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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘USA’

USA’s Georgia and Israel Celebrate 20 Years of Friendship

Friday, June 27th, 2014

This past week, the governor of the U.S. state of Georgia, Nathan Deal and a delegation of Georgia officials and business leaders visited Israel on a five-day mission highlighting the unique economic partnership between Israel and Georgia. The governor met with prominent members of the Israeli government including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat to explore trade and business opportunities as well as Atlanta’s sister city of Ra’anana.

“Israel is a vital partner in friendship and in our economic development efforts,” the Georgia governor said in a press release on June 25. “We are here to bolster our ties as we celebrate Georgia’s 20th year in the Israeli market and our long-standing commitment to the country.”

During the visit, the Georgia delegation met with Israeli companies that have invested in Georgia as well as those considering doing so. The Israel-based Haifa Group, for example will build a new Controlled Release Fertilizer manufacturing facility in Savannah, Georgia. The Haifa Group is a global leader of specialty fertilizers, specialty plant nutrients, potassium nitrate, food phosphates in the agricultural industry.

The Haifa Group, whose operations span over 100 countries in 5 continents, will invest $12 million in the Georgia plant that will create 20 new jobs in the U.S. state nicknamed the Peach State, for its official fruit.

“This new plant serves as a testament to Georgia’s advanced agriculture technology industry,” Governor Deal stated. “We fully expect that this new production facility will help establish our state as a center of advanced fertilizer technology, with farmers, nursery owners and professional turf experts across the country asking for our products.”

In 2013, Georgia was ranked as the leading state in the Southeastern United States and eighth in the nation in terms of total trade with Israel. Imports to Israel from Georgia increased by 71 percent and total trade increased by 46 percent from 2012-2013. Approximately $4 million worth of Georgia peanuts and pecans have been sold to Israel as part of a Georgia state federally-funded program to attract international buyers to Georgia. Among other international buyers including Brazil, China, Germany, Canada, Japan, Mexico and the UK, Israel has emerged as the leading Middle Eastern investor nation in Georgia.

In addition, Delta Air Lines offers multiple daily flights from Atlanta to Tel Aviv via New York and Amsterdam. The Georgia Ports Authority in Savannah offers two weekly shipping services to the Port of Haifa and one to the Port of Ashdod.

Since 1994, Israel and Georgia, which was recently named the top business state in the U.S., have had a long-established partnership through business, international trade, government, tourism and other avenues.

“Georgia has a unique advantage with the Israeli Consulate General based in Atlanta and organizations like conexx: America Israel Business Connector,” said Chris Carr, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “These partners of ours, which work actively to promote a stronger relationship, provide key connections and demonstrate goodwill between our state and Israel.”

Will Kerry Be On Hot Seat at Obama Meeting?

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Oy. He’s logged thousands of hours flying back and forth, meeting with leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and surrounding Arab nations. Sleepless nights, endless days, Middle Eastern food and where has it all led?

Back to Square One by anyone’s estimation – and very likely in the eyes of President Barack Obama at the White House.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reports today (Tuesday) to the president so both can decide what to do next about the persnickety tangle that just won’t untangle in the Holy Land.

The problem is, after the better part of a year, John Kerry may have almost nothing to show for all of his efforts and a massive bill to boot. It’s a credibility problem for him – did he read the situation wrong? Or was it simply a matter of the Western mind not understanding the typical Middle Eastern Arab mentality again? And again. And again. Ad nauseum.

Because we who live here have already seen this before in our neighborhood. There have been so many train wrecks down this gorge, we’ve lost count of the number of peace plans we’ve complied with here in the Land of Israel. Most were American.

And Mr. Kerry is another one lacking the basic understanding of Middle Eastern mentality, the Arab mind and how it works, and the way it goes in this region. Briefings on “Arab culture” don’t cut it when it comes to shuttle diplomacy here. It is just not enough when it gets to the nitty gritty.

The Europeans already know better. They make dry observations, back the Arabs (who they know they can rely on to pull out rather than comply) and then fade out before the sun sets in the West. Of course, ‘intel’ ties always continue with Israel; it would be silly to ignore the needs of national security, right?

But the U.S. has yet to learn that Arab leadership is not reliable. The Palestinian Authority talks one way in English and the other way in Arabic and its word is never its word. Peace is not a concept this entity can understand. The definition of ‘honor’ in this culture is not the same as that of the West – it is defined differently in the Middle East.

Think ASIA when you think of PA government “honor.” That is the closest analogy one can summon. It does not involve life, but death – truly. And age doesn’t count. Babies do qualify. Everyone is expendable.

