several NGOs, including Breaking the Silence, BADIL, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and other Palestinian organizations.

Switzerland provided NIS 5 million over the last three years to organizations like the Alternative Information Center, Zochrot, the Applied Research Institute, and Terrestrial Jerusalem.

Spain gave NIS 3.8 million in the last three years to groups including Breaking the Silence, the Coalition of Women for Peace, the Alternative Information Center, and NOVA, a Spanish BDS organization.

The United Kingdom provided NIS 12 million in 2008-2011 to Breaking the Silence, Yesh Din, Gisha, Bimkom, Terrestrial Jerusalem, and No Legal Frontiers.

 By Itamar Eichner, Ynetnews.com

 


EIPA Special Update: The Iran Deal

 High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gesture during a press conference in the course of the talks between the E3+3 (France, Germany, UK, China, Russia, US) and Iran in Vienna, Austria, 14 July 2015.   EPA/HERBERT NEUBAUER

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, Austria, 14 July 2015. EPA/HERBERT NEUBAUER

Dear friends,

As you will know, some of the world powers signed an accord with Iran after a fraught and long period of negotiations that ran long past the deadline of June 30th.

 The spin-doctors have been out in force, seeking to drive the media consensus that this is historic, unparalleled and will usher in a new period of West-Iran relations.

We ask you not to believe the hype. This is not a good deal. Putting aside the clear implications for the State of Israel that are obvious, the deal falters on a number of fronts.

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer has made the following points that we at EIPA feel are a rational and responsible take on the deal.

It short, the deal is bad because:

  • It leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. It leaves Iran’s current capabilities almost entirely intact and allows Iran to improve those capabilities by conducting research and development on advanced centrifuges and building intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear warheads.
  • It allows Iran to continue its significant enrichment of uranium far beyond any practical civilian needs. These capabilities have been acquired by deception, concealment, and above all recurring violations of UN Security Council and IAEA resolutions.
  • The Iranian nuclear crisis began and intensified after two massive intelligence failures: Natanz and Arak,  and Fordow.  The international community learned of these major nuclear facilities only after after they were operational. There is no reason to believe that Iran will start cooperating tomorrow, but the deal all but guarantees that it will nonetheless have the nuclear infrastructure it would need to produce a nuclear arsenal.
  • The restrictions being placed on Iran’s nuclear program are only temporary, with the most important restrictions expiring in 10 years, and they are not contingent on Iran’s behavior. In 10 years, Iran could be even more aggressive toward its neighbors, sponsor even more terrorism around the globe and work even harder to destroy Israel, and the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would still be automatically removed.
  • It sparks a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Because states throughout the region know that the deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb, a number of them will race to get nuclear weapons of their own. The most dangerous region on earth would get infinitely more dangerous.
  • The deal transfers to the Iranian regime’s coffers $150 billion that is now frozen in foreign bank accounts. Tens of billions are likely to flow to the Shiite militias in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Palestinian terror groups in Gaza and other Iranian terror proxies in the region. 

For all these reasons (and indeed more such as the security of the State of Israel) EIPA believes a historic and monumental miscalculation has been made that benefits Iran and nobody else.


EIPA Advisory Board Delegation to Israel, 30th of June – 3rd of July 2015

Last week, Europe Israel Public Affairs hosted 7 Members of the European Parliament for a three day delegation to the State of Israel.

 

Many were members of the EIPA Advisory Board, made up of Members of the European Parliament from across the political spectrum. We held a series of meetings with Israeli ministers, government officials and Members of the Israeli Parliament. The agenda also included a briefing by IDF Lt. Yitzak Malca on Mount Bental, on the challenges and dangers IDF medical units face while trying to save Syrian refugees that cross over the Syrian border in order to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals.

Minister Gilad Erdan, recently appointed to head Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Minister of Information, emphasised the strategic interests that the EU and Israel share while pointing out the tension arising when the EU puts pressure on only one partner in the peace process. Setting in place and carrying out economic sanctions against Israel not only alienates Israel, but also sends the message to the Palestinians that the EU rewards unilateral action without asking them to address the existing Palestinian terror infrastructure.

