IDF air strikes in Strip and rocket fire on southern Israel continued almost until deadline to end hostilities; Egypt, which brokered agreement, dispatches delegations to both sides; Al Arabiya: Cairo planning ‘peace summit’ on long-term calm
A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip came into effect at 2am Friday, ending 11 days of intensive fighting.
Israel’s security cabinet earlier voted unanimously to approve the truce after a three-hour debate.
In an official statement, the cabinet said the ceasefire was proposed by Egypt and would be “mutual and unconditional.”
A member of the Hamas terror group that controls Gaza told Reuters that it and Israel would enter the “mutual and simultaneous” truce at 2am on Friday. Egyptian state TV later confirmed the timing of the ceasefire.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Thursday night that the cabinet had unanimously approved the truce without preconditions on the recommendation of all defense officials, including IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen and National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat.
The statement said that Israel’s achievements in Operation Guardian of the Walls were “unprecedented.”
“The political leadership emphasized that the reality on the ground will be that which determines the future of the campaign,” the statement said.
Rocket fire on southern Israel continued on Thursday night despite the reports of an imminent ceasefire. The IDF also continued its attacks on targets in the Gaza Strip.
The cabinet vote came hours after Qatari-based news outlet Al Jazeera reported that Israel had officially updated Egypt that it was ready for a cessation of hostilities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the security cabinet at 7pm Thursday to discuss the Gaza operation and ceasefire efforts.
According to Saudi outlet Al Arabiya, Egypt presented Israel with the draft for a ceasefire on Thursday morning, but there was still some disagreement about the timeframe for it to take effect.
The report also said that Egypt was planning to hold a “peace summit” between Israelis and Palestinians on long-term calm.
The White House said Thursday that it had seen reports of a move towards a ceasefire, which is said appeared to be encouraging.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke to U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday to discuss the de-escalation of violence, the Egyptian presidency said.
Sisi and Biden agreed to continue talks and coordination between their countries in the coming period in order to contain the situation, the presidency said.
The 27-year-old is the first Israeli male to win the prestigious title. This is his first world title after having won gold twice at the European Championships in 2015 and 2018.
The Netanya-born athlete faced six opponents on his journey to the gold medal and showed complete dominance after beating most of them by Ippon. His Egyptian quarter-final opponent Mohammed Abdelaal refused to shake his hand after having lost their match.
After the competition, the new world champion told reporters in Tokyo that he never lost faith he could win, but conceded that his semi-final bout “was a very hard fight.”
“I came close to losing but I gave it everything and I never stopped believing. I’m glad I managed to keep up the pressure,” he said.
“This is my first time (as world champion) and it’s a very special moment for me,” he said. “I finally did it. It was a tough day.”
Muki also paid tribute to his fellow Israelis who travelled to the compeition to support him and his teammates.
“Judo is the most successful sport in Israel and every medal creates a great fuss,” he said.
“A lot of Israelis came to Tokyo to encourage the team and I’m glad I could them happy.”
A delighted President Reuven Rivlin took to Twitter to congratulate Muki, writing: “Your achievement makes us so proud and teaches us that hard work, humanity and a hand always extended in peace can conquer the greatest heights.
“Congratulations on your gold medal and thank you for the pride you bring us all as Israelis,” he wrote.
The article was published on Ynet
PM meets with his Egyptian counterpart al-Sisi on sidelines of UN General Assembly to discuss regional developments and the situation in Gaza; only an Egyptian flag was put in the room; Egyptian spokesman: ‘the two stressed the importance of renewing cease-fire talks with Hamas.’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The two leaders met amid continued efforts of Egyptian intelligence to mediate a possible long-term ceasefire arrangement between Israel and Hamas.
Netanyahu’s talks with Sisi late on Wednesday focused on “regional developments”, the Israeli Prime Minister wrote on Twitter without elaborating.
A spokesman for the Egyptian president issued a statement saying that the two leaders “discussed the peace process, and stressed the importance of renewing negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis in order to form a comprehensive and just solution to the Palestinian problem.”
He added that resolving the problem would create a new reality in the Middle East, one “in which all peoples enjoy stability.” According to the spokesman, Netanyahu thanked al-Sisi for his efforts in fighting terrorism.
Netanyahu and al-Sisi met publicly for the first time in September of last year, also in New York. Last month, Ynet learned that the prime minister held a secret meeting with al-Sisi.
