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(Communicated by the Foreign Minister’s Bureau)

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman launched the MFA’s new Tourist Information application today (Wednesday, June 13 2012) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. The application was developed over the past year by the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Department for Israelis Abroad, in collaboration with the Bureau for Information Technology and Communication Services. The application, which is in Hebrew, is available for free download on the Apple App Store under the title Tourist Information (מידע למטייל). An Android version will soon be available as well.

FM Lieberman stated that the move is an additional contribution to the strengthening of the relationship and service the MFA provides the public. “I commend the excellent work and cooperation of the Consular Department and the Bureau for Information Technology and Communication Services who developed an application that enables Israeli tourists around the world to utilize the services provided by our diplomatic missions in the countries they visit, and to view all pertinent information regarding the country.  This application is not static; it will continue to develop, and this is an additional layer added to other MFA initiatives designed to improve service to the public.”

With this application, the MFA is able to provide Israeli citizens with an additional means of receiving information on various countries, travel recommendations, contact information of Israeli diplomatic missions around the world and recommended behavior in routine and stressful situations. The information provided is both essential and useful for Israeli citizens abroad, whether they are backpackers, tourists or businessmen interested in basic information about their destination.

The Head of the Consular Affairs Bureau, Yigal Tzarfati, stated that the aim of the Bureau is to improve services to the public by any means possible, and this application represents an additional, important method of doing so.

During the event, FM Lieberman referred to the State Comptroller’s Report regarding the Marmara Flotilla, and stated that after reading the report carefully, the conclusion is that from the publicity standpoint, the entire affair should be dealt with by the MFA so that it will be able to manage similar future events in the international media successfully. Only the MFA, with its accumulated skills and deployment, is able to provide a real-time response and to deal with misrepresentations attempted by hostile entities in the international media. A situation similar to that during the Flotilla, where several entities such as the National Information Directorate, the IDF Spokesperson, the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs all attempted to manage the situation simultaneously, will merely create confusion and problems.

Selected Data on the Occasion of Jerusalem Day 2012

Based on a report by the Central Bureau of Statistics

Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is the largest city in the country – the largest in area (about 48.4 sq. miles) and the largest in population. In 1948 the population of Jerusalem was 82,900. By the end of 2011, Jerusalem had 801,000 residents, more than 10% of the total population of the state. According to the Ministry of the Interior, out of the total population in the city, 497,000 were Jewish (62%), 281,000 were Muslim (35%) and 14,000 were Christian (2%), with 9,000 residents not affiliated with any religion (1%).

Sources of population growth

  • In 2011 the population of Jerusalem grew by 14,500 residents. This growth stemmed mainly from the high natural increase (number of births minus number of deaths), which added about 19,000 people to the city’s population. Another 3,000 approximately were added as a result of international emigration – new immigrants, immigrant citizens[1], family unification and emigration balance of Israelis (leaving and returning of Israelis who resided abroad for more than a year).
  • The internal emigration balance in Jerusalem continued to be negative, reducing growth by about 7,500 people. In 2011 the situation in Jerusalem was similar to that of other big cities in Israel such as Tel Aviv-Yafo, Rishon Lezion, and Ashdod, where the main source of growth is natural increase and the internal emigration balance is negative.

Households and families

  • Jerusalem has about 192,000 households, about 9% of all households in the country. The average household in Jerusalem numbers four persons (compared to the national average of 3.4), more than the average in the other big cities: Ashdod (3.3), Rishon Lezion and Petah Tikva (3.1), Haifa (2.5) and Tel Aviv (2.2).

Students in Jerusalem

  • In the academic year 2010/11, 36.5 thousand students studied in all of the institutions of higher learning in Jerusalem: 20,400 at Hebrew University, 10,800 at seven academic colleges, and 5,300 at five teachers’ colleges.
  • The students studying in Jerusalem in 2010/11 constituted 14.5% of the total number of students in the country (not including those studying at the Open University).

Level of satisfaction

  • 55 % of Jerusalem residents are very satisfied with their lives (50% of the Jews and 62% of the non-Jews), compared to 36% of residents in the rest of Israel.
  • Residents of Jerusalem are more optimistic than other Israelis – more of them think their lives will improve in the future (56% compared to 52%, respectively).
  • 63% of Jerusalem residents are satisfied or very satisfied with their economic situation, compared to 59% of the rest of the population.
  • 41% of Jerusalem residents are very satisfied with their relations with their neighbors, compared to 32% in the rest of the country.

