web analytics
May 30, 2016 / 22 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘talks’

In New US – PA Talks on Recovering Debt Ridden Economy, Fingers Point at Israel

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Abeer Odeh and US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin will meet Sunday in Ramallah for talks on developing the PA’s economy. At this point, the PA simply cannot pay its bills and is facing serious problems paying its government employees, from teachers to security forces. According to Trading Economics, in 2014 the PA recorded a Government Debt to GDP rate of 17.30% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Government Debt to GDP in the PA has averaged 18.92% from 1995 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 26.36% in 2007 and a record low of 2.93% in 1995.

The economies of the PA and Gaza strongly depend on their relationship with Israel, so that when the Israelis feel safe to permit documented (and many undocumented) Arab workers into their country, the Arab economy improves. And when there’s a war or an intifada, the Arabs go without.

The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) most recent report, from 2014, shows high and rising levels of unemployment, which continued to be one of the main challenges to the economy. In 2014, it rose to 26.9%, compared to 23.4% in 2013. A main contributor was an exceptionally expanding rate in Gaza Strip, where unemployment reached 43.9%, compared to 32.6 percent in 2013, while the same rate declined in the PA from 18.6% to 17.7% during the same period. This rise in unemployment did not stop nominal daily wages from rising across different regions. Yet contradictory inflation trends have created discrepancies in real wage growth, as while real average daily wage for workers in the PA, and Israel and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria improved by 0.9% and 5.6% respectively, real wages in Gaza declined by 1.5% during 2014.

The PA Arabs’ dependence of Israel was made all too clear this past winter, when The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) announced the PA and individual Arab municipalities have racked up a debt of close to half a billion dollars which the company could no longer absorb. The debt was split about $400 million to $80 million between the PA and the cities respectively.

In April, the IEC reached a temporary agreement with the PA to put an end to the temporary power cuts it had been imposing on a succession of municipalities, in exchange for paying off a small portion of the overall debt. Meanwhile, the Arab-run Jerusalem District Electricity Company, which owes the IEC $371 million out of the debt, sued the IEC in Israel’s High Court last April, saying the IEC’s behavior constituted “collective and disproportionate punishment” and showed “blatant and harmful disregard for a public that pays its electricity bills regularly.” It also suggested the IEC’s power cuts compromised basic consumer rights to access an essential resource.

“I don’t know of any company that would agree to do nothing about a 1.74 billion shekel ($450 million) debt owed by another company,” IEC chairman Yiftah Ron Tal said at the time. “We weren’t left with any choice. We’re limiting electricity in a proportionate way.”

But the High Court of Justice paid no attention to the complaints of the Israeli CEO, and issued an interim injunction on prohibiting service cuts to the eastern Jerusalem Arab power company.

IEC responded to the ruling with an angry statement: “The Israel Electric Corporation respects the High Court ruling but demands the issue over the growing debts of JDECO which reach 1.4 billion shekel ($360 million) be resolved quickly. JDECO debts continue to grow to an astronomic figure; like any other business, it is the legitimate right and the responsibility of IEC to take the necessary measures to resolve a problematic debt which has been a burden for all Israeli electricity consumers.”

Israel’s ambivalence about collecting the debt from the Arabs in both Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem and Gaza has produced a reluctant and ineffective method of getting the money from the taxes and VAT Israel collects on Arab wages and products. As a result, Israel was rebuked this month by the World Bank for ruining the PA economy by, essentially, withholding money Israel is rightfully due.

The new World Bank report estimates that the Palestinian Authority is losing $285 million in revenues annually under the current economic arrangements with the Government of Israel. The report states that these revenues could significantly ease the Authority’s fiscal stress. As was to be expected, there is no mention in the condemning report of the half billion dollars in free power Israel has poured into the PA.

“If revenue losses are mitigated, this can reduce the 2016 fiscal deficit to below $1 billion, and narrow the expected financing gap by more than 50 percent,” Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza said in a press statement.