The information came from a foreign diplomatic source, but the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the matter.
According to Channel 10 News, the meeting took place on May 22 when Netanyahu flew with a small delegation of advisors and security guards. He stayed in Egypt for a few hours and participated in the breaking of the Ramadan fast before returning to Israel late at night.
Egypt plays an important role in a cease-fire talk between Israel and Hamas.
Last Saturday a delegation of senior Egyptian intelligence officials arrived in the Gaza Strip for a brief visit as part of Egypt’s effort to renew the internal reconciliation talks in Gaza as well as ceasefire negotiations with Israel.
The Egyptian intelligence officials who entered Gaza through the Erez Crossing met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for a “significant and crucial” meeting, Palestinian sources said.
“Egypt’s main interest is to reach an intra-Palestinian reconciliation in accordance with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s demand that he is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians with whom any understandings can be reached.
“Hamas, however, is interested in promoting a ceasefire agreement with Israel before an intra-Palestinian reconciliation is achieved, in order to take credit for easing the Israeli blockade over Gaza,” the Palestinian sources elaborated.
“Egypt views the dead end (in ceasefire talks with Israel) as pushing Gaza towards a dangerous military escalation on the border fence. Nevertheless, Egypt is not willing to promote calm only to please Hamas since it has bigger international and intra-Arab interests. Egypt will need to decide how to overcome this obstacle” the sources explained.
According to The Associated Press, after the Egyptian delegation left Gaza, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said their indirect cease-fire talks with Israel have halted. Abu Zuhri added that his Islamic militant group is escalating its protests in new locations along Gaza’s border with Israel.
Egypt has been working to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s dominant Hamas Islamist movement amid frequent violence along the Israel-Gaza border.
Since March, thousands swarmed the security fence as part of “The Great March of Return,” weekly protests.
Egypt and the United Nations have been working to mediate in order to avoid another large-scale round of violence.
Egypt was the first of a handful of Arab countries to recognize Israel under a 1979 peace treaty and the two countries maintain close co-ordination on security as well as energy ties.
On Thursday Israeli and Egyptian companies announced that they would buy into a pipeline that would enable a landmark $15 billion natural gas export deal to begin next year.
Netanyahu and Sisi convened for their previously announced talks several hours after US President Donald Trump said he wanted a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in what had appeared to be the clearest expression yet of his administration’s support for such an outcome.
But later on Wednesday Trump told a news conference that he would be open to a one-state solution if that was the preference of the parties themselves, a position he had previously stated.
The article was published on Ynet
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement condemning the “horrific and criminal terrorist attack” in Sinai and sent condolences to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian people and the families of those murdered.
“Terrorism will be defeated more quickly if all countries act against it together,” he said.
Other Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum also condemned Friday’s attack and sent condolences.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke to Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat, and expressed his shock while asking the ambassador to express the sympathy of the Knesset and the people of Israel in the parliament in Cairo.
Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi party leader Naftali Bennett suggested a new world order is being created in which “the distinction is between terrorism supporters like Iran and ISIS and supporters of humanity.”
Bennett called for an international coalition to include Russia, Europe, the US, Israel and the Arab world, saying, “we have all been hurt by terror.”
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter: “We must all stand together in the fight against this indescribable evil.”
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon claimed that “the axis of evil had struck a heavy blow today in Egypt” and stated: “together we can defeat it.” Ya’alon said terrorism is a shared enemy for all people and states who favor peace and tolerance.
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog wrote in Arabic on his Twitter page expressing his condolences: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Egypt.”
Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz tweeted that the El-Arish attack is “a terrible human tragedy” and wished, on behalf of the people of Israel, “a quick recovery to those wounded and consolations to families of the hundreds of those killed.”
“This is the time for solidarity with the Cairo government and the people of Egypt. To increase [our] security cooperation and push back against those seeking to shake [our] regional stability,” Peretz said.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan expressed his deepest sympathies with the people of Egypt and called for a united front against radical Islamic terrorism.
MK Oren Hazan [Likud] called on Israel to send immediate humanitarian aid to Egypt and, using social media to address Netanyahu, reminded the prime minister: “After the earthquake, you offered humanitarian aid to Iran despite it being an enemy country and a terrorism exporter – it is, therefore, our moral duty to aid our neighbor [Egypt] with whom we have a peaceful relationship.”
The Article was Published on The JPost website
Faaborg-Andersen believes Israeli decision makers pay attention when the EU voices concern.