[1] Children of Israelis living abroad who come to Israel with the intent to settle.

The State of Israel is nothing short of a true miracle: in her 64 years, Israel has achieved more than any other nation on earth, a miracle that was created by a mosaic of different groups.

A wise man once said that Israel is the only country in the world that was founded on a dream: each group had its own — one was hoping to recreate an Eastern European shtetl, another was dreaming of an egalitarian kibbutz; one aspired for an urban Western style of bourgeoisie, and the other was eying the Orient. At times, our various dreams and aspirations collided.

However, Israel’s incredible success proves that much can be achieved in spite of these profound differences, and some would argue because of them. Moreover, the sense of a shared destiny hovered above and made it all possible.

In her 64 years, Israel has been characterized first and foremost by her love of life, and there is nothing more symbolic of life than water, embodying its source and essence. While coping with the water scarcity at home, Israel has become over the years a global leader in the fields of water desalination, management and conservation. Hence, Israel is proud to lead the world in the rate of water re-utilization (76 percent).

Water is also a wonderful example of what can be achieved together: as a rare resource not only in Israel, but in the Middle East as a whole, it constitutes an opportunity for all the peoples of the region to come together and join hands in the struggle to create a better future for our children. It is in this moment, when we are reminded of our basic needs of survival, that we have the opportunity of connecting with each other on the most human level.

Water is only one case in point of what Israel has become over the years: an inspirational source of creative energy, where dreams come true.

Whether in the field of medicine, or theater, modern dance, bird migration, high-tech, bio-technology or filmmaking, nano-technology, religious studies, green energy or emergency preparedness — Israel is a major player, with her strongest skill of all: the human resource and ingenuity.

Israel’s abilities have turned her into a true light unto the nations, bettering the lives of each and every one of us.

Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day (April 25 this year), is a day in which we can take a moment in our busy lives to marvel at this modern day miracle: Israel’s creative spirit, energy and endurance.

On Independence Day itself, the parks of Jerusalem and the beaches of Tel Aviv are filled with picnics and barbeques and soaring Israeli flags, full of music and dancing, as the nation comes together to celebrate as one big family and community.

Just like in Israel, many communities in New York and all over the United States join together in these celebrations.

New York, as the world’s largest Jewish city, is a special place in this regard as it is home to the largest annual show of support for Israel worldwide: the Celebrate Israel Parade.

On June 3, masses of supporters from the tri-state region and beyond will collectively show their love and unwavering dedication to Israel. It is a united effort put forth by all members of our extended community to come together as one, and show Israel our love and support. It is a unique day on our calendar where once a year we set aside our differences and agree on one major thing: Israel. This coming together is a testament to the strong bond between the Jewish community and the State of Israel.

This year’s creative theme, “Israel Branches Out,” is specifically fitting as it demonstrates just how diverse and large our community has become. When we come together, we become stronger and can better show the world Israel’s many strengths, contributions and accomplishments. The parade gives us a chance to show the positive impact Israel has had and continues to have on each and every one of us around the world, and this in itself is a reason for celebration.

Yom Ha’Atzmaut marks a unique moment in our history that joins us together as a people and as a nation, celebrating the most meaningful miracle of our modern history: the rebirth of an independent Jewish nation in our homeland. It is a realization of a dream and a prayer long sung in the hearts of our people.

Just as water connects people, Yom Ha’Atzmaut gives us the opportunity to come together as one family and tell the whole world: this is the State of Israel, it is there for you and me to celebrate, and we love her with all our hearts.

From ashes to resurrection, from destruction to sovereignty.

Chag atzmaut sameach.

Ambassador Ido Aharoni is consul general of the State of Israel in New York.

First appeared in The Jewish Week

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In response to Nicholas Kristof’s piece in the New York Times, we would like to stress that Israel is not interested in war. It never was and it never will be. It is, however, the obligation of any government to reserve the right to defend its citizens at any and all cost. Raise your hand if you want to live in a world that consists of a nuclear Middle East.

Raise your hand if you think the world will be safer with a state sponsor of terror being able to choose overnight whether to hand out nuclear bombs. Raise your hand if you think the West should return to a “Cold War” mentality and fear of nuclear war breaking out at a moment’s notice. Now, raise your hand if you think the world needs to do all it can to prevent this from happening.

Saying “all options must remain on the table” doesn’t mean force is your first option, but a realistic understanding that your last resort needs to be available under a worst case scenario. Israel, the United States and the international community must do everything in order to prevent this scenario from becoming a reality – a reality that begins with Iran going nuclear.

