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August 26, 2016 / 22 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Yisrael Beiteinu’

New Defense Minister Facing Challenges Within and Without

Friday, May 27th, 2016

The State Dept. deputy spokesperson Mark C. Toner on Thursday reiterated verbatim his statement from the day before about the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) had chosen to bolster his coalition government by inviting MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) to serve as his defense minister. Toner said, “We’ve seen the agreement that has been reached to expand the coalition. We also know that this is the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history.” He knows this because, he said, “We’ve seen – or we know that many of its ministers have said they oppose a two-state solution. And what I said yesterday is the same as what I’m going to say today: this raises legitimate questions about the direction that the new Israeli Government may be headed in, and what kind of policies it’s going to adopt. We’re going to judge this government by the course it charts and the actions it takes going forward, but yes, we are concerned.”

It isn’t clear from the statement whether Toner is aware of the fact that the reason the current Netanyahu government is “the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history” has to do with the fact that Israel’s voters have been voting rightwing parties in at an increasing rate, and the fact that so many government ministers oppose the 2-state solution has to do with the fact that the majority of Israelis oppose it. Just like, incidentally, the majority of Arabs do as well. But the attacks on Liberman’s appointment are coming not just from Washington, DC, but from inside the Netanyahu government.

The coalition agreement Netanyahu and Lieberman signed on Wednesday included a commitment to promote a new amendment to the Basic Laws, Israel’s closest thing to a constitution, which would limit the ability of the Supreme Court to overturn Knesset laws. The amendment would require a majority of 8 out of the 15 justices to overturn a law.

On its face, this is not a bad idea. In the loose and soft boundaries between the branches of government in Israel, the Supreme Court has become so activist, it has practically begun to legislate, by trimming and cutting laws based on petitions from individuals as well as from Knesset opposition factions. It should be noted that in Israel a petitioner need not prove a direct and personal injury from a given law, it’s sufficient that they object to it. And so we’ve seen recently how the Knesset opposition factions which lost the vote on the off-shore gas deal took the law to the high court, which killed it on its face, and then recommended which precise changes in the law would help it pass the court’s approval. In short, the high court added its vote to the opposition to defeat an elected prime minister. That’s bad enough as it is, but the fact that the panel judges dealing with these petitions don’t even require the approval of a majority of the court is about as anti-democratic as they come.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) did not see it that way, and on Wednesday night announced that he would veto any attempt on the part of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu to limit the power of the Supreme Court. “So as not to keep you guessing, I’m telling you in advance — this will not happen,” Kahlon tweeted in response to the new coalition agreement.

Kahlon is desperate to appear as if he matters in the Netanyahu government. His popularity has been sinking, while the clout of his rival in the center of the map, Yair Lapid, has been soaring. In a political environment where the Supreme Court is the only means by which the Tel-Aviv elite has been able to force its will on the rightwing majority in Israel, distinguishing himself as the gallant defender of the court couldn’t hurt Kahlon’s creds, whether the point he’s making is reasonable or not.

Then, on Friday morning, another Kulanu politician, Environment Minister Avi Gabbay, announced his resignation on account of the Lieberman appointment. Gabbay, who is not an MK, and whose ministerial appointment was Kahlon’s choice, said in a statement, “Despite the great importance I see in [my] ministry and in our significant activities to reduce air pollution and in many other areas, the recent political moves and the replacement of the defense minister are in my view a grave act that ignores what’s important to the security of the state and will cause another escalation and the tearing up of the nation.”

So Lieberman should expect more attempts to torpedo his decisions in his new role from the left side of the Netanyahu coalition, which, with its 10 seats, could topple the government and bring on new elections whenever it wishes. Lieberman should also anticipate some friction with the Haredi parties, which are facing a decree from the Supreme Court to accept Reform and Conservative conversions, and would be likely pushing new legislation to bypass the court — legislation Lieberman may not necessarily embrace.

