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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.

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Categories: Diplomacy, Iran

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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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.

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Categories: Diplomacy, Syria

Maariv: Israel a significant importer (and re-exporter) of Iranian goods

August 30, 2010 10 comments

UPDATE: August 31 2010 — Eli Clifton provides some important context.

This is a fairly wide-raging, if shallow, review. I found the section the section describing a botched attempt by an Israeli company to re-export Iranian marble to the US interesting. Particularly insightful was the justification for an Israeli double standard on this issue, as articulated by Danny Catarivas, head of the Division of Foreign Trade and International Relations in the Manufacturers Association of Israel (emphasis mine):

Catarivas

Economic threats are a mainstay of the Obama agenda and fuel the flames between the two countries after every statement on the issue.

The Israeli order banning trade, on the other hand, is not visible. “There’s an advantage to size in this case,” says Catarivas.”The Americans can afford to do things that others can’t.” Catarivas explains that as a small country dependent on foreign trade, Israel needs to separate politics and economics and refrain from economic boycotts. “In the same way that we are outraged against attempts to boycott us , we’re the last ones that should support boycotts of any kind,” he adds.

So until Israeli floors bring about a peace agreement with our neighbors in Tehran, the decision on whether to buy products manufactured in enemy countries is a private one to make. Alternatively, it is up to the quality of camouflage and the creativity of the importer, since Iranian marble is just one example from among dozens of products manufactured in enemy countries and available in the Israeli market.

—–

The trader from Isfahan

Noa Oron, Maariv Friday Business Supplement [page 8; Hebrew original here], August 27 2010

The exquisite lobby of Bank Leumi’s management building on Yehuda Halevy Street in Tel Aviv accentuates the contrast between the ancient and pastoral nature of the restored Mani House, and the modern pace of life.  Perspiring men in button-down shirts walk quickly past the 1930s-style porch, and conversations on mobile phones reverberate in the impressive space.  Heels click on the gleaming marble, and one after another the senior bank officials enter and go up to their offices, which overlook the Tel Aviv cityscape.

It is interesting to consider what the late judge Malkiel Mani would say, if he knew that the directors of the bank—the shares of which are still held by the state—were scurrying about on marble that was quarried in Iran.

Bank Leumi was among the first in Israel to purchase the Iranian Gohare stone, which is named after the ancient city of Gohar-Tappeh in Iran, and quarried mainly in Isfahan, in central Iran.  The marble stone, the hues of which combine beige and gray, became popular among Israeli architects, and was soon purchased by many traders in Israel, along with other Iranian marble stone.

But how did marble reach Israel from Iran, a state with which trade is barred by law?  Through the ultimate transit station — Turkey.  The stone slabs arrive in containers marked “Made in Turkey,” accompanied by Turkish documents, and easily pass through customs agents at the ports.  This is only one of the methods for camouflaging the country of production, for goods coming from countries with which Israel does not have trade relations.  This does not refer only to marble: Other products also make their way to Israel in a similar fashion, including textile, carpets, candy and of course pistachios.

The order banning trade with the enemy defines Lebanon, Syria and Iran as states with which trade is forbidden.  Nevertheless, trade with them takes place on a regular basis, indirectly, through third parties.  Whether it is because of globalization, the drive to develop the Israeli economy, or just because it sells, certain goods from enemy countries are prevalent in the Israeli market.  How much difference does this make to the Israeli economy, to the Americans or to Ahmadinejad’s pocket?

Means of camouflage

When architect Miri Kaiser presented the directors of Bank Leumi with the plans for the new management building, about ten years ago, importing thousands of square meters of Iranian Gohare stone was a minor detail on the way to the dream office.  Members of the bank’s planning team chose the stone with Kaiser’s assistance and also traveled with her to Greece, where the Gohare slabs were chosen carefully.  At that time, the Gohare blocks were shipped to the city of Drama, Greece, where the cutting and finishing of the marble slabs was done.  From Greece, the marble was transferred to Israel, and it is currently imported through Turkey.  The name “Drama,” incidentally, became a common name for Gohare among the Israeli traders.

