Sunday, September 25, 2016

Will the PA Really Pay Up?

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Mishpacha Magazine
September

Why does Israel forgive and forego debts — millions of dollars in debts — owed by the Palestinian Authority?
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BILL ME LATER “It is very discomfiting to learn that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caved in to [Europe’s] pressure and relieved the Palestinians of their debt to the electric company, a decision that will come out of the pocket of Israeli taxpayers,” says David Ha’ivri, a longtime political activist in the Jewish community in the Shomron (Photos: Flash90, AFP/ImageBank)
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arlier this month, the Israeli government forgave a debt of NIS 2 billion, or $530 million, to the Palestinian Authority. The question is: why?

The enormous debt was the result of years of non-payment on electricity provided by Israel Electric Corporation. The Palestinian Authority had racked up the debt over ten years, during which the IEC had periodically shut off the electricity in Palestinian cities to press for payment. As part of the deal,Israel also agreed to transfer control of the electricity grid in Palestinian cities to the PA. But critics of the settlement are asking why the government would agree to such a financial windfall for a governing body that regularly incites against Israel, works to delegitimize the Jewish state in international bodies, and pays the wages of terrorists.

Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, and an expert on international law, told Mishpacha there’s no doubt the PA is obligated to pay its debt under the Oslo accords.

“There is no such thing as free electricity — either the Israeli taxpayers pay, or the Palestinian customers,” he said, adding that it does not matter whether Judea and Samaria are considered occupied.

From a legal perspective, continued Kontorovich, this episode is “a microcosm of other agreements with the Palestinians when they don’t do what they agreed to do.”

“We also learn from this issue how a bigger potential agreement with the Palestinians, one that the international community is trying to force on Israel, would hold up.”

But it is precisely international pressure that might have forced Israel’s hand. The Israeli government may fear that the Palestinians and the international community would use the electricity shortage as a rallying point to claim a violation of human rights at the United Nations. Israel may also have wanted to improve the general economic climate in the territories to discourage further terror attacks.

Kontorovich sees the deal as a temporary stopgap that will set a precedent for the future. To put it succinctly: “The Israelis are being suckers, and the Palestinians are not.”

Kontorovich notes that the Palestinians receive billions of dollars in aid, especially from Europe. At the same time, the PA is notoriously corrupt and uses at least part of its budget to pay stipends to terrorists and their families.

David Ha’ivri, a longtime political activist in the Jewish community in the Shomron, told Mishpacha that this issue is “disgraceful and again acknowledges that the PA is not to be expected to live up to the most basic standard of accountability.”

“It is very discomfiting to learn that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caved in to [Europe’s] pressure and relieved the Palestinians of their debt to the electric company, a decision that will come out of the pocket of Israeli taxpayers,” he said.As for transferring control of the power grid to the PA, Ha'ivri said Israel should not be giving the PA any more authority. Rather, it should be abolished altogether.

“The Palestinian Authority should be replaced with local municipalities that are accountable and answer directly to the government ofIsraelinJerusalem.”

Ha'ivri predicts it’s only a matter of time before the debt again reaches astronomical heights and the cycle repeats itself. The question is: Will Israel act any differently next time?


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hummus, Not Hamas

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Mishpacha Magazine
September


It isn’t that Israeli Arabs have become Zionists, but most have become realistic, realizing that Israel is now too powerful to be destroyed.
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Israeli-Arab youths have more on their minds than politics

These days, Israeli Arabs are more interested in what to eat and where to shop than the latest developments out of The Hague.

Like Israeli Jews, they’ve soured on the “peace process” and are focused on making a living and getting ahead.
That even applies to their support for armed conflict, according to Marwa Atamna, an Arab journalist based in Nazareth who writes for the local Hadith Al-Nas newspaper.

“The Arab public in Israel does not accept nor support any form of violent struggle, such as that occurred during recent violence,” Atamna said.

That sentiment is borne out in polling: a 2014 survey found that 68% of Israeli Arabs oppose terror attacks and 77% reported they prefer to live under Israeli rule than Palestinian.

To be sure, Israeli Arabs are still invested in their national aspirations, but they now view the Israel-Palestinian conflict in terms of a political and diplomatic struggle, not as a violent jihad to be joined. It isn’t that Israeli Arabs have become Zionists, but most have become realistic, realizing that Israelis now too powerful to be destroyed.

Lutfi Isa, a longtime Israeli Arab journalist who runs a local website in the city of Kfar Kassem, east of Tel Aviv, said that the Israeli Arab public does not view the conflict as it did 20 years ago when emotions ran high. “Today, Arabs have become complacent,” he says, “and are more concerned about local issues and making a living.”

A look at the most popular websites in the Israeli Arab world speaks volumes, says Hillel Frisch, an expert on Palestinian and Israeli Arab politics at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
The number one and two sites are Panorama (Panet) and al-Sinara (sonara.net), both general interest sites that feature news along with stories about pop culture and the best gadgets to buy.

To read the entire article click here.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Europe Funding Terrorists’ Defense

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Mishpacha

“When a terrorist kills a Jew, he knows that in Israeli jail his rights are very broad and conditions are better than for regular criminals”
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Nearly 9 in 10 Jerusalem residents are pleased with their lives, despite challenges in finances and housing. But while Jerusalem is booming, chareidim are still playing catch up
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mboldened by new legislation, Israel activists are increasingly pushing back against European government funding of NGOs that seek to undermine Israel’s policies and legitimacy.
The latest controversy occurred earlier this month when the EU-backed HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, rallied to the defense of the terrorist accused of gunning down Rabbi Michael (Miki) Mark last month near Otniel. In response, the Zionist group Im Tirtzu held a protest at Israel’s Supreme Court during the terrorist’s hearing. HaMoked, which describes itself as a human rights organization, also works to prevent Israel from demolishing terrorists’ homes.
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg told Mishpacha that the group held the protest to focus attention on EU funding of HaMoked and other pro-Palestinian organizations.
“We see that there are organizations launching lawfare against Israel by getting terrorists the best lawyers and flooding the Supreme Court with appeals on their behalf,” he said.
“There is a situation in Israel today where it is more advantageous to kill a Jew than to steal his car. When a terrorist kills a Jew, he knows that in Israeli jail his rights are very broad and conditions are better than for regular criminals.”
Last month, the Knesset passed a law mandating that NGOs receiving most of their funding from foreign governments identify themselves as such at the Knesset. However, despite the media storm that surrounded the passage of the bill, it seems the new legislation will have little actual effect.
Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, a group that tracks European funding of pro-Palestinian groups in Israel, said the law is primarily “symbolic in the Israeli domestic context.” It will not bring major changes or prevent NGOs, which are already obligated to report on foreign government donations, from receiving money.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Syrian Kurd says Islamists have infiltrated Free Syrian Army

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
August 11, 2016

A Free Syrian Army fighter talks on a walkie-talkie near a rocket launcher in Daraa
A Free Syrian Army fighter talks on a walkie-talkie near a rocket launcher in Daraa. (photo credit:REUTERS)
The Western-, Qatari- and Turkish- backed Free Syrian Army has been infiltrated by Islamists, and factions near Aleppo “are no different than Islamic State,” said a Syrian Kurd researcher who toured Kurdish areas in northern Syria.

Dr. Kamal Sido, who works at the Middle East desk for the German human rights NGO Society for Threatened Peoples, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that Kurdish forces are winning the battle against Sunni Islamist groups, though the humanitarian situation remains dire.

“Humanitarian aid is needed to be brought in from neighboring Turkey and Iraq, but both countries closed the borders,” he said, accusing Ankara of being behind the Iraq closure. “Turkey is seeking to put pressure on the Kurds in northern Syria.”

Sido, who maintains a large number of contacts in northern Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan, published a report on his research trip in June, basing it on numerous interviews during March and April.

“The military situation of the Kurds is good as they are able to protect the area very well with the help of US-led allied forces,” he said.

In the Aleppo region, “the FSA is fighting against Kurdish civilians,” he charged, going on to point out that the Free Syrian Army there “has the same ideology and policy as the Islamists, which want an Islamic state run by Shari’a.”

The Islamist groups are pushing for an Islamic state, which would be terrible for the Kurds and other minorities.

Asked about the mood among Syrian Kurds, Sido responded that they were optimistic since Kurdish forces continue to liberate lots of territory from the Islamists such as the Syrian border areas of Kobani, Tel Abyad and Qamishli, as well as the region of Afrin.
To read the entire article click here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Is Gaddafi’s son returning to politics?

