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July 24, 2016 / 18 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘State Department’

State Dept. Says Liberman Appointment ‘Raises Legitimate Questions’ About Direction of Israeli Govt

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

The U.S. is not happy about the appointment of Israel’s new defense minister, Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman, to the coalition government. This became patently obvious at Wednesday State Department briefing (May 25, 2016) in Washington DC after a long round of questions on other topics — most of them about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s misdeeds during her tenure as Secretary of State — when the session was nearly over. There were just a few minutes left, said State Department spokesperson Mark Toner, who seemed almost to be waiting for someone — anyone — to ask the question.

And then finally, the very last one, squeezed in at the final second, a reporter managed to deliver the perfect pitch over home plate. Following is the question — clearly a softball — tossed to the harried spokesperson, who practically leaped to answer it, and his response.

Q: I know it’s like the fifth day in a row, but at least it’s now formally been announced that Avigdor Lieberman is to be Israel’s defense minister. Do you have any comment on the new Israeli government and his appointment to that job in particular?

Mr. Toner: I do. We have seen reports an agreement’s been reached to expand the coalition.

“We’ve also seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history. And we also know that many of its ministers have said they opposed a two-state solution.

“This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be headed in – headed in, rather – and what kind of policies it may adopt, but ultimately we’re going to judge this government based on its actions.

“We’re going to work with this government as we have with every Israeli government that preceded it, with the goal of strengthening our cooperation, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to the security of Israel, and in our commitment to working towards a two-state solution.”

Hana Levi Julian

Bill Introduced to Undo US Ban on Label ‘Made in Israel’ if Beyond Green Line

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) introduced legislation on Monday, Feb. 1, that would undo a regulation recently re-issued by the Obama administration that would ban the right to label any goods produced beyond the 1940 Armistice Line (the “Green Line”) as made in Israel.

The JewishPress.com reported last week that U.S. Custom and Border Protection re-issued a 1997 regulation – written at a very different time, under very different circumstances – which the State Department insisted it will now “strictly enforce.”

The original regulation was issued in 1997.

Prior to that time, the only acceptable designation for anything produced in the area west of Jordan, west of Syria, south of Lebanon and to the east and north east of Egypt was Israel, according to U.S. Customs. But after the Oslo Accords were signed, the State Department directed the Treasury Department to ban the label “made in Israel” for anything made in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”).

But in the intervening nearly 20 years, the Oslo Accords have failed, acting Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas announced to the United Nations that his people are no longer bound by the Accords, there is no viable Palestinian Arab leadership and there is no unity between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Arab governing party in Gaza.

Even under the Oslo Accords, Israel was given complete control over Area C, while the Arabs were given some or all control over Areas A and B, so insisting that no products made anywhere in the “West Bank” – including Area C – can be labeled Israel is not even consistent with the Oslo Accords.

COTTON REJECTS CLAIM THE REISSUANCE OF THE BAN WAS NOT POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

On Monday Cotton made clear his distaste for the recently re-issued administration’s directive which he said “plays right into the hands of those who are driving insidious efforts to boycott Israeli goods. While some say the directive merely ‎restates an old labeling rule originally drafted 20 years ago with no intention to stigmatize Israel, the truth is the rule was lightly if ever enforced and serves little purpose today.

“Its vigorous enforcement now — coming after a concerted lobbying campaign on the part of groups looking to weaken Israel — will have the undeniable effect of isolating our closest friend in the Middle East and giving other nations an excuse to unfairly treat Israel in trade relations.”

The Arkansas senator rejected the administration’s claim that the labeling effort was simply a bureaucratic matter that was not politically motivated. He called the move the administration’s latest effort to put daylight between the United States and Israel.”

Cotton denounced the current global effort, in some quarters, to delegitimize Israel, calling those behind it, “too weak politically and too wrong morally to succeed in quick and dramatic fashion. They instead seek to achieve their aims gradually with incremental steps like labeling rules. It’s incumbent on all those who stand with Israel therefore to remain ever vigilant.”

That is why, Cotton said on Monday, he introduced the legislation to rescind the administration’s directive requiring the special labeling of Israeli goods produced in Judea and Samaria (“West Bank”) and Gaza Strip.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Israel Condemned for Preparing to Designate State Land in Jordan Valley

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Israel is preparing to designate 370 acres (approx. 1,000 dunams) of agricultural land in the Jordan Valley as state land – and the the expected reactions of outrage are already starting from the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations. Even “concern” from the United States, before the ink is dry.

The land is located in Area C – legally under the control of Israel under the internationally-recognized Oslo Accords – and a bit north of the Jewish community of Almog.

Israel farmers have been working the land for several years. It is agricultural land. And yet, the world is screaming about Israel extending its “settlements.”