Bank Leumi sources said that none of the current bank employees had any knowledge of the fact that the origin of the stone was in Iran.  Moreover, the paperwork related to the construction of the management building states explicitly that the stone is Greek stone, without any mention or hint of the fact that the stone is of different origin.  An explanation for such registration could be the cutting stage in the marble production process, so that at times the country in which the marble is cut is ultimately registered as its country of origin. The explanation could be that the country where the stone was cut is sometimes labeled as the country of origin. Another possibility is that Greek containers were used to import the stone, prompting Israeli Customs to mark the the marble as originating in Greece, which is what happens today with Gohare imported through Turkey. In any case, according to informed sources, the architect and importer both knew that the the Gohare had been quarried in Iran. But who has time for patriotism when a multi-million project is at stake?

Bank Leumi is not alone.  Hundreds of public buildings and residential buildings in Israel shine thanks to Iranian marble.  In the Avenue conference room of the Airport City project, you can see 2,000 square meters of Gohare; several luxury buildings in northern Tel Aviv boast lobbies courtesy of Khamenei; and even the Pivko building in Tel Aviv, the huge spaceship that can be seen from the Ayalon Highway, displays several hundred square meters of marble from Iran.

The Gohare is also not alone in the fray.  Graphite, onyx and other types of marble are imported from Iran.  However, the Gohare is quarried only in Iran and is unique for its relatively low price and popularity among Israeli architects—a winning formula for marble importers and traders.

“I call the Iranians from here and speak to them directly on their mobile phones,” a salesman explains in a north Tel Aviv flooring shop.  Most sales personnel are not embarrassed to say that this is stone that originates in Iran, sometimes immediately when it is shown to you, and sometimes after you ask.  “I am not always eager to say where everything came from,” the salesman qualifies, “but it doesn’t matter.  People also have a problem with Turkey.  You simply can’t mix politics with this.”

Since it is indeed preferable to avoid a political debate — after all, we are talking about floors — the marble marketers will use a variety of “means of camouflage.” In order to leave the stones nameless (and mainly so that we will not be able to compare prices), the marble companies give the stones original names that are the fruit of their imagination.  “Gray Steel” is one of the names given to the Gohare, for example.  Other traders will say that this is Turkish stone or “imported from Persia.”  If you catch the salesman in a friendly moment, you may be able to extract the information from him.  “I’ll tell you a secret,” one saleswoman whispers, “the Turks import from the Iranians, but let’s not make a big deal of it.”

Statistics provided by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce show that marble imports to Israel have increased over the past three years, and marble imported from Turkey constitute over 60% of the imports.  The scope of marble imports from Turkey in these years stood at over USD 22 million per year, on the average.  It is impossible to know what percentage of marble originated in Iran, but in light of the popularity of the Gohare stone and other Iranian stones, we can presume that it is a considerable share.  But the most troubling fact was supplied by a senior source in the marble sector: 90% of Gohare stone in Iran is owned by the Iranian government — meaning that the Iranian government is clipping the coupon from the trade with Israel.

“The question is what economic damage is being caused to the Israeli industry,” explains Danny Catarivas, head of the Division of Foreign Trade and International Relations in the Manufacturers Association of Israel.  “In any case, I don’t think that the Iranian economy depends on its marble exports, and if they don’t sell the marble to Israel they will sell it to someone else.”  Catarivas says that in order to continue to maintain a stable economy that is part of the globalization trend, [Israel] has to balance between bureaucracy and regulation to the free market: “I hope that the Israeli government can find the balance.  All in all, I don’t see the Israeli market being flooded by goods from enemy countries.”