The delegation was also briefed by the Head of the National Security Council, Yossi Cohen on the wider Middle East and on the various Islamic terrorist branches competing for territory and ideological supremacy all around Israel’s borders. Mr. Cohen also updated the MEPs on Israel’s position regarding the current E3+ 3 nuclear negotiations with Iran, underlining that regardless of the nuclear deal, Iran remains the main sponsor of global terrorism.

The Chair of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Israel, MEP Fulvio Martusciello, together with the rest of the delegation, met with MK Yaakov Peri, his newly appointed Israeli counterpart. The two chairs agreed to hold a joint Knesset-EP meeting in the next couple of months.

Because Israel is a pluralist democratic state, it was important that the Delegation also had the opportunity to hear the voice of the opposition party, Zionist Union, MK Nachman Shai, who shared his party position on the many social issues that Israel needs to address as a country.


Debate on the role of the EU in the Middle East Peace Process

The debate on the role of the EU in the Middle East Peace Process was postponed at the last minute!

The Socialists group decided to postpone in order to have it in the presence of Mrs Frederica Mogherini, VP and High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

The EP will vote on a text on this issue in September. It gives YOU the whole summer to talk to your MEP about it!

Stay tuned on the 22 July, for some announcement on the Middle East by the Foreign Affairs Council.


Meeting of the Delegation for relations with Israel in EP

Today, the delegation will host the following speakers:

– Mr Jafar Farah, Director, Mossawa Center, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel

-Mr Leonello Gabrici, Head of Division, Middle East II, Israel, occupied territories and Middle East Peace Process, European External Action Service

-Mr Jean-Louis Ville, Head of Unit, Governance, Democracy, Gender, Human Rights, DG DEVCO, European Commission

Check this space for news about this meeting!

View the agenda here!


“If in doubts, don’t shoot”

Hearing at the European Parliament Human Rights Committee with Stand with Us and Breaking the Silence

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple”, said Oscar Wilde.

 At the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human Rights meeting today in Brussels, this adage was put to the test.

On the one side, was Breaking the Silence, presenting their testimonies gathered from 70 soldiers who served during Operation Protective Edge alleging that Israel acted illegally in that war, on the other Matan Katzman, a former soldier, trainee lawyer and Regional Executive of Stand With Us, and Ohad Zemet, from the office of the legal adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem.

There is no doubt that last summer’s war was bloody, awful and should not be repeated.

But what became abundantly clear as the meeting progressed was the stark contrast between Hamas and the IDF when it came to respect for fundamental human rights. Whilst Hamas eagerly uses the Palestinian population as collateral damage in their PR war, Israel respects International Humanitarian Law and laws of armed conflicts, as repeatedly stated by high ranking generals and majors from the US and other countries who have observed and seek to emulate IDF best practice in cases of armed conflict. 

In a moving and deeply personal testimony, Mr Katzman outlined a number of situations he found himself in during the army’s incursion into Gaza.

As far from the IDF blood lust as propagated by Hamas and some such as Breaking the Silence as it is possible to get, Mr Katzman outlined a restrained and moral approach by the IDF, guided by his training and the maxim “if in doubt, don’t shoot”.

Not only is this a moral imperative, but a legal one too. Mr Zemet outlined the strict guidelines in place that ensure Israel meets, and often exceeds international legal norms.

 This approach entails extensive early warning systems, limitations on timings and locations of counter strikes. “Hamas is probably the only enemy in the world that receives advance warnings of places and timings of counter strikes” said Mr Zemet.

“Of course”, surmised Mr Katzman, “there are bad eggs in every batch, but Israeli society rejects them. They don’t represent the army as a whole and are judged, trialled and sentenced to the full extent of the law.”

Not something that can be said for Hamas terrorists who use human shields and whose actions are glorified and celebrated with impunity.

 This is one truth that even the contrarian Mr Wilde couldn’t dispute

Click here to read about how Israel’s army meets international legal norms


EIPA Update from the 29th of May

FIFA President Sepp Blatter at a press conference in Jerusalem, on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (photo credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

FIFA President Sepp Blatter at a press conference in Jerusalem, on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (photo credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

For the full Newsletter, follow this link!