Finally, there are the Arabs. The four rockets that were shot at Israel by the Salafist group Omar Al Hadidi Battalions, and the feeble retaliation by the Israeli air force, illustrated the complexity of the realities inside the Gaza Strip — realities that cannot at the moment be solved with the new defense minister’s much quoted calls to just going in and taking it over. For the moment, both Hamas and Israel are interested in maintaining the quiet. But the Salafists want to heat up the front — they steal those rockets from Hamas storage and shoot them at Israel to encourage a retaliation that would bring an escalation. They’ve missed every time they’ve shot so far, but all they have to do is hit once, kill or injure a civilian inside Israel, and watch the flames that would surely follow.

The Salafists are invested in provoking the Hamas government into military action, with posters that show Hamas as the jailers who serve Israel, the warden. They’ll continue to do everything in their power to rile up a defeated, depressed Arab population. Which is why the right Israeli move at this point is containment—unless Israel wishes to fight the next war on the enemy’s terms. This is why the retaliation Wednesday night was only against two targets, one of them a Hamas naval commando training facility which the IDF has wanted to take out for some time. Despite his reputation and the irrational reactions he seems to generate in DC and across the aisle at home, Lieberman will not, for now, change the containment policy, mostly because it serves Israel’s needs.

JNi.Media

Netanyahu Tells Knesset He Wants ‘Broader Government,’ Herzog: Stop Zigzagging

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

During Monday’s special plenary session honoring the memory of Theodor Herzl, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) said, “I wonder what Herzl would have said had he seen the massive construction, the building of roads, the economic growth, the absorption of immigration, the scientific innovations and the fact that the state of the Jews discovered gas at sea and will extract it for the benefit of its citizens.”

“I met today with the French Prime Minister and stressed that [the Israeli] government wants peace,” Netanyahu also said, relating, “I told him that I seek to move forward in the diplomatic process on the basis of the outline of a demilitarized Palestinian state which recognizes the Jewish state. [But] the two principles of demilitarization and mutual recognition are not preconditions for the opening of negotiations. The process must be direct, bilateral and devoid of international dictates.”

“I am working with all my power to expand the coalition,” the PM told the Plenum, speaking as he did on the eve of signing a new deal with MK Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu to join his coalition government, expanding it from 61 to 67 members. “I said I would do so when we established the government, and I am continuing with these efforts to form a government that is as broad as possible. The door is open to anyone who wants to [join] for the good of the country. There is much to do and a lot to fix, but there is no justification for the complaining that is rampant in certain circles. Israel is a stable, advanced, innovative and democratic state, and this House is proof of that.”

Following the Prime Minister’s speech, opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp – Labor) addressed last week’s political storm in which many have depicted him as being used by Netanyahu for leverage to bring in Lieberman. “During the past couple of weeks I have stood upright against unprecedented attacks, against an incited crowd and against violent exclamations which I have never heard before,” Herzog complained, adding, realisticly, “It is possible that I have jeopardized my political seat, and have shaken it so much that it will be difficult to stabilize. But as opposed to other leaders – I did not join politics to pass the time. In an era where leaders change their minds according to the morning wind blowing on Facebook, I have chosen to stick to my words.”

Herzog’s poison arrow was shot unambiguously at MK Shelly Yachimovich, the former Labor chairwoman Herzog had unseated, whom he nicknamed “Princes of Facebook,” for her frequent—albeit effective and biting—posts.

“In the past couple of months, due to the terror wave and the futile feeling which characterizes the relationship with our neighbors, I have tried to evaluate the situation [based on the statements] of senior leaders from around the world and our region,” Herzog continued to make his case. “Some may seem familiar to you and some less, some are part of the senior leadership of the area and some are younger, whose names cannot be revealed yet. These leaders have a crucial influence over our fate, the fate of our families and children. I wanted with all my might to identify the glimpse of light in the darkness. I have reached the conclusion that we are facing a rare regional opportunity based on a group of Arab leaders who are moderate, young, powerful and lack the Israel complex that their predecessors have had, and who are willing to take action and lead a powerful and stirring process against our neighbors.”