John Kerry is a well-meaning guy. He really thought he could pull this off. And he did have a peace partner. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu braved his entire coalition to make this last attempt – and almost lost his government over it. In fact, he still might. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Labor leader Isaac Herzog are both taking a shot at widening the fractures so they can climb all over it when new elections come around – and they both hope it’s sooner rather than later.

The last thing Israel needed was to free dozens more terrorists, let alone open the roadblocks to create a new free entrance on to Highway 60 from the Arab side of Hevron. But that’s what Israel did at America’s insistence for the U.S. attempt at new talks with the PA, knowing it was likely to come to naught.

It would be a pity if President Obama were now to rake John Kerry over the coals for following his orders and extending his own personal good faith in the process.

Mr. Kerry is not a young man either, and the constant flights could not have been easy. The stress of struggling to deal with Arab leaders fighting your every effort to reach a compromise could not have been fun. And having to second-guess everyone’s thoughts, words, actions and decisions following each session – although that is the job for which he was trained – must have been the stuff of nightmares.

Russia Test-Fires ICBM

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Russia test-fired an ICBM on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

The missile was launched near the Caspian sea and hit a target in Kazakhstan.

The launch was probably a warning shot related to the Ukrainian tensions.

Minister Accompanying Netanyahu: Settlement Freeze Off the Table

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Likud Minister Yuval Steinitz, accompanying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his trip to the U.S., told Israel Radio Tuesday morning that Israel’s position both regarding the peace negotiations with the Palestinians and the Iran question are receiving wall-to-wall support in Congress.

According to Stenitz, the leaders of the Senate and the House understand that the main hurdle before the peace process is the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to their own country, and their terrible incitement against Israel.

According to the Washington Post, after his conference with Obama, Netanyahu met with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Capitol Hill. Cantor said the Palestinians must “accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state” and “uniformly and aggressively” combat terrorism while confronting, not condoning, “incitement against the Jews.”

Steinitz added that the Palestinian demand for a freeze on settlement housing starts, as well as their insistence on prisoner release in exchange for extending the negotiations are simply not part of the discussion.

Leftist party Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On told Israel Radio that the settlement freeze would serve Israel’s interests more than it would the Palestinians’.

Labor MK Nachman Shai argues that the Ukrainian crisis is not diverting the world’s attention away from Israel and the peace negotiations, and is not improving Israel’s political situation.

But, despite MK Shai’s note to the contrary, AP reported that Secretary of State Kerry left Monday for the Ukrainian capital. The European Union’s foreign ministers, meantime, issued a Thursday deadline for Russia President Vladimir Putin to pull back his troops or face a rejection of visa liberalization and economic cooperation negotiations long in the works.

And the White House said Obama met for more than two hours Monday night with the National Security Council, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, to discuss what steps the United States can take with international partners to further isolate Russia and persuade it to de-escalate the situation.

So, for now, nobody is pushing the 2-state thing. Maybe wait until after the Russian occupation…

Determined to Get Kerry a Nobel, Obama Planning to Squeeze Netanyahu

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

The man who brought peace to Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and Syria (did I forget anything? Yes – Turkey!), our own President Obama, is about to throw his weight into the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the NY Times reports this morning.

When he welcomes Netanyahu to the White House on Monday, tye White House leaked to the Times, Obama will press him to embrace the Secretary of State John Kerry framework for a “conclusive round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations,” which is being drafted as we speak. Then, a few weeks later, Obama will meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, “to make the same pitch.”

By the end of April, if all goes according to plan, both sides will have a road map (didn’t we already have one of those?). In April the self-imposed 9-month time limit will expire, and in a television-driven political world, a date is a date, ergo the big gun.

“Now is a very timely opportunity for him to get involved,” a senior official told the Times, setting up the newest great expectation in a tone that didn’t convey much conviction: If the two sides agree to the framework, which would set out general terms on issues like Israel’s security and the borders of a future Palestinian state, the negotiations could be extended, with a new target of completing a treaty by the end of 2014.

Of course, should things not work out as expected, we could always come up with new shticks, rename the whole thing, possibly divide the topics of discussion into columns A and B and pick targets Chinese restaurant fashion, slap a new target date on it and go on with the show. The idea is to keep having a peace process—never mind the peace.

If they keep doing this through the 2016 presidential election, there’s a good chance Kerry could still get the Nobel Peace Prize even if he doesn’t get anything accomplished peacewise. After all, Obama got it just for being black and promising – couldn’t Kerry take one for being tall and lanky? Good teeth? No?

