Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, responded on Thursday evening to harsh and false attacks voiced earlier against Israel by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas during his speech at the European Union Parliament in Brussels.
Abbas urged the world to take action against “Israeli atrocities” and repeating debunked rumors that Israeli rabbis had “called to poison Palestinian water supplies.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the speech, saying that Abbas had “showed his true face” in Brussels. “Someone who refuses to meet the president and myself for direct negotiations and who spreads blood libels before the European Parliament, is lying when he claims that his hand is extended in peace,” said Netanyahu.
The prime minister was referring to the potential meeting between Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Rivlin proposed by EU Council President Donald Tusk that Abbas bluntly refused to attend.
“Israel is waiting for the day when Abu Mazen stops spreading lies and engaging in incitement,” Netanyahu added, referring to Abbas by his nickname. “Until then Israel will continue to defend itself against Palestinian incitement that motivates acts of terrorism.”
Abbas harshly attacked Israel during his speech, calling its policies towards Arabs from the Palestinian Authority “racist” and “fascist.” He also said the PA is prepared to make peace with Israel — even as he rejected a single meeting with Rivlin while the two were in the same building at the same time, for the very same purpose.
“Our hands are extended with a desire to peace,” he claimed, directing his remarks to Israel. “We have the political will to achieve peace and we ask, do you have the same will to achieve peace and to acknowledge the historic injustice that your state has exacted on our country?”
President Rivlin also responded to Abbas’ speech on Thursday, expressing disappointment that Abbas has refused to meet with him.
“It is strange that Abbas repeatedly refuses to meet with Israeli leaders and then repeatedly turns to the international community for support,” said Rivlin in a statement. “We cannot build on the trust we have built if we do not start talking directly without intermediaries. Direct talks are the only way to build confidence and restore the conditions for peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”
Israeli lawmaker and former Shin Bet domestic intelligence chief Avi Dichter, who chairs the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee also responded to what he called the “falsehoods” propounded by Abbas during his Brussels speech.
“With a series of historical distortions and crocodile tears, Abu Mazen today described the 1948 Palestinian ‘Nakba‘ [Arabic for ‘disaster’], without mentioning the fact that the Arab leaders in 1947 were the ones who determined their fate,” said Dichter.
“The Jewish leaders accepted the partition plan, while the ‘Abu Mazens’ of that time rejected the United Nations proposal and the Arab armies invaded Israel in order to wipe out the Jews and take 100 percent of Israel.”
Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon responded to the speech as well, referring to Abbas’ claim that Ya’alon and Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, recently called Israel was a “fascist” state. While Barak did make a similar accusation, Ya’alon did not.
“Abu Mazen is not only lying as usual, continuing his malicious blood libels against the State of Israel,” wrote Ya’alon on his Facebook page, “he is also exploiting the healthy democratic discourse in Israeli society, which does not exist in his society and is putting words in my mouth I did not say.
“Abu Mazen’s conduct, speeches and evasions of direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions are further proof that he never intended to go for an agreement, including recognition of our right to exist as the only nation state of the Jewish people,” Ya’alon added.TPS / Tazpit News Agency
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to meet in Rome with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry early next week, reportedly to discuss the possibility of resurrecting the moribund ‘final status talks’ with the Palestinian Authority.
International pressure on Israel to resume negotiations with the Ramallah government has been growing since French President Francois Hollande launched his ‘Paris initiative’ earlier this year. Under that plan, France would host the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority for talks later this year.
Negotiations which had been limping for years collapsed in April 2014, at around the same time Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas announced his intention to seek a unity government with the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza.Hana Levi Julian
By Jesse Lempel/TPS
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed the European Parliament on Wednesday, including foreign ministers of the EU member states, and issued a sharp rebuke of the international community’s approach toward Israeli-“Palestinian” peacemaking, arguing that the recent French initiative “suffers from fundamental flaws” and that efforts should be focused on building trust among the parties rather than striving for a permanent peace deal, which he described as a “chronicle of a predictable failure.”
Rivlin, a former right-wing parliamentarian who has refashioned himself in the presidency as a strong voice for unity and tolerance, pointedly dismissed recent European peacemaking endeavors, including the French initiative conference adopted by the European Union Council last week.
“The attempt to return to negotiations for negotiations’ sake, not only does not bring us near the long-awaited solution, but rather drags us further away from it,” Rivlin said. “The French initiative suffers from fundamental flaws.”
“If the international community really wishes and truly aspires to be a constructive player, it must divert its efforts away from the renewal of negotiations for negotiations’ sake, and toward building trust between the parties, and to creating the necessary terms for the success of negotiations in the future,” Rivlin added. “In the current circumstances, we must all ask ourselves ‘what can be done today’, rather than, ‘what cannot be done.’”
Rivlin argued that a true peace deal is not practical today and its pursuit is a doomed enterprise.
