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December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘aid’

Israel Appeals to UN to Halt Gaza-Bound Ship

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Israel asked the United Nations to stop a Swedish-owned ship carrying human rights activists from attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, called the ship Estelle a “provocation” that “raises tensions and could easily spark a serious escalation of the conflict.”

“I want to stress that Israel is not interested in confrontation but remains determined to enforce its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip — and will take all lawful actions to this end,” Prosor wrote in a letter delivered Tuesday to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Part of the Freedom Flotilla movement, the Estelle reportedly is carrying humanitarian aid such as cement, basketballs and musical instruments. The small vessel began its journey in Sweden and toured Europe, including Finland, France and Spain, before arriving earlier this month in the Gulf of Naples. It is due to arrive in Gaza’s territorial waters early next week.

The boat, flying the Finnish flag, is also carrying at least 17 activists from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Israel and the United States. Members of parliament of four European countries reportedly boarded the vessel at sea near Greece on Tuesday, according to the Swedish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, which said there are now some 30 activists.

Israel imposed the blockade in 2007 after the terrorist group Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. It says the sanctions are to prevent weapons and other terror material from being smuggled in to Gaza,

The Freedom Flotilla’s first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel’s naval blockade.

Why We Stay Away from the Interfaith Roundtable

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Sometimes, only a period of separation will save a troubled marriage. That is why the Simon Wiesenthal Center and other Jewish groups are pulling out of the Christian-Jewish Roundtable. Fifteen liberal Protestant leaders, including those of the Presbyterian, Lutheran and Methodist denominations, chose the Jewish High Holiday season to urge Congress to curtail U.S. aid to Israel.

We were expecting a different initiative from our dialogue partners, one focusing on the tens of millions of Christians under siege from Nigeria to Afghanistan. The oldest Christian communities on earth in the Assyrian Triangle of Iraq have been all but ethnically cleaned. More than ten million Coptic Christians in Egypt live in perpetual fear of a government controlled by the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. Practicing Christians in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are incarcerated on charges of blasphemy; in North Korea, they languish in huge concentration camps. As for the plight of the Palestinians – more have been killed in Syria in the past few weeks than in almost four years of conflict with Israel, since the end of the Gaza War.

After decades of breaking bread together, we would have expected these church groups to ask us to join with them to shake the rafters with a prophetic scream on behalf of a religious minority under siege – Christians.

Instead, these groups stand mute while their own brothers and sisters are persecuted, and seek to invoke the wrath of Heaven and Congress on the Jewish state.

We’re not happy about the breakup of a relationship forged with optimism and sincerity. After WW 2, many Christians felt some responsibility for the theological anti-Semitism that set the stage for the racial anti-Semitism of Hitler’s Germany. For many, in the wake of images of Auschwitz, building bridges of understanding and respect to the Jewish world became a priority. At the same time, Jews saw the need to begin a new chapter in Jewish history, one in which Christian friends and neighbors were able to look to their own theology to find the dignity and validity of the Jewish experience. Decades of fruitful conversation and education followed.

There were always bumps in the road, particularly regarding the Jewish State. Unlike Evangelicals who were enthusiastic in their support, liberal denominations had a hard time fully accepting Israel and understanding its centrality to Jews. When Arab armies threatened Israel’s existence in 1948, ’67, and ’73, these denominations did not speak up, to the deep consternation of their Jewish partners. Both parties, however, remained in a less-than-perfect relationship, believing that a core mutual understanding could guide future dialogue. In the case of some signatories of the letter, there never was a relationship. The Mennonite “peace” church has never had anything but unvarnished contempt for Israel; the Quakers may be friends to many, but not to the Jewish people.

Now, with the latest threat to vaporize Israel still ringing in our ears from Ahmadinejad’s soon-to-be nuclearized Iran, with millions of Israelis living within the target range of Hamas and Hezbollah rockets—these erstwhile friends choose this moment to call upon the U.S. to cut into Israel’s defense capabilities.

Why the slap in the face? Thank God, their call to Congress will fall on deaf ears. Americans’ support for Israel remains bipartisan and strong. Did these church elite believe their initiative would lead to more scrutiny of foreign aid? Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt and the Palestinians would likely lose more from calls for greater transparency, not the Jewish state. Israel provides U.S. with vital intelligence, technological and military cooperation, and military aid to Israel creates American jobs.

If peace is these churches’ sole objective, shouldn’t they also criticize the PA’s corruption that led to losing the trust of their own people?

