Tag: Israel-Greece Relations

IN EUROPE, ANTISEMITISM PERSISTS AMONG MUSLIMS & LEFT; ANTI-IMMIGRATION PARTIES CONTINUE TO RISE

France: Soon with No Jews?: Guy Millière,Gatestone Institute, Apr. 7, 2018— A year ago, in Paris, on April 4, 2017, Sarah Halimi, an elderly Jewish retired physician, was horribly tortured and murdered in her home in Paris, then thrown from her window by a man shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is the greatest”)

The Next British PM Might Be an anti-Semite, Like Some Leftist Friends: Robert Fulford, National Post, Apr. 13, 2018 — “Britain’s next prime minister might well be an anti-Semite.”

The Rise of Western Civilizationism: Daniel Pipes, Australian, Apr. 14, 2018— Victor Orbán’s landslide electoral victory on Sunday, gaining 134 seats out of 199 in Hungary’s parliament…

The Future of Greek-Israeli Relations: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Apr. 8, 2018— The deterioration of relations between Israel and Turkey that began at the end of 2008 led the Israeli leadership to look for alternative alliances in the Eastern Mediterranean.

On Topic Links

Romania to Move Embassy to Jerusalem: Netanyahu Promises Six More to Follow: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, Apr. 20, 2018

Abusing Anne Frank’s Memory: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 12, 2018

Eastern Europe’s Illiberal Revolution: Ivan Krastev, Foreign Affairs, May 2018

It Backed Israel Before Balfour: Corbyn Stance is Stark Shift From Early Labour: Robert Philpot, Times of Israel, Apr. 17, 2018

 

 

FRANCE: SOON WITH NO JEWS?

Guy Millière

Gatestone Institute, Apr. 7, 2018

A year ago, in Paris, on April 4, 2017, Sarah Halimi, an elderly Jewish retired physician, was horribly tortured and murdered in her home in Paris, then thrown from her window by a man shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is the greatest”) . She had reported to the police several times that she was the victim of anti-Semitic threats — in vain.

Less than a year later in Paris, another elderly — and disabled — Jew, Mireille Knoll, was raped, tortured and murdered in her apartment by another Muslim extremist. Mrs. Knoll, a Holocaust survivor, had also contacted the police to say that she had been threatened. Again, the police did nothing. For months, the French justice system tried to cover-up the anti-Semitic nature of Sarah Halimi’s murder; the judge in charge of Mireille Knoll’s case at least recognized the anti-Semitic nature of her murder at once.

Both women were victims of an anti-Semitic hatred that is rising quickly in France. French Jews live in constant insecurity. The men who murder them evidently do not hesitate to break into homes and attack elderly women; they seem to know they can threaten their future victims without fear of arrest. More often than not, the police do not even record the complaints of Jews who go to the police station, but simply note in the daybook that a Jew claiming threats came and went.

The French authorities say they are fighting anti-Semitism, but they never speak of the only anti-Semitism that today in France kills Jews: Islamic anti-Semitism. If the murderer is a Muslim, he is usually described as suddenly “radicalized”. The word “radicalized” is now used to describe Muslim killers. It allows those who use it to avoid the words “Muslim” or “Islam”. The French mainstream media also use the same language as the French authorities. When a killer’s neighbors are interviewed, they usually say he was “a nice guy”. There was almost no news coverage of the murder of Sarah Halimi when it took place. There was more on the murder of Mireille Knoll, but almost none referred to the cause of her murder. The fear that neutralizes French politicians and journalists is: Being accused of “Islamophobia”.

In all the uncountable number of books on the danger and the consequences of anti-Semitism published in France since World War II, only one deals specifically with the hatred of Jews in the Muslim world. The author, Philippe Simonnot, a former journalist for the daily Le Monde, actually justifies this hatred. He alleges (incorrectly) that Jews who lived in Muslim countries were well treated, but then betrayed Islam by not fighting alongside Muslims at the time of Western colonization; that the creation of Israel has been a crime against the poor “Palestinians”, and that Muslims have the right to collectively punish Christians and Jews. These ideas are not marginal. In France, they are widespread.

Each time, an anti-Semitic crime is committed by a Muslim on French territory, French politicians and journalists try to hide who the criminal is or what his motivations were. Often, they explain that the criminal is also a “victim.” When a criminal leaves a message stating that he acted to avenge the suffering of “Palestinians”, French politicians and journalists almost unanimously repeat that what happens in the Middle East must stay in the Middle East, and then that a “just solution” must be found to “Palestinian suffering”. They ignore that, despite all of Israel’s efforts to treat Arabs humanely, every French report on Israel starts with denouncing Israeli soldiers as ruthless killers, supposedly happy to humiliate Arabs.

Today, France is the only country in the Western world where Jews are murdered simply for being Jews. Since 2006, eleven French Jews have been killed — men, women, children. At the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, in March 2012, children aged three, six and eight were shot to death at point blank range. Giulio Meotti wrote: “If they had been Muslims, their stories would have become a universal warning against intolerance, racism, ethnic and religious hatred … Politicians would have given their name to streets and schools.” But they were Jews, so in France, the anti-Semitism is not named.

A few weeks ago, at the annual dinner organized by the Jewish organization CRIF in Paris, President Emmanuel Macron said that France is at war with anti-Semitism. In the aftermath of the murder of Mireille Knoll, he said the same thing. For decades, all French Presidents have used virtually the same sentences. Macron repeated many times that “without Jews, France would no longer be France”. What appears to be taking place, however, is precisely that: a France with no Jews.

In two decades, more than 20% of French Jews have left the country. According to a survey, 40% of the Jews still living in France want to leave. Although Jews now represent a little less than 0.8% of the French population, half of the military and police deployed in the streets in France stand guard in front of Jewish schools and places of worship.

French Jews see that what remains of the Jewish presence in France is being erased. They know that they have to hide their Jewishness and that even if they are street-wise and carefully lock their door, risks are everywhere. They also know that what happens to them does not interest the rest of the French population. The French National Assembly has 577 members. Only one of them tirelessly and courageously draws attention to what is happening: Meyer Habib. He represents the French living in the Middle East and was elected thanks to the support of the French Jews who now live in Israel but still have their citizenship. Without them, he would have no chance of being elected…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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THE NEXT BRITISH PM MIGHT BE AN ANTI-SEMITE,

LIKE SOME LEFTIST FRIENDS

Robert Fulford

National Post, Apr. 13, 2018

“Britain’s next prime minister might well be an anti-Semite.” Theodore Dalrymple, an English psychiatrist and distinguished author, began a recent article with that striking speculation. He wasn’t kidding. He was discussing what some in U.K. politics call “the Labour Party’s Jewish problem,” embodied in the person of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader and, conceivably, the next prime minister.

As Dalrymple explained, we can’t say whether Corbyn’s anti-Semitism is a sincerely held prejudice or merely a matter of electoral calculation — there are far more Muslims than Jews in Britain. “But either way, his failure to condemn anti-Semitism in his own party and his penchant for consorting in friendly fashion with extremist anti-Zionists of genocidal instincts” have created among British Jews more anxiety than anyone since Sir Oswald Mosley, the much (and correctly) maligned British fascist leader of the 1930s.

If not an anti-Semite himself, Corbyn is quite tolerant of anti-Semitism in others, including his fellow Labourites. Or perhaps he doesn’t think this issue deserves his attention. Corbyn maintains good relations with Jewdas, a group self-described as “Radical Voices for the Alternative Diaspora.” They are Jews but anti-Zionist. They organize trips under the name Birthwrong, a reference to an official Jewish program, Birthright, which sponsors student trips to Israel. Birthwrong caters to “anyone who’s sick of Israel’s stranglehold on Jewish culture.”

Corbyn dismayed many Jews when he defended a blatantly anti-Semitic mural in the East End of London. It depicted stereotypical hook-nosed Jewish bankers manipulating the world’s finances on a Monopoly board supported on the backs of the poor. Corbyn championed the artist on the ground of freedom of speech, later explaining that he didn’t notice the offensive Jewish stereotypes.

The controversy swirling around him is part of a broader political phenomenon, the persistent appearances of anti-Semitism on the left. Dislike of Jews has afflicted many leftish people in the past — and even over on the tyrannical left, Stalin looked with lethal suspicion on Jews. But now that ancient hatred shows up frequently, not only in British Labour but also among leftish Democrats in the U.S. and the NDP in Canada.

One explanation lies in the almost universal notoriety of colonialism. To many leftish people, conditioned to despise any form of Western imperialism, Israelis can look like conquerors and Palestinians like their helpless colonial victims. The campaign to boycott Israel draws its strength from the way it presents itself as virtuous and focuses on the less attractive of Israel’s policies. It’s also a way of disguising a semi-secret Jew hatred as international benevolence.

In the U.S., activists on the left have a way of applauding fellow leftists even if they are bigots. This leads to anti-Semitism by association. Leftists may be judged not by their own actions but by the people they praise. Whom do they learn from? Whom can they tolerate? Tamika Mallory, an organizer of the anti-Trump national women’s march, can barely restrain her enthusiasm for Louis Farrakhan, leader for the past four decades of the Nation of Islam. He blames Jews for the African slave trade and speaks of “that wicked state of Israel.” Mallory has tweeted, “Thank God this man is still alive and doing well.” The NDP invited her to address its recent biennial convention.

Richard Marceau, the senior political adviser for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said he found the Mallory invitation troubling: “While there is a vocal and active minority of NDPers who have some kind of unhealthy anti-Israel obsession,” the NDP doesn’t embrace Farrakhan’s views. But at that same convention, 14 of the 45 resolutions on world affairs submitted by NDP riding associations were either pro-Palestinian or critical of Israel, supporting Marceau’s claim of an “anti-Israel obsession.”

Diana Richardson, a liberal Democrat and a New York State assemblywoman from Brooklyn, was accused recently of delivering an anti-Semitic rant during a caucus meeting in Albany. She’s said to have blamed Jews for gentrification in her constituency, an odd version of the blame-the-Jews slogan used for generations by anti-Semites. The state Republican chairman told the New York Post she should resign from the state assembly for “her hateful, anti-Semitic comments.”

Perhaps the connection between leftists and anti-Jewish bigotry was best explained in a few words attributed to August Bebel, a 19th-century carpenter in Germany who rose to national prominence in politics. “Anti-Semitism,” he said, “is the socialism of fools.” Thinking about Jeremy Corbyn adds a fresh relevance to that ancient adage.

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THE RISE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATIONISM

Daniel Pipes                                     

Australian, Apr. 14, 2018

Victor Orbán’s landslide electoral victory on Sunday, gaining 134 seats out of 199 in Hungary’s parliament, increases his governing supermajority and endorses his tough policy of excluding illegal immigrants, especially from the Middle East. His success dramatizes a new reality across Europe and in Australia: a novel kind of party has emerged, disturbing the political scene and arousing impassioned debate.

Examples of this phenomenon include the other three members of the Visegrád group (Poland, Czechia, and Slovakia) as well as Austria’s four-month old government. Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, sees western Europe following the Visegrád group: “In the Eastern part of Europe, anti-Islamification and anti-mass migration parties see a surge in popular support. Resistance is growing in the West, as well.” In France, the National Front emerged as the second strongest party in last year’s presidential elections, in Italy, a muddled situation could lead to an Orbán-like government, while Cory Bernardi’s Conservatives and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation have made their mark on the Australian scene. Indeed, like-minded parties have quickly become a significant force in some twenty countries.

An initial problem is how correctly to name them in general. The media lazily lumps these parties together as far-right, ignoring their frequent leftist elements, especially in economic and social policy. Calling them nationalist is wrong, for they neither bellow calls to arms nor raise claims to neighbors’ lands. Populist misses the point because plenty of populist parties such as La France Insoumise (Rebellious France) pursue nearly opposite policies.

Best is to focus on their key common elements: rejecting the vast influx of immigrants and especially Muslim immigrants. Non-Muslim immigrants also cause strains, especially those from Africa, but only among Muslims does one find a program, the Islamist one, to replace Western civilization with a radically different way of life. Turned around, these parties are traditionalists with a pro-Christendom, pro-European and pro-Western outlook; they are civilizationist. (This definition also has the benefit of excluding parties like the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, that despise traditional Western civilization.)

Enlightened opinion generally reacts with horror to civilizationist parties, and not without reason, for they carry a lot of baggage. Some have dubious origins. Staffed mainly by angry political novices, they feature dismaying numbers of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim extremists, Nazi nostalgists, power-hungry cranks, economic eccentrics, historical revisionists, and conspiracy theorists. Some proffer anti-democratic, anti-European Union, and anti-American outlooks. Far too many – and especially Orbán – have a soft spot for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

But civilizationist parties also bring critical benefits to the political arena: realism, courage, tenacity, and a civilizational critique necessary if the West is to survive in its historic form. Therefore, contrary to many friends and allies, I favor working with most civilizationist parties, advocating critical co-operation rather than rejection and marginalization. Four reasons drive this decision: First, civilizationist parties pose a lesser danger than do Islamists. They are traditionalist and defensive. They are not violent, they do not seek to overthrow the constitutional order. Their errors are correctable. Arguably, they are less dangerous even than the Establishment parties which permitted immigration and shirked Islamist challenges.

Second, they respond to political realities. The lure of power has already inspired some civilizationist parties to mature and moderate; for example, the founder of the National Front in France was expelled from his own party by his daughter due to his persistent antisemitism. This sort of evolution entails personnel fights, party divisions, and other drama; however inelegant, these are part of the growing process and, so, have a constructive role. As they gain governing experience, the parties will further evolve and mature. Third, parties focused on civilizationism cannot be dismissed as ephemeral. They emerged quickly and are steadily rising in popularity because they represent a sizeable and growing body of opinion. As they relentlessly approach power; it is better they be engaged with and moderated than be reviled and alienated.