“I have chosen to risk my internal political status and extend a hand to the rival political leader about whom I have said during the elections – ‘it’s either us or him’ – in order to recruit all possible national power and together change the present and the future of our children,” Herzog continued his gallant attempt to explain his abysmal failure in negotiating with his “rival political leader.”

“I know I have let down many of my supporters, my colleagues and friends and a broad public that did not believe Netanyahu in the first place, but I had decided anyhow to not let the opportunity slip away as it stands right in front of our eyes and depends upon Israel having a different, more moderate, government. That is the condition. I chose to give it a try,” Herzog stated.

“Sadly, at the end of the day, while choosing between being a leader that will be remembered in history as going against the flow, and a leader that goes with the flow into the ocean of forgetfulness, Netanyahu has made his choice,” Herzog lamented. “He has slammed the door on the European and American leaders and became a captive of the extremist political group which will lead him and us into a national disaster which we are already a part of, and some of us decide to live in the illusion that everything will be fine.”

In this context, Herzog did not explain how a 55% majority of the House can be considered “extremist” while the remaining 45% are the proverbial moderates. In effect, he described anyone on the right as extremist, while anyone on the left, including the Joint Arab List’s MKs Hanin Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka, and Basel Ghattas, who stood at attention in honor of Arab terrorists killed by Israel, are part of the moderate center.

“I am sorry Mr. Netanyahu that you have chosen to zigzag again,” said Herzog, whose zigzagging during the 2015 campaign included landing MK Tzipi Livni and five colleagues in top spots on his party’s candidates list, and changing the party name from the traditional—and honest—Labor to Zionist Camp, which includes renowned Zionist MK Zouheir Bahloul, who declared earlier this year that Arab attacks on IDF soldiers manning check posts are not acts of terror. “I am sorry that you are the one who slammed the door,” said Herzog, who had fled the negotiations when he finally realized Netanyahu had been double-dealing with Lieberman. “I am sorry that you have chosen to abandon the benefit of the State in favor of your narrow political interest. Your Twitter may remember you favorably, but history won’t.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud), who opened the House debate, said, “We have a serious problem with the culture of argument here; with the ability to listen, which has deteriorated [greatly]; with the lack of respect, the blatant contempt and the obscene language. Our ideological and cultural richness is a source of uniqueness and strength, but we all have a lot of work to do in order to narrow the artificial gaps between us which some make certain are nurtured, because, truthfully, we have more things in common than things that separate us.”

“A [government] is also judged by its ability to bridge the gaps between positions and converge in order to better serve the public,” Edelstein said, concluding, “Therefore, there was no other choice but to work towards expanding the coalition. The first step in this direction should be welcomed, and I hope additional Zionist parties will join. We must stand together, better and more united, in front of the great challenges facing us. This is an important message, internally, for the Israeli public, and also externally, for all those who are eagerly waiting to see our internal disintegration – God forbid.”

MK Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid faction, said “Herzl envisioned a state with equal rights for women at a time when such a notion was almost avant-garde. He wrote that every citizen will be obligated to give two years for military or civil service and that religious coercion would be forbidden. He spoke of the need for a clean country that would protect the environment. He wrote about a country where education is free for everyone, where there is a clear separation between the military and politics; a state that is technologically advanced. He believed that the Arabs of the land are entitled to equal rights.”

OK, that last part, about Herzl advocating for Palestinian rights is a bit of a stretch. As Ernst Pawel noted (The Labyrinth of Exile: A Life Of Theodor Herzl, Farrar, Straus, Giroux), “His attitude toward the indigenous population was one of benign indifference at best. He never questioned the popular view of colonialism as a mission of mercy that brought the blessings of civilization to stone-age savages… He fully believed that the Palestine Arabs would welcome the Jews with open arms; after all, they only stood to gain from the material and technological progress imported by the Jews.”

Some things never change.

JNi.Media

Netanyahu: Expanded Coalition Will Push for Peace Process

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

By Jonathan Benedek/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that an expanded parliamentary coalition will make a renewed push for peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. The comments were made at the weekly cabinet meeting days after striking a deal to bring five Knesset seats of MK Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party into the coalition, with Liberman as the new defense minister.

