The Day In Israel: Wednesday April 14th, 2010

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US President Barack Obama has said the US Administration calls upon all nations to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, including Israel.

When asked about Israel’s nuclear program, Obama at first refused to address the issue, instead insisting to talk about the US and its commitment to reducing American nuclear weapon stockpiles.

“Initially you were talking about US behavior, and then suddenly we’re talking about Israel. Let me talk about the United States,” the president said. “I do think that as part of the NPT, our obligation, as the largest nuclear power in the world, is to take steps to reducing our nuclear stockpile. And that’s what the START treaty was about, sending a message that we are going to meet our obligations…as far as Israel goes, I’m not going to comment on their program.

However, although initially saying he will not address Israel’s nuclear program, Obama continued, pointing out that the US is calling on all nations to sign the NPT.

“What I’m going to point to is the fact that consistently we have urged all countries to become members of the NPT. So there’s no contradiction there,” he said. “And so whether we’re talking about Israel or any other country, we think that becoming part of the NPT is important. And that, by the way, is not a new position. That’s been a consistent position of the United States government, even prior to my administration.”

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)?

7:44PM: Ronald Lauder, the President of the World Jewish Congress, has written the following letter to US President Barack Obama (it will be published tomorrow in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post):

Dear President Obama:

I write today as a proud American and a proud Jew.

Jews around the world are concerned today.  We are concerned about the nuclear ambitions of an Iranian regime that brags about its genocidal intentions against Israel.  We are concerned that the Jewish state is being isolated and delegitimized.

Mr. President, we are concerned about the dramatic deterioration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel.

The Israeli housing bureaucracy made a poorly timed announcement and your Administration branded it an “insult.”  This diplomatic faux pas was over the fourth stage of a seven stage planning permission process – a plan to build homes years from now in a Jewish area of Jerusalem that under any peace agreement would remain an integral part of Israel.

Our concern grows to alarm as we consider some disturbing questions.  Why does the thrust of this Administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks? After all, it is the Palestinians, not Israel, who refuse to negotiate.

Israel has made unprecedented concessions.  It has enacted the most far reaching West Bank settlement moratorium in Israeli history.

Israel has publicly declared support for a two-state solution.  Conversely, many Palestinians continue their refusal to even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

The conflict’s root cause has always been the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.  Every American President who has tried to broker a peace agreement has collided with that Palestinian intransigence, sooner or later.  Recall President Clinton’s anguish when his peace proposals were bluntly rejected by the Palestinians in 2000.  Settlements were not the key issue then.

They are not the key issue now.

Another important question is this:  what is the Administration’s position on Israel’s borders in any final status agreement?  Ambiguity on this matter has provoked a wave of rumors and anxiety.  Can it be true that America is no longer committed to a final status agreement that provides defensible borders for Israel?  Is a new course being charted that would leave Israel with the indefensible borders that invited invasion prior to 1967?

There are significant moves from the Palestinian side to use those indefensible borders as the basis for a future unilateral declaration of independence.  How would the United States respond to such a reckless course of action?

And what are America’s strategic ambitions in the broader Middle East?  The Administration’s desire to improve relations with the Muslim world is well known.  But is friction with Israel part of this new strategy?  Is it assumed worsening relations with Israel can improve relations with Muslims?  History is clear on the matter:  appeasement does not work.  It can achieve the opposite of what is intended.

And what about the most dangerous player in the region?  Shouldn’t the United States remain focused on the single biggest threat that confronts the world today?  That threat is a nuclear armed Iran.  Israel is not only America’s closest ally in the Middle East, it is the one most committed to this Administration’s declared aim of ensuring Iran does not get nuclear weapons.

Mr. President, we embrace your sincerity in your quest to seek a lasting peace.  But we urge you to take into consideration the concerns expressed above.  Our great country and the tiny State of Israel have long shared the core values of freedom and democracy.  It is a bond much treasured by the Jewish people.  In that spirit I submit, most respectfully, that it is time to end our public feud with Israel and to confront the real challenges that we face together.

