“Brussels, Istanbul, Lahore–and now Jerusalem must tragically be added to the long list of cities brutalized by terror in recent weeks. Our hearts go out to the bus bombing’s victims and their families, and to all Israelis, at this difficult moment. There is simply no moral or political justification for this act of savagery. Hamas’ statement that it “welcomes the Jerusalem operation” proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the barbaric values of those who seek Israel’s destruction. We proudly stand with the Israeli people in their ongoing struggle against terror.”David Israel
Posts Tagged ‘Council’
Online visitors to the Binyamin Regional Council virtual tour can fly over the gorgeous landscapes and get a real feel for the region, then click on whatever grabs their fancy for an in-depth explanation.
In recent months the increase of tourism to Judea and Samaria has made international headlines with talk of the over 200 hundred Bed and Breakfasts options available, fifty of which are just in the Binyamin Region, north of Jerusalem. In the last five years, tourism has increased significantly across Judea and Samaria, and tourism-related businesses have more than doubled. Fifteen new visitors centers have opened, all of which offer presentations in multiple languages. The wine industry has also blossomed with more than 20 boutique wineries, making internationally acclaimed wine.
An estimated 1.5 million tourists visit sites across Judea and Samaria annually. The major demographic is faith-based tourists, both Jewish and Christian, with a special interest in Judeo-Christian history. A record number of Biblical sites have recently initiated new and extremely high-quality audio-visual presentations in multiple languages, including Shiloh, Hebron and the Herodian.
In recent years the Yesha Council together with the 6 regional councils and 13 local councils that it represents has invested a great deal of funds in telling its story to the world. Finding that the best way to explain the Israeli resettlement of Judea and Samaria is to invite people on life-changing visit of the area.
The Binyamin Regional Council has launched two new initiatives to highlight the abundance of new tourist attractions and internationally accessible programs this Passover. One is a video showcasing some of the 36 activities available from visiting ancient Shiloh to swimming in the 9 springs and riding camels at Eretz Bereshit to visiting internationally acclaimed wineries and breathtaking hikes across multiple nature reserves.
In addition, the council has launched a new website to showcase its wares, which includes a state of the art new virtual tour (still in beta version) which offers viewers a birds-eye view of Western Binyamin with the aid of hours of interactive drone footage.
The website offers additional resources and information to maximize and personalize tours.
“This Passover we are expecting a huge rise in tourism to the Binyamin region in particular and Judea and Samaria in general, because there is just so much more for people to do here. We are especially looking forward to welcoming all of our supporters from abroad that are visiting Israel for the holiday and understand the importance of visiting the Biblical heartland of Israel” Said Miri Maoz-Ovadia, spokesperson for the Binyamin Regional Council.
Opposition by Germany and Britain to the Palestinian Authority bid to join the International Olive Council has forced the Palestinian Authority to freeze their application in applying to become a member state of the intergovernmental Madrid-based organization.
The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry in Ramallah prepared the application this past summer in order to be voted upon at the annual olive council meeting held in Madrid last week.
According to European diplomatic sources, cited in Haaretz, British and German representatives claimed that letting the Palestinians join the council could sabotage current Israeli-Palestinian talks led by the United States.
Resuming peace talks were made on the condition that Israel’s release of Palestinian prisoners would be done in exchange for the Palestinian Authority’s promise not to join various UN organizations and not to address The Hague’s International Criminal Court (ICC).
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has committed to continue talks for a nine-month period, during which time the Palestinian Authority has pledged to avoid any diplomatic actions against Israel. Thus far, Israel has released 52 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were convicted of murdering Israelis, out of the 104 Palestinian prisoners who will be freed as talks progress.
Germany and Britain are the member states of the European Union’s joint delegation to the International Olive Council, which is made up of 16 states in addition to the EU that produce olives and olive oil. If the states within the EU delegation are unable to reach a consensus, then the EU delegation must abstain from voting.
In any case, the Palestinians realized that the European Union would not vote in their favor for the olive council membership and preferred not to suffer diplomatic failure. Palestinian officials told Haaretz that the PA had instead decided to postpone their application to a more “opportune moment.” The next International Olive Council annual session will be held in November 2014.Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency
Originally published at Gatestone Institute.
As Israelis prepare to cast their ballots in the municipal elections next week, tens of thousands of eligible Arab voters in Jerusalem will once again boycott the democratic process.
