Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
By Arutz Sheva Staff
Israel deported Tunisian ex-president Moncef Marzouki and European parliament member Ana Miranda on Tuesday after they took part in the anti-Israel flotilla destined for Gaza.
"The (former) president of Tunisia and the Spanish lawmaker flew this morning. There are another 14 who have begun the expulsion process," a spokeswoman for Israel's immigration authority told AFP.
Israel had on Monday commandeered the Swedish-flagged Marianne of Gothenburg, part of the so-called Freedom Flotilla III, and accompanied it to the port of Ashdod.
Sixteen foreign nationals were on board along with two Israelis, MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) and a television reporter. The two Israelis have been released, though Ghattas could face a parliamentary hearing on whether he should face sanctions.
The so-called “Freedom Flotilla 3”, which set sail from Crete on Friday, has been backed by the European Campaign to Break the Siege on Gaza. Members of the European Parliament, journalists, athletes, artists, as well as radical leftist Israelis will be on board.
The flotilla was the latest in a series of attempts by activists to break the naval blockade on Gaza, imposed by Israel after Hamas violently took control of Gaza from rival Fatah in 2006.
The most famous of the flotillas was the 2010 one involving the Turkish Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza."
The ship repeatedly defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port and ignored repeated warnings to change course, forcing IDF troops to board the vessel - only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board wielding knives and metal bars. The wounded soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of ten of Islamists on board.
After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid - in fact, no aid supplies at all - indicating how the true goal of the provocative move was to open Gaza to free naval access, which it has consistently used to smuggle in weapons to be targeted against Israel.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Published June 29th, 2015 at 02:38pm
Israel's security cabinet approved extending the fence along the Egyptian border to include a section along the Jordanian border north of the southern city of Eilat, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday.
Israel's fence on its southern border with Egypt, also near Eilat, was erected in 2013 to keep out illegal African immigrants and while Israel and Jordan coordinate closely on the shared border, Israel is concerned about migrants and armed jihadist might try to infiltrate via the 240 kilometer-long border with Jordan.
"This is an important matter. It is part of our national security," Netanyahu said. "It is an addition security fence we built along our border in the Sinai, which prevented the entry of illegal infiltrators into Israel, and of course of the various terror organizations."
The fence will be built on Israeli territory according to Netanyahu, who said that it will not "in any way harming the sovereignty or national interests of the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan".
The Israeli government was expected to allocate nearly one billion shekels (roughly $300 million) for the construction of the massive fence last year.
The extension of the fence will run 30 kilometers north from Eilat and will help to protect the Timna airport, due to open next year.
Cooperation between Israel and Jordan is growing as the Islamic State militant group continues makes additional gains in Iraq near the Jordan border, said a senior source in the Jordanian Embassy in Israel.
"There is a very good cooperation between us regarding the growing presence of the extremists in Iraq and Syria, but also on issues relating to other radical forces in the Middle East which have their sights set on Israel and Jordan," the diplomatic source said, without elaborating.
"The developments on the Jordanian-Iraqi border are still unclear, but the Jordanian army is already doing whatever it can to quell any threat from the area," the unnamed official said.
The Jewish state also has a border fence with the Gaza Strip and barriers on the frontiers with Syria and Lebanon, both countries it is technically at war with.
The huge steel fence that runs along the Syrian frontier through the Golan Heights was built after the Syrian civil war broke out, for fear of a spillover of fighting and an influx of refugees.
Israel also has a vast separation barrier that runs through the West Bank, which it began building during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which lasted from 2000-2005.
Friday, June 26, 2015
By AFP June 26, 2015, 3:00 pm
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II made her first trip to a former Nazi concentration camp Friday, visiting Bergen-Belsen just over 70 years after it was liberated by British forces, on the final day of her state visit to Germany.
The 89-year-old queen was accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, 94, as she visited the site where at least 52,000 people from across Europe died during World War II, including teenage Jewish diarist Anne Frank. She was due to see a memorial stone to the young girl, whose journal of her family’s time hidden from the Nazis during the German occupation of The Netherlands has been read by millions around the world.
In April 1945, British forces freed the camp in northern Germany where Jews, political prisoners and other persecuted groups were held, taking pictures which gave the world the first visual proof of the Holocaust.
The queen is also due to lay a wreath and meet camp survivors and liberators. At a banquet at Berlin’s presidential palace earlier in the week, the queen warned against “division” in Europe, in a speech focused on historical references to the lessons of World War II, the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification. In April, on the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation, German President Joachim Gauck paid tribute to Britain for restoring “humanity” to the country, saying its forces led by example during the subsequent Allied occupation.
