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July 29, 2016 / 23 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘talks’

South Korea-Israel Free Trade Talks Wrap in Seoul

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Free trade agreement negotiations between Israel and South Korea wrapped up Thursday in Seoul.

Israeli negotiator Netta Bar El told reporters, “This agreement will be an important platform for needed growth and from which to promote trade between our two nations.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

Netanyahu, Kerry to Meet on Restarting Israel-PA Peace Talks

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

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

Israel and Turkey to Meet June 26, ‘Declare a Deal’

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

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

Hamas-PLO Qatar Reconciliation Talks End Early on ‘Negative’ Note

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

If you were concerned that Hamas and the PLO would be uniting to present an even bigger threat to Israel’s security, you can breathe easy this weekend, as reconciliation talks between the two groups in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday ended on a sour note, with Hamas blaming the PLO for the failure, Ma’an reported.

Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that PLO officials did not complete the day’s scheduled meetings and withdrew during the second session. He blamed the PLO leadership entirely for “failing” Saturday’s meeting, because they had no “political will to achieve reconciliation.”

PLO Spokesman Usama al-Qawasmi said his delegation had headed to Doha resolved to end division and forge partnership and democracy on the way to forming a national unity government.

A previous national unity government had collapsed recently, having proven to be one only in name.

Al-Qawasmi insisted the Doha meetings have shown that Hamas is “not ready yet for national unity and political partnership.” He stressed that the PLO would continue its efforts to end division between the two groups, and continue “calling upon Hamas to head towards real national unity.”

The current round of talks between the PLO and Hamas — third so far — began on Wednesday in the Qatari capital with a focus on strategies for implementing a reconciliation agreement. In March, the two groups also held reconciliation talks in Doha, with both delegations also discussing implementations of a reconciliation agreement.

The two groups have been on the outs with each other since their violent conflict in 2007, shortly after Hamas’s 2006 victory in the general elections in the Gaza Strip. Since then the two groups have repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliation, and neither side has held democratic elections.

Both sides enjoy visiting Qatar, though.

JNi.Media

On Heel of Netanyahu Visit, Russia Pushing ‘Arab Initiative’ as Basis for Talks

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Moscow has no problem adopting the Arab peace initiative on settling the Arab-Israeli conflict, and sees no need to amend it, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told TASS after talks the PA FM Riyad al-Maliki on Wednesday. And, apparently, as far as the Russians are concerned, they never heard Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for any amendments to the initiative when he met with President Putin the day before.

“I did not hear any demands for amending the Arab peace initiative in the remarks of Benjamin Netanyahu,” Lavrov said. “It is integral and embraces the entire set of relations between Israel and the Arab countries, including Palestine of course. There is no need to amend it.”

According to Lavrov, the Arab peace initiative is a universal document, which everybody regards as the fitting foundation for a peaceful future between Arabs and Jews.

Also known as the “Saudi Initiative,” the Arab peace initiative is a 10 sentence proposal that was endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 and then in 2007, calling for normalizing relations between the Arab countries and Israel, in exchange for “(a) Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon; (b) Attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194 (which says that ‘refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.); (c) Accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

In other words, the elimination of the Jewish State as we know it—by the time the last conditions of the initiative were fulfilled.

Perhaps it was symbolic that on the day of the first declaration of the Saudi initiative, March 27, 2002, Hamas committed the Passover Massacre as a suicide bomber killed 30 Israelis and injured more than 170, including children, at the Park Hotel in Netanya.

And yet, in March 2009 US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell announced that President Obama’s administration planned to “incorporate” the initiative into its Middle East policy.

And last year, in May 2015, shortly after winning the March 17 elections, Netanyahu himslef expressed tentative support for the initiative, saying he accepted the “general idea,” but with significant caveats, specifically its calls for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights and the relocation of millions of Arabs into Israel. As to Jerusalem, Netanyahu said it would not be resolved immediately, and so for now “we’ll set this aside.”

For his part, al-Maliki told TASS he was hoping for Moscow’s “direct and active involvement” in resolving the conflict with Israel, based on the generous Arab initiative. “Considering the results of the latest session in Paris, we felt that it was necessary for us to come to Moscow to exchange opinions and see whether there were prospects for progress,” the PA foreign minister said.

“We’re convinced that Russia can play a very important role in bringing the parties to the negotiating table,” he added, noting that the recent talks in Paris held without the participation of the parties to the conflict helped ensure agreement on the beginning of the talks.

David Israel

Netanyahu Ready to Go to Paris ‘Tomorrow’ for Direct 2-State Talks with Abbas

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday met with his French counterpart Manuel Valls in Jerusalem, and the two issued a joint statement dealing with the common goals of Israel and France as well as the solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict which would include two states for two peoples.

“Although we disagree as to the best way to reach peace, I appreciate your commitment to seek peace,” Netanyahu told Valls. “I know how important it is for you to bring an end to the terrible violence that has been taking place in our region for too long, and I wish to thank you and President Hollande for your commitment to peace.”

Referring to the French peace initiative which is expected to take place in Paris in a week and a half without direct involvement of the two sides in the conflict, Netanyahu insisted that the only way to reach peace is through direct negotiations with the PA Arabs. “In a direct negotiation the Palestinian leadership would be forced to face a clear choice, and the choice is simple — recognize the Jewish State or continue to educate their people that some day Israel will disappear,” Netanyahu said. “And I urge you not to allow the Palestinian leadership to evade this tough choice.”

Netanyahu told Valls that he would be ready to embrace a French initiative if it would include direct negotiations between himself and the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. “Every problematic issue will be on the negotiating table — mutual recognition, incitement, borders, refugee, as well as the settlements,” Netanyahu promised. “I’m ready to clear my schedule and fly to Paris tomorrow. Actually, I believe tomorrow we’re expanding the government, but the day after. And this is an open-ended offer. I’ll clear my agenda. And I hope you and the Palestinians will agree.”

Netanyahu also addressed the French vote last month at UNESCO, in favor of a resolution that referred to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall by their Arab names only and rejected any Jewish “claim” on the history of the holy sites. He congratulated Valls on his apology over the matter and his admission that it had been a mistake.

Prime Minister Valls promised to pass Netanyahu’s offer regarding the peace negotiations to President Hollande. “We are in favor of anything that would contribute to the peace,” Valls said. “We can discuss it, and we will make all the necessary clarifications. The discussion, I’m certain, will be most direct. But don’t doubt for one minute our will to do whatever is possible for peace, our commitment and my personal commitment in the fight against anti-Semitism, and the complete and unequivocal certainty that the Jewish roots of Jerusalem are completely indisputable.”

David Israel

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/in-new-us-pa-talks-on-recovering-debt-ridden-economy-fingers-point-at-israel/2016/05/21/

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