Why else release such a letter? Some suggest that the signatories are seeking to placate the entrenched, vocal anti-Israel extremists in their own churches. Those activists were incensed when the rank and file of several denominations adopted a policy not of divestment but of investment, a strategy that actually produces tangible benefits for the Palestinians.

Alas, we sense there is also a more basic reason at play. Some at this table really don’t like us. How else can we account for such a selective moral outrage, pounding the Jewish State for real and imagined sins, but yet to demand that the U.S. take action when their co-religionists face murder and ethnic cleansing? Only a deep-seated hatred could turn these leaders deaf to all the other urgent issues raging around them.

Surviving Without US Financial Aid

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Late last week former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that Washington must make it clear to Israeli leadersthat the U.S. must not permit Israel to harm American interests.

Speaking at an event in Norfolk, Virginia, Gates commented that Israeli leaders must be aware they “do not have a blank check to take action that could do grave harm to American vital interests.”

Previously, Gates had called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an “ungrateful ally,” stating that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has received nothing in return, particularly regarding the peace process, for all the steps it has taken to ensure Israel’s security. Specifically, Gates referred to Israel’s access to top- quality weapons, assistance developing missile-defense systems and high-level intelligence sharing.

The former U.S. Secretary of Defense also accused Netanyahu of endangering Israel by refusing to grapple with the country’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces should it decide to maintain control over the West Bank [Judea and Samaria]. Such hypercriticism emanating from the highest echelons of the United Stated defense establishment is a far cry from U.S. President Harry Truman’s 1948 vow regardingIsrael “to help build inPalestine a strong, prosperous, free and independent democratic state… large enough, free enough and strong enough to make its people self-supporting and secure.”

It would be a serious mistake to slough off these most recent statements as the idle rantings of a retired civil servant. Rather, Gates’ view reflects a general shift in the U.S. stance vis-à-vis Israel.

It’s important to note that far from the fringe, Robert Gates, who served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council and under U.S. President George H. W. Bush as Director of Central Intelligence, is in fact the consummate Washington insider. And it’s this U.S. stance that is pushing the Islamic Republic of Iran to become a country on the brink of nuclear capability. For the Obama administration’s reaction to Iran’s nuclear ambitions indicates a reassessment of Israel’s strategic value, which has always been the primary motivation for U.S. support.

With Israel’s survival increasingly viewed as a burden for Washington to bare, the Jewish state should remember that it is but one of many allies that the United States has around the world.

Let’s not forget that France too was a vital ally of Israel’s – until Paris suddenly decided to abandon Israel in favor of the Arab world. France was Israel’s main weapons supplier until its withdrawal from Algeria in 1966 removed most common interest from the relationship and France became increasingly critical of Israel, especially after the Six-Day War in June 1967, when Charles de Gaulle’s government imposed an arms embargo on the region that mostly affectedIsrael.

Israelsurvived and eventually even prospered without French largesse. Now, with the Obama administration’s obsession with being an “honest broker” leading it to shift its allegiance away from Israel and towards such regional power players as Turkey and Iran, it’s time for Israel to downgrade its dependence on US aid.

Beyond Obama’s cold shoulder, there are other reasons for Israel to consider going off U.S.aid, which comes with a rather heavy price tag: U.S. aid to Egypt and Jordan, for example, forces Israel to spend more on its military since it must maintain a qualitative advantage in equipment and weaponry.

By accepting U.S. aid, the Israeli government often has to go with U.S. weapons even if domestic products are better, cheaper or both, causing efficient Israeli producers to lose government contracts. When Israel purchases from the U.S., Israeli companies frequently loses contracts abroad. Washington has also used it leverage to limit Israeli overseas arms sales.

Finally, the guaranteed payment, irrespective of Israel’s defense needs, leaves the system with no incentive to become more efficient.

In sheer volume, the amount of aid provided to Israelby the United Statesis the most generous foreign aid program ever between any two countries.Israel receives moreU.S. aid per capita annually than the total annual GNP per capita of several Arab states.

What is perhaps even more unusual is that Israel, like its benefactor, is an advanced, industrialized, technologically-sophisticated country, as well as a major arms exporter.

US Aid to Egypt Blocked by Republican Congress Following Riots

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

At last, the violent rallies against the U.S. embassy in Cairo, in reaction to an anti-Islam video, and Egypt’s laxidasical efforts to defend American assets, have yielded a real result: talks about $1 billion in debt relief and millions more in aid to Egypt are suspended, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity.

It took Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi more than 48 hours to condemn the breach of the US embassy premises in Cairo and the removal of the American flag.