“I want to clarify that the new government will continue to work toward a political process with the Palestinians, and we will do so with the help of regional actors,” Netanyahu said, seeking to allay concerns that the hardline Liberman will hinder dialogue with the Palestinian Authority.

“From the beginning when we established the coalition, I have said that my intention is to expand the coalition,” stressed Netanyahu. “Sixty-one is better than 59, but the broadest coalition as possible is the most important thing for Israel.”

Israel’s current government has held on to the narrowest possible majority of 61 MKs out of total of 120 MKs. An agreement with the Yisrael Beiteinu party would increase the coalition’s majority to 66 MKs, after one Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker announced that she would not join with her party.

In a meeting with Likud ministers earlier in the day, Netanyahu expressed his continued openness towards including the opposition Zionist Union faction led by Labor party Chairman Isaac Herzog in the coalition. Netanyahu noted that several ministerial positions remain in his hands, including the Foreign Ministry portfolio, which Herzog said had been offered to him last week in a round of failed discussions.

According to Herzog, Netanyahu offered him the job of foreign minister as well as sweeping verbal commitments about working toward a two-state solution with the Palestinians – but refused Herzog’s request to commit those promises to writing.

Marc Gottlieb

Liberman Joins the Coalition – But Leaves One MK Behind

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

By Joshua B. Dermer/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – As the Yisrael Beiteinu party enters the government with chairman MK Avigdor Liberman’s appointment as defense minister, MK Orli Levi-Abekasis announced that she was quitting the party on Thursday, explaining that it had “abandoned” her social agenda.

“The issues for which I chose to take part in public service and activism have been completely abandoned and once again were left at the wayside despite my positions,” Levi-Abekasis said in a Facebook post. “Therefore, I decided not to take part in the present political maneuver and due to the current situation I announce the end of my role in Yisrael Beiteinu.”

“It’s important that I clarify that I never requested a position for myself,” Levi-Abekasis added, “though I certainly demanded that the important issues be placed at the forefront– that the weak sectors receive a proper place in the political process. This did not happen and I can no longer remain indifferent about it.”

Levi-Abekasis is one of only six Yisrael Beiteinu lawmakers and currently serves as deputy speaker of the Knesset. In the 2015 election she was placed in the second position of the party list.

MK Itzik Shmuli of the Labor party cheekily responded to Levi with an invitation to “join your natural home – the Labor Party.” The call was echoed by Labor party chairman Isaac Herzog in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 news on Thursday evening.

“We were surprised to hear about MK Orly Levi’s decision,” Yisrael Beiteinu said in a statement released following Levi’s resignation announcement. “Yisrael Beiteinu is expected to achieve very significant social reforms in the ongoing negotiations and it is unfortunate that MK Levi will not be a part of them.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Analysis: An Afternoon of Hard Maneuvering May Yield New Defense Minister and 67-Member Rightwing Coalition

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Israeli media reported Wednesday evening that MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) has accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to join his government and receive the portfolios of Defense and Immigrant Absorption — which is a nice package considering Liebrman is only adding six seats to the coalition.

But what a difference six seats make. With the budget vote coming up this Summer Session, Netanyahu will be able to breathe easy. Last session, three rogue members of his Likud faction chose to abstain from voting just to make a point, which helped derail some government legislation, awarding undeserved wins to the opposition. With 67 members, the fourth Netanyahu government can live out its entire four-year term.

Also, unlike the earlier potential coalition partner, Isaac Herzog’s left-leaning Zionist Camp, Lieberman is a natural fit in the current government. When he ended his 90 minute private meeting with the PM (which followed the PM’s meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, where the latter was given his walking papers), most of Likud’s senior ministers were quick to congratulate and welcome him back into the fold. Liebrman really is no stranger to Likudniks — from 1993 to 1996, with Netanyahu in place as party chairman, Lieberman served as the Likud party’s director-general. When Netanyahu was elected to his first term as prime minister, Lieberman served as director-general of the prime minister’s office, the equivalent of the White House chief of staff, from 1996 to 1997. With a few noted exceptions, Lieberman has been to the right of Netanyahu, and left his side to start Yisrael Beiteinu in 1999 over concessions Netanyahu granted the Palestinians in the 1997 Wye River Memorandum. But these days there’s very little daylight between Lieberman and the majority of the Likud Knesset faction.

