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July 26, 2016 / 20 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘relations’

Shiloh Musings: Will Brexit and Theresa May make for Better Britain-Israel Relations?

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
Here in Israel, there are those who say that one of the reasons that some British voted for Brexit was the EU’s extreme anti-Israel policies including the fact that it sponsors all sorts of pro-Palestine activities and NGOs which work very blatantly not only against Israel but supporting the Arab terrorists. That is what the pro-Brexit crowd meant by saying that they were interested in economic ties but not in the politics.

The Jerusalem Post has a very optimistic article about Great Britain’s new incoming Prime Minister, Theresa May. Here’s for hoping that they are right about her, although if their optimism is only based on a speech she gave two years ago when visiting, I’m more a pessimist. As regular readers of this blog know very well, I do not take such speeches very seriously. They are no more true than film scripts.

Theresa May, a ‘long-standing friend of Israel’

The parliamentary chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel issued a statement saying that “Israel can rest assured that a UK led by Theresa May will be there in its moments of need.”
…May, according to former ambassador to London Daniel Taub, “has been a long-standing friend of Israel and the Jewish community.” He said that as home secretary, May was very supportive of “our efforts to deepen British- Israel ties in the area of homeland security, and also very receptive to the concerns of the Jewish community regarding anti-Semitism and violent extremism.” Her ministry was responsible for Britain’s MI5 intelligence service, and as such was both aware and appreciative of the close intelligence and security cooperation between the two countries.
…May’s only visit to Israel was in the summer 2014, when the bodies of the three kidnapped youth from Gush Etzion were discovered. In a speech in September of that year to the Conservative Friends of Israel, she discussed that trip, and that speech provides a glimpse of her outlook on Israel.
“The murder of those boys – and the loss of life among Israelis and Palestinians in the subsequent military operations in Gaza – is a sad reminder that the Arab/Israeli conflict is not just an abstract debate argued over the pages of Western newspapers and television screens,” she said.

Batya Medad

Israel and Turkey Agree to Restore Relations After 6-Year Rift

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Tower Magazine website}

Israel and Turkey have reached a reconciliation agreement aimed at normalizing ties after six years of strained relations.

“The Middle East is in turmoil. My policy is to create islands of stability with our close neighbors,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a Monday press conference in Rome, the Times of Israel reported. “This agreement is good for both sides.”

Relations between Israel and Turkey devolved after the IDF’s 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara. The ship, which was under the control of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation—a group designated as a terror organization by the Netherlands and Germany—was part of a flotilla attempting to break Israel’s legal naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. After the IDF boarded the Mavi Marmara, they were attacked by members of the crew. Ten crew members were killed in the ensuing fight, and several Israeli soldiers were injured. The other ships in the flotilla were diverted without incident.

As part of the agreement, Israel has agreed to pay $20 million in compensation to the bereaved and injured, and in return Turkey will pass legislation banning legal proceedings against the Israeli soldiers in its courts. Turkey also dropped a demand for Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza, and will only be permitted to send aid to the territory after it passes security checks at Israel’s Ashdod port. Ankara will also be allowed to build a hospital as well as a power and desalinization plant in Gaza.

In addressing these terms, Netanyahu stressed that the deal will secure the “continuation of the maritime security blockade off the Gaza Strip coast.”

“This is a supreme security interest for us. I was not prepared to compromise on it,” Netanyahu continued.

Turkey in return has committed to thwart the plotting and financing of Hamas terrorist acts against Israel from its soil. It will also not stand in the way of Israeli involvement in international forums to which it belongs, mostly notably NATO.

Jerusalem and Ankara will also restore full diplomatic relations, appointing ambassadors and lifting restrictions on military and intelligence cooperation. Netanyahu added that the deal will open Turkey to Israeli natural gas exports, and that the country could possibly serve as a gateway to European markets. “[The deal has] immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I use that word advisedly,” the prime minister told reporters.

While not a formal part of the deal, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also personally pledged in a letter to help return the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza war, which are thought to be held by Hamas, and free two Israelis reportedly being held by the terrorist group. One of the captives is an Ethiopian Jew — described as mentally-ill by his family — who wandered into Gaza accidentally in 2014; the second man, a resident of a Bedouin town in Israel’s Negev desert, also apparently crossed into Gaza of his own volition. He has been described as mentally disabled.