There will not be new aid approved for Egypt until after the November elections, and talks intended to ease to payment of funds that have already been approved are stalled, the officials said.

But the same officials added that the delays are temporary and do not represent a reevaluation of U.S. aid to Egypt.

“Folks are going to wait and see how things materialize both with the protests and on Capitol Hill,” one congressional aide told the Post.

The U.S. annual aid to Egypt comes to about $1.6 billion, and the Obama Administration was fully prepared to continue providing this aid, despite the election of a new government in Egypt run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, President Obama has proposed an additional $1 billion in debt relief for Egypt, whose debt to America stands at about $3 billion.

Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, since 1979. Of the $1.6 billion it receives, more than $1.3 billion goes to military aid.

The major hurdle in the path of U.S. funds to Egypt is the Republican House of Representatives which last year attached conditions to U.S. aid, most notably a requirement that the State Department certify that Egypt is abiding by its peace treaty with Israel.

Several Congress members have been proposing additional conditions. And there’s been some pushback on the part of the State Department. For instance: this week, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wanted to hold a hearing on U.S. relations with Egypt, but it was canceled because the State Department refused to send witnesses. DOS instead offered a private briefing for lawmakers, a congressional aide told Reuters.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland attempted to paint with pastel colors that clash of wills between Republican Congress Members and Hillary’s DOS: “We are continuing to work with the Hill on the support that we think is important to support those very forces of moderation, change, democracy, openness in Egypt that are very important for defeating extremism of the kind that we saw,” she said on Monday.

According to Nuland, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would appear before Congress in person soon regarding U.S. aid to the Muslim-Brothers run Egypt and all the other painful realities exposed by the violent protests.

According to the Washington Post, American and Egyptian officials were in the final stages of negotiating hundreds of millions of dollars in aid just as the protests exploded outside the embassy and American flags were being set on fire.

And a delegation of 120 U.S. business leaders was in Cairo at the same time as well, as the State Department was trying to encourage foreign investment in Egypt.

Here is an excerpt from the State Dept. Monday briefing regarding the U.S. and Egypt:

QUESTION: On Egypt, you said the Egyptians have been cooperative in providing the additional security you requested. Can you talk a little bit more broadly about what the contact with the Egyptians has been like over the last few days? And what is the status of the discussions about delivery of aid? Has that been affected at all?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the White House reported that the President had a good conversation with President Morsi. I think it was before the weekend. I can’t actually remember. It might have been Friday. Right. And then the Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Amr on Saturday. I think we reported that conversation out to you over the weekend. She, as you know, spoke to leaders around the region on Saturday. She also spoke to Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, FM al-Faysal. She spoke to the Libyan Prime Minister Abushagur. She spoke to Foreign Minister Davutoglu, spoke to Foreign Secretary Hague, and Foreign Minister Fabius of France.

Iran Claiming Oil Deal with Egypt

Monday, September 10th, 2012

The Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) was quoted on Monday by Reuters as stating, in the name of Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi, that Iran is negotiating to sell oil to Egypt.

The Iranians have been saying time and again, especially since the new round of Western sanctions set in on July 1, that they are negotiating to sell oil to several new buyers, but would not name.

According to Reuters, a spokesman for Egypt’s oil ministry refused to comment on Qasemi’s remarks.

Since the fall of President Mubarak, relations between Egypt and Iran have been improving, and last month President Muhamed Morsi visited Tehran – first Egyptian leader to do so since 1979.

Egyptian Petroleum Minister Osama Kamal told Al-Ahram earlier in September that he had no objection to importing Iranian crude oil, to be processed in Egyptian refineries.

But such an Egyptian move will likely not receive the blessing of the Obama White House, nor of the U.S. Congress.

Egypt has been receiving just under $2 billion in U.S. foreign aid, but the Obama Administration has repeatedly promised a significant increase in some aspects of the aid package over several years, as well as completion of an agreement between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In short, like Israel, Egypt stands to lose a great deal by annoying the Americans.

Where’s the Shame? U.S. Tax Dollars Funding Palestinian Fiscal Incompetence & Terror

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

The economy presided over by the Palestinian Authority and its head Mahmoud Abbas is a peculiar thing.

A year ago, the New York Times reported that the PA had managed to run up a deficit of more than half a billion US dollars in 2011 alone, and was borrowing heavily from unspecified banks. The financial crisis, according to PA prime minister and famed economist Salam Fayyad, was due to the failure of the PA’s sovereign friends to make good on their pledges. “Of the $971 million pledged by donors for this year, $330 million of it has been paid so far,” said the July 2011 report, quickly adding that “Fayyad said the current financial crisis had no bearing on the Palestinians’ readiness for independence.”

