Israel Said Set To Seek $250b Compensation From Arab Countries Plus Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel said set to seek $250b compensation for Jews forced out of Arab countries

After 18 months of research, first claims being finalized for reported $35b from Tunisia, $15b from Libya, for assets Jews left behind when kicked out after establishment of Israel

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Israel is preparing to demand compensation totaling a reported $250 billion from seven Arab countries and Iran for property and assets left behind by Jews who were forced to flee those countries following the establishment of the State of Israel.

“The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms (against Jews) in seven Arab countries and Iran, and to restore, to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property, what is rightfully theirs,” Israel’s Minister for Social Equality, Gila Gamliel, who is coordinating the Israeli government’s handling of the issue, said Saturday.

According to figures cited Saturday night by Israel’s Hadashot TV news, compensation demands are now being finalized with regards to the first two of the eight countries involved, with Israel set to seek $35 billion dollars in compensation for lost Jewish assets from Tunisia, and $15 billion dollars from Libya.

In total, the TV report said Israel will seek over $250 billion from those two countries plus Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Iran.

Yemenite Jews walking to Aden, the site of a reception camp, ahead of their emigration to Israel, 1949. (Kluger Zoltan/Israeli National Photo Archive/public domain)

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), an international umbrella group of Jewish community organizations, has estimated that some 856,000 Jews from 10 Arab countries — the other two were Algeria and Lebanon — fled or were expelled in 1948 and after, while violent Arab riots left many Jews dead or injured.

For the past 18 months, utilizing the services of an international accountancy firm, the Israeli government has quietly been researching the value of property and assets that these Jews were forced to leave behind, the TV report said.

Immigrants from Iraq soon after landing at Lod Airport, summer 1951 (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

It is now moving toward finalizing claims as the Trump Administration prepares for the possible unveiling of its much-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal. A 2010 Israeli law provides that any peace deal must provide for compensation for assets of Jewish communities and individual Jews forced out of Arab countries and Iran.

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“One cannot talk about the Middle East without taking into consideration the rights of the Jews who were forced to leave their thriving communities amid violence,” said Gamliel, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“All the crimes that were carried out against those Jewish communities must be recognized.”

The Palestinian Authority has sought over $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets left behind by Arab residents of what is today Israel who fled or were forced to leave at the time of the establishment of the Jewish state, and presented documentation to that effect to the United States a decade ago, the TV report said.

The Palestinians have also always demanded a “right of return” to what is today’s Israel for the few tens of thousands of surviving refugees and for their millions of descendants. This demand would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state and has been dismissed by successive Israeli governments. Israel argues that Palestinian refugees would become citizens of a Palestinian state under a permanent peace accord, just as Jewish refugees from Arab lands became citizens of Israel. It also argues that by extending refugee status to Palestinian descendants, the relevant UN agencies artificially inflate the issue, complicating peace efforts. The latter view is shared by the Trump administration, which last year announced it was halting funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

Israel has never formally demanded compensation for Jews forced out of Arab lands and Iran, and although many of those Jews arrived in Israel with next to nothing, they did not seek formal refugee status from the international community.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon giving the opening remarks at an official UN event commemorating Jewish refugees from Arab lands, on December 1, 2015. (Shahar Azran)

At the time, the newly established Jewish state was struggling to attract migration from the world’s Jews and to project its legitimacy as a sovereign state, able to care for its own people. Its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, would not have wanted Jews returning to their “historic homeland” classed as refugees, according to Meir Kahlon, chairman of the Central Organization for Jews from Arab Countries and Iran.

Monies obtained from the eight countries would not be allocated to individual families, the TV report said, but would rather be distributed by the state via a special fund. Gamliel is coordinating the process, together with Israel’s National Security Council, which works out of the Prime Minister’s Office.

In 2014, Israel passed a law making each November 30 a day commemorating the exit and deportation of Jews from Arab and Iranian lands, which involves educational programming and diplomatic events aimed to increase international awareness of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran, and of their right to compensation.

That year, at the first such events, Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin issued calls for financial reparations.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. November 30, 2014. (photo credit: Courtesy)

“It is not for nothing that this day is marked on the day after the 29th of November,” Netanyahu said on November 30, 2014, in reference to the anniversary of the UN adoption of the Palestine partition plan in 1947. “The Arab countries, which never accepted the UN declaration on the establishment of a Jewish state, compelled the Jews living in their territories to leave their homes while leaving their assets behind… We have acted – and will continue to act – so that they and their claims are not forgotten.”

Read: The expulsion that backfired: When Iraq kicked out its Jews

In his address at that first ceremony, Rivlin appealed for greater Sephardic representation in Israeli society, as well as for compensation for their suffering. He acknowledged that the troubles of Middle Eastern Jews were not mitigated upon their arrival in Israel, where European Jews were firmly entrenched in power.

“Their voices were muted, but the words were in their mouths all along, even if they were said in Hebrew with a Persian or Arabic accent, which in Israel were thought of as enemy languages and viewed as a source of shame,” he said.

“The voice of Jews from Arab countries and Iran must be heard within the education system, in the media, in the arts, and in the country’s official institutions, as it needs to be heard in the international arena as well, in order to mend the historical injustice, and to ensure financial reparations,” Rivlin said.

Kahlon said that “nearly 800,000 came here (in the years after the establishment of the state) and the rest (around 56,000) went to the United States, France, Italy and elsewhere.”

Kahlon himself came to Israel as a child from Libya and spent his first years in the Jewish state in one of the tent camps set up to shelter the flood of newcomers.

