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Archive for September, 2010

Yediot: NIS 9 million for settlement “tourism”, including 2 million for “City of David” in Silwan

September 20, 2010 9 comments

The fact that these grants will fund highly politicized and inflammatory projects is best exemplified by the NIS 2 million slated for the “City of David” project in Silwan. This East Jerusalem settlement in the guise of an “archeological park” is at the cutting edge of efforts to insert Israelis in Palestinian communities around the Old City basin.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov [Israel Beiteinu] provides a policy-oriented explanation for the funding:

“The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to developing tourism in Judea and Samaria, which is the basis for [the] ‘Every Jew’s Story’ [campaign] and is located in the very heart of the State of Israel,” the minister wrote.  “The historical heritage serves as a significant drawing point both for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad.”

It would be a stretch, however, to think that he actually believes this claptrap. Misezhnikov is a politician using his position to dole out pork to allies.

Last week Haaretz reported on a new domestic campaign, which aims to re-brand the West Bank settlements as pastoral tourist attractions. The settlers running it appear to actually believe that they are exposing an obscured reality, restoring the objectively positive image stolen from them. Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Masika:

Settlement’s biggest enemy is ignorance. That’s the place where prejudice takes hold, fertile ground for hatred and blood libels against us. We can change this situation through these tours.

From a narrow Israeli perspective, maybe they’re right. Within our Orwellian public debate, it’s often hard discern which perception of reality is upside-down.

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Tourism Minister establishing facts on the ground in territories

Yuval Karni, Yediot, September 20 2010 [page 6; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

While the Americans are struggling to arrange a continued construction freeze in the territories, there are those in Israel who are already preparing vigorously for the next stage.  Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov intends to transfer in the near future millions of shekels to settlements in Judea and Samaria for the purpose of developing tourist sites and attractions in the territories.

An internal Tourism Ministry document shows that in total, over NIS 9 million will be transferred to Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem.  Minister Misezhnikov, who is strongly opposed to the freeze, wishes to let the local authorities develop the tourism branch within their boundaries.

Many areas in Judea and Samaria will enjoy the benefit of the large budgets that the ministry stands to transfer.  The Samaria Regional Council will receive NIS 300,000 for tourism projects within its jurisdiction (signs in the Reihan forest, paving bicycle trails in the Shaked forest), the Binyamin Regional Council will receive NIS 100,000 for putting up signs in tourist sites, the Southern Hebron Hills Regional Council will receive NIS 100,000 to develop the Susya historical site, the share of the Karnei Shomron Regional Council will be NIS 100,000 for developing bicycle trails in Nahal Kaneh, and the Kiryat Arba Local Council will receive NIS 40,000 for planning tourism projects.

The big money will be given to the Etzion Bloc, the Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem.  The Tourism Ministry will transfer NIS 1.5 million for renovation and upgrading of the Herodion site within the boundaries of the Etzion Bloc Regional Council, about NIS 2 million to the Kasr al-Yahud baptism site in the Jordan Valley, and about NIS 5 million for developing projects in East Jerusalem: NIS 2 million for the City of David, NIS 1.5 million for Zedekiah’s Cave and NIS 1.5 million for tourism infrastructure in the Old City.

Tourism Minister Misezhnikov sent letters yesterday to mayors in Judea and Samaria and explained that he considered this a Jewish-Zionist necessity.  “The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to developing tourism in Judea and Samaria, which is the basis for ‘Every Jew’s Story’ and is located in the very heart of the State of Israel,” the minister wrote.  “The historical heritage serves as a significant drawing point both for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad.”

In the letter, the tourism minister notes that upon the expiration of the security cabinet’s decision to suspend construction in Judea and Samaria, “I have decided to budget infrastructure, tourism and public projects throughout Judea and Samaria.”  The minister also instructed the settler leaders to turn to Tourism Ministry Deputy Director General for Infrastructure and Investments Shai Weiner in order to receive a commitment for promoting projects in the territories.

Read more…

Yediot: Despite Berlusconi’s promises, Italy remains “an enthusiastic supporter of the Iranian economy”

September 15, 2010 5 comments

Paper sanctions

Menahem Ganz, Yediot, September 14 2010 [page 19, Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Rome — Half a year after returning from a visit to Israel, in the course of which Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised to act to reduce the volume of trade between Italy and Iran, it has now become evident that Rome has remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Iranian economy this year too.

While Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini have both declared in the past that they understood the need to undermine Tehran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, which threaten the State of Israel’s security and very existence, in practice the policies that have been pursued by their government have promoted trade with Tehran, which has helped the regime in Tehran to maintain its stability.

An examination by Yedioth Ahronoth found that according to data released by the Italian Central Bureau of Statistics, the scope of Iranian imports to Italy in the first half of 2010 was more than double [the previous period] and came to €2 billion. The Iranian imports to Italy in the equivalent period of 2009 were €847 million.