In other words, if only Israel agreed to take the half billion dollars from Israeli power consumers and let the PA Arabs continue to receive free electricity, an Arab economic miracle would be just a matter of time.

The report also cites irregularities on Israel’s part in conducting revenues clearance, which have not been systematically implemented. The revenue sharing arrangements, outlined by the 1994 Paris Protocol, through which the Government of Israel collects VAT, import taxes and other revenues on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and shares them on a monthly basis, have not been systematically implemented.

The majority of the estimated fiscal loss results from tax leakages on bilateral trade with Israel, and undervaluation of PA imports from third countries. In other words, the Israelis have been running a messy tax and payment system, as well as a messy debt collection system.

JNi.Media

Turkey, Israel Deal to Close ‘Very Soon,’ Says Turkey’s Foreign Ministry

Friday, April 8th, 2016

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

Israeli FM Director Dore Gold Travels to Turkey in Aftermath of Bombing

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

Senior Foreign Ministry official Dore Gold has cut short his visit to the United States and is traveling to Turkey following the terror attack that killed three Israelis on Saturday morning in Istanbul.

Three Israelis and an Iranian were killed along with the terrorist; 39 people were wounded, including 11 Israelis.

Gold was in the U.S. to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.

Instead, he will visit wounded Israeli citizens who are hospitalized in Istanbul, and then meet with Turkish officials, according to Turkish media.

Numerous foreign consulates are located along Istiklal Street and around the immediate area where the attack took place.

This past Wednesday Germany closed its consulate and school in Istanbul due to credible security threats, according to the Turkish Daily Sabah newspaper.

The U.S. State Department condemned the attack in a statement released by spokesperson John Kirby.

“The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack today on Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and our hopes for a quick recovery for those wounded,” the statement read.

“We will remain in close touch with Turkish authorities during the investigation. The United States stands in solidarity with our NATO Ally Turkey in combating the common threat of terrorism.

“This vicious attack is the latest in a series of indefensible violence targeting innocent people throughout Turkey – Turkish citizens and international visitors alike. These acts of terrorism only reinforce our determination to support all those across the region working to promote peace and reconciliation,” the statement said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the attack in a written statement saying there can be no justification for terrorism. He said, “NATO allies stand united with Turkey, determined to fight against terrorism.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also condemned the attack.

“I strongly condemn this despicable and cowardly act that has caused the death of several people,” Ayrault said in a statement, adding Paris stands in solidarity with Turkey.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) meanwhile has launched disciplinary proceedings against its media director and women’s bureau chief Irem Aktas, who tweeted on Saturday after the Istanbul suicide bombing, “Let the wounded Israeli citizens be worse, I wish they all died.”

Hatice Yücel, who heads Istanbul’s Eyüp district women’s branch, tweeted that the comments of party member Irem Aktas did not reflect AKP’s viewpoint. The tweet was deleted and Aktas’ social media accounts were shut down. The disciplinary proceedings against Aktas could result in her dismissal from the party, Yücel added.

Hana Levi Julian

Turkey, Iran Talk Unity on Syria as Kremlin Punishes Tehran

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met Saturday in Tehran with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the final day of a two-day official visit to the Islamic Republic.

Rouhani said cooperation between Iran and Turkey will play a positive role in the settlement of regional issues, according to Iran’s official Press TV.

“Iran and Turkey have common objectives and interests and must strengthen the foundations for peace and stability in the region through [improving] bilateral cooperation and focusing on the fight against terrorism as a common enemy,” Rouhani said.

“We believe that regional problems should be settled by regional countries and nations and Iran-Turkey cooperation will undoubtedly play a constructive role in establishing sustainable peace in the region,” the Iranian president pointed out.

The Iranian president said Tehran and Ankara enjoy great potential to expand ties in different sectors including transportation, energy, trade, joint investment, tourism, science and technology and expressed the country’s readiness to bolster cooperation with Turkey.