In the past few days, the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], Hamas and several other Palestinian organizations have called on the Arab residents of Jerusalem to stay away from the ballot boxes.
These organizations maintain that Arab participation in the municipal election would be interpreted as recognition of Israel’s decision to annex the eastern part of the city in the aftermath of the 1967 Israeli-Arab war.
As such, the vast majority of the Arab residents have since been boycotting the local election, mainly out of fear of being dubbed “traitors” by various Palestinian organizations.
But if anyone stands to lose from the boycott it is the Arabs themselves.
First, the boycott has done nothing to undermine Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Some would even argue that Israeli dominion over the city has never been as strong as it is these days, especially in wake of the Arab residents’ failure to take part in crucial decisions concerning their neighborhoods and villages.
Second, the boycott has severely harmed the interests of the Arab residents, who have been denied the chance to have representatives in the municipal council who would fight for better services and the improvement of their living conditions. The Arabs make up 25-30% of the city’s eligible voters, which means that they could have 7-8 representatives in the 31-seat municipal council. The boycott has denied the Arabs the opportunity to be directly involved in the planning of their neighborhoods.
While it is true that some Arabs boycott the municipal elections for ideological reasons, there is no denying the fact that many are also afraid of being targeted by extremists if they present their candidacy or go to the ballot boxes.
A few Arabs who in the past dared to challenge the boycott have faced death threats. One of them was newspaper publisher Hanna Siniora, who back in 1987 announced his intention to run in the municipal election. Siniora’s car was torched by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a move that forced him to retract his candidacy.
Eleven years later, another Arab, Mussa Alayan, defied the boycott by running at the head of an independent list. He received fewer than 3,000 votes and did not make it to the city council. Alayan could have probably become the first Arab council member had he and his supporters not faced a brutal and violent campaign by Palestinian activists.
Yet while Arab residents are boycotting the election, most of them continue to deal with the same municipality which they are not supposed to recognize. They even continue to pay taxes and fees to the municipality.
The Jerusalem Municipality has more than 1,500 Arab employees, and its various departments continue to provide many services to the Arab neighborhoods and villages in the city. These activities are taking place despite the Arab boycott that has been in effect since 1967.
Arabs who complain about lack of municipal services often seek the help of representatives of left-wing parties in the municipal council, such as Meretz.
Today, many Arabs in Jerusalem are not afraid to declare openly that they prefer to live under Israeli rule, and not under that of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. The problem remains, however, that the overwhelming majority is still afraid of the radicals.
What is needed is a strong Arab leadership that would not hesitate to stand up to the radicals and question their goals. Such a leadership would have to make it clear that there should be a complete separation between the political issues and the day-to-day affairs of Jerusalem’s Arab population.
Until such leaders emerge, the Arabs in Jerusalem will, by boycotting the municipal elections, unfortunately continue to act against their own interests.Khaled Abu Toameh
Originally published at Gatestone Institute.
The Reykjavík City Council has approved a building permit for the construction of the first mosque in Iceland.
The mosque will be built in Sogamýri, an upscale district near downtown Reykjavík on a highly desirable plot of land that was granted to Muslims free of charge, courtesy of Icelandic taxpayers.
Members of the city council — which is led by Reykjavík Mayor Jón Gnarr, who identifies himself as an anarchist — say they hope the prime location will make the mosque a prominent landmark in the city.
Critics of the mosque, however, say the project is being financed by donors in the Middle East who are seeking to exert control over — and radicalize — the growing Muslim community in Iceland.
Although reliable statistics do not exist, the Muslim population of Iceland is estimated to be approximately 1,200, or 0.4% of the total Icelandic population of 320,000. Most Muslims in Iceland live in the capital Reykjavík, where they make up about 1% of the total population of 120,000.
The Muslim community in Iceland may be small in comparison to other European countries, but its rate of growth has been exponential: Since 1990, when there were fewer than a dozen Muslims in the country, their number has increased by nearly 10,000%. Much of this growth has been due to immigration, but in recent years native Icelanders have also been converting to Islam in increasing numbers.
