Sunday, December 26th, 2010
Lieberman: 'Enough Lies' from Turkey
by Gil Ronen
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman lambasted his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu Sunday. "I cannot bear to hear lies and false accusations from Turkey," Lieberman told an audience of Israeli ambassadors from the world over who are taking advantage of the holiday season to visit the homeland.
"I heard their Foreign Minister accusing us that if they have a humanitarian disaster over there, Israel will dilly-dally in giving aid, or will not give aid at all," Lieberman said. "I am certain that if there is a disaster in Turkey, Israel will assist immediately."
Lieberman used the word "chutzpah" to describe the Turkish demand that Israel apologize for the Mavi Marmara incident. "If anyone should apologize, it is the government of Turkey," he added.
Davotuglu had said Saturday that Turkey seeks reconciliation with Israel, but hinted that Israel does not. "It is very difficult to achieve political will in Israel," he explained. "It took us two minutes to decide to send the firefighting planes," the Turkish diplomat said. "Has the case been reversed, several days would have passed until the coalition in Israel would have agreed to send a plane."
Lieberman countered with criticism of Turkey. "We need to understand that the change in Turkey is not connected to Israel. There is a deep internal shift there that has nothing to do with Israel, just as Khomeini's revolution in Iran had nothing to do with Israel."
Lieberman also discussed the stalled negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. "Even if we had offered Tel Aviv as the capital of Palestine and returned to the 1948 borders, the Palestinians would have found a reason not to sign the agreement."
FM: Abbas regime illegitimate, PM making false expectations
By JPOST.COM STAFF AND HERB KEINON
Lieberman admits coalition can’t "reach common model" for peace; PM: Only I speak for the government.
There is no chance of reaching a comprehensive peace agreement in the current diplomatic and political reality, partly because the Palestinian Authority government is “illegitimate,” and it is time to take “Plan B” – a long-term interim agreement with the Palestinians – “off the shelf” and represent it as Israel’s diplomatic program, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday.
Not only is it impossible, given the current diplomatic and political situation, to reach a comprehensive agreement, but it should not even be tried now, since the current Palestinian Authority government has no legitimacy, Lieberman said.
Gaza bound flotilla arrives in Lebanon
Tensions with Turkey increase over maritime border deal
“We have to understand that there is a government there that it is not legitimate,” Lieberman said at an annual gathering in Jerusalem of Israel’s ambassadors and consul-generals.
“It pushed off elections three times, then lost the elections, doesn’t intend on holding elections and there is no guarantee that the next time there are elections, Hamas will not be elected.”
Lieberman said it would be folly to sign an agreement with a partner who did not have legitimacy, and who was someone whose authority remained unclear.
“The biggest tension there is not between Hamas and Fatah, but between Fatah and Salam Fayyad,” Lieberman said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, currently engaged with the US administration in getting the negotiations with the Palestinians back on track, quickly issued a statement distancing himself from his foreign minister’s comments.
Lieberman’s comments “represent his personal assessments and positions, just as other ministers in the government have different positions from each other. The position of the government of Israel is solely the one articulated by the prime minister and the one expressed through cabinet decisions,” the statement read.
Lieberman, in his speech, acknowledged that given the nature of the current coalition, it was nearly impossible for Israel to present a far-reaching diplomatic program agreed upon by all elements of the government.
“Can Israel put out a clear plan?” Lieberman asked. “That is also a good question in the political reality. With the current system of government and coalition contradictions, I don’t think you can reach a common model, a common denominator, between Eli Yishai and Ehud Barak, between Avigdor Lieberman and Dan Meridor.”
Lieberman said he told Netanyahu the only way a diplomatic plan could be presented were if Netanyahu drew one up that spelled out all of Israel’s “red lines,” and then took it to the people in the form of a referendum.
Lieberman, in a barely veiled reference to Netanyahu’s claim that it was possible to reach a framework agreement with the Palestinians within a year, said it was a mistake to create expectations that a comprehensive agreement within one or two years was possible.
“I don’t think we can reach a comprehensive agreement that solves all questions of security, territory and end of conflict,” he said. “I think this is impossible under the present conditions, and we need to go for a long-term interim agreement that will allow us to cooperate with the Palestinians on two important levels: security and economics.” He said core issues such as borders, security arrangements, Jerusalem and refugees should be pushed off to a later date.
According to the foreign minister, the security cooperation between Israel and the PA has proven itself. He also said one way to eventually bring the conflict to a resolution would be to significantly reduce the economic gaps between Israel and the PA.
