Friday, January 14th, 2011
Turkish PM: Hamas is a 'Political Group,' Not Terrorists
by Chana Ya'ar
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday night that his nation “stands by Hamas,” which he called “a political group.”
According to a report published on the Al Qassam website, Erdogan told the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera satellite television network that Hamas is not a terrorist movement.
“We stand by Hamas when they are right, because the Hamas movement is a resistance movement,” Erdogan was quoted as saying. “I do not see Hamas as 'terrorist.' They are people who defend the land, and it is a political group that entered the elections and won the elections.”
Erdogan warned Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair it will be impossible to negotiate any settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority without including Hamas.
“Peace will not come out of a Hamas-excluded table,” he said. “Currently, Fatah and Hamas are two important elements in Palestine. If you see them as an element and do not see the other element, Palestinian peace will not materialize.”
As in the past, Erdogan repeated his demand for Israel to compensate the families of the nine IHH terror activists who died in May 2010 after attacking IDF commandos on a flotilla ship that attempted to break the blockade on Gaza. Eight of the nine armed terror activists on the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara vessel were Turkish nationals.
The IDF commandos, who seized the ship to guide it into Ashdod port, killed the attackers in self-defense after they were set upon as they boarded the vessel. The clash was recorded on video tape. The ship has since been returned to Turkey.
“We want Israel, after returning the Marmara ship to us, to apologize, to pay compensations, and thirdly, to lift the siege ,” Erdogan continued. “Gaza is an open prison. It is not your right to sentence all those people to jail.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made it clear that Israel has no intention of apologizing for the incident. However, political leaders in both Israel and Turkey have been working to find ways to cool the diplomatic flames being fanned by Erdogan over the past year.
The Turkish prime minister slammed the current Israeli government, under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, as one that is “at its worst” with Turkey. He also had harsh words for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, claiming, “Lieberman has done every despicable act.”
Erdogan ended his diatribe with a warning: “If these demands are not met, our relations will not return to what they were.”
Turkish PM furious with Merkel, demands apology
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an demanded an apology from German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday over recent accusations that Turkey is not taking sufficient steps toward resolving the Cyprus issue.
“It is meaningful that the Chancellor of Germany carries her populist politics into Cyprus. Those statements do not give the impression of a leader with vision. We say that Merkel should revise her knowledge of history and apologize,” Erdo?an told his deputies during a Justice and Development Party, or AKP, parliamentary group meeting in Ankara.
The harsh comments came after Merkel described the Turkish Cypriot presence in northern Cyprus as an "invasion" during a recent visit to southern Cyprus. She criticized Turkey and Turkish Cypriots for not doing enough to reach a deal with Greek Cypriots.
“Merkel’s statements not only hurt but they also reflect a lack of historical knowledge and contradict statements she made in the past,” Erdo?an said. “Merkel showed how unfamiliar she is with Cyprus dispute.”
Merkel never took part in Cyprus negotiations, Erdo?an said, adding that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s involvement in past negotiations would illustrate the sensitivities such negotiations require. “She could read a book by Mr. Schröder. It demonstrates how immoral the behaviors of the time were.
Stressing that the European Union and the United Nations were ultimately responsible for the negotiations, Erdo?an said they were still looking for a criminal and blamed Turkey. However, Turkey would not give away a single gram of northern Cyprus, he said.
Criticisms of Merkel’s statements began circulating Friday when President Abdullah Gül said he expected Merkel to be more cautious and constructive during her visit to southern Cyprus.
"Greek Cypriots were admitted into the block after the EU's basic principles were violated. The Greek Cypriot administration should not have been permitted into the union before a solution to the Cyprus issue was found. All those involved should act in a constructive manner so as to facilitate peace. The Annan Plan voted on in 2004 was also the plan of the EU,” Gül told reporters in Bal?kesir.
Citing former EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen, saying that they were deceived by the Greek Cypriots, Gül said Merkel had to take such remarks of the past into consideration. “I was saddened by the way Merkel spoke," Gül said.
Ankara conveyed its disappointment over the statements to the German Ambassador to Ankara on Thursday.
Halit Çevik, Deputy Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, met with German Ambassador Eckart Cuntz and said Turkish Cypriots were making constructive and concerted efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus dispute and would continue to do so.
Belgian Anti-Semitism Leads to More Aliyah
by Elad Benari
According to figures released by the Jewish Agency and published this past week on the FightHatred.com website, in 2010 there was an increase of 63 percent in the number of Belgian Jews who made aliyah to Israel. Two hundred and fifty Belgian Jews chose to make Israel their home in 2010, compared to 152 in 2009.
The report cites increasingly open anti-Semitism in recent years and the rise of violent attacks against members of the community, especially its highly-visible hareidi religious members, as causes for the sharp rise in the numbers of individuals making aliyah.
There are 40,000 Jews in Belgium today, about half of whom are members of the Jewish community of Antwerp, which is famous for its involvement in making the city a leading global center of the diamond trade, but at the same time has increasingly been under threat in recent years.
