The Day In Israel: Tuesday Aug 24th, 2010

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With palestinian leaders threatening to walk out of the upcoming direct talks if Israel does not extend the settlement freeze – bringing to mind Abba Eban’s famous quote “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” – the US has stated the freeze will be discussed during the talks itself, and not be treated as a precondition.

While the US was “mindful” of Palestinian demands for a construction freeze in the West Bank, State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley said Monday the issue would be discussed on September 2 in Washington, ruling it out as a precondition for direct talks.

“The issue of settlements, the issue of the moratorium… has been a topic of discussion and will be a topic of discussion when the leaders meet with Secretary Clinton on September 2,” Crowley said.

For a second straight day, Palestinian leaders have threatened to walk away from upcoming talks if Israel does not extend the settlement construction moratorium on September 26. This has led a government official on Monday to question if the Palestinians “were not looking for excuses to pull out of the talks even before they began.”

A little more than a week before Israel and the Palestinian Authority are scheduled to relaunch direct talks in Washington, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that “if Israel resumes settlement activities in the Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem, we cannot continue negotiations.”

He was speaking at a press conference in Ramallah, and quoting from a letter PA President Mahmoud Abbas sent to US President Barack Obama.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must choose “between settlements and peace,” Erekat said. “We hope that Mr. Netanyahu will choose reconciliation and not further confrontation. If Mr.

Netanyahu decides to produce new settlement tenders come September 26, he will have decided to stop the negotiations.”

Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said in response to Erekat that the issue of the settlements “is one of the issues on the agenda of the talks, and has to be discussed. The fate of the settlements will be determined in a peace agreement, and that is the correct way to approach the matter.”

Following Erekat’s statement, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that “Israel does not place any precondition to starting the direct talks.”

Meanwhile, I think it appropriate that the parties will be discussing a freeze with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of all people.

hillary clinton
Getty Images

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)



10:50PM: Egypt fail: How do you say “D’oh” in Arabic?

The Egyptian government was looking to buy back 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas sold to Israel as part of the deal signed in 2005, according to a Tuesday report by Egyptian daily al-Shaab.

Anonymous sources told al-Shaab that internal discussions at Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources decided that over half of the natural gas sold to Israel under the deal would have to be repurchased at $14 billion, even though it was sold for $2 billion.

Cairo officials had previously blamed the gas deal with Israel as the main reason for the increase in power outages experienced by Egyptians since 2004, as less natural gas is provided for use by domestic power suppliers, AFP reported last Sunday.

Egypt’s ruling party has been embarrassed by the increased power cuts to the population and ensuing fights between government officials over who bears responsibility for the problem,  according to the independent daily al-Shorouk report cited by AFP.

10:40PM: Hizbullah fail: The prosecutor in the assassination case of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri says that a packet of evidence handed over by Hizbullah last week was “incomplete,” and failed to add anything to what Sheik Hassan Nasrallah disclosed at a news conference earlier this month.

frank johansson
"I'm screwed"

8:52PM: Chairman of the Finnish Amnesty International Frank Johansson has this to say about Israel on his blog (hat tip: Tundra Tabloids via Solomonia).

“A friend of mine who works in Israel, was visiting while piling wood in the shed, we got into his favourite topic. Several years of  residence in the holy country, he has come to the conclusion that “Israel is a scum state”. On the basis of my own visit, which occurred during the 1970s and 1990s for the final time, I agree.”

Welcome to the world of English-language blogs, scumball.

Here’s hoping you’re career is finnish-ed.

8:40PM: Interesting blog from a pro-Israel Muslim.

From his profile:

I am a college student of Political Science, and Jewish Studies in Baltimore, Maryland. An avid supporter of interfaith relations, I was the first Muslim president of the only international Jewish Fraternity, and am always working to use my unique experiences between two worlds to be a bridge between Muslims and Jews wherever I go.

5:36PM: Quote of the day:

“We have called repeatedly for his release, [but] the regime that holds him is not one that is terribly given to respond to international pressure or respect international law in any way, shape or form.”

“We have great sympathy for him, his family and all those who know him. He stands as a symbol and remembrance that terrorism is a very real fact in Israel’s day-to-day existence. He is a symbol of that reality and of the complete lawlessness of those in that region who threaten Israel’s existence.”

– Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper commenting on the plight of Gilad Shalit

5:26PM: If you think that the Dead Sea’s high salt and mineral content makes it a very safe place to swim, think again.

5:16PM: NBA star Dwight Howard is to visit Israel “to demonstrate their solidarity with the people and State of Israel.”

5:10PM: According to Maariv columnist Ben Caspit, Rahm Emanuel used some expletives against Ron Dermer, Netanyahu Diplomatic Adviser.

In any case, the real US attitude towards the Netanyahu government hasn’t changed. Inside the room, nothing has changed about how the two parties regard each other. Both parties. This is exemplified by the following story: A little while back, Rahm Emanuel paid us a visit. A family visit, on the occasion of his son’s Bar Mitzvah. Still, Emanuel conducted some [working] meetings in Jerusalem. In the Prime Minister’s Office, among others. With Netanyahu’s Diplomatic Adviser, Ron Dermer, among others. The meeting was held at one of the offices in “the aquarium” [the Prime Minister’s suite]. The tone was not amicable. At some point, it turned into shouting and cursing. Emanuel, as he regularly does, used obscene language. Don’t f*ck with me [spelled out in English and transliterated into Hebrew in the original], for example.