“For he’s football crazy, He’s football mad, The football it has taken away
the little bit o’ sense he had…”

Some of you might remember these words from a popular song a couple of decades ago. The chorus soon became part of everyday language and it was sung by disgruntled wives, mothers and girlfriends.

But this week, it took on a whole new meaning, as we watched one of the largest edifices of world football – FIFA – crumble at its very foundations as a corruption scandal involving cash for favours, bribery and the footballing equivalent of nepotism gnawed away at its reputation.

Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s president is feeling the heat. Already many members are calling for his head on a plate, desperate to salvage a modicum of decorum and respect for the organisation.

What has any of this to do with Israel you might ask?

Well, followers of football may be aware about the ridiculous Palestinian bid to have Israel kicked out of FIFA.

And today is D-DAY.

A couple of days ago, the vote was, well, a non-vote. It didn’t have the requisite support and was essentially just about a PR and media blitz by Palestinians, in short politics by press release.

But there are now genuine fears in Jerusalem’s corridors of power that the current corruption scandal and a Presidential vote later might, in the end, lead to a vote on ousting Israel from the organization.

Why? Because in his bid for re-election, Blatter may require a substantial number of votes from the World’s Arab nations due to possible opposition from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). Blatter could call the Palestinian proposal to a vote in order to appease the Arab states.

It is said some people will do anything to cling onto power. Could Israel be the victim of such machinations and an internal FIFA power play? We will have to wait and see…

In other news this week, in a worrying sign of increasing tensions and hostility along its borders, Israel prepares to undertake a massive security drill.

We also bring you news about a baby induced by a rocket attack (a perfect riposte don’t you think? Those who want death, got a new Israeli life instead).

Lastly, are you one of those people that take pictures of your food in restaurants? Here at EIPA we are not sure we approve of this trend, but nonetheless if the answer is yes then there’s a new restaurant in Tel Aviv that is taking it to a whole new level. Read on

Thanks as always for your support. Until next week.


Mogherini ‘glad to hear’ Netanyhu’s commitment to two states

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speak to the media on May 20, 2015. (AFP/POOL/DAN BALILTY)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speak to the media on May 20, 2015.
(AFP/POOL/DAN BALILTY)

“I am glad to hear his commitment to two states. EU ready to help,” EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini tweeted Wednesday night after a meeting with Israeli  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu publicly pledged his support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in his first clear policy statement on the issue since his new government was formed last week.

“I don’t support a one state solution – I don’t believe that’s a solution at all,” Netanyahu said as he met with Mogherini who is on a two-day visit.

“I support the vision of two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, and I look forward to discussing with you how we can advance that vision forth in a practical, secure and responsible way,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu assured Mogherini that he was committed to resolving the conflict.

“Israel wants peace. I want peace. We want a peace that would end the conflict once and for all. My position has not changed,” Netanyahu said. He added that Israel has taken tangible steps to make life easier for the Palestinians.

“We’ve taken economic steps, added measures for reconstruction and development and ensuring ongoing humanitarian support. We’ll continue with those practical steps,” the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister added that “if I look around at our region and the world, the most dangerous enemy of peace is Iran.” ” Iran is arming and training Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, and Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Iran is opening a third terror front against Israel in the Golan and it is pursuing its nuclear program, which I believe poses the greatest threat to the region and to the world.”

He stressed that the Lausanne program ”will not block Iran’s path to the bomb.” “Iran’s emerging deal with the world powers facilitates and legitimizes Iran’s continued development of the capabilities of forming nuclear weapons. And by prematurely easing sanctions, the deal will give Iran many billions of dollars with which to fund its aggression and its worldwide terror campaign.”

Prior to her arrival in the region, Mogherini said that the EU wanted to play a major role in relaunching the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians “on the basis of the two-state solution.”

“The EU is interested in peace and security for Israel and for the region because this is also our European peace and security.”

Earlier in Ramallah, where she met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Mogherini spoke against the status quo and said that it was a European, Palestinian and Israeli interest “to move forward, because there is no status quo.”