FightHatred.com brought figures published by Belgian organization, The Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, which issued in 2009 a report indicating a surge in anti-Semitism in the country. Between 2004 and 2008, the Centre recorded some 60 anti-Semitic incidents each year. The same number of incidents was recorded in the first four months of 2009 alone.
Anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise not just in Belgium, but throughout Europe. In fact, just six months ago, European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said that European Jewry is in its worst condition since the end of World War II.
“Jews are afraid to walk the streets in Europe with Jewish symbols,” Kantor said. “Synagogues, Jewish schools and kindergartens require barbed-wire fences and security, and Jewish men, women and children are beaten up in broad daylight.”
A main target of anti-Semitic attacks has been the synagogue in the Swedish city of Malmo. Last year, it was struck twice within two weeks, both attacks being in the form of a bomb striking the synagogue. Luckily, there were no injuries either time.
Anti-Semitic remarks in Belgium are not restricted just to the masses. The leadership has also been known to make such remarks, one example being that of Karel de Gucht, the country’s former Foreign Minister and currently the European Commissioner for Trade. De Gucht was number six on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 2010 list for the top anti-Semitic slurs, due to the following remarks he made in September: “...Don’t underestimate the power of the Jewish Lobby on Capitol Hill. ... You shouldn’t underestimate the grip it has on American politics, no matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats.”
Farewell to Vehicular Traffic on Jerusalem's Jaffa Road
by Chana Ya'ar
This weekend, the main street in Israel's capital city will bid farewell to vehicular traffic and take on the official status of a pedestrian walkway.
Jaffa Road was constructed 150 years ago during the reign of the Ottoman Turks and so named because it then led travellers out of the city to where the road to Jaffa port began and vice versa. It, runs from the Old City''s Jaffa Gate through the center of Jerusalem to the Central Bus Station and the main intercity highway to Tel Aviv-Jaffa. There is not an inch of space along its length without a commercial establishment, many of which serve the millions of tourists who pass through the capital each year.
In the 2003 photo below, pedestrians cross at one of the largest four-way intersections in downtown Jerusalem, Jaffa Road, bisecting King George Street to the left and Strauss Street opposite. (Israel news photo: Flash 90)
MK Shama to Initiate Bill Preventing Demolition of Peretz Home
by Elad Benari
MK Carmel Shama Hacohen (Likud) will present next week a bill to the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation. The bill will state that it would not be permitted to destroy a home with people living in it in Judea and Samaria without permission from the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee. The law would apply to existing demolition orders, such as those against the home of the fallen soldier Major Eliraz Peretz, who was killed last year in a battle with terrorists.
Joining Shamah Hacohen in initiating the bill are Mks Yulia Shamalov-Berkowitz, Ze'ev Elkin, and Aryeh Eldad. The proposed legislation states that “an IDF commander shall not order the demolition of a building owned by an Israeli citizen, a corporation registered in Israel or a corporation established by law in Israel, but with the approval of the Knesset's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.”
The bill’s explanatory notes say that construction and demolition permit considerations in Judea and Samaria are different than in other places and such require greater sensitivity. “Currently, the legal authority on decisions concerning the demolition of homes in Judea and Samaria is the IDF commander in the region, but in practice the defense minister is the sole authority,” read the notes. “The purpose of the bill is to give the authority to the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee so that such a fateful and important decision is not in the hands of one person but will be made by a number of MKs who shall have all the considerations, including military and security considerations. In addition, this legislation will create a normative basis of hypersensitivity and will serve as an additional brake before a decision regarding the demolition of homes of fallen IDF soldiers is made.”
MK Shama Hacohen said of the bill: “Today, the authority who makes the decision is the defense minister who is one person. The authority must be given to members of Knesset. It is obvious that the defense minister and Knesset members both have political considerations but the decision cannot solely be the minister’s. I am sure that the members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will operate according to the above considerations so that military and security considerations will also be taken into account.”
Meanwhile on Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the High Court for a one-month extension to provide an updated answer to a "Peace Now" motion against Jewish homes in a Samaria neighborhood, including the Peretz home. The Defense Ministry's request says that Barak, as well as the IDF and the police, are checking possible alternatives to the demolition of the homes and that the matter will be brought before Attorney General Yehudah Weinstein.
Barak told the court that the Defense Ministry and the IDF have been conducting a detailed survey of the land upon which the homes stand, to determine what part of it, if any, was not legally appropriated.
US condemns Hezbollah's wrecking of Lebanese gov't
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — The United States has condemned Hizbullah vigorously for quitting Lebanon's pro-Western government and causing it to collapse. A White House statement promised to help Lebanon peacefully reconstitute a government.
National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said Friday that Hizbullah's intentions have been "laid bare." He said the Shi'ite militant group would have a hard time presenting itself as a "righteous resistance organization" if it continues trying to undermine "international efforts to find the truth."