Why? Because the parcel is within driving distance of the city of Jericho, which is currently under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority, in Area A — which makes it fair game for the PA’s expansionist policies and fantasies, fed by the European Union and egged on by some Arab nations as well.

Legally, however, under current Israeli law land which lies fallow for several years automatically reverts back to government property; the law dates back to 1858, under the Ottoman Empire.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led the international chorus of condemnation Thursday with a statement on his website.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about reports of the Israeli Government authorizing the declaration of 370 acres in the West Bank, south of Jericho, as so-called ‘state land. Settlement activities are a violation of international law and run counter to the public pronouncements of the Government of Israel supporting a two-state solution to the conflict,” the statement said.

Likewise, U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement Tuesday, “We strongly oppose any steps that could accelerate settlement expansion and we believe they’re fundamentally incompatible with a two-state solution and call into question frankly the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution.”

That wasn’t enough, however.

Palestinian Authority journalist Said Erikat of the Al Quds newspaper has become a professional at lobbying for the cause in the guise of asking questions as a reporter.

Following is a transcript of his exchange with Toner over the U.S. view of Israel’s designation of state land in the Jordan Valley.

TONER: Please, Said [Erikat of Al Quds). ERIKAT: Can we go on to Palestinian-Israeli issue?

TONER: Yep, sure. I think so, yeah.

ERIKAT: I know John responded at length to the comments made by Ambassador Shapiro yesterday, and he also commented on the report by – a human rights report – but – and your position on the settlement. But the Israelis today announced the expansion of settlements, about 1,000 dunams or 300 acres and so on. And my question to you – not pertaining to your stance on your settlements, which is quite clear – but it seems that the Israelis, every time there is a report or there is any – or there’s criticism by you, by the Europeans, they go ahead and they just, like, poke you in the eye and just take more land and expand the settlement. Is that a pattern that you see?

TONER: I don’t know if it’s a pattern, Said. I mean, we’re obviously aware of the reports —

ERIKAT: You can almost —

TONER: No, I know, we’re —

ERIKAT: You look at it and you can see it every time.

TONER: We’re – yeah, you’re referring to the decision, the defense ministry’s decision for – to declare some 400 acres in the Jordan Valley as — ERIKAT: Right.

TONER: — yeah, as state land, and that obviously appears to be, as we’ve seen before, a step towards building settlements in that area. I don’t know if it’s a pattern. I feel as though I sound like a broken record, but we strongly oppose any steps that could accelerate settlement expansion, and we believe they’re fundamentally incompatible with a two-state solution and call into question, frankly, the Israeli Government’s commitment to a two-state solution.

Hana Levi Julian

Saudi Arabia Cuts Ties with Iran, Gives 48 Hours for Iranian Diplomats to Leave Kingdom

Monday, January 4th, 2016

The two mighty Middle Eastern Muslim powers are now officially and publicly at each other’s throats, and their minor minions are lining up alongside the major powers, as the sunni Muslim Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran on Sunday, Jan. 3.

The final straw, at least for the Saudis, was the storming of the KSA’s Embassy in Tehran and its Consulate in Mashhad by Iranian protesters on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Those protests, in turn, were at least ostensibly motivated by the execution of a popular Shiite Muslim Cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, by Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

The cleric had led protests against unequal treatment of Shias in an eastern part of the KSA, where the majority of Saudi Shiites are concentrated.

The Kingdom recalled its diplomats on Sunday, all of whom arrived in Dubai later that day, according to the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir. The Saudi Foreign Minister gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave Saudi Arabia.

Protesters began rioting outside the Saudi Embassy on Saturday, then hurled Molotov cocktails, and eventually stormed the building, smashing furniture and setting fires. The protesters burned pictures of the Saudi king. A slightly less violent riot broke out the following day at the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad, in the Khorasan province of Iran.

The governments of both countries verbally attacked the other for supporting terrorism and being oppressive regimes. Each government has executed hundreds of prisoners over the past several years.

The Egyptian, Jordanian and Kuwaiti governments condemned the breaches of the Saudi diplomatic compounds, and the United Arab Emirates summoned the Iranian Ambassador to protest Iran’s “interference in Saudi internal matters,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

And Iranian supporters such as Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, criticized Saudi Arabia for executing Nimr, which he said “shows the real oppressive, terrorist and criminal face of the Saudi regime.”

Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, described Nimr’s execution as an “unjust aggression,” and the former prime minister of Iraq Nuri al-Maliki, said that Nimr’s will be the downfall of the Gulf kingdom’s government.

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei called Nimr a “martyr” who acted peacefully.

The United Nation’s top human rights official, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, also criticized Saudi Arabia for the 47 executions which took place on Saturday, including Nimr’s.

There have been more than 750 executions in Iran since the so-called moderate Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013.

Nimr had been sentenced to death by a Saudi court in October of last year. He was arrested in 2012 for his role in anti-government protests, including at the start of the Arab Spring protests. His trial began in the spring of 2014.