That word, f*ck [transliterated into Hebrew in the original], which is off-limits in the American media, appears in every second sentence Emanuel utters. Whoever translates it, does it at his own risk. Dermer, by the way, gave back as good as he got. Emanuel was angry, he claimed, because Dermer briefed certain Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, against the President and Emanuel himself. The ruckus at the meeting was bad and hasn’t leaked until now. Afterwards, Bibi went to Washington and everything calmed down.

Wow, Emanuel really does think he is Jesus.

3:12PM: Remember the controversial video of IDF soldiers dancing in Hebron to Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”?

Well, a Lebanese blogger from Now Lebanon has reacted to it – by complimenting the choice of song and recognizing that the soldiers have a sense of humor.

2:32PM: This is Norway to treat a friend.

Norway’s Finance Ministry said the country’s oil fund has divested from two Israeli  companies involved in building settlements in the West Bank.

The ministry said Monday that the 2.8 trillion kroner ($440 billion) sovereign wealth fund has excluded from its portfolio construction company Danya Cebus Ltd. and its majority owner, Africa Israel Investments Ltd.

Danya Cebus has built Israeli homes in the West Bank.

The ethical council that monitors the fund’s investments warned that the fund risked “contributing to serious violations of individual rights in situations of war and conflict” by investing in the Israeli companies.

And here I was hoping for a Thor in relations.

2:24PM: Israeli Foreign Ministry officials have revealed that one of the men on the Mavi Marmara spent three years in a Turkish prison for hijacking a ferry in the Black Sea in 1996.

The Turkish newspaper Hurrieyt reported over the weekend that Erdinc Tekir, who was hurt during the IDF raid on the boat, was among the ninemember team that hijacked the Black Sea ferry to bring the 1996 war in Chechneya to the world’s attention. Tekir spent some three and a half years in prison for the incident.

“This shows what kind of people were on the ship,” one Foreign Ministry official said.

“There were people with a history of violence, and willingness to use it.” The official said Israel hoped the UN panel that was established to probe the Gaza flotilla incident would look into who was on the boat. The panel needs to “shed light on what really happened for the whole world to see.”

11:32AM: Thousands of Jewish children in more than 200 schools (including 42 religious ones) from the fifth grade and up will begin mandatory studies in Arabic this school year.

“The aim is to turn the language into a cultural bridge – a means of communication. It is extremely important that every child come to know the language and the culture and thus communicate, hold conversations, and be tolerant in this country.

It would be nice if this approach was reciprocated.

8:52AM: With Iran’s leaders threatening to wipe Israel off the map, and otherwise referring to us as things like “a cancer” and “filthy bacteria,” this is how Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has addressed the Iranian people.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has joined the struggle against closing down Kol Yisrael (Israel radio) in Persian: “This is an extremely important public diplomacy tool that directly links Israel to the Iranian people, out of the regime’s reach. Today, the Kol Yisrael program in Persian is Israel’s only means of transmitting direct messages to the Iranian people. In the program’s 55 years of existence, it has built up a reputation among the Iranians for having objective and trustworthy broadcasts. Kol Yisrael in Persian must not be shut down; in fact its scope should be increased,” said Ayalon.

The deputy minister sent the following message to the Iranian people, as part of an interview he granted to the station:

“Israel bears no animosity towards the Iranian people. We have deep respect for them, and aspire to cooperate with them to bring about a better reality in the region. The problem is intrinsic to the Iranian regime and its conduct, particularly regarding the nuclear issue. This is a regime that threatens to annihilate western countries such as the United States, Great Britain and Israel. The Iranian regime spreads instability, supports terror, and oppresses its own people. It is impossible to accept atomic weapons in the hands of such a regime.

The Iranian reactor constitutes a tremendous danger to the stability of the entire region and to world peace in general because, besides nuclear armaments, Iran is also developing a missile system that threatens countries beyond the Middle East, such as Europe. Nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands will enable it to threaten all the Arab governments with its present means (subversive elements in various countries, agents, and so forth). Even now it controls bodies that function as a state within a state, in Lebanon, Palestinian areas, Yemen and other places.

Another point that does not always come up in the Iranian context, due to the nuclear threat, is the glaring violation of civil rights inside Iran. This is an aggressive dictatorial regime, and all progressive elements throughout the world should take action against it, if only for that reason. Israel congratulates the Iranian people for their efforts to liberate themselves from the burden of the oppressive regime. At every international forum, Israel has raised the issue of the suffering of the Iranian people and the cruelty of the regime ruling them. That is the main thing we can do for such an illustrious nation suffering from oppression. But in the end, it is the Iranian people themselves who must take their fate in their own hands and act to achieve their rights. The more the citizens of Iran increase their protest activities, the higher the international support will be, including Israel’s support.

In response to a question regarding the likelihood of regional war, the deputy minister replied that there is always the possibility of sudden, unplanned deterioration due to one action or another. Israel is committed to defending its citizens and if attacked will act accordingly. A fear exists that Iran – as it becomes more pressured by sanctions – will goad those under its patronage in Hizbullah and Hamas to initiate military action against Israel. There’s also a possibility that Iran will make a military move against the Arab Gulf states and harm the flow of oil to the world, in which case the entire situation will degrade into widespread confrontations. Remember that the sanctions are aimed against Iran’s efforts to arm itself with nuclear weapons, and if they don’t elicit results, the United States and other nations might consider more forceful measures.”

6:06AM: This next photo is dedicated to those who do not think the PA – especially chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat – are acting like little children.

Saeb Erekat
AFP

Either that, or he’s trying to perfect Blue Steel.

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