The Day In Israel: Thursday May 13th, 2010

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With Israeli-British relations nosediving in recent times, there are some positive signs for Israel regarding the new British government.

Such as new British foreign secretary William Hague.

William Hague
AP

William Hague, the foreign secretary in the Conservative shadow cabinet, was officially appointed Wednesday as British foreign secretary. The new appointment can be seen as good news for Israel’s  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in more ways than one.

Hague, 59, replaced John Major as leader of the Conservative Party in `997, but lost the premiership to Tony Blair and was forced to wait until 2010 before finally entering the government.

Following Gordon’s Brown resignation, Queen Elizabeth appointed David Cameron as his replacement, and the new British prime minister announced that Hague would be his first appointment. The man who lost to Blair in 2001 and immediately resigned as the party’s leader, rehabilitated the party in the opposition and already knows what his first mission in office will be.

“The most urgent thing is the Iranian nuclear program,” Hague said recently in an interview to the Jewish Chronicle. “We have consistently been the party arguing for tough sanctions and a strong European approach over the last few years and are very frustrated that that hasn’t emerged strongly enough.

“Unlike the Liberal Democrats, we don’t say you rule out for ever any military action. However, we are not calling for that. The way I usually put it is that Iran getting nuclear bomb may be a calamity, although military action may be calamitous. This is why we need peaceful pressure. But to simply take all military efforts off the table is reducing the pressure on Iran.”

Over the past year Israel has clashed with the Labour government, headed by Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband, on several occasions. One of the main issues of dispute was the use of British passports in the assassination of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

Hague responded to the matter politely, but clarified that Israel had “more questions” to answer on the apparent use of false British passports. He said that there was “great concern” about the forging of passports and that “our own particular national interest is in protecting the passports of UK individuals”.

Hague said the Brown cabinet did the right thing by inviting Israeli Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor to discuss the passport affair, rather than summoning him firmly. “There was no need to humiliate him,” he told the 170 guests at a British-Israel Chamber of Commerce dinner in Manchester the same evening. He added, however, that he wanted assurances from Israel that it was not misusing British passports for its own ends.

Hague’s appointment is expected to give Israeli leaders the option to return to London. The new foreign secretary is in favor of changing the law preventing Israeli leaders and army officials from visiting the kingdom for fear of being arrested for war crimes.

Arrest warrants have been issued over the past year both against Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The difference between the Conservative and Labour parties in terms of the Middle East peace process is not big, but Hague believes the change of government could help the negotiations. He said recently that Britain has not been sufficiently involved in the peace process in the past few years and has not made many efforts to restart the process.

“Yes, we are friends of Israel. We are concerned that if a two-state solution is not arrived at soon, then it will never be. And that that would not be in the long-term interests of Israel and that is why we want to see all parties involved being prepared to negotiate.

Hague stresses that he is a “natural friend” of Israel, but does not spare criticism against the Jewish state on the settlement construction issue. However, it appears that his criticism is not too critical.

“The recent announcement of a new project in east Jerusalem during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden was not a great way to advance diplomatic relations. It was a mistake to make it public in that way although it was probably an accident in terms of the timing. These sorts of things can happen, particularly within coalition governments, but that’s a great shame that it came out when it did,” he said.

“There are things that we’re asking of Israel, such as the freeze on settlement expansion, but there are also important things we ask of Palestinians. And we still have the issue of dealing with Hamas in Gaza, an organization that doesn’t recognize Israel.”

“So it’s absolutely true that the pressure must be applied on all sides,” he added. “Foreign Secretary David Miliband has often spoken about needing not a two-state solution but a 23-state solution of all the Arab states, and this is true.”

Hague has visited Israel in the past and examined the security problems up close. “I’ve travelled across the country. I’ve stood on the Golan Heights and swam in the Sea of Galilee. I’ve stood on the part of the West Bank where you can see the Mediterranean, where you really understand Israel’s strategic fragility. But we are candid friends, which means we don’t always agree.”

Hague criticized Israel during the Second Lebanon War as well, saying that the fighting damaged its image among the international community. He voiced a different opinion about Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

“There are still things I think that need examining about this conflict but I didn’t use the term ‘disproportionate’ because, in this instance, Israel was under repeated rocket attack. This has to be kept in mind. We did want a ceasefire as soon as possible but always stressed the need for a ceasefire on both sides for it to be effective.”

Nonetheless, he said the Goldstone report, which accused Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes in Gaza, should not be dismissed. “Goldstone raised some important issues, which all concerned have to address. And of course democracies and free societies are held to high standards and should be.”

I said “positive sign” because although Hague still holds some troubling views, they could have appointed far worse.



Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)?

6:52PM: Photo of the day: It was clear to at least one person at the rally that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and baked beans were a lethal combination.

Salam Fayyad
Reuters

5:02PM: Today’s award for News Report Most in Need of Video Footage goes to this one.