In addition to Netanyahu’s need for coalition stability, the other issue behind Wednesday’s dramatic change was the growing gap between Defense Minister Ya’alon and the rest of the Likud party, which could have put Netanyahu’s future in danger had he continued to be associated with his DM. In several key episodes in the country’s fractious confrontations with Arab terrorists, Ya’alon appeared to be going out of his way to drag the Netanyahu government to the left.

Last Purim, an IDF medic in Hebron shot and killed a terrorist who had already been neutralized by six bullets to his body. The soldier’s commanders on the ground planned to give him a disciplinary hearing at the time, but an Arab B’Tselem agent shot and released a video of the event, and shortly thereafter military police picked up the medic on murder charges. Ya’alon supported the MP and the military prosecutors, despite an unprecedented wave of protest against the IDF brass that frightened Netanyahu. The PM met with the Medic’s father, the charges were reduced to manslaughter and the case may yet be dismissed, but the PM felt that his DM had stuck him in an untenable spot with the Likud diehard rightwing voters.

Then came the notorious Holocaust Memorial Day speech of the IDF deputy chief of staff, who compared, albeit not directly, episodes such as the Hebron shooting of the terrorist to the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany. Again, Netanyahu’s core voters were outraged. He ordered his DM to extract and apology from the general, but the IDF would not apologize, and denied the charges instead.

Finally, there were the terrorists’ bodies. On several occasions, Netanyahu opposed returning the bodies of killed terrorists to their families for burial without some cost, the least of which would be to let them wait a few days, or weeks, as a deterrence to others. In early May, against Netanyahu’s explicit request, Ya’alon ordered the return of the body of a terrorist who had been killed after attacking and wounding three IDF soldiers, one critically, with his car. Then the IDF said something preachy about having no interest in detaining the bodies, ostensibly as political chips.Netanyahu was livid. Anyone who was following those events and understood the growing resentment in Likud against Ya’alon, could see that his days at the helm were numbered.

It isn’t clear whether Netanyahu was very smart or just very lucky when he allowed himself to be talked by his finance minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) into inviting MK Isaac Herzog to join his coalition government. On its face the move looked crazy if not stupid: for one thing, it wasn’t at all certain that more than half of the Zionist Camp MKs would make the switch over, seeing as they view Netanyahu as the poison tree that must be uprooted, not the shade tree for their top members to sit on lucrative portfolios. So the most Bibi would have gotten were 15 or 16 new MKs, but at the cost of Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi 8 seats, which would have netted him only 7 or 8 additional seats — but would have alienated his rightwing voters. So why did he embark on this apparent fool’s errand? Like we said, either because he is frighteningly clever or frighteningly lucky.

Avigdor Liebrman’s mission from the first day of the 20th Knesset has been to topple Netanyahu’s government and come back after the next elections as the most viable rightwing leader. This is why he refused Netanyahu’s repeated courting in the spring of 2015, and continued to bide his time in the opposition, together with Arabs and leftists, the people he dislikes the most—waiting for his chance. He figured, when the time came, with a big enough issue, and with Bibi’s rogue MKs doing their bit, Lieberman could deliver the deadly blow to Netanyahu, with a resounding vote of no confidence.

But when it started to look as if the Zionist Camp was going to boost Bibi’s numbers beyond the point of toppling, Lieberman realized it was time to shelf his revenge plan and get inside the tent before he’d lose any hope of leaving an impression on his voters this term. And so, seemingly out of the blue, Lieberman gathered a press conference in the afternoon, even as Bibi was scolding Bogie (Lauren Bacall’s nickname for Humphrey Bogart which somehow stuck with Ya’alon during his long and decorated military service) — and the Russian refusnik of yesterday suddenly started to play a serenade to Bibi on his balalaika. For the right price—defense and absorption, and the right terms—the death penalty for terrorists, for instance, he and his Yisrael Beiteinu are definitely ready to jump in.

