India/China: Trade point planned at India-China LAC

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Trade point planned at India-China LAC

Although the Indian Army’s spokesperson did not respond to queries, three officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the army has cleared the opening of the post, and that it is up to the government now.

INDIA Updated: Jul 19, 2019 07:09 IST

Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India news,China,India
Image for representation(HT file photo)

The Indian Army has approved the opening of a new trading point with China at Dumchelle in Ladakh, the third such along India’s disputed, albeit peaceful 3,488-km border with China in a confidence building measure ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s October visit.

Although the Indian Army’s spokesperson did not respond to queries, three officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the army has cleared the opening of the post, and that it is up to the government now.

Hindustan Times learns that the trading post could open as soon as the end of the year and that work has already started on the customs check point and the road to it. The only thing left is for the Cabinet Committee on Security to sign off.

Dumchelle is in Southern Ladakh, and is strategically located between Chushul , one of the five designated Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) meeting points between the Indian and Chinese armies, and Demchok in Southern Ladakh.

The two other recognised trading points with China are Lipulekh in Uttrakhand and Nathu La in Sikkim. Predetermined, locally made items are traded through these points with an aim of boosting the local economy.

President Xi is scheduled to be in India in October for an informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Opening up another trading point along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) would be a major confidence building measure, analysts said.

Although the Dumchelle trading point will be new, trade at the border town between residents of Ladakh and the Tibetans from the other side has a long history. Goods are bought and sold at Dumchelle regularly. In addition, there is a three-week-long fair at Dumchelle where locals from both sides participate.

In the past, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has even used the hotline, which connects military commanders on both sides of the border and which is used to sort out minor issues, to discuss dates of the fair. “It is an informal arrangement between the two sides,” a senior serving Indian Army officer said.

“It is a traditional trade route. In the past, the army has written to the government advising it to either completely stop the trade or formalise the exchange,” a government official added.

The current trade through Dumchelle is informal and designating it a trading point will automatically lead to “supervision of the goods flowing through this area. Also, there could be revenue implications for the government,” this person said. “Ladakh is flooded with Chinese made goods, much of which is traded through this particular point.”

India-China ties which hit a low during the 73-day long stand-off between the armies of the two countries in the Doklam plateau in Sikkim in 2017 warmed after the historic informal summit at Wuhan between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi in April 2018. Both leaders agreed to give “strategic” guidance to the respective militaries to reduce border tensions.

Nonetheless, caution on either side is understandable. The LAC is not demarcated. To address this, the two countries have agreed to elaborate mechanism that includes banner drills and communication between local commanders through established “hotlines” to ensure minor issues do not escalate into major ones.

First Published: Jul 19, 2019 06:58 IST

Israel: IAEA finds traces of radioactive material at Iran site flagged by Netanyahu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

TV: IAEA finds traces of radioactive material at Iran site flagged by Netanyahu

10 months after PM identified ‘secret atomic warehouse’ in Tehran, UN inspectors reportedly conclude that it was indeed used as a nuclear storage facility

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City, and holds up a picture of what he said was a secret Iranian nuclear warehouse. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City, and holds up a picture of what he said was a secret Iranian nuclear warehouse. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Inspectors from the UN’s nuclear agency have found traces of radioactive material at a building in Tehran that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu identified last year as a “secret atomic warehouse,” an Israeli television report said on Thursday.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the site several times after Netanyahu identified it in an address to the UN General Assembly last September, took soil samples, and have now definitively concluded that there were “traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 news reported.

It quoted what it said were four senior Israeli officials involved in the matter, and said the UN agency’s findings had become known to these officials recently.

Iran has denied that the site was a nuclear facility or served any secretive purpose. In an initial response to Netanyahu’s UN speech, Iranian state media claimed the warehouse was actually a recycling facility for scrap metal.

Iran’s alleged ‘atomic warehouse’ in Turquzabad, Tehran (YouTube screenshot)

But the IAEA inspectors, who last visited the site in March, have reached a “definitive conclusion” that “there were traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 said, and are currently preparing a report on the matter.

The TV report noted that “the storing of radioactive material in a secret facility without informing the IAEA is a breach of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [NPT], to which Iran is a signatory.”

Indicating that Washington is also aware of the IAEA inspectors’ findings, the TV report said that Israel and the US expect the agency to issue a public report on the matter shortly.

Coincidentally or otherwise, Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday by phone with US President Donald Trump about Iran. “The two leaders discussed cooperation between the United States and Israel in advancing shared national security interests, including efforts to prevent Iran’s malign actions in the region,” the White House said.

An image from a placard displayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly showing a suspected “secret atomic warehouse” in the Turquzabad district of Tehran containing up to 300 tons of nuclear material. (GPO)

Speaking at the United Nations last September, Netanyahu called on the IAEA to inspect what he said was the “secret atomic warehouse” in the Iranian capital.

He claimed some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of radioactive material had been recently removed from the atomic warehouse and squirreled away around Tehran, endangering the capital’s residents. The site may have contained as much as 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material in 15 shipping containers, Netanyahu added. He did not specify what nuclear material was contained at the site.