“Whoever imports from Iran is a traitor and the State of Israel should make every effort to track down and stop these imports,” Oded Tira, former president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, says angrily.  Tira is opposed to the approach that the business end justifies the means, and says that globalization serves as an excuse for trade relations with enemy countries.  “Even if the imports help us improve our own economy, I would sacrifice this in favor of pressure on the economy of the enemy states,” he explains.  “There should be a moral demand from people not to try to deceive the state, thereby strengthening the enemy.”  He says that giving up solidarity for the sake of business is dangerous, even if the sums involved are small: “Perhaps the tax that the Israeli trader pays will enable the Iranian government to buy the last fuse that it needs to complete the nuclear bomb.  This is an outrage.”

Finance Ministry officials said that no permit had been given to import stones from Iran.  Therefore, if imports were carried out, these importers risk breaking Israeli law.  Moreover, due to the international sensitivity and the sanctions on Iran, there is serious concern that additional laws were broken.

From Israel with love

Us sanctions on Iran have caused increased vigilance in imposing a ban on Iranian imports. As tension mounted between the two countries, our friend in the West banned all commercial ties with Iran in 1997, but the phenomenon of indirect imports via third countries is evident.  US Customs is strict and assertive on this issue, but also faces the same difficulty as Israeli Customs in identifying goods that are not labeled as made in Iran.

The office of the US Trade Attaché told Maariv Business that import from Iran to the Us have been in decline since 2007. Imports decreased by 41% between 2007 and 2008 and by 34% between 2008 and 2009. To date, about $35 million of Iranian goods have been transferred to the US in 201o, a a decrease of 48% compared to the previous year, but the year has still not ended.

In any case, when Israel is the one exporting Iranian marble to the Americans it becomes an embarrassing story. About two years ago, the Israeli company Bastones [spelling uncertain] sold two containers of Iranian Gohare marble to the US company Ann Sacks , which specializes in high-end interior design. Bastones promised that the stone was Turkish, in the same way that many traders in Israeli promise their local clients. The two containers full of Gohare made their way from the Mediterranean to the Western giant, but on the way they encountered a “storm” of a type one does not usually encounter at sea.

Ann Sacks’s management became suspicious that the marble was Iranian and started questioning Bastones’ exporters.After a few interrogations and a lot of stuttering Bastones confessed to the Americans that marble was indeed quarried in the Iranian mountains. Ann Sacks immediately cancelled the the deal and the containers made a rapid u-turn back to Israel. Bastones suffered losses, but it appears that it sold the stone in Israel. The Kohler corporation, Ann Sacks’s owner, refused to comment for this story.

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Categories: Diplomacy, Direct Action

“A silk purse from a sow’s ear”: Israel finds a creative solution for a West Bank land confiscation problem

August 27, 2010 7 comments

As always happens when the diplomatic process resumes, the air is filled with talk of economic and infrastructure projects. For the principals, the buzz helps in creating an “atmosphere of progress.” The bureaucrats and businessmen behind the leaks are usually angling for a share of the funding that could accompany a breakthrough. The rush for headlines is uncoordinated, and occasionally provides a glimpse of the motivation actually driving policy. From the lead story of this morning’s Israel Hayom [full translation at bottom of post]:

This story is a classic example of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear.  About five years ago, it became apparent that the route planned for the fast railway line between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv passes through two sections that are located over the Green Line, and goes through land belonging to PA residents.  The need to confiscate Palestinian land created a legal problem, and after consulting with the attorney general, Civil Administration Director Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai proposed to the Defense Ministry to confiscate the land — but use it for the benefit of the Palestinian public.

This gave rise to the plan to connect Ramallah with the railway track of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast line.  The train from Ramallah will connect with the fast line near Mevasseret Tziyon, and from there it will continue northwest to the Modiin area, pass through Ben-Gurion Airport, and then turn south towards Ashkelon, Netivot and Gaza.

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Gaza express

Shlomo Cezana, Israel Hayom, August 27 2010 [front-page; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will be launched in Washington next week, in which all the core issues will be discussed, including the question of the “safe passage route,” which enables free movement of Palestinians from Gaza to Judea and Samaria.  But even the most optimistic of political officials will find it difficult to believe the next story: Israel is quietly planning a railway line from Ramallah to Gaza.

This story is a classic example of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear.  About five years ago, it became apparent that the route planned for the fast railway line between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv passes through two sections that are located over the Green Line, and goes through land belonging to PA residents.  The need to confiscate Palestinian land created a legal problem, and after consulting with the attorney general, Civil Administration Director Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai proposed to the Defense Ministry to confiscate the land — but use it for the benefit of the Palestinian public.

This gave rise to the plan to connect Ramallah with the railway track of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast line.  The train from Ramallah will connect with the fast line near Mevasseret Tziyon, and from there it will continue northwest to the Modiin area, pass through Ben-Gurion Airport, and then turn south towards Ashkelon, Netivot and Gaza.

Sources in Israel Railways confirmed the details of the route and added: “Israel Railways is an executive arm of the Transport Ministry and the Finance Ministry.  We have received instructions to plan a line between Ramallah and Gaza, which will connect the parts of the PA and enable its residents a quick and safe passage.”  It was also said that the plan is in advanced stages of planning and submission.

The plan will enable a Palestinian resident of the territories to board the train in Ramallah and reach Gaza quickly and without roadblocks.  In addition, in a future final status agreement the Palestinians will be able to reach Ben-Gurion Airport, and this will enable them to use the services of an international airport.

Due to the mountainous terrain and the necessity for the train to travel without inclines and sharp angles, most of the route passes through tunnels at a total length of about ten kilometers, and on eight bridges that will make it possible to cross riverbeds.  In part of the route, the train will use existing tracks.  As of now, the only stations where the train will stop and enable passengers to board and alight are Ramallah, Ben-Gurion Airport and Gaza.

In the political echelon, there are those who try to present the plan as an initiative of the professional echelon alone.  Transport Minister Yisrael Katz is notable for his silence on the plan, and preferred not to comment on it.

The plan is adamantly opposed by the Environmental Protection Ministry, which is leading the green organizations in its wake, mainly due to the damage to the landscape and creation of huge surpluses of dirt.  Environment Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel Hayom that he was working against the plan.  “Damage to the environment has no territorial borders and areas of control.  Just as we will not waive strict environmental demands in Israeli construction, we will act the same way with Palestinian construction that could damage and destroy natural areas and would have serious environmental consequences,” Erdan said.

The Justice Ministry spokesman said yesterday: “We were told by the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria that as part of the planned railway route between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem there were two sections that pass through Judea and Samaria.  Regarding the two sections, the planning and confiscation processes ended several years ago.  In addition, planning processes have ended for two additional sections that serve for access routes and logistical areas, and for these two, confiscation processes have ended for one section and the second is underway.”  The Civil Administration stated: “We are the body responsible for regional development within Judea and Samaria.  In light of the planning work that the Civil Administration was required to carry out in the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railway route that passes through Judea and Samaria, the Civil Administration director made the authorization of the plan contingent upon promoting a railway network that will serve the residents of the region in the future.”  A senior Civil Administration source added that the guiding line of the plan was the ability to serve Jews and Palestinians alike in the future.

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Categories: Diplomacy

Yediot publishes minutes of White House negotiations briefing for Jewish-American leadership

August 27, 2010 4 comments

UPDATE: August 30 2010 — Spencer Ackerman provides some important context.

Agreement now, peace later

Shimon Shiffer, Yediot, August 27 2010 [front-page]

Shapiro

The Obama administration intends to present Israel and the Palestinians with a new outline for ending the conflict.  Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that the Americans will pressure the sides to sign a framework agreement for a final status arrangement within a year — but the agreement would be only implemented within a number of years, apparently up to ten years at the most. The US administration intends to invest all possible efforts to ensure that the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which will be officially launched next Thursday, will end in an agreement and not in a crisis, as happened in the previous rounds of negotiations.  Barack Obama, whose standing in the polls is at a low, very much wants to score a first success in the Middle Eastern arena — in light of the ongoing bloodbath in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For this purpose, the US president intends to become personally involved this time: Director of the Middle East department at the National Security Council Dan Shapiro told leaders of Jewish organizations in the US that Obama intends to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the course of the coming year.  The US president wishes to take advantage of his visit to persuade both peoples to support painful compromises for peace.

A few days ago, the leaders of Jewish organizations in the US held a conference call with three of the most senior figures who set the administration’s Middle East policy.  The most senior of the three, Dennis Ross, has been a partner to all the talks between Israel and the Palestinians since the Oslo Accords.  Ross is currently considered Obama’s number one expert on Middle East affairs.  Alongside Ross, the participants of the conference call included Dan Shapiro and David Hale, deputy of special envoy George Mitchell.

Ross

Yedioth Ahronoth has obtained the summary of the minutes of the conference call, which were prepared by the White House.  The document provides a fascinating glimpse into the administration’s plans for the coming period.  According to the American plan, the negotiating teams of Israel and the PA will conduct intensive talks with the aim of reaching a framework agreement on a final status arrangement within a year.  The intensive talks will be held in isolated locations, so that the teams will be able to quietly discuss the core issues of the final status agreement: The future of Jerusalem, borders, settlements and refugees.  Binyamin Netanyahu and Abu Mazen will be called upon to meet frequently in order to resolve problems and move forward the stages of negotiations.At points in which the negotiations meet an impasse, senior administration officials will intervene in the talks and will present bridging proposals to the sides.  In addition, the US will try to persuade the moderate Arab states to make gestures towards Israel and influence the Palestinians to compromise.

At the end of the intensive year, the framework agreement for ending the conflict is supposed to be signed.  From that moment onward, the agreement will be implemented gradually over a number of years.

“Many people will try to sabotage the talks.  Our challenge will be to ensure their success,” Ross assessed.  “What can be learned from the mistakes that caused the previous attempts to resolve the conflict to fail,” the Jewish leaders asked.  “I have learned that a situation must not be accepted in which the sides speak one way inside the room and another way outside the room,” Ross replied.  In other words: The administration will not look kindly upon a situation in which the senior Israeli and Palestinian figures cast muck at each other outside the conference rooms.  “Is Netanyahu capable of reaching an agreement that will receive political support in Israel?” the Jewish leaders asked.  Hale replied that Netanyahu had assured [the administration] that he was capable of doing so.  “We consider him a strong partner who is committed to the process,” Hale said.

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Categories: Diplomacy

Maariv: Emanuel told Dermer “don’t fuck with me” [expletive not deleted]

August 21, 2010 6 comments

In this Friday’s Maariv, senior diplomatic columnist Ben Caspit speculates on where the diplomatic process, and US-Israeli relations, are headed [full translation of section at bottom of post]. For color, he gives us this:

Rahm Emanuel

In any case, the real US attitude towards the Netanyahu government hasn’t changed. Inside the room, nothing has changed about how the two parties regard each other. Both parties. This is exemplified by the following story: A little while back, Rahm Emanuel paid us a visit. A family visit, on the occasion of his son’s Bar Mitzvah. Still, Emanuel conducted some [working] meetings in Jerusalem. In the Prime Minister’s Office, among others. With Netanyahu’s Diplomatic Adviser, Ron Dermer, among others. The meeting was held at one of the offices in “the aquarium” [the Prime Minister's suite]. The tone was not amicable. At some point, it turned into shouting and cursing. Emanuel, as he regularly does, used obscene language. Don’t fuck with me [spelled out in English and transliterated into Hebrew in the original], for example.