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzi Hotovely, who also met with Mogherini in Jerusalem, told the EU top diplomat that for the peace process to resume, the Palestinians need to return to the negotiating table and must halt their unilateral steps against Israel in the international arena.

Referring to the Jerusalem terror attack earlier in the day in which two Border Police Officers were hurt by a Palestinian terrorists who tried to run them down, Hotovely said that Europe should strongly condemn terrorism, as well as back Israel’s demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.

Hotovely welcomed Mogherini comment that she was interested in coming now after the establishment of the new Israeli government to listen to both sides, saying that her visit at the time had a “great deal of importance.”

Mogherini is scheduled to meet the leader of the Opposition Zionist Union Isaac Herzog and President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday, before she returns to Brussels.

 

By Yossi Lempkowicz, Senior Media Advisor at Europe Israel Press Association.


On the EU agenda

Middle East peace process 170315_fac

Brussels 18 May: The European Foreign Affairs Council – made up of foreign Affairs Ministers from across the EU and High Representive Mogherini will convene to discuss the situation in the Middle East. 

Usually these meetings don’t cause too much in the way of ripples, but this one carries with it some extra spice:

 Mrs Mogherini will meet with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel almost immediately afterwards.

The message that she will bring with her from her EU agency and the member states will more than likely shape the short-to mid term future of EU-Israel relations. In other words, a big deal then.

In a background note prepared by the European External Action Service (EEAS) ahead of both meetings Mogherini’s agency laid out some of its thinking in broad brush terms.

Mogherini congratulated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new government on their appointment. The European Union will continue to work with Israel on a mutually beneficial relationship as well as on issues of joint interest, she said.

The note went on to state:

“The EU re-iterated its support for a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that should lead to an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.

A comprehensive peace should fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties, including those of Israelis for security and those of Palestinians for statehood.

The EU has a strategic interest in ensuring an end to the conflict and is willing to actively contribute to a negotiated solution of all final status issues. The EU High Representative has declared her readiness to personally engage in order to facilitate further progress. In addition, the Council appointed Fernando Gentilini as EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process on 15 April 2015.

The EU recognises Israel in its 1967 borders and has not ceased to repeat that settlements in the occupied territories are illegal under international law. The EU’s concern about the fact that settlement activity increasingly threatens the very possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict has grown in the last years. At the same time, the Council has underlined the EU’s commitment to ensure full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlements.

The EU is the largest aid contributor to the Palestinians, with substantial support for the benefit of the Gaza population: in the last ten years the EU has spent more than €1.3 billion in the Gaza Strip. At the donors’ conference for Gaza in October 2014, the EU and its member states pledged more than €450 million for its reconstruction.”

So far, so standard. But as we all know, the devil is in the details. We need to read between the lines.

We don’t know the shape of the political leverage that the EU is willing to bring on Israel as a price for continued settlement construction, much less what it intends to do to secure it’s “strategic interest” in the region.

 These two fundamental questions, potentially backed up by anticipated European Parliamentary resolutions on the subject, will frame the conversations and debate between the EU and Israel in the short months ahead.3


Netanyahu presents his 4th government to the Knesset

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fourth government was sworn in Thursday night at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, after he appointed the final cabinet positions.

1024px-PikiWiki_Israel_7260_Knesset-RoomFollowing introductory remarks by Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, Netanyahu addressed the assembly saying that his government would pursue peace. He went on to say that he was leaving open the option for expanding the government. He also said that his new government must change the electoral system in Israel.

Five parties are in the coalition government : Likud, Kulanu, Jewish Home, Shas and United Torah Judaism with a 61-seat majority out of 120.

Netanyahu listed his cabinet members in his Knesset speech.