The agreement is expected to be approved by Israel’s security cabinet on Wednesday.

Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Netanyahu on the agreement when the two met in Rome on Monday, calling it a “positive step.”

“Israel comes out on top here,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at Brooklyn College who focuses on Turkish and Israeli affairs, told Reuters. “From the start it believed that a deal could be worked out where Turkish aid was able to enter the Gaza Strip under Israeli supervision. It seems this is what was struck.”

“Restoring relations with Ankara is a linchpin in Israel’s strategy to unlock its natural gas wealth,” Reuters added, noting that Israeli energy stocks and shares in Turkey’s Zorlu Energy rose in reaction to the agreement.

A senior Turkish official has also called the deal a “diplomatic victory.”

The deal with Turkey is the latest indication of Israel’s ongoing efforts to establish and strengthen relations with other regional and global powers.

Tower Magazine

Moscow Confirms Official Netanyahu Visit Set for June 7

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to fly to Moscow next month on an official state visit to mark the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties with Russia.

“The visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled for June 7,” a spokesperson told RIA Novosti. The date was confirmed Friday (May 13) by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, according to Sputnik News.

Netanyahu traveled to Moscow for a short briefing with Russian leaders on the day before the start of the Passover holiday (April 21).

The prime minister was accompanied by top military and defense leaders who met with their Russian counterparts during the visit.

Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Russian-Israeli cooperation in Syria and in a number of other areas. The two leaders also discussed the Israel-Palestinian Authority conflict as well as other regional issues.

Hana Levi Julian

Russia Sees No Chance of Repairing Relations with Erdoğan

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Relations between Russia and Turkey cannot be restored, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news conference on Tuesday. “As far as Turkish officials are concerned, there are no prospects [for current diplomatic ties],” she said. “Those people did what they did. As we now perfectly understand, it was their conscious choice. As for relations between countries and peoples, they will be developing.”

Close to two months after Russian planes began flying combat missions to support Syrian president Assad’s ground forces against rebel and ISIS forces, on Nov. 24, the Turkish Air Force downed a Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber. The diplomatic fallout from that shoot-down was fast and stormy, and it has remained on that level, although there have been no more actual military confrontations. Since the incident, Russian trade relations with Turkey have all but ended, and both countries have been painting each other as supporters of terrorism.

In early February, Turkish president Recep Erdogan sought an audience with President Vladimir Putin, but he is yet to receive an invitation. Instead of agreeing to talk, Putin accused Turkey of stabbing Russia in the back.

“The house of cards of what [the Turkish authorities] decided to build in international relations has started falling apart,” Zakharova told the press. “As for relations between peoples and countries, they will certainly continue to develop. There can be no antagonism campaigns against the Turkish people, business and representatives of economic medium,” she added, suggesting it was all strictly about Erdogan.

David Israel

Israel Slams Claim of Spying on U.S.

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed a report by U.S.-based Newsweek magazine claiming Israel has been “spying” on America.

The foreign minister told listeners on Israel’s Voice of Israel government radio Wednesday morning, “First of all, these are malicious accusations. . . I would not agree to any spying on the United States, not in any form, directly or indirectly.”

Israeli Embassy spokesperson Aaron Sagui also flatly denied the charges, telling Newsweek, “Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period. We condemn the fact that such outrageous, false allegations are being directed against Israel.”

The report, published Tuesday by Newsweek, quoted anonymous senior intelligence officials in the United States, and Congressional staffers.

Written by journalist Jeff Stein, the report began with the question, “Whatever happened to honor among thieves? When the National Security Agency was caught eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, it was considered a rude way to treat a friend. Now U.S. intelligence officials are saying – albeit very quietly, behind closed doors on Capitol Hill – that our Israeli “friends” have gone too far with their spying operations here.”

Stein wrote the espionage had allegedly been revealed in recent visa waiver briefings, saying the spying came under cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts. The alleged primary target: “America’s industrial and technical secrets,” according to his report.

Last month a senior House aide also noted the U.S. intelligence community is concerned that adding Israel to the visa waiver program would make it easier for Israeli spies to enter the country, the CQ Roll Call news site reported.