Finally, and most critically, civilizationist parties have a vital role in bringing their issues to the fore: without them, other parties usually ignore immigration and Islamist challenges. Conservative parties tend to overlook these issues, in part because their big business supporters benefit from cheap labor. Leftist parties too often promote immigration and turn a blind eye to Islamism. To appreciate the role of civilizationist parties, contrast Great Britain and Sweden, the two European countries most lax in dealing with culturally aggressive and criminally violent forms of Islamism. Lacking such a party, these issues are not addressed in Great Britain; immigration and Islamist inroads progress almost unimpeded. Prime ministers might provide excellent analyses, but their words lack practical consequences and problems such as the sex-grooming gangs go unaddressed…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]     Contents

             

THE FUTURE OF GREEK-ISRAELI RELATIONS

Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos

BESA, Apr. 8, 2018

The deterioration of relations between Israel and Turkey that began at the end of 2008 led the Israeli leadership to look for alternative alliances in the Eastern Mediterranean. A rapprochement with Greece, traditionally at odds with Turkey, made theoretical sense but was practically difficult due to the Greek sympathy with the Arabs and the Palestinian cause. Careful diplomacy was thus required.

While some discussions on the matter began in Athens in the spring of 2009, the turning point occurred in 2010. Prime Ministers George Papandreou and Benjamin Netanyahu opened a new chapter in the bilateral relationship by meeting in Moscow in February of that year. Two important visits soon followed: one by Papandreou to Jerusalem in July and one by Netanyahu to Athens in August. As a matter of principle, Papandreou was in favor of a multidimensional Greek foreign policy, and he was interested in the security and economic benefits that could accrue from a rapprochement with Israel. More importantly, Greece counted on Israel’s support during a particularly tough and unpredictable period for its national economy. This support was played out in both Europe and the US on several occasions.

In June 2011, for instance, The Jerusalem Post reported that Netanyahu had used his reputation as a leader with a good grasp of economic matters to encourage Israel’s friends to be supportive of the Greek efforts. When Papandreou resigned at the end of October 2011, Netanyahu did not change his approach. Hosting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras two years later, he encouraged Israeli investors and businesspeople to go to and invest in Greece. Military cooperation has been also remarkable since the ice was broken. Between 2010 and 2012, no fewer than 13 joint Greek-Israeli military exercises were conducted. According to a paper published by the Hudson Institute, bilateral cooperation in the zone between Israel and Crete (a distance of about 1,400 km) has allowed Israeli pilots to engage in bombing drills and the aerial refueling needed to cover a distance equal to that separating the country from Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility. Further to this, Reuters informs us that Israel has trained in Greece against the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft system.

Greek-Israeli relations have improved further during the administration of the leftist SYRIZA party. Despite the stance of its leader and current premier Alexis Tsipras while in opposition, he has proven to be a real friend of Israel. Ambassador Arye Mekel calls this “impressive and surprising”. Not only is the Greek PM interested in closely cooperating with Israel but he sometimes supports Israeli positions at the EU. In November 2016, Greece defied an EU order on labelling settlement goods. Tsipras is also showing sensitivity in the fight against anti-Semitism, which remains a problem in Greece. Eight years after the initial rapprochement between Greece and Israel, the bilateral partnership is stronger than ever. Israeli companies are interested in participating in the Greek privatization program, and military exercises – also under the NATO aegis – are multiplying. The January 2018 visit of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to Athens and Thessaloniki was another indication of the excellent status of the bilateral relationship.

The Greek main opposition, the conservative New Democracy party, is ahead in all opinion polls, and it will certainly continue the pro-Israel path of previous governments if it wins the next election. George Koumoutsakos, the head of New Democracy’s international affairs department, paid an official visit to Israel in mid-March 2018 and said that Greek-Israeli relations “could acquire strategic depth in favor of economic progress, stability and peace in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean.” The head of the party’s defense affairs department, Vassilis Kikilias, also visited Israel a few days after Koumoutsakos in another sign of continuity…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Romania to Move Embassy to Jerusalem: Netanyahu Promises Six More to Follow: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, Apr. 20, 2018 —After meeting last week with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely last week,  a Romanian politician has announced their nation will be moving their embassy to Jerusalem. This will make Romania the fourth nation to do so and the first European Union country to break ranks and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Abusing Anne Frank’s Memory: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 12, 2018 —Anne Frank has probably become the best known Jewish person murdered during the Shoah. Her memory is also one of the most abused. This maltreatment has a long history. New examples emerge frequently.

Eastern Europe’s Illiberal Revolution: Ivan Krastev, Foreign Affairs, May 2018—In 1991, when the West was busy celebrating its victory in the Cold War and the apparent spread of liberal democracy to all corners of the world, the political scientist Samuel Huntington issued a warning against excessive optimism.

It Backed Israel Before Balfour: Corbyn Stance is Stark Shift From Early Labour: Robert Philpot, Times of Israel, Apr. 17, 2018—Avi Gabbay’s decision last week to break links with Jeremy Corbyn may have little practical effect – the British Labour leader’s contemptuous brush off indicates how little he cares about the relationship – but it has huge symbolic value.

ISRAEL’S DEFENSIVE STRENGTH, DIPLOMATIC SUCCESS, AND CULTURE OF INNOVATION ADMIRED “IN MANY QUARTERS”

Fighting a Worthy Intellectual Battle: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Oct. 27, 2017 — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's now-famous (or infamous) "sour pickles" speech at the opening of the Knesset winter session this week was more than a curiosity and much more than good political theater.

Why Is Israel's Image Improving in Greece?: George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Oct. 24, 2017— For most observers, the South Caucasus region might not appear high on Israel’s foreign policy agenda.

Israel and the South Caucasus: Building a New Approach: Emil Avdaliani, Algemeiner, Nov. 5, 2017 — Canadian governmental spokespeople have been active lately in apologizing for historical wrongs.

Remembering Rabin: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2017— Many on the Left want the annual memorial of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin to focus on the late prime minister’s political convictions and emphasize the dangers of incitement, particular of the right-wing variety.

 

On Topic Links

 

Growing Confidence in Israel's High Tech Sector: Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 30, 2017

Netanyahu: 100 Years After Balfour, Palestinians Should Accept Jewish State: Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2017

Netanyahu’s Center-Right Partners Won’t Join Labor-Led Government Despite Alarming Polls: David Israel, Jewish Press, Nov. 5, 2017

85,000 Attend Rally Marking 22nd Anniversary of Rabin’s Murder: Jacob Magid, Times of Israel, Nov. 4, 2017

                                                           

                       

 

FIGHTING A WORTHY INTELLECTUAL BATTLE                                                                  

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Oct. 27, 2017

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's now-famous (or infamous) "sour pickles" speech at the opening of the Knesset winter session this week was more than a curiosity and much more than good political theater. It was a substantial address that touched upon some of the central intellectual battles underway these days, in and about Israel.

 

Essentially, Netanyahu was pushing back against what he called the "industry of despondency" about Israel – the negativism about Israel's direction in all matters: social, economic, democratic and diplomatic. Netanyahu rejected doom-and-gloom depictions of Israel as isolated, divided, oppressive, frozen, and fascist. Instead, he argued, Israel is on the upswing in almost all fields, with strong showings in defense, diplomacy, business, art, science, and yes, in democratic discourse and in identity politics too.

 

I am particularly interested in intellectual currents in defense and diplomatic matters, which are undergoing an important revolution. For years, the left-liberal side of Israel's political spectrum has advanced an alarmist and defeatist narrative: that Israel is losing its global stature and support because of the continuing stalemate in relations with the Palestinians.

 

First, the Left argued that Israel needed a peace accord with the Palestinians; otherwise it would not be secure. Then, the Left argued that without at least a peace process, Israel would be demonized and deprived of international standing. Now, the Left argues that without unilateral Israeli withdrawals and a division of our capital city, Israel will be crushed demographically and go dark democratically. Netanyahu is saying no to this. He is saying that Israel can stand up for its historic rights and security interests, and still improve its global standing, while maintaining its robust universalist and nationalist identity.

 

Of course, a process of reconciliation and compromise with the Palestinians would be preferable. But Israel's importance, salience and relevance for the Jewish people and for the world are functions of much more than our difficult situation with recalcitrant Palestinians. Israel has a strategic standing, regionally and globally, that is consequential and resolute. The strength of Israel and the religious-national values embedded in its society are affectionately respected in many, many quarters.

 

This is partially the context that explains the establishment in Jerusalem this month of a new conservative security think tank, the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, of which I am the founding vice president. The institute seeks to counter debilitating currents in Israeli defense and diplomatic discourse, and recapture the mainstream in Zionist security thinking.

 

Among the principles underlying the institute's activity are the Jewish people's historic connection to the land of Israel as a central component of strategic worldview; the salience of security in diplomatic agreements; rejection of unilateral Israeli moves that strengthen adversaries; the importance of strategic cooperation with like-minded Western allies; the imperative of Israel being able to defend itself by itself in all eventualities; and, critically, the importance of united Jerusalem to Israel’s security and destiny…

 

The fact is that over the past three decades, the Israeli Left has astutely financed a multitude of public policy centers to buttress an agenda of far-reaching concessions meant to rapidly pave the way toward Palestinian statehood with a divided Jerusalem as its capital. Alas, the Israeli center-right has not created a serious intellectual infrastructure that might lead security thinking in an alternative direction. The Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies seeks to redress this situation, to push back against downcast and despairing narratives, and to reinforce the healthy, steadfast instincts of the Israeli majority.

 

Here is an example of healthy instincts. According to a new JISS public opinion poll to be released next week, a solid majority of Israelis (64%) believes that Israel must rule the entire Jerusalem envelope for security and ideological reasons. Even larger majorities believe that Israel must maintain sovereignty over the Temple Mount whatever diplomatic accords emerge (72%), and that Jews should be able to pray on the Temple Mount (68%).

 

The new institute will also seek to energize Israeli strategic discourse with a reconsideration of defense concepts that have fallen by the wayside over the past two decades, such as pre-emptive war and secure borders. Another central focus for the new institute is training the next generation of national security specialists – a younger cohort from the Israeli academic, intelligence, military and foreign policy communities – in the best traditions of both Zionist and Western grand strategic thinking.

 

The choice of Jerusalem for this new think tank is no accident. The July events surrounding the Temple Mount, as well as the decision by the Trump Administration to walk back an explicit election promise on the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem – where the embassy belongs! – are but two aspects of what is bound to be an almost existential issue for Israel and the Jewish People…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                       

                                                                       

 

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WHY IS ISRAEL'S IMAGE IMPROVING IN GREECE?

George N. Tzogopoulos

BESA, Oct. 24, 2017

 

Generally speaking, there has long been a consensus among Greek journalists on who is to be blamed for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for the failure to achieve peace: Israel. The Jewish state has been consistently portrayed as the aggressor and the Palestinians as innocent victims. The Greek coverage of the Mavi Marmara incident in June 2010 illustrates this phenomenon. “Mourning and ire for the Israeli Ressalto” was the headline used by Eleftherotypia, a leftist publication (now closed down for economic reasons). The center-left paper TA NEA was equally critical, opting for the headline: “World outcry: Goliath crushed David”. The “World outcry” phrase was also used by the conservative newspaper Hi Kathimerini.

 

Greek sympathy for the Palestinian cause is rooted in the proximity of the Arab world and the support of most Arabs on the Cyprus Question. Anti-Semitism has also played a role. But there is another reason why Israel was constantly blamed by the Greek media, at least before 2010. It served as a useful scapegoat for all the problems in the Middle East, if not all the problems in the world. This made it easy for journalists to avoid time-consuming, in-depth research on international affairs. Jerusalem’s close cooperation with Ankara only fueled the negative perception of Israel among the Greek media.

 

The turning point came in the late summer of 2010. The media tend to follow the prevailing political agenda, and the rehabilitation of Israel’s image was no exception. When Jerusalem decided to look for new allies in the Eastern Mediterranean following the setback in its relations with Ankara, it turned to Athens. In August 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Greece, opening a new chapter in a relationship that had been marked for decades by misunderstandings and suspicion.

 

George Papandreou, the Greek premier at the time, saw Israel as a critical ally in an era of economic austerity and uncertainty over Greece’s potential default and exit from the Eurozone. The Greek media followed Papandreou’s lead. The headline of TA NEA was characteristic: “From flirting to marriage: Greece and Israel are opening perspectives for golden cooperation.” Eleftherotypia talked about “Changing balances creating a ‘new axis’ in the region,” and Hi Kathimerini wrote about a “closer collaboration” between the two countries. From late 2010 onwards, covering Israel has been a job not only for foreign editors but also for diplomatic correspondents.

 

In the aftermath of the Netanyahu-Papandreou Athens meeting, most Greek journalists began to grasp that Israel is no longer an unknown, distant neighbor. Above all, it is a partner. This strategic partnership yields positives for Greece in terms of security and energy affairs, and also has a tangibly positive effect on the Greek economy. While 207,711 Israeli tourists came to Greece in 2012, expected arrivals from Israel are expected to be 530,712 in 2017. Thessaloniki (among others) is a city Israeli citizens are keen to visit due to its historic Jewish past and its mayor Yannis Boutaris, who is very friendly towards Israel.