  • The Prime Minister himself will hold the foreign, health, communications and regional cooperation portfolios.
  • David Azoulay (Shas) – minister of religious services
  • Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) – minister of immigration and absorption, and strategic affairs
  • Ofir Akunis (Likud) – minister (no specific office)
  • Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) – minister of agriculture and rural development
  • Benny Begin (Likud) – minister (no specific office)
  • Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) – minister of education, Jerusalem and diaspora affairs. (Netanyahu notes that any issues related to Jerusalem will be transferred to the Prime Minister’s Office)
  • Avi Gabbay (Kulanu) – minister of environmental protection
  • Yoav Galant (Kulanu) – ministry of housing and construction
  • Gila Gamliel (Likud) – minister of senior citizens and minister of gender equality
  • Danny Danon (Likud) – minister of science, technology and space
  • Aryeh Deri (Shas) – minister of economy
  • Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) – defence minister
  • Yisrael Katz (Likud) – minister of transportation and road safety, and minister of intelligence
  • Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) – minister of finance
  • Haim Katz (Likud) – minister of welfare and social services
  • Yariv Levin (Likud) – minister of tourism and minister of public security
  • Miri regev (Likud) – minister of culture and sports
  • Yuval Steinitz (Likud) – minister of national infrastructure, energy and water
  • Silvan Shalom (Likud) – deputy prime minister and interior minister
  • Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) – ministry of justice

Press reports said that Netanyahu was holding on to the foreign affairs portfolio in hopes of possibly enticing the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog into the coalition in a later stage but Herzog makes clear in his Knesset speech that he will under no circumstances join Netanyahu’s “circus.”

“I advise you Mr. Prime Minister not to hold onto the Foreign Ministry, give it tonight to a member of your party,” he says.

“No fair leader would join the Netanyahu circus you have formed at the last moment, at any price, just to stay in power,” he adds.

He told Netanyahu that his coalition partners “pick pocketed” him, extracting wide-spread concessions from the prime minister.

“You did not form a government, you formed a circus,” Herzog says.

In its guidelines presented earlier this week, Netanyahu’s new coalition government stressed its desire to achieve peace with the Palestinians and Arab states.

“The government will advance the diplomatic process and strive to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and all our neighbors, while maintaining Israel’s security, historical and national interests,” read the coalition guidelines presented to parliament.

“The Jewish people have the indisputable right to a sovereign state in the Land of Israel, its national and historic homeland,” they said.

“Any such agreement would be submitted to the Knesset for approval and if necessary by law, to a referendum.”

The rest of the government policy outline deals with issues such as reducing the cost of living, improving competition in the Israeli economy, boosting education and protecting the environment.

The guidelines are not inherently different to those published by Netanyahu for his two previous governments, formed in 2009 and 2013.

What are the guidelines of the 34th government ?

  • The Jewish people have an undeniable right to a sovereign state in the land of Israel — their national and historic homeland.
  • Advance the peace process and work toward achieving peace agreements with the Palestinians and with all our neighbours while maintaining Israel’s security, historical and national interests. Should such an agreement be reached, it will be brought before the government and the Knesset for approval, and possibly submitted to a referendum vote, if legally required.
  • Protect the Jewish character and heritage of the State of Israel while honoring all religions and religious traditions in the state in accordance with the values outlined in the Declaration of Independence.
  • Act to ensure national security and a sense of personal security for all citizens, while decisively combating violence and terrorism.
  • Take action to lower the cost of living, with an emphasis on the housing, food and energy markets.
  • Combat the centralization of power in the banking, insurance and investment industries, among others.
  • Promote professional training and education in the technology fields in order to satisfy the current needs of the industry.
  • Take action to minimize the wealth gap in Israeli society by way of equal opportunities in education, a stronger health system, advancement of women and minorities, treatment of the elderly, a war on poverty and an increase in assistance for the poor.
  • Make the advancement of the geographical and social periphery in Israel a national priority.
  • Advance the development of the Galilee and the Negev.
  • Place education at the top of the national priority list.
  • Advance university students, soldiers and teens.
  • Integrate people with disabilities of all kinds into the fabric of society.
  • Take action to increase assistance to families with very young children.
  • Make the issue of immigration and immigrant absorption a priority and work to encourage immigration to Israel.
  • Modify the system of government to increase governance and government stability and advance reforms in the area of governance to improve government stability.
  • Solidify the rule of law in the State of Israel.
  • Protect the environment and take part in global efforts on climate and environmental issues.

The author is Yossi Lempkowicz, Senior Advisor at Europe Israel Press Association.