Barber Rachamim Azar, a new immigrant from Baghdad, carries out his trade in the tent he shares with his wife and two children at a maabara (immigrant camp) in central Israel in summer 1951. He told a Government Press Office photographer that he intended to move to a kibbutz (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

In March 2014, Canada formally recognized the refugee status of the Jewish emigres who fled or were expelled from Arab countries after Israel’s founding.

Some of the migrants to Israel say privately that the issue is being promoted to give Israel a bargaining card in negotiations with the Palestinians, to set against Palestinian compensation claims for property and assets left behind in what is now Israel.

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US official says top Hezbollah brass hit in alleged Israeli strikes in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US official says top Hezbollah brass hit in alleged Israeli strikes in Syria

Defense Department source tells Newsweek commanders were targeted after boarding a plane bound for Iran; advanced weaponry also destroyed

A screenshot from video on social media purporting to show airstrikes near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

A screenshot from video on social media purporting to show airstrikes near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

An alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria Tuesday night hit several senior Hezbollah officials as they boarded a plane bound for Iran, Newsweek reported Wednesday morning, citing a Defense Department source.

The unnamed source told the magazine he had received the information from top Israeli military brass.

He said strategic Iranian munitions were also targeted, including advanced GPS components for weaponry.

Syrian state media said the strikes, beginning at about 10 p.m., were carried out from Lebanon and that a number of targets were intercepted. It said its own air defenses had opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down.

Syrian TV quoted a military source saying weapons warehouses were hit, and three Syrian soldiers wounded.

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Syrian media said Wednesday morning that Israel hit a base used by Hezbollah in Al-Dimas, a weapons depot at a base belonging to the Syrian army’s 4th division in Sabura and the military’s 10th Division command in Qatana.

Additionally, Syrian air defenses in Attal and the 68th Brigade and 137th Battalion in Khan-al-Sheikh were also reportedly attacked, Hadashot reported.

Israel said it had deployed air defenses against a missile fired from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel the alleged airstrikes.

The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.

“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the army said in a statement.

It did not say where or even if the missile was successfully intercepted.

Pictures shared on social media showed an air defense missile being fired near Hadera, a city some 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Syrian border where residents had earlier reported hearing a loud explosion.

Embedded video

Observer IL – 🅾️🅱️🔺@Obs_IL

Dashcam footage from Road 6 of the launch of an AD missile earlier near following this evening airstrikes in . @Intel_sky @IsraelD_Heb @edrormba @BabakTaghvaee @Dannymakkisyria @IntelCrab @IdeologyWars @TheWarOfNow @intellipus

23 people are talking about this

Syrian eyewitnesses and video on social media showed what appeared to be intense fire on targets near the capital.

Embedded video

Zaid Benjamin@zaidbenjamin

Syrian News Agency says the “Aggression on ” continues “from the Lebanese airspace” and air defenses are responding.

20 people are talking about this

“It’s an Israeli raid,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

“Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted… arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” Abdel Rahman said.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Israel Air Force planes were operating over southern Lebanon.

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

: explosions heard over province. Air defenses fired missiles moments ago.

View image on Twitter

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

. Air defenses in action tonight over W. province. pic.twitter.com/xrYqMYX1E1

Embedded video

57 people are talking about this

News reports made a connection between the strike and the earlier arrival of an Iranian cargo jet in Damascus. The 747, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had landed in Syria just after 7 p.m.

The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah, and media speculated that its cargo had been the target of the strikes.

It was not clear whether the jet was the one which Hezbollah officials had allegedly boarded.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

The number of airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel has dropped noticeably in recent months, after a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to re-establish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.

Russia reportedly wants significant warning period ahead of any Israeli airstrike, something Israeli officials have been said to refuse.

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Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(Peace, no peace, ever, there is to much inbred hate and distrust on all three sides, Sunni, Shiite and Judaism,  but thats just my thought on this issue.) (oldpoet56)  

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

No injuries or damage in Israel; Israeli planes said to be behind attack near Syrian capital against Hezbollah or Iranian depot; Damascus claims to shoot down ‘enemy targets’

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Israel said Tuesday night it had deployed its air defenses against a missile shot from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel an alleged Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah or Iranian targets near the capital.

The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.

“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the army said in a statement.

It did not say where or even if the missile was successfully intercepted.

Pictures shared on social media showed an air defense missile being fired near Hadera, a city some 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Syrian border where residents had earlier reported hearing a loud explosion.

Embedded video

Observer IL – 🅾️🅱️🔺@Obs_IL

Dashcam footage from Road 6 of the launch of an AD missile earlier near following this evening airstrikes in . @Intel_sky @IsraelD_Heb @edrormba @BabakTaghvaee @Dannymakkisyria @IntelCrab @IdeologyWars @TheWarOfNow @intellipus

23 people are talking about this

Syrian state media said its own air defenses had opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down, in what was reported to be an Israeli airstrike.

Syrian eyewitnesses and video on social media showed what appeared to be intense fire on targets near the capital.

Embedded video

Zaid Benjamin@zaidbenjamin

Syrian News Agency says the “Aggression on ” continues “from the Lebanese airspace” and air defenses are responding.

20 people are talking about this

SANA said the strikes beginning at about 10 p.m. were carried out from Lebanon and that a number of targets were intercepted.

“It’s an Israeli raid,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

“Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted… arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syrian TV quoted a military source saying weapons warehouses were hit, and three Syrian soldiers wounded.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Israel Air Force planes were operating over southern Lebanon.