 

Also, economic opportunities quickly became apparent. As a “start-up” nation, Israel attracted the attention of Greek entrepreneurs. The Embassy of Israel in Athens organizes events and competitions, the winners of which have the opportunity to participate in the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival. Israel’s communications strategy on Facebook and Twitter also helps Greek journalists and ordinary citizens gain easy access to information about the country.

 

Moreover, the racist behavior of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, and its position that Israel is Greece’s “eternal enemy,” have (to an extent) associated anti-Israel voices in Greece with political extremists. The attack of a far-left terror group against the Israeli embassy in Athens in December 2014 reinforced this perception and drove some new sympathy for Israel. At the time, most Greek journalists expressed serious concern about safety and security in Greece as well as about the international implications of the event. To Ethnos, a center-left newspaper, said the attack was an international stigma for Greece as it was “the first against an Israeli Embassy for twelve years at the world level.” (For its part, Proto Thema, a weekly tabloid, reported on the involvement of Mossad in the investigation, indirectly implying that Greek authorities would not necessarily be able to locate the suspects.)…

 

After 2015, an additional barrier tarnishing Israel’s image in Greece was removed. A leftist government, Syriza, came to power, bringing with it a new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. Though he had participated in pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the past, his tune changed when he assumed his new position. In contrast to his pre-election stance, Tsipras treats Israel as an ally, and his foreign policy is reflected in media coverage on both left and right. The Journalists’ Newspaper, for example, which replaced Eleftherotypia, praised the Trilateral Thessaloniki Meeting of June 2017 for accelerating the construction of an East Med pipeline.

 

Broadly speaking, Greek journalists are now more mature about Israel. In the aftermath of the “Arab Spring,” even the most pro-Palestinian journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict acknowledge Jerusalem’s contribution to regional stability. Also, official visits to Israeli cities have left participants impressed by the country, and this is penetrating into their work. Other Greek media representatives have turned their attention entirely to blaming Germany for the Greek drama, and see no need to construct other “enemies.” Still others are affected by rising Islamophobia, rather than anti-Semitism, as terror attacks plotted by ISIS continue to strike Europe.

 

The improving image of Israel in Greece could theoretically go hand in hand with a reduction in anti-Semitism. In 2014, the Greek parliament voted in favor of a new anti-racism law that made Holocaust denial, inter alia, a criminal act. Numbers cannot confirm this, though, as some stereotypes grounded in the thinking of older generations have deep roots. Greece has not experienced endemic violence against members of Jewish institutions, but the authorities are nevertheless in search of measures to eradicate anti-Semitism. When Speaker of the Greek Parliament Nikos Voutsis visited Israel last January, he signed a declaration to combat anti-Semitism. Politicians such as the vice president of the conservative New Democracy party, Adonis Georgiadis, have decided to publicly apologize for their anti-Semitic pasts. Those who sympathize with racist points of view find themselves politically isolated. This process will take time, of course, because it is principally related to school education. But the change in coverage of Israel by Greek journalists is a good omen. 

 

 

                                                                       

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ISRAEL AND THE SOUTH CAUCASUS: BUILDING A NEW APPROACH

Emil Avdaliani

Algemeiner, Nov. 5, 2017

 

For most observers, the South Caucasus region might not appear high on Israel’s foreign policy agenda. This is a reasonable assumption, as none of the three states — Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia — borders Israel. Moreover, the region is a hotbed of ethnic fighting, with three ongoing separatist conflicts in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh further complicating political stability.

 

However, the South Caucasus’ strategic location — which lies on the one hand between Central Asia and eastern Europe, and on the other between Russia and the Middle East – has drawn regional players to seek greater influence in the territory. Those players are usually Turkey, Russia and the EU, and their interest might logically appear to overwhelm any potential influence that Israel might have in the region.

 

Yet over the past year, Israel has intensified its foreign policy moves toward each of the South Caucasian states. Each country interests Israel for its own particular reasons. For example, prior to 2008, the Georgian army was largely supplied with Israeli military technologies. However, the Russo-Georgian war that broke out in August 2008 caused Israeli exports to cease, as Russia was angry that its small neighbor was able to boast such advanced military capabilities. Beyond military ties, Georgia interests Israel from an economic standpoint: Israeli investments play an important role in Georgia’s economy. Moreover, Georgia is geopolitically important, insofar as it has several large ports on its Black Sea shoreline that can easily be used for commercial and military purposes.

 

In the case of Armenia, Israel’s relations have been somewhat distant for more than a decade. This was due primarily to Israel’s rather strong ties with Yerevan’s two biggest geopolitical rivals: Azerbaijan and Turkey. However, a shift in bilateral relations was made apparent recently when a senior Israeli official visited Yerevan. Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s minister for regional cooperation, visited Armenia on July 25-26, 2017 for talks with senior Armenian officials. Hanegbi is a key figure in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party and has held ministerial positions for two decades. He said his visit was intended as a step forward in relations to make the Armenia-Israeli “friendship mutually beneficial in many fields.” His was the first visit by a senior Israeli official to Armenia since 2012.

 

One of the major bones of contention between Armenia and Israel is Israeli arms shipments to Azerbaijan. Those supplies played an important role in last year’s “April war” between Armenia and Azerbaijan. After Azerbaijan took several frontline posts in a surprise attack on April 2, 2016, Armenian forces undertook a counteroffensive — but Israeli-supplied Harop suicide drones and Spike anti-tank missiles helped Azerbaijani forces thwart that counterattack. This brings us to Israel-Azerbaijan relations. In late 2016, reports circulated that Baku was planning to buy Israeli “Iron Dome” capabilities to better counter Armenian attacks. Beyond those military ties, Azerbaijan is important to Israel for its large oil resources. In the event of need, the country could potentially become Israel’s major oil supplier.

 

Thus Israel’s relations with each of the three South Caucasian states depends on specific economic and military interests — interests that are contained within a complex wider context. Each state has its own relations with its larger neighbors, Russia and Turkey. Israeli diplomacy must navigate difficult political terrain where a misstep could cause Israel’s ties with Turkey or Russia to deteriorate…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                

 

Contents

REMEMBERING RABIN

Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2017

 

Many on the Left want the annual memorial of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin to focus on the late prime minister’s political convictions and emphasize the dangers of incitement, particular of the right-wing variety. Others, interested in appealing to a broader audience, want the event to be based on more common denominators such as Zionism and patriotism. Clearly Darkenu and Commanders for Israel’s Security, the two groups organizing the main event at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, adhere to the second, more inclusive approach. And this has raised the rancor of the Left.

 

We believe both positions are wrongheaded. Clearly, focusing solely on Rabin’s politics will prevent the annual memorial from becoming a national event celebrated by all walks of Israeli society. Over the past 22 years since his assassination, many of the assumptions underpinning the Oslo Accords have been discredited, particularly the belief that a moderate Palestinian political leadership would emerge in response to Israeli overtures. The 2005 evacuation of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip, which led to the rise of Hamas, has taught Israelis to be more skeptical of making territorial concessions.

 

Nor should Rabin’s assassination be used as a means of delegitimizing the entire Right or limiting free speech. A clear distinction must be made between violent actions and speech, even of the most despicable kinds. The former must be forbidden while the latter must be protected as essential to the functioning of any democracy. While it is true that incitement on the Right preceded Rabin’s murder, ultimately it was Yigal Amir who pulled the trigger. Nevertheless, people need to learn from memorials like the one planned for Saturday night that speech can incite violence. Freedom of speech is a right that should be protected but we also need to ensure that it is not abused.

 

That is why the lessons of Rabin’s assassination must not be watered down. Figures on the Left such as former Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz are right when they point out that Rabin did not die of natural causes. He was the victim of a political assassination committed by a man who sought to change national policy not at the ballot box, but with shots from a pistol. That is why it is good that Darkenu and Commanders for Israel’s Security responded to the criticism that was rightly leveled against them from the Left for failing to mention in advertisements and notices publicizing Saturday night’s event that Rabin was assassinated. Now under the title “We are One People,” advertisements announce “a mass rally commemorating 22 years since the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.”

 

In their attempt not to hurt anyone’s feelings and to appeal to everybody, Darkenu and Commanders for Israel’s Security watered down their message too much. On a day commemorating Israel’s most shocking political assassination, it is not enough to talk about “unity” and “moderation.” A clear position needs to be taken that any form of violence used to achieve a political end is illegitimate. Political decisions must be made through consensus not through bullying or intimidation. It would also help to understand that fear is often what motivates extreme rhetoric on both the Right and the Left. During the Oslo era, many on the Right were fearful that territorial concessions and providing arms to Palestinians would lead to violence. And this fear was largely vindicated. Meanwhile, the Left fears the demographic dangers to democracy resulting from maintaining control over Judea and Samaria, which could undermine Israel as we know it.

 

What makes Rabin’s memorial day unique and worthy of commemoration is not the Labor Party’s political agenda or Rabin’s own political convictions. Nor is it enough to talk vaguely of “unity” and “moderation.” Rather we must reaffirm our democratic values, which protect even the most abhorrent forms of speech while at the same time condemn any use of violence to further political ends. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, that is something we should all be able to agree on as we remember what happened on the night of November 4, 22 years ago.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Growing Confidence in Israel's High Tech Sector: Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 30, 2017—The Israeli company Argos, which deals with information security for vehicles, is in advanced negotiations for its acquisition by Continental of Germany in the amount of a half-billion dollars, according to recent media reports.

Netanyahu: 100 Years After Balfour, Palestinians Should Accept Jewish State: Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2017—The Palestinians have yet to take the same basic step that Great Britain did 100 years ago, when it issued the Balfour Declaration recognizing the right of the Jewish people to a state in their homeland, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his British counterpart, Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday.

Netanyahu’s Center-Right Partners Won’t Join Labor-Led Government Despite Alarming Polls: David Israel, Jewish Press, Nov. 5, 2017—It’s definitely pre-elections season in Israel, as yet another new poll has come out over the weekend with devastating predictions for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

85,000 Attend Rally Marking 22nd Anniversary of Rabin’s Murder: Jacob Magid, Times of Israel, Nov. 4, 2017—Some 85,000 people turned out at the annual rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday marking the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, which this year tried to emphasize national unity rather than its traditional focus on peace.

 

ISRAEL, DESPITE HIGH COURT GAS RULING, EXPANDS REGIONAL ECONOMIC AND MILITARY PARTNERSHIPS

 

 

Natural Gas Follies: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Mar. 28, 2016— The unnecessary High Court of Justice decision on Sunday may visit upon Israel more damage than 10,000 possible BDS campaigns.

Israel's Alliance That Could Potentially Offset Enhanced Russian and Iranian Power: Leslie Susser, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 26, 2016— The past several weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity reinforcing the tripartite alliance between Israel, Greece and Cyprus.

IDF Racing to Restructure for New Middle East Warfare: Yaakov Lappin, Algemeiner, Feb. 24, 2016— The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is in a race against time, and their race is also relevant to how other Western powers will deal with the rise of radical, armed, Islamic groups proliferating across the Middle East.

There’s Only One Country in the Middle East that Could Produce a Soldier Like Me: Major Alaa Waheeb, Jewish News, Mar. 3, 2016— In the last few weeks, students across the UK have been involved in Israeli Apartheid Week. 

 

On Topic Links

 

PC 2016 – Bob Cohen Remarks and Truman-Jacobson Video: AIPAC, Mar. 27, 2016

Israel’s Democratic Collapse: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 28 2016

Why Israeli Politicians are Turning Against the IDF: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Feb. 24, 2016

Israeli Military Ranks 9th Most Powerful Globally on Defense Site List: David Daoud, Algemeiner, Mar. 27, 2016

 

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          NATURAL GAS FOLLIES

               David M. Weinberg

       Israel Hayom, Mar. 28, 2016

 

The unnecessary High Court of Justice decision on Sunday may visit upon Israel more damage than 10,000 possible BDS campaigns. If Noble Energy and its partners walk away from the gas deal now, Israel will not only lose the direct economic benefits of having natural gas, but also forfeit what might have been an exceedingly valuable tool of Israeli foreign and defense policy.

 

The 1,400 billion cubic meters of natural gas that lie offshore in the Tamar, Leviathan, Tanin and Karish fields constitute one of Israel's most important geopolitical assets for the future. The gas fields are of critical strategic value. They were about to revolutionize Israel's standing in the region and transform our relations with neighboring countries. Handled wisely, these exports were supposed to be an exceedingly valuable tool of Israeli foreign and defense policy. Handled shrewdly, Israel could have solidified its centrality in the region via stable regional partnerships for gas production and supply.

 

But the High Court's refusal to leave good-enough alone; its decision to cancel the 10-year price stability clause in the gas deal — is mangling the gas bonanza. In one fell swoop, the court gave substance to fears that Israel is not a stable regulatory system for big business. The court may scare away, once and for all, most potential investors. And without very big investors, the gas will remain buried uselessly underwater and underground, or it will be so expensive as to be unattractive and ineffectual.

 

Remember how we got here. Between 2003 and 2009, Noble Energy, alone among the major offshore drilling companies of the world, responded positively to an Israeli government invitation to search for natural gas in Israel's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. It invested $200 million in discovering Tamar (taking a 70% chance of failure), and it has invested a whopping $4 billion so far to develop the larger and much farther-offshore Leviathan field. Today, 40% of Israel's electricity production is fueled by natural gas from Tamar.

 

The complications began with environmental groups that blocked construction of a main natural gas receiving facility near Furadis and forcing its relocation, delays that cost Noble $1.8 billion, and cost the State of Israel much more. Then the Israeli government changed the rules of the game in terms of taxation and profit-sharing on the gas sector, via a Finance Ministry committee headed by Eitan Sheshinsky. That is when the global gas giant Woodside of Australia withdrew its interest in partnering with Israel or with Noble to develop our gas deposits. Israel is an unstable regulatory environment, the company said.