Yours sincerely,
Ronald S. Lauder
President
World Jewish Congress

(hat tip: One Jerusalem)

5:55PM: Please tell me that isn’t an Israeli flag covering the palestinian smuggler’s face.

palestinian smuggler
In this photo taken Sunday, April 11, 2010, a Palestinian smuggler stands inside a tunnel in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. Gaza's Hamas rulers have ordered residents to shut smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt indefinitely, cutting off the economic lifeline for 1.5 million Palestinians in the impoverished territory, residents and tunnel operators said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

4:00PM: Can you see anything offensive with this ad?

Israel tourism ad

Well, the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has criticized it after a reader complained the image of the Kotel/Wailing Wall and Dome of the Rock misleadingly implied that it was part of Israel, and ordered the Israel tourist office not use it again.

The ASA said that the advert featured various landmarks that were in East Jerusalem which were part of the Occupied Territories.

It ruled that the advert breached truthfulness guidelines and ordered that it not be used again, adding: “We told the Israeli Tourist Office not to imply that places in the Occupied Territories were part of the state of Israel.”

It said: “The ASA noted the itinerary image of Jerusalem used in the ad featured the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock, which were both in East Jerusalem, a part of the Occupied Territories of the West Bank.

“We noted the ad stated ‘You can travel the entire length of Israel in six hours – imagine what you can experience in four days’, and ‘Visit now for more itineraries in Israel’, and considered that readers were likely to understand that the places featured in the itinerary were all within the state of Israel.

“We understood, however, that the status of the occupied territory of the West Bank was the subject of much international dispute, and, because we considered that the ad implied that the part of East Jerusalem featured in the image was part of the state of Israel, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.”

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism stated that the advert provided “basic, accurate information to a prospective UK traveller who wanted to know what to expect in Israel”.

It said that it was “entirely accurate to assert that a visitor to Israel could visit Jerusalem as part of a short visit”, adding: “Had the ad omitted a reference to a visit to the city of Jerusalem, it would have been incorrect and potentially misleading.”

In response to the complaint, the ministry said that Israel “took responsibility to support the religious sites of all denominations, a commitment which also formed part of the obligations of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority signed in 1995”. The ministry added that “the agreement placed the upkeep of holy sites and the determination of tourist visiting hours under Israeli jurisdiction”.

The ministry also maintained that the present legal status of Jerusalem had nothing to do with the point at issue.

It said this was “only of relevance if there was an attempt to interpret the straightforward message of the ad in a manner that went beyond what consumers were likely to understand from the ad.”

Unbelievable.

The British probably think taking these stances will curry them favor with their future Islamic overlords when the inevitable happens within the next decade or so (hat tip: Joe in Australia).

2:35PM: The Israeli Communications Ministry has reportedly blocked the import of Tampods iPads.

If you had thought to buy Apple’s new iPad tablet computer any time soon and bring it to Israel, you may have to change your plans: Starting yesterday, the Communications Ministry has blocked the import of iPads to Israel, and the customs authority has been directed to confiscate them.

The decision follows the refusal of the ministry’s engineering staff to compromise on testing the device’s suitability and compliance with Israeli wireless networks.

It seems however that the engineers made their decision without notifying Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon in advance – and caused an uproar within the ministry.

For now, the ministry has not given the device categorical approval required for wireless devices; and ministry officials say its wireless technology is not compatible with Israeli standards.

“The iPad device sold exclusively today in the United States operates at broadcast power levels [over its WiFi modem] compatible with American standards,” explained the officials. “As the Israeli regulations in the area of WiFi are similar to European standards, which are different from American standards, which permit broadcasting at lower power, therefore the broadcast levels of the device prevent approving its use in Israel,” said the officials.