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

: explosions heard over province. Air defenses fired missiles moments ago.

View image on Twitter

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

. Air defenses in action tonight over W. province. pic.twitter.com/xrYqMYX1E1

Embedded video

57 people are talking about this

News reports tied between the strike and the earlier arrival of an Iranian cargo jet in Damascus. The 747, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had landed in Syria just after 7 p.m.

The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah.

By midnight the flight was en route back to Iran.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

The number of airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel has dropped noticeably in recent months, after a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to re-establish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.

Russia reportedly wants significant warning period ahead of any Israeli airstrike, something Israeli officials have been said to refuse.

READ MORE:

‘Europe is finished,’ leading lawyer says as he leaves UK for Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘CORBYN MOVED THE ROCK, AND THE ANTI-SEMITES CRAWLED OUT’

‘Europe is finished,’ leading lawyer says as he leaves UK for Israel

‘It’s time to wander again,’ Mark Lewis tells fellow Jews facing rising anti-Semitism in Britain and across Europe

Mark Lewis (L) and his partner Mandy Blumenthal in an interview with the BBC. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Mark Lewis (L) and his partner Mandy Blumenthal in an interview with the BBC. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A top British lawyer and his partner immigrated to Israel this week, citing rising anti-Semitism in Europe.

“Europe in my view is finished. Every day you see people being attacked in one way or another across Europe,” Mark Lewis told Israel’s Channel 10 news, which accompanied his arrival, together with partner Mandy Blumenthal, at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport.

“You see people murdered in museums in Belgium, people murdered in schools in France, people attacked in England. There is only one place for Jewish people to go,” Lewis added.

Lewis, 54, one of the UK’s leading libel lawyers, said he has been increasingly subjected to hate speech and threats for being Jewish, including being subjected to regular abuse and death threats online.

The decision to leave Britain did not come easily, the couple has said, but they feel it was inevitable. “We’re a wandering people, and it’s time to wander again. People just don’t want to see it,” Lewis said of his fellow British Jews.

Mark Lewis, right, and Mandy Blumenthal arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, December 5, 2018. (Channel 10 screen capture)

“We’ve accelerated our decision of moving to go to Israel because of anti-Semitism being so institutional and accepted in mainstream life,” Blumenthal charged.

“So many people have these ideas about Jews being responsible for every disaster that’s ever happened in the world.”

Lewis and Blumenthal first publicized their intention to leave for Israel in an interview with the BBC in August. They said they knew other people who are considering leaving the country because of anti-Semitism.

In the interview, the couple also blamed the leadership of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn for creating an atmosphere that allows anti-Semitic feelings to bubble up, and largely dismissed Corbyn’s assertion that anti-Semitism is not tolerated in the party.

“Jeremy Corbyn moved the rock, and the anti-Semites crawled out from underneath the rock. They’re not going back,” said Lewis.

“There’s been a total climate change. It’s become acceptable to be anti-Semitic. It’s brought out people’s feelings to the surface,” Blumenthal said.

She said though Corbyn and Labour are not solely responsible for the recent anti-Semitism, they have a “very loud part” in its rise.

“It’s not just Jeremy Corbyn and it’s not all of the Labour party. But it’s a very, very loud part of it that’s actually enabled this anti-Semitism to foster here in the UK and go throughout society,” she said.

Lewis said while anti-Semitism was a fringe phenomenon in the past, it is has become more prominent due to social media.

“Social media has caused so much harm,” he said. “Fifteen years ago there was still anti-Semitism but it was an obscure thing. Fifteen years ago somebody painted a swastika on my garage door in Manchester, that was a message. But it was a one-off, it was something you could almost laugh off. Now with the effect of social media, it’s almost every day.”

Lewis, who in an interview with The Times of Israel last year said he likes to take on anti-Semitic trolls on social media, said he has also faced anti-Semitism when trying to raise the issue.

“If you complain about anti-Semitism, the most anti-Semitic thing is said back to you: You’re making it up, it’s all a smear, you haven’t even got the right to complain,” he said.

He said he was bombarded with messages of hate from “people who claim to represent [grassroots Corbyn backing group] Momentum, who claim to represent the Labour Party.”

Lawyer Mark Lewis arrives at a media ethics inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, Thursday, November 24, 2011. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Explaining the couple’s decision to move to Israel, Lewis said “there is only so much you can take.”

“The online abuse might continue, the Israelis might not like me because I am too left, might not like me because they think I am too right, whatever their view. But they are not going to dislike me because I am Jewish. And there is only so much you can take – when you are getting threats to kill you.”

“When you are getting threats from people that they want you to be ill, etc. It’s a drip drip effect,” said Lewis, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. “And where do you say ‘actually, enough is enough.’”

In response to the couple’s interview, a Labour spokesperson said Corbyn is a “militant opponent” of anti-Semitism and committed to uprooting it from the party.

Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in Tolpuddle, England, on July 22, 2018. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

Blumenthal, however, said she did not believe Corbyn’s expressed commitment to addressing Labour’s anti-Semitism problems.

“Words are cheap. I honestly believe that when I hear Jeremy Corbyn’s words, they’re cheap, they’re excuses, they’re not actually expressing his true feelings. I don’t believe him,” she said.

In August, Corbyn faced renewed criticism after the Daily Mail newspaper published photos of him holding a wreath during a 2014 ceremony at a Tunisian cemetery. It appeared from the snapshots that Corbyn was standing near the graves of Palestinian terrorists involved in the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

The scandal is only the latest round in a long-running crisis for the Labour Party, with a constant stream of members and prominent officials being forced out or chastised for making anti-Semitic and virulent anti-Israel comments, and Corbyn himself criticized for tolerating and/or being part of the problem.

