On 1-2 December the Europe Israel Public Affairs and our partners- European Jewish Association (EJA) hosted our second Bootcamp for pro-Jewish and Pro-Israel advocates from all over Europe (literally! From Iceland to Spain, France to Romania and everywhere in between).
With practical training at its heart, this latest bootcamp gave participants proper hands-on experience in Lobbying techniques, media relations, opposition watch and network building.
Day one was focused on facts and lobbying. Ben Dror Yemini, the prominent Israeli journalist and author (his book “the industry of lies” is on the shelf of any self-respecting Israel advocate) gave the team all the facts (“I’m not a pr man”, he proudly exclaimed, I just give people the facts) necessary to counter opposition arguments.
We then spent the rest of the day dealing with the practicals of Lobbying. Our Head of Eu Institutional Relations, Ruth Isaac and our Director of Public Affairs ran through the do-and don’t’s, and were delighted to be supported by former Portuguese MEP Paulo Casaca who gave his experience of being on the receiving end of lobbyists, and lastly by new Belgian MP Michael Freilich, who gave his enlightening perspectives from “the other side of the desk” including invaluable advice and tips on effective lobbying.
At a Gala dinner in the evening, Hans Knopp was our special guest. Hans is a hugely respected dutch journalist whose most famous bit of reporting was exposing a dutch war criminal who helped the Nazis rob and murder Dutch Jews. His work was commemorated in a film “the body collector”, and he talked about his experience. His moving testimony brought the house down and he received a prolonged standing ovation.
The next morning, participants learned the basics of press release writing, followed by a role play and live interview practice with Brussels based broadcast journalist and regular on Euronews Brian Maguire who put the bootcampers through their paces.
After lunch prominent Swedish Zionist and activist Saskia Pantell , CIDI’s dutch opposition watch hero Hidde Van Koningsveld and our very onw campaigns officer Dafna Friedman shared their knowledge and expertise on opposition watching.
We then finished with an open session with Ben Dror again on the challenges in messaging before a closing panel with Ruth and our head of Strategy Tal Rabina on Network building.
Tired but fired up our advocates (many are soon to be members of the EJA’s inaugural Diplomatic Corps), left for home. Our next bootcamp is already being planned. If you want to be part of it, let us know.
With the European elections results coming in overnight there are some surprises, but many predictable outcomes. The elections have ramifications for Europe’s position in the world because the more Europe is unstable and fractured by infighting, the less it will play a role in world affairs. In addition, the more extreme parties in Europe will fuel the continued cycle of the instability, likely exacerbating the inability of the continent to act as a whole on policies, leaving such issues as immigration and security in the hands of states that have deepening societal divisions.
Here is a quick glance at what we know so far on Monday.
Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party remakes map of UK politics
The pro-Brexit leader Nigel Farage, who appeared to leave politics after the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, led a new party to a surprising thirty percent of the votes in the UK European elections. These elections weren’t supposed to even happen because the UK was already supposed to have left the EU. His message was that his party wants to take responsibility for leaving the EU and that if the ruling Conservatives don’t act then they will be crushed at the next polls.
The Conservatives already were humiliated in the EU elections in the UK, receiving less than ten percent. The Liberal Democrats performed well with almost 20 percent of the vote while Labour slipped to 14% and the Greens grabbed 11%. It’s clear that a coalition of Labour, the Greens and Liberal-Democrats, with the Scottish Nationalists, likely could run the UK after the next general election. For now it is the EU that will be getting Farage back.
Germany goes Green
In Germany the centrist and historically dominant Christian Democrats and Social Democrats lost votes to the Green Party. The Greens took twenty percent of the vote while the right wing AfD took ten percent. For Germany, any notion that right wing parties might do well always conjures up comparisons to the past. But the reality is that there is no massive swing to the far-right in Germany, yet. Instead the major parties are simply being weakened. The smaller leftist Die Linke party, for instance, took five percent of the vote. Liberals took another five percent.
Le Pen wins, again, in France
Marine Le Pen’s National Rally defeated President Emmanuel Macron’s party by a whopping 23.3% to 22.4%. This is supposed to make us all gasp that Lep Pen has “won,” but she hasn’t really won anything. Macron has been beset by massive protests by the “yellow vests” and French politics is fickle. They tend to dislike their presidents. The Le Pen phenomenon has continued for twenty years in France. In 2002 Jean-Marie Le Pen received 17% in the presidential election. Marine Le Pen got 33% of the vote in 2017. So her 23% isn’t a win, it’s a loss for her party. It just looks good in comparison to Macron’s failure. The real winners, in a sense, in France were the Greens with 13% of the vote, an increase from last time. See a pattern here with the Greens doing better in Germany and the UK?
Italy’s one third
A third of Italians voted for the Lega, Matteo Salvini’s party that is popular in the north of the country. Another 23% voted for the social democrats while only 16% chose the Five Star Movement, a new party that had got around a third of the vote in the 2018 elections. It appears that Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia got 7% of the vote. One supposes that means former Italian leader Mr. Berlusconi is back in politics, something he has been trying to achieve for the last few years. The end result in Italy is that although the right wing is doing well, they are still divided and kept at a third of the votes.
Sweden’s moderate politics
Not so long ago Sweden thought that it might be swept up in populist politics with the rise of the Sweden Democrats. The wave appears to be cresting as they now have 15% of the vote, a continual rise from 2018 when they had 13% in national elections. But the rest of Sweden’s politics is predictable. The Moderate party got 16% and the center-left took 23%. The Greens now have 11%.