That word, fuck [transliterated into Hebrew in the original], which is off-limits in the American media, appears in every second sentence Emanuel utters. Whoever translates it, does it at his own risk. Dermer, by the way, gave back as good as he got. Emanuel was angry, he claimed, because Dermer briefed certain Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, against the President and Emanuel himself. The ruckus at the meeting was bad and hasn’t leaked until now. Afterwards, Bibi went to Washington and everything calmed down.

—-

September at the gates

Excerpt from column, Ben Caspit, Maariv Friday Political Supplement, August 20 2010 [page 4; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Anyway, September starts soon. The [settlement] freeze is ending with a bang. Construction will restart at full pace. The bulldozers will swarm the hilltops. Is there any way to bypass this minefield? Probably not. Even if Abu Mazen relents in the next few days and direct talks between us and them finally begin, it’s clear that renewal of construction will halt everything. And if the construction renewal doesn’t do it, then the negotiations themselves, where the parties are as far apart as Galant and Ashkenazi [will].

The question is, what will the Americans do? The congressional elections are in November. After them, Barack Obama will be less restrained. And still, it’s unclear whether he’ll be free to take see to us. The current change in his attitude is politically motivated. Very many Senators and Congressmen [sic] swarmed Washington [sic] and begged the President to loosen the leash and let Netanyahu be (otherwise the Jewish donors will close their pockets.) After the elections, all that will disappear.

Will Obama present an American peace plan? Will a bridging document be placed on the table? That question does not yet have an answer. Not in Washington either [sic]. Obama will have to decide what he prefers: A second term, or to get into the history books and make peace in the Middle East.  In both cases, the returns are not certain. Bu the first option, taking his hands off the conflict and focusing on a second term, is easier.

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Categories: Diplomacy

Israeli Ambassador not invited to Erdogan’s Iftar, Israel shocked at insult

August 15, 2010 7 comments

Israel’s Ambassador to Turkey is not invited to the Erdogan’s Iftar for the diplomatic community and Israeli [Foreign Ministry sources are] shocked at this immature behavior:

Jerusalem was angered by the fact that the ambassador was not invited to the dinner. “Turkey is again causing relations to deteriorate,” say sources in Israel. “We plan on conducting ourselves responsibly and not to get dragged into this battle.”

The Maariv reporter has to remind readers “who started it”:

His non-invitation to the Ramadan meal is a kind of insult, and surely Turkey has not forgotten how Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon insulted the Turkish Ambassador in Tel-Aviv, when he summoned him for a reprimand and seated him on a low chair in front of cameras in order to humiliate him.

—–

An insult from Turkey: Only the Israeli Ambassador was not invited for dinner

Eli Berdenstein, Maariv, August 15 2010 [page 8; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Relations between Israel and Turkey continue to deteriorate: Israel’s ambassador to Ankara, Gabi Levi, was the only one not to be invited to the traditional meal that precedes the Ramadan fast, which took place over the weekend in the presence of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and senior officials of his Justice and Development Party. All of the other ambassadors were invited.

Deputy Chairman of the Justice and Development Party Omer Celik said that Levi had not been invited to the dinner organized by the party in protest over the Israeli government’s hostile response to the flotilla as well as its refusal to apologize and compensate those injured as demanded by Turkey. “This is a meal of friendship attended by Jews, Christians and Muslims,” said Celik. “The decision not to invite the Israeli ambassador is a symbolic act and has nothing to do with the people living in Israel.”

At this time it still remains unclear what will happen with the traditional meal that the Israeli embassy usually serves for the Ramadan fast, in view of the fact that it is unknown whether officials from the Turkish government will attend.

Jerusalem was angered by the fact that the ambassador was not invited to the dinner. “Turkey is again causing relations to deteriorate,” say sources in Israel. “We plan on conducting ourselves responsibly and not to get dragged into this battle.”