This article was published on the website of Europe Israel Press Association  (http://eipa.eu.com/) on May 14th 2015


The Middle East: re-adjusting EU’s great expectations

Europe Israel Public Affairs (EIPA), in cooperation with MEP Bas Belder (ECR, the Netherlands) and MEP Fulvio Martusciello (EPP, Italy) organised a public hearing on “the Middle East: the EU’s re-adjusting its great expectations”.

At the lead of the P5+1 talks, the EU should re-adjust its expectations of being able to separate Iran nuclear’s file, where an agreement is expected to be reached before June, from its hegemonic expansion in already three major capitals of the Middle East, respectively Damascus, Sanaa and Bagdad. Amid rising tensions of the sectarian conflict between the Shiia Iran and Sunni Gulf monarchies and an unpredictable Iran, it would be a mistake both for the regional security and for EU’s interests to separate the nuclear file from Iran’s expansion of its ‘regional empire’.

Prof. Dan Schueftan, a renowned senior Israeli scholar and director of the National Security Studies Center at Haifa University, offered a thought provoking analysis about the current state of affairs in the Middle East, the Israeli perception of EU’s policies regarding the region as well as recommendations for EU adjustments to its ENP South policies.


EIPA delegation of policy advisors and parliamentary assistants

 

 


On the EU agenda

11 MEPs from across the EU and from across the political spectrum got together and authored a written declaration on the funnelling of EU Aid to terrorist organisations.

A written declaration is a type of political petition. If it gets more than 376 signatures (half of the Parliament) it prompts a formal debate in the European Parliament.

In 2013, the Court of Auditors published a report denouncing the lack supervision of EU Aid funds to the Palestinian Authority.

See link>

Additionally – and just very recently – the French and German governments requested the European Commission to urgently tackle the matter and ensure that taxpayers’ money doesn’t end up in terrorist hands.

The Commission is in charge of the distribution of EU Aid to a number of  countries outside the EU.

These funds are supposed to be used to support humanitarian crises or for development projects, for example.

The European Parliament, as the only directly elected EU institutional body does not have any proper control, input, oversight or adequate scrutiny on how these funds are being directed or spent.

Calls have been made for a much more transparent approach and much more politically accountable scrutiny.


Visit to Brussels of the Israeli expert of IMPA, 15 April 2015

On the 14th of April 2015, EIPA had the pleasure to host in Brussels Mr Paul Landes  Head of Israel Money Laundering and terror Financing Prohibition Authority (IMPA). Mr Paul Landes met several MEPs, from different political groups. He also addressed the ECR group on the 15th of April (see pictures). Paul Landes’ visit was linked to the ongoing Written Declaration on the funnelling of EU funds to the terrorist organisations signed by 100 Members of the European Parliament.


A Fresh Perspective: Israel’s new government – Facing challenge

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pose for a photograph before resuming talks over Iran's nuclear program in Lausanne March 16, 2015.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pose for a photograph before resuming talks over Iran’s nuclear program in Lausanne March 16, 2015.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

With the election behind us, and with the lengthy coalition negotiations advancing slowly, it is time to take a look at the serious challenges that the Israeli government will be faced with in the next few years.

• Foreign policy:
The Iranian nuclear deal
There is no doubt that the new deal recently signed by Iran and the world powers will be the central foreign policy concern for the next government. Simply put, this horrific deal is an existential threat to Israel.

Firstly, because it allows the removal of sanctions on Iran, letting Iran regain enough economic stability and strength to start over where it left off and reach its nuclear ambitions.

Worse than that: this new reality will bring the whole region to a nuclear arms race, with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and the Gulf states developing their own nuclear capabilities out of a sense of self-preservation. Nuclear weapons in a region defined by constant instability are a recipe for disaster.

It will only be a question of time until one of those nuclear powers becomes overtaken by Islamist groups. Just imagine what Islamic State could do with a nuclear bomb.

During the election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was strongly criticized for speaking to Congress about his opposition to US President Barack Obama’s attempts to reach such a deal. Today, Congress is the only thing stopping this nuclear deal from being confirmed, and Netanyahu’s foresight deserves recognition.