Davutoglu arrived in Tehran at the head of a high-ranking political and economic delegation on Friday hoping to expand the trade between the two nations to $30 billion – triple the current amount.

He told Rouhani that Ankara is determined to open a “new chapter” in relations with Tehran, according to Press TV.

The Turkish prime minister also “expressed Turkey’s readiness to cooperation with the Islamic Republic in the campaign against terrorism,” the state news agency reported.

Since Iran is a generous sponsor of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist organization as well as the Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza and their Palestinian Islamic Jihad allies, the statement raises questions.

The international headquarters of Hamas are still located in Istanbul, as they have been for about a year or more. Nevertheless, Turkish officials did deport a top Hamas official who masterminded the abduction and murder of three Israeli yeshiva teens in 2014 — the attack that launched Operation Protective Edge that summer.

Over the past several weeks, Turkish officials have been deeply involved in talks with Israeli representatives to resolve differences and repair the broken ties between the two nations. At last report, two of the three demands of the Turkish government had been met by Israel, and the third was allegedly well on the way towards resolution, according to an announcement by Turkish government officials.

That was a week prior to Davutoglu’s meeting with Rouhani. How is Israel to interpret this latest move?

“It is extremely important for Turkey and Iran to develop some common perspectives in order to end our region’s fight among brothers, to stop the ethnic and sectarian conflicts,” the Turkish prime minister told reporters in Tehran.

Although the two nations are backing different sides in the Syrian civil war, it seems they may have developed a common antipathy for Russia.

The Kremlin has been adamant that Iran withdraw its forces from Syria – including its proxy, the Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerrilla terrorist fighters – who are backing President Bashar al-Assad. Russia has reportedly told Iran their interests are different in Syria.

A highly-placed source told Kuwait’s daily Al-Jarida newspaper that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is retracting the sale of the S-300 anti-missile system. The moves comes as punishment to Iran for violating its pledge not to hand over any of its sophisticated weaponry to terrorist groups.

Israel brought Moscow clear evidence that Iran gave Hezbollah SA-22 surface-to-air missiles. The intelligence was confirmed by reports by Russian fighter pilots who flew sorties over Syria and Lebanon and whose radar could detect SA-22 systems in areas under Hezbollah control.

Hana Levi Julian

No More Israel-PA Talks, Ever. (Well, Maybe….)

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

As Israel continues to express its willingness to participate in direct talks with the Palestinian Authority – its erstwhile one-time so-called “peace partner” is playing hard-to-get.

The latest coy little “catch me if you can” play by the PA came this week in response to an initiative by France.

During a visit to Japan on Monday, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki declared his government would “never” re-engage in direct talks with Israel.

In response, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement pointing out that Israel supports the “direct negotiating process with the Palestinians and opposes any predisposed attempt to determine the outcome of the talks.”

Of course, “never” is a very long time in the Middle East; it’s a word that means little here, and “never” has been heard countless times from Abu Mazen – and Hamas – before.

On Tuesday, French Ambassador to Israel Patric Maisonnave met with Alon Ushpiz, head of the diplomatic office for Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Maisonnave presented the details of his government’s plan to convene a peace conference in Paris this summer. The French government hopes to jumpstart the diplomatic process that crashed in April 2014.

Jerusalem allegedly responded favorably to the initiative.

“This principle [of talks] which has accompanied the process from its beginning has won the support of the international community over the years, and also has stood as the basis for peace negotiations with Jordan and Egypt,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement following their meeting.

What’s interesting, however, is the response of the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas – known to the Middle East as Abu Mazen.

Israeli media reported that Ben-Shitrit arranged a meeting between high-level Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials this week.

The Prime Minister’s Office has declined to comment on the report.

As for Abu Mazen, on the one hand he personally has refused utterly to resume talks with Israel.

On the other hand he was quoted in a letter allegedly written by Sam Ben-Shitrit, a Jewish Moroccan emissary, as saying “At the beginning of next month I will write a personal letter to [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu proposing a meeting with him.”