In response to the executions in Saudi Arabia and the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Iran, the U.S. called for restraint.

The State Department Spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. government “reaffirm our calls on the Government of Saudi Arabia to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all cases.” He expressed concern that the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric would “exacerbate sectarian tensions” at a time when they “urgently need to be reduced.”

The statement ended with a predictable exhortation to all “leaders throughout the region to redouble efforts aimed at de-escalating regional tensions.” No doubt that will do the trick.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

US Secy John Kerry Returns to Israel

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to return Sunday to the Middle East for a three-day visit, the State Department announced.

“While in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah, Secretary Kerry will discuss bilateral and regional security issues, including Syria and Da’esh, and continue discussions on stopping the violence in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank, and improving conditions on the ground,” said a statement issued in Washington DC.

The Secretary will also travel to the United Arab Emirates capital city, Abu Dhabi, for similar talks.

According to the State Department, Kerry will meet with senior UAE government officials to discuss “a range of bilateral and regional political and security issues, with a focus on Syria.”

Hana Levi Julian

Protests Lead to Removal of Hamas Incitement from Social Media

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Protests from various American Jewish organizations have led to the removal of Hamas incitement from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper urged the public to report hate sites on social media platforms which are fueling the current spate of attacks in Israel.

The rabbis also denounced:

Unfair and one-sided portrayal of Israeli terror victims in the media; the U.S. State Department’s outrageous depiction of the current situation as a ‘cycle of violence;’

The use of social media platforms to celebrate murderous attacks against innocent people and instructional terrorism tutorial videos; and

The BDS’ movement’s endorsement of the barbaric acts of terrorism and renewed calls to boycott Israel.

Jewish Press News Briefs

State Dept Spox: No Worries, Parchin has No Nuclear Dimensions

Friday, August 28th, 2015

A report by the entity responsible for ensuring the peaceful development of nuclear energy worldwide and the one upon which the world depends for monitoring Iran’s nuclear activity revealed that over the past few months Iran has been working on and adding to a building at its Parchin site.

Parchin is an Iranian military complex located southeast of Tehran. It is the focus of speculation regarding possible testing of weaponization of nuclear material by the Iranians.

A November, 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency report revealed satellite imagery of certain structures and chambers or vessels which indicate that Iran conducted various activities consistent with nuclear blast assessments.

But the U.S. State Department, according to its spokesperson during a public briefing on Thursday, Aug. 27, has already conclusively determined – or at least concluded – that no such activity has taken or is taking place. Not to worry.

The confidential IAEA report issued on Thursday, Aug. 27, obtained by Reuters, said: “Since (our) previous report (in May), at a particular location at the Parchin site, the agency has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment, and probable construction materials. In addition, a small extension to an existing building” appeared to have been built.

The report was generated as part of the IAEA’s inquiry into possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear activity. Such “PMD”s, as it is known, were a serious point of discussion in the lead-up to the July 14th Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed by the U.S. and the other member nations of the P5+1.

Many expressed great disappointment that there is nothing included in the JCPOA regarding PMDs. That issue, along with inspections of Parchin itself, are covered by the two side agreements which are exclusively between Iran and the IAEA.

According to Reuters, the IAEA says any activities Iran has undertaken at Parchin since U.N. inspectors last visited in 2005 could jeopardize its ability to verify Western intelligence, suggesting Tehran carried out tests there relevant to nuclear bomb detonations more than a decade ago. Iran has dismissed the intelligence as “fabricated.”

“It’s funny that the IAEA claims there has been a small extension to a building … Iran doesn’t need to ask for the IAEA’s permission to do construction work on its sites,” Reza Najafi, Iran’s envoy to the agency, was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

State Department spokesman John Kirby‘s response to a media question about building at Parchin not only echoed Najafi’s response, but put the rabbit in the hat. Nukes? What nukes?

Here are the question and answer from the briefing:

QUESTION: There was just one element I wanted to ask you about. I think the report – without getting too much into the details, I mean, it confirmed broad compliance. But there was some mention of the Parchin base again and about construction or other activity that was going on there. Independent of the report, is that something the United States has noted and is also concerned about?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’d say, without getting into the specifics here – as I said, we’re not going to do that – I think it’s important to remember that when you’re talking about a site like Parchin, you’re talking about a conventional military site, not a nuclear site. So there wouldn’t be any IAEA or other restrictions on new construction at that site were they to occur. (emphasis added)

In other words, Kirby, representing the official position of the State Department, has declared that Parchin is simply a regular military site and, despite earlier reports by the IAEA and believed by many analysts, there is no and was no PMD activity there at all.

Not to worry.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/state-dept-spox-no-worries-parchin-has-no-nuclear-dimensions/2015/08/28/

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