Flemish Nationalism rises in Belgium
The new Flemish Alliance, which had 20% in the 2014 vote got only 13% in the EU elections, but its more far-right Vlaams Belang got 11%. On the left the socialists took 10%, the French speaking Greens 7% and the Flemish speaking Greens another 7%. Flemish socialists also got 6%. All in all the politics in Belgium is so divided that it’s hard to make any real conclusions, besides the obvious fact that the Flemish right is rising. Previously the the Vlaams Belang had only around 3% of the vote. But a previous incarnation of the far-right, the Vlams Blok, once got 12% of the vote in 1994 and 15% in 1999. So the new far-right Flemish speakers have merely gone back to what they used to have.
Puigdemont gets a seat in Spain
The Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont secured a seat in Spain while another group supporting local regions, Ahora Republicas, got 5% of the votes. Its leader Oriol Junqueras has been in imprisoned on charges of “rebellion.” The populist Vox party got 6% of the vote in Spain. Overall Spain’s politics are largely dominated by the normal parties with the socialists getting 32% and the center-right People’s Party getting 20%. Another center-right Citizens party got 12%.
Viktor Orban continued his dominance of Hungarian politics, taking more than 50% of the vote in the EU elections there. He has been the leader of the Fidesz party for years and a dominant figure since the late 1990s. It is the only European country where a party got over 50% of the vote.
Poland goes for two big parties
Poland looks the way western European countries used to look in its voting pattern for two large parties. Forty-three percent chose a right wing conservative party called Law and Justice, while 38% chose the European Coalition. In general Poland’s politics have not fractured like many other countries in Europe.
Austria’s Greens and Freedom Party
Austrian politics also looks relatively normal in the EU election, with the People’s Party taking 34% and the Social Democrats taking 23%. The Freedom Party, with is more right wing, has 17% and the Greens 14%. This looks like the 2017 Austrian legislative elections in which the Freedom Party got 20% and the Greens got 12%. Basically there is no news from Vienna.
Romania’s socialists lose out
In Romania the center-right National Liberal Party got 27% of the vote while the Social Democrats got only 24%. A centrist party called USR-PLUS got another 18%. The Social Democrats had 45% of the vote as recently as 2016. They now have been handed a major defeat. Romania matters to the Eu because it has 32 seats in the 751 parliament, making it one of the larger members in the 28 member block. Germany, Italy, France and the UK are the largest, followed by France and Poland.
Ireland also goes Green a bit
Ireland largely voted for the parties one would expect, Fine Gail got 29% and Fianna Fail got 15%. This represented a defeat for Fianna Fail while the Green Party grabbed 15%, much more than in the 2016 elections in Ireland. Sinn Fein got 13%, which is exactly what it got in 2016. No big surprises here, except for the Greens.
Netherlands says goodbye to populism
The Party for Freedom (PVV) once had 16% and 13% in EU elections in 2009 and 2014. But it slipped to a dismal failure in the 2019 elections, illustrating the far-right nationalism may not be on the march. It came in second with 13% of the vote in the 2017 general elections in Holland. But the Dutch decided on more traditional politics this election, sending Labour to the EU with 19% of the vote and the People’s Party with 14%. The Greens got 10% of the vote. The surprising failure of the populists and nationalists in Netherlands may point to a turning point in that country and others. After almost two decades, since the days of the Pim Fortuyn List, politics in the low country seem a bit more traditional.
The article was published on The JPost
Another drone sighting forced London’s Gatwick airport runway to close again on Friday, as the 3-day long saga continues.
Police were still unsuccessfully looking for perpetrators in a disturbance that grounded flights in the second-busiest airport in the United Kingdom on Wednesday and Thursday, although British media favored the option of a lone-wolf environmentalist attack.
The airport has been in an ongoing dispute with its neighbors and environmental groups about expansion.
Planes were suspended on Wednesday night after a member of staff spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) above the runway.
More than 110,000 had been affected by the closure, in one of the busiest weeks of the year.
Gatwick was only able to re-open after military reinforcements were brought in on Thursday.
They came with technology that was used to defeat ISIS in Syria, which the Daily Mail identified as the Israeli-made Drone Dome.
It uses radar technology to spot a drone, and a frequency jammer in order to cut the vehicle from its pilot, and bring it down to the ground softly.
The UK purchased six of the system, unveiled in 2016, in August for Middle-East operations, at a cost of close to US$ 3.3 million each.
Drone Dome is manufactured by government-owned Rafael Systems, which has specialized in cutting-edge weapon interception systems.
– Potential catastrophe –
Aviation chiefs are going to be on a steep learning curve to counter the security threat posed by drones after the costly and humiliating shutdown of Gatwick.
The fear is that if a drone smashed into a passenger plane or was sucked up into one of its engines, its highly flammable lithium battery could cause a catastrophe.
In 2016, the European Aviation Safety Agency logged 1,400 drone incidents in Europe, up from 606 between 2011 and 2015.
Deputies in the European Parliament approved EU-wide regulations on the use of drones, but still need formal approval from European ministers before taking effect.
But finding high-tech solutions to the drone threat in airport presents particular challenges, says Lucas Le Bell, founder of the start-up Cerbair that specialises in tackling the drone problem.
The noise levels at airports, the security requirements and the saturated level of communications make the task much harder.
His team is working on isolating the frequencies used to control drones, so they can not only detect and locate the devices but take control of them.
Elsewhere in France meanwhile, Mont-de Marsan airbase in the southwest has been working on a more low-tech solution.
The airforce, inspired by a similar experiment in the Netherlands, has been training golden eagles to search and destroy the intruders.
But that system still needs work: earlier this year, one of the eagles attacked a girl after mistaking her vest for the enemy.
The article was published on I24 website
The US online payment service PayPal on Thursday pulled the plug on the account of the French branch of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) – an organization that Israel has accused of aligning itself with pro-Palestinian terrorists who murdered three civilians in Tel Aviv in 2003 and injured over 50 people.
Israeli journalist Jean Patrick Grumberg, a reporter for the French-language American website Dreuz.info, notified PayPal that ISM-France supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. PayPal has terminated a total of four BDS accountssince 2016 in France due to likely violations of France’s anti-discrimination law barring bias against national origin.