That declaration followed a meeting between Abu Mazen and Ben-Shitrit, who was tasked by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with trying to get the Israel-PA dialogue back on track.

Abbas told Ben-Shitrit at that meeting that he would be willing to meet with Netanyahu without agreed-upon preconditions for re-starting negotiations, according to a report by Israel’s Channel 2 TV.

The veteran Jewish negotiator is the founder and chairman of the World Federation of Moroccan Jews; he has when necessary acted as liaison between Israel and Morocco, since no diplomatic relations exist between the two nations.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power was in Israel on Saturday also to discuss the possibility of relaunching talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Likewise, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini made a special effort in a conversation with Israel’s prime minister to “get the relationship back on track” between the EU and the Jewish State. She emphasized that the EU’s product labeling policy implemented last November is non-binding and said the European body strongly opposes a boycott of Israel. Mogherini also said the EU supports direct talks as the sole means of reaching a final status agreement between Israel and the PA.

Hana Levi Julian

Analysis: Turkey Toning Down Hopes for Reconciliation With Israel

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

It appears that, like Israel, Turkey’s government is working to reduce expectations of a reconciliation between Ankara and Israel, just as Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has in Jerusalem.

The Ankara edition of ‘Today’s Zaman’ published an article Monday headlined: ‘Turkey FM says Israel wanted Erdogan ousted from power, put off deal.”

From the very first paragraph, the article laid the blame for any failure of reconciliation talks at Israel’s doorstep – as Turkey has consistently to this point.

“Turkey’s top diplomat has claimed that Israel has been cold to rapprochement with Turkey because of raised expectations about Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan being ousted from power,” the paper reported.

“Briefing lawmakers in Parliament last Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the framework agreement with Israel was already in place several years ago, saying his government has been in talks with the Israeli side on the same issues that were reported today. ‘In fact, there was a main agreement in place on all these issues, but why was Israel not approaching to [finalize the deal]?” he asked, adding that Israel has been waiting on the departure of Erdogan from power…’”

The foreign minister repeated Turkey’s conditions for the normalization of ties, which include the payment of compensation over the deaths of those who died in the 2010 Mavi Marmara debacle.

What is interesting and new is the position allegedly expressed by Cavusoglu, that Turkey insists on ‘lifting the Israeli embargo on Gaza (the use of language here, as with all diplomatic issues, is very important) and that “Turkey wants to help Gaza residents, including providing electricity to the strip.”

According to Today’s Zaman “the Turkish government’s priority is on lifting the embargo rather than the blockade and hopes to channel development assistance to rebuild Gaza.” (ed.-italics added)

This is the first time Turkey has changed its demand for Israel to drop its blockade of Gaza and instead moved to a request to lift the ’embargo,’ adding a suggestion that it be able to aid in supplying electricity to the enclave.

Despite Ankara’s leanings towards the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey nevertheless might prove helpful in preventing Hamas from stealing the construction supplies that now go missing to rebuild military infrastructure rather than residential neighborhoods.

On the other hand, one must question whether Turkey is hoping to play a role in Gaza in order to establish a presence in the face of another recently-demoted former ally, Egypt. Israel has in the meanwhile strengthened its relations with Cairo, which has increasingly lost patience with Turkey’s foster son, Hamas.

Cavusoglu also revealed that Israeli officials have expressed concern Turkey would continue its public criticisms after a deal is finalized.

“If Israel continues to implement these policies, including illegal settlements and attacks on Palestine, then we’ll naturally criticize; we are very clear and open about this,” the Turkish foreign minister was quoted as saying.

And herein lies one of the problems: Turkey seems to feel free to interfere in the internal domestic national security issues of other sovereign nations but takes great umbrage when others do the same.