Lars Faaborg-Andersen left Israel at the end of August after a four-year stint as the European Union’s ambassador, lamenting the fact that, despite excellent bilateral ties, many Israelis still perceive Europe as a bastion of anti-Israel bias and antisemitism.
Europe-Israel relations are “rock solid,” he tells The Jerusalem Report, but the focus invariably is on the areas of disagreement, which account for no more than 15-20 percent of the relationship, in his estimation.
“I think it is kind of frustrating when we consider the track record we have of cooperation. And it’s not like we are at a standstill ‒ we are adding new areas of cooperation all the time, including most notably, I would say, anti-terrorism, which is a common threat to us and we have a lot to learn from each other,” he says.
“We have a lot to learn from Israel on many of the technical aspects of fighting terror and I think Israel might have something to learn from us on some of the social and political aspects of fighting terror, including issues such as deradicalization. So, I think, given the flourishing nature of our cooperation, it is frustrating to see us portrayed as being anti-Israel.”
In a farewell news conference in Tel Aviv, the Danish diplomat said there is not only a great misunderstanding on the part of Israelis over the role of the European Union, but also on EU policy and objectives.
Much of the friction concerns settlements as Brussels has been consistently critical of Israeli West Bank construction and insists that any agreement with Israel include a clause that excludes EU funding from reaching any Jewish community over the 1967 Green Line ‒ the West Bank, the Golan Heights or East Jerusalem. Indeed, Israel briefly suspended diplomatic discussions with the EU after Brussels decided to label goods imported from Jewish settlements.
Recently, there was tension over Israel’s demolition of a number of illegally built Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank, under full Israeli control, which had been partially financed by the EU or EU-member states.
Faaborg-Andersen doesn’t attempt to deny the differences of opinion, but stresses that they mustn’t overshadow the mutually beneficial bilateral ties that have an immense impact on Israel.
“Europe remains Israel’s biggest trading partner, the biggest partner in science and technology, the biggest partner in transportation and, maybe in the future, the biggest partner in energy,” he says. “Israel remains the EU’s most significant partner in the region. This is why we have some difficulty understanding the perception that the EU is anti-Israel.
“When you look at the facts it’s very different. There is also criticism that we are engaged in boycotting Israel. How can people get that idea to square with the fact that we have 32 billion euros in mutual trade every year? The EU is the single biggest public funder of science and research in this country. This doesn’t sound like a boycott to me.”
If Israelis were aware of the true nature of the bilateral relationship, he says their perceptions of Europe would change – also when it comes to antisemitism.
“Antisemitism in Europe is a phenomenon we are combating ‒ even more than Israel is ‒ and we are actually taking very determined steps to do something about it, including through cooperation with Internet providers and closing down websites that have antisemitic content, and we actually have good results on this.”
More than five decades of trade, cultural exchanges, political cooperation and a developed system of agreements have cemented bilateral relations. The 28-member bloc (soon to shrink to 27 after Brexit) accounts for about one-third of Israel’s total trade, and it was the EU’s 24th ranked trade partner globally in 2015.
Furthermore, Israel was the first non- European country to be associated with the EU Framework Program back in 1996, and its participation in the various cooperation programs since has been a success story giving added value to both sides. Israel’s participation in the Horizon 2020 program, signed in 2014, for instance, enabled thousands of Israeli researchers and entrepreneurs to cooperate with their European and international counterparts in cutting-edge scientific projects.
More recently, the 2013 Open Skies agreement has opened up scores of European destinations for Israeli tourists with lowcost flights and turned Israel into a regional flight hub.
Faaborg-Andersen’s tenure in Israel included a war, elections and the frustration of ongoing diplomatic deadlock in attempts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
He warns that the breakdown of peace negotiations combined with ongoing settlement activity makes the prospects for a two-state solution increasingly impractical. The diplomatic deadlock, he warns, could have serious implications for Israel’s longterm security and Palestinian aspirations, creating a potentially dangerous reality that may be exploited by radical elements in the region.
The outgoing EU ambassador met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about 10 times during his four-year stint and the EU assumption is that the Israeli leader remains committed to the two-state solution, as he outlined in his policy speech at Bar-Ilan University in October 2013, although questions remain over what kind of Palestinian state he envisions.
Bilateral political cooperation thrives in a number of areas and includes ongoing efforts to ensure regional stability by bolstering Jordan and Egypt.
