Middle East Roundup: May 9, 2017

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Abbas says he is ready to meet with Netanyahu ‘to make peace’

(JNS.org) Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he is ready to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of President Donald Trump’s renewed peace efforts.

“We affirmed to [Trump] that we are ready to cooperate with him and meet the Israeli prime minister under his auspices in order to make peace,” Abbas told reporters during a joint press conference with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The PA leader also stated he anticipates a meeting with Trump during the U.S. president’s first foreign trip abroad, saying, “We are looking forward to [Trump’s] visit soon to Bethlehem.”

This is the second time in a month that Abbas has stated his willingness to meet with Netanyahu. In April, the PA president told the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun he is “ready to meet the prime minister of Israel anytime in Washington under the patronage of President Trump.” But in the same interview, Abbas said peace talks “will be impossible as far as Israel’s colonial-settlement enterprises continues.” During Tuesday’s press conference, Abbas said he is committed to a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines.


Israeli government salary dispute threatens to disrupt Trump visit

(JNS.org) Ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel this month, the Jewish state’s Foreign Ministry workers union has threatened to disrupt the event over a salary dispute with the Israeli Finance Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry has declined to complete logistical operations for Trump’s visit, “including position papers, preparatory meetings, supply orders, visas, diplomatic mail packages and other activities have not been done,” reported Yedioth Ahronoth.

The workers union said the Foreign Ministry’s refusal to cooperate with coordinating Trump’s visit was instigated by “the Ministry of Finance’s contempt for an agreement with Foreign Ministry employees.”

The union claims the Finance Ministry neglected to implement a new wage agreement two months ago and has not taken any action to mitigate the crisis.

Hanan Goder, head of the workers union and Israel’s ambassador to South Sudan, told Army Radio the union “will take all measures” to ensure Trump’s visit is seen as “embarrassing.”

In response to the Finance Ministry’s purported lack of action, the union distributed a directive to Foreign Ministry employees, stating, “We can only turn to the path of aggressive organizational measures that will harm the issues on the political and social agenda.”

The Finance Ministry responded, “In accordance with the agreements reached, the matter is in legal process, so it is not clear why the Foreign Ministry workers union is in a hurry to harm the foreign relations of the state of Israel.”


US military leader Dunford visits Israel for high-level security talks

(JNS.org) Ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel, U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford landed in the Jewish state Monday as a guest of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.

Dunford’s visit to Israel was his first since Trump took office in January. In addition to Eizenkot, Dunford met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Although the U.S.-Israel meetings were planned in advance, both sides maintained secrecy before their occurrence, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

“We have a great alliance between Israel and the United States, and a great alliance between the American military and the IDF. We appreciate it and we know that this alliance is good, not only for security but also good for peace,” Netanyahu told Dunford.

The primary topics of discussion between military chiefs Dunford and Eizenkot reportedly in-cluded Russia’s military presence in Syria, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal, the transfer of advanced weapons to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and Islamic State’s terror operations in Egypt.

Dunford called his “personal relationship” with Eizenkot “rock-solid and probably representative of the broader relationship that we have.”


Erdogan slammed after meeting on stopping ‘judaization’ of Jerusalem, anti-Israel rant

(JNS.org) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Monday evening with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Istanbul, where the two reportedly discussed ways to “protect Jerusalem against attempts of judaization.”

The meeting followed Erdogan’s comments at a Turkish conference, in which he rebuked Israel for its Muezzin Bill, which would place limits on the volume of mosque loudspeakers late at night and during early morning hours. Erdogan also called on Muslims to visit the Al-Aqsa mosque en masse in support of the Palestinians, and compared Israeli policy with apartheid South Africa and racism “practiced against black people in the past in America.”

Turkish Ambassador to Israel Kemal Okem was summoned by Israel’s Foreign Ministry Tuesday to clarify Erdogan’s anti-Israel statements. The ambassador was informed Israel would not remain silent in the face of such rhetoric, reported The Jerusalem Post.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also slammed Erdogan Tuesday, saying, “The connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem dates back more than 3,000 years. Jerusalem is and will remain our eternal, united capital forever.”


Norwegian party votes to ban ritual circumcision, Belgian measure targets ritual slaughter

(JNS.org) Norway’s Progress Party voted Saturday in favor of a law banning ritual circumcision of children under age 16, a day after the environment committee in Belgium’s Parliament of Wallonia voted in favor of banning ritual slaughter.

In response to the threats posed to both shechita (kosher slaughter) and brit milah (Jewish circumcision) in Europe, Jewish leaders called on Israel to exert its political influence.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association, wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, urging them to establish a working team to prevent the establishment and implementation of anti-Jewish laws in Europe.

“I have no doubt that the state of Israel—the state of the Jewish people—cannot remain indifferent to it, and I call on you to exert all your political influence in order to prevent the exclusion of Jews from life in various European countries,” wrote Margolin.

Regarding the Norwegian circumcision bill, the rabbi said, “We will act in every way we can to fight this disgraceful bill…There is no doubt that this is an anti-Jewish decision that is blatantly anti-Semitic.”


April tourism to Israel breaks monthly record since country’s founding

(JNS.org) In April 2017, a record-breaking 349,000 tourists entered Israel, a 38-percent increase from April 2016 and the highest-ever figure for any month since Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Additionally, between January and April 2017, 1.1 million tourists entered the Jewish state, an increase of 26 percent from the same period in 2016 and 22 percent more than those months in 2015.

“When there is clear policy, we see results. Every month, we are witnessing exceptional statistics that illustrate the progress we are spearheading in the tourism industry and its tremendous contribution to the Israeli economy and workforce,” Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said Tues-day.