“Currently the practical conditions, the political and regional circumstances, which would enable us to reach a permanent agreement between us – the Israelis and the Palestinians – are failing to materialize,” Rivlin claimed, citing the split between the Palestinian Fatah party and the Hamas terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, as well as the “total lack of trust between the parties, at all levels, between the leaders and the nations.”
“One cannot hope to achieve better results while resorting to the same outlooks and tools which have failed time after time previously,” Rivlin said.
Rivlin also addressed European criticism of Israel, which he described as misguided and at times unfair.
“I feel that the massive criticism aimed at Israel in Europe stems from, inter alia, a misunderstanding and an impatience toward this existential need of the Jewish Nation and the State of Israel,” he said. “There are those who feel anger and frustration toward certain European actions, vis-à-vis what they perceive as sometimes unfair criticism, sometimes even contaminated by elements of condescension, and some would even say double standard.”
“If Europe is interested in serving as a constructive factor in striving for a future agreement, it will be incumbent upon you its leaders, to focus efforts at this time in a patient and methodic building of trust. Not through divestments, but through investment; not by boycotts, but by cooperation,” Rivlin added.
Despite his blistering critique of Europe’s attitude toward Israel and his stark assessment of the possibility of a long-term peace deal in the near future, Rivlin stressed that Israel seeks peace.
“I speak to you today in the name of a nation which abhors war and desires life and peace,” he said. “Being well versed in the Israeli Parliament, I do know that any political agreement brought before the Israeli Knesset by an elected government will be approved.”TPS / Tazpit News Agency
Israeli and Turkish delegations are set to meet on Sunday (June 26) to “declare they have reached a deal” to end the six-year-long conflict between the two nations.
The two teams, headed by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu and Israeli special envoy Joseph Ciechanover, have been carefully negotiating for months.
But after Sunday’s “declaration,” the agreement will allegedly be finalized, according to a report by the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, and then signed in July by Foreign Ministry undersecretaries of both nations.
Ambassadors will be reappointed in both countries and diplomatic relations will be normalized by the end of July, if all goes well, if the document is signed as expected, if there are no hitches and if everything else goes as planned. According to the report, if that takes place, the final obstacles will also be removed from joint military exercises, joint energy investments and joint defense investments.
If all goes according to plan.
All of Turkey’s demands have been met, in the wake of the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident that so angered Turkey’s then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he severed ties with Israel.
Years of talks — and in particular, these past months of negotiations — have led to creative solutions on both sides that allowed for dignity and saving of diplomatic face with Turkey’s demands still able to be met by Israel. It was a delicate task, given Turkey’s insistence on freedom for Gaza, and Israel’s need for security in the face of the Hamas dedication to Israel’s annihilation.
But that does not mean that the current President Erdogan cannot come up with new demands, or reinterpret those that were met — or suddenly reject Israel’s responses.
Should Israel suddenly take action in response to a national security issue that upsets or offends the Turkish president, it is quite possible he may dial back his nation’s agreement to re-establish ties.
Diplomats and officials on both sides are holding their breath.Hana Levi Julian
A Russian state news agency TASS story in the wake of the Friday Paris Conference for peace, quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov who advocated concrete territorial exchanges between Israel and the Arabs in Judea and Samaria, in order to preserve Israeli settlements. “The border should be established between Israelis and Palestinians,” Bogdanov said, adding, “This border may envisage territorial exchanges, appropriate and adequate, taking into account that such an approach allows to resolve the problem of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.”
The Deputy Foreign Minister stressed that Israeli settlements “may remain in some regions with the understanding that in exchange for territories with Israeli settlements, Palestinians will get an appropriate compensation in the form of parts of the territory. This is a so-called territorial exchange.”
It should be noted in this context that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in the past advocated handing over to the Palestinian State the Israeli cities of the Arab Triangle, such as Um El Fahm and Tira — a suggestion that caused an uproar and accusations of racism.
Following the Paris international conference on a peace deal between Israel and the Arabs, in which 29 nations as well as the UN and EU participated, but Israel did not, Bogdanov, the Russian president’s Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa, told TASS that the conference had been “useful. We still need to analyze the content of the Paris discussion; study the final document and then see what can be done, by using common approaches, to promote a sustainable negotiating process between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Bogdanov said. He recommended that both sides assess the conference’s results, and promised that “We are going to have contacts at a very high level with both sides.”
Signaling the Russians’ intense interest in remaining involved in the process, TASS on Friday ran five different stories involving Mikhail Bogdanov and the peace agreement. According to the diplomat, Moscow is prepared to host negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli representatives. “Of course, we will be prepared to do this, if there is the wish and readiness of the two parties — Israelis and Palestinians — to have a meeting… if they wish to meet in Moscow, we are prepared to host them.”
In another story, Bogdanov lamented the fact that the split among the Palestinians hampers progress in the Middle Eastern settlement. “This problem should be resolved as a priority task so that Palestinians present a single and united delegation at the talks on the final status,” Bogdanov advised.