The fracas has seen excoriation from rabbis, including Britain’s chief rabbi, as well as from some of Labour’s own MPs, charging that the party and its leader seem unable or unwilling to decisively excise anti-Semitic members and sentiments from Labour’s ranks.

Top European Rabbi sounds alarm on rise of far right

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Top European rabbi sounds alarm on rise of far right

‘We’re going back to 1914,’ says Pinchas Goldschmidt; laments EU’s instability and that the US ‘replaced the State Department with Twitter’

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, seen writing a new Torah scroll at an event attended by Israeli and European rabbis, marking the Hebrew date of 69 years since the liberation of Jews in Europe, in the Western Wall tunnels, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 21, 2014. (Flash90)

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, seen writing a new Torah scroll at an event attended by Israeli and European rabbis, marking the Hebrew date of 69 years since the liberation of Jews in Europe, in the Western Wall tunnels, in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 21, 2014. (Flash90)

Today’s political climate poses a genuine danger to democracy, according to a leading European rabbi, who warned of a return to “total dictatorships” such as those that existed before World War I.

“We live in a totally new world where there is no control or editing of any kind of information,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis. “The public discourse has become much more shrill and extreme. What has been accepted and understood as being the basis of a liberal democracy yesterday is questioned today.”

In a recent interview with The Times of Israel, the Swiss-born scholar and communal leader also criticized the US administration for “replacing” the State Department with Twitter, said the European Union was “not stable,” and warned the State of Israel against warming up to far-right parties, saying the Jewish state must never place short-term political gains ahead of historical truth.

Speaking about the rise of populist far-right parties across Europe, Goldschmidt indicated that the continent is returning to an age of unbridled nationalism mixed with racism.

“We’re going back to the past; we’re going back to 1914 in Europe. I don’t think we can exclude the turn to total dictatorships, where the situation of Jewish communities is going to become similar to those times when there were no democratic governments,” he said. However, he added that there is one caveat, in that “today you have the State of Israel, you have where to go.”

His fears of Western democracy collapsing are based on recent political and societal developments, he explained.

“The memory of the Holocaust and World War II and World War I is receding. People are living well. People’s attention spans, thanks to the internet, has gone down. Instead of reading books, people read headlines. Instead of getting information, people get opinions and tweets,” he said.

Even the US administration has “replaced the State Department with Twitter,” he lamented, referring to policy decision and diplomatic repartee on the micro-blogging platform.

“I am not painting a black future. I’m saying there are big dangers,” stressed Goldschmidt, who has headed the Conference of European Rabbis since 2011.

“The European Union is not stable; we’re dealing now with Brexit,” he added, noting that many far-right parties on the content advocate leaving the EU and want to “go back to 1914, where it was every country on their own.”

Nationalism in itself is not bad, but it becomes problematic when it is mixed with racism and threatens the foundations of democracy, said the rabbi, who has written several books on religion and politics.

King Felipe VI of Spain (R) shakes hands with CER President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, at the Royal Palace El Pardo near Madrid, Spain, on December 13, 2016. (World Jewish Congress/File)

The walls that separate between the judiciary, the executive, and the legislative “are being broken down,” and the free press in under attack in today’s Western world, he went on. “All the institutions which give a guarantee to every citizen, and specifically to religious minorities, are in danger.”

Last month, Goldschmidt, who was born in Zurich and has served as the chief rabbi of Moscow since 1993, headed a delegation of the Conference of European Rabbis to Israel, which met with President Reuven Rivlin, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, and other senior government officials.

In Jerusalem, Goldschmidt announced the appointment of an “ambassador” to coordinate the campaign “against far-right ideologies and extremism.”

This person, who has not yet been named, “will bring together leading politicians and stakeholders from across Europe to make sure that we are equipped to take action against the far-right,” according to Goldschmidt.

Rabbi Goldschmidt, second from left, visits the Knesset as head of a European rabbinical delegation, November 2018. (Eli Itkin/CER)

At their meetings in Israel, the rabbis warned the government against cozying up to such parties, even when they purport to support Israel.

“If a party is intrinsically racist, bigoted against large parts of society and intolerant of minorities, if Jews are not the target now, they will be in the near future,” he said in a press release issued in late November.

“Israel is uniquely placed to put diplomatic pressure on a state and she needs to be careful, take the lead from local communities and analyze a party’s approach and make a long-term decision. It is not worth a short-term endorsement or for Israel to receive political support, only to put the Jewish community at risk.”

Speaking to The Times of Israel in the lobby of his Jerusalem hotel, Goldschmidt also cautioned against establishing contacts with Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, who is not a member of but affiliated with the far-right Freedom Party, or FPOe.

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl (George Schneider)

“The FPOe was founded by SS officers. Some politicians in Israel are talking about mending relationship with the Diaspora. Supporting them would do just the opposite,” he said.

Goldschmidt was careful not to openly criticize the Israeli government, but he did express understanding for critics of some Israeli decisions, such as a July joint statement Jerusalem issued together with Warsaw about the role of Poles in the Holocaust.

At the time, Yad Vashem slammed the document for containing “highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field.”

He also had some misgiving about Israel seemingly turning a blind eye to distortion of the Holocaust in some Central and Eastern European countries in exchange for diplomatic support.

“It is natural that current political necessities do take precedence over historical rights and wrongs,” Goldschmidt said. “Not all Jews are religious. Many Jews are secular. However, if there is something that is holy to all of us, it is the memory of the Holocaust victims. And that’s something we should not play with.”