 

Under growing public pressure to wrest an even better deal, the government then re-negotiated the terms of business again with Noble, for a 60% government, 40% company split of the profits. Noble would still have to pay the multi-billion-dollar development costs, and the heightened insurance costs (in a situation where Iranian hegemony is on the ascendancy alongside Iranian threats against Israel's gas facilities at sea). Yet even that iteration of the government-corporate partnership was unacceptable to critics on the left wing of the political spectrum. They sought to cap the amount of gas that can be exported to low levels, and cap the price of gas to Israelis at even more ridiculously low levels. That would have nearly nationalized the gas fields and made the venture far from viable.

 

Now the High Court has weighed in by striking down the "stability clause," a key part of the framework that commits the Israeli government not to impose any regulatory changes on the gas industry for at least 10 years. This was inserted because the gas companies contended that the cost-benefits calculations required to make the $6 billion or more needed to develop Leviathan would be too risky otherwise. A government in the future could opt to change tax policy and other regulations that would affect the return on their investment.

 

Seems logical, no? Well, the court says that the government can't do this without new legislation. My main concern here isn't the public-corporate-constitutional side of the dispute. Perhaps Noble and the government can yet work things out, again — although it won't be easy with an emboldened Knesset opposition nipping at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's heels. What is of even greater concern is international perceptions of Israel as a stable business environment. At stake is Israel's global reputation as a reliable place to make money. Without that, foreign direct investment in Israel will crash. Investors are scared away from places afflicted by extreme over-regulation, confused policymaking, constantly changing tax rules, splenetic politicians, and overly ambitious judges.

 

Furthermore, if this country continues to muck around in internal disputes over the gas sector, Israel will fritter way the diplomatic and strategic opportunities offered by the gas finds. Gas must be considered a fundamental security issue. Israel already has agreements to sell Jordan enough gas for almost all of its electricity production, a diplomatic coup that helps solidify a vital security partnership with the Hashemite Kingdom. Cyprus wants to partner with Israel in selling massive amounts of gas to the Egyptians, and that would help stabilize the Sissi regime. Greece, and even Turkey, want Israeli natural gas pipelines or liquid natural gas shipments to run through their countries. Russia's national giant, Gazprom, is also seeking partnership with Israel.

 

In other words, Israel's natural gas sector presents a unique opportunity for partnership between local and foreign companies, between government and the corporate sector, between Israel and its Arab and Mediterranean neighbors, between Israel and Europe, and even between Israel and Asia. Natural gas can be an Israeli strategic geopolitical tool of the highest order. But not if Israel acts with inconsistency, short-sightedness and never-ending legal wrangling.

Contents

ISRAEL'S ALLIANCE THAT COULD POTENTIALLY OFFSET

ENHANCED RUSSIAN AND IRANIAN POWER

                 Leslie Susser                           

    Jerusalem Post, Mar. 26, 2016

 

The past several weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity reinforcing the tripartite alliance between Israel, Greece and Cyprus. On January 28, the three leaders, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a summit meeting in Nicosia; the day before Tsipras brought 10 of his cabinet colleagues to Jerusalem for a government to government session with their Israeli counterparts; and the day before that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon held security talks in Athens and a month later in Cyprus.

 

The three countries share obvious economic interests in what they call the “energy triangle” in the Eastern Mediterranean, where both Israel and Cyprus have discovered huge natural gas deposits. One of the more ambitious joint projects is to build an undersea gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus to Crete to mainland Greece to facilitate gas exports to Europe; in parallel there are plans for a 2000 megawatt undersea electricity cable, the “EuroAsia Interconnector,” which would follow much the same route, linking the Israeli electricity grid to those of Cyprus, Greece and mainland Europe, thereby providing Israel’s currently isolated power system with strategic backup.

 

There are common military interests too: primarily defending the “energy triangle,” but also joint military exercises and additional training space for the Israel Air Force after the loss of Turkish skies in 2010. The close ties are based on a confluence of strategic interests in a turbulent war-torn region. All three have a common interest in keeping the chaotic Syria situation from spilling over into their domain; in other words, keeping Islamic State (ISIS) and the newly dominant Russia-Iran-Hezbollah axis at bay. All three recognize the need for new local alliances given the decline of American influence in the region. Their tripartite partnership is also a counterweight to Turkey’s hegemonic regional ambitions.

 

But at the same time, all three declare willingness to widen the alliance to include other key players like Egypt and Italy and, in certain circumstances, perhaps even Turkey itself. The goal would be a wide moderate front made up of non-Arab Eastern Mediterranean/Middle Eastern countries and moderate Sunni states, backed by the US, despite its perceived regional pullback. The Israel, Greece, Cyprus alliance, therefore, has solid foundations and could form the basis for something bigger. But, in itself, it is hardly a substitute for relations with more powerful players.

 

The joint economic interests, however, are of potentially major significance. In August 2013, the three countries signed a tripartite energy memorandum providing for the laying of the EuroAsia Interconnector, set to be the longest undersea electricity cable in the world. It will run from Hadera in Israel 329 kilometers to Vasilikos in Cyprus, 879 kilometers from Cyprus to Crete and 310 kilometers from Crete to mainland Greece, a total of 1,518 kilometers or 950 miles. From Greece the cable will fork northwest to Italy and Switzerland and northeast to Serbia and Bulgaria.

 

The project, which will cost an estimated 1.5 billion euros, has EU backing as part of its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program. The work will be carried out by a Cypriot-led consortium including Cyprus’s DEH-Quantum Energy Group and Greece’s state-controlled Public Power Corporation, with the target date for the Israel-Cyprus leg, 2019, and completion of the project as a whole set for 2022. Electricity will flow in both directions, enabling significant energy savings. Importantly for war-threatened Israel: it will provide the local electricity grid with crucial backup if its own production facilities are damaged…

 

It was the rupture of the close ties between Israel and Turkey in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010 (in which Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish-operated vessel threatening to run the naval blockade of Gaza) that spurred Israel’s burgeoning military cooperation with Greece and Cyprus. In July, less than two months after the incident, then Greek prime minister George Papandreou flew to Israel to discuss alternative military cooperation. In August, Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister to visit Athens. And by October, the Israeli and Greek air forces were conducting joint exercises in Greece.

 

A year later the IAF hosted Greece’s Hellenic Air Force at the Ovda base in the Negev, carrying out simulated dogfights and ground attacks as well as mid-air refueling. Similar exercises took place the following year over the Peloponnese. In November 2013, Israel significantly upgraded the joint air force training with operation “Blue Flag,” the IAFs biggest ever air maneuver, including seven Israeli squadrons and one each from the air forces of the US, Greece, Italy and Poland. The large-scale exercises, which included simulated attacks on enemy bases while avoiding anti-aircraft missiles and detection by enemy radar systems, were repeated in late October-early November 2015.

 

The two countries have also conducted significant joint naval exercises. In 2011 Turkey, in a calculated snipe at Jerusalem, pulled out of the annual “Reliant Mermaid” maritime maneuvers with Israel and the US. The following year Greece was invited to replace Turkey, the name of the annual exercise was changed to “Noble Dina” and the focus switched from search-and-rescue to attack-and-defend scenarios, including anti-submarine warfare and repelling attacks on offshore natural gas rigs.

 

Israel and Greece signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement in January 2012; Cyprus followed suit in February. The Cypriot agreement allows the IDF use of Cypriot air space and territorial waters around the island for training purposes and to protect vital energy resources. Dubbed “Onisilos-Gideon,” the ensuing joint exercises were upgraded in 2014, with dozens of IAF fighters and support aircraft participating in training over Cyprus, simulating firing at targets on land and sea from Limassol to Paphos. The two countries have also conducted a series of joint naval exercises focusing on protection of offshore gas installations. So far there has been only one known genuine incident testing the Israel-Cypriot alliance: In September 2011, IAF planes overflew Turkish Northern Cyprus as a warning to a Turkish seismic research ship that had entered Cypriot waters in what was seen as a deliberate provocation over Turkey’s offshore gas exploration dispute with Cyprus…                                                                                                         [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

                    IDF RACING TO RESTRUCTURE FOR NEW MIDDLE EAST WARFARE                        

                                                                Yaakov Lappin                                                                       

Arutz Sheva, Mar. 4, 2016

 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is in a race against time, and their race is also relevant to how other Western powers will deal with the rise of radical, armed, Islamic groups proliferating across the Middle East. As the IDF’s commanders look around the region, they see heavily armed, hybrid, Islamic sub-state foes that are replacing states. The traditional threat of hierarchical armies is fading quickly away, into obscurity.

 

The Sunni and Shiite jihadist entities on Israel’s borders — Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS-affiliated groups in Syria, Jabhat Al-Nusra, as well as elements of Iran’s IRGC forces — are all building their power and preparing for a future unknown point in time when they will clash with Israel. The IDF is preparing, too, but it is not only counting how many soldiers, tanks, fighter planes, and artillery cannons it can call up in the next round. The IDF is in a race to adapt to 21st century Middle Eastern warfare, which bears no resemblance to how wars were fought in the 20th century.

 

In this new type of conflict, enemies appear and vanish quickly, use their own civilians as cover, bombard Israeli cities with projectiles, seek out the weakest link in Israel’s chain, and send killing squads through tunnels to attack Israeli border villages. In this type of clash, the enemy looks for a ‘winning picture’ at the start of any escalation. This means landing a surprise blow that will knock Israeli society off balance, at least for a short while. To be clear, all of the hostile sub-state actors currently are deterred by Israel’s considerable firepower and are unlikely to initiate a direct, all-out attack. The price they would pay for such action is deemed too high, for now. Yet, opportunities and circumstances can suddenly arise that would alter these calculations, and put these terrorist organizations on a direct collision course with the IDF. Israel has fought four conflicts against Hamas and Hezbollah in the past 10 years, and emerged with the conclusion that the era of state military versus state military warfare is over.

 

Acknowledging this development is one thing; the organizational transformation that must follow is quite another. Israel did not want to enter any of the past four conflicts that were forced upon it, but since they occurred, they have aided in the IDF’s adaptation process, which has been as complex as it has been painful, and is far from over. “What you have to do against an enemy like this, and it is a great difficulty for militaries, including the IDF, is to operate in a combined, cross-branch [air force, ground forces, navy] manner, and to keep it [operations] focused. Focus the ground maneuver and firepower, on the basis of the intelligence you get,” a senior IDF source said earlier this month in Tel Aviv, while addressing the challenges of adaptation.

Take southern Lebanon, the home base of Hezbollah, as an example — the area has well over 100 Shiite villages that have been converted into mass rocket launching zones. With one out of every 10 Lebanese homes doubling up as a Hezbollah rocket launching site (complete with roofs that open and close to allow the rocket to launch), Hezbollah has amassed more than 120,000 projectiles — some of them GPS guided — with Iran’s help. This arsenal, pointed at Israel, forms one of the largest surface to surface rocket arsenals on Earth…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

Contents

THERE’S ONLY ONE COUNTRY IN THE MIDDLE EAST THAT

COULD PRODUCE A SOLDIER LIKE ME

           Major Alaa Waheeb                                                                       

       Jewish News, Mar. 3, 2016

 

In the last few weeks, students across the UK have been involved in Israeli Apartheid Week.  Some have supported it. Others have opposed it. Invited by the Zionist Federation UK, last week I was able to attend campuses up and down the country specifically to address and counter some of the claims involved. These fall into roughly three categories. First, that Israel is an inherently racist, and therefore unacceptable country, comparable to Apartheid South Africa. Second, that its army defends this racist status with acts of illegal and immoral violence. And third, that the only solution to this problem is through the isolation tactics of boycotts.

 

Like many I met during my visit, I oppose these views. But perhaps more than most people on either side of the debate, I am better placed to argue against them. Because I am an Israeli, an Arab, and the highest ranked Muslim in the IDF. Is Israel inherently racist, an apartheid state? Well, do you think that such a country would tolerate a person like myself getting to the position I am today? Forget for a second (BDS supporters would like you to forget permanently!) that 20 percent of Israelis are non-Jewish, have full rights, and are represented throughout society. It’s one thing, after all, to have Arab politicians, Christian voters, and Muslim doctors – although we do have them, and quite a few at that.

 

But a non-Jewish army Major? Someone who has not only fought alongside Jewish soldiers, but now trains them too? Would a truly racist state allow me to play such an integral role in our nation’s defences? And while we’re on the subject of those defences, let me tackle accusation two: that the Israel army is a particularly immoral one. I am not particularly religious, but as the Holy Quran says, “if anyone killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind.”

 

I do not serve in the army to kill people – I serve in it to save people. When Hamas fires rockets, or Fatah encourages stabbings, we are here to protect the lives of all Israeli citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish. And so on to the last point – that the best way to resolve violence and conflict is through the kind of tactics advocated by the Boycotts movement. Namely, isolation and intimidation. For me, this is the most important issue, and the one which makes me shake my head with anger and sadness the most.

 

Like I said, I visited the UK to combat Israeli Apartheid Week, to challenge the lies and mistruths hurled at the country I am proud to call home. But what hurts me the most is not how unbelievable they are. The opposite, in fact. They are all too believable, and I should know – because I once believed them too. The reality is that the town I grew up in did not recognise the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. While Arabic is an official language, I did not learn Hebrew until I was 17. I was raised to believe the worst things about Jews, and, had I not eventually met and worked alongside them, I might still believe those things today.