The event wraps up the queen’s fifth state visit to Germany which included a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a boat trip along Berlin’s Spree river and a trip to the financial capital, Frankfurt.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
THE HAGUE - The Palestinian Authority made its first submission of evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes to the International Criminal Court on Thursday, trying to speed up an ICC inquiry into abuses committed during last year's Gaza conflict. The move may leave Israel in a quandary since it must decide whether to cooperate with the ICC investigation or find itself isolated as one of a very few countries that have declined to work with its prosecutors. Israel denies allegations of war crimes by its forces during the 2014 Gaza war and accuses Islamist terrorists who control the Gaza Strip of atrocities in firing thousands of rockets at Israeli population centers.
Standing outside the ICC after meeting the court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said he had submitted dossiers on the Gaza conflict, Israeli settlements on land where Palestinians seek a state, and treatment of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. "Palestine is a test for the credibility of international mechanisms ... a test the world cannot afford to fail. Palestine has decided to seek justice, not vengeance," Maliki said. A cease-fire in August ended 50 days of fighting between Hamas in Gaza and Israel in which health officials said more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.
UN investigators said on Monday that Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups committed grave abuses of international humanitarian law during the conflict that may amount to war crimes. The Hague-based ICC, with no police force or enforcement powers of its own, is looking into alleged crimes by both sides of the conflict but cannot compel Israel to give it information.
PRELIMINARY ICC INQUIRY UNDER WAY
The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, joined the court in April and Bensouda has opened a preliminary investigation related to Gaza. But Israel has substantial leverage over the course of ICC inquiries since court officials can only access sites of alleged atrocities in Gaza and Israeli settlements in the West Bank via Israel's airports. Maliki said he had agreed with prosecutors on a date for them to visit Palestinian territories, but did not say when. "It depends on their ability to enter Palestinian territory without problems," he said. ICC prosecutors told Reuters earlier they aimed to make field trips to both the Palestinian and Israeli sides but had not yet sought formal Israeli permission.
Israel disputed the UN report on possible war crimes, saying its forces had upheld the "highest international standards". Gaza's dominant Hamas group ignored the accusations against it and called for prosecutions of Israeli leaders. As a non-member of the ICC, Israel is under no obligation to cooperate, regardless of international pressure to do so. But a boycott of prosecutors could put Israel in awkward company. Even Russia, a foe of the ICC, has met court prosecutors related to their inquiry into alleged crimes in Russia's 2008 war with Georgia and over the events leading up to the 2014 overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Russian president.
Israel has been an outspoken critic of the ICC, saying the Palestinian Authority is not a state and should never have been admitted as an ICC member. Israel also argues that the ICC inquiry will make it harder to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians. Talks on a Palestinian state in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war collapsed last year and there is no prospect of reviving them.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Thursday, June 18, 2015
By MICHAEL WILNER | 06/17/2015 22:11| The Jerusalem Post|
The Obama administration is attempting to clarify a key position in its nuclear negotiations with Iran amid suggestions in media reports that the US has made a consequential concession this week.
In remarks to the State Department press corps via teleconference on Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the world already knows the nature of Iran's past military nuclear work— and that negotiators were not "fixated" on forcing Tehran to reveal its activities from a particular moment in time.
The comment was widely interpreted as a departure from past statements made by key administration officials over several years. Both he and US President Barack Obama have said that Iran must "come clean" in any final agreement on all of its past experimentation with nuclear weaponry, referred to formally as Possible Military Dimensions (PMD).
At the top of his first briefing as State Department spokesman, John Kirby said the US is not looking for a "confession" from Iran. But the US never has, he continued, and is making no concession on the PMD issue.
"The [International Atomic Energy Agency]'s concerns about possible military dimensions, past and present, have to be resolved before there is a deal," Kirby told the press, charging that it is "absolutely, completely false" that the US had shifted on the matter.
The IAEA has sought access for its investigation into Iranian PMD for several years. That, in part, requires access to sites categorized as military installations by the Islamic Republic.
Iran says it will reject all requests for access to its military sites, citing its need to protect "state secrets" and its sovereignty as a UN-member state.
"Sanctions lifting is only going to occur when those steps have been taken," Kirby asserted.
Phasing of sanctions relief is a major, outstanding challenge left for negotiators to resolve since a framework for a nuclear deal was agreed upon in Lausanne, Switzerland, back on April 2.