Israel derives its strength not only from its thriving start-up scene or its military, the rabbi went on.

“It’s its morality. The morality and historic justice of a persecuted people returning to their homeland after 2,000 years of exile, and I believe that the Israeli government, when formulating foreign policy, should include all historical and moral aspects of Jewish history in order to form a policy which is not only acceptable today, but also for the future.”

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Israel: Please Tell Me That The Prime Minister Is Not This Petty And This Stupid

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘What a Hanukkah gift’: Bitter PM slams police call to charge him with bribery

Accusing cops of an ongoing witch-hunt, Netanyahu denies deal to help Bezeq boss Elovitch in return for favorable coverage from the businessman’s Walla news site

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud party event in Ramat Gan marking the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, on December 2, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud party event in Ramat Gan marking the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, on December 2, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back hard Sunday evening against Israel Police’s bombshell recommendation earlier in the day that he be indicted for taking bribes in the Bezeq-Walla corruption probe, known as Case 4000.

“The witch-hunt against us continues,” Netanyahu told a crowd of Likud supporters at the party’s official Hanukkah lighting ceremony at the Kfar Maccabiah Hotel in Tel Aviv. The investigation, he claimed, was biased and “skewed from the start… A year ago, before even opening the investigations,” he charged of the police, “they decided what the outcome would be and leaked their conclusions.”

Investigators said earlier Sunday they believed there was enough evidence to bring Netanyahu to trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust, and fraudulently accepting benefits. It is the third case in which police have recommended bribery charges against the prime minister. They also recommended that his wife, Sara, stand trial in the case.

But Netanyahu said the allegations were “baseless” and that the truth would eventually emerge. Hanukkah marks “the victory of light over darkness,” he said, and declared, “the light will always win out.”

He also noted that Hanukkah is a festival of miracles, and mused bitterly, “How did they know to time (the publication of) these surreal allegations precisely on the very last day of the police chief? What can I tell you? A real Hanukkah miracle. What a gift they gave us for the festival,” he said, in tones dripping with sarcasm met with cheers from his upbeat supporters.

Sunday was police commissioner Roni Alsheich’s final full day in office.

Investigators said that Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm — despite opposition from the Communication Ministry’s career officials — in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site. At the time when a merger of Bezeq with the Yes satellite operator was approved in 2015 — a deal at the heart of the case, said to have benefited Elovitch to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels — the prime minister was also serving as acting communications minister.

Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for extension of his remand in Case 4000, February 22, 2018. (Flash90)

Netanyahu rejected the specific allegations, saying that there was no benefit to either side in the alleged quid pro quo. “I didn’t give anything to Elovitch and I didn’t get anything from Elovitch,” he said.

“Not only did Elovitch not get anything from me during my tenure as communications minister, he lost a fortune,” the prime minister charged. “As minister of communications, we instituted the wholesale market reform that lowered the prices of the Internet and collapsed Bezeq’s share — a reform that seriously hurt Elovitch. In other words, Bezeq received nothing, but lost,” he said.

He also said that the claim he received positive coverage from Walla was untrue. “What did I get?” he asked the crowd rhetorically. “I’ll tell you: I got terrible coverage at Walla… Walla is a left-wing website that gives and has given me negative coverage for years, especially on the eve of the last elections.”

In their blistering statement, police had said “the prime minister and his associates intervened in a blatant and ongoing manner, and sometimes even daily, in the content published by the Walla News website, and also sought to influence the appointment of senior officials (editors and reporters) via their contacts with Shaul and Iris Elovitch,” the Bezeq owner’s wife.

Netanyahu, however, said there was nothing wrong with being in contact with owners of major media outlets.

“I don’t think it okay in a democracy for the police to investigate ties between politicians and the media,” he said, accusing investigators of singling him out, and noting that dozens of lawmakers receive “flattering coverage” and are not probed by authorities.

“I wasn’t surprised the recommendations were published, or that they were published today,” Netanyahu added, citing the timing of the announcement on Alsheich’s last full day, and accusing the police chief of leading a smear campaign against him.

Israeli Chief of Police Roni Alsheich seen with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a welcoming ceremony held in Alsheich’s honor in Jerusalem, on December 3, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Alsheich ends his term on Monday after three years. Both Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan have clashed with the outgoing commissioner and declined to extend his tenure for the customary additional year.

Earlier this year, police recommended that Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two other corruption cases, designated 1000 and 2000. The following month, Netanyahu said that law enforcement officials were being pressured to pursue criminal investigations against him. He has since railed against Alsheich, accusing the police chief of leaking information to the press and of conducting a “witch-hunt” against him and his family.

Alsheich’s departure comes amid a cloud over his successor vis-a-vis the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee, also known as the Goldberg Committee, which announced last week that it could not recommend Maj. Gen. Moshe “Chico” Edri as the next police chief, citing a meeting Edri held during the nomination process with the lawyer of a Tax Authority whistleblower who has accused Edri of harassing him.

Erdan, who nominated Edri, harshly criticized the committee over its decision and vowed to push ahead with the appointment despite the disqualification. Alsheich had also reportedly been against the appointment.

In a further attack on police integrity, Netanyahu said he did not know who next the Israel Police commissioner will be, “but I do know one thing. He’ll have some serious restoration work because, how should I say this, the public’s trust in the police is not at an all-time high.”

