Browsing Posts published in June, 2011

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES ON THE TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY FIFTH INDEPENDENCE DAY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ministers, Knesset members, Ambassador Cunningham, Guests and Friends,

There are more than two hundred and thirty five different things I can say about the wonder, the grandeur, the accomplishment and the spirit that is AMERICA -  the powerful nation and generous giver.

It is the history of a mighty – nay, the mightiest – country that never occupied but always contributed.

America is the great nation that was always sensitive to the grim. To the dire. TO the impoverished. And made the world a less dangerous one.

Ready to overcome its flaws.

Some criticize the United States. All of us know that a world without the U.S. would be the greatest mistake of all.

For all of us.

America became for most of us the Indispensable Nation. Then, and now.

THANK YOU AMERICA for what you are – for what you are for us.

WE THANK YOU for standing up for what is right and just and fair.

THANK YOU for defending freedom, safeguarding liberty, searching for peace, protecting democracy, advancing our shared values.

THANK YOU AMERICA for being our friend and our ally.

AND THANK YOU PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, for your leadership, for your deep and moving ongoing and unwavering commitment to the peace and security of our land.

Despite the disparity in size, resources, and power, the United States and Israel share many things.

Core values. a world outlook. a similar fundamental rejection of injustice, and similar aspirations for the world’s future.

Despite the different trajectory of their history, the US and Israel share something fundamental and essential:

We are both, first and foremost, AN IDEA.

We are nations that were established contrary to the trends of history and against conventional wisdom.

We are nations born in defiance of the old order.

We are nations that pursued sovereignty because our founding fathers were discriminated against.

We are nations that seek to set an example, to be a shining light guiding the evolution of a better society and better mankind.

We don’t have a choice but to be exceptional, each in its own way.

We admire your Constitution. It is a uniquely American document, but it is one, we in Israel cherish. And we uphold our Ten Commandments. There is an affinity between them.

Both of us cherish peace with our neighbors. and treasure a democratic new Middle East as a great promise for all of our children. And we shall win.

Thank you Ambassador and Mrs. Cunningham for serving the friendship between our two countries with so much devotion and good will. You served friendship and won friends.

Thank you, Ambassador, for representing the great U.S.A.

First published by Reuters:

What is the legality of the blockade and did Israel’s intervention breach international law? Below are some questions and answers on the issue:

CAN ISRAEL IMPOSE A NAVAL BLOCKADE ON GAZA?

Yes it can, according to the law of blockade which was derived from customary international law and codified in the 1909 Declaration of London. It was updated in 1994 in a legally recognized document called the “San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.”

Under some of the key rules, a blockade must be declared and notified to all belligerents and neutral states, access to neutral ports cannot be blocked, and an area can only be blockaded which is under enemy control.

“On the basis that Hamas is the ruling entity of Gaza and Israel is in the midst of an armed struggle against that ruling entity, the blockade is legal,” said Philip Roche, partner in the shipping disputes and risk management team with law firm Norton Rose.

WHAT ARE INTERNATIONAL WATERS?

Under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea a coastal state has a “territorial sea” of 12 nautical miles from the coast over which it is sovereign. Ships of other states are allowed “innocent passage” through such waters.

There is a further 12 nautical mile zone called the “contiguous zone” over which a state may take action to protect itself or its laws.

“However, strictly beyond the 12 nautical miles limit the seas are the “high seas” or international waters,” Roche said.

The Israeli navy said on Monday the Gaza bound flotilla was intercepted 120 km (75 miles) west of Israel. The Turkish captain of one of the vessels told an Istanbul news conference after returning home from Israeli detention they were 68 miles outside Israeli territorial waters.

Under the law of a blockade, intercepting a vessel could apply globally so long as a ship is bound for a “belligerent” territory, legal experts say.

CAN ISRAEL USE FORCE WHEN INTERCEPTING SHIPS?

Under international law it can use force when boarding a ship.

“If force is disproportionate it would be a violation of the key tenets of the use of force,” said Commander James Kraska, professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College.

Israeli authorities said marines who boarded the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara opened fire in self-defense after activists clubbed and stabbed them and snatched some of their weapons.

Legal experts say proportional force does not mean that guns cannot be used by forces when being attacked with knives.

“But there has got to be a relationship between the threat and response,” Kraska said.

The use of force may also have other repercussions.

“While the full facts need to emerge from a credible and transparent investigation, from what is known now, it appears that Israel acted within its legal rights,” said J. Peter Pham, a strategic adviser to U.S. and European governments.

“However, not every operation that the law permits is necessarily prudent from the strategic point of view.”

OPPONENTS HAVE CALLED ISRAEL’S RAID “PIRACY.” WAS IT?

No, as under international law it was considered a state action.

“Whether what Israel did is right or wrong, it is not an act of piracy. Piracy deals with private conduct particularly with a pecuniary or financial interest,” Kraska said.

HAVE THERE BEEN ANY SHIPPING DISRUPTIONS AFTER THE RAID?

None so far but the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), an association which represents 75 percent of the world’s merchant fleet, has expressed “deep concern” over the boarding by Israeli forces, arguing that merchant ships have a right to safe passage and freedom of navigation in international waters.

“These fundamental principles of international law must always be upheld by all of the world’s nations,” the ICS said.

For links to the maritime declarations click here.