The new government’s most important foreign policy mission will be to use all the influence that Israel has on Congress to make sure the deal is rejected by it. This is the final battle that Israel can fight to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program through renewed sanctions before being left with only the military option.

Israel’s relations with the United States
The subject of Iran has caused serious harm to an already problematic relationship between Netanyahu and Obama. Up until today, it seemed clear that the disagreements between the world leaders did not affect the historic alliance between both countries.

However, the new low that their relationship has reached makes this question relevant once again.

One of the central strategic tenets of Israeli foreign policy has always been to have a strong alliance with a leading world power. With the establishment of the State of Israel, France served as that world power as Israel’s interests were aligned with France’s interests when confronting Arab nationalist fervor sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, including France’s prized colony, Algeria. France became Israel’s main weapons provider.

However, in the run-up to the Six Day War in 1967, France embargoed all offensive weapons deliveries to Israel. France also refused to deliver 50 aircraft already paid for in full. Israel needed to find a new ally, and it found it in America because of growing Soviet influence in the Arab world.

Ever since the Six Day War, the alliance between the two countries has been rock solid. This alliance was not just based on common interests in the middle of the Cold War, but also on a strong sense of shared values. To some presidents and other American leaders, this alliance also includes strong theological foundations.

Today, Obama is endangering Israel with some unprecedented threats. He cut off arms supply to Israel during the war in Gaza last summer, echoing the French arms embargo that led to the deterioration of that alliance. He is now threatening to remove the automatic US veto on UN Security Council resolutions.

In all likelihood, this is a personal issue between Obama and Netanyahu, and the next president, whether Democrat or Republican, will know how to renew the strong alliance that preceded Obama.

However, if the Israeli government will be faced with another president who is less than friendly with Israel, it will have to reevaluate its dependence on its alliance with the United States, seeking another world power to take the strategic place of Israel, or look to spread its bids by building strong alliances with a variety of countries, including some in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Israel’s relations with Europe
Israel’s relations with Europe are inherently different from its relations with America. The challenges facing this relationship are also very different.

The relationship between Europe and Israel has always been complex. It must be said that every country in Europe has different interests and every European leader has a different approach to Israel. However, the general rule can be that Europe’s relations with Israel are far more based on mutual economic interests than on military alliances or a sense of shared values, even if these things also exist.

Europe is Israel’s leading trade partner. As such, the main threat to this relationship is the strengthening and growth of the boycott movement.

Israel has managed to contain this threat through effective diplomacy, which caused most world leaders, including all leading European leaders, to publicly denounce attempts to boycott Israel. However, some battles were lost, with some European countries demanding that products coming from Judea and Samaria be marked stating their specific origin.

Israel needs to keep taking this threat seriously. It is a containable threat, but it is a serious threat nonetheless, and if it is not taken seriously it can cause serious damage to the Israeli economy.

• Economic policy:
Price of housing
One of the main issues raised in the campaign was the price of housing – housing prices in Israel have risen at an astonishing rate for the past eight years.

Today, all political parties have committed to solving this problem.

Two immediate steps that need to be taken to solve this crisis are as follows: First of all, the monopoly the state holds on land ownership needs to be slowly dismantled, through the privatization of land ownership.

This needs to be done slowly and effectively so as not to disrupt the market and to ensure the state monopoly is not replaced by a private-owned monopoly, but it needs to be done.

Secondly, the bureaucracy related to building houses is untenable. Today, in order to get a permit to build a house, one must wait around three years, but some analysts claim this can be cut down to less than three months.

There are several more reasons for the dramatic rise in housing prices, but one thing is clear: whatever the composition of the government, if it does not succeed in lowering housing prices, the electorate will hold it responsible for this.

Cost of living
The cost of living in Israel has also risen dramatically in the last few years. This is highlighted by the fact that products made in Israel cost less in Europe than in Israel.

The reason for the high cost of living is simple: Israel is a very small market with very little competition and trade barriers make it almost impossible for international competition to affect the local markets.

Naftali Bennett as economy minister started removing trade barriers to increase competition. However, there is a lot more work that needs to be done.