It is far from clear, notes the Times, that Mr. Obama can pull off what has so far eluded his secretary of state. Here’s another thing that’s been eluding the Americans – over the past several weeks, the Arabs and the Jews haven’t been meeting face to face. They talk to Kerry and to his special envoy, Martin S. Indyk, and that’s it. It means, “analysts say,” that there’s been no movement on anything.

If you ever sold cars for a living, or watched any sitcom or movie about selling cars, you know that the time to bring in the owner is after it’s been established that the customer really wants the car, he just needs to discuss terms. You bring in the boss, right away he knocks of two grand off the list price, everybody’s smiling – and you close. But to bring the boss in before both sides are buying anything, anything at all, that has desperation written all over it.

Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator who is a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told the Times that bringing the president in at this stage is admission of defeat on Kerry’s part. “What is it going to take to get to a comprehensive deal if the president has to do heavy lifting?”

It means Kerry has little credibility left with either side. And the Jews hate him for the boycott threats, which he has since been backtracking from so fiercely, you worry he’d hit his head on the end of the pool.

Senior Israeli Officials: Kerry’s Jordan Valley Plan ‘Ridiculous’

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry will probably be back in Israel as early as next Monday, for his twelfth (12th) visit here in less than a year (should have signed up for the monthly plan). So that part is not news. What’s news is the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s official news organ, Israel Today, established and paid for by Jewish billionaire and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, is quoting “senior political sources” who are far from excited about the visit.

So the following information is like quoting Putin’s RT News agency, or Obama’s NBC, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Turns out that in closed forums in Jerusalem you could hear these past few weeks unprecedentedly harsh criticism of Kerry and his team.

Most notably, those closed forum senior folks have been ridiculing the American plan for defending the Jordan valley. Close as they are to the actual details of the plan, these seniors say it is “ridiculous and does not stand up to the test of reality.”

“Kerry has been visiting here a lot, but he shows no true understanding of what’s going on,” they continue. “The American plans are superficial and not serious. There’s no connection between what’s being said publicly about progress in the negotiations and what’s actually happening. It looks like Kerry is simply not in touch with reality. He is not knowledgeable, to say the least, in the roots of the conflict, he doesn’t know how to present real solutions, and he isn’t even familiar with the maps he is being shown.”

So, that’s the welcoming message Bibi wants Kerry to find upon his 12th arrival. Not bad, actually, if it’s true. that’s the problem with Pravda-style news organs, you never know.

Here are more fun excerpts, courtesy of Adelson Enterprises: “The way the American secretary of state has been handling himself has been obsessive. Some are saying that more than trying to advance the peace, he is trying to use the conflict for his own political ends. According to this view, Kerry must think that the road to the White House for him goes through the signing of a Middle East peace treaty.”

I must intervene here and state that Kerry already tried the White House thing and lost to one of Barbara Bush’s less bright boys during a military fiasco that followed the latter’s losing a chunk of two major American cities while telling a goat story to six year olds. So Kerry is not harboring presidential fantasies, and if he is, the Democrats aren’t buying.

Still, Bibi’s officials have been watching Kerry meeting with opposition politicians and with reporters, making it look like the deal is in the next room, waiting for the caligraphist to copy it onto a nice parchment. But it ain’t, really, it’s not even close.

“Israel is being forced to cooperate with the U.S. plans, especially because we’re afraid that if we don’t, they would blame Israel for the failure of the talks,” they say.

They also believe that, in exchange for Israel’s request to extend the peace process by one year, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will demand additional concessions, such as construction freeze in the settlements and more prisoner releases (that’s murderers of Jewish babies and mothers with blood trickling down from their sleeves).

“And Kerry will support these demands, turning them, in effect, into new American demands, backed by American threats, while the Arabs are yet to have given even a single concession, from Oslo to this day,” Bibi’s circlers are saying.

Finally, all the prime minister’s men complained that “the negotiations are being conducted without any papers and documents being exchanged between the two sides, because the Arabs are refusing to show written paper. The Americans come in with prepared suggestions, they read them, and they, too, leave no documents in either side’s hands. Everything is done by heart.”

Go East

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The anniversary of the Yom Kipur War always reminds one of Israeli fallibility, arrogance, and overconfidence, yet at the same time of its capacity to defy the odds and come back from the brink. It was another example of our bringing disaster upon ourselves and then fighting back to survive. After all, that is what the name “Israel” means in the Bible: “to struggle with man and God and survive”.