The ministry has requested all the relevant information on the iPad from Apple’s Israeli distributor, iDigital, so as to approve importing iPads.

An Israeli who returned from the U.S. yesterday told TheMarker that when he tried to declare his new iPad at customs, it was confiscated. He was told to apply to the Communications Ministry to have it returned. When he spoke to the ministry, he was told: “It is forbidden to bring iPads into Israel; send it back overseas.”

1:56PM: According to the Wall Street Journal, the US is determined to press ahead with reassigning an envoy to Damascus despite knowing that Syria has been arming Hizbullah with Scud missiles.

Actually, not despite. It is because they know about these Syrian misdeeds.

The transfer of Scud missiles to Hezbollah from Syria will not prevent the reassignment of a US ambassador to Damascus, and even proves that such an authority figure is needed there, the Wall Street Journal quoted Washington officials as saying Wednesday.

Officials briefed on intelligence have confirmed that both Israel and the US believe Syria gave Hezbollah missiles produced according to North Korean or Russian technology.

Earlier in his term US President Barack Obama announced that he would reassign an envoy to Damascus, after his predecessor George Bush recalled the ambassador there in 2005, following the assassination of President Rafik al-Hariri.

Obama’s critics say Syrian President Bashar Assad is strengthening ties with extremists in the region, including Iran. But members of the administration say the most recent Syrian provocation is proof that closer contact with Syria is needed, in order to attempt to divert it from this path.

If anything, we need (an ambassador) in Damascus full time just to ensure that reality gets its day in court now and then,” the Wall Street Journal quoted a senior administration official as saying.

A report on the transfer of the Scud missiles said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, who went as an emissary to Damascus on April 1, had raised concerns about the arming of Hezbollah by the Syrian regime.

“These weapons transfers must stop in order to promote regional stability and security,” Kerry’s spokesman, Frederick Jones, said.

The journal added that Hezbollah had denied the weapons transfer and claimed reports on the matter were an Israeli ploy to divert attention from construction in settlements and east Jerusalem.

A Syrian Embassy spokesman in Washington said Israel was trying to cover up its own armament. “It is ridiculous that Israel dictates the agenda of arms control in the region while stifling any discussion of its nuclear arsenal, along with the influx of top-caliber US weaponry,” said Ahmed Salkini.

My head hurts trying to follow that logic.

6:00AM: Wow.

5:45AM: Now that he is no longer on the job, former IAEA (Potato) Head Mohamed ElBaradei is revealing exactly why it should worry us that he ever was.

Potato HeadFormer IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who is considering contending in Egypt’s presidential elections  next year, expressed his support for the “Palestinian resistance” while slamming Israel.

In a report published Tuesday, the experienced diplomat said that Palestinian violence was the only path open to the Palestinian people, because “the Israeli occupation only understands the language of violence.”

—-

According to the report from the UPI news agency, ElBaradei started the ball rolling with a meeting Monday with members of his movement, thus making it clear to Israel how relations between the states will be after the elections – if he wins. According to Ibrahim Nawar, a senior figure in the movement, ElBaradei also said, “The peace process has become a stupid joke which we talk about without achieving any progress.”

The former International Atomic Energy Agency leader criticized the fence which Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak set up along the Gaza Strip border. The fence “hurts Egypt’s reputation,” he said. “It appears to be participation in the siege of Gaza, which has become the world’s largest prison.”

“The logical solution to the problem,” he continued, “would be to close the tunnels and open border crossings while creating a free trade zone in Rafah where Palestinians can trade and then return to Gaza.”

ElBaradei also sent a message to his supporters, who have invested great hope in him for the presidential elections in 2011, to put pressure on Mubarak for democratic reforms. He called on all the opposition parties to boycott the parliamentary elections, due this year, if amendments are not made to the constitution to ensure transparency.

The participation of the opposition in the elections under current conditions, he said, will end in a landslide victory which will only grant further legitimacy to Mubarak’s regime.

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