When The Jerusalem Post attempted to access the donation PayPal section of the ISM-France website, the page stated: “This recipient is currently unable to receive money.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on its website that the 2003 attack at the entrance to the Tel Aviv bar Mike’s Place was claimed by Hamas and Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. According to the ministry, two British “terrorists were careful to establish their presence in Judea and Samaria by forging links with foreign left wing activists and members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).”
The foreign ministry added that “ISM members take an active part in illegal and violent actions against IDF soldiers. At times, their activity in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is under the auspices of Palestinian terrorist organizations. Foreign left-wing activists, especially ISM members, who seek entry into Israel, often do so under false pretenses, via cover stories – entry for matrimonial, tourist, religious and other purposes – which they coordinate prior to arriving in Israel.”
PayPal shuttered the account of the BDS entity Collectif 69 Palestine in March. In February, PayPal severed its business service with the BDS organization French Union for Peace (UJFP). In January, PayPal closed the account of the France-Palestine Solidarity Association .
The Jerusalem Post initiated an investigative series in 2016 into the funding streams of BDS organizations and the connections between BDS and terrorist entities. PayPal shut the account of BDS France in 2016.
The France Palestine Solidarity Association (AFPS) Executive Board issued a rambling statement on March 19, stating: “In lending a complacent ear to such mudslinging and to the lackeys that sling it; in closing accounts without even conferring with its customers; in leaving our requests for explanation and reparations unanswered; and by (in all likelihood) ‘leaking’ information that feeds propaganda and misinformation about our organizations, PayPal is manifestly on the side of the oppressors who flout international law, oppress the Palestinian people, and threaten freedom of speech around the world.”
France’s Lellouche Law, which outlaws discrimination based on national origin, has been applied to BDS organizations and activists.
The AFPS claims there is no law in France that bars a boycott of a foreign state.
Banks in France, Germany, Ireland, Austria and the United States have terminated scores of BDS accounts since 2016 because of the boycott campaign.
NGOs have been found to have connections to terrorism, spread antisemitism, or violate anti-hate and anti-bias laws and executive orders.
The Germany-based Bank for Social Economy is currently under fire from two organizations – Munich Citizens Against Antisemitism and Israel Hatred and the pro-Israel group Action Forum – for hosting four BDS accounts.
This article was published on The JPost
French driver and Palestinian guard employed by the consulate in east Jerusalem arrested on suspicion of using a vehicle with diplomatic plates to transfer weapons from Hamas in Gaza to the West Bank.
Two employees of the French Consulate in east Jerusalem—a driver and his security guard—were arrested by Israeli authorities last month on suspicion of using a vehicle with diplomatic plates to smuggle weapons from Hamas in Gaza to the West Bank, the Shin Bet said Monday.
The consulate’s driver, Romain Franck, a French national, is suspected of using his diplomatic vehicle to transport some 70 handguns and two assault rifles.
A Palestinian guard employed by French authorities, a resident of east Jerusalem, was also arrested in the case, as well as several Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were staying in the West Bank illegally.
Franck was part of a Palestinian network in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and east Jerusalem that smuggled weapons from Gaza to the West Bank through the Erez border crossing.
The French driver smuggled arms on several occasions over the past few months, while taking advantage of his diplomatic vehicle, which was subject to less stringent security checks at the crossing.
Franck received the weapons from a Palestinian resident of Gaza who works for the “French culture center” in the strip. Franck then took the arms to a Palestinian man in the West Bank, who in turn sold them to arms dealers.
The investigation found that Franck had a financial motive and was acting of his own volition and unbeknown to his superiors. The investigation also found that several of the Palestinians arrested in the case were also involved in the smuggling of money from Gaza to the West Bank.
The investigation was carried out in coordination with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and while keeping French authorities constantly updated.
A total of nine suspects have been arrested in the case so far. Indictments will be filed against six of them on Monday.
The French embassy in Israel said on Monday it was cooperating with Israel in the investigation. “We take very seriously this case … and we work very closely with the Israeli authorities on this matter,” said an embassy spokesman, who declined to comment further on the allegations against the staffer, a French citizen.
According to his Facebook page, Franck, who is from Lambersart in the north of France, arrived in Jerusalem in January 2017. “It’s the big day, starting to a new adventure.. Thank you for everything that accompanied me and supported in this new experience that begins!” he wrote at the time.
Later he posted many photos from the region, including from Petra and Aqaba in Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and the Jordan Valley.
An Israeli official called the incident “very grave,” but clarified it would not affect Israel’s ties with France. “We thank French authorities for the cooperation,” he said.
A senior Shin Bet official decried the “cynical exploitation of the immunity and privileges granted to foreign representatives in Israel to smuggle weapons… that could be used in terror attacks against Israeli citizens and security forces.”
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, also slammed the “cynical and never-ending exploitation of humanitarian aid and international aid by the terrorist infrastructure.”
“This event only clarifies the need for a strict policy on granting (entry) permits,” he continued. “International bodies are required to carry out internal inspections to ensure aid goes to the residents of Gaza and not to terror.”
French lawmaker Meyer Habib, who represents French nationals living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, said, “Unfortunately, this isn’t the first problematic affair the French Consulate in Jerusalem has been involved in. And even if only junior staff were involved, there is a feeling, unfortunately, that the consulate has actually become the French Embassy to the Palestinian Authority.”
The article was published on Ynet
Spain, Finland, Russia: in the space of a few days, Europe is reminded, yet again, that terrorism – like the virus it is – kills brutally, indiscriminately and, critically, transnationally.
On Thursday, August 17, a van rammed into crowds of people in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas boulevard – a hub of tourism and social life. Thirteen were killed with dozens more injured. The atrocity was followed by a knife attack the very next day in the Finnish city of Turku, which killed two people and injured eight. Another knife attack, this time in the Siberian city of Surgut on the 19 August, injured eight. Islamic State has claimed responsibly for all the attacks.
