Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will chair a ministerial team tasked with finding new ways to beef up the supply of personnel in the high-tech sector.
The team is to include Finance and Economy Minister Moshe Kahlon, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, and Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis.
According to a release from the Prime Minister’s Office, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky will also be a member.
Two goals are on the list: developing training for workers, engineers and technicians in Israel, and providing incentives for new immigrants to work in the high-tech sector.
“High-tech is a very important engine for growth and progress in the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
“There are highly qualified people in Jewish communities around the world, and we must do everything necessary to bring them to Israel.”
One of the disturbing points few in the media discussed back in 2005, when the Israeli government was strong-arming its 8,000 or so citizens off their lands in the Gaza Strip, was the fact that no one was entertaining the possibility of letting the Jews of Gaza become citizens of the Palestinian Authority. In fact, one of the things government agents took care of early on in the process was to disarm the residents of Jewish Gush Katif, so that they, too, wouldn’t dream of staying and defending themselves on their own.
Now one of the Israeli politicians who voted 4 out of 5 times for the program to exile the Jews of Gaza, including the dead and buried, then Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), has begun to ask that very question, this time regarding the Jews of Judea and Samaria: how come no one is talking about transferring the Jewish communities, along with their people, over to Palestinian Authority rule, as a legitimate Jewish minority with equal rights? Why is everyone insisting the area must remain free from Jews?
In a video he posted this weekend, Prime Minister Netanyahu is asking why everyone around the world is convinced Jewish settlements are such a threat to peace. Because while no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel are an obstacle to peace, having close to half a million Jews living in Judea and Samaria makes peace impossible.
“It’s called ethnic cleansing,” Netanyahu says on the video, noting that while Israel’s diversity “shows its openness and readiness for peace, the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews.”
On Friday, State Dept. Press Office Director Elizabeth Trudeau used her daily press briefing to rebut Netanyahu’s accusation, although a careful reading of her attack on the PM reveals she didn’t really answer his main argument.
The reporter who cited the Netanyahu video did a good job of digging up the key points, saying the PM is “talking about settlements and talking about the Palestinians wanting to have a state that has no Jews in it at all and saying that this is ethnic cleansing. And he also says that that demand is outrageous, that it’s even more outrageous that the world doesn’t find it outrageous. And then he says some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage.”
Trudeau responded: “We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful.”
She explained that “settlements are a final status issue that must be resolved in negotiations between the parties,” and the next line out of her mouth was: “We share the view of every past US administration and the strong consensus of the international community that ongoing settlement activity is an obstacle to peace.”
So, to reiterate, 1. Shame on you, Mr. Netanyahu for using bad words; 2. We will deal with the status of those Jews in Judea and Samaria when everything else has been resolved; 3. Jews living in Judea and Samaria are a menace to peace.
Why? What if the PA and the Israelis decide that they want Jews living in a free Palestinian State, carrying Palestinian passports and enjoying equal rights? How then would today’s settlements have been a threat to peace?
Trudeau continued with the familiar, regurgitated statements about the thousands of new settlement units being built (we wish) and the vicious demolitions of illegal Arab structures in accordance with Israeli law, which the US should respect but doesn’t. She then announced that the US is “engaging in direct conversations with the Israeli Government on this. … We’ll have our conversation with our Israeli allies and friends and we’ll see where that goes.”
Not everyone in Israel is happy with the Netanyahu video. MK Ayman Odeh, Chairman of the Joint Arab List, accused the PM of revising history. And MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp) said that with one video Netanyahu managed to wipe out her accomplishments in the Sharon government, guaranteeing that the clusters of settlements would remain part of Israel as part of a two-state solution.
Israeli rightwingers will probably start drilling the PM on Sunday, after they emerge from their Shabbat rest. They won’t be happy with the fact that the PM has so openly entertained the possibility of a Palestinian State as a given fact. But the points Netanyahu made were sound and they could go a long way in stirring the presidential campaign’s foreign policy debate.