If I were to listen to the voices, Jewish and non-Jewish, that I hear in such examples as The New York Times, in The New York Review of Books, the intellectual and leftwing talking heads of Europe and the USA, or indeed popular left wing opinion, I would have a depressing sense of impending catastrophe. This week Peter Beinart, in The New York Review of Books, tells us that we Jews neither know, nor understand, nor feel the suffering of the Palestinians, whether under Hamas or the PLO. Ian S. Lustick goes on at length in a one-sided peroration typical of The New York Times that the lays the blame on Israel for making the Two State Solution irrelevant. They are not entirely wrong. But I tell you I am bloody fed up with people lumping all Israelis, all Jews together in their simplistic apportioning of blame, seeing things in black and white rather than in greys. Palestinians are good victims. Israelis are bad oppressors. In fact, both are both. That’s what humans are, a mixture of good and bad.

Some Israelis, some Jews are indeed intolerable racists. It is as true as is the fact that in South Africa under Apartheid there were Jews who acquiesced, who remained silent and failed their moral duty. But it is equally true that many Jews fought long and hard and at great cost to themselves, to oppose Apartheid and to promote freedom for the black population. That the ANC finally triumphed has not replaced immorality with morality, discrimination with equality. Sadly, too often those who suffer respond not by continuing the drive towards greater freedom but by grabbing all they can for themselves. This is the usual consequence of most struggles for freedom. Similarly, in Zimbabwe the relatively benign but overtly racial regime of Ian Smith was replaced by the much more evil and murderous regime of black Mugabe. Good fighters for freedom turn into very bad governors of countries. But that is the price of the struggle. And politics is dirty and messy everywhere.

The role of government is to protect its citizens and the vision of its founders. Israel was created as a state with a Jewish heritage, just as much as Muslim states were established to preserve and propagate Muslim heritage. Most of us would like to see both as tolerant and democratic societies. Israel is imperfect indeed, but it is our homeland. If we care for it we should fight to protect it and to improve it, not to undermine it. We should focus just as much on those who are working hard on reconciliation, on doing good, not just on the bad, on Syrians treated in Israeli hospitals, on Israel providing for Gaza what Egypt is not. But don’t expect this from the anti-Israel amen chorus.

So how are we expected to relate to a dysfunctional Middle East that is constantly stirred up against us by a distorted Western mentality? Surely not by capitulating to its mental diseases. I suggest we try to ignore its pathologies as best we can. But I must stress, I do not advocate cutting ourselves off from the Muslim world. The Middle East is not the only Muslim location. I do not think the divide between Judaism and Islam is either inevitable or healthy. We have far more in common with each other than we do with Western religions. To both of us, religion is not a series of theological propositions but a way of life. However if we want to heal the breach we must look further east.

It always surprises Jews to learn that the Muslims of the Far East, from India to Indonesia, from Cambodia to China, see the Arab jihadis of the Middle East in much the same way that non-Orthodox Jews view Charedim. They regard the Salafists and the Wahhabis as over the top extremists. It’s true in both cases that guilt often leads them to support the pious at arm’s length. The Far East also has its extreme and violent Islamic movements and terrorists, but the general mood of Islam is far more benign the further you get from the Middle East. It is more tolerant, less anti-West, and less fixated on blaming everyone else, especially the Jews, for their own ills. Yes, you can quote me that nasty former Malayan premier Mahathir bin Mohamad, who blamed the Jews for everything. But, thank goodness, he was not typical. I believe Israel should reduce its links with Europe with is ghastly legacy and history. It should be cultivating relations and economic involvements with India, China, Korea, and other emerging powers out in the Far East.

Daniel Goldhagen, the controversial and outspoken American historian who wrote Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, has stirred things up with his latest book about Western anti-Semitism, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism. Anthony Julius wrote a dismissive review in the Wall Street Journal accusing Goldhagen of sloppy research and unreliable statistics, even if he agrees with the core of his thesis. But even if Goldhagen exaggerates when he says 200 million Europeans compare Israelis to Nazis, let us reduce it by half. The fact is that huge swathes of opinion in Europe and the USA are venomously opposed to Israel’s existence on principle. So who is Israel to rely on? We knew Europe would never go to war to defend the Jews. Now we have seen all too clearly that the USA cannot be relied upon to fight. It is war weary. Israel must defend it itself as best it can, both socially and militarily. It is time to look for friends elsewhere.

In addition, I believe Judaism has more in common with and is more appreciated by the religion and mysticism of the East than of the West. The West is fixated on pain, suffering, guilt, and negativity. The East has much more positive religious energy. We have been identified with the Western religious tradition for too long. We have adopted too much of this guilt and pain. We could well redress the balance. It is time to think about a new alliance, a new love affair, with the Far East for Israel and Jews in general. I only hope our present leaders, secular and religious, will not be as myopic as those of the past.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/go-east/2013/09/24/

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