Counter intelligence agents, wrote Stein, had called Israel’s “espionage activities in America… unrivaled and unseemly,” and said they went “far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan.” Unnamed Congressional staffers referred to testimony at the briefings as “very sobering … alarming … even terrifying … damaging.”

Of course, wrote Stein, the United States spies on Israel as well. He quoted a former top CIA operative who told him that Israel was “the last place you wanted to go on vacation” because of ‘heavy-handed Israeli surveillance.’

Israel’s foreign minister, however, said Wednesday morning that he heard no complaints about “spying” during a meeting with members of Congress on a visit to the United States last month. Mr. Liberman told listeners he believes the charges are the work of saboteurs trying to scotch relations between the two countries.

The U.S. visa waiver program enables travelers to the United States to enter the country without first having to obtain a visa. According to a statement by the Department of Homeland Security quoted by Newsweek, requirements for entry to the program include “enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States, timely reporting of lost and stolen passports, and the maintenance of high counter-terrorism, law enforcement, border control, aviation and document security standards.”

Israelis face a high rate of visa refusal by the U.S. due to the problem of young people entering the country and then staying past the expiration date of tourist visas in order to work illegally.

Another obstacle to Israel’s acceptance to the program is the U.S. government’s perception of alleged discrimination against Arab Americans in Israeli security protocols.

Hana Levi Julian

Elie Wiesel and Kagame of Rwanda Discuss Genocide & Syria

Monday, September 30th, 2013

There were several important news making items that emerged from our historic discussion on genocide that our organization, This World: The Jewish Values Network, together with NYU Hillel, staged on Sunday night, 29 September, at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in New York City – the venue that brought Abraham Lincoln to national prominence in 1860 – before 1000 people. The event – introduced by philanthropists Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt and which I moderated – was historic because it brought together the two biggest names in global genocide remembrance: Prof. Elie Wiesel, the living embodiment of the martyred six million of the holocaust, and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the only man alive who can claim to have stopped a genocide when his RPF forces conquered Rwanda in 1994 and ended the slaughter that had taken the lives of nearly one million Tutsis.

As to the discussion of whether President Franklin Roosevelt did enough to stop the murder of Europe’s Jews, Elie Wiesel came down firmly on the side of those who say he failed at this great moral responsibility. He deserves credit for defeating Hitler, Wiesel said, but as a someone who confronted a genocide and did not limit it, he deserves to be severely criticized.

I then turned the question to Kagame, adjusted to the Rwandan genocide. Did he harbor anger toward the United States, a moral and righteous superpower who blew it completely in Rwanda, doing next to nothing to stop the genocide and, arguably, even obstructing the efforts of other nations to assist. No, the President said. We’re way past that. It’s not about anger but our conclusion that we alone can protect ourselves and can never rely on a fickle world for our defense. Rwandans can rely on Rwandans for their defense.

I pointed out to the president that Israel came to the same conclusion about its defense in general, and is now pondering whether it will apply that principle by striking Iran alone, now that President Obama has decided to engage the Iranian president even as he continues to enrich Uranium and fund Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists.

I asked Elie Wiesel about Syria. Given the Bible’s commandment ‘not to stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,’ did the United States have a moral obligation to punish Assad for gassing children, even if he surrenders his chemical arsenal? Wiesel was unequivocal. Both the American political, and Jewish communal leadership had failed on Syria. Chemical gas was a trigger point for genocide and mass murder. The fact that Assad had paid no price for gassing children was a tremendous moral failure that had to be corrected, and the Jewish community should have been at the forefront of saying so.

President Kagame echoed that sentiment. Those who use either chemical, or even conventional weapons to slaughter innocent people must be held accountable or nothing will check further aggression and murder. Here were the world’s two leading voices on genocide were being jointly critical of the American government’s decision to commute the military attack on Assad to simply destroying his arsenal. Even if he did so he still had to pay a personal price for mass murder.

My close friend Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo had already announced, at a press conference we convened in October of last year, that Rwanda would be opening an embassy in Israel. I turned to the President and said to him that countries like Rwanda can understand Israel’s security situation in ways that few others could. The similarities between the two countries is striking. They are of similar size. They have terrorist enemies on their borders. Israel has Iran-funded Hezbollah and Hamas and Rwanda the FDLR in Eastern Congo. Both are regularly criticized unfairly by the UN. Both have had frictions with France which has at times assumed a curiously negative posture toward both countries. And, of course, both have experienced genocides of staggering proportions.