“This important and exciting milestone is part of a positive trend that has been taking place over the last half year or more. I hope and believe that, with hard work, we will continue to reap the benefits of this investment,” Levin added.

The significant rise in tourism to Israel comes despite higher costs for travelers, due to the substantial strengthening of the shekel currency in recent months. Incoming tourism during the first four months of the year accounted for an estimated $1.7 billion being infused into Israel’s economy.


Report: Muslim countries delay Air India’s planned New Delhi-Tel Aviv direct flight

(JNS.org) Several Muslim countries are reportedly delaying plans by Air India to launch a New Delhi to Tel Aviv direct flight ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel in July.

According to a report in The Hindu, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan have all declined permission for Air India to overfly their air space en route to Israel.

Airline officials generally seek overflight permission from countries in order to ensure a smooth hand-off from air traffic controllers. Yet Israel does not have relations with most countries in the Muslim world, with some nations—like Iran—calling for the Jewish state’s destruction.

Air India reportedly examined the possibility of operating its Tel Aviv service by flying over Europe, but the route was deemed too circuitous and costly.
In March, Air India announced plans to launch three weekly direct flights between Tel Aviv and New Delhi. The route is expected to serve the increasing number of Indian tourists visiting Israel and vice versa, as a result of the countries’ increasingly strong ties. Direct flights between Tel Aviv and New Delhi are currently only available on Israel’s flagship airline, El Al.

New Hamas chief makes first public appearance in Gaza
(JNS.org) Ismail Haniyeh, whom Hamas elected as the Palestinian terror group’s top leader last weekend, made his first public appearance in the new role by visiting a “solidarity tent” for hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Gaza City Monday.

“It’s my honor to shoulder the responsibility of leading the political bureau of this large movement of holy resistance,” Haniyeh said after meeting with local security chiefs, The Associated Press reported.

Haniyeh succeeds Khaled Mashaal, who had headed the terror group in exile since 2004. Haniyeh was formerly the political leader in Gaza, where he was succeeded by Yahya Sinwar, a former Israeli prisoner who is a known hardliner and a senior member of the terror group’s “military wing.”

Haniyeh’s election came days after Hamas released a new manifesto, in which the terror group attempted to rebrand itself as more moderate by raising the possibility of a Palestinian state with-in the pre-1967 lines.

In anti-Israel tirade, Erdogan calls for thousands of Muslims to ascend Temple Mount
(JNS.org) In an anti-Israel tirade Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for thousands of Muslims to ascend the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Erdogan made the remarks at the Al-Quds Waqf International Forum in Istanbul.
“Turkey attaches great importance to the justified resistance of the Palestinians and will not yield to Israeli attempts to change the status quo in the Al-Aqsa mosque,” said Erdogan, Turkey’s Daily Saba newspaper reported. “We as Muslims should visit the Al-Aqsa mosque more often, every day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us.”

Erdogan called Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians “racist and discriminatory,” and said Israel’s blockade of Gaza “has no place in humanity.”

The Israeli government called Erdogan’s comments “baseless slander.”

“Anyone who systemically violates human rights in their own country, should not preach about morality to the only democracy in the region,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said, adding, “Israel strictly adheres to protecting full freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians.”

Turkey and Israel last year agreed to normalize diplomatic ties following a six-year rift in their relationship, but Erdogan has a history of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic remarks.

State Dept. criticized for omitting Trump’s travel plans to Israel in Saudi embassy tweet
(JNS.org) The U.S. State Department was criticized Monday for a tweet by its embassy in Saudi Arabia that omitted President Donald Trump’s plan to visit Israel later this month, following his stop in Saudi Arabia.

The tweet, which was sent out by the Arabic-language Twitter handle @USAinKSA, included a now-removed video clip of Trump’s announcement on his first foreign trip, omitting Trump’s mention of the Israel portion of his trip but including the president’s scheduled stops in Saudi Arabia and Rome. Democratic lawmakers later posted a video highlighting the difference between White House and Saudi embassy clips featuring Trump’s remarks.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that he was “appalled that the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia disingenuously posted this incomplete and misleading video.”

“This video plays into a rejectionist narrative and thus has no place in any social media—or any other form of communication—associated with the United States government,” Engel wrote.

After the tweet’s removal, a State Department official told Politico it was an “inadvertent mistake.”
Palestinian Authority officials, including Abbas, refuse to stop paying terrorists

(JNS.org) Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, before receiving a request from President Donald Trump last week to stop paying stipends to Palestinian terrorists and their families, had ruled out halting that PA policy.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), citing an April 29 report in the independent Palestinian news website Amad, reported Monday that PA Prisoners’ Affairs Committee leader Issa Qaraqe had announced Abbas’s “absolute refusal of the Israeli demands to stop the allowances of the fami-lies of the prisoners and martyrs, and emphasized his absolute support for [the terror stipends].”

After Trump’s May 3 meeting with Abbas, senior PA official Nabil Shaath also unequivocally rejected the American president’s request to end the PA’s policy of paying the terror stipends, calling the proposal “insane.”

According to PMW, the PA claims the stipends are “social welfare for the families.” Yet PMW reported that the wife of a Palestinian security prisoner “complained that she and her children were not receiving the prisoner’s salary,” to which the PA “responded that although the prisoner should have given the money to his wife and children, the minister [of prisoners’ affairs] could not force him to since it was his personal salary.”

Articles from JNS.org appear on San Diego Jewish World through the courtesy of Dr. Bob and Mao Shillman.


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