In a democratic society based on liberal values it is impossible to stop every madman that wishes us harm. Sadiq Khan was criticised but right when he said that the threat of terror attacks was now ‘part and parcel of living in a big city’. If you want total security move to North Korea.
Recent terror ‘successes’, however, are more to do with state failings than terrorist brilliance. In too many countries counter-terrorism measures are still insufficient. And the reason is simple: We are fighting 21st century terrorism with 20th century methods. Nonetheless, more can, and must, be done. One country, above all, has the method and the solution: Israel.
This little country of eight million has been dealing with terrorism since the state’s inception 70 years ago. From airline hijackings to suicide bombers to stabbings, shooting and vehicle attacks, Israel has seen them all – and has adapted accordingly.
Pini Schiff, Israeli Former Head of Security at the Israel Airports Authority believes the most pressing change that Europe needs to make is at the intelligence level. ‘Both the U.K. and France, for example, have really professional agencies,’ he says, ‘but that is not enough. There is not enough communication between intelligence agencies across Europe, like there is between all branches of the Israeli security services. It needs to be a ‘one nation’ intelligence community.’
He’s right. The horrific attacks in Brussels in March 2016 that killed 32 people were, in part, enabled by the absurdity of a city with a population of 1.5 million having six police forces, which didn’t communicate properly with one another. This led to major intelligence failings. While an extreme case, this sort of senseless de-centralisation is what allowed the attackers to slip through and it is present (to far lesser degrees) across Europe
European countries must now come together as one to combat terror – be it far right or jihadist. Both Interpol and Europol are European-wide police agencies focusing on a wide array of criminal activities. In January 2016, the European Counterterrorism Centre was set up as an organ of Europol. It is clearly failing. It must become autonomous and receive increased funding.
Intelligence is the first level at which terror must be fought. But the war is now also on the streets. Urban centres are the new battleground. As an Israeli counter-terrorism official (who cannot be named due to the sensitivity of his work) told me: ‘simple things, like placing bollards and barriers at strategic points in major centres can almost eliminate the possibility of vehicle rammings’.
But the most important changes must come at the level of education. A principle problem with terror is that it forces us into ever more intrusive legislation. An educated public can relieve the burden. As the counterterrorism official explains: ‘In the 21st century we have witnessed the new phenomenon of the lone wolf: Someone not part of a cell, someone who doesn’t buy guns or explosives and is therefore much harder to track.’
If someone can now be radicalised just by going on the internet, what can be done? Well, for a start, in Israel, the police have a dedicated Facebook page where people can report terrorist content they find posted on social media, and, critically, all of which is checked. It has saved lives.
Combating the threat of the lone wolf – and avoiding more draconian anti-terror legislation – comes with greater public awareness.
‘If, for example, you see your neighbour going out at 3am every night or see him or her buying a lot of knives, or carrying a suspicious backpack. Look at Anders Breivik,’ the counterterrorism official concludes, ‘all the red flags were there before and no one did anything. People need the courage to speak up. Every tip can lead the authorities to something much bigger.’
The Op-Ed was written by David Patrikarakos and was published in blogs.spectator.co.uk
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara, attended the funeral of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on Saturday.
Kohl died at the age of 87 on June 16.
The burial ceremony was also attended by world leaders including current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and former US president Bill Clinton.
The prime minister was reportedly asked to speak during the ceremony, but respectively declined due to the Shabbot observance.
Netanyahu thanked Merkel before the funeral for concluding procedures ahead of the signing of a memorandum of understanding for security assistance between both nations after Germany’s National Security Council reportedly approved the sale of three advanced submarines to Israel on Saturday.
According to the report, Israel will receive three more Dolphin submarines in a $1.5 billion deal with German shipmaker ThyssenKrupp.
Macron also told Netanyahu that he expects the premier to attend an event in Paris marking the 75 anniversary of Jewish expulsion from France scheduled in two weeks. Netanyahu along with Macron are both expected to speak at the event.
Following the late German leader’s death, Netanyahu praised Kohl’s “commitment to Israel’s security” during his tenure as chancellor, and expressed appreciation for his “empathy” for the Jewish state.
“His sympathy for Israel and Zionism is reflected in my many meetings with him,” Netanyahu continued, “and his position was always firmly in favor of Israel, which has been steadily present in Europe and in other international forums.”
The article was published on The JPost
In the months before Shimon Peres’s passing, journalist Amira Lam held a series of meetings with the man who was the last of Israel’s founding fathers. During their talk, Peres opens up about the Dimona reactor, his relationship with Rabin, and the settlements.
Mr. Peres, do you have a dialogue with death?
“Death is a question that has no answer, so I don’t deal with it. President François Mitterrand told me in one of the conversations we had before his death that we all know that we will one day cease to be. The real problem is not death, but life. You could be dead while you’re alive, and you could also live after your death.”
In the months that preceded his passing, I held a series of meetings with Shimon Peres. The objective was to gather material for a movie, perhaps a docudrama, to tell his life story, with a famous actor to play him. The idea amused him, and every now and again he would joke with me about the choice of actor, debating between Robert Redford and Kevin Costner.
Peres understood that the time he had left was limited, but refused to let that come into our meetings. No interview, as far as he was concerned, was a goodbye interview, and no conversation was his last. The conversations with him were fascinating. He knew how to tell a story, and he had many stories to tell.
But it was actually in our last few conversations, perhaps because of the movie, that Peres felt comfortable to speak with greater candor. The years of his life unfolded before us like a great drama—from sailing against the wind in the early 1950s when he established the Israel Aerospace Industries, through the Entebbe Operation and his attitude towards the settlements, to his complicated relationship with Yitzhak Rabin, which ended with a hug right before he was murdered.