 

In my role as a soldier, I have met all kinds of people both in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Jews, Arabs, Religious, Secular, Left-wing and Right-wing. I have met Israelis who were prejudiced against me. But I have also met Palestinians who appreciate the work that I do to maintain some sort of peace and stability in the most dangerous part of the world. Forget slogans and shouting. Peace – real peace – will only come when people talk to each other. Not necessarily agree – just agree to listen. But the irony of Israeli Apartheid Week is that it wants individuals to focus on differences, not similarities. Instead of building bridges between communities, it wants to build walls.

 

During my time in the UK, I spoke alongside a fellow soldier, a medic who has treated both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists without distinction. We were the Muslim who protects Jewish lives, and the Jew who saves Muslim lives. There’s only one country in the Middle East that could produce a couple like that – and it sure as hell isn’t an apartheid state.

 

On Topic

 

PC 2016 – Bob Cohen Remarks and Truman-Jacobson Video: AIPAC, Mar. 27, 2016—Before there was AIPAC, before there was Israel, one man’s friendship with President Truman helped change history.

Israel’s Democratic Collapse: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 28 2016—Israeli democracy is in critical condition. Sunday, the High Court of Justice ruled that the government’s natural gas policy is unlawful.

Why Israeli Politicians are Turning Against the IDF: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Feb. 24, 2016—Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot is an experienced officer with a long list of achievements under his belt. Nevertheless, on Feb. 17, he found himself caught in a political crossfire.

Israeli Military Ranks 9th Most Powerful Globally on Defense Site List: David Daoud, Algemeiner, Mar. 27, 2016—Israel’s military is the 9th strongest in the world, according to the international defense site Global Firepower (GFP), which released its annual list on Friday.

 

 

                        

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

AMID IMPROVING RELATIONS WITH TURKEY & GREECE, AND A BOOMING TECH INDUSTRY, ISRAEL EYES MOON LANDING

A Gas-Powered Rapprochement Between Turkey and Israel: Keith Johnson, Foreign Policy, Dec. 18, 2015 — Turkey’s quest for new sources of energy to escape Russia’s clutches may have helped power the latest push for reconciliation with Israel, five years after the two countries acrimoniously split.

Israel’s Emerging Relations in the Eastern Mediterranean: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, Dec. 8, 2015— Two events, apparently unrelated, yet interwoven in unpredictable ways, demonstrated last month that regional dynamics in the eastern Mediterranean are at a new and possibly formative stage.

End-of-Year Reports Rank Israel High on Tech, Low on Infrastructure: David Shamah, Times of Israel, Dec. 27, 2015— A plethora of year-end reports peg Israel as a pretty good place to do business, rated among the top countries for higher education and research, and with excellent technology.

He Drove Cars on Mars – Now He's Trying to Put Israel on the Moon: Tali Heruti-Sover, Haaretz, Dec. 14, 2015 — Prof. Oded Aharonson had a comfortable life in the United States, to which he had moved from Israel when he was 13.

 

On Topic Links

 

Israeli Medical Apps Dominate International Competition in Germany: Algemeiner, Dec. 9, 2015

Recent Linkups By China-Israel VCs And Tech Startups Spell More Opportunity Than Risk: Rebecca Fannin, Forbes, Nov. 19, 2015

An Israeli Gas Pipeline to Turkey? Bad Idea: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Dec. 20, 2015

Panama and Israel Sign Free Trade Agreement: Times of Israel, Nov. 25, 2015  

 

 

 

                               

A GAS-POWERED RAPPROCHEMENT BETWEEN TURKEY AND ISRAEL                                           

                                Keith Johnson    

Foreign Policy, Dec. 18, 2015

 

Turkey’s quest for new sources of energy to escape Russia’s clutches may have helped power the latest push for reconciliation with Israel, five years after the two countries acrimoniously split. But a full restoration of ties between Ankara and Jerusalem, which has proven elusive before, requires further concessions on thorny issues like the future of Gaza, and concrete energy ties between the two nations are likely years away at best.

 

Israel and Turkey said on Thursday that secret diplomatic talks in Switzerland had paved the way for the long-awaited reconciliation. Both sides mapped out steps that will need to be taken to restore ties that were broken when Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish vessel bringing relief supplies to Gaza in 2010.

 

According to Israeli media reports, Israel will pay Turkey compensation for that raid. Turkey, in turn, has agreed to crack down on Hamas terrorists operating from Istanbul. The two sides then need to reach an agreement about Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which has torpedoed past efforts at rapprochement. Once ties are restored, the two countries said they planned to “explore” cooperation on natural gas, with Israel exporting some of its offshore bounty to Turkey.

 

“I think the reconciliation was a long time in the making, and security cooperation between the two sides had already deepened over the last year,” said Brenda Shaffer, a Georgetown University expert on eastern Mediterranean nations. She said the detente is “about politics and security, not gas” — although Turkey is also happy to quench its energy needs from sources other than Russia, given Ankara’s ratcheting tensions with Moscow over the last month. “Ankara has an interest now in showing the Russians it has other options to get natural gas,” Shaffer said.

 

Indeed, while both sides had come close to making amends before, especially in 2013 and 2014, leaders in both countries recently had signaled a possible thaw. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli lawmakers last week his government had been in talks with Turkish officials regarding exports of natural gas. Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that a restoration of ties between the two embittered countries would be good for “the entire region.”

 

The deteriorating situation in Syria, and especially Russia’s sudden leap into the ongoing civil war there, appears to have landed like a cannonball in the middle of the diplomatic dance between Turkey and Israel. Both sides are concerned about security threats boiling out of a disintegrating Syria, especially the Islamic State. And with Russia throwing its military might behind Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad and behind groups hostile to Turkey and Israel, the two countries saw grounds for common cause. “Both countries see Russia’s presence and Russian-backed groups in Syria as a threat,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

 

The final catalyst seems to be Turkey’s newfound need to find an energy supplier other than Russia, from whom it imports more than half of its natural gas. In October, after the Russian military jumped into Syria, Turkey warned it could harm ties between Ankara and Moscow. After Turkey shot down a Russian jet that invaded its airspace in late November, relations took a nosedive. Russia slapped economic sanctions on Turkey, cancelled a high-profile natural-gas pipeline, and threatened further reprisals.

 

Turkey, fearing that Russia could use its control over energy exports as a geopolitical bludgeon, quickly started scouring the region for other sources of gas. Israel made a huge discovery of gas off its coast years ago, but has been struggling to figure out just who to sell it to. “I think the tension between Russia and Turkey is what makes Israeli gas even more desirable from the Turkish side,” Cagaptay said. “If Russia decides to put Erdogan in a difficult situation, they could limit the sale of Russian gas.”

 

That doesn’t mean that Israeli gas will be fueling Turkish power plants anytime soon, even if the two sides manage to normalize relations. For starters, the development of Israel’s offshore gas fields has been held up for the past year due to domestic issues. Even preliminary deals that Israel appeared to have reached with friendly neighbors have gone south in recent months. Plans to export Israeli gas to Egypt and Jordan — the two Arab states with which Israel has a peace accord — have both foundered on domestic political opposition there.

 

What’s more, planning, financing, and building a natural-gas pipeline can take decades, even when there are few political or diplomatic complications, let alone the daunting technical challenges of laying pipe on the deep Mediterranean seabed. For example, Azerbaijan made a huge gas find in 1999, but took 14 years to secure a final decision on an export pipeline through Turkey, and gas won’t start flowing until 2018, Shaffer noted. “While this reconciliation will give impetus to a lot of ‘energy diplomacy’ between Turkey and Israel, and that is a good thing to help smooth relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, it will not bring in the short term a concrete deal on natural gas supply,” she said.

 

There are also domestic political complications, especially in Israel, where both the left and right jeered the rapprochement. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said reconciliation could have happened earlier, but Netanyahu dragged his feet. Conservative Avigdor Liberman, a former foreign minister under Netanyahu, slammed the accord as a sellout to a “radical Islamist regime.” All those hurdles to actual energy trade — diplomatic, domestic, commercial, and technical — are real. But Russia’s unbridled fury at Turkey — Moscow has decried Turkey’s “stab in the back,” has accused Erdogan of being in bed with the Islamic State, and has taken potshots at a Turkish fishing boat — could nevertheless end up steamrolling those challenges and paving the way to turn Israeli gas exports from dream to reality.

 

In Israel, Netanyahu last week pointed to the diplomatic dividends of energy trade to justify overriding Israeli technocrats and pushing for the controversial development of Israeli gas fields. He said that exporting energy to neighbors was crucial to safeguard Israel’s future security. Turkey, for its part, sees itself acutely vulnerable to any sudden interruption of Russian gas supplies. “Earlier, diversifying energy supplies was a long-term need that Turkey had. With the crisis with Russia, this has become a pressing need,” Cagaptay said. “A pipeline would be a huge deal, meaning the next time the Turkish-Israeli relationship faces a political shock like in 2010, that pipeline would keep them together, given its political, economic, and commercial ramifications,” he said.    

                                                                       

Contents

              

ISRAEL’S EMERGING RELATIONS IN THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN                                                   

Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman

BESA, Dec. 8, 2015

 

Two events, apparently unrelated, yet interwoven in unpredictable ways, demonstrated last month that regional dynamics in the eastern Mediterranean are at a new and possibly formative stage. Turkey downed a Russian fighter operating in Syria, which raised fears of a broadening conflict, and placed two of the world's most headstrong leaders on what seemed like a collision course. Meanwhile, despite his roots in the country’s traditionally anti-Zionist left, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras paid a short and warm visit to Israel. So did Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades. When visiting Israel, Tsipras went so far as to recognize that Jerusalem is, and will continue to be, "the eternal capital of the Jewish People" (while offering similar recognition to the putative Palestinian "state").

 

Both these visits, as well as the Russian conflict with Turkey, reflect – directly or by inference – aspects of the growing cost of Turkey's vaulting ambitions under President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu. Whether or not the term "neo-Uthmanism" serves any explanatory purpose, there was clearly an open bid by Ankara in recent years to use the regional turmoil, the so-called "Arab Spring" (perhaps the mother of all misnomers…), as a springboard for the assertion of Turkish leadership and even hegemony. This was shaped by the ideological imperatives of the AKP leaders and their sense of affinity and obligation towards the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots, such as the Hamas regime in Gaza.

 

As Syria descended into civil war and disintegrated, Erdogan – who once upon a time tried to position himself as Bashar Assad's friend – turned into a stern supporter of the insurgency. Even if one doubts the claims of Turkish-Islamic State connivance now put forward by the Russians, there is reason to believe that the relevant Turkish agencies were not too choosy when offering help to Assad's various enemies (including the buying of oil and gas from rebel-held areas). Meanwhile, Turkey sustained her traditional nationalist stance towards the Cyprus question, and tensions with Greece did not abate.

 

The results are now very much in evidence. As has been said all too often, from Davutoglu's promise of "zero problems with the neighbors" the road led very quickly to "zero neighbors without problems." However, the escalation of Russian-Turkish tensions need not be taken too far. Neither President Vladimir Putin nor Erdogan seem to desire war, despite the bravado and the sanctions. Some opportunities for sober dialogue are now being set up (despite Putin's refusal to meet his Turkish counterpart in Paris).

 

But the shooting did demonstrate just how far apart Ankara and Moscow are on the future of Syria, making it quite unlikely that the current multilateral diplomatic efforts can come to fruition. This may change only if Turkey will be isolated and ignored by the other key players (which would be a dangerous game to play) – or alternatively, if she is given other good reasons to change, and at least modify, her strategy and her priorities. Otherwise, it will continue to be very difficult to bring about even an interim reduction in the intensity of the Syrian conflict, let alone resolve it.

 

Neither Israel nor Greece was necessarily looking at the Turkish challenge alone when they embarked on a trajectory of intense cooperation in recent years. There are excellent reasons to improve relations, not the least of which is the hope for joint energy projects, which is scheduled to be the key item at the planned tripartite Greek-Cypriot–Israeli summit. The two countries have helped each other at times of forest fires and natural disasters, and have drawn closer in military matters too. The Israeli government stood by Greece at her hour of need, willing to encourage Israeli investment and tourism. There is a broad scope for technological cooperation, in vital fields such as renewable energies and water conservation.

 

Indeed, in Athens this proved by now to be an enduring aspect of national policy, across party lines, including  PASOK (social-democrats), ND (conservatives), and Syriza left-wing  leaders alike. As the positive interactions of Tsipras with young Israelis during his visit made manifest, there is also an underpinning of cultural and historical affinity to this sense of partnership. (The Israeli liberal daily newspaper Haaretz even dedicated the leading essay in its cultural supplement to the long-lasting love affair of Israelis from all walks of life with modern Greek music).

 

The long shadow of Turkish policies, however, is never too far away. Israeli awareness of the potential benefits of closer association with the Hellenic world grew exponentially after the collapse of Israeli-Turkish relations. The same could be said for the other side of the coin: For many years, Israel's image as Turkey's friend and military ally did little to endear her to Greek and Cypriot public opinion…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

                                                            Contents

                                       

                                           END-OF-YEAR REPORTS RANK ISRAEL HIGH ON TECH,

                      LOW ON INFRASTRUCTURE   

David Shamah                                                     

           Times of Israel, Dec. 27, 2015

 

A plethora of year-end reports peg Israel as a pretty good place to do business, rated among the top countries for higher education and research, and with excellent technology. But the country scores only so-so marks for government-fostered bureaucracy, economic freedom, physical infrastructure, and labor efficiency. The reports — by business magazine Forbes, the World Economic Forum, and the Heritage Foundation — all rank Israel as one of the 30 best economies in the world to do business. But they point out that, with reforms, Israel could be doing much better.