On the security front, Faaborg-Andersen acknowledges that Israel has provided real-time intelligence to European countries regarding the Islamic State threat. Two high-level Israel-EU anti-terrorism dialogues have taken place, and workshops have been held on deradicalization, terrorism financing and non-conventional terrorism, such as the cyber threat.
While sensitive to accusations of interfering in internal Israeli affairs, the ambassador has spoken out a number of times against Knesset legislation perceived either as damaging to peace prospects or anti-democratic. Two recent cases are the NGO transparency law that forced human rights groups that receive more than half their funding from abroad – including from European governments – to disclose it prominently in official reports and the law legalizing settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land.
Faaborg-Andersen believes Israeli decision makers pay attention when the EU voices concern.
“I’m sure because I know that Israel is taking into account the expected international reaction to various pieces of legislation that is put on the table in the Knesset. It was very clear during the whole discussion of the NGO transparency bill and, obviously, also when the issue of retroactive legalization of settlements on private Palestinian land was discussed.
“Of course, Israel is very attentive to what the international community thinks about what is going on here. So, I think it’s the duty of the international community, including on me as the representative of the EU, to let them know in advance what the likely reaction will be on such issues so they can take this into consideration. The worst thing would be if they weren’t aware that something would trigger a response. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called to the Knesset to discuss with different MKs exactly these issues. So, yes, indeed, I think people are listening.”
Faaborg-Andersen, who has returned to the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen awaiting his next assignment, has been replaced by Italian diplomat Emanuele Giaufret as the EU’s new envoy.
Government looking for ways to solve escalating situation, even as PM calls matter an ‘internal Palestinian dispute’ between Hamas, PA
Israel is in talks with Egypt and the European Union to head of an impending humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip amid an escalating dispute over electricity supply to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, according to a report on Wednesday.
Sources in Israel told the Israeli daily Haaretz that discussions were underway with Cairo and with European countries on ways to solve the power supply to the Strip, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to distance Israel from the situation by saying the matter was an internal Palestinian dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu’s comments came a day after the Israeli security cabinet decided Sunday night it would cut the amount of power it supplies to Gaza, at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who is seeking to ramp up pressure on Hamas, the ruling party in the Strip and his Fatah party’s bitter rival.
Egypt, meanwhile, which has tense relations with Hamas, has offered the terror group more freedom at its border and much-needed electricity, in exchange for it agreeing to a list of security demands, Arab media reported Tuesday.
The list of includes a demand that Hamas hand over 17 men wanted by Cairo on terrorism charges, more protection by Hamas at the border, the cessation of weapons smuggling into the Sinai, and information on the movement of militants into Gaza via underground tunnels, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported.
Gazans currently receive only three or four hours of electricity a day, delivered from the territory’s own power station and others in Israel and Egypt. In April, the PA told Israel that it would only pay NIS 25 million ($11.1 million) of the NIS 40 million ($5.6- 7 million) monthly bill. Israel currently supplies 125 megawatts to Gaza, around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.
The Israeli cabinet decision would see a reduction of about 45 minutes to the amount of time every day during which Gaza receives electricity, Hebrew media reported.
Hamas responded to the decision by saying it would have “disastrous and dangerous” results that could lead to an outbreak of violence.
Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was not seeking a confrontation with Hamas.
“The issue of electricity in Gaza is a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony to launch a major housing construction drive in the central Israeli town of Be’er Yaakov. “Hamas is demanding that the PA pay for the electricity, and the Palestinian Authority is refusing to pay. It is an internal Palestinian dispute.”
“In any case, I want to make it clear that Israel has no interest in an escalation [with Hamas] and any other speculation is wrong. But we have an interest in security, and our policy is clear on the subject of security and it won’t change,” he said.
The power cuts, as well as a number of other steps taken by the PA since last month, are aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the Strip, or begin footing the bill itself.
Both Israel and the PA charge that Hamas would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if it didn’t expend a large part of its resources on armament and preparation for future conflict with the Jewish state.
Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, took control of Gaza in 2007 after a violent conflict with the Fatah party. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
The enclave’s only power plant stopped running in April, after Hamas ran out of fuel and refused to purchase more from the Palestinian Authority over what it said were high taxes.
Egypt also provided a small amount of power to Gaza, but those power lines have been malfunctioning.
According to Major General Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, the Defense Ministry unit that administers civilian manners in the Palestinian territories, Israel currently supplies Gaza with 125 megawatts monthly — around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.