The Israeli Ambassador to Turkey has faced a hostile environment from the very start of the crisis with Turkey, from before the Flotilla incident of late May. The Ambassador occasionally encounters an anti-Israel protest, is summoned for reprimands [by the Turkish government] and has not met the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, in many many months. His non-invitation to the Ramadan meal is a kind of insult, and surely Turkey has not forgotten how Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon insulted the Turkish Ambassador in Tel-Aviv, when he summoned him for a reprimand and seated him on a low chair in front of cameras in order to humiliate him.

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Categories: Diplomacy

Knesset outsources US campus public diplomacy to militant Christian Zionists

August 15, 2010 7 comments

An article in this morning’s Yediot (full translated text at the bottom of this post) reports that that a bi-partisan group of MKs has partnered with a Christian Zionist organization to recruit evangelical students to represent Israel on US campuses:

MKs who are members of the lobby to promote relations with Christian communities around the world, concluded that the best response to the powerful show of force put on by Muslim students on campuses overseas could not be provided by the Jewish students but, rather, by the Christian students, who are no less eager to help Israel.

The lobby, which is headed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), began finding and training Christian students in prestigious universities and colleges in North America and Europe. The goal is to establish non-Jewish support groups for Israel on each campus so as to have the Israeli position presented.

The lobby, in which dozens of MKs from various parties are members, is considered to be one of the most active lobbies in the Knesset. Members of the lobby contacted the Evangelist organization, Eagles’ Wings, which helped them locate suitable students overseas. The prospective members  must have good skills at oral and written presentation, and an ability to appear before an audience. Thus far some 150 students have been found, and the goal is to train 30 additional students every year. The “ambassadors” undergo training in Israeli public relations, they visit Israel and meet with politicians, academics and  Israeli diplomats. The most recent group, which was comprised of 15 Christian students, finished its tour of Israel just ten days ago.

Coteret has been following the “Tea Partying of the US-Israel relationship“: The growing identification of Israel with the radical, neocon and theocon, right-wing of the Republican Party. However, this seems to be the first instance semi-official public representation by one of these groups.

The partner organization, Eagles’ Wings, has a very clear agenda for its cooperation with Israel: Religious warfare.

To pretend that the civilized world does not face a serious threat at the hands of militant Islam is the willing blinding of oneself to obvious and imminent danger. Proof is in abundance around the world. Militant Islam is dedicated to global conquest and the destruction of Israel, America, and the West. Its adherents are daily sacrificing their children as homicide bombers to accomplish their aim. To pretend by its attack on Judeo-Christian ethics, that our radicalized secular society is not allowing the expansion of this very force of Islam (which will then ultimately turn on the secularists), is to be culturally and historically illiterate and to refuse to see reality. But at this moment, a spiritually complacent Western church seems unaware or in denial of the twin threats to the future of Western civilization – radical Islam and militant secular humanism.

Stearns

Indeed, its Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Robert Stearns, endorsed a “Never Again Rally”  organized by the militant Stop Islamization of America (SOIA) to stop construction of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” This is an issue that has split the US Jewish community, with most non-Orthodox Jews unambiguously on the other side of the controversy. Israeli leaders’ insensitivity to the sensibilities of most  Jewish-Americans should not come as a surprise, however. After all, the Knesset lobby behind this initiative is headed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), author of the explosive Conversion Law, who recently told the New York Times that:

“They [Reform and Conservative Jewish leaders] are acting like absolute idiots.”

Stearns, by the way, is also Director of Region 10 (Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York)  of Pastor Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a financial supporter of Im Tirzu, the organization behind the recent smear campaign against the New Israel Fund (NIF).

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Israel’s Christian ambassadors

Tzvika Brott, Yediot, August 15 2010 [page 14; Hebrew original here and at the bottom of the post]

In recent years, Israeli politicians have been forced to curtail lectures they give in universities overseas, and in some cases even to cancel them altogether because of the disruptions caused by pro-Palestinian students. Now, some MKs believe, a solution has been found.