Netanyahu specified that there was a rug-cleaning business nearby: “Like the atomic archive [revealed by the prime minister in April], it’s another innocent-looking compound. Now, for those of you at home using Google Earth, this no-longer-secret atomic warehouse is on Maher Alley, Maher Street. You have the coordinates, you can try to get there. And for those of you who try to get there, it’s 100 meters from the Kalishoi, the rug cleaning operation. By the way, I hear they do a fantastic job cleaning rugs there. But by now they may be radioactive rugs.”

He added: “Now, countries with satellite capabilities may notice some increased activity on Maher Alley in the days and weeks ahead. The people they’ll see scurrying back and forth are Iranian officials desperately trying to finish the job of cleaning up that site. Because, you see, since we raided the atomic archive, they’ve been busy cleaning out the atomic warehouse.

“Just last month, they removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material,” he went on. “You know what they did with it? They had 15 kilograms of radioactive material, they had to get it out of the site, so they took it out and they spread it around Tehran in an effort to hide the evidence. The endangered residents of Tehran may want to know that they can get a Geiger counter on Amazon for only $29.99… They took this radioactive material and spread it around Tehran.

“Now, the Iranian officials cleaning out that site still have a lot of work to do because they’ve had at least, at least 15 ship containers, they’re gigantic, 15 ship containers full of nuclear related equipment and material stored there. Now, since each of those containers can hold 20 tons of material, this means that this site contains as much as 300 tons, 300 tons of nuclear related equipment and material.”

That speech came months after Israel’s disclosure that it had spirited away what it said was a “half-ton” of Iranian nuclear documents from Tehran, with Netanyahu saying both the archive and the warehouse were proof that Iran continues to seek atomic weapons despite the 2015 international agreement to limit its nuclear program. “Iran has not abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons…. Rest assured that will not happen. What Iran hides, Israel will find,” Netanyahu told the UN.

A local businessman speaks to Tasnim news reporter near an alleged secret Iranian nuclear site in the Turquzabad district of Tehran on September 30, 2018. (screen capture: Tasnim)

Following Netanyahu’s UN appearance, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said nuclear inspectors had visited “all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit,” while pushing back against the prime minister’s assertion that the organization had failed to act on intelligence provided by Israel on the warehouse.

Diplomats quoted in April, however, said the IAEA visited the site in Tehran’s Turquzabad district multiple times the previous month. They said tests were underway on environmental samples taken from the facility in order to determine if nuclear materials were present there. It was said then that results could be ready by June.

“We have nothing to hide and any access given to the IAEA so far has been in the framework of laws and regulations and nothing beyond that,” an Iranian official said at the time.

Referring to Netanyahu’s statements as “ridiculous,” an Iranian state TV report said the country was committed to nonproliferation and noted Iran’s nuclear program was under surveillance of the IAEA. A state TV website briefly reported the Netanyahu accusation and called it an “illusion.”

A Tasnim News reporter who visited the warehouse last October was told by a worker from inside the facility that it was not a military site, and that the Israeli leader was “a stupid person” for believing it was a nuclear warehouse. The reporter did not enter the facility, only speaking to the worker via intercom from outside the locked gate.

The owner of the nearby carpet cleaning business told Tasnim “there was nothing out of the ordinary” about the warehouse, and asserted that Netanyahu was fed disinformation to “make him a fool.”

In this photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, right, and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano shake hands for media at the start of their meeting at the Presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, December 18, 2016. (Iranian Presidency Office/AP)

Netanyahu was a vocal opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran when it was signed under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, arguing that it would not stop but only delay Iran’s nuclear weapon program, while removing sanctions critical to curbing Tehran. He praised Trump for withdrawing from the accord in May.

Iran has denied it is seeking atomic weapons, while warning it would walk back its commitment to the nuclear accord if it does not receive economic inducements from its remaining signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. In recent days, it has breached the accord’s cap on uranium enrichment levels.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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COMMENTS

Israeli Parliament Schedules Unprecedented Early Elections

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Israeli Parliament Schedules Unprecedented Early Elections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem.

Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Voters in Israel will go the polls for the second time this year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu missed a midnight deadline to form a coalition government.

The Israeli parliament, prompted by Netanyahu, has voted to hold new elections Sept. 17. The move comes after elections were just held in April and appeared to give Netanyahu a fourth consecutive term in office.

The Knesset voted 74-45, on a bill sponsored by Netanyahu’s Likud party, to dissolve itself and call for new elections.

Had Netanyahu not prompted the call for new elections, Israel’s ceremonial president could have chosen someone else to try to form a government.

The call for new elections is a surprising turn of events for Netanyahu who is widely considered Israel’s most powerful politician.

As NPR’s Daniel Estrin reported on All Things Considered, it is unprecedented to have new balloting scheduled just a month after the previous elections.

Estrin said there were two sticking points keeping Netanyahu from forming a majority government:

“The official reason given was that former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had very high conditions. He demanded a mandatory military draft for Orthodox Jews and ultra-orthodox parties refused that.

“But the bigger picture here is that Netanyahu is facing legal troubles. That is his chief concern. And by the end of this year he is going to be facing likely corruption charges. So he had been trying to build a coalition that would grant him immunity from prosecution while he’s in office. So things got complicated because he was trying to weave in his immunity into the deals he was trying to make with these parties.”