 

Israel ranks as the 25th-best country in the world to do business, according to the Forbes Best Countries for Business rankings for 2015. With a “technologically advanced market economy,” the economy has good prospects, especially when the country starts reaping the benefits from the Laviathan gas field later this decade. However, over the long term, the magazine said, Israel faces structural issues, including low labor participation rates for its fastest-growing social segments — the ultra-orthodox and Arab-Israeli communities.

 

While Israel can be proud of its “globally competitive, knowledge-based technology sector,” Forbes points out that many Israelis are not benefiting from it. The tech sector “employs only 9% of the workforce, with the rest employed in manufacturing and services — sectors which face downward wage pressures from global competition,” said Forbes. Israel’s closest competitor in the Middle East is the United Arab Emirates, which ranked in 40th place…

 

A much more extensive report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) places Israel as the 27th most-competitive economy in the world — “competitive” used in the sense of being most likely to succeed. The WEF report ranks 144 countries around the world on 12 “pillars of success,” including the effectiveness of institutions (government and private), quality of infrastructure, economic environment, health, education, financial markets, innovation, and “technological readiness,” which measures an economy’s ability to absorb and utilize new technologies.

 

On that parameter, Israel ranks as fourth best in the world, and it scores even better on “capacity for innovation” and “quality of scientific research institutions.” Israel also does well on other components of the “innovation pillar,” including availability of scientists to tackle issues, per-capita patent applications, university-industry collaboration, and more. Israel also ranks close to the top in health (10th overall), and is the fourth-best place to get venture capital for a start-up.

 

The country receives only middling scores for other important areas of competitiveness. It ranks 43rd worldwide for the quality of its government institutions, 44th on the quality of its ethics, 55th in transport infrastructure, 70th in port infrastructure quality, and so on. In this study, the US ranks far better — the third-most competitive economy — as opposed to its rank on the Forbes list. The most competitive economy in the WEF report is Switzerland; Denmark, first in the Forbes ranking, is No. 12 on the Forbes list.

 

In terms of economic freedom, Israel ranks No. 33 in the world. “A democratic and free-market bastion in the Middle East, Israel has entrenched the principles of economic freedom during its development,” reported the Heritage Foundation. “A small, open economy, Israel relies on its competitive regulatory environment and well-established rule of law to attract international investment. While government spending is sizable, the government has not interfered heavily with industrial activity.”                              

                                                                       

Contents                       

                                 HE DROVE CARS ON MARS –

                                 NOW HE'S TRYING TO PUT ISRAEL ON THE MOON

Tali Heruti-Sover

           Haaretz, Dec. 14, 2015

 

Prof. Oded Aharonson had a comfortable life in the United States, to which he had moved from Israel when he was 13. At 21, with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in physics from Cornell University, he returned to Israel for two years to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. At 23, he began his Ph.D. in physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As soon as he completed his doctorate he started working at California Institute of Technology in planetary science, his area of specialization.

 

The close cooperation between Caltech and NASA allowed Aharonson to be involved in most of the U.S. missions to Mars, he says. “It was my baby.” Aharonson was a senior member of the Mars Exploration Rovers’ science team. The vehicles, which NASA sent at a cost of $1.2 billion and which recently found apparent evidence of water on the red planet. Aharonson says that to simplify matters, he often just says he was “the driver of the Mars rovers.”

 

Aharonson brought all his enormous knowledge and experience back to Israel, when he was appointed the head of the newly established Center for Planetary Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot in 2011. He is determined to make it an active part of international efforts to crack the secrets of the universe.

 

“The rovers landed on Mars in 2002, and since then there is a team that receives the pictures from them every day, looks at them and argues: ‘Is it worth photographing this part, that mountain.’ Every scientist has his own agenda and you need to reach a decision. This is not one meeting a day, but a series of meetings, at the of which a mission plan is formulated. My job was to take that plan and along with the engineers translate it into the language of the rover in order to send the orders that would help the rovers drive, photograph, send data — and do the same thing the next day.”

 

For almost a decade Aharonson “drove” the rovers on Mars, until he felt he needed to return home. “I had a wonderful job, tenure, a house and a car, but I felt that all the people I cared about, and who cared about me, are in Israel.” While he was thinking things over — “because it meant giving up a lot” — he took a business trip to Moscow. At one point he went to a restaurant with a Russian colleague.

 

“He looked at me and said: ‘All of your friends are very focused on their joy, on the question of what will make them happy, but it’s possible to look at happiness a different way: If you go to Israel, another physicist will come and drive the rovers, because at Caltech there are many talented people; but if you remain in the United States, whatever it is you would do in Israel won’t happen.’ This was a Soviet perspective, not personal but general rather. He didn’t measure my value by my level of personal happiness, but by the effect on the state; I, wanting to advance the area of planetary sciences in Israel so that Israel can become involved in a field that doesn’t exist, recognized that he was right.”

 

Four years down the road, Aharonson says that while he sometimes misses the comforts of the United States, but is happy about his decision to return, moving in the opposite direction of the “brain drain.” Aharonson is 42, unmarried and living in Tel Aviv. “Maybe I won’t have one-time opportunities to control spacecraft on Mars, but here there are other one-time opportunities,” he says. Not at a billion dollars per project. “Our scale is $50 million, projects that are not small but are small relative to the big NASA missions, and are nonetheless a breakthrough in the well-known Israeli method — smaller, cheaper, faster.”

 

Aharonson’s flagship project is the establishment of the planetary sciences center at Weizmann. He is also the mission scientist on the SpaceIL project to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon. SpaceIL is a nonprofit organization established to compete in Google Lunar XPRIZE, a $30-million competition to land a privately funded robot on the moon. Google is offering a $20 million prize to the first nongovernment team to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon, have it travel 500 meters on the lunar surface and transmit high-definition images and video from the moon. The original deadline of December 2015 has been extended to the end of 2017.

 

Asked if SpaceIL will succeed, Aharonson says “certainly,” and explains why. Of the more than 30 teams from throughout the world that entered the competition, 16 remain. Israel is leading in many ways and the team has a launch contract that has been approved by Google, which is very important, he says. “We have a budget that allows us to sign a commitment for a launch, one of the hardest tasks in this process. We still need to build a spacecraft and it needs to work there. You must understand that we are not doing it for the $20-million prize,” explaining that it will cost around $50 million to put the Israeli robot on the moon — all from donations.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

 

On Topic

 

Israeli Medical Apps Dominate International Competition in Germany: Algemeiner, Dec. 9, 2015—Four Israeli companies were among the 10 winners in the 2015 Medica App Competition, held in the German city of Dusseldorf.

Recent Linkups By China-Israel VCs And Tech Startups Spell More Opportunity Than Risk: Rebecca Fannin, Forbes, Nov. 19, 2015—It’s long been said that Chinese and Israeli culture is alike – entrepreneurial, hard-working, family oriented and spiritual. Now these two leading startup nations are coming closer together in the venture capital and technology innovation world and advancing the potential for disruptive breakthroughs.

An Israeli Gas Pipeline to Turkey? Bad Idea: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Dec. 20, 2015—News that the Turkish and Israeli governments are about to renew full diplomatic relations after years of tensions causes me to smile cynically — and to worry again about Israeli gullibility. The two states enjoyed close relations in the 1990s, when a common world outlook led to a strong military bond, growing trade, and exchanges of people and culture. Writing in 1997, I characterized this bilateral as having “the potential to alter the strategic map of the Middle East, to reshape American alliances there, and to reduce Israel’s regional isolation.”

Panama and Israel Sign Free Trade Agreement: Times of Israel, Nov. 25, 2015—Panama signed a free trade agreement with Israel, its first with a Middle Eastern nation. The agreement was signed on Saturday in Panama City to seal a set of negotiated deals including access to markets, customs, services and investments, intellectual property, trade obstacles, institutional issues and conflict resolution.

 

                   

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

ATHENS & JERUSALEM [AND ISTANBUL-CONSTANTINOPLE] —POLITICS AS RETURN WESTERN CIVILIZATION?

 

The nation of Greece would like to express its deep love and friendship for another ancient people in this region, the nation of Israel.… We are united with your nation historically and culturally, and in our joint desire to advance security and peace. I hope that the new chapter recently opened in the ties between Greece and Israel will be a new beginning that will continue to develop and flourish long into the future.…”—Dr. Karolos Papoulias, president of Greece, during a two-day, mid-July official visit to Israel. (Jerusalem Post, July 14.)

 

 

 

 

ATHENS AND JERUSALEM
Editorial
JerusalemPost, July 10, 2011

 

Athens and Jerusalem are ancient cultural rivals. While the Greeks of old viewed nature as inherently perfect, celebrated the body and embraced polytheism, the Jews sought tikkun olam, emphasized the spiritual over the physical and adhered to strict monotheism.

Even after the creation of the modern State of Israel, ties between the Greeks and the Jews of Zion were strained.… Greece was the only European democracy to have voted with the Arabs in 1947 against the UN General Assembly partition resolution, which endorsed the establishment of a Jewish state (and a Palestinian one).

Relations remained cold even after the ouster of Nazi collaborator George Papadopoulos’s military junta in 1974 and remained that way for over a decade. Shortly after being elected prime minister in 1981, Andreas Papandreou, father of the present Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, cultivated close ties with PLO chief Yasser Arafat as part of a larger policy of “Tritokosmikos” (Thirdworldism).

Papandreou the father had hoped that his pro-Palestinian policies would bring in Arab investments, protect oil interests and strengthen Greece’s standing with Muslims vis-a-vis secular Turkey. The gradual warming of relations with Israel began in 1990 under then-prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis’s “New Democracy” government, which ended a decade of tense relations with the US and, as an extension with Israel. In that year Greece became the last European Community member to form full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

In recent years there has been a dramatic upgrade in the ties between Israel and Greece. A month after Papandreou was voted in as prime minister, Greece abstained during the November 2009 UN vote on the Goldstone Report, a stance that once would have been unthinkable.

Papandreou visited Israel in July of last year, the first Greek premier to do so since Mitsotakis. Just three weeks later, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent a few days cruising the Greek islands with Papandreou. It was obvious that special chemistry had developed between the two prime ministers, both of whom speak flawless American English (Papandreou was born in St. Paul, Minnesota).

Since then there have been a number of high-level visits.

The Israel and Hellenic air forces have trained together and Israel has offered Greece military supply deals with generous financing terms. In February, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations held its annual meeting in Athens, and Israeli tourism to Greece has boomed.

Most recently, Athens was instrumental in preventing anti-Israel activists from setting sail from Greek ports to challenge the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, including the forced blocking of US ship The Audacity of Hope and the arrest of several activists.

The enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend-syndrome has something to do with the warming of relations. Even before last May’s Mavi Marmara debacle, Turkey’s public patronage of Hamas, an anti-Semitic terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel, and Ankara’s close ties with Syria and Iran, placed the Ankara in direct conflict with Jerusalem, opening the way for relations between Israel and Greece—which has been in conflict with Turkey since it gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century.

Greece’s severe financial crisis is another factor. Desperate for the international community’s financial support and perhaps slightly overestimating world Jewry’s power and influence, the Greeks are hoping that improved relations with Israel and the American Jewish community will further their economic interests.

Diaspora Jewry is viewed by the Greeks as being critically influential in international finance and potential investors in their foundering economy. The prospects of Israel turning in the coming decade into a major natural gas exporter, following the recent discovery of vast natural gas fields off the coast, is another attraction for Greece.

Warming relations between Israel and Greece, while hardly a substitute for Turkey’s crucial influence on regional stability, is nonetheless a positive development that should be pursued and nurtured. Greek President Karolos Papoulias’s two-day visit to Israel that [took place a week ago] is yet another positive sign that the historic tensions between Jerusalem and Athens are eminently bridgeable—and that doing so is mutually advantageous.

 

GREEK-ISRAELI RELATIONS
AND THE NEW DYNAMIC DIPLOMATIC RAPPROCHEMENT
Vassilios Damiras
Defence Viewpoints, July 21, 2011

 

Greeceand Israel’s rich and complicated histories and cultures have seen them associated with all the crucial historical developments in the eastern Mediterranean, Balkan and Middle East regions. The Jewish Zionist movement that was created in the late 19th century by Theodore Herzl had very similar characteristics to the Greek irredentist movement of the “Great Idea.” Both nations have triumphed as diaspora. Both ethnic groups have been occupied by the Ottomans yet still managed to influence the economy of the Ottoman Empire. Both countries are Western-style democracies, allied to the United States and located within a crucial geostrategic region.

From the formation of the state of Israel in 1948 until 1991, the Greek political and social establishments perceived Israel as a major antagonist in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Athens followed a more pro-Arab stance reflecting the strong dependence Greece had upon crude oil from Arab countries. In the 1970s these Arab states imposed an oil embargo on the United States and Western Europe in order to curtail their pro-Israeli stance.

Greek-Israeli diplomatic relations were stagnant for nearly forty-five years. The pro-Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou viewed Israel as an American pawn that suppressed the self-determination of the Palestinian people. Under Papandreou’s rule the PLO extensively acted on Greek territory.…

The first wind of significant change came in 1995, due to several significant factors. Firstly, Greece sought to increase its diplomatic deterrent power vis-a-vis Turkey. Another was the death of Papandreou in June 1996. The improvement and expansion in U.S.-Greek relations under the socialist Prime Minister Kostas Simitis encouraged a shift toward Israel. Developments in the Middle East peace process—such as Israeli-PLO dialogue—also assisted Greek rapprochement with Israel. In September 1998, the then Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai denied a request from Turkey that Israel assist Turkish Armed Forces in the event of conflict with Greece. Mordechai’s comments that “Turkish-Israeli cooperation is not against any other country” encouraged Greece to enhance its economic relations with Israel.