In light of the unique relationship between the two countries, I asked the President would it not be proper for Rwanda to open its embassy not in Tel Aviv but in Jerusalem, becoming one of the first nations to affirm the holy city as Israel’s eternal and undivided capitol? The President was surprised by the question but answered graciously. Rwanda and Israel indeed share similar histories and security challenges. He was very happy that they were increasing their bilateral relations with Rwanda opening an embassy in Israel. It was an important step in an evolving relationship and opening an Embassy in Jerusalem would be too great a leap for now. He and I both smiled at his response, with the President knowing I had put him on the spot and with me knowing that he had artfully dodged my question.

I turned to Professor Wiesel and told him that the full page ads he took out in America’s major publications in March, 2010, mildly rebuking President Obama, with whom he is close, for his pressure on Israel to cease building in parts of Jerusalem were widely credited with reversing the Administration’s policy. Would he be consider taking out similar ads questioning the President’s decision to open diplomatic relations at the highest level of the Iranian leadership without first demanding that Iran cease funding Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, or enriching Uranium? Wiesel said that Iran’s holocaust denial was dangerous and delusional, and that opening diplomatic relations with the Iranians before they had formally renounced their genocidal aspirations against the Jewish state was unacceptable. He would consider the ads.

At last, I asked Professor Wiesel about a subject he and I had discussed many times. Why was it inappropriate to hate those who have committed genocide? Should we not despise the SS who murdered his family, or Hutu genocidaires who hacked children to death with machetes? Wiesel was adamant. Once you start hating, the emotion is internalized and you cannot control its spread and growth. It’s not long before it is directed even at those whom it is inappropriate to hate.

I have been close to Wiesel for 25 years. He is my hero and teacher. But on this one point, I remain unsure, and continue to despise those monsters who would murder a child because of his nationality, religion, or race. Never again must mean just that, Never again.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Chinese-Israeli Cultural Relations Blossoming

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

According to China’s Ambassador to Israel, Gao Yanping, “Culture goes beyond borders. Cultural exchanges constitute an important and dynamic part of China-Israel relations. Now the momentum is set. I am convinced that with our joint efforts the China-Israel cultural cooperation is bound to blossom.” To this end, the efforts of Israeli Barry Swersky are helping Chinese-Israeli cultural ties bud into fruition. In partnership with the Chinese Embassy and the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in China, Swersky is arranging an exhibition in Israel exploring the future of Chinese art through the eyes of young artists. Swersky is also fostering a collaborative relationship between CAFA and Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.

Swersky explains, “I have felt that Israeli cultural organizations, whether artists or orchestras, are seeking more ways to go to China. They went to China and started to look for contacts. They have been successful.” He added, “As the cultural organizations become more interested in China, they have found their way into China. People are discovering each other, so there is a greater flow. There are museums in China presenting Israeli artists.”

Since 2008 Swersky has been promoting Chinese-Israeli cultural exchange. Among Swersky’s many projects is a TAO Beijing Dance Company performance with noted Israeli oud player Yair Dalal, joint master classes for gifted young Chinese and Israeli pianists, and construction of sculptures in Haifa and Haifa’s twin city, Shanghai, in a project proposed by Israeli artist Peter Jacob Maltz.

Swersky is not the only Israeli to be active in Israeli-Chinese cultural relations, as Israeli singer David D’Or has developed a solid audience in China and Israel Sinfonietta Be’ersheva has performed there twice. According to Swersky, “Already in May 1993, Israel and China signed a cultural agreement. In 2011, the governments agreed on a program for the years 2011 to 2015, a program which in general terms covers subjects such as culture and art, cultural events, museums and exhibitions, cinema and television, publication and literature.”

“Governments place great emphasis on ‘soft power,’” Swersky explained. “The identification with some elements of culture always helps Israel have a strong image in dance and music. It’s part of a country’s image.”

Eitan Press contributed to this report.

Visit United with Israel.

Rachel Avraham

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/united-with-israel/chinese-israeli-cultural-relations-blossoming/2013/08/15/

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