Currently there are two main Muslim groups in Iceland: the Muslim Association of Iceland, which has around 500 members, and the Islamic Cultural Center of Iceland, which has some 300 followers. The former group is run by Salmann Tamimi, a Palestinian immigrant who considers himself to be the voice of moderate Islam in Iceland; the latter group is run by Ahmad Seddeq, a firebrand preacher from Pakistan whose activities are allegedly being financed by Saudi Arabia.
Although both groups pertain to Sunni Islam, they have been openly fighting with each other for many years over who should be the rightful representative of Islam in Iceland.
In 2000, Tamimi — whose group meets at a make-shift mosque on the third floor of an office building in downtown Reykjavík — submitted an application to obtain a free plot of land from city authorities to build the first purpose-built mosque in Iceland.
Not to be outdone, Seddeq — whose group meets at a make-shift mosque in an old concert hall near the Reykjavík airport — submitted his own application for free land to build a competing mosque.
City officials responded by saying there should be only one mosque and that it should be shared by both groups. “Obviously we won’t be allocating two lots for mosques at this point and we find it natural for them to cooperate on the construction of one mosque,” Páll Hjaltason, the chairman of Reykjavík City’s Urban Planning Council, told the newspaper Fréttabladid.
Seddeq said he was open to the idea of sharing one plot of land, but Tamimi, who submitted his application first, would have none of it. Instead, Tamimi lashed out at Seddeq, accusing him of extremism, fanaticism and oppression in the name of Islam.
“Our application is completely different from theirs,” Salmann said in an interview with the newspaper Fréttabladid. “This is like asking the national church to be with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Tamimi sought to undermine Seddeq’s group by accusing it of being financed by Saudi Arabia. At one point, Tamimi called the police to report members of Seddeq’s group, accusing them of misunderstanding the peaceful nature of Islam, and saying that he feared that Muslim extremists were attempting to gain a foothold in Iceland.
Tamimi also sought to assure the Reykjavík City Council that — unlike Seddeq — his mosque project would not be financed by foreigners and thus would not be promoting extremism.
“If we are going to have a mosque, it must be done according to local considerations,” Tamimi said in October 2010. “As soon as you lose sight of the source of funding you lose control of what happens subsequently. The experience of other countries teaches that it is wise to reject large foreign investments in religion. Such investors are much more likely to import their own countries’ traditions and not adapt to the traditions in their host country.”
In the end, city officials sided with Tamimi, whose mosque project was formally approved on September 19. After more than a decade of bickering, construction of Reykjavík’s first mosque is expected to begin in early 2014.
The cost of building the 800 square meter (8,600 square foot) mosque — which will include a prayer hall, community center and library, as well as a nine-meter (30 foot) minaret — is expected to exceed 400 million Icelandic Krona (€2.5 million; $3.3 million).
But now that the Reykjavík mosque project has been given the go-ahead, Tamimi’s group has changed its tune and now admits that foreign donors will be paying for the mosque’s construction costs after all.
During a newspaper interview on September 19 — conducted just a few hours after the mosque project was approved — Sverrir Agnarsson, a convert to Islam who is chairman of Tamimi’s group, the Muslim Association of Iceland, was asked how the mosque would be financed.
“We have received numerous promises,” Agnarsson said. “We are mostly seeking funding from individual foreigners. We have a right to get support from the collective funds of Muslims [the Ummah, or the worldwide community of Muslims]. We are doing all of this in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice to guarantee that all the money coming to us is received legally, and is not associated with any terrorist organizations,” he added.
The idea that foreigners are financing the spread of Islam in Reykjavík does not sit well with many Icelanders.
One of the most vocal opponents of the mosque project has been the former mayor of Reykjavík, Ólafur F. Magnússon. In an article he wrote for the newspaper Morgunbladid, Magnússon laid out his position:
It is a matter of grave concern that it seems to be no problem for Muslims in Iceland to finance such a mosque here in Iceland with money from ‘Muslim/Islamic promotion organizations’ abroad. They could receive financial help from organizations that want to increase Islamic influence in Iceland as well as in other countries. This can be dangerous for our national culture and safety.
Magnússon also said why he thought it was wrong for foreign organizations to be financing the construction of mosques in Iceland:
Islam is a religion with the goal to eliminate all other religions and to expand all over the world, the West, the Nordic countries…and now even Iceland. The experience in the Nordic countries shows that Muslims are not adapting to society. This has become a huge problem, in Malmö [Sweden] for example. The other day, a mosque was to be built on Trondheim [Norway], but the Norwegian authorities canceled the project because some Saudi Arabian organization was to finance the whole thing.