Improved relations between Greece and Israel resulted in a substantial increase in trade throughout the 1990s. By 2004, Israel was importing $242 million worth of products from Greece, with $142 million going in the opposite direction. Many Israelis chose to visit Greece for summer vacations. The then Israeli President Moshe Katzav declared Greece an important economic partner and a gateway to the Balkans. Improved relations also led to Israel recognizing the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Greece and Cyprus.

Currently, the Israeli navy is developing strategic plans to protect its own EEZ, home to two large gas fields. The Leviathan field is located eighty miles off Haifa and contains sixteen trillion cubic feet of gas. The other field—known as Tamar—is situated 30 miles north of Leviathan and contains eight and a half trillion cubic feet of gas. Both fields are located near the border of the Greek and Cypriot EEZs. Accordingly, the IDF is expanding the 7,000-person navy, the smallest of the country’s armed services. Priority has gone to acquiring three more Dolphin-class submarines from Germany.

Furthermore, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to improve relations with Greece in order to counterbalance the expansion of Turkey’s regional influence. On the Greek side Prime Minister George Papandreou aims to assist mediation in peace agreements between Israel and its neighbours to enhance his image as an assertive regional peace negotiator. In addition, Papandreou wants to attract Israeli investment to offset Athens’ severe economic problems.…

On military issues the IDF will have the opportunity to train the Greek armed forces in symmetrical and asymmetrical warfare tactics and various counterintelligence and counterterrorism methods. Military cooperation with Israel may also lead to tangible benefits for the Greek economy and civilian industries. By adopting Israeli defense tactics and purchasing materiel, the Greek Armed Forces may also enhance their status within NATO. For example, Greece will have the opportunity to buy various missile systems and homeland security capabilities. In addition, the Israeli defense industry can upgrade and modernise ageing Greek defence systems.

It should be also noted that decades of Greece diplomatically cold-shouldering Israel did not defeat the cultural affinity between Greeks and Israelis, a key factor that is consistently underestimated in discussions about Greek-Israeli bilateral relations. Without a doubt Greek-Israeli diplomatic relations are entering a new period. Domestic and international factors will influence the new era of understanding and friendship among these two old and proud nations.

(Vassilios Damiras is a counter terrorism analyst with experience in defence, intelligence and terrorism affairs. He has a PhD from Loyola University in Chicago.)

 

ISRAEL-GREECE TIES KEEPS FLOTILLA ANCHORED
Calev Ben-David & Paul Tugwell
Bloomberg, July 10, 2011

 

Greece’s move to prevent a flotilla from departing its ports and challenging Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip highlights the deepening ties between the once antagonistic countries.

After a previous attempt ended in violence last year, pro- Palestinian activists planned a second, bigger convoy this month to undermine the blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza by delivering aid without permission. The effort fizzled as Greece stopped seven ships from sailing.…

“The relationship with Israel is multidimensional; it’s economics, tourism, military exercises, and part of the equation is natural gas,” said Aristotle Tziampiris, associate professor of international relations at Greece’s University of Piraeus. “It was the deterioration of the relationship between Turkey and Israel that provided an opening.…”

Ties between Greek and Israel have been slow to develop. The relationship was especially acrimonious during the 1980s, when then-prime minister Andreas Papandreou was a strong supporter of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and a vocal critic of Israeli policies.

His son George Papandreou, the current Greek prime minister, has taken a different approach. In July 2010 he became the first Greek premier to visit Jerusalem in decades. The next month he hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on an unprecedented visit to Athens.

Netanyahu, 61, singled out “my friend” Papandreou, 59, in a July 1 speech praising U.S. and European leaders for opposing the flotilla.

Leviathan Field

The biggest potential for economic cooperation lies with Israel’s natural gas discoveries, especially the Leviathan field that lies close to Cyprus and holds an estimated 16 trillion cubic feet. Israel and Greece have discussed exporting the gas either through an undersea pipeline to the Greek mainland or via a liquefied natural gas conversion plant to be built in Cyprus.

“Greece could very much become a hub for Israeli gas exports from the Leviathan field to Europe at a time when Europe is seeking to diversify away from its reliance on Russian gas,” said John Sitilides, chairman of the board of advisers for the Southeast Europe Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington-based research institute. “This is a relationship that makes sense.…”

Military Drills

Greece…is providing Israel with airspace, land and sea territory to conduct large-scale military exercises, replacing what had formerly been Turkey’s role. Greece and Israel have conducted at least two joint military exercises in the past year, including a just-concluded two-week aerial drill.

Israeli officials also see an opportunity to increase trade. Shipments between the countries were $412.8 million last year. Trade so far this year was $179.1 million, up from $153.6 million in the January-May of 2010, according to the Israeli statistics bureau.…

TurkeyTies Totter

Among the Israeli companies doing business in Greece are Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc., the world’s largest generic drugs company, and agrochemicals maker Makhteshim-Agan Industries Ltd. (MAIN)

One of the beneficiaries of Israeli business may be the Greek tourism industry, with the country increasingly popular as the preferred Aegean resort in place of Turkey. The number of Israeli tourists in Greece increased 139 percent in 2010 to 197,159, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority.

As ties with Greece strengthen, some of Israel’s links to Turkey are fraying. In the first five months of this year, the number of Israelis traveling to Turkey fell 60 percent, Hurriyet said last month.…

 

J’LEM, ATHENS PURSUE
A STRONG RELATIONSHIP IN ALL ASPECTS
Herb Keinon
Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2011

 

Greek President Karolos Papoulias [was recently in Israel] for a visit symbolizing the dramatic upgrade in Israeli-Greek ties.… Papoulias, who served two stints as foreign minister in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, when Greece was considered one of the least friendly countries in Europe to Israel, was a close associate of the late prime minister Andreas Papandreou, the father of the current prime minister, George Papandreou. The elder Papandreou was widely considered pro-Palestinian, and Papoulias was among those who built Greece’s strongly pro-Arab foreign policy at the time.

Now Papoulias is considered in Jerusalem as a supporter of Greece’s realignment of its policy toward Israel. Ahead of his arrival, The Jerusalem Post conducted an email interview with Papoulias, in which he answered eight of 16 questions posed to him.…

Why are good ties with Israel important for Greece?

Greeceand Israel have rich and diverse ties—shared history in the wider Mediterranean area; shared pain through the extermination of Greek Jews by the Nazis. We are now involved in an intensive process of cooperation. Our ministers and officials systematically consult and work together on all levels and in key areas: energy, defense and security, agriculture, tourism. We are also working together on international issues and matters of regional concern to both countries. We are pursuing a strong relationship—strong on trade, strong on investment, strong on political and security cooperation.

Why are close ties with Greece important for Israel?

I would say that this question would best be answered by Israeli officials.

Greeceand Cyprus offer a safe and secure route towards Europe and the West. It is safe because it is not based on the good political climate between our two countries alone. Relationships based on politics may change, as we are all aware of. Our relationship is built on the more solid foundations of our common culture. The Greek route offers a safe environment for Israeli tourists, possibilities of increased economic cooperation, trade development and two-way investment, political and military cooperation that can benefit both our countries.…

What are you most interested in? Strategic ties? Military ties? Economic ties?

I do not see relations with Israel as developing in piecemeal fashion. Relations between countries are not static.

For example, as I mentioned, the discovery of major reserves off the coast of Cyprus and Israel changes the geo-economic situation in the region. It opens up new opportunities for cooperation between Greece, Israel and Cyprus. That is why it is now strategically even more important that a viable solution be found to the Cyprus problem, and we are counting on the support of Israel to achieve this.…

Earlier this year, Greece hosted the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Why is it important for Greece to have ties with the Jewish Diaspora? In what way can the Jewish and Greek diasporas cooperate?

Both Greece and Israel have large and vital diasporas, which closely monitor and support their respective homelands on issues of national interest.

Improved ties between Greece and Israel have also brought Jewish and Greek communities in the diaspora closer. This rapprochement clearly provides them with an opportunity both for local cooperation and for enhancing the mutual support of our national interests.…

I understand that you will be traveling to Ramallah after coming to Jerusalem. What message will you be bringing to the Palestinians?

Greecehas always been present in the Middle East. Large Greek communities live here.

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem is here. We have an interest in a stable, secure and prosperous Middle East. The political deadlock in the peace process remains and affects the wider region. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict also deeply affects the people in the area. They are the ones to suffer. It is their future that is at stake.

In substance we support a two-state solution—a democratic Palestinian state alongside Israel within secure borders. As far as the process is concerned, I remain convinced that direct negotiations between the two sides are the only way to achieve a comprehensive and viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through its good relations with all countries in the wider area, Greece has contributed to the peace process and will continue to do so. Ultimately, of course, it is up to the parties involved to make the hard choices that will be necessary in order to achieve results.…

SINKING THE FLOTILLA, FREEING GILAD SHALIT

 

 

 

 

 

UN RULES THAT ISRAELI BLOCKADE IS LEGAL
IN BLOW TO FAILING FLOTILLA

 

More bad news for the dwindling number of flotilla activists hanging around the ports of Greece. The now completed UN Inquiry on last year’s Gaza flotilla incident aboard the Mavi Marmara found that Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza is legal and the Israeli government owes no apology or reparation to Turkey.

The UN investigative committee, headed by former Prime Minister of New Zealand and internationally renowned jurist, Geoffrey Palmer, actually criticizes Turkey for not doing enough to prevent the flotilla from setting sail and for also providing a somewhat anaemic and lacking investigation into the events of May 2010.

Now the part that is going to really take the starch out of the flotilla activist’s kafiyehs is that…the Turkel Committee’s report—the committee conducting Israel’s official investigation—conclu[ded] that the Israeli investigation (in stark contrast to Turkey’s) was conducted in a professional and independent manner.…

The Palmer UN inquiry has exposed the singular defining characteristic of the flotilla activists and those who support and fund them; it’s not about human rights, it’s all about an idiotic campaign to bully and delegitimize Israel. They’re failing, and miserably.(National Post, July 8, 2011.)

 

 

 

WHY FREEDOM FLOTILLA 2 DIDN’T FLOAT
Hadar Sela

Pajamas Media, July 3, 2011

 

Since its inception the organizers of the Freedom Flotilla 2—a group of ship-borne activists seeking to break Israel’s partial sanctions on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip—have encountered a broad range of largely unrelated technical, legal, bureaucratic, and political difficulties.

While participants claim that they are undertaking a humanitarian mission, since the flotilla is largely organized by radical Islamists and anti-Israel activists at a time when sanctions have shrunk to the minimum designed to limit the weapons and military power of Gaza’s rulers—it seems more of a Hamas support group.

Initial announcements that a 15 to 20 vessel flotilla—including two large passenger ships—carrying 1,500 activists from 100 countries would set sail dwindled, as of the time this article is written, to 327 passengers (over 10% of whom were journalists) from 20 countries sailing on 9 small boats. Lack of funds and public interest may have played a role…but undoubtedly the major factor was the sudden and unexpected pull-out of the vessel the “Mavi Marmara” (which also took part in the 2010 flotilla) in mid-June.

The IHH is a radical Islamist group based in Turkey with ties to terrorist groups. In the first flotilla, IHH activists armed with iron bars attacked Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two of them. An Israeli rescue attempt resulted in nine of the Turks being killed.

While the IHH cited technical problems as the reason for the refitted ship’s withdrawal, there is reason to believe that diplomatic pressures and internal Turkish political factors as well as difficulties in obtaining insurance for the voyage may have played a part. Having just won the parliamentary elections, the Turkish government has no need to provoke a major new crisis with Israel and antagonize a U.S. government that seems content to tolerate its other policies.

The UN secretary general’s appeal to the governments of countries in the Mediterranean region to use their influence to discourage the flotilla and the announcement that the UN’s investigation into the previous flotilla has concluded that the naval blockade of Gaza is in keeping with international law no doubt encouraged the European Union and the many individual Western governments which issued subsequent statements dissuading their citizens from participating in the project. Such concerns were not raised prior to the previous flotilla.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went further and described the intended voyage as “not helpful” and provocative after the State Department had issued repeated official warnings to the 36 American participants that they should not attempt to make the journey to the “dangerous and volatile” region, together with reminders regarding penalties under U.S. law for providing support to foreign terrorist organizations.

Legal problems facing the flotilla organizers included severe difficulties in securing insurance for the boats due to major insurers having been approached by the NGO Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center), which also filed a complaint with the Greek coast guard regarding the suspected lack of seaworthiness of seven of the boats comprising the flotilla. In addition, Shurat HaDin approached the maritime communications company Inmarsat, warning of the potential for damages suits and charges of aiding and abetting terrorism.…

Public exposure of the connections of some of the flotilla’s organizers to Hamas also caused significant problems for its organizers. Just Journalism detailed the alleged Hamas connections of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza official Mohammed Sawalha, and four Dutch journalists pulled out of the flotilla after having discovered the extent of involvement of the Hamas-linked activist Amin Abou Rashed in the organization of the Dutch-Italian boat.…

The internal economic and political crisis situation in Greece, where most of the flotilla’s boats had grouped, brought about a general strike which contributed to the delay in the flotilla’s departure as ports and marinas closed down as a result. In addition, a possible case of sabotage to the propeller of the Swedish-Norwegian boat in Greece and a similar (though disputed) incident concerning the Irish boat in Turkey incurred heavy expense for repairs and necessitated further postponement of departure.…

By the beginning of July, some of the journalists had openly stated their intention to abandon the project rather than spend an unknown additional amount of time waiting.