Italian exports to Iran also rose significantly, from €892 million in the first half of 2009 to more than a billion euros. While specific data have not yet been published, it is clear that the surge in trade does not stem from the trade in basic foods. Central Bureau of Statistics data clearly show that industry-related goods, infrastructure work, energy, communication satellites and technological products were typical of the trade between the two countries this year.

As previously noted by journalistic reports, Italian companies have also provided support to the Iranian army. Early this year the CEO of the Italian energy company ENI was called to the US State Department to explain the enormous volume of trade between the two countries. This is the fourth consecutive year in which the volume of trade between Italy and Iran has risen, despite the sanctions that were imposed by the UN on Iran and despite all the promises that the Italians gave to the US administration and the warm embraces that were given by Berlusconi during his visit to Israel.

The Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome yesterday confirmed the data and explained: “The sharp rise in imports from Iran stems from changes in the value of the currency between the euro and the dollar and the price of oil. There has been no departure from the sanctions that were imposed on Iran by the UN in exports to Iran. Large companies in Italy froze deals, and there is no dual civilian-military use of their activities. Alternately, the owners of medium and small-sized businesses who feel the acceleration of the Italian economy trade with Iran while taking a risk, in the absence of government insurance for their activities.”

The Italian Prime Minister’s Office said in response that they were still studying the data.

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy, Iran

Yediot to Abe Foxman: Are we anti-Semitic too?

September 14, 2010 13 comments

Not exactly, but close.

For those of you who have missed the latest chapter of what Matt Duss calls “the continuing attempt to redefine ‘blood libel’ as ‘saying things about Israel I don’t particularly like'”, here’s a brief: This week’s TIME Magazine cover story was a feature by Karl Vick, entitled “Why Israel doesn’t care about peace” was not very useful from the current Hasbara perspective. Unfortunately, attacking it on its merits proved to be somewhat difficult. But Abe Foxman is always ready to play the anti-Semitism card. Haaretz:

A Time magazine cover story claiming Israelis are more interested in their booming economy than reaching an historical peace agreement with the Palestinians is another version of the anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews prefer money above any other interest, the Anti Defamation League said in a statement on Thursday.

This vile anti-Semitism has apparently penetrated Israel’s largest daily,  Yediot Acharonoth. Here’s how senior political columinist Sima Kadmon wraps her analysis of the latest polling on this morning front-page (entitled “Goodbye to peace”, full translation and poll results at bottom of this post):

What has happened to us? When did we come to be so lacking in faith? A week ago Time magazine ran a cover story about why Israelis don’t want peace. Many people criticized the article’s point of departure.

When one reads the findings of this poll, one is forced to contemplate the possibility that that thesis is not so ludicrous.

Goodbye to peace

Sima Kadmon, Yediot, September 14 2010 [page three with front-page teaser]

Profound pessimism — that would probably be deemed the understatement of the year in describing the Israeli public’s positions on the morning that the prime minister leaves for a summit meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh.

A Mina Tzemah poll that was conducted yesterday proves that the Israeli public has lost its faith: it has lost its faith in Netanyahu’s intentions, it has lost its faith in Abu Mazen’s abilities and his intentions to be a partner, it has lost its faith in peace. And worst of all, it has lost hope.

It would seem that somewhere along the way to a peace arrangement with the Palestinians we turned into a bitter, untrusting, weary and despairing people. Only that can explain how 48% are opposed (versus 45% who support) a peace arrangement with the Palestinians in which they recognize Israel as a Jewish state and Israel concedes most of the territories in the West Bank, while keeping the settlement blocs in Israeli possession. Since when would a plan of that sort be unacceptable to the public, when would we not have endorsed such a plan wholeheartedly?

Perhaps the reason is that only 36% of the public believes that Netanyahu is sincere in his intentions to reach an arrangement with the Palestinians. Fifty-six percent believe that he is doing everything as a result of American pressure. And that is relatively good in comparison to what the Israeli public thinks about Abu Mazen’s intentions. Only 23% believe that Abu Mazen and the Palestinians are sincere in their intentions. Seventy percent believe that they were forced into the talks by American pressure. So is it any wonder that only a quarter of the Israeli public, 25%, believe that there is a chance that the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will lead to a peace agreement? Seventy-one percent reject that notion.

And if that is the state of affairs and there is no chance of reaching a peace arrangement, why continue with the internal disagreements about a construction freeze? Why continue to wrack our brains on compromises, on calming tempers? Let’s tell everyone we’re not playing that game any more and go all out. When the respondents were asked whether they believed that the resumption of construction would lead to the derailment of the talks with the Palestinians, 68% said they believed it would certainly lead to their derailment. Nevertheless, 51% of the public believes that construction should be resumed everywhere throughout Judea and Samaria. In other words, despite the fact that a large majority believes that a resumption of construction while talks are underway will derail those talks, that course of action is acceptable to more than half of the Israeli public.