Israel has no desire to enter into armed conflict. But it is the obligation of any responsible government, and especially the international community, to prevent the annihilation of sovereign countries. As long as every tool remains a viable, publicly stated option, Iran will understand that it has no choice but to abandon their nuclear program. But if we continue to ignore Iran’s actions and motives, and instead focuses on Israel’s possible options, we only march one step closer to a nuclear Middle East. Not every call for action is a call to arms, but continued inaction is a path to catastrophe. Today, we can decide how tomorrow should look. Tomorrow, we might not have that luxury.

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA  AND PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU

Courtesy of the White House and Office of the Press Secretary

 

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I want to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu and the entire Israeli delegation back to the White House, back to the Oval Office.

This visit obviously comes at a critical time.  We are seeing incredible changes that are taking place in the Middle East and in North Africa.  We have seen the terrible bloodshed that’s going on in Syria, the democratic transition that’s taking place in Egypt.  And in the midst of this, we have an island of democracy and one of our greatest allies in Israel.

As I’ve said repeatedly, the bond between our two countries is unbreakable.  My personal commitment — a commitment that is consistent with the history of other occupants of this Oval Office — our commitment to the security of Israel is rock solid. And as I’ve said to the Prime Minister in every single one of our meetings, the United States will always have Israel’s back when it comes to Israel’s security.  This is a bond that is based not only on our mutual security interests and economic interests, but is also based on common values and the incredible people-to-people contacts that we have between our two countries.

During the course of this meeting, we’ll talk about the regional issues that are taking place, and I look forward to the Prime Minister sharing with me his ideas about how we can increase the prospects of peace and security in the region.  We will discuss the issues that continue to be a focus of not only our foreign policy but also the Prime Minister’s — how we can, potentially, bring about a calmer set of discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians and arrive at a peaceful resolution to that longstanding conflict.  It is a very difficult thing to do in light of the context right now, but I know that the Prime Minister remains committed to trying to achieve that.

And obviously a large topic of conversation will be Iran, which I devoted a lot of time to in my speech to AIPAC yesterday, and I know that the Prime Minister has been focused on for a long period of time.  Let me just reiterate a couple of points on that.

Number one, we all know that it’s unacceptable from Israel’s perspective to have a country with a nuclear weapon that has called for the destruction of Israel.  But as I emphasized yesterday, it is profoundly in the United States’ interest as well to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  We do not want to see a nuclear arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world.  We do not want the possibility of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorists.  And we do not want a regime that has been a state sponsor of terrorism being able to feel that it can act even more aggressively or with impunity as a consequence of its nuclear power.

That’s why we have worked so diligently to set up the most crippling sanctions ever with respect to Iran.  We do believe that there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue, but ultimately the Iranians’ regime has to make a decision to move in that direction, a decision that they have not made thus far.

And as I emphasized, even as we will continue on the diplomatic front, we will continue to tighten pressure when it comes to sanctions, I reserve all options, and my policy here is not going to be one of containment.  My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.  And as I indicated yesterday in my speech, when I say all options are at the table, I mean it.

Having said that, I know that both the Prime Minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically.  We understand the costs of any military action.  And I want to assure both the American people and the Israeli people that we are in constant and close consultation.  I think the levels of coordination and consultation between our militaries and our intelligence not just on this issue but on a broad range of issues has been unprecedented.  And I intend to make sure that that continues during what will be a series of difficult months, I suspect, in 2012.

So, Prime Minister, we welcome you and we appreciate very much the friendship of the Israeli people.  You can count on that friendship always being reciprocated from the United States.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Mr. President, thank you for those kind words.  And thank you, too, for that strong speech yesterday.  And I want to thank you also for the warm hospitality that you’ve shown me and my delegation.

The alliance between our two countries is deeply appreciated by me and by everyone in Israel.  And I think that, as you said, when Americans look around the Middle East today, they see one reliable, stable, faithful ally of the United States, and that’s the democracy of Israel.

Americans know that Israel and the United States share common values, that we defend common interests, that we face common enemies.  Iran’s leaders know that, too.  For them, you’re the Great Satan, we’re the Little Satan.  For them, we are you and you’re us.  And you know something, Mr. President — at least on this last point, I think they’re right.  We are you, and you are us.  We’re together.  So if there’s one thing that stands out clearly in the Middle East today, it’s that Israel and America stand together.