After the new decision is implemented, Israel will supply Gaza with only 75 megawatts a month.
The article was published on The Times of Israel
We Arabs may be the people in the world who write the most poetry and romantic odes about human virtues such as brotherhood, justice, equality and the need to protect humanity, its soul and its right to inheritance. Our emotions, though, are nothing more in today’s reality.
The fact that we are in this position comes as no surprise. I say this as we are see Italy’s media campaign centred on politics, humanitarianism and civil liberties; as we witness its dedication to these virtues in its reaction to the death of student Giulio Regeni who was killed in Egypt a few months ago. Italy did not let the death of its citizen pass without comment just so that it could maintain its “economic” relationship with Egypt. It has pursued this case so that Regeni’s death has become a pan-European if not global issue. The Egyptian government now finds itself in an unenviable position because the Italian media in particular, and the world in general, has turned Egypt and its credibility into dust.
There is no doubt that the regime in Cairo is facing a crisis because of the unbelievable conditions that are experienced by the majority of Egyptians. This is not due to price increases, nor to the political authoritarianism in the country, but is because the regime is in the middle of an international scandal due to the death of an Italian university student in Egypt at the hands of the intelligence services or some other agency. It does not matter who killed Regeni, according to the Italians, but what is important is that an Italian citizen was killed in Egypt under mysterious circumstances. From an Italian perspective, therefore, it is important to shake the ground under the feet of the Egyptian authorities.
Not a day goes by without members of the Italian parliament mentioning Regeni’s name. Not a day goes by without the Italian newspapers covering every detail of the case and its progress. Not a day goes by that Egypt is not criticised. Not a day goes by that demonstrations do not take place on Italian streets and they are happening because of Regeni’s death. Not a day goes by that the Egyptian government does not find itself in a predicament because it has yet to provide the Italian government with any reasonable explanation about what happened to the student.
It was sad to see Egyptian representatives at a televised press conference answering questions as if they were in the dock in a court. They struggled to answer embarrassing questions. Both the Egyptian government and media have expressed their regret with regards to Regeni’s death, and there is now no other option but to find a way to free them from the consequences of this issue. Regeni’s ghost has become a nightmare for the regime that finds itself preoccupied with the death of a European citizen and Italy’s recall of its ambassador from Cairo.
Notice how the Italian government and people responded to the death of one university student in Egypt, and compare that to the tens of thousands of Arabs dying every day without anyone ever hearing of their story or knowing their name. Who is seeking justice on their behalf? A country which views the death of one citizen as the death of an entire nation is one which will work to protect human rights and force anyone who seeks to violate them to think twice about it. This is how self-respecting governments protect themselves and their people. Nobody can take governments seriously if they swat their own people like flies.
Regini’s case reminds me of the Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit, the soldier who was held captive by Hamas for more than 5 years. Not a single day went by that Israel did not try to rescue him. Shalit’s case became a cause célèbre across the globe. As it took centre stage, an article appeared under the following title “Shalit the Israeli and Shalout the Arab”. Shalout is an Arabic vernacular term meaning to “to be kicked aside”. The article painted a clear picture of the differences between an Israeli or Western citizen on one hand and an Arab citizen on the other by making the distinction that the former is treated like a citizen while the other is thrown aside like an old shoe. When we Arabs call for the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one Israeli hostage, we are admitting to the discrepancies in the value of human beings, and that one Israeli, or westerner, is worth thousands of Arabs.
Now look to how the Israeli government is trying everything within its power to retrieve the remains of the famed Israeli spy Eli Cohen who was captured by the Syrian regime years ago and killed. Did you know that the Israelis have been speaking with the Russians in an effort to convince the Syrian regime to release Cohen’s remains so that he can be reburied in Israel? Do not be surprised if Bashar Al-Assad releases them via the Russians so that he can gain more Israeli support.
Notice the difference between Israel and the Syrian regime; while the Israeli government has been asking Putin for his help to retrieve the remains of one person, Assad has been asking him for his help to slaughter Syrians. His regime has been using all of Russia’s new weaponry to kill Syrians and destroy Syria. Putin himself admitted recently that Syria is the best place to try out new weapons and munitions.
A leader who makes little of his people gives the green light to outsiders to disrespect and hate him and them. Respect your citizens so that others can respect you.
The Piece was written by Faisal Qassem and it was Published on the MEMO website on the 22 April 2016