4:38PM: The Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) is to appeal the outrageous ASA ban on the advert which described the Western Wall as part of Israel.

4:20PM: Ma’an reports:

The confessed motive behind the slaying of a Nablus woman was the fact that the 27-year-old was carrying a female fetus, and not a male, Palestinian investigators told Ma’an on Thursday.

The woman, identified only as NB, was found dead in her home, and was later revealed to have been three months pregnant. She was already the mother to three boys and a girl, head of the Nablus investigations unit Major Raed Assaf said.

Officers explained that they arrested the woman’s husband, identified as SB, following the discovery of defensive scratch wounds on his body, matching evidence of blood found under the young mother’s nails.

Witnesses reportedly told police that a similar attempt on NB’s life had been made during her first pregnancy, when the woman was carrying her eldest daughter. Relatives of the woman said SB was envious of his bother, who had nine sons. Following the news of the gender of the fetus, family members told police the woman reported regular beatings, in what she allegedly said was an attempt to terminate the pregnancy.

Major Raed Assaf, head of the Nablus investigations, told Ma’an the murder is a result of numerous differences between the couple but he refused to reveal any more details. He said the investigations were not done yet and the murderer was transferred to the general prosecution.

10:15AM: Incredible: Introducing the only known existing footage of pre-state Israel, in color. (hat tip: My Jewish Learning)

Thoughts:

  • I find this kind of thing fascinating, and always wonder what happened to each and every person I see in such footage. As if they are transformed from mere images to real people with hopes, dreams and lives.
  • Doesn’t Fred Monosson remind you a bit of Forrest Gump the way he appears at all those events with well known politicians and personalities?
  • Note how Shimon Peres makes an appearance. He is truly ageless!

By the way, you can see more on Fred Monosson and his footage here.

7:10AM: Seemed like a good idea at the time?

The decision by the Palestinian Authority to prevent all work in settlements by 2011 is a hasty decision that requires a commitment to providing alternative employment to Palestinians, guests on Palestine TV’s No Spin talk show said Tuesday evening.

Ahmad Muheisin, a refugee camp popular committee member, and Yousef Abu Maria, an Al-Quds Open University lecturer, both voiced their reservation at PA Minister of National Economy Hasan Abu Libdeh’s announcement that the ban on settlement work would be strictly enforced.

Both officials asserted that they were totally opposed to the use of Palestinian labor in Israeli settlements, but called on Abu Libdeh to provide a strategy that would provide job opportunities for some 30,000 Palestinians currently working on illegal West Bank settlements before they are forced into leaving their current work.

Muheisin said all Palestinian factions should participate in the decision on banning work in settlements, highlighting disagreement in the PA’s decision-making circle on Abu Libdeh’s announcement. “Nothing in Palestinian law prohibits work in Israeli settlements. Thus, their decisions shouldn’t be hasty.”

The decision announced by Palestinian minister of economy Hasan Abu Libda to prevent Palestinian labor in Israeli settlements by the end of 2011 is “hasty” according to both guests the Palestine TV talks show “No beating around the bush” or [No Spin] on Tuesday evening.

Abu Maria said the PA ought to consider implementing support for the rehabilitation of agricultural lands in order to provide job opportunities to both settlement workers and farmers, and said he was apposed to the PA Ministry of Labor’s suggestion that arrangements be made with Arab countries, mainly in the Gulf, to absorb Palestinian laborers.

Last Tuesday, Abu Libdeh said the PA was working in full swing to make sure no laborers will be working in Israeli settlements by the end of 2011.

“There are currently 25,000 Palestinians who make their living from working in Israeli settlements. They should stop as they aren’t any different from 200,000 other unemployed workers,” Abu Libdeh said in an interview with Ma’an.

“Even though Palestinian law prohibits work in Israeli settlements, we know that a large number of people left their jobs and have gone to work in settlements,” he said, urging laborers to “work out another solution.”

Fancy that. The so-called “obstacle to peace” providing employment opportunities currently not available for palestinians elsewhere.

6:10AM: Just a reminder to “Like” the Israellycool Facebook page if you haven’t already.

6:05AM: Yesterday, I posted about US President Barack Obama request of PA President Mahmoud Abbas to “do everything he can to prevent acts of incitement or delegitimization of Israel.”

Yeah, about that..

The message that all of Israel is stolen “Palestinian” land was repeated twice in the last week on official Palestinian Authority television.

In the most recent episode of the weekly program We Are Returning, this denial of Israel’s right to exist led to a concrete demand. The PA TV narrator called for Jews to leave Israel and go to Europe and Ethiopia – “your original homeland.”

PA TV also added a visual message of non-recognition of Israel. The camera focused on a drawing of a map that included all of Israel, but showed Israel erased and covered entirely by the Palestinian flag.

PA TV is owned by the Palestinian Authority, and is the responsibility of the office of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

More here.

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