Currently, he said, the per capita GNP in Israel was some $28,000, while in the PA it was some $13,000. “If we could get the Palestinian GNP to $20,000, there will be no need for a plan, because things will work out by themselves,” he said.
Lieberman said he did not believe that the Palestinians were interested in a diplomatic process or an agreement because they have concluded – thanks to the recognition of statehood they are already getting, as well as robust financial aid – that they can “get more” without negotiations than they could with them.
“Even if we would offer Tel Aviv as the capital of a Palestinian state and return to the 1947 lines, they would find a reason not to sign on any agreement,” Lieberman said.
The foreign minister added that his conclusion was that it was necessary to go to a long term interim agreement and that such a plan already existed “on the shelf” and just needed to be polished before being presented.
Lieberman’s comments elicited sharp reactions both from the Labor Party, his coalition partner, as well as from Kadima.
“The government of Israel, headed by Netanyahu, has committed itself to the vision of two states for two peoples,” a statement from Labor read. “The Labor Party believes the time has come to ratify the prime minister’s Bar-Ilan speech as government policy and urgently act according to it. Only progress in the peace process will foil attempts to delegitimize Israel in the international community.” The statement said that it was “unfortunate” that Lieberman, with his “irresponsible” comments, was trying to “torpedo any progress in the diplomatic process.”
Kadima head Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that “Netanyahu and his ministers are causing strategic damage to Israel. Netanyahu, in his weakness, is allowing his ministers to damage our national interests and turn the coalition of paralysis and hysteria into the face of Israel.”
Israeli diplomat ambushed by NY Times staff
The New York Times, flagship of the liberal American media, has never been a friend of the Jewish state. But the newspaper’s aversion to Israel turned to open hostility this month when its top editors ambushed and tore into an unsuspecting senior official from the Israeli Consulate in New York City.
The Israeli official was invited by the Times editors, among them rabid columnist Thomas Friedman, to meet with them at their office. Being a veteran at dealing with the American media, the official assumed the invitation was for a friendly discussion and perhaps an interview regarding the peace process and other matters of importance to Israel.
The Israeli had no idea he was being invited for what he described as a lynch.
As the meeting started, the Times editors - most of them Jews, and one of them a former Israeli - began to attack the Israeli diplomat, and refused to give him even a moment to respond.
They blamed Israel for everything, the diplomat told Israel Today.
The Times editors insisted the breakdown of the peace process was Israel’s fault, that the lack of peace was Israel’s fault, and were adamant that Israel had given nothing to the Palestinians. They accused Israel of being an extremist and racist state, and blasted the diplomat for Israel’s “ill-treatment” of President Barack Obama.
In short, the Times staff informed the Israeli in no uncertain terms that they were sick of his country.
The diplomat told us he was shocked by the attack. He tried to respond, but the Times editors were not interested in hearing his arguments.
“I asked them,” said the diplomat, “We haven’t given the Palestinians anything? How can you say that? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke with his party platform and implemented a 10-month Jewish building freeze, and what did we get in return? More Palestinian refusal to negotiate.”
According to the Israeli, the Times editors responded: “Yes, yes. Of course you are going to start telling us about how Israel’s security needs are not being met. You just don’t get it that we are sick of hearing about that.”
There is little doubt that this ambush was led by Friedman, whose hostility toward Israel in his recent columns has surprised even his liberal friends in the Jewish state.
In recent articles, Friedman has accused Israel of being a spoiled child, crazy and extremist. He insisted that the US stop being Israel’s “enabler,” and pointed out that the rest of the world is fully on the side of the Palestinians, so why not America?
Wrote Friedman in one of his columns: “Israel, when America - which has given you billions over the past 50 years and defended you in the international arena - asks you to stop building settlements for three months in order to jump start peace talks, there is only one correct answer, and that is ‘yes, whatever you say.’”
Egypt Seeks International Help with 'Israeli Spy Ring'
by Maayana Miskin
Egypt has turned to Interpol for help in arresting suspects in an “Israeli spy ring,” according to the Egyptian daily Al-Shuruk. Egyptian officials have accused two Israelis of being behind the alleged ring.
They accused the Israelis of enlisting Egyptian citizens, including Tarek Abed El-Razek, whose confessions to state security have formed the basis of the allegations against Israel.