In Case 1000, the so-called “gifts scandal,” Netanyahu is suspected of “systematically” demanding benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer, in exchange for favors.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister work to weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in all of the cases, insisting the gifts were given by friends and were not bribes, and that he never intended to act on his conversations with Mozes.

Rallying his supporters on Sunday, the prime minister repeated a mantra he has used throughout the investigations: “Nothing will happen, because…,” he began. And the crowd joined in, “…nothing happened.”

In their Sunday statement, police noted that the investigation had not found enough evidence to charge Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu’s son, Yair Netanyahu, who was questioned a number of times during the investigation.

The recommendations in Case 4000 now go to the Attorney General’s Office, where they will first be reviewed by the state prosecutor before going to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Mandelblit, who will make the final decision whether to indict the prime minister, intends to examine all three cases at the same time, which will be possible only after he receives the state attorney’s recommendations based on the final police reports.

That process makes late 2019 the likely timing for any final word on whether Netanyahu will face trial. The next Knesset elections are currently slated for November 2019, but may very well be held earlier.

Coalition partners have previously said that they would not leave the government unless a full indictment was filed against the prime minister, but recent crises may have shifted allegiances in the coalition after it was reduced last month to a paper-thin majority of just 61-59 in the 120-seat Knesset.

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Paki PM Opens His Mouth And Removes All Doubt: He Is A Liar, Ignorant And A Fraud

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Pakistani PM denigrates Jesus, wants world convention to prevent insult to Islam

‘There is no mention of Jesus in history,’ says Imran Khan, ‘but the entire life of Muhammad, who was Allah’s last prophet, is part of history’

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor in Kartarpur on November 28, 2018. (Arif Ali/AFP)

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor in Kartarpur on November 28, 2018. (Arif Ali/AFP)

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for an international convention banning speech deemed insulting to Muslims and claimed there does not exist any historical “mention” of Jesus.

Khan, a former cricketer with a reputation as a playboy, whose first wife has Jewish roots, has worked to portray himself as a devout Muslim in recent years since becoming one of Pakistan’s most prominent political figures.

His growing popularity and selection as premier in the July elections — marred by accusations of military interference and vote-rigging — have come amid a backdrop of a growing movement in Muslim-majority Pakistan against alleged blasphemy.

In a speech on November 20 marking the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Khan denigrated prophets from Judaism and Christianity who are also revered in Islam, claiming that — unlike Muhammad — there was “no mention of them” in history.

“There were prophets of Allah other [than Muhammad], but there is no mention of them in human history. There is negligible mention of them. Moses is mentioned, but there is no mention of Jesus in history,” he said, according to a translation posted Thursday by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

“But the entire life of Muhammad, who was Allah’s last prophet, is part of history,” Khan added.

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Turning to periodic outbursts of anger over the publication of cartoons and other satirical portrayals of Muhammad, Khan said the often violent reactions were being used to tarnish Islam.

“Every few years, in some Western country, our dear Prophet is blasphemed against and dishonored. What is the consequence of this? Muslims become angry. We take to the streets in protest, [protesters] break things in our country… It enables the enemies of Muslims to tell people in the West: ‘See, Islam is a big religion that spreads violence,’” he said.

“They get an opportunity to spread propaganda against Islam.”

Khan credited the intervention of his foreign minister with the cancellation earlier this year of a Mohammad cartoon competition in the Netherlands planned by a far-right politician.

He also said Pakistan’s lobbying on the issue to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the United Nations was leading to less tolerance for alleged blasphemy in the West.

“Something happened that had never happened before. The European Union’s Human Rights Court said for the first time that you cannot hurt somebody’s religion under the pretext of freedom of speech, and especially it said that you cannot blaspheme against Muhammad’s honor,” he said.

Khan was referring to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights last month that an Austrian court’s conviction of a woman for comparing Muhammad’s marriage to an underage girl to pedophilia was not a violation of her right to freedom of speech.

The Pakistani prime minister called for countries around the globe to adopt an “International Convention on Preventing the Defamation of Religions,” which he said would ensure that “freedom of speech cannot be used as a pretext to hurt the world’s 1.25 billion Muslims.”

Khan vowed Pakistan would play a leading role in this effort and “Allah willing… for the first time in the world get this convention signed.”

Pakistani protesters burn representation of Dutch flags during a protest to condemn the planned anti-Islam cartoon contest, in Karachi, Pakistan, on August 30, 2018. (AP/Fareed Khan)

Khan’s speech came amid unrest in Pakistan following the acquittal last month of a Christian woman who had previously been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Asia Bibi’s case has inflamed radical Islamists, some of whom are calling for her death.

Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Labbaik party launched nationwide protests demanding Bibi’s public execution and the party’s founder, Mohammad Afzal Qadri, called for the death of the three Supreme Court judges who ruled to acquit her. Qadri also called for the overthrow of the Pakistan government. Protests ended after the government agreed to a Supreme Court review. Khan has gone on national television saying that the Supreme Court’s decision will be final and upheld.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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Police prevent underage ultra-Orthodox wedding in Jerusalem; bride-to-be is 13

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Police prevent underage ultra-Orthodox wedding in Jerusalem; bride-to-be is 13

Authorities say girl had been reported missing by her father 2 months ago, may have been hidden by her mother; 6 detained in raid, including 4 minors

Two women and four minors are seen at a police station after being detained in a raid on an underage wedding in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem, on November 29, 2018. (Israel Police)

Two women and four minors are seen at a police station after being detained in a raid on an underage wedding in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem, on November 29, 2018. (Israel Police)

Police halted a wedding between two minors Thursday in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood.