This is an almost Sisyphean task that requires the review of all trade barriers and local regulations that affect competition.

A government that will deal with this problem effectively will completely revolutionize the quality of life of Israelis.

• Legal policy:
A new legal revolution
In the 1990s, Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak engaged what is now known as the “constitutional revolution,” giving a tremendous amount of power to the courts and limiting the power of elected officials. Courts could now cancel legislation passed by parliament, legislative advisers now had a formal veto power to stop any policy advanced by elected officials, all of this while a nomination process unique to Israel for both judges and legislative advisers caused these to be incredibly unrepresentative of the Israeli population.

This situation is not only unacceptable to all those who believe in democracy and self-determination. It is also untenable as policy makers lose their ability to successfully implement policies.

It is now time for a new legal revolution in Israel, one which will return the power to elected officials and allow them to act as policy makers.

• A CRITICAL TIME:
Netanyahu’s fourth government will face challenges coming from all sides: existential threats from enemies, difficult relations with friends and internal problems.

The time ahead will be one of the most challenging in Israel’s recent history, making the current coalition negotiations critical in deciding how Israel will face these challenges.

The writer is an attorney and a former legislative adviser to the Knesset’s coalition chairman; he previously served in a legal capacity at the Foreign Ministry. He is a graduate of McGill University Law School and Hebrew University’s master’s program in public policy.

The article was published on The Jerusalem Post on the 08th of April 2015

 


Amnesty says Gaza groups committed war crimes

NGO cites indiscriminate fire and use of civilians for cover during fighting; Israel was charged with crimes in previous report

Amnesty02The human rights group Amnesty International said in a report Thursday that armed Palestinian organizations committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza-Israel conflict, by killing both Israeli and Palestinian civilians using indiscriminate projectiles.

The report comes after two other reports issued in late 2014 that accused Israel of war crimes for attacks on multistory civilian buildings and attacks on Palestinian residential homes during the war.

The 50-day Gaza war left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, around half of whom Israel says were fighters; Israel blames Hamas for all civilian fatalities since it emplaced its war machine in residential areas. Hamas officials in Gaza claim most were civilians. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed.

Palestinian operatives, including the armed wing of Hamas, launched unguided rockets and mortars which cannot be aimed at a specific target and are a breach of international law, the human rights group said.

Six civilians in Israel were killed in such attacks, and 13 Palestinian civilians were killed when a Palestinian projectile launched from the Gaza Strip apparently landed in a Gaza refugee camp.

Palestinians have claimed that the Israeli military was responsible for that attack, but Amnesty International said an independent munitions expert examining the evidence on the group’s behalf concluded that a Palestinian rocket was responsible.


Amnesty01

In footage captured by al-Mayadeen, apparently during the current truce, Hamas Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades fighters are seen preparing rockets to launch against Israel in a tunnel underneath the Gaza Strip, August 2014. (screen capture, YouTube)

The report also alleged other international humanitarian law violations during the conflict, including Palestinian terror groups’ storing munitions in civilian buildings and United Nations schools, and launching attacks near locations where hundreds of displaced civilians were taking shelter.

“The devastating impact of Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians during the conflict is undeniable, but violations by one side in a conflict can never justify violations by their opponents,” said Philip Luther of Amnesty International.

Luther called on both Israeli and Palestinian authorities to cooperate with UN and International Criminal Court probes “to end decades of impunity that have perpetuated a cycle of violations in which civilians on both sides have paid a heavy price.”

Hamas officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Monday the European Union joined Palestinian and Arab delegations in asking Israel to allow a United Nations human rights investigator access to the Gaza Strip.

Israel has declined to allow the investigator, Makarim Wibisono, into Gaza, and Wibisono presented an initial report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva based on interviews with people in Jordan and Egypt, as well as individuals communicating via video call from Gaza. His report calls on Israel to investigate the killing of what it says were more than 1,500 Palestinian civilians, one-third of them children, during the war.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group committed to destroying Israel, seized control of Gaza in a violent 2007 takeover from Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

THIS ARTICLE BROGHT TO YOU FROM: JTA and Times of Israel staff.