Peres allowed himself to say things he never said before, at least not in public: on what happened when he visited the settlement in Sebastia near Nablus, the forged document that convinced the French to build a nuclear reactor for Israel, and his insistence not to bring the United States in on the secret of the reactor without first consulting with the French.
Most of our conversations took place after he left the President’s Residence. Peres didn’t have an official position, but his schedule was still packed with meetings, lectures and interviews. Usually, we’d meet at his office at the Peres Center for Peace. We almost always scheduled the meeting for an hour and a half, but ended up talking for two, after which he would abruptly slap his hand on the table and say “That it’s, we’re done for today,” get up, and leave.
From one meeting to the next, Peres grew weaker. This weakness was mostly apparent in his voice. Sometimes, when his memory betrayed him, and he forgot a date or a place, he’d tell me: “We need a new division of labor between man and computers: Let the computer remember and man dream. Man doesn’t need to remember, there’s someone to remember for him. Leave me to dream.”
‘The problem in life is not what to be, it’s what to do’
When I asked Peres if it was hard for him to leave public life, he responded: “What’s easy? What’s hard? People sometimes think that going on vacation is easy. Me, as I always say, it bores to death. Everything is relative, even what it means to be happy. To me, peace brings more happiness than money. There’s a greater gain in love than in your bank account. The problem in life is not what to be, it’s what to do.”
And even though at the time we were still six months away from the US election, Peres added, “The problem is that in Israel, there’s a cult around the government. But it won’t be Donald Trump who ends up running the world, even if he wins the election. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook will run the world. Because what runs the world today is a new mechanism of global companies that hold the money and the power.
“In this world, there are also elements outside of government that make decisions. We don’t need governments for that. My optimism today comes from my faith in those global companies. On the one hand, there is a wave of xenophobia and nationalism prevalent today. You can see it with Brexit and in Turkey, in the power that Trump is gaining. There will always be waves like that over the course of human history. But if these waves continue, we’ll go back to borders, wars, mistakes. That will be stupid for the world to do. Science has no borders. That is why I believe that in the end, the new world of science will win, not the one of nationalism.
“However, if we were to return to me and the fact I have no public role, it would be quite the opposite. Ever since I left the President’s Residence, I’ve been feeling that I needed to work even harder. In general, I believe a person should work. Not stand in front of the mirror all day and examine how he looks, how he feels, and how he’s seen. That’s not interesting. The politicians of today are too preoccupied with that; unfortunately, they’re mostly focused on themselves.”
‘The settlers still don’t heed the government’s orders’
I asked Peres if there were things he regretted, and what mistakes he had made. “I don’t have regrets for a simple reason: there’s no value or use for them. What are you going to do with regret? It’s self pity. The French say, ‘It’s better to be sorry than to regret.’ There’s nothing I’ve regretted.”
I asked him about the settlements, reminding him of Sarah Nachshon, who held her son Abraham’s circumcision at the Cave of the Patriarchs, defying government orders. Sadly, the baby died several months later, and she insisted on burying him in Hebron. Peres, the defense minister at the time, authorized the burial.
Some say your authorization led to renewed Jewish burial in Hebron. This is an issue you haven’t discussed. Have you repressed it?
“It’s the kind of moment you don’t forget. Even if I haven’t spoken about it all these years, it’s stayed with me. But let’s look at the big picture: A woman walking with her dead child, wrapped in blankets and embraced in her arms, passing by checkpoints, walking and walking. I did the math. I oppose the settlements, but you also need to know what are the exceptions to the rule. A man holding a hammer thinks every problem is a nail. In this case, there were emotions involved: a grief-stricken mother who had lost her son. So even if you do have a hammer, not everyone is the same nail. This is an incident I remember and go back to in my thoughts. She marched, charged forward, didn’t listen. The soldiers at the checkpoints didn’t know what to do. She was determined and grief-stricken. I didn’t want her to be hit or arrested. So she was allowed to make an unusual decision for humane reasons. That’s what I did, and I think I did the right thing, even if it is a moment I think back on a lot.”
Peres knows the Left never forgave him his part in the establishment of the settlement enterprise. During our conversations, he unloaded the burden he has been carrying for years. He revealed that the instructions came from people who were at the time part of then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s close circle of advisors.
“I went to Sebastia to demand that (the settlers—ed) leave,” he says. “When I got there along with then IDF chief of staff, Motta (Mordechai) Gur, we were welcomed with clapping and singing. I told them: ‘Dear friends, you’re mistaken. I didn’t come here to ask you to stay. I came here to demand that you leave. And then Rabbi Levinger, who was the leading figure there, tore his clothes in mourning. They started shouting at me.
“When I was Yitzhak Rabin’s defense minister, he appointed two advisors: Arik Sharon and Gandhi (Rehavam Ze’evi). Both were right-wing, both supported the settlement enterprise, and both led the battle against me from the Prime Minister’s Office. The settlers insisted on not leaving. While we were sitting and talking, legions of settlers started filling the surrounding area. Someone else was advising them against me, instructing them on how to act, and they had been updated on the situation. Motta and I were stunned. We couldn’t understand how they knew everything that was happening (in the leadership). Afterwards, the government instructed me to try to reach a compromise with them. Offer them to leave quickly, within a month. I offered that to them, and they rejected it. In the end, it was agreed to postpone the decision by three months.”
And what happened after three months?
“What happened was that the settlers didn’t heed the government’s orders, and to this very day they don’t.”
But why you did initiate the founding of the settlement of Ofra?
“Because I wanted to establish something there that was similar to the Nahal, have soldiers working and guarding there. Our situation in Jerusalem was weak. We wanted to build a radar station. The settlers came to me and said they wanted to settle in Tall Asur. I said, ‘You know what? You’ll work at the radar station.’ I treated them like the Nahal soldiers.”
And now, when you see the entire settlement how do you feel?