Although he is not opposed to the mosque per se, Magnússon believes it is outrageous for the city to give Muslims a building site at no cost at a great location in the center of Reykjavík. He also asks why political movements and feminist groups in Iceland are so tolerant towards a religion that he says degrades women.
Part of the answer may be found in the political make-up of the Reykjavík City Council, which is led by the upstart Best Party, a so-called joke party that was propelled into office in 2010 as a backlash against establishment parties in the wake of Iceland’s banking collapse in 2008.
The Best Party — a semi-serious far left party that is home to anarchists, atheists, surrealists, punks and poets — is being led by Jón Gnarr, a stand-up comedian whose stated political aim is thoroughly to upset the established order in Reykjavík. Critics say the new mosque represents a big step toward achieving Gnarr’s objective.Soeren Kern
The 15-nation UN security council is not, traditionally, a place where decision are made based on morality and ethics. The august body has been split on the civil war in Syria since ir began, in 2011, with Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s ally and chief arms dealer, and China, eager for the Syrian oil, vetoing three resolutions condemning Assad and urging punitive measures to make him stop.
It is virtually certain that the same UN council will reject a call for moving troops against Assad’s army, even if the Syrian president is caught splashing anti-American graffiti with a spray can of sarin on the walls of Damascus.
“The experts in Syria have the mandate to determine if chemical weapons were used, and if so, which ones, but not who unleashed this attack” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that point for reporters in Moscow on Monday.
But the U.S. has intervened in at least one conflict in the recent past without security council support—when President Clinton threw the Airforce into the Kosovo War in 1999, some suggesting in order to divert attention from his troubles with a pesky special prosecutor.
U.S. and European officials have been referring to the Kosovo bombing campaign, which pressured Serb President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his troops from Kosovo. The beleaguered Clinton ignored the security council to avoid letting the Russians cast a veto, and got his backing from NATO, or, in other words, from himself.
It’s been done, and it can be done again, is the message in Washington this week.
Richard Haas, president of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations who served in the GW Bush administration, rejected the Russian argument that a Western attack on Syria would require UN approval, Reuters reported.
“The UN Security Council is not the sole or unique custodian about what is legal and what is legitimate, and, as many have pointed out, it was bypassed at the time of Kosovo,” Haas told reporters in a conference call, possibly while loading bullets into his personal firearm.
“To say only the UN Security Council can make something legitimate seems to me to be a position that cannot be supported because it would allow in this case a country like Russia to be the arbiter of international law and, more broadly, international relations,” said Haas, who probably recalls the time, in 2003, when he was a close advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell under President GW Bush, and his boss offered a shamefully deceitful presentation to the security council regarding the grounds for launching another war.
Will President Barack Obama want to associate himself with the unilateral strategies of both his predecessors? Barack the multilateralist, champion of the Arab Spring – resorting to hiring the services of an adviser straight out of the GW war room? Incidentally, Haas has had second thoughts on the invasion of Iraq, and in an interview with the Huff Post he said it was a wrong war and a war of choice.
Nevertheless, it looks like you can take the foreign policy expert out of the GW White House, but you can’t extract the GW White House out of expert:
Legitimacy for a strike on Syria, Haas said, could come from a “coalition of the willing” (when have we heard that one before?) of individual countries supporting retaliation against Assad, to demonstrate that the use of weapons of mass destruction (wait, that one is familiar, too!) will not be tolerated.
A furious Russia could launch the general assembly in an attempt to humiliate the U.S. and force it to abandon its attack on Syria, should Obama opt to strike.
Israel could only benefit from an American attack: for one thing, it is sure to wipe out the Syrian WMD reserves (which, unlike Saddam’s Iraq, the Syrians do possess, and then some); and then, once the U.S. is mired in international condemnations – it might go easy on the Netanyahu government when it issues a permit—as comedian Jacky mason put it so aptly—to add a toilet to some settlement.
Stay tuned…Yori Yanover
After years of dispute and roadblocks from within the Israeli academic system, on Tuesday the Ariel University Center was officially granted University status by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria. The Ariel University Center is now one of Israel’s eight universities. As a result it can now begin to officially receive money from the government like other Israeli universities.Jewish Press News Briefs