I think that above and beyond that are two principles, longstanding principles of American policy that you reiterated yesterday in your speech — that Israel must have the ability always to defend itself by itself against any threat; and that when it comes to Israel’s security, Israel has the right, the sovereign right to make its own decisions.  I believe that’s why you appreciate, Mr. President, that Israel must reserve the right to defend itself.

And after all, that’s the very purpose of the Jewish state  — to restore to the Jewish people control over our destiny.  And that’s why my supreme responsibility as Prime Minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate.

So I thank you very much, Mr. President, for your friendship, and I look forward to our discussions.  Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much.

 

Thank you, everybody.

PM Benyamin Netanyahu, speaking during a tour of the Jordan Valley, marked International Women’s Day with a tribute to Israel’s female soldiers serving in the IDF. While remarking that Israel is the only country in the region where women have equal rights, Mr. Netanyahu went on to describe the myriad contributions by women in the IDF:

“I am impressed by you,” said the Prime Minister. “There is a revolution in the IDF here.  One-third of the IDF’s personnel are women. We have Border Police fighters. We have women in the Air Force, including as pilots. This expresses the change in the status of women in the IDF and in the State of Israel as a whole.”

“We must especially salute the women soldiers and officers in the IDF.  I salute you.  May the sun shine on you every day, not just now.”

Contrasting the status of women in Israel with recent events taking place throughout the Middle East, Mr. Netanyahu said: “The most basic premise that everyone is talking about has to do with the upheaval in the Arab and Islamic world. One thing we do not see. We still do not see a revolution in the status of women in most of the countries around us. In at least one of them, women have been stoned; women are used like merchandise that passes from hand to hand, without any rights, fairness or ability to demand their rights in genuine courts of law.”

“While it stands out in many respects, it is especially prominent in that it is a democratic state in which women have equal rights. What we see here is also equal obligations, not just rights,” he said.

The Prime Minister, also spoke about Israel’s need to maintain security along the Jordan River in any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“Our security border is here, on the Jordan River and our line of defense is here. If this was true before the major unrest now shaking the Middle East and the entire region, it is doubly true today,” the Prime Minister said.

WASHINGTON, DC — As many countries lowered taxes during the economic crisis, Israel raised taxes, said Israeli Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz during a speech  to students and professors at John Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Traveling to Washington, DC for the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group, Minister Steinitz offered the audience a look into “Israel’s Unique Approach to the Global Economic Crisis.”

Photo: Kaveh Sardari, www.sardari.com

“[Other countries] sacrificed the future for the present and created large deficits. We decided that the long term is more important. According to economic philosophy, if you sacrifice the future, you in essence damage the present. Economics is mainly expectations for the future. Therefore, while the rest of the world lowered taxes, we raised indirect taxes. Now, as the rest of the world is raising taxes, we are in the midst of sharply lowering taxes for companies and individuals by 2016,” said Minister Steinitz.

He also pointed to the government’s use of a two-year or bi-annual budget, a system which Minister Steinitz points to as an important element to focus on the implementation, not the planning of the budget. “All governments are spending at least six months on planning and preparing the budgets, then they are spending six months focusing on implementing. Then they begin focusing on next year’s budget again. It is totally illogical,” Steinitz said. Earlier this year, the IMF even recommended the idea of a bi-annual budget, he said.

What Israel’s finance sector has done over the past few years has also received worldwide attention. Just today, Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel was awarded the prestigious title of “Best Bank Governor of the World” by industry-leading Euromoney.

“Israel’s resilience during its financial crisis and its aftermath prove that Stanley Fischer is worthy of the respect he commands at the top of the financial community,” according to the magazine. “His bold moves to raise interest rates in September 2009 – the first country to do so after the crisis, proved well guided and prescient. Further rises have also been well timed, allowing the economy to grow at a healthy rate of 4.7% in the second quarter of 2010 while keeping inflation in check around 1.8%. His innovative move towards an interventionist exchange rate policy, while controversial at the time, has bolstered Israel’s reserves while boosting the country’s exports, which are key to its economic performance. Despite Israel’s political and regional difficulties, Fischer’s policies contributed to Israel’s acceptance to the OECD in May this year.”

Here the full audio of Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz’s lecture at SAIS: http://www.sais-jhu.edu/news-and-events/index.htm

Michael Oren on CNN

In his first television interview as Israel’s new Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren sits down with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria to discuss his prospects for peace in the Middle East and on Iran.

Watch the full CNN segment here.

Read Fareed Zakaria’s Q&A, “Surprising Progress in the Middle East,” here.