“Everyone knows I oppose these settlements—I did then and I still do now. When there was a change of power from Mapai to the Likud, there were maybe 20-30 settlements and 6,000 settlers. At the time, this really wasn’t considered a problem. If there were only 4,000 settlers today, we wouldn’t be having a problem. But when there are half a million, that’s another thing entirely. That happened after we left power. Of course I’m sorry that it exists. You need to understand, I was never a supporter of ‘Two banks has the Jordan River, (this is ours and, that one as well—part of the famous Hebrew poem The East of the Jordan by Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky).’ My entire life I’ve believed that a moral Jewish state on part of the Land of Israel was better than being on the entire Land of Israel but in a state of perpetual conflict.
“This remains the most contentious issue between us and the world. Because the UN decided on two states, provided two maps, and we accepted it. But instead of implementing the two maps, we decided to have just one. The possibility of only having one map is the saddest thing that ever happened to us.”
The Left also won’t forgive you for not going to elections immediately after Rabin’s murder. With the political climate at the time, you probably would have won big. Later, you lost to Netanyahu.
“I wasn’t even sure we’d win. Even Rabin won the last election with only a two-seat advantage. It was hard for the Labor party to shake off the image of ‘corruption.’ Mostly, I was afraid of a civil war. There was a lot of rage among the people at the time. I thought we needed to be more cautious, to calm things down. That was when I was truly afraid a civil war might break out.”
‘That was the first and last time Rabin hugged me’
His relationship with Yitzhak Rabin was one of the most charged topics I spoke to Peres about. But he sounded surprisingly very serene and sobered, as if he had already made his peace and forgave the man who was his greatest partner and rival.
Do you remember when the hatred started growing between you, or why?
“Everyone views the issues in the relationship between me and Rabin as a personal matter. But in reality, the rift between us started simply over ideological division. The Labor party, which was then called Mapai, was at the time made up of three different camps, and we were from different camps. The first time I saw him, we were still in the General Federation of Students and Young Workers in Israel. Later, he was in the Palmach and I was in kibbutz Alumot and was recruited to the Haganah. I was a (David) Ben-Gurion man, and he was a (Zionist activist Yitzhak) Tabenkin man. We also had some friends in common, one of them was (Mapai founding member) Shraga Netzer’s son. He was from Ramat Yohanan, a close friend of Rabin’s and a close friend of mine. We saw one another briefly at his place. We weren’t friends and we didn’t talk much. Even then, there was tension in the air.
“Ahdut HaAvoda, which Rabin belonged to, groomed its people and protected them. In Mapai, which I was a member of, each was on his own. I was seen as an adversary. I know people like to say that he was a Sabra while I wasn’t, he was in the Palmach and I wasn’t. But that wasn’t what mattered. The rift was the result of us being in different camps.”
But he had fame from being a Palmach and an IDF man, and you didn’t.
“Despite all I did for security, I never asked for anything; not ranks, nor anything else. When they wanted to give me an honorary rank, I refused. I was more interested in other things. Rabin once told me: ‘The difference between me and you is that you love building power and I know how to use it.’ I, for example, wanted to buy thefirst computer for the defense establishment. Rabin, at first, opposed it. He said rifles and bullets were preferable. Rabin also objected to the (nuclear) reactor. We really did have two different worldviews. But make no mistake, Ben-Gurion loved Rabin.”
“You have to understand something many people don’t understand. The relationship between me and Rabin was asymmetrical. I didn’t have any hate. If they do a post-mortem examination on me, they won’t find a lot of hate in my heart. The problem, if you ask me, was that Rabin was surrounded by people who incited against me, until he was incited. From a young age, I was vilified for everything. They gave me a hard time. I was lonely and I wasn’t famous or anything. And I didn’t always know what to do. There was no one to defend me. At a certain point, I made the first strategic decision in my life—that I would decide who I’m offended by. And I decided not to be offended by Ahdut HaAvoda and Rabin. JusIt was simple, though it wasn’t easy, it was a process. There were a lot of offenses in the middle. I was slow to get to that point in my mind. Perhaps even a bit too late. There were years that my relationship with Rabin bothered me.”
“In the early 1990s, we were both part of the negotiations with thePalestinians. There were peace talks at the time in Washington, but I realized peace will not be made there. There were only press conferences there. I went to Yitzhak and said: Nothing will come out of this, only press conferences. Let me try doing it my way. He said: As long as it doesn’t hurt (the existing talks). I gave him my word. Once, he wrote to me asking me to stop halfway through. I wasn’t bothered by it. And, as I predicted, the talks in Washington were unsuccessful, while what I was doing was starting to work. Meanwhile, since he was the prime minister, the public viewed this matter—of the Palestinians—which I was dealing with, as something Yitzhak was responsible for. The right wing protested against him. They gave him a hard time. He was miserable.
“I, of course, stood by his side. I saw how he was being humiliated. And then we decided to hold that rally in which he was murdered. He was sure he would lose the elections. By then, we had become much closer. We’d meet in private at his home every Friday. We kept talking about practical matters, and he wouldn’t even let (his wife) Leah in the room when we were meeting there.
“When we were organizing that rally, he told me: ‘Shimon, I’m worried people won’t show up.’ It was right after the event at the Wingate Institute where protesters swore at him and after they made a coffin for him in Jerusalem. As you know, a lot of people showed up in the end. It was the happiest day in Yitzhak’s life. I’ve never heard him sing before. He hugged and kissed me. It was the first time Rabin hugged me. The first and the last. In hindsight, it was a goodbye hug. I missed him a lot after that.”
Building the Dimona nuclear reactor
What was the biggest decision you’ve ever made?
“Primarily, that I would look forward and not back. More than recreating the past, I’m interested in dealing with the future. But the biggest privilege I ever had was working with Ben-Gurion.
“The most important thing I’ll ever do in life, I hope to do tomorrow. I’ll tell you this without any modesty: Everything I’ve ever done has always been met not with applause, but with derision. The hardest thing in life has perhaps been ignoring this derision.