He also promised that “Russia fully supports efforts to restore inter-Palestinian unity on the basis of the PLO and Arab Peace Initiative.” He suggested a “dialogue with representatives of the whole range of Palestinian forces, first of all Fatah and Hamas, in the interest of achieving appropriate agreements.”
It was not easy to asses whether the high-ranking diplomat was being naïve or cynical, but it appears that he is promoting peace between Hamas and the Jews it has sworn to annihilate. In fact, Bogdanov is serious about preventing the next clash between Israel and Hamas:
“The exchange of strikes between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza in early May of this year that became the biggest since the ceasefire agreement was reached in August 2014 is another confirmation of a well-known point, which is that the recurrence of confrontation is not ruled out without solving the enclave’s problems, lifting the blockade imposed on it and restoring its infrastructure destroyed by Israel, including in the summer of the year before last,” Bogdanov said.
He did not mention that those clashes in May erupted when IDF bulldozers were crossing a few yards into Gazan territory to demolish Hamas terror tunnels that lead into Israel. Hamas was unhappy to see its work being destroyed, and so their snipers shot at IDF soldiers to shoo them away.JNi.Media
The Palestinian Authority has rejected an Israeli proposal for direct talks in Paris.
“Time is short,” PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said, at his meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Ramallah on Monday.
“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is trying to buy time … but this time he will not escape the international community.”
Valls told Netanyahu, however, that he would welcome the idea of direct negotiations and would discuss the matter with French President Francois Hollande.Hana Levi Julian
The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced Friday that a deal is to be finalized “very soon” with Israel.
In fact, the deal may close the next time the two teams meet, according to a statement by Turkey’s foreign ministry, quoted by Turkish media.
“The teams made progress toward finalizing the agreement and closing the gaps, and agreed that the deal would be finalized in the next meeting which will be convened very soon,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Talks in London lasted well into the night Thursday between Israeli and Turkish delegations, ending just before midnight.
Israeli National Security Council Acting Chairman General Jacob Nagel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy Joseph Ciechanover both were present at the talks. Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu represented Turkey’s government, according to the Daily Sabah.
Sinirlioglu had previously met in Rome with Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold in June 2015.
The current round of negotiations started in December 2015, with both sides reaching a preliminary agreement to normalize relations, the Daily Sabah reported.
During that first meeting the two teams agreed on “the return of ambassadors to both countries, after Israel agreed to pay $20 million in compensation to the relatives of the victims of the Mavi Marmara raid.” Talks resumed in February of this year. During that meeting, “Turkish and Israeli officials discussed easing, rather than lifting Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which Ankara aims to begin rebuilding,” the newspaper reported.
During his visit to the United States a week ago, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Jewish American leaders. He underlined the need for “cooperation against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the West” during the gathering, Turkish media reported.
American Jewish leaders also expressed their appreciation to the Turkish president for his nation’s assistance after the Da’esh (ISIS) suicide bombing on Istanbul last month. Three Israelis died and 11 others were wounded in the attack, which also killed an Iranian national and wounded 28 other people.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin spoke with his Turkish counterpart almost immediately following the attack, thanking him for his country’s supportive stance and vowing to work together against terrorism.
Israel and Turkey were once close allies. Israel’s war with Gaza in 2006 stretched the diplomatic ties to the breaking point, but the bonds were torn in 2010 over the deaths of nine Turkish activists on an illegal flotilla that tried to breach Israel’s defensive maritime blockade of Gaza. The activists attacked Israeli naval commandos who boarded the vessel to redirect it to Ashdod port; during the clashes, nine of the Turks died and a number of Israelis were badly wounded.
Turkey demanded compensation to the families of the deceased, an apology for the incident and the removal of the blockade. Outraged, many Israelis opposed any movement toward such demands. But time and discussions between old friends can accomplish much.
The first two conditions have long since been met. The last is impossible given that it is a national security issue; it since has been discussed and a compromise appears to have been reached.
“Israel allows commercial goods into Gaza daily,” Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News noted in its coverage of the talks on Friday, “but limits the transfer of certain items such as cement and building materials as it fears militants could use them to build fortifications. Officials describe the blockade on Gaza, which is supported by neighboring Egypt, as a necessary means of preventing arms smuggling by Palestinian militants.”
The talks have come a long way indeed.
Oddly, business people in both countries never faltered even for a moment: if anything, trade between the two nations has increased over the past five years. Anyone looking for concrete evidence need only step into the new Machsanei Mazon supermarket that opened this past week in the northern Negev city of Arad.
Nearly 15 percent of the kosher-certified items in the store are from Turkey, including rarely-seen six-pack bottles of ginger ale and the “Dime” brand bottles of cherry-flavored juice drink that are found in every store in Turkey. You can’t find them with a hechsher (kosher supervision symbol) anywhere in the country.
You have to come to Israel to find Turkish products with (Turkish) kosher certification.Hana Levi Julian