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 27, 2016

SAIF AL-ISLAM GADDAFI
SAIF AL-ISLAM GADDAFI, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and chairman of the Al Qaddafi International Foundation for Charity and Development, addresses students and staff at the American University in Cairo, in 2010.. (photo credit:REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH)
A cloud of mystery surrounds the goals of those behind the recent release from prison of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the assassinated Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Prof. Yehudit Ronen, a leading expert on Libya and the African Sahel region at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post that Gaddafi, who was the designated heir to lead Libya, is still wanted by the International Criminal Court and a Libyan death sentence still hovers over his head.

“His recent release has aroused discussion in Libya and abroad. Does the Zintan armed militia that released him envisage his return to the center of the Libyan political stage?” asked Ronen, a political scientist and author of the acclaimed Qaddafi’s Libya in World Politics.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, while hiding in the vast southern Libyan desert, was captured by the powerful Zintan armed militia in November 2011, several months after the collapse of the regime in Tripoli.

About five years later, Ronen elaborates, “after being imprisoned in a well-guarded jail in a town in the Western Zintan region, the Zintan militia, which adamantly refused to turn him over to the Libyan government, released him from prison.”

The Zintan militia, along with its powerful political and military rival, the Misrata militia, controlled the foci of power in post-Gaddafi Libya.

The surprising move was reportedly made under a general amnesty.

“The release of Saif al-Islam brought him again to the political forefront, notwithstanding his well-known and hateful statements during the 2011 bloody war against the fighting rebels, including the Zintan forces, vowing to fight them down to ‘the very last bullet’ and threatening that ‘rivers of blood will flow through all cities of Libya.’

“Does the Zintan armed militia, whose members were once allied with his father and served in Libya’s army, wish to seize his political charisma, experience and diplomatic talents and connections to gain the upper hand in Libya’s chaotic and violent struggle, which has reached in fact a tragic stalemate?” she asked.

To read the entire article click here.

Turkish academics ‘very scared’ as government imposes travel ban

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 21, 2016

turkey coup
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shout slogans on the back of a truck during a pro-government demonstration on Taksim square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. (photo credit:REUTERS)
Israeli and Western researchers involved with Turkey’s academia told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that Turkish academics are living in fear, since the government implemented a travel ban in the aftermath of the recent coup attempt.

Academics were banned from traveling abroad on Wednesday in what a Turkish official said was a temporary measure to prevent the risk of alleged coup plotters in universities from fleeing.

State TRT television said 95 academics had been removed from their posts at Istanbul University alone.

“Universities have always been crucial for military juntas in Turkey and certain individuals are believed to be in contact with cells within the military,” the official said.

The official justified the ban by stating that it was a temporary measure.

“For [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, most of the universities are Western agents because their pro-Kemalist tendencies and links to American and European academic institutions,” Prof.

Efraim Inbar, director of Bar- Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies told The Jerusalem Post.

“Academic freedom is not a value that is cherished by Erdogan and Muslim Brotherhood circles,” he said.

A Western-based academic, who did not want to be identified and risk harming his work with Turkey, told the Post that his colleagues in the country are “very scared, as a witch hunt is under way now.”

Turkish academics abroad are receiving phone calls from their universities demanding they return as soon as possible, said the academic, adding that any failure to comply could mean trouble and raised suspicions.

The academic added that many Turkish academics will have difficulty carrying out their research if it involves work outside of the country.

The government is investigating each one.

Harold Rhode, a former longtime Pentagon official who specialized in Turkey, told the Post that Turkish academics are “petrified.”

“It is a strange form of democracy where people are afraid to open their mouths,” he charged, adding that Erdogan is using the coup “as a chance to liquidate his suspected or imagined enemies.”

Erdogan’s AKP-led government has accused the former ally and US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen as being behind the coup attempt.

“We are witnessing a battle within Islam. Gulen represents ‘Turkic’ Islam and Erdogan, Muslim Brotherhood Islam,” said Rhode, who is currently a visiting professor at Ariel University and a senior fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.