“So (the biggest decision) might have been the reactor, which was met with a lot of opposition. It might have been the Israel Aerospace Industries. It might have been Entebbe. And it might have been stopping the inflation.
“No one believed me. No one believed in me. Not just the people on the street; no one believed in me among the leadership, either. The experience I gained with the Dimona reactor allowed me to learn that despite the derision, despite the closed doors—the impossible was possible. “
Is it true the Dimona reactor was built thanks to a forged document?
“Early on, I didn’t have a lot of connections in France. But I was a member of a socialist party, and I met several socialists thanks to my ties in the Socialist International (SI). The head of the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO) party at the time was Guy Mollet. I met him at the Socialist International on the eve of the 1955 elections in France, and we became friends.
“Later, he was elected prime minister. But despite the fact I had some very close friends in France, there were disagreements in the country about supporting Israel. There was no precedent for that in the world, for one country to allow another country to build a reactor without a commitment to international supervision. This was the first time something like this was happening. So they gave us a reactor, but several parts were missing. We negotiated with the French Committee for the Military Applications of Atomic Energy, as well as the French defense minister, PrimeMinister Guy Mollet, and National Defense Minister Bourgès (Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury). There were a lot of arguments and negotiations.
“And there was one dramatic night in 1957. We didn’t have a signed agreement. The French government was on the verge of collapse. Mollet had resigned. But before he resigned, Bourgès asked me to ask him (Mollet) that he (Bourgès) would be his replacement. That’s how close our relationship was. So I talked to Mollet and he agreed. Now, when Bourgès was appointed prime minister, I was in a position to write him a note, so I did. He stepped out of the meeting. I told him: ‘Listen, the meeting is about to end and we don’t have your signature as the national defense minister. Sign it as the national defense minister.’ But he wasn’t (the national defense minister) at the time, so he signed it with the previous day’s date. Meaning, he forged the date and signed it.”
What happened with the intelligence plane?
“One day, a British jet plane flew over Cyprus. Our intelligence establishment thought the plane was looking for our nuclear reactor. They went to Ben-Gurion and told him: Our big secret has been found out. I was in Africa at the time, and I was called back. It was Passover eve of 1957. I arrived in Sde Boker (where Ben-Gurion lived) with Golda (Meir) and the Mossad director at the time. Golda and the Mossad director said he had to go to America, reveal the big secret to them, and tell them we were stopping (the construction)—otherwise the world powers would give us hell. I said that even if the plane did fly by, it didn’t see anything. What could it see? Bulldozers? I told them we can’t reveal something like that (to the Americans) without first talking to the French. It was top secret, and if we wanted to reveal that secret we had to consult with the French. Ben-Gurion accepted my position. It was a moment of crisis.
“By the way, it was a miracle the reactor was kept a secret, because thousands of people were working on it. Today, we would have done everything to hide it from the media, and it’s doubtful we would have succeeded. I always say: there are things the people don’t want to know. The people don’t want to know how many tanks the IDF has. The people agree that secrets must be kept to protect the nation. We don’t have to tell them everything.”
‘We’re experts on the past, but there’s no expert on the future’
Why don’t you make your position known on recent diplomatic and political issues?
“Because it’s not the right time at this point. And I don’t think it’ll help anything. The problem is that the ears are closed. No one listens to anything these days.”
What would you have wanted to say?
“I’d like us to go back to being a nation that is both democratic and Jewish. If we say that ‘a good Arab is a dead Arab,’ then that’s not democracy, and it’s saddening. The Torah explicitly says: ‘Love ye therefore the stranger; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ We must not have discrimination. It goes against the Torah.”
What happened to us? How did we get to this place?
“I’m less interested in analyzing the problem and more interested in fixing it. Those who make racist comments disgrace the State of Israel. I can’t accept it. No one needs to accept it. It’s not to our benefit, when people talk against gays and Israeli Arabs. All Arabs must be killed? We do have the rule of law here. ‘Zion shall be redeemed through justice.’ Begin also said that ‘There are judges in Jerusalem.’ So why aren’t we protecting the justice system more? A Jew was once almost killed because he was mistaken for an Arab. That was absurd, this argument. Just as I hurt when someone tries to kill a Jew, I hurt when a Jew tries to kill someone because he’s an Arab.”
Do you still think peace is possible?
“For us, the Arab world remains something static—made of half Shiite and half Sunni and that’s it. People don’t understand there is a young generation and that a revolution is underway there. Out of 400 million Arabs, more than half of them are under 25. That’s something different altogether. We’re experts on the past, but there’s no expert on the future. The future needs a vision, and we lack that today. But the thing Israel lacks most today is peace. The fact there is no ongoing peace process at the moment is the main thing that bothers me.”
Politics get a bad name.
President Reuven Rivlin declares solidarity with France following latest terror attack.
President Reuven Rivlin this morning (Friday) sent a letter of condolence to President Francois Hollande of France following the mass casualty terrorist attack in Nice.
President Rivlin wrote, “It is with pain and sorrow that I must once again write and express my deepest condolences, and those of all the Israeli people, following the horrific terror attack in Nice.
“La Fête Nationale, France’s national celebration marks the beginning of the French Revolution, an event crucial to European and world history and the rise of the modern values which today we all hold dear; liberty, equality, and democracy. The vile threat of terrorism is an affront to these values, and its perpetrators murder and maim indiscriminately in pursuit of their barbaric ideology of hate.
“Israel stands with France and the Israeli people stand with the French people, shoulder to shoulder in the face of this terrible evil, as should the whole free world. We must work united to reach the terrorists, their supporters and backers, wherever they may hide. We will never give up. As you said, we are stronger than the fanatics who seek to harm us.”