Netanyahu may have been clever or lucky, but Lieberman was, without a doubt, brilliant. He may appear from this day on as serving Netanyahu, but it will be the PM who’ll be forced to do his bidding on security, because it is Lieberman and not Netanyahu who speaks for the rightwing Likud voters. If Bibi flinches at one of Lieberman’s calls (which the latter will issue politely and calmly) — then Bibi’s voters could easily go for the alternative. Say what you will about Avigdor Lieberman, but he could teach a class on maneuvering to a school of sharks.

As a result of all of the above, and should the coalition talks between Bibi Netanyahu and Yvette Lieberman be successful, Israel will have its first truly rightwing government ever. The Haredim are concerned about the draft, but it’s doubtful the new DM will focus on that hornet’s nest at this stage of his new career. If he does, it would bring a quick and unhappy ending to the 20th Knesset.

The one remaining unknown at this point is Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who really wanted to bring the Zionist Camp into the government and is now stuck to the left of Netanyahu, and with polls that show his Kulanu party dropping from 10 to 7 seats come next elections, while his identical twin, Lapid, is projected to win 19 or 20 seats next time around. Kahlon could kill this latest coalition deal in a kamikaze departure followed by resounding vote of no confidence, at which point nothing could save Bibi’s fourth government.

Oh, what interesting times we’re having.

David Israel

Netanyahu-Liberman Meeting Successful

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu Chief Avigdor Liberman met today at 4 PM to discuss the possibility of Liberman’s party joining the coalition.

According to reports the meeting was successful, and both sides will be setting up negotiation teams to finalize the terms of Liberman joining the coalition. The two sides hope to conclude negotiations by Friday.

Before the meeting Liberman set three conditions for entering the coalition, which he shared with journalists at a news conference Wednesday morning. The former minister of foreign affairs said his party would demand the defense portfolio, imposition of the death penalty for terrorist murderers, and pension reforms.

The Likud’s rumor mill is running full force, and it’s saying that Liberman will be getting the position of Defense Minister and Moshe Ya’alon will be getting the boot. Reportedly Netanyahu also offered Liberman the Aliyah (Immigrant Absorption) portfolio as well, to sweeten the deal. Ya’alon is very much out of favor within the Likud these days as he hasn’t stopped running off his mouth with a range of statements that have angered much of the Likud’s rank and file, even causing PM Netanyahu to call him onto the carpet the other day.

Update: PM Netanyahu spoke with Defense Minister Ya’alon and informed him that Liberman had accepted the position of Defense Minister if he joins the coalition.

Labor chief Yitzchak Herzog is also facing problems, and if it looks like Herzog failed or got played by Netanyahu, he could be facing a putsch within his own party.

Shalom Bear

Netanyahu Openly Calling on Lieberman to Join Government

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been engaged through proxies in a long and seemingly failed negotiation with Zionist Camp Chairman (for now) Itzhak Herzog, declared during his weekly cabinet meeting that he intends to “publicly call on (Israel Beiteinu Chairman MK) Lieberman to join the government.” Netanyahu added that, as a signing bonus, he would promote a solution for the pensions of newcomers from Russia, Liberman’s base constituency. Netanyahu sounded optimistic, according to Israeli media outlets, about his ability to get Lieberman, his closest coalition partner for most of the 19th Knesset, to join up. He also said the chances for the Zionist Camp joining are low at this point.

Liebrman quickly responded to Netanyahu’s invite on his Facebook page, calling it a spin. He added that Netanyahu has been conducting his flirtation with Zionist Camp leading MKs Herzog and Livni “in direct contradiction of what he promised during the election campaign,” and that “Netanyahu’s government is not rightwing.”

“Should there be a serious and truthful approach to Israel Beiteinu, we will respond to it, “Lieberman concluded.

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/netanyahu-openly-calling-on-lieberman-to-join-government/2016/05/15/

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