After the signatures of more than 50 MKs havebeen submitted to the Knesset Secretariat, Speaker Yuli Edelstein decided to convene the plenum on September 19, while the Knesset is still in recess, to discuss motions for the agenda on the following topics:
1. The degradation of Shabbat and the harm caused to soldiers and civilians due to the train crisis
2. The political conduct of the government and the person at its helm caused severe harm to tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians
3. The hysterical conduct, lack of planning and waste of millions due to personal political considerations
The debate will be held in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a.k.a. “the person at the helm.”
The Knesset Rules of Procedure determine that, in accordance with the Basic Law regarding the Knesset, when at least 25 MKs demand to convene the Knesset plenum during a recess, the Knesset Speaker will schedule a special debate.
The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday pointed out the importance of Russia’s role in organizing the Palestinian-Israeli negotiating process, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement following the meeting of President Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, with high-ranking PA and PLO officials.
“During a confidential exchange of opinions on the entire set of Palestinian problems, special attention was paid to the development of the situation in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip in light of Palestinian municipal elections set for early October,” the ministry’s statement said.
“The task to restore as soon as possible Palestinian national unity based on the PLO political platform aimed at the establishment of a Palestinian independent state coexisting in peace and security with Israel was also considered,” the statement continued. “The Palestinian leadership representatives underscored Russia’s prominence in organizing a reliable Palestinian-Israeli negotiating process, including the possible organizing of a meeting in Moscow between the leaders of Palestine and Israel,” the statement said.
After the Ramallah meeting, Bogdanov spoke on the phone with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is visiting Poland. “Abbas confirmed his unchanged readiness for continuation of active Russian-Palestinian political contacts in the interests of a solid and just peace in the Middle East,” the Russian statement said.
However, according to Abbas, who spoke to reporters following a Tuesday meeting with Polish leader Andrzej Duda, the Israelis have suggested postponing the initial talks in Moscow which had been scheduled, he claimed, for September 9.
“President Putin offered to meet in Moscow on September 9,” Abbas said. “I agreed. I was to fly to Moscow from here (Warsaw) to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Unfortunately, in talks held in Jerusalem yesterday between representatives of President Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Israeli representative proposed to postpone this meeting.”
“So, the meeting will not take place,” Abbas complained, telling reporters, “I am prepared to travel to Moscow or any other country for the next meeting, since dialogue is the only way to peace for the Palestinian people and the only opportunity for our independent country to live side by side with Israel.”
Speaking at a joint press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I am prepared to meet with Abbas at any time for direct talks without preconditions. I have said this hundreds of times and I am reiterating it now. I do not care about the place, be it in Holland, Moscow or anywhere else – this is not a problem, and it certainly could be in Moscow. I have said this to President Putin. I said this on Sunday to his envoy Bogdanov.”
“The main question is, of course,” Netanyahu said, “whether Abbas is prepared to meet without preconditions. We hear contradictory reports about this. Just yesterday, Palestinian spokespersons made it clear that they are ready to meet but they have conditions – releasing prisoners, they want to know if the talks will have results, etc. If Abbas is ready to meet for direct talks without preconditions, I am ready at any time. I have been calling on him to do this for almost seven years already and if he agrees to do this – there will be a meeting.”
For the record, though, Putin’s spokesperson said that while Moscow supports the Israeli-PA peace process, so far there have been no specific agreements between the two leaders on meeting in Moscow.
Former MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem told the website Srugim Sunday that Jewish Law provides a simple and practical solution to the problem of performing crucial infrastructure labor on Israel’s railroads on Shabbat, a problem which was threatening the stability of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition government: use gentile employees.
“The simplest solution would be to follow what Jewish Halakha says and facilitates,” Rabbi Amsalem advised. “In a country where 20% of the citizens are not Jewish, when there is a compelling need, we can utilize ‘goy shel Shabbat,’ (‘Shabbes goy’) for all the labor that involves the desecration of Shabbat. We’ve done this for hundreds of years, everybody is familiar with the concept — the gentiles would receive an increased pay and Jews wouldn’t be required to work on and desecrate the Shabbat,” Rabbi Amsalem said, noting that “everybody is for a modern and democratic Jewish State, so this should be a fitting solution.”
Rabbi Haim (Emile) Amsalem, 57, a native of French Algeria who immigrated to Israel in 1970, was among the founders of Shas and served as its MK, until, following a breakup with his colleagues, he launched his own party, Am Shalem (a play on his name, meaning “whole nation”) that failed to make it into the Knesset in the 2013 elections. He is considered a moderate Haredi who believes in a dialogue with secular Israelis.