Reporters and interests surrounding the Iran talks have been unclear on whether a resolution to the PMD issue would precede a deal itself, or would rather precede sanctions relief.
Further complicating the issue is whether a full resolution to the IAEA's concerns would precede all sanctions relief, or merely some.
"It is very clear what the expectations are of Iran," Kirby asserted, noting that the issue has figured "prominently" in the final round of negotiations.
Diplomats from the US, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and Iran hope to clinch a comprehensive nuclear agreement by June 30.
Patrick Clawson, Director for Research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, called the development a "clear cut case of moving the goal posts."
"It is discouraging for the USG to suggest that a political process, such as the Iran-P5+1 talks, will substitute for the judgment of the IAEA," Clawson said in an e-mail. "The IAEA should be allowed to do its work without diplomats undercutting its authority. Technical issues about verification should not be decided in a political venue."
In recent months, members of the Obama administration have justified their pursuit of a full resolution of IAEA concerns with a simple argument: Only by fully accounting for their past nuclear work can the international community truly hold to account Iran's future nuclear work.
In the same press availability on Wednesday, Kerry said that access to these sites was "very, very critical" in any final deal.
"The [interim Joint Plan of Action] refers to that, and says that it’s got to be addressed in the context of the final product," Kerry said. "And that remains true; it has to be. And we have to resolve our questions about it with specificity."
Talks continued in Vienna on Thursday, and are expected to continue on a daily basis until the deadline.
US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said Wednesday that if Iran insists that there not be inspections at all its nuclear facilities then “there will not be an agreement.”
Likewise, he said that if Iran “does not give information on its past military nuclear plans, then there will not be an agreement. If Iran demands relief from all sanctions from the first day, there there will not be an agreement,” he said in an Army Radio interview.
“We also have demands,” he said, “and will only accept a good agreement, and if there will not be a good agreement, there will not be an agreement.”
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
The Times of Israel|
VIENNA (AP) — Iran and six powers are still apart on all main elements of a nuclear deal with less than two weeks to go to their June 30 target date and will likely have to extend their negotiations, two diplomats tell The Associated Press.
Their comments support concerns that obstacles to a pact remain beyond the public debate on how far Iran must open its nuclear program to outside review under any deal.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has for weeks rebuffed US demands that UN nuclear monitors have access to military sites and nuclear scientists as they monitor Tehran’s commitments under a deal and probe allegations of past work on atomic arms.
Negotiators are concerned about a lack of headway on all issues. Russian chief delegate Sergey Ryabkov said Friday the “the rate of progress … is progressively slowing down.”
Negotiators have been meeting five days a week in Vienna over the past few weeks. The two diplomats are familiar with the progress of the talks and spoke shortly before a planned five-day round reconvened Wednesday. They demanded anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the confidential negotiations.
Ways of implementing specific parts of the deal are supposed to be contained in four or five annexes to the main text of an agreement.
The diplomats described said the draft of a main document as a patchwork of text and dozens of blank spaces because of stubborn disagreement on up to 10 elements crucial to any deal. Those details are to be included in four or five annexes, which remain incomplete.
Both sides remain publicly committed to June 30. Still, the diplomats said all nations at the table recognize that a delay up to July 8 is not a deal-breaker.
If the US Congress receives a deal by July 8, it has 30 days to review it before President Barack Obama could suspend congressional sanctions. Postponement beyond that would double the congressional review period to 60 days, giving both Iranian and US opponents more time to work on undermining an agreement.
Any deal would cap nearly a decade of international efforts to restrict Iranian nuclear programs that could be turned toward making weapons.
Tehran denies any interest in — or work on — atomic arms, but wants negotiations with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to conclude with an end to sanctions imposed over its nuclear program.
The talks focus on ways to implement commitments by both sides reached in a preliminary deal in April. Iran agreed then to slashing the size of its uranium enrichment program for at least 10 years, as well as re-engineering a nearly built reactor to minimize its output or plutonium — like enriched uranium a potential pathway to nuclear weapons.
It also has agreed to give experts of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency unprecedented monitoring authority to ensure that Tehran is hewing to its commitments, as well as more leverage in following up on the allegations of past nuclear weapons work.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
BY JUDAH ARI GROSS June 16, 2015, 9:18 am | The Times of Israel|
Israeli newspaper said US President Barack Obama has invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a meeting in the White House next month.
Netanyahu would travel to Washington in mid-July, approximately two weeks after the June 30 deadline for the Iran nuclear deal, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday, citing US officials.