Razek has been accused of providing Israelis with information about Egyptian telecommunications workers who could be recruited to spy. Syria has arrested an official in Damascus accused of transferring information to El-Razek, according to the London-based Arabic paper Al-Quds al-Arabi.
Sources in Egypt told the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera network that El-Razek had also implicated Israel in problems with communications cables two years ago. Israel's Mossad was involved in cutting cables in the Mediterranean, he claimed.
Egyptian officials have also alleged that two Israeli and four Egyptians planned attacks on tourists. The six are accused of gathering information on places in the Sinai Peninsula frequented by Chinese and Japanese tourists. Their plan was to briefly kidnap the tourists in order to destabilize the Sinai and hit the tourist industry, Egyptian officials claimed.
According to the Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm, an Israeli officer already kidnapped several foreign tourists in Sinai, brought them to Egypt, and returned them to the Sinai several days later. The tourists were not identified.
Israeli officials have stated that they have no knowledge of the events alleged by Egypt.
Earlier in December Egypt's Governor of Southern Sinai accused Israel of being behind shark attacks on tourists. “We must not discount the possibility that Mossad threw the shark into the sea, in order to attack tourists who are having fun in Sharm al-Sheikh,” said Governor Abed Al-Fadij.
Report: U.S. Companies Trade with Iran Despite Sanctions
by Maayana Miskin
Over the past decade, United States-based companies have done billions of dollars in trade with Iran, North Korea, and other countries under sanctions for supporting terrorism, according to the New York Times. Products traded with Iran include gum, cigarettes, and sports equipment.
One American company was permitted to do work on an Iranian gas pipeline, despite sanctions aimed at Iran's gas industry in particular.
The transactions have been made possible by a 2000 law that allows exemptions from sanctions for companies selling food or medical products. The law was initially meant to allow humanitarian aid, but following pressure from lobbyists, included permits for non-humanitarian food products such as soda, beer, and additives.
Some purchasers of the “humanitarian” food products have been found to have links to terrorism. The New York Times found that of the Iranian chain stores that bought food colorings and cake sprinkles from the American company McCormick & Co., one is government owned, and a second counts blacklisted banks among its major investors.
Adam Szubin directs the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which issues licenses for trade with countries under economic embargo. He told the Times that his office has limited resources and cannot fully investigate every buyer; in addition, he said, deals are allowed by law to go through even if the buyer has terrorist ties, as long as less than half the company is owned by those engaged in terrorism.
The report stated that Szubin's office has granted almost 10,000 requests to trade with countries under sanction in the past 10 years.
Stuart Eizenstat, who directed sanctions policy for the Clinton administration, told the Times that allowing exemptions could be positive “if it represents a conscious policy decision to give countries an incentive.” However, he said, American policy is not served by “loopholes like this that you can drive a Mack truck through.”
Iranians Feel Sanctions at the Pump
Tough American and European sanctions against Iran recently led to a significant change in Iranian policy, as the government stopped subsidizing gasoline, sending prices soaring from $0.38 per gallon to $2.55. The country has been experiencing gas shortages due to the sanctions, which have targeted Iran's fuel industry.
The Obama administration added new sanctions last week. Five new Iranian companies have been added to the Treasury Department's blacklist.
Israel tracking aid ship headed from Asia to Gaza
By YAAKOV KATZ
Activists aboard ship docked in Syria plan to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza to bring $1 million in supplies.
Israel is tracking an Asian aid ship that has docked in Syria and has declared plans to sail to the Gaza Strip to break the Israel-imposed sea blockade over the Palestinian territory.
According to press reports, the Asia 1 ship carrying around 160 activists, is waiting for Egyptian government approval to sail to the port of El Arish and from there to then sail to Gaza. The ship is reportedly carrying $1 million worth of supplies including a large medical shipment donated by the Iranian Red Crescent.
Gaza bound flotilla arrives in Lebanon
The group met last week with Hamas’s Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashal and was told that the Palestinians were “fighting for a real state without any occupation and with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The ship is the first vessel to set sail from Asia bound for the Gaza Strip. Among its passengers are citizens reportedly from India, Jordan, Iran, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, Bahrain, Malaysia, Japan and Bangladesh.
Israel has made clear that it will not allow ships to sail freely into the Gaza Strip but will board and tow them to the Ashdod Port where their cargo will be inspected and if cleared allowed to be transferred to Gaza. Israel’s concern is that Hamas will use the aid convoys to smuggle advanced weaponry and high-grade explosives into the Gaza Strip