MKs who are members of the lobby to promote relations with Christian communities around the world, concluded that the best response to the powerful show of force put on by Muslim students on campuses overseas could not be provided by the Jewish students but, rather, by the Christian students, who are no less eager to help Israel.

The lobby, which is headed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), began finding and training Christian students in prestigious universities and colleges in North America and Europe. The goal is to establish non-Jewish support groups for Israel on each campus so as to have the Israeli position presented.

The lobby, in which dozens of MKs from various parties are members, is considered to be one of the most active lobbies in the Knesset. Members of the lobby contacted the Evangelist organization, Eagles’ Wings, which helped them locate suitable students overseas. The prospective members  must have good skills at oral and written presentation, and an ability to appear before an audience. Thus far some 150 students have been found, and the goal is to train 30 additional students every year. The “ambassadors” undergo training in Israeli public relations, they visit Israel and meet with politicians, academics and  Israeli diplomats. The most recent group, which was comprised of 15 Christian students, finished its tour of Israel just ten days ago.

“When you send a Jewish student to defend Israel, people say straight away that he isn’t objective,” said MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima), who is a member of the lobby. “Conversely, when a large group of Christian students comes and presents the truth about Israel from the perspective of a non — Jewish person — that Israel is not a militaristic country but is a progressive and high-tech country — that has a redoubled public relations impact.”

Thus far, pro-Israel groups have been established at Oxford University in England, Amsterdam University in Holland, Berkeley, Georgetown and University of Florida in the United States, as well as at two prestigious colleges in the United States. “This initiative has the potential of changing the trend in Israel’s favor on campuses across the United States and Europe,” said Josh Reinstein, the chairman of the lobby.

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Yediot: Hebron Brigade commander cancels UK study trip for fear of arrest

July 4, 2010 2 comments

The Brigade commander won’t go

Yossi Yehoshua, Yediot, July 2 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The IDF was forced to cancel the departure of the outgoing Hebron Brigade commander, Col. Udi Ben-Moha, to study in the UK. Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that the army feared that Ben Moha would be arrested upon landing due to suspicion of involvement in war crimes in the territories.

Col. Ben Moha began his military service in the Naval Commando. After doing the officers’ course, he went to the Golani Brigade, then he was the deputy commander of the Egoz unit, after that he commanded the Netzarim sector in Gush Katif as the Shimshon Battalion commander, after which he served as the commander of a reservist brigade and formed the Sagi Brigade that operates on the Israel-Egypt border.

Recently Ben-Moha concluded his latest position as the commander of one of the most sensitive sectors in Judea and Samaria: the city of Hebron, where the level of friction between the Palestinians and the settlers is the highest.

As early as a year ago Ben-Moha worked out with his commanders that after leaving the brigade, he would study overseas. At this time the outgoing brigade commander is in the final stages of preparing for his move to London, along with his family.

But in the course of a consultation held recently in the State Attorney’s Office and among top IDF officers, concern was raised that British left wing activists or Palestinian activists were liable to ask the British authorities to issue an arrest warrant against the Israeli officer. It was therefore decided last week not to take the risk and to cancel Ben-Moha’s study trip.

Israel has discerned in recent years a worsening in the attitude to IDF officers in Europe in general, and in the UK in particular. The UK has become very problematic for officers wishing to visit, since British law makes it possible for civilians to submit a criminal complaint against people suspected of war crimes. That is why the IDF considered forbidding officers from stopping in London, even for a short stopover, on their way to another destination.

Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that last week IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu went on a trip to London for PR purposes. Before his trip, the IDF held a situation assessment meeting during which concern was raised that Benayahu might encounter displays of violence during his stay in the British capital. This is because of the fact that the identity of the IDF spokesman, who often interviews because of his job to the foreign media, is known to television viewers world over. After the flotilla affair, it was even decided to place guards at  Benayahu’s home, who lives in a kibbutz in the Sharon region.

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Categories: Diplomacy, Impunity
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