The meeting would likely be the latest in a series of tense sessions between the two leaders who have a famously frosty relationship, and the first since Netanyahu’s reelection in March amid signals of disapproval from the White House.
However, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office denied receiving an invitation, according to Reuters. There was also no immediate confirmation from the White House.
Obama told Jewish leaders in April that he would not meet with Netanyahu in person before the negotiations between the P5+1 — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany — and Iran are complete.
Those talks are slated to end on June 30, but officials on both sides have indicated it is likely they will go into overtime.
In April, Obama told Jewish leaders he imagined a face-to-face meeting with the Israeli leader before an Iran deal is finalized would only end with Netanyahu “publicly venting his complaints about the president’s policies,” on Iran, the New York Times reported.
In an April phone call following the conclusion of a framework nuclear accord, Netanyahu told Obama that “a deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel.”
The prime minister added, “This deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy, and increase Iran’s aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond.”
The Israeli leader has continued to lobby against the deal. His national security adviser Yossi Cohen is expected in Washington this week to air Israel’s concerns with his US counterpart.
If the Obama-Netanyahu meeting does take place in mid-July, it will occur before Congress officially meets to approve the Iran deal.
In early March, Netanyahu gave a controversial speech to Congress in which he criticized the deal. Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu during the trip, saying he did not want to be seen as meddling in Israeli politics two weeks before national elections.
The visit highlighted the tense relationship between Netanyahu and Obama, who have also been at loggerheads over a lack of progress in peace efforts with the Palestinians.
Before and during the Israeli election, the Obama administration denounced Netanyahu’s rhetoric, which was deemed offensive to Arab voters, and his apparent dismissal of a two-state solution, despite the prime minister walking back the statement following his victory.
Despite personal animosity, both leaders have continued to play up the strong bond between Israel and the US.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Should the US and Tehran reach a final deal over the latter's nuclear program, Israel should “multiply its intelligence attempts to monitor developments in the Islamic Republic, so that it can sound the alarm if necessary,” a former senior Israeli defense official says.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former chief of the research division in IDF Military Intelligence, and until recently, director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, offers scathing criticism of the US administration’s handling of the Iranian nuclear issue, in a paper published recently by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
Meanwhile, with the June 30 deadline for an agreement between the world powers and Tehran quickly approaching, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that the deal looks worse with each passing day.
“Iran has announced that it will not allow surprise visits at its military installations on the nuclear issue,” he said. “It has also backtracked from other issues that were seemingly agreed upon in the Lausanne agreement.
To our regret, the reports arriving from the major powers attest to an acceleration of their concessions in the face of this Iranian obduracy.”
Netanyahu said that from Israel’s standpoint the agreement being formulated looked bad from the outset, and now “from day to day it seems to be getting worse.” He was not too late, however, to “take stock,” reject the current deal on the table and insist on a better one, the prime minister said.
Kuperwasser, in his paper, wrote, “The main reason for the reluctance of the administration to consider the strategy proposed by Israel, and by like-minded Arab states and members of Congress, is its optimistic and guilt-driven worldview. As long as the negotiations continue, Israel should keep doing everything it can to prevent a bad deal with Iran.
“But if in spite of its efforts a bad deal is signed,” Israel should boost intelligence gathering, accelerate efforts to develop the military capability to defend itself if necessary, and build a regional alliance determined to block Iranian attempts to translate its achievements in the nuclear realm into greater regional influence, even without developing a weapon, he continued.
“Put succinctly,” Kuperwasser said, “Washington seeks to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while Jerusalem seeks to prevent it from having the capability to produce nuclear weapons,” he wrote, as the June 30 deadline for a final agreement approaches.
Israel continues to believe that with enough pressure, Iran can be convinced that it has no chance of becoming a nuclear weapon state, he argued.
“On the other hand, Israel believes that the deal proposed now will justifiably be presented by Iran as a victory of the Islamic Republic, one that can be translated into further achievements in Iran’s quest for regional hegemony,” Kuperwasser said.
From an Israeli point of view, he continued, the US administration “seems to have convinced itself that the deal it is trying to reach is the best possible deal and is a reasonable one, while it remains blind to the deal’s many shortcomings, and indulges in wishful thinking and distortion of facts in order to justify it.”
Elsewhere in his paper, Kuperwasser wrote, “To be specific about the perceived threat, Israel’s view is that Iran under the current regime seeks, through a variety of ways, to bring about the destruction of the national state of the Jewish people. This is a central component of Iran’s broader efforts to form a new Middle East, controlled by extremist forces aligned with it and under its influence, from which basis it can advance toward changing the entire world order.”