 

Head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, General Patrick O’Reilly announced on Monday that Israel will integrate its missile systems into a region-wide effort to protect U.S. interests and personnel. The ‘Iron Dome’ system, which is battlefield tested, is the first system in the world capable of shooting down incoming rockets. While Israel’s missile defense systems were originally designed to protect its citizens from Hamas and Hezbollah – terrorist groups which have launched thousands rockets and missiles into Israel the system is extremely advanced, able to intercept large ICBMs launched from Iran.

Israel will be teaming up with its greatest ally and friend, the United States, to develop a region-wide missile defense system to protect the United States and its allies. The regional defense system, in addition to protecting U.S. bases, may also be used to protect U.S. allies, theoretically even ones which do not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

While Iron Dome is an Israeli program, it was done in cooperation with a number of U.S. security firms, having even been tested on U.S. soil. Israel and the United States are both committed to the security of the other, and the Jewish State is more than happy to be taking the lead on this one.

 

Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel, is one of the world’s most respected economists, credited with, among many things, helping Israel bear the brunt of the 2008 global financial crisis. Israel’s economy was not only surviving, it was thriving. Before being at the helm of Israel’s fiscal policy, he served as chief economist at the World Bank, Vice Chairman of Citigroup, and was the first Deputy Managing Director of the IMF.

Over the weekend, Mr. Fischer formally announced his candidacy to lead the IMF. While the selection process is a political one, Mr. Fischer has received official support from Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who said “were it purely professional it would be hard-pressed to find a better person than Fischer.”

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad also threw his support behind Mr. Fischer, saying the Israeli would make a ”great managing director” for the IMF and is a “superb human being.”

“He is supremely qualified for the job. Indeed, it’s difficult to see how one can be more qualified,” continued Fayyad.

The Palestinian Prime Minister knows a thing or two about economics, receiving his PhD in the subject from the University of Texas, as well as working for the IMF in the 1980s.

Mr. Fayyad’s support for an Israeli official to lead such an important institution is as much a testament to Mr. Fischer’s resume as it is to the character of the PA’s economic guru. The recently announced “reconciliation” between the government in the West Bank, led by Fatah and the terrorist group Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip is threatening the moderate Fayyad’s political status. While Fayyad has been nominated to continue as Prime Minister in the so-called “unity government,” Hamas has voiced its rejection, declaring they will not support Salam Fayyad as a member of the new government, as he is seen by many as being pro-Western.

The following Op-Ed was first published in The Miami Herald by Ofer Bavly, Consul General of Israel to Floria and Puerto Rico.

Israel’s critics have lately sought in a variety of ways to delegitimize Israel through public opinion, after years of terror attacks and suicide bombings failed to achieve their goal of eliminating the country altogether. One such tactic is a deliberate attempt to link democratic Israel and the former, notoriously racist regime in South Africa by using intellectually dishonest arguments that others would call lies and deliberate manipulation.

A good example is a recent opinion column on The Miami Herald’s Other Views page in which the word “apartheid” was used repeatedly, requiring a factual clarification to expose the gross distortion of facts.

Twenty-five percent of Israelis are non-Jews, made up primarily of Muslim and Christian Arabs. They enjoy full democratic rights. Our Parliament comprises 120 members, including nine Arabs, representing three different Arab parties. There are Arabs on Israel’s Supreme Court and District Courts. Arabs serve in Israel’s police, army and Foreign Service. They are CEOs of hospitals, school principals and university professors. There are Arab mayors and Arabs in government. By law, no position may be denied to an Arab citizen of Israel based on his or her faith.

If this is apartheid, then what is democracy?

From the Galilee to the Negev, from Tel Aviv to Beersheba, Israelis of all walks of life are celebrating the 44th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. In the 4,000 year history of Jerusalem (which you can get through in five minutes thanks to a great YouTube video posted below), Jerusalem was always united, except for the years from 1948-1967, when it was occupied by Jordan. Following Israel’s independence in 1948, Jerusalem was meant to be independently governed by international bodies including the United Nations. However, in rejecting the two-state solution, Israel’s Arab neighbors launched an assault to prevent the founding of a Jewish state, and the armistice line which ended the War of Independence cut tragically through the heart of the Holy City.

From 1948 until June 1st, 1967, Jerusalem was divided along an awkward line - the Old City, home to the Western Wall, lay in Jordanian territory and was off limits to Jewish Israelis. While freedom of worship and expression are the foundation of the modern State of Israel, and today everyone is welcome in Jerusalem, during 1948-1967, the holy sites were closed off to Christians and Jews. During the ‘Six Day War,’ Jerusalem was unified, ending a very dark period of that city’s history.

So here we are, on a June 1st 44 years later, celebrating not only the reunification of a city, but the reunification of many peoples, together. Since June 1st, 1967, there is a level of religious freedom in Jerusalem never before seen in its history.  Transcending traditional divides, Israelis enthusiastically celebrate the return of Jerusalem as a place open to all who wish to worship, whether they be Jewish, Muslim, Israeli-Arab or Palestinian.

Today, the united Jerusalem has a population of 789,000. According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, 62 percent 492,700 of the city’s residents are Jews, and 36 percent  are Arabs. In a speech commemorating the beginning of Jerusalem Day last night, Prime Minister Netanyahu said “Jerusalem will never again be divided.” The city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims will continue to welcome all so long as the State of Israel exists.