This factor presumably contributed to the decision made by the flotilla organizers to set sail on the afternoon of July 1 with the U.S. boat—the “Audacity of Hope”—despite not having secured the relevant permissions. The journey was brought to an abrupt end by Greek authorities after some 25 minutes at sea when the Hellenic coast guard, aided by Greek commandoes, turned the boat back to a naval port near Athens.…

On July 1, the Greek cabinet banned all the vessels comprising the flotilla from leaving port. Apparently some of the flotilla movement’s organizers have now expressed pessimism not only regarding the ability of the current flotilla to get underway, but as to the future of the movement as a whole.

 

USING LAWFARE TO ANCHOR THE GAZA FLOTILLA
George Jonas

National Post, July 6, 2011

 

Adam Shapiro, a board member of the Free Gaza Movement that sponsors the floating insult to human intelligence its organizers call Freedom Flotilla, was addressing supporters in New Jersey. As quoted by the British commentator Melanie Philips, Shapiro felt no need to mince words.

“Free Gaza is but one tactic of a larger strategy,” he explained, “to transform this conflict from one between Israel and the Palestinians…to one between the rest of the world and Israel.”

While it’s hardly news that the flotilla’s purpose is to de-legitimize Israel, rather than to relieve human suffering, it’s nice to have it confirmed by Mr. Shapiro. A flotilla is not required to bring food or medicine to Gaza. The blockade, in place since 2007, is to keep out things that go bump in the night. Israel is trying to reduce the flow of war material: the stuff of which rockets, mortars, bombs and underground tunnels are made.

The Free Gaza Movement is misnamed, unless it wants to free Gaza from Hamas. The strip’s inhabitants need to be liberated only from corrupt and dysfunctional fanatics who mask their own inability to govern with stubborn efforts to wipe Israel off the map, or goad it into acts of self-defence that make its bad press worse and increase its isolation.…

Israel has to be very, very careful. It’s the one country that isn’t quite entitled to defend itself. Never mind bad press. Israel could get in trouble with Judge Richard Goldstone or one of his brethren. Its defenders could face war crime charges faster than you can say International Criminal Court.

Israel’s dilemma is a bit like a homeowner who is confronted by a home invader in a country like Canada. If the homeowner does nothing, the intruder gets his silver; if he pulls a gun, the police get him for improper storage of a firearm—or worse. “You chambered a round, sir? You keep your ammunition in the same room as your weapon?”

This is how civilization ends up protecting barbarity. But if the law is a genie, ready to serve anybody who lets it out of the bottle, it occurred to a bright group of Israeli lawyers that they can rub a bottle as well as the next guy. They founded Shurat HaDin (Israeli Law Centre) whose motto is “bankrupting terrorism—one lawsuit at a time.…”

Accordingly, in a Manhattan court two weeks ago, a suit was launched by an American victim of a Palestinian suicide bomber to confiscate 14 seafaring vessels, which were allegedly outfitted by funds illegally raised in the United States, contrary to 18 U.S.C. section 962. What’s that section? Never mind. The legal jungle is littered with bottles, and any one may contain a genie.

One of the plaintiff’s attorneys, the founder of Shurat HaDin, described the case as the first of its kind. “We intend to seize the Gaza Flotilla ships and turn them over to a victim of Palestinian terrorism,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner was quoted as saying.…

Then, on June 6, the U.S.-based global satellite company Inmarsat was put on notice that it may be liable for “massive damages and criminal prosecution,” if it provided communication services to the blockade runners.

Shurat HaDin’s lawyers were rubbing the bottles and, lo and behold, genies started emerging. Some insurers bowed out. Greek authorities stopped ships from setting sail to the Gaza Strip last Sunday.…

Our times are savagery plus paperwork. We set out for hostile shores as readily as Viking raiders, except the style of Erik the Red wouldn’t be cramped by his inability to obtain insurance, and ours might be. Lawfare is clever, but before we applaud dressing politics in judicial robes, we should remember that, just like warfare, it’s a game two can play.

Living by the law carries the same caveat as living by the sword. One must be prepared to perish by it.

 

SHIP OF USEFUL IDIOTS?
Margaret Wente

Globe & Mail, July 7, 2011

 

I regret to report that this year’s Freedom Flotilla to Gaza is a bust. The hardy band of activists—including a couple of dozen Canadians and the novelist Alice Walker—failed to break Israel’s…blockade and deliver their cargo of humanitarian relief to the suffering Gazans. In fact, they barely made it out of port. The Canadians’ boat, the Tahrir (Arabic for “liberation”) was immediately intercepted by the Greek coast guard. An early alert that the boat might be sinking proved to be a false alarm. It was merely gouged when the coast guard took it back to the marina and ran it into the dock.

The Canadians didn’t really expect that their effort to run the blockade would succeed. They hoped for something better—martyrdom, perhaps. Maybe there would be a repeat of last year’s debacle, when Israeli forces killed nine people on the Mavi Marmara. “We’re expecting to be tasered,” said Kevin Neish, a white-haired B.C. activist who enjoys volunteering as a human shield. Mary Hughes Thompson, another white-haired activist who co-founded the Free Gaza Movement, was serene. “If anything should happen to me—if I should die—I can’t think of a better cause,” she told the CBC.

Despite their best efforts, nothing happened.…

This year’s useful idiots included the usual aging peaceniks, left-wing university types, a few Jewish radicals, and the kind of people who show up to protest against logging and genetically modified foods. It doesn’t seem to bother them that Gaza is controlled by Hamas, widely regarded as a terrorist group. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It endorses The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery that describes Zionist plans for world domination. (Too bad the journalists didn’t ask about that.…)

Israel’s blockade exists to stop rampant weapons-smuggling into Gaza. But the activists are unruffled by the Hamas connection. To them, the terrorists are all in Israel. They regard the suffering of Gazans as equivalent to the suffering of southern U.S. blacks under segregation, and the Gaza flotilla as the moral equivalent of freedom marches in Alabama. One of the passengers aboard the Tahrir was David Heap, a university professor whose father took part in the civil-rights movement. Mr. Heap says his father, too, was “ridiculed when he went to Selma to join Martin Luther King.…”

Gaza is a wretched place. But Gazans are not the most wretched of the Earth. Flat-screen TVs, new cars, lavish weddings, and Israeli mineral water are abundant. If the activists really cared about people in desperate need of humanitarian relief, they’d be sailing to North Korea or Sudan. If they really cared about murderous dictatorships, they’d be protesting against Bashar al-Assad. Instead, they’d rather martyr themselves to enable terrorists. They wouldn’t be the first, or the last.

 

GREECE SIDES WITH ISRAEL
Benny Morris

National Interest, July 8, 2011

 

Back in the 1950s, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion adopted what came to be known as the “Peripheral (or Peripheries) Policy” regarding Israel and the Middle East.

In 1948 the surrounding Arab states had invaded the newborn Jewish state. In the latter stages of that war and in its immediate aftermath, Israel tried to make peace with them on the basis of the post-war territorial status quo. But Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, and the other Arab states beyond, and their societies, refused to agree to peace principally because they continued to oppose a Jewish state, whatever its territorial configuration.

So Ben-Gurion, to reinforce Israel’s security and political standing, resolved to reach out to and forge alliances with the region’s non-Arab or non-Islamic states and groups, including Iran and Turkey, and the Druse of Syria, the Kurds of Iraq, the Christians and animists of southern Sudan, and the Maronites of Lebanon. These states and groups, on the “periphery” of the Muslim Arab world, all had conflicts with Muslim Arab states and groups.…

Here lay the origin of the Israeli-Turkish relationship. In 1949 Turkey, with a tradition of bad relations with the Arabs, was the only Muslim country to extend de jure recognition to the State of Israel and in the 1990s the ties burgeoned into a special relationship, with full diplomatic relations and hefty defense ties running into billions of dollars annually.…

[But] the rise of the Islamist government under Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the massive growth of the Turkish economy resulted in a radical reshaping of Turkey’s foreign policy. While still officially a member of NATO and while still officially seeking membership in the EU, the country has steadily distanced itself from the West…include[ing] a steady erosion of Turkey’s ties with Israel (but not to the point of formally severing diplomatic relations) a steady growth of its ties, political and economic, with Syria and Iran and very public patronage of the Palestinian national cause.

This was the background to the dispatch last year, from Turkish harbors, of the first “humanitarian aid flotilla” to the Gaza Strip, besieged by Israel since its 2007 takeover by the Islamist Hamas Party. The flotilla tried to break the naval blockade of Gaza’s coastline and Israeli naval units responded by boarding the boats. On the flotilla’s “flagship,” the “Mavi Marmara,” the Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists who had attacked them with crowbars, knives and bottles.…

A second flotilla, largely based this time in Greek ports, was due to set sail last week for Gaza, but most of the boats remain in harbor and it is not clear at the moment whether the flotilla will ever set out. In part, this is due to mechanical failures on at least two of the boats…which an Irish activists’ spokesman was quick to attribute to Israeli saboteurs.…

But the chief reason for the hold-up or cancellation of the flotilla is undoubtedly the realignment of political forces in the Eastern Mediterranean during the past year or two. Last week the Greek Government officially prohibited the boats from sailing to Gaza and proposed that the cargo of food and medicine they intended to convey be transferred to Greek government ships, which would offload the cargo in Ashdod, Israel, or El Arish, Egypt, for eventual trans-shipment to Gaza. Indeed, the Greek coast guard even chased after an American vessel, “The Audacity of Hope,” that set sail from Piraeus without permission and forced it to return to Greece after arresting its captain.

Over the past year, Netanyahu, extending, as it were, Ben-Gurion’s Peripheral Policy, possibly with some assistance from Washington (which is unhappy with the turn Turkey has taken in recent years), initiated this realignment, with Israeli interest and favor shifting from Ankara to Athens. Israeli-Greek relations, traditionally extremely cool—Greece was the only European democracy to have voted with the Arabs in 1947 against the UN General Assembly partition resolution, which endorsed the establishment of a Jewish state, and Greece only established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1990—have now warmed considerably, with Netanyahu and Georgios Papandreu exchanging visits last year and with Israeli tourism to Greece rising from 100,000 in 2009 to 250,000 in 2010 (the Israelis who commonly sojourned in vast numbers in Turkey now boycott that country). Israeli-Greek military cooperation and joint exercises have similarly increased.

Without doubt, the current, deep Greek economic crisis, in which Greece needs support from Washington and Western investments, is also playing a part in the improved Greek-Israeli relationship as is the prospect of Israel turning in the coming decade into a major natural gas exporter, following the recent discovery of vast natural gas fields off the Israeli coastline. Greece’s “friendship” with the Arabs during the past sixty years was largely a function of its need for Arab oil.

 

THE INVISIBLE PALESTINIANS
Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, June 27, 2011

 

…The media could have a reporter spend an hour researching the Israeli and international self-described human rights community’s silence on [Gilad] Schalit’s plight and the shameless absence of any concerted demand by the self-proclaimed human rights community for his immediate release. Over the weekend, Israeli and international “human rights” groups B’Tselem, Amnesty International, Israel; Bimkom; Gisha; Human Rights Watch; International Federation for Human Rights; Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza; Physicians for Human Rights, Israel; Public Committee Against Torture in Israel; and Yesh Din all got together to release a statement about Schalit. They failed to call for his immediate release.

Certainly a banner headline reporting this outrage would have sold papers. All of these stories and journalistic stunts are low-cost and would sell newspapers. And at a minimum, none of them would harm Schalit’s chances of getting released.

Yet the media have opted to sell the tale of the government’s culpability for his suffering due to its failure to bow to Hamas’s ever-escalating demands.

The media’s behavior is puzzling not merely because they have options besides supporting Hamas. It is puzzling because their obsessive coverage of Schalit arguably hurts their tireless efforts to sell the public on the notion that it is a terrific idea to give Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem to Schalit’s captors. By reminding the public of Schalit, the media are also reminding the public that the Palestinians are not interested in peace and that they use the land Israel gives them to attack us. That is, their Schalit campaign undermines their appeasement campaign.

Finally, their demand that Netanyahu “release” Schalit is alienating their readers. In the face of their intense campaign, “for Gilad” according to a poll published last month by Maariv, only 41 percent of the public agrees with their surrender at all cost strategy and 51 percent opposes it.

So by any rational measure, the media are acting against their own interests by pushing the pro-Hamas line. The only explanation that remains is irrational. But it is also consistent with the media’s serial irrationality on everything concerning Israel’s relationship with the Arab world generally and the Palestinians in particular.

The explanation is that like the rest of the Left—in Israel and worldwide—the media hold Israel responsible for Hamas’s imprisonment of Schalit because they perceive the Arabs generally and the Palestinians specifically as objects rather than actors. The only actors they see are Israel and the US.

Just as the international Left sends ships to aid and comfort Palestinian terrorists in Gaza to fight the so-called “occupation” which ended six years ago, so the Israeli media says the government is holding Gilad Schalit hostage. In both cases, the Palestinians are invisible, and inert.

To its credit, after five years of inaction, last Thursday, the Red Cross finally asked Hamas to prove Schalit is still alive. Gazans reacted to the move by attacking the Red Cross office in Gaza. This major story received little mention in the media. And that makes sense. How can they cover a story about a group of people they can’t be bothered to notice?