Officers detained two women and four minors in a raid on the roof of a building in the neighborhood where the wedding was taking place.

Among those taken to a police station were the 13-year-old bride-to-be, who police said was reported missing by her father two months ago.

“The suspicion is that the mother hid [the daughter] until the date of the wedding,” police said in a statement Friday.

The mother is being questioned on suspicion of violating a legal order and other unspecified offenses. Police said their report was given to welfare officials.

Officers were working to determine the identities of the rest of the detainees.

Police did not provide the age of the prospective groom, but the Ynet news site reported he is 16. The legal age of marriage in Israel is 18.

It was not immediately clear what sect those involved in the wedding belonged to. A police photo showed those detained in the raid wearing burqas, a rare religious stricture in ultra-Orthodox Judaism often associated with the Lev Tahor cult.

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Israel Is Working To Forge Ties With Bahrain, Chad And Sudan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel said working to forge ties with Bahrain amid unprecedented Gulf opening

News of effort to normalize relations with Manama comes after reports that Israel is eyeing ties with Sudan, as Chadian leader makes historic visit to Israel

Bahraini voters queue outside a polling station in the Bahraini city of Al-Muharraq, north of Manama on November 24, 2018, as they wait to cast their vote in the parliamentary election. (AFP)

Bahraini voters queue outside a polling station in the Bahraini city of Al-Muharraq, north of Manama on November 24, 2018, as they wait to cast their vote in the parliamentary election. (AFP)

Israel is working to normalize ties with Bahrain, as Jerusalem ramps up its drive to forge more open relations with the Arab world amid shifting alliances in the Middle East driven by shared concerns over Iran, Hebrew-language news sites reported late Sunday.

The reports, sourced to an unnamed senior official, did not detail Israel’s efforts to get closer to Manama, but came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted he would soon travel to unspecified Arab states, during a press conference with visiting Chadian leader Idriss Déby Sunday.

Déby’s historic visit is part of a campaign to lay the groundwork for normalizing ties with Muslim-majority countries Sudan, Mali and Niger, according to a report on Israel’s Channel 10 news Sunday.

The revelation that Israel is actively working to forge closer ties with Bahrain comes as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is visiting the island kingdom. The prince, who is attempting to rehabilitate his image in the West after the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi, is seen as a key part of a US-backed drive for Gulf states to open their doors to Israel amid shared concern over Iran’s expansion in the region.

In May, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa wrote on Twitter that Israel has the right to defend itself against Iran.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, participates in a ministerial meeting with the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, July 12, 2017. (US State Department, via AP)

Oman, which has often played the role of regional mediator, welcomed Netanyahu in a surprise visit last month, an apparent sign of Israeli progress in improving ties with Gulf countries.

At a security conference in Bahrain following the visit, Omani foreign minister also offered rare words of support for the Jewish state.

“Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this. The world is also aware of this fact and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same and also bear the same obligations,” Yussef bin Alawi bin Abdullah said, according to Reuters.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

During a press conference with Déby on Sunday, Netanyahu remarked that “there will be more such visits in Arab countries very soon,” without providing details.

The Israeli premier has for years spoken about the warming ties between Israel and the Arab world, citing not only Iran as a common enemy but also many countries’ interest in cooperating with Israel on security and defense matters, as well as Israel’s growing high-tech industry.

The effort to forge ties with Sudan comes as Khartoum has looked to move closer to Sunni Gulf states after years as an ally of Iran.

In early 2017, Khartoum joined Sunni Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in severing its ties with the Islamic Republic.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir prepares to cast his ballot for the country’s presidential and legislative elections in Khartoum, Sudan, April 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy, File)

At the time, the country also appeared to make overtures toward Israel. Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said in a 2016 interview that Sudan was open to the idea of normalizing ties with Israel in exchange for lifting US sanctions on Khartoum. According to Hebrew-language media reports at the time, Israeli diplomats tried to drum up support for Sudan in the international community after it severed its ties to Tehran.

In the past, Sudan has allegedly served as a way-station for the transfer of Iranian weapons to the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza. Israel has reportedly intercepted and destroyed transfers of weapons from Sudan bound for Gaza.

In 2009, the International Criminal Court also issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, relating to the bloody conflict in the western Darfur region.

However, since it broke ties with Iran, Sudan is no longer perceived by Israel as a threat, but rather as a potential ally.

New era

Earlier on Sunday, Déby became the first president of Chad to visit Israel and pledged a new era of relations when meeting Netanyahu, 46 years after ties were severed.

In remarks to journalists after a closed-door meeting, Déby spoke of the two countries committing to a new era of cooperation with “the prospect of reestablishing diplomatic relations.”

Déby said he was “proud” that he had accepted Israel’s official invite. “It can be called breaking the ice,” he said. “We came here indeed with the desire to renew diplomatic relations. Your country is an important country. Your country, like Chad, fights against terrorism.”

Chad, a Muslim-majority, Arabic-speaking country in central Africa, broke off relations with Israel in 1972.

Despite the lack of formal ties, both Déby and Netanyahu on Sunday stressed the centrality of security cooperation between the two countries.

Chad is also one of several African states engaged in Western-backed operations against Boko Haram and Islamic State jihadists in West Africa. Earlier this month, the US donated military vehicles and boats worth $1.3 million to Chad as part of the campaign against Islamist militancy in the country.

File: Chadian soldiers gather on February 1, 2015 near the Nigerian town of Gamboru, just across the border from Cameroon. (AFP/Marle)

Under Déby, Chad’s government has been accused of widespread human rights abuses and rigged elections. He took over the arid, impoverished nation in 1990 and won a disputed fifth term in April 2016.