Ready for independence or not, the PA has now managed to run up an electricity tab of more than NIS 700 million. That’s how much they owed the Israel Electric Company as of September 1, 2012. Israel’s minister for energy Uzi Landau said yesterday that he will be instructing the IEC “to take all necessary steps to collect these debts, with all the implications that may arise.” Does he mean to turn off the power to the Abbas regime? Maybe.

The Times of Israel noted that:

“The accumulated electricity debt is another sign of the Palestinian Authority’s mounting cash crunch, which it largely blames on a sharp reduction in foreign aid since 2011.”

In tough economic times, you make tough economic decisions. Unless you’re the Palestinian Authority. Contemplate yesterday‘s report from Israel’s Channel 2, that the Palestinian Authority is spending $4.5 million a month paying salaries to  Palestinians in Israeli jails and to their families.

According to the report, the amount the Palestinians receives depends on  how long he is sentenced to (or in other words, how severe the crimes of the terrorist were).  Pursuant to a 2003 Palestinian Authority law, getting sentenced up to five years in prison earns NIS 1,000 ($250) per month. A life sentence earns NIS 4,000 ($1,000).  That amount increased further in 2011, under Fayyad’s stewardship, by an average of 300%.

And these terror-salaries and family benefits are not restricted to the members of the so-called “moderate” Palestinian factions like Fatah. They include Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The report goes on to say that murderers get paid even more, the longer their incarceration. To illustrate, the Channel 2 report brings the case of the multiple murderer Abdullah Barghouti, sentenced in 2004 to 67 life sentences – one for each of the lives he snuffed out. He’s also the man who built the bomb that murdered Malki Roth (the daughter of the authors of this article). As a convicted murderer on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs, he qualifies for a monthly stipend of NIS 4,000 ($1,000). This will rise automatically next year to NIS 6,000.

(Here’s the original Channel 2 news report in Hebrew; and the Times of Israel‘s English version).

According to the U.S. Institute of Peace as well as the Congressional Research Service, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria (“West Bank”) and the Gaza Strip, are “the largest per capita recipients of international development assistance in the world.”

Who makes available the funding that allows the PA to conduct its unconscionable, terror-encouraging financial policies? Well, quite a number of people, if you’re asking. And some that may be quite close to where you live.

In an article for Algeminier, Arsen Ostrovsky, a fellow at the American Center for Democracy, wrote that:

In the last five years, the U.S. government has poured at least $4 billion in aid to the Palestinians, with very little to show in return – except more terror and corruption.Since 2008, annual U.S. bilateral assistance to the PA has averaged over $600 million, including $513 million for the current budgetary year.Time has now long come to ask whether the U.S. should continue funding at all.

Ostrovsky notes that when this past April, Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee put a hold on $59 million destined to the Palestinian Authority, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released them anyway on the grounds that the funds ” provided critical support to the Palestinian people and those leaders seeking to combat extremism within their society and build a more stable future.”

Yom Kippur Rentals Could Cost Tel Aviv’s Bike Program Funding

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Israel’s transportation minister has threatened to withdraw funding for a Tel Aviv bicycle rental project if it allows the bicycles to be used on Yom Kippur.

Israel Katz said Sunday that the operating of the Tel-O-Fun project on Yom Kippur “is crossing a red line and breaking all the norms. The Tel-o-Fun project is important, but regrettably, [Tel Aviv Mayor Ron] Huldai is using it for political ends, harming the holiest day of the Jewish people.”

“This is an important and successful project,” Katz added, “and the Ministry of Transportation supports and even encourages the venture with budget allocations and the paving of bicycle paths. But if Huldai breaks all the rules and harms this sacred day of the Jewish people, I will cut off the ministry’s aid and support for the project.”

While most Jews in Israel do not drive on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, many take advantage of the empty roads to ride their bikes freely.

The program did not operate on Yom Kippur last year.

City transportation official Moshe Tiomkin told the Israeli business daily Globes that “There is no reason why, on Yom Kippur, which is our most sacred day, we should seek unnecessary conflict. Anyone who wants to ride a bicycle should use their own.”

Under the holiday plan, bicycles will be rented before the start of the holiday and will be able to be returned afterward without an extra fee, so as not to offend the religious community.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/yom-kippur-rentals-could-cost-tel-avivs-bike-program-funding/2012/09/04/

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