Former President Shimon Peres also added his voice condemning the attack:
“Yesterday a horrific and unforgiving terrorist attack took place in France. Small children and innocent civilians were taken from us through acts of pure hate and terror.
“World leaders must uncompromisingly cooperate to fight against global terror that is affecting us all.
“Israel sends France its deepest condolences, stand united with our French friends in this difficult time and wish the injured a speedy and complete recovery.”
The article was published in Arutz Sheva on the 15 July 2016
Manuel Valls, in Israel to advance his country’s plan for Mideast summit, says he has ‘a genuine desire to help the situation’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Monday the French initiative for an multinational conference to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, telling French Prime Minister Manuel Valls that direct negotiations were the only path forward toward a lasting agreement.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Jerusalem before a closed-door meeting with Valls, Netanyahu said a multilateral effort would replace bilateral talks and not bring about any agreement.
“Peace is not achieved in international UN-style conferences, nor through international diktats that come of meetings of countries around the world sitting to decide our fate,” Netanyahu said. “Peace is achieved through direct negotiations where the Palestinian Authority would face a historic choice: recognize a Jewish state side by side with a demilitarized Palestinian sate, or try to eliminate it.”
The meeting with Valls came as part a two-day trip to the region by the French premier that began Sunday, aimed at advancing his country’s plan for the summit in the face of opposition from Netanyahu.
The Israeli prime minister claimed Monday that the international conference was being used by the Palestinian leadership as a way to prevent direct talks with Israel.
“The Palestinian Authority does not see the French initiative as an inducer for negotiations, but as a way to avoid them,” he said.
Instead, Netanayhu said, he would be willing to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “in Paris or wherever,” and hold face-to-face negotiations without international mediation. “Every difficult issue will be on the table,” he said.
Abbas has welcomed the French initiative to hold a meeting of foreign ministers from a range of countries on June 3, without the Israelis and Palestinians present.
According to the plan, another conference would then be held in the autumn, this time with the Israelis and Palestinians in attendance. The goal would be to eventually restart negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state.
Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
Earlier Monday Valls met with President Reuven Rivlin, who, in his first public statements on the French initiative, also criticized the plan, saying “there are no shortcuts in the Middle East.”
Preempting Netanyahu’s comments, he said that Israel was weary of such international efforts as they absolved the Palestinians of responsibility to negotiate.
Valls told both Rivlin and Netanyahu that France had Israel’s best interests in mind.
“France has a genuine and real desire to help the situation between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said in his statements to both Rivlin and Netanyahu.
Before his meetings with senior Israeli officials, Valls visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial where he laid a wreath in memory of the six millions Jews killed during the Holocaust. He also went to the Givat Shaul ceremony in Jerusalem cemetery to visit the graves of four French citizens killed in the January 2015 attack on the Hypermarche Kosher supermarket in Paris, and whose bodies were bought for burial in Israel.
After meeting with Netanyhau Valls will travel to Ramallah for a series of talks with Palestinian Authority officals, including meeting with Abbas.
Valls’s visit comes at a time of political turbulence in Israel, with Netanyahu expected to soon finalize coalition negotiations with the Yisrael Beytenu party, led by hardliner Avigdor Liberman, who is detested by the Palestinians.
Liberman, who lives in a West Bank settlement, is expected to take on the key role of defense minister.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told his cabinet that adding Liberman to the coalition would not negatively impact peace efforts.
“A broad government will continue to strive for a diplomatic process with the Palestinians and we will do so with the assistance of elements in the region. I personally deal with this a lot, in many places, and I intend to continue to do so,” he told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
To watch the meeting with PM Netanyahu klick HERE
The Article was published on The Times of Israel on 24 may 2016.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon on Monday called on the global body to denounce terrorism instead of legitimizing Palestinian terrorism.
The call came as the UN commemorated “Palestinian Solidarity Day” and passed a series of anti-Israel resolutions.
“Over the years, this assembly has passed countless one-sided resolutions blaming Israel for any and all problems confronting the Palestinians,” Danon said in a speech to the General Assembly.
“It is unfortunate that the seventieth session has joined the pitiful UN tradition of passing more than twenty empty anti-Israel resolutions, which deepen the conflict, distance us from real dialogue, and diminish the prospects of peace,” he continued.
Danon noted that in 1947, the UN adopted a resolution to partition the British Mandate into a Jewish state, and an Arab state but the Palestinians refused to accept it, and instead have launched “violent waves of terror every time they had the opportunity for statehood”.
“If the Palestinian leaders really want peace, why do they refuse to sit in the same room with the Israeli Prime Minister? To sit down and to negotiate?” said Danon.
“If the Palestinian leaders truly want a home for the Palestinian people, why do they reject the very idea of a home for the Jewish people?
“If the Palestinian leaders are concerned for the protection of their own people, why do they encourage and incite them to terror and violence?” said Danon, who stressed, “No amount of biased resolutions and empty symbols will bring the change that the people of the region so desperately need.”
“You can raise a Palestinian flag here in the UN, but as long as the Palestinians fail to raise a generation committed to peace and reconciliation, there will be no end to violence,” he stated.
Danon held up a picture of the recent victims of terrorism in Israel and said, “This is a shameful day for the UN.”
“Instead of issuing a clear and categorical statement denouncing all acts of terror, this institution has granted legitimacy to Palestinian terror,” he continued.
The heinous murder of a twenty innocent Israelis, just because they are Israelis, is no different than the cruel massacre of innocents in France. Terror is terror is terror, and it must be fought against, not justified,” stressed Danon.
If the UN wants to play a constructive role, it must get a grip on reality, and hold the Palestinians accountable. Demand that the Palestinians leaders cease their incitement to violence,” he said.
“Insist that President Abbas finally, finally respond to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated calls to negotiate. And make it clear that peace will only come once the Palestinians accept that Israel is the home of the Jewish people.”
this article was post on 24 November 2015 on Arutz Sheva website