On Sunday, Chadian security sources were quoted by Reuters saying that Israel had sent Chad arms and money earlier this year to help the country in its fight against Islamist groups. Netanyahu in his remarks to journalists thanked Déby for his visit and hailed “flourishing” ties between Israel and African nations. He declined questions about whether the two leaders discussed potential Israeli arms sales to Chad.

Netanyahu portrayed the unprecedented visit as the result of his hard-won diplomatic efforts, referring to his three visits to Africa over the last couple years and his surprise trip to Oman in October.

According to Israel’s Channel 10, Israel’s diplomatic push in Africa is driven in part by a desire to ease air travel to Latin America. Flying in the airspace of traditionally hostile African countries — namely Chad and Sudan — would allow airlines to offer faster, more direct flights between Israel and the continent.

Channel 10 estimated that flying directly from Israel to Brazil over Sudan would shave some four hours off the average journey, which currently takes at least 17 hours, and requires a stopover in either Europe or North America.

Separately, Hadashot television news reported on Sunday that Netanyahu has secured reassurances from Oman that airlines flying to and from Israel — including national carrier El Al — would be permitted to fly over the kingdom’s airspace. The prime minister received this message during his surprise visit to Muscat last month — the first by an Israeli leader in over 20 years, the television report said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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After cozying up to Chad, Israel reportedly eyeing ties with Sudan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

After cozying up to Chad, Israel reportedly eyeing ties with Sudan

Top official tells Israeli TV that efforts to extend diplomacy to central African Muslim states, including Niger and Mali, driven in part by air travel considerations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and his wife Sara host Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno (L) at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on November 25, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and his wife Sara host Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno (L) at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on November 25, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Israel is working to establish diplomatic ties with a number of central African nations, including Sudan, Israeli television reports said Sunday night, as Chadian leader Idriss Déby made a historic visit to the Jewish state and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled he would soon travel to unspecified Arab states.

A senior Israeli official told Channel 10 that Déby’s visit was laying the groundwork for normalizing ties with Muslim-majority countries Sudan, Mali and Niger.

According to the report, Israel’s diplomatic push in Africa is driven in part by a desire to ease air travel to Latin America. Flying over airspace of traditionally hostile African countries — namely Chad and Sudan — would allow airlines to offer faster, more direct flights between Israel and the continent.

Channel 10 estimated that flying directly from Israel to Brazil over Sudan would shave some four hours off the average journey, which currently takes at least 17 hours, and requires a stopover in either Europe or North America.

Separately, Hadashot television news reported on Sunday that Netanyahu has  secured reassurances from Oman that airlines from Israel — including national carrier El Al — would be permitted to fly over the kingdom’s airspace. The prime minister received this message during his surprise visit to Muskat last month — the first by an Israeli leader in over 20 years, the television report said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Israel has long been wary of Sudan, which was traditionally seen as close to Iran. However, in early 2017, Khartoum joined Sunni Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in severing its ties with the Islamic Republic.

At the time, the country also appeared to make overtures toward Israel. Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said in a 2016 interview that Sudan was open to the idea of normalizing ties with Israel in exchange for lifting US sanctions on Khartoum. According Hebrew-language media reports at the time, Israeli diplomats tried to drum up support for Sudan in the international community after it severed its ties to Tehran.

In the past, Sudan has allegedly served as a way-station for the transfer of Iranian weapons to the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza. Israel has reportedly intercepted and destroyed transfers of weapons from Sudan bound for Gaza.

In 2009, the International Criminal Court also issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, relating to the bloody conflict in the western Darfur region.

However, since it broke ties with Iran, Sudan is no longer perceived by Israel as a threat, but rather as a potential ally.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir prepares to cast his ballot for the country’s presidential and legislative elections in Khartoum, Sudan, April 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy, File)

Earlier on Sunday, Déby became the first president of Chad to visit Israel and pledged a new era of relations when meeting Netanyahu, 46 years after ties were severed.

In remarks to journalists after a closed-door meeting, Déby spoke of the two countries committing to a new era of cooperation with “the prospect of reestablishing diplomatic relations.”

Chad, a Muslim-majority, Arabic-speaking country in central Africa, broke off relations with Israel in 1972.

Despite the lack of formal ties, both Deby and Netanyahu on Sunday stressed the centrality of security cooperation between the two countries.

Chad is also one of several African states engaged in Western-backed operations against Boko Haram and Islamic State jihadists in West Africa. Earlier this month, the US donated military vehicles and boats worth $1.3 million to Chad as part of the campaign against Islamist militancy in the country.

Under Deby, Chad’s government has been accused of widespread human rights abuses and rigged elections. He took over the arid, impoverished nation in 1990 and won a disputed fifth term in April 2016.

On Sunday, Chadian security sources were quoted by Reuters saying that Israel had sent Chad arms and money earlier this year to help the country in its fight against Islamist groups. Netanyahu in his remarks to journalists thanked Déby for his visit and hailed “flourishing” ties between Israel and African nations. He declined questions about whether the two leaders discussed potential Israeli arms sales to Chad.

Netanyahu portrayed the unprecedented visit as the result of his hard-won diplomatic efforts, referring to his three visits to Africa over the last couple years and his surprise trip to Oman in October.

The visit to Oman, a major diplomatic victory for Netanyahu, was an apparent sign of Israeli progress in improving ties with Gulf countries.

Also Sunday, Netanyahu added that “there will be more such visits in Arab countries very soon,” without providing details.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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