Estrin also reported that the new elections could delay the political components of a peace plan, such as borders and the issue of a Palestinian state, that is being fashioned in the White House by President Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Netanyahu is months away from being Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, having held the job for one term in the 1990s and for the last decade.

Theresa May, Britain’s Prime Minister, Resigns: Live Updates

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Theresa May, Britain’s Prime Minister, Resigns: Live Updates

Mrs. May announced Friday morning that she would be stepping down, after repeatedly failing to win Parliament’s approval for a deal to withdraw Britain from the European Union.

RIGHT NOW

A successor to Theresa May will be chosen before Parliament’s summer break, the Conservative Party chairman said. She will continue as prime minister until the leadership contest is finished.

Prime Minister Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street in London on Friday. Her premiership has been beset by crises. Credit Simon Dawson/Reuters

Facing a cabinet rebellion, Theresa May announced on Friday morning her decision to leave office. She spoke briefly after meeting with Graham Brady, a powerful leader of backbench Conservative lawmakers.

Standing in front of 10 Downing Street, Mrs. May said it was in the “best interests of the country for a new prime minister” to lead Britain through the Brexit process. She announced plans to step down as the leader of the Conservative Party on June 7, with the process to replace her beginning the following week.

“I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that,” she added. “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.”

Mrs. May’s voice cracked as she said she was honored to serve the country as the “second female prime minister, but certainly not the last,” and said the role had been the honor of her life.

Conservative lawmakers have been deeply frustrated by Mrs. May’s failure to deliver on Brexit, which became the government’s central — some would say its sole — preoccupation after the country voted to leave the union in a 2016 referendum.

But the breaking point has come at an awkward moment, with President Trump scheduled to arrive in Britain on June 3 for a state visit and to take part in events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings that preceded the end of World War II.

Mrs. May’s authority was profoundly undermined in 2017, when she unexpectedly called a general election, then conducted a poor campaign and lost the majority in Parliament that she had inherited from her predecessor, David Cameron. The Conservatives remained in power with the support of a small Northern Ireland party.

Deep divisions in her Cabinet over the approach to Brexit weakened her at home. By contrast, the European Union remained remarkably unified in its negotiating strategy, and it remains doubtful that another British leader will get a deal any more palatable than the one Mrs. May agreed to.

Her ability to soak up political punishment and plow on regardless won her admiration, even from some of her many critics. But the pressure on her increased after disastrous local election results this month, when the Conservatives lost more than 1,300 seats in municipalities around the country and voters vented their frustration over the Brexit infighting and deadlock.

Then, the government announced that Britain would, after all, take part in elections to the European Parliament this week — another symbol of Mrs. May’s failure to achieve a withdrawal. Britons voted on Thursday, but the results will be announced on Sunday, after all the European Union countries have gone to the polls. They are expected to be catastrophic for the Conservatives.

Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary who would like to take Mrs. May’s place, described her statement as “dignified.” Credit Simon Dawson/Reuters

It has been a long time since so many prominent political figures had nice things to say about Mrs. May.

Compliments poured in from opposition lawmakers who have tried to oust her, and from fellow Conservatives who have undermined her and hope to take her place. Some were backhanded, some barbed, and still others gave no hint of the history of animosity behind them.

“Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party,” tweeted Boris Johnson, who quit Mrs. May’s cabinet over Brexit and who has never concealed his ambition to be prime minister.

Boris Johnson

@BorisJohnson

A very dignified statement from @theresa_may. Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party. It is now time to follow her urgings: to come together and deliver Brexit.

3,911 people are talking about this

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, retweeted Mr. Johnson with the comment, “What a hypocrite.”

Two other Conservatives who quit Mrs. May’s cabinet over Brexit and would like to take her place, Dominic Raab and Andrea Leadsom, described her statement as “dignified.”

“An illustration of her total commitment to country and duty,” Ms. Leadsom tweetedMr. Raab wrote, “She remains a dedicated public servant, patriot and loyal Conservative.”

The statement from Tom Watson, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, was no bouquet of roses, saying that Mrs. May “had an unenviably difficult job, and she did it badly,” and scolding “those who have plotted her downfall to further their own ambitions. But even he added, “she tried to do what was right for our country,” and “she was honorable in her intentions.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, dispensed with any pretense of a tribute. “She’s now accepted what the country’s known for months: She can’t govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party.”

Boris Johnson, the hard-line Brexit supporter and former foreign secretary, is one of the candidates to replace Mrs. May.Credit Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Mrs. May’s departure could set off a ferocious succession contest within her governing Conservative Party, though lawmakers have been positioning themselves for this eventuality for months as her authority steadily weakened and several of her cabinet ministers stepped down.

Several prominent Conservatives are already campaigning actively to succeed her as party leader and prime minister. Candidates for party leadership have to be nominated by two other members of Parliament, though if there is only one candidate, he or she automatically becomes the new leader. If more than two candidates emerge, lawmakers vote among themselves to narrow the field and then put two candidates to a vote by all Conservative Party members, who number approximately 120,000.

Most analysts expect a new leader to be in place by the end of July. Hard-line Brexit supporters will be determined to replace Mrs. May with someone from their ranks, with the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson; the former Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab; and Andrea Leadsom, who left her cabinet post as leader of the House of Commons on Wednesday, seen as likely contenders.

But less ideological figures are likely to put themselves forward, too, including Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, and Sajid Javid, the home secretary.

A pro-Brexit rally near Parliament in London in June 2016, before the referendum. Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

David Cameron, the prime minister who called the 2016 referendum and campaigned to remain in the bloc, resigned the day after the vote. Mrs. May had also argued for remaining, but after emerging victorious from a brief but chaotic leadership contest, she appointed a cabinet with several leading Brexit campaigners and set out an agenda that implied a comprehensive break with the bloc.

She then gave herself a two-year legal deadline to complete withdrawal negotiations, only to have to postpone Britain’s exit twice after failing to persuade Parliament to accept the terms she had negotiated, painstakingly, with the European Union.

Time and time again, Mrs. May survived challenges to her leadership, escaping a seemingly inevitable end to her tenure as her Brexit plans repeatedly floundered. But the final push toward Mrs. May’s ouster came this week after she rolled out the latest iteration of a Brexit deal that lawmakers had thrice rejected by large margins.

Her hopes of trying once more to push her deal through Parliament were dashed after changes she unveiled on Tuesday, which opened the door to a second referendum on Brexit, were rejected by Brexiteers as a betrayal and by Remainers as simply not enough. Mrs. May had framed the changes as “one last chance” to deliver on the 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

Plans to publish her new plan on Friday were quickly shelved when it became clear they managed to alienate pro- and anti-Brexit factions alike. But Mrs. May has really been on her way out since her third failed attempt to get the plan approved — on the very day in March that Britain was initially scheduled to leave the European Union. She had offered to step aside if lawmakers voted for her proposal.

Ellen Barry and Benjamin Mueller contributed reporting from London.

Stephen Castle is London correspondent, writing widely about Britain, including the country’s politics and relationship with Europe. @_StephenCastle  Facebook

Israel: The People Have Spoken. They Want To Live In Netanyahu’s Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The people have spoken. They want to live in Netanyahu’s Israel

Israelis were not under-informed or unfairly swayed. They knew what they’d get with a 5th term of Netanyahu. The result was the highest vote ever for right & ultra-Orthodox parties

David Horovitz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for general elections closed in Tel Aviv,, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for general elections closed in Tel Aviv,, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The people have spoken. And a week after the elections, with the president now in the midst of consultations with our newly elected politicians ahead of the formation of our next government, it’s worth taking a closer look at what the people actually said.

They knew that Benjamin Netanyahu was facing criminal charges in three cases, unless he could persuade the attorney general of his innocence. They knew that he had castigated the opposition, the media, the cops and the state prosecutors for purportedly seeking to frame him as part of a political vendetta to oust him. They knew that, if re elected, he might try to use existing or new legislation to avoid being prosecuted, and would likely seek to stay on as prime minister even if he were to be prosecuted. And that, if reelected, he would make the case that the public had given him a mandate to offset the state prosecutors’ recommendations that he be put on trial.

They knew. And 26.45% of the voting Israeli public chose Likud — a vast number, by Israeli standards, 1,139,079 out of the 4,306,520 legitimate ballots cast nationwide.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

They knew that they had a clear alternative to four more years of a Netanyahu-led Israel, embodied in a party led by three former IDF chiefs of staff — an unprecedented assemblage of security expertise, in a country where security concerns always figure at the very top of voting considerations. They saw Netanyahu portray that party, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, as a group of weak leftists. Even though it included Netanyahu’s own former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, whose public positions are more hawkish than those of Netanyahu, and even though Netanyahu in 2013 extended Gantz’s term as IDF chief by an additional year in the most overt illustration possible of the confidence he then had in Gantz’s security leadership capabilities.

Members of the Blue White political party Benny Gantz (second left), Moshe Yaalon (right), Gabi Ashkenazi (left) and Yair Lapid hold a press conference at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 10, 2019, a day after the elections. (Flash90)

They watched Netanyahu’s Likud depict Gantz as mentally unstable. They watched Netanyahu attempt to make political capital out of a bizarre saga involving the reported Iranian hacking of Gantz’s phone — a saga in which Gantz and his colleagues did not provide a clear-cut explanation of what had gone on. They watched Gantz veer between an attempted statesmanlike, high-ground approach to beating Netanyahu and a lower-ground trading of insults and accusations.

They watched Netanyahu broker a deal that legitimized the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party as part of a new Union of Right-Wing Parties that would partner Netanyahu in any new Likud-led coalition. They watched URWP’s Bezalel Smotrich declare he’d set his heart on becoming minister of education. They watched the New Right’s Ayelet Shaked vow to curb the power of the Supreme Court if she continued as justice minister.

They watched. And they made their choice. Very few voters from the right of the political spectrum threw their support behind Gantz and the other generals. While Blue and White also topped the million-vote count — 1,124,805 — much of its support came from the center and the now decimated Labor, and that wasn’t enough to thwart Netanyahu’s fifth election victory.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

They recognized other likely and possible implications of another Netanyahu victory. He’d vowed in the final days of the campaign to extend Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements — a move that, if realized, would have major consequences for what was once called the peace process. It was clear his most reliable coalition partners would be the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism — on whose behalf he reluctantly froze the Western Wall compromise deal, and whose key agenda items include making Israel more Shabbat-observant and minimizing the number of young ultra-Orthodox males required to share the rights and responsibilities of military and national service.

Self-evidently, enough Israeli voters either share this agenda or are not deterred by it. Enough to hand Netanyahu another term.

The people have spoken.

Residents of the Gaza envelope communities of southern Israel have for years complained about Netanyahu’s policies in dealing with Hamas. They have protested that the government has turned them into rocket fodder. Sderot, the most rocket-battered city of all, voted 43.52% for Netanyahu’s Likud. (The next most popular party was Yisrael Beytenu at 10.14%.) To the east of Gaza, Netivot voted 32.46% Likud (second only to 33.35% Shas.) Ashkelon, to the north, voted 42.61% Likud (followed by Blue and White at 15.62%). By contrast, kibbutzim and moshavim in the Gaza periphery area generally voted overwhelmingly for Blue and White.

The people have spoken.

Early on election day, reports started circulating about Likud-paid activists bringing hidden cameras into polling stations in Arab areas. Some of those involved have since acknowledged that they were indeed acting on behalf of Likud; a PR agency has claimed responsibility, saying it was hired by Likud; the Likud party’s lawyer, on the day, claimed the operation was open and legal, and necessary to ensure the “integrity” of the vote in districts ostensibly prone to voter fraud; Netanyahu himself championed the use of public cameras for the same purpose. (Needless to say, the Central Elections Committee has its own, nonpartisan procedures for preventing election fraud.) In fact, ruled the judge overseeing the elections, the deployment of the cameras was illicit; the equipment was ordered removed.

Israel’s voters watched and read about all these developments in real time.

Some analysts have suggested that the camera gambit depressed Arab turnout — it’s not comfortable showing up to do your democratic duty, as members of a minority that was traduced by the prime minister on the previous election day, when you hear on the news that you’re going to be filmed in the process by his supporters. Arab turnout does appear to have been down last week (an estimated 52%) as compared to 2015 (an estimated 63.7%). And while the Joint (Arab) List won 13 seats in the last Knesset, its constituent parties, now running in two separate lists, managed only 10 this time.

But if the camera ploy worked to Netanyahu’s advantage, possibly costing his political rivals a seat or three, and maybe boosting support for a Likud seen to be taking on the Arabs, there was a more dramatic arithmetical factor on the right-hand side of the spectrum that worked against him. Between Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right (138,491 votes, or 3.22% of the national total) and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut (117,670 votes; 2.73% of the national total), a staggering 6% of right-wing votes went down the drain — a potential six or seven more Knesset seats for a Netanyahu-led coalition. And yet Netanyahu still has a clear, if complex, path (involving reconciling the ultra-Orthodox parties with the fiercely secular Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu) to a 65-strong coalition.

Over 57% of counted votes went to right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties (Likud; Shas; UTJ; Yisrael Beytenu; United Right-Wing Parties; Kulanu; The New Right; Zehut, and Gesher). This is the highest proportion in Israeli history. Only 34% went to centrist and left of center Zionist parties (Blue and White, Labor and Meretz).

The two ultra-Orthodox parties, it is worth noting, had repeatedly stressed in the run-up to polling day that they would only consider joining a Netanyahu-led coalition. Even when the polls closed and for a brief moment Gantz was claiming victory on the basis of a predictably inaccurate exit poll, UTJ rushed to say that it would go into the opposition with Netanyahu rather than partner with Gantz.

Menachem Begin, center, speaks to supporters at his party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on May 18, 1977, as they celebrate the Likud Bloc’s election to government after 29 years of Israeli Labor Party rule. (AP Photo)

By way of comparison, the 2015 elections saw over 56% voting for right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties (Likud, Kulanu, Jewish Home, Shas, Yisrael Beytenu and Yachad). In 2013, the comparable figure was 48% (Likud, Jewish Home, Shas, UTJ, Otzma LeYisrael). In 2009, it was 54% (Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, UTJ, National Union and Jewish Home).

Going way back to 1977, when Menachem Begin’s Likud first won power, the comparable proportion was about 53% — and that’s including the then-relatively centrist National Religious Party, which had partnered with Labor-led governments for the past three decades.

The people have spoken.

Were some worried by Gantz’s warnings that Netanyahu is turning Israel into Turkey — becoming our un-oustable leader, gradually marginalizing opposition, taking control of ever more of the media, bending the cops and the prosecutors and the courts to his will? Doubtless, many were. But not enough to unseat him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a voting slip for his Likud party in a video filmed at a beach in Netanya on election day, April 9, 2019. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The people saw Gantz caught by a camera in his car, toward the end of election day, looking exhausted. They saw Netanyahu, sweating in his suit on the beach at Netanya, imploring potential supporters to get out of the sea and vote Likud.

The people saw everything, internalized what they chose to internalize, and made their decision. No nefarious forces, as far as we know, skewed these elections. The public was not under-informed; nor was it disaffected. The turnout was a healthy 67.9% (compared to 61.4% in the 2016 US presidential elections, or 66.1% in 2015’s British parliamentary elections).

The people want to live in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

Israelis’ choice. Israelis’ consequences.

Note: Figures cited in this piece for the 2019 elections are from the completed-count totals announced by the Central Elections Committee at midnight on April 11; the totals have fluctuated slightly since then, and are to be made official on April 16.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Ignorant, Racist And Anti-Semitic?

DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Ignorant, Racist And Anti-Semitic? 

When I was a kid back in the 1960’s the Democratic Party and Churches went hand in hand. When I was a young man all of the Jewish folks that I knew of voted Democratic as a block vote. These things are not so anymore. This is not because the Churches/Christians had changed nor did the Jewish people, nor did Israel. What has changed is the Democratic Platform and their beliefs. When the Democratic Party Leadership decided to be pro-abortion they lost many millions of Democratic voters and most of those either decided not to vote at all, or to vote for a Republican especially once Ronald Reagan came onto the National stage. After Mr. Reagan many of those “Reagan Democrats” never ever went back to voting for Democrats. The days of the Jewish people voting for Democrats has become history and the fault of this is squarely on the Democratic Leadership.

This next Presidential voting cycle ahead of the 2020 Elections once again has a Jewish Believer trying to become our next President, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Yet to me, Mr. Sanders is about as Jewish as Jared Kushner is a Christian. You may have just said, hey wait a moment, Mr. Kushner is Jewish, my point exactly! I say, when asked, that I am a Christian but if do not do the will of the Lord, am I really a Christian, or am I nothing but luke warm water that the Lord will spit out? Mr. Sanders is one that I have paid attention to for about six years now, to me, his words and his voting record say that he is very anti-Israel. To me, to my beliefs as a Christian, the Democratic Platform has proven themselves to be very anti-religion, especially anti-Christian and anti-Israel.

I am going to bring up one more person for you to consider, this person is also a declared Democratic Presidential hopeful, Mr. Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas Congressman.  Earlier this month Mr. O’Rourke was giving a campaign speech in Iowa City Iowa when he made these following remarks about Israel’s Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu. Mr. O’Rourke called Mr. Netanyahu and the Israeli people who support him “Racists” because of the Palestinian People. He seems to be ignorant/stupid enough to believe that ‘race’ is the issue there. I guess he shouldn’t be blamed too much as it also appears to be the view of the cow whose teet he is suckling. (The Democratic Party Leadership.) Folks, for those of you who don’t already know it, the issue between the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian People has nothing to do with race and everything to do with Ideology. It is a reality that Islamic ideology coexists with nothing and no one. There is an old saying in Israel that I will close this letter to you with today and this saying is absolutely true. ‘If the Palestinians actually wanted peace they could have peace and prosperity tomorrow, all they have to do is swear off all violence and turn over to the U.N. all of their weapons.’ The other half of this wisdom peace says, ‘if Israel turned over all their weapons today to the U.N. THAT TOMORROW, THERE WOULD BE NO ISRAEL!’

‘Sea change in Pakistan’s attitude towards India after Balakot air strike’, says PM Modi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

‘Sea change in Pakistan’s attitude towards India after Balakot air strike’, says PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Pakistan’s attitude towards India and that during the Congress government has undergone a sea change and terrorists and their sponsors in Pakistan are living in fear.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: Apr 11, 2019 21:27 IST

Avijit Biswas
Avijit Biswas
Hindustan Times, Bhagalpur
Lok Sabha Elections 2019,Election Rally,Election news
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the audience during an election rally, in Bhagalpur on Thursday.(Santosh Kumar /HT Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that in order to talk of peace it is essential to be strong as he came down heavily on the opposition, particularly Congress, over national security.

At an election rally in Bhagalpur, Modi said that the country has emerged stronger after retaliatory action against Pakistan following the Pulwama terror strike. He said the air strike was carried out to address “the restlessness of 130 crore people of country for a firm and definite action against Pakistan”.

“Pakistan’s attitude towards India today and that during the Congress government has undergone a sea change,” the PM said. “Terrorists as well as well as their sponsors in Pakistan are living in fear.”

He attacked the opposition alliance for “speaking the language that supports terrorism”. He stressed that the opposition alliance should clarify whether they are with terrorists or with armed forces.

Modi who was campaigning for JD (U) nominees contesting as NDA candidates from Munger, Banka and Bhagalpur parliamentary seats, said the NDA has a clear policy of giving free hand to armed forces in the fight against terrorism and extremism. While he did not mention the Congress manifesto, he asked the people whether they approve curtailing power of the armed forces. The Congress manifesto promises to review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act which gives the forces in disturbed areas sweeping powers of search and arrest and provides immunity from prosecution in civil courts.

He said as chowkidar of the people he has done what was expected from his government for social security and national security. He referred to works undertaken in social security front under various centrally sponsored schemes including Ayushman Bharat.

He said opposition leaders were fighting for their existence and were trying their best to create fear among people that there would be no election in the country in future and that the reservation policy would be abolished if he is voted back to power.

“On the contrary I favour further strengthening of reservation policy,” Modi said and cited the 10% reservation which his government had announced for poor people of upper caste.

He referred to the government’s minimum support price agriculture produce of farmers against their crop expenditure and said the Congress had no interest in improving the lives of farmers.

“Once we are voted to power again all farmers would be covered under financial assistance scheme instead of present coverage to farmers having land holdings up to five acres,” Modi said.

He also spoke about future plans aimed at extending support to small and marginal farmers besides small businessmen. He mentioned the development work undertaken in Bihar praised Nitish Kumar’s government for its performance.

In the silk town, the PM also spoke about the problems faced by local silk industry and apprised them on what his government has been doing to boost their business globally. “The mega handloom cluster was established here as a step towards solution of your problems,” Modi said.

First Published: Apr 11, 2019 20:56 IST

Netanyahu’s election win confirmed; New Right misses out

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

JUDGE IN CHARGE: TALLY NOT OFFICIAL UNTIL GIVEN TO PRESIDENT

With all votes counted, Netanyahu’s election win confirmed; New Right misses out

After full day of rechecking, Likud gains a seat to outscore Gantz’s Blue and White 36-35, United Torah Judaism loses a seat; Netanyahu’s path to majority coalition clear

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for Israel's general elections closed in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for Israel’s general elections closed in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was confirmed as the big winner of Israel’s general elections on Thursday night, when the Central Elections Committee published the completed tallies of Tuesday’s election, a full 60 hours after the polling stations closed.

The delay was caused by extra time spent Thursday checking and rechecking the “extra” votes cast by soldiers, diplomats and other absentees, which led to adjustments to the tentative results that had been issued early Wednesday. Even when releasing these ostensibly final tallies, however, the Supreme Court justice overseeing the elections said they were not official, and reserved the right to amend them before they are formally handed to the president on April 17.

With all of the votes counted, checked and rechecked, Netanyahu’s Likud party edged past its rival Blue and White party with 26.45 percent of the vote to win 36 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, gaining one more seat in the adjusted final tally. The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party dropped a seat, from Wednesday’s tentative eight to seven. Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White faction was confirmed at 35 seats, 26.11% of ballots.

Blue and White had formally conceded the election on Wednesday.

Final results in 2019 elections36363535887766665555444444000000LikudBlue and WhiteShasUTJHadash-Ta’alLaborYisrael BeytenuURWPMeretzKulanuRa’am-BaladNew RightZehutGesher0510152025303540

The bloc of Likud and its ultra-Orthodox and right-wing allies finished with 65 seats, compared to 55 for the center, left and Arab parties, giving Netanyahu a clear path for building a majority coalition.

Final blocs after 2019 elections65655555RightCenter-left + Arab

The results also confirmed that Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right party narrowly failed to garner enough support to win any seats, ending up with 3.22% of the votes cast nationwide; the minimum threshold for Knesset representation is 3.25%. New Right had pinned its hopes on the soldiers’ votes elevating it into the Knesset for the minimum four seats, and sources in the party challenged the count during Thursday when it emerged that it had fallen short.

New Right said after the completed tallies were released at midnight that it was “not giving up” and was not convinced that the published totals were accurate. UTJ said it would appeal against the results.

On the right, Aryeh Deri’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party wound up as the third-largest Knesset faction with eight seats, followed by UTJ with its seven, the Union of Right-Wing parties won five, Yisrael Beytenu won five, and Kulanu won four.

On the other side of the spectrum, Arab party Hadash-Ta’al won six seats, the Labor party crashed to a record low of six, Meretz won four seats, and the second Arab party, Ra’am-Balad, also won four.

Likud’s 36 seats was the party’s best result since the 2003 election (when it won 38 seats under Ariel Sharon), and its best under Netanyahu.

Final results of the 2019 national election on the Central Elections Committee website show the New Right, circled in yellow, falling short of the 3.25% threshold to enter the Knesset, April 11, 2019. (Screenshot/Central Elections Committee)

The vote count was plagued by controversy.

The Central Elections Committee’s website on Thursday morning erroneously stated that New Right had crossed the electoral threshold, before officials clarified that the website was inaccurate. The inaccurate figure remained on the site all day, however, until it was finally amended shortly before the completed figures were released at midnight.

Screenshot from the Central Elections Committee website showing the New Right party with 3.26% of the vote on Thursday late morning, April 11, 2019. The Committee said this information was erroneous and that the New Right had actually won only 3.22% of the vote. It said the site was not showing the correct number of total votes counted, and was thus displaying inaccurate figures for all parties.

United Torah Judaism and the New Right late Thursday had called for a delay in the publication of the election results. The New Right said the party had received over 1,000 complaints about ballot irregularities, while UTJ said mistakes had been recorded at five polling stations in ultra-Orthodox areas.

Additionally, Meretz accused United Torah Judaism of interfering in the count on Thursday to try to steal a seat. Meretz, according to Thursday night’s tally, ended up only a few hundred votes short of winning a fifth seat.

Snafus on the official website also included displayed turnout rates of over 100 percent in some areas.

Justice Hanan Melcer, head of the Central Elections Committee, acknowledged that erroneous data had been registered on the committee’s computers, leading to a discrepancy between official results and those posted to the official website, but said all such issues had now been resolved.

Nonetheless, when announcing the completed results, Melcer said they were still subject to possible change before they are submitted to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday, April 17.

“We retain the right,” he said in a letter to the representatives of the Knesset slates that ran in the elections, “to examine the results using additional means at the committee’s disposal… so that they are still subject to changes and adjustments.”

Melcer said he rejected the last-minute appeal by the New Right and United Torah Judaism parties to hold off on publishing the results, in part because they are not fully official until they are presented to the president and thus in principle subject to change.

Justice Hanan Melcer, chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset, attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, April 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He noted that 4,335,320 Israelis voted, from among 6,335,387 who were eligible (68.4 percent), and that 30,756 votes were disqualified.

Speaking to journalists at the Knesset earlier, Melcer stressed there was “no fault or issue” in tallying the votes.

Melcer downplayed the computer glitches at a press conference. He said the errors on the site were the result of a software problem that prevented the site from displaying the vote tallies in real time, and stressed the erroneous data displayed on the website was not the result of a cyberattack. (Ahead of the elections, the Shin Bet security agency had warned that a foreign power would seek to meddle in the elections.)

In a statement, the committee said: “Three glitches were found in the data transfer. The problem is not with the count but with entering figures into the system. Some of the figures were recorded by the system and some were not.”

On Thursday night, New Right party put out a statement quoting Justice Melcer and stating that “the results as they were published are not final.”

“We would expect the media to show a bit more gravitas in its reports,” the party said. “As we have said, we are not giving up… We will accept the voter’s decision, but will not rest until we find out what that decision truly is.”

United Torah Judaism said it would appeal the results.

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Updated exit polls show Netanyahu headed for election victory

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Updated exit polls show Netanyahu headed for election victory

Channel 12 and Channel 13 update their exit polls as the official ballots are counted.

Both networks’ revised samples now indicate Netanyahu’s Likud will win 35 seats, compared to Blue and White’s 34, and can muster a coalition majority with ultra-Orthodox and right-wing parties.

The Channel 12 survey previously predicted 37 seats for Blue and White and 33 for Likud; Channel 13 had the two parties tied at 36.

Both exit polls now indicate that Shas would be the third-largest party with eight seats, followed by United Torah Judaism with 7. According to the TV stations, the New Right, Zehut and Gesher will fall under the electoral threshold.

In its breakdown of the political blocs, Channel 12 gives 63 of the 120 Knesset seats to the right, compared to 57 for the center-left, giving Netanyahu a clear path to forming a government. According to Channel 13, the right-wing bloc would receive 65 seats, compared to 55 for the center-left.

Israel: Prime Minister Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Ahead Of Israeli Election, Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

People walk by election campaign billboards showing Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu (left) alongside the Blue and White party leaders, including Benny Gantz. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu has pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Oded Balilty/AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he will annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Netanyahu staked out the position on television on Saturday, ahead of Tuesday’s election where he faces a challenge from his former army chief of staff Benny Gantz

The first-time move from the prime minister appears to be aimed at galvanizing support among his nationalist base and right-wing political allies. The annexation of parts of the West Bank would likely be considered the final blow to the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu was asked on Israeli Channel 12 TV why he hasn’t annexed Israeli settlement blocs in occupied territory, as NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

The prime minister replied: “Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty.”

“I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements,” he continued, The Associated Press reports. “From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

On Sunday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki responded to that pledge and accused the U.S. of encouraging Netanyahu.

“If Netanyahu wants to declare Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, then you know he has to face a real problem, the presence of 4.5 million Palestinians, what to do with them,” Malki told the AP while attending the World Economic forum in Jordan, apparently citing the combined total of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He said Israel cannot expel the Palestinians, adding, “The international community has to deal with us.”

Netanyahu has actively supported the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967. But Israel has so far stopped short of formally annexing the West Bank, leaving the door open for further negotiations with Palestinians.

Some 400,000 Israeli settlers and 2.8 million Palestinians now live in in the West Bank.

The Israeli settlements – which include large subdivisions and cities full of middle-class villas – have long complicated efforts for a two-state solution: Palestinians have said the settlements would make it impossible to create a viable state in the West Bank, as NPR’s Greg Myre has reported.

Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank that Israel annexed shortly after the 1967 war.

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, criticized Netanyahu’s statement on Saturday.

“Such a statement by Netanyahu is not surprising,” Erekat wrote on Twitter. “Israel will continue to brazenly violate international law for as long as the international community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump Administration’s support and endorsement of Israel’s violation of the national and human rights of the people of Palestine.”

Netanyahu’s political campaign has emphasized his close ties with President Trump, Estrin reports. In his prime time interview on Saturday, Netanyahu portrayed those moves of support from the Trump administration as his own achievements, the AP reports.

Last month, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. In his first year in office, Trump had also recognized Jerusalem — the disputed city claimed as capital by both Israeli and Palestinian people — as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Polls indicate a close race, though Netanyahu’s Likud Party and its traditional allies, smaller right-wing parties, are predicted to win a slight majority of the votes. That gives Netanyahu the edge on forming a ruling coalition over Gantz’s Blue and White political alliance – unless some right-wing parties choose to side with Gantz, Estrin reports.

Gantz has accused Netanyahu of inciting against Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens and embracing extremists by allying with the far-right Jewish Power Party.