Even when the respondents are offered the option of a compromise in which construction is partially suspended and will be pursued mainly in the settlement blocs—a compromise that on the face of things ought to be acceptable to a majority of the public—it turns out that only 42% are prepared to consider that possibility. Thirty-two percent of the public object to that compromise because they believe that the construction moratorium ought to be ended altogether.

What has happened to us? When did we come to be so lacking in faith? A week ago Time magazine ran a cover story about why Israelis don’t want peace. Many people criticized the article’s point of departure.

When one reads the findings of this poll, one is forced to contemplate the possibility that that thesis is not so ludicrous.

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Poll: Majority opposed to moratorium

Poll by Dahaf Polling Institute, Yediot, September 14 2010 [page three with front-page teaser]

Q: Should Netanyahu extend the settlement construction freeze after September 26, or should construction be resumed?

Extend construction freeze: 39%

Resume construction: 51%

No response/don’t know: 10%

Q: Would you support a compromise in which construction in the territories is partially suspended—in other words, for there to be construction only in the settlement blocs?

I would support such a compromise: 42%

I am opposed because the construction freeze should be comprehensive: 20%

I am opposed because the construction freeze should be ended: 32%

No response/don’t know: 6%

Q: Do you believe that Netanyahu is serious in his intentions to reach an agreement, or do you believe that he has entered negotiations because of American pressure?

Because of American pressure: 56%

His intentions are sincere: 36%

No response/don’t know: 8%

Read more…

The new frontiers of Israeli diplomacy: Lieberman to address UN General Assembly (!)

September 13, 2010 6 comments

This morning’s Israel Hayom reports: (full translated text at bottom):

a decision was made that, for the first time, the Foreign Minister will address the UN General Assembly in New York at the end of the month

You don’t need to be an expert to understand that this is not a very wise matching of speaker and venue. But the PR expert at the country’s helm apparently had no choice, because he will be at the main diplomatic show, which the Foreign Minister is boycotting.

he will replace the Prime Minister, who is busy negotiating with the Palestinians.

This bit of news comes at the tail end of an item on an impromptu meeting between Lieberman and Hillary Clinton. Yediot (full translated text at bottom) adds that Lieberman cancelled a scheduled trip to DC (including face time with Biden) to meet Clinton in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

A few days ago his office received a personal request from Hillary Clinton to schedule a meeting  between them. Clinton, who will arrive in Jerusalem on Wednesday, apparently wants to “embrace” Lieberman and convince him to support talks with the Palestinians.

Clinton wants to convince Lieberman to tone it down a bit.

Washington is concerned with Lieberman’s statement that peace with the Palestinians will not be achieved this year nor in the next generation. Its possible that one of the requests from Lieberman will be to decrease the frequency of statements that create a negative atmosphere for the talks.

But she may be walking into a PR trap.

According to sources in the Foreign Ministry Clinton faces a difficult challenge: Lieberman is not expected to be convinced easily and he believes that the talks have no real chance.

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Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy

Maariv: French and American envoys working to re-start Israeli-Syrian talks

September 13, 2010 1 comment

Maariv summarizes a news item from the Lebanese A-Safir. It’s unclear, however, whether the section on Mitchell visit is also from that source.

The byline is unusual. Bardenstein is the junior diplomatic affairs correspondent and probably does not speak Arabic. Items based on direct monitoring of the Arab press are usually bylined by the Arab or Palestinian affairs correspondents. Bardenstein’s sources are almost exclusively in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Effort to resume negotiations with Syria

Eli Bardenstein, Maariv, September 13 2010 [page 5; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Along with the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, France and the US are acting to put in motion the political negotiations between Israel and Syria. Over the course of the holiday and yesterday, two top officials visited Israel who are responsible for talks on this channel. They met with top Israeli officials and in the next few days will go to Damascus for meetings with Syrian President Bashar Assad and with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

The Lebanese As-Safir newspaper wrote that the French official was Jean Claude Cousseran, French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s special envoy to the Israeli-Syrian talks, and Fred Hoff, deputy to special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, who is responsible for the Syrian-Lebanese desk for Washington. Cousseran and Hoff met with Defense Ministry officials, including Defense Minister Barak.

The paper further reported that in his visit to Damascus, Cousseran will try to clarify to what extent Syria will agree to be flexible in its demands of Israel even though, at every opportunity, Assad is firm about stressing that without a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, there will be no peace. Cousseran will also try to help get the dialogue moving on this track by means of putting pressure on the Israeli side to enter into the negotiations. France believes that if this works, the US will take on itself the role of patron of the talks.

Envoy Mitchell is also expected to visit Damascus and will try to get the support of President Assad for the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians and to relay a message in the matter of the importance that the US attributes to talks on the Israel-Syria track.

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy, Syria
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