For instance, Ankara has no problem taking on the role of advocate for Hamas, the terrorist organization spawned by the Muslim Brotherhood that rules Gaza, and which has been responsible for countless mained, wounded and dead in Israel. Turkey even welcomed Hamas to establish its international headquarters in Istanbul.

But were another sovereign nation to take the same stance on behalf of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), the internationally-recognized terrorist group located in Turkey’s southeastern sector, one wonders how Ankara would respond.

Somehow, Turkey fails to see the parallel.

Negotiators from Ankara and Jerusalem are once more trying to work out a way to regain the relationship the former allies once enjoyed. It has been mutually rewarding and is now needed by both as the region faces an impending onslaught by the hordes of Da’esh (ISIS).

Hana Levi Julian

Israeli-Turkish Talks Likely to Focus on Gaza in Geneva

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Israeli and Turkish diplomats are meeting today (Feb. 10) in Geneva, Switzerland, according to reports in both Israeli and Turkish media.

Although Turkish diplomatic sources did not confirm the report, Turkey’s NTV said Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu was traveling to Geneva for the meeting.

Likewise, although it has not been confirmed, it is likely the two sides are starting to focus on the thorny issue of Israeli national security and Turkey’s insistence on ending the blockade of Gaza. The region has become the central headquarters for a number of radical Islamist terrorist organizations, not the least of which includes its ruling government, the Hamas terrorist group — which has its international headquarters in Istanbul, funded by Iran.

In general, the talks are continuing over how to heal the broken ties between the two former allies following two separate ice-breaker meetings in Ankara between 51 American Jewish leaders with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu earlier this week.

Turkish media ascribes the break to the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, when a Turkish-owned vessel participated in an illegal flotilla aiming to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

When the flotilla ignored Israeli Navy orders to redirect to Ashdod port, IDF commandos boarded each vessel to bring them in, including the Mavi Marmara. But on that vessel the commandos, armed only with pistols and paintball guns, were attacked by terror activists armed with knives and iron bars. During the clash that ensued, 10 attackers were killed, and a number of IDF commandos were seriously wounded.

Turkey used the incident as an excuse to break its ties with Israel and demanded a formal apology, compensation to families of the “victims” — and removal of Israel’s blockade of Gaza. This would open Israeli citizens wide to the results of a massive delivery to Hamas of weaponry from Iran, not to mention opening the border wide to infiltration of terrorists into Israel, further exacerbating the current wave of terror.

Such a request can be likened to asking Turkey to drop any military defense against the PKK — the Kurdistan Workers’ Party terrorist organization which is recognized by the international community as a terrorist group. The PKK has repeatedly attacked Turkish citizens and government officials. Turkey’s military does whatever it can to defend against the group and eliminate it.

Israel officially “apologized” to Turkey in 2013 over the deaths of her citizens. Discussions over compensation are continuing, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.

However, Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper reported Wednesday that Israel had agreed to pay Turkey $20 million in compensation, which is to be transferred to a special fund “that will in turn provide grants to the families of the Turkish citizens who were killed on injured in the Israel commando raid of the Mavi Marmara, in accordance with the recent agreement between the two countries.”

Turkey continues to maintain a hardline attitude, however, on what it calls “the Palestinian cause in talks with Israel.”

According to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, discussions on “how Turkish access to Gaza will be provided in an unrestricted fashion have yet to be clarified.”

The Daily Sabah quoted presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin at a recent Ankara briefing as saying Israel must meet all three conditions to normalize relations. He added Turkey “will continue to play its role until a two-state solution is reached and the Palestinian people have their own state. Permanent peace cannot be achieved in the region without resolving the Palestinian issue,” Kalin said.

However, despite the chilly diplomatic atmosphere business is quite brisk between the two nations.

The group that owns the license to Israel’s mammoth Leviathan natural gas field recently signed a new $1.3 billion contract to supply the Israeli Edeltech Group and its Turkish partner, Zorlu Enerji.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israeli-turkish-talks-likely-to-focus-on-gaza-in-geneva/2016/02/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: