Browsing Posts in Middle East

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke today with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Prime Minister Netanyahu told Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan that he had good talks with US President Barack Obama on the issue of regional cooperation and the importance of Israeli-Turkish relations. The Prime Minister expressed regret over the deterioration in bilateral relations and noted his commitment to working out the disagreements in order to advance peace and regional stability.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he saw Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent interview in a Danish newspaper and expressed his appreciation for the latter’s remarks. The Prime Minister made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life. In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also noted that Israel has already lifted several restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods to all of the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and added that this will continue as long as the quiet is maintained. The two leaders agreed to continue to work on improving the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.

President Obama, who just left Israel for Jordan, issued a statement which read “The United States deeply values our close partnerships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security.” The statement went on to read “I am hopeful that today’s exchange between the two leaders will enable them to engage in deeper cooperation on this and a range of other challenges and opportunities.”

Yesterday, January 24th, President Shimon Peres spoke at the central plenary of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

 

The President of the Stathttp://www.mfa.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/3F265210-04BC-4C55-A9E2-C29E1796AB20/0/presperesdavos2013pg.jpge of Israel, President Shimon Peres, began his visit at the World Economic Forum in Davos and spoke at a special plenary dedicated to the Middle East in light of the changes and challenges facing the region. At the start of his remarks President Peres commented on the fact that he would be unable to provide headlines on the recent elections in Israel and said: We welcome the elections in Israel. At the moment we cannot guess which way the new government will face and who will be in it, we must wait patiently until Wednesday when the official results will be published. Afterwards, according to the law I will call consult with all the elected groups in the Knesset. Until then I won’t be able to comment further on the matter.”

President Peres spoke in detail about the Arab spring in Egypt, the situation in Syria and the changes in the Middle East; “Today it is almost impossible to be a dictator in the Middle East. The central problem for the people of Egypt today is poverty, unemployment and that is a problem for many in the Middle East. The young generation wants education, employment and a decent salary. Israel respects the results of the elections in Egypt and the elected president. We hope that Egypt will succeed in overcoming its economic difficulties and achieve economic prosperity.”

With respect to the Iranian threat President Peres said, “Iran wants to rule over the Middle East, and no country wants that to happen. Iran is a center of terror, it distributes weapons and terror across the world. Iran is not exclusively an Israeli problem but a problem for the entire world.” President Peres addressed the coalition against Iran under the leadership of the United States of America and said, “I am confident that President Obama’s policies with regards to Iran are correct. President Obama is leading a serious, responsible and just coalition against Iran – the Iranian nation is feeling the impact of economic sanctions.”

President Peres also addressed the ongoing bloodshed in Syria and said, “Syria is suffering from terrible bloodshed with many refugees suffering as a result. I believe that Assad is running out of options and it is a matter of time until Assad’s reign will end. I also believe that the Arab League can bring an end to the bloodshed in Syria, if the member countries work together and will enter with a special military force, with a UN Mandate that will be responsible for maintaining peace and ending the bloodshed. The issue is urgent as innocent people are being killed every day.”

Before closing the plenary session, Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and Chairperson of the World Economic Forum, asked President Peres what his vision for the coming decade and the next generation is as someone who will be celebrating his 90th birthday this year. President Peres responded and said, “I’ll tell you a personal story – as a child I loved telescopes and I would speak to my girlfriend about love and the stars, today I prefer microscopes and to discover the tiny and the hidden that has yet to be uncovered. I believe that in the next decade the world will be completely different, full of possibilities and with many more opportunities and scientific discoveries. The coming decade will focus on the nano, in scientific developments, and that will be the source of future innovations more than space and the stars. It is better for us all to offer hope rather than create despair. Let me tell you a secret: optimists and pessimists die the same way, but they live differently and from my life experience I can tell you that it’s better to live as an optimist.”

Prior to the plenary session President Peres conducted diplomatic meetings with the president of Azerbaijan and the president of Georgia. During both meetings the president’s discussed the Middle East and increasing the strategic cooperation between Israel and each of the countries. President Peres will conduct further meetings during the conference with including with the Chairman and CEO of Cisco, John Chambers; Co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter, Perry Chen; Chairman and CEO of the private equity group Blackstone Stephen Schwarzman and others.

This year has seen a dramatic increase in terrorist activity emanating from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of 2012, there have been over 800 rockets launched at Israeli civilians by the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza. Over the past few days, the situation has become even worse, with 120 rockets launched by Hamas in Gaza. These rockets and missiles are launched indiscriminately at schools, homes, and other populated areas inside Israel, their sole purpose is to cause death and destruction.

House in southern Israel hit by Gaza rocket

In one of the first  attacks, an IDF force patrolling near the Karni crossing, inside Israel, sustained a direct hit by an anti-tank missile fired from a location east of the Gaza Strip neighborhoods of Zeitun and Sajaiya. Two soldiers suffered serious injuries and were airlifted to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. Two others were rushed to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon in moderate condition, suffering from shrapnel wounds.  It’s important to note that the vehicle was conducting a routine patrol of the Gaza border fence, inside Israeli territory.  You can see the raw footage of the attack below:

For some background information, it’s important to stress what is the Gaza Strip. Located Southwest of Israel, the small enclave is  controlled by Hamas, which is categorized by the U.S. and Europe as a terrorist organization. Israel withdrew from the area in 2005, and not a single soldier or civilian resides in Gaza. It is entirely in the hands of Hamas, who are well equipped with missiles, rockets, and guns from Iran.

In response to this outbreak in terrorist activity, which endangers the lives of over 1,000,000 Israeli civilians living in the range of the rocket attacks, Israel has begun a targeted operation called “Pillar of Defense.” The goal of this operation is to deal a serious blow to the terrorist group’s military command structure.

Earlier today, the Israel Defense Forces targeted Ahmed Jabri, the head of Hamas’ military wing, in the Gaza Strip. Jabri was a senior Hamas operative who served in the upper echelon of the Hamas’ command and was directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the State of Israel in the past number of years.

Jabari was one of the most notorious and “most wanted” terrorists in the world, having been in charge of the thousands of rocket attacks launched at Israel’s cities over the past decade, as well as directing the abduction of Gilad Shalit.

Human Rights Watch denounced Hamas for “the targeting and killing of civilians, public executions of political opponents and captives, throwing prisoners off high-rise apartment buildings, fighting in hospitals, and shooting from a jeep marked with “TV” insignias.” It must be noted that Israel disengaged completely from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The result of Israel’s disengagement is that Gaza has become a giant ammunition dump. In addition, it provides a breeding ground for terrorist groups to organize and to operate, including groups associated with al-Qaeda and Global Jihad. All this under the rule, responsibility and sponsorship of Hamas. Weapons smuggled from Libya, Iran and Sudan accelerated the process of Gaza turning into a terror base. These weapons also increased the danger posed to the Israeli population and the West in general.

Israeli Defense Force (IDF) spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich told BBC News that close to 20 sites in Gaza had been targeted in a limited operation, with the strikes aiming to destroy rocket-firing capabilities. A large part of the weapons storage sites were located in civilian residential buildings, the IDF confirmed. “This is further evidence of the pattern of Hamas to use the population in Gaza as human shields,” the IDF said in a statement. “The surgical operation against Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other organizations has two goals: to protect Israeli civilians and target the terror capability of these organizations,” she added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Hamas and the terror organizations have elected in recent days to escalate their attacks on Israel’s citizens. We are not prepared to make peace with a situation in which Israel’s citizens are menaced by the terror of rocket fire. No country would agree to such a situation; Israel is not prepared to reconcile itself to such a situation.

Today we have damaged the strategic targets of Hamas in a precise fashion; we have substantially damaged the launch capabilities of rockets from Gaza to central Israel and we are damaging the launch capability to Southern Israel.The terror organizations hurt our citizens with premeditation, while they deliberately conceal themselves behind their own citizens. We in contradistinction refrain to the extent possible from harming civilians; this is a fundamental difference between us and them. They would simply like to wipe us off the face of the earth and they have no reservations about harming innocent civilians.

Today we transmitted a clear message to the Hamas organization and to other terrorist organizations and should the need arise, the IDF is prepared to expand the action. We will continue doing everything to protect our citizens.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak: “Israel does not seek war, but Hamas’ provocations in recent weeks, most notably the repeated rounds of rocket and mortar fire directed at cities and towns in southern Israel, the explosives set off in an underground tunnel leading into Israel, and the firing of an anti-tank missile at a jeep inside Israeli territory forced us to take decisive action

 

 

 

Communicated by MFA Spokesperson’s Bureau

The agricultural exhibition Agritech 2012 will take place in Tel Aviv on 15-17 May. Prominent figures from abroad will be among the thousands expected to visit the exhibition, which showcases innovations, developments and inventions in the fields of agriculture and related technologies.

Israel is a world leader in agro-technology. A big reason for this is the country’s shortage of water and arable land, which has led to the development of methods, technologies and products that address these challenges.

A significant proportion of scientific research in Israel focuses on agro-technology, providing the foundation for start-up companies in this field.

Agritech 2012 offers a window through which the Israeli agro-technology industry may be viewed close up. This is the 18th Agritech exhibition, which is held every three years. The main subjects for this year’s exhibition include irrigation, water management, greenhouses, and the dairy industry. For the first time, one of the pavilions is dedicated to agricultural innovation and will display Israeli innovations and developments in the field.

Agritech has become a tradition for farmers as well as decision-makers in the field of agriculture. At the last Agritech exhibition, held in 2009, about 4,200 visitors came from all over the world.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which sees as one of its primary goals the promotion of Israel’s economy through its envoys abroad and its staff at the home office, plays a major part in Agritech 2012. In keeping with its slogan, “diplomacy in the service of the Israeli economy”, the Foreign Ministry takes care of the foreign VIP visitors, including a prime minister, ministers of agriculture, and other government ministers whose jobs are connected to agriculture in some way.

During the exhibition, MASHAV will convene a forum for visiting ministers titled, “Global challenges in agriculture”. In addition, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon will represent the Foreign Ministry at the opening ceremony, which will take place at the Tel Aviv Trade Fairs and Convention Center on Tuesday morning, 15 May, and will meet with senior officials from abroad who have come to see the exhibition.

Exhibition website: http://www2.kenes.com/agritech2012/pages/home.aspx

 

(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)

Earlier this morning (Monday, November 28th), Israeli President Shimon Peres met with Jordanian King Abdullah II  at the Royal Palace in Amman, . The two leaders discussed various bilateral issues as well as ways to overcome obstacles in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and exchanged views regarding recent developments in the region. The meeting was held in a warm, friendly and open atmosphere.  President Peres and King Abdullah agreed to continue their talks in the near future.

Prior to leaving for Amman, President Peres met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  The two discussed the importance of strengthening the good strategic ties between Israel and Jordan.

During his meeting with King Abdullah, President Peres emphasized Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposal to hold a direct Israeli-Palestinian meeting forthwith in order to advance the peace process. The President stressed that reaching a solution of ‘two states for two peoples ‘ will be possible only via direct negotiations and not through appealing to the UN.

 

The following Op-Ed is by Israel’s Consul General to the Southwest Meir Shlomo. It was first published in today’s Houston Chronicle:

Critics of Israel’s Palestinian policies ‘just don’t get it’

By Consul General Meir Shlomo

Some time ago I heard a comparison by a native Texan who told me that Texas and Israel are alike in that we are both surrounded by people who “just don’t get it.”

What is it that they don’t get?

Here are a few simple unvarnished truisms about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and what better place to tell them than Texas?

The conflict between Israel and the Arab world, and part of the Muslim world, is first and foremost about the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to have a Jewish state in the land of Israel. The rest, including the territorial aspect, is secondary at best.

We have no territorial dispute with Iran, and yet every Monday and Friday its leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calls for the annihilation of the state of Israel from the face of the Earth. Moreover, Iran is pressing ahead with its nuclear program, which is designed to give him the necessary tools for his vision.

We have no territorial dispute with Lebanon. The border is marked by the United Nations itself, to the last inch, and still Hezbollah is seeking nothing short of the destruction of Israel.

Still, many say that all these countries are seeking the destruction of Israel in support of the Palestinians. Wrong again. The proof? Even during the Oslo process, when it looked like we were going to achieve a final peace accord with the Palestinians, these countries kept instigating Israel, and even threatened the Palestinian leadership at the time.

The Palestinians also refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. True, with them there is a territorial dispute. Here we come to another truism: the settlements. Are they the reason for the conflict? If so, surely removing all of them would solve the conflict. That is the flawed logic of Israel bashers who insist on disregarding an uncontested fact of history:

The first settlement was established after 1967; however, the conflict started long before, at least in 1948, and persisted for 19 years with the absence of any settlements whatsoever.

So if it is not the settlements, why not use the 1967 line as the basis for a solution? Let’s put this one to bed right away. To see Israel before 1967 is to understand how unbelievably small and vulnerable it was. Imagine that two-thirds of the entire population of Texas, and all the industry and economy of Texas, were concentrated in Houston. Now imagine that you live in the Galleria area. On your border, which is as close as the Astrodome, your opponents can gather an exceedingly large army. Is that a formula for peace or a war waiting to happen?

The recent Arab Spring shook the whole Middle East. From Afghanistan to North Africa, the Middle East is going through an earthquake and tectonic shifts of change — none of that has anything to do with Israel.

Young and old, people are marching in squares and being killed by the hundreds in the streets of Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. You don’t hear them chanting slogans against Israel or the U.S. They march because they want what they really need – freedom. They are killed not because of Israel, but because their own rulers want to deny them freedom.

This political earthquake, completely unrelated to Israel, proves another truism: The core of instability in the Middle East is the lack of democracy and backwardness caused by the lack of democracy, not the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

I just came back from Washington, D.C., where I heard my prime minister deliver a historic speech. Benjamin Netanyahu went on record at the U.S. Congress and said that Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinians for a state that will be “viable, independent, and prosperous.”

Where is the partner who will finally “get it”?

The following statement was released by the Office of the Prime Minister:

Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace.  Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.

That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.

Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.

Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel.

Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace.

Equally, the Palestinians, and not just the United States, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and any peace agreement with them must end all claims against Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will also express his disappointment over the Palestinian Authority’s decision to embrace Hamas, a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction, as well as over Mahmoud Abbas’s recently expressed views which grossly distort history and make clear that Abbas seeks a Palestinian state in order to continue the conflict with Israel rather than end it.

By Ambassador of the State of Israel to the United States Dr. Michael B. Oren.

The Middle East, from North Africa to the Persian Gulf, is in the throes of historic upheaval. The populations that have long suffered under dictatorial and oppressive rulers are rising and demanding freedom. We, in Israel, are watching these events with a sense of awe and anticipation. We ardently hope that our neighbors will someday enjoy the same liberty that we have always cherished.  We have long been proud to say that we are the only democracy in the Middle East; we would be happier, still to say that we are one of many.

Fittingly, Passover is the holiday of freedom. As we celebrate this year, we should be mindful of the yearning of all peoples to live in dignity and enjoy inalienable rights. That is the message of the story of the Exodus, of the Jewish people’s hard-won passage from slavery to freedom. We learn that liberty is not to be taken for granted but, on the contrary, must often be achieved at considerable cost and sacrifice. This is true as much for our ancient ancestors escaping Egypt as it is for modern Egyptians today. Though Passover is a Jewish holiday, its meaning is universal.

Passover also teaches us that there is no true freedom without responsibility. Not insignificantly does the path from bondage in Egypt lead to the revelatory gathering at Mt. Sinai. There, the Jewish people accepted the responsibility of the Law. There they learned that respecting and heeding the Law was the pre-requisite for their survival as an independent, united people. They understood – and that understanding became integral to Jewish identity – that assuming responsibilities is essential to preserving a just and peaceful society.

While we indeed wish our neighbors success in their quest for democracy, so, too, do we expect them to forge societies that are open and tolerant. Unfortunately, we have seen how societies lacking in such qualities can swiftly revert to the worst kind of tyranny. We have seen how democratic movements in Lebanon, Iran, and Gaza were hijacked by extremists and transformed into terrorist strongholds. Therefore, it is crucial that the peoples of the Middle East adhere to the timeless message of the Exodus and that, in achieving freedom, they embrace the responsibility of peace.

This year, as always, Jews will recline at their Seder tables and give thanks for their manifold blessings. In Israel, we will take pride in our prodigious scientific accomplishments, our technological innovation, and the humanitarian assistance we’ve extended to disaster-wrought countries around the world. At the same time, however, we will be aware of the challenges still confronting our country, whether in the form of the thousands of terrorist rockets aimed at our homes or the nuclear ambitions of a radical regime sworn to wipe us off the map. But this Passover, unlike any other of recent memory, will be illuminated by the hope for the emergence of a very different Middle East in which people value not only their own rights but also those of others, a Middle East that respects not only the benefits of freedom but also its obligations. Tonight we will be asking, “Ma nishtana?” – What makes this night different than any other? This year, the night is further distinguished by the possibility that future nights will never be the same.

From the Huffington Post:

President Ramos-Horta and President Peres

“I was surprised by the state of peace and economic prosperity prevailing in Israel and the West Bank. Israelis and Palestinians alike are pleased that not one single attack has been launched from the West Bank into Israel in four years.

Visiting Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, including walking along a ‘refugee’ area, with the infamous concrete security wall towering above me, and shaking hands with a number of youth, I was struck by the relative calm in the area. As someone all too familiar with situations of subjugation and despair, I could sense that this is a very fragile peace. Violence will flare-up if the much promised and much delayed Palestinian State does not become a reality within the next two years. Nevertheless, at this particular point in time, Israel and Palestine (West Bank) form an oasis of tranquility in a region in turmoil.”

To read the full article, click here.

On Sunday, February 20th, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren had an op-ed published in The New York Times‘ Week in Review.

In ”Will Egypt be a Partner in Peace?” Ambassador Oren looked at Israel’s past relationships with Egypt and towards the future  as change in the region is occurring before our very eyes.

“These are indeed historic days, and Israel looks forward to transforming what has long been seen as a cold peace between governments into a deeply rooted warm peace between peoples, a peace between democracies,” Ambassador Oren wrote, “Back in 1952, Ben-Gurion welcomed a new Egyptian leadership, but his dream of a harmonious Middle East was crushed. Our hope is that the current Egyptian revolution realizes Ben-Gurion’s vision, for the benefit of Egyptians and Israelis alike. If the region is indeed on the cusp of a new era, and if that awakening proves peaceful, Israel will be the first to embrace it.”

To read Ambassador Oren’s op-ed, click here.