“In general, it can be stated that the state institutions for the most part observe Shabbat, which is something anyone arriving in Israel from abroad notices. It may not be exactly as we want it to be, but we can’t focus only on the negative,” Amsalem told Srugim.
Pointing out that the law already provides for government to be able to issue permits for Shabbat work that relates to security, crucial economic concerns or any other matter affecting the public’s welfare, including hospitals, the power and the water utilities, Amsalem suggested that the clash over the railroad works over the past two Shabbat days was mostly about politics.
“In the end, those who cry out for the alleged honor of Shabbat ends up causing a much bigger, mass desecration. We strive to reach as broad an agreement as possible on the value of Shabbat, of its image and its respect by the public. Our role as rabbis is to take care of Shabbat observance, but when it is necessary we must find halakhic solutions that would facilitate a normative existence for society at large, and won’t cause hatred for Shabbat on the part of the public,” Amsalem said.
“In a Jewish State it is permissible to employ those for whom those vital works on Shabbat are permissible,” Amsalem concluded. “This way the needs of the modern state would be fulfilled while the demand of our Torah regarding Shabbat observance in public would be obeyed.”
The father of IDF Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, Herzl Shaul, was laid to rest on Sunday in the cemetery of the northern Israeli community of Poria Illit, overlooking Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee.)
Attending the funeral were top Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and others.
Both Netanyahu and Eisenkot vowed to work to bring back Oron Shaul’s remains for proper burial in Israel. “My commitment [and] those of the government of Israel, of the IDF, of the State of Israel — our commitment is to bring Oron home,” Netanyahu said.
“Oron’s body, along with that of Hadar Goldin, is held by Hamas, a vicious terrorist organization that respects no humanitarian norm. Herzl Shaul was a brave man and until his last days he fought to return his son’s remains for a Jewish burial,” Netanyahu had told the cabinet meeting earlier in the day.
“At the same time, over the past year, he was compelled to fight the cancer with which he had been stricken. I saw him several times and on each occasion, from meeting to meeting, he appeared more gaunt, and heroically met the double tragedy that befell him and his family. On behalf of the Government and the people of Israel, I would like to send condolences to his dear wife Zehava and their sons Aviram and Ofek.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also said the government is “committed to returning the bodies of Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul and Lieutenant Hadar Goldin of blessed memory, and bringing them to Israel for burial.”
Oron and a second soldier, Hadar Goldin, both died in battle during Operation Protective Edge, but their bodies were stolen and held as bargaining chips by the Hamas terrorist organization. The prime minister said he guaranteed the IDF would continue to support the Shaul family and “fulfill the will of Herzl.”
“We will continue to act in all fields to bring the late Hadar Goldin and the late Oron Shaul back for a Jewish burial,” Netanyahu said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday morning opened his weekly Cabinet meeting with a statement regarding the brewing Israel Railways-related coalition crisis. “Since Friday, we have been dealing with reducing the congestion that was created last night and today due to the Israel Railways’ work projects. I want to thank you, Mr. Defense Minister, I spoke with you and you responded immediately. I instructed the defense establishment to assist in transportation for soldiers. The Transportation Ministry is operating a reinforced network of buses in order to ease things for passengers.”
Netanyahu then rebuked his rebellious cabinet member, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), without mentioning him by name, saying, “This crisis is completely unnecessary. There was no need to reach this situation. There has been a status quo in the State of Israel for many years; we honor it. When work needs to be done on Shabbat – it is done, as it was last Shabbat on the Ayalon highway. When it does not need to be done on Shabbat – it is not done. This has been our guiding principle; this is the principle that will continue to guide us.”
Taking for himself the credit that mostly belongs to the gregarious Transport Minister, Netanyahu said, “Over the past seven years the Government has invested almost $9 billion in a massive expansion of highways, railways, and – of course – interchanges and tunnels. We succeeded in doing this without unnecessary crises. When nobody wants a crisis, it is possible to avoid it. On this matter I expect full cooperation by all ministers. Ministers are appointed in order to avoid crises and solve problems, not create them.”