On a more positive future looking note, Nimrod Goren, head of the Mitvim Institute, told the Post that academic freedom is an essential component of democracy and Israeli and Turkish academics succeeded in maintaining contacts despite the recent years of tension.
To read the entire article click here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Turkey chaos following coup attempt leaves Assad as big winner

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 20, 2016

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (photo credit:AFP PHOTO)

The Turkish government’s massive crackdown on opponents and those alleged to be involved inthe failed coup has left the country’s military and institutions weaker and less able to play a large role in toppling Syria’s regime.

Turkish authorities have suspended or detained around 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers since the coup attempt, according to the latest Reuters tally on Wednesday.

“This is probably the weakest the Turkish military has ever been in the history of the Turkish republic,” Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a member of the Turkish parliament from 2011 to 2015 and a senior fellow at the Washington- based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Business Insider website.

Turkey’s domestic situation and its 180-degree turn toward a more realistic and accommodating foreign policy, which includes efforts to repair relations with Israel, Russia and even Syria and Iraq, likely means a less aggressive Syria policy.

Therefore, at least in the near term, there is little chance that Turkey would launch a large-scale military operation or act too aggressively and upset the Russian and Syrian governments.

Yunus Akbaba, an adviser to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the measures the government is taking now “are a matter of survival.”

Regarding Syria, he said, “Turkey had already softened its position and was ready for a political transition in which Assad would go at the end of the process.”

Turkey wants to see a new constitution and fair elections under UN auspices, said the Turkish official.

Asked about a possible major Turkish intervention, Akbaba played down any chance of that happening. “Turkey was never a fan of intervention by itself. That’s why we called on the international community to take coordinated actions, but it seems quite impossible in the current situation.”

Questioned about Western pressure on Turkey to ease the crackdown of those accused of supporting the coup attempt, he responded that “it is not really our first priority right now since it is a matter of survival.”
To read the entire article click here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Did Erdogan stage a coup against himself?

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 19,2016

turkey coup
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shout slogans on the back of a truck during a pro-government demonstration on Taksim square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. (photo credit:REUTERS)
Despite a claim by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen that the coup was a ruse by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to crack down on his domestic opponents, evidence so far points to a real coup attempt.

Pictures of the destroyed Ankara police headquarters bombed by helicopters, other damaged buildings, and Erdogan breaking down in tears at the funeral of an old friend killed during the chaos appear to demonstrate that the abortive coup was just that – and not an elaborate conspiracy.

A senior Turkish official from the presidency slammed rumors of an Erdogan conspired coup.

“It is really disrespectful to see people who haven’t been here, who haven’t seen what the putschists did, just from the comfort of their homes, pass judgment and spread rumors about what happened in Turkey,” the official told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

“There are people who believe 9/11 was an inside job, and there are people that believe that Barack Obama is really a secret Muslim from Kenya,” he continued.

Speaking from Ankara, the senior official pointed out that the parliament had been bombed by F-16s for the first time in history, and that he saw remains from bombs dropped next to the presidential palace. In addition, he said he saw video of tanks running over civilians.

The Turkish official also mentioned the security video from the hotel where Erdogan had been staying, showing special forces that were part of the coup attempt raiding his room soon after he fled. The clash with security forces resulted in the death of two members of the president’s security detail, he said.

Reacting to events in Turkey, Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) told thePost, “For us, our official position is to respect all elected world governments that want relations with us, and of course Turkey.”

“What occurred there is an internal matter of the Turkish people,” he said adding, “I was in touch during the days of crisis with Turkish sources, and received messages that they are going to strengthen the relations with Israel and respect the agreement with Israel.”

Karel Valansi, a Turkish Middle East expert who writes for the Jewish Turkish weekly Salom and the T24 news outlet, told the Post, “I don’t think that the coup attempt was staged by the president, but it will surely give him more power and an excuse to consolidate power.”

Everyone was surprised by what happened, she said, adding that a small faction in the army that conspired the coup seemed to leave many of the rank and file soldiers in the dark, with those stationed in front of Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport not having any idea about the plan. “They thought that it was a drill to combat Islamic State.”

Every year in August there is a Supreme Military Council meeting where appointments and retirements are decided. “I think they moved their plans forward in desperation due to the upcoming meeting and were not prepared enough. It was very amateur from the very beginning,” said Valansi.
To read the entire article click here.