benjamin netanyahu

Sheldon Adelson ‘disappointed and angry’ at Netanyahu — report

US billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adleson reportedly told Israeli police on Monday that he was “surprised, disappointed and angered” to learn of conversations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the publisher of a rival newspaper about an alleged quid pro quo deal that would have hobbled his own free daily Israel Hayom.

“We didn’t know about the conversations with Mozes,” Adleson said in his testimony, according to Channel 2 news. “When we found out, we were surprised, disappointed and angry.”

Adelson, considered a close friend of the prime minister, was questioned for four hours at the Lahav 433 serious crimes unit in Lod for a second time in under a month in one of two ongoing corruption investigations into Netanyahu.

According to the report, leaked recordings of the conversations between Netanyahu and Mozes from 2014, which are at the center of the investigation, have caused a rift between Adelson and the prime minister, whom he has long buoyed with positive coverage in his newspaper.

Adelson’s wife, Miriam, also met with investigators, in her first testimony in the case. Neither of the Adelsons is suspected of wrongdoing in the investigation, known as Case 2000. The probe is examining whether Netanyahu and Arnon “Noni” Mozes, publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, hatched a deal under which the prime minister would advance legislation to reduce the free, pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom’s circulation in exchange for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

American billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson (R) and his wife Miriam meet Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu, at the International Conference Centre in Jerusalem, May 13, 2008. (Anna Kaplan /FLASH90/ File)

Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu is likely to be questioned again by police in the case, as well as over a separate corruption investigation known as Case 1000. That investigation revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family by billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne said to have been given to the prime minister and his wife, Sara, by Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Adelson also met with police in May. At the time, he reportedly told them that he never discussed the alleged quid pro quo media deal.

According to Hebrew media reports from a month ago, Adelson told investigators that Netanyahu never spoke to him about his conversations with Mozes, nor about the so-called “Israel Hayom Bill” proposed by Labor MK Eitan Cabel to make it illegal to distribute a full-sized newspaper for free — a proposal to which the prime minister was so opposed, some reports have claimed, that he called new elections in 2015.

Adelson has been a staunch backer of Netanyahu and donated millions to the Donald Trump campaign. His Israel Hayom newspaper has for years been firmly pro-Netanyahu, though some observers have noticed a shift in its coverage of late.

In recordings of their meetings that were seized by police, Netanyahu and Mozes reportedly can be heard referring to Adelson as “the gingy [redhead].”

Channel 2 News reported in January that Mozes had provided evidence showing that Netanyahu wielded huge influence over Israel Hayom — evidence that suggested the prime minister plays an active role in the Israeli media and contradicted an affidavit he gave stating that he did “not have, and has never had, any ties of control or any other organizational ties, in any form, with Israel Hayom, or with newspaper staff or journalists writing for it, that would influence the paper’s editorial considerations or its contents.”

Police had wanted to question Adelson for some time prior to the May sit-down, in the hope of establishing whether the Netanyahu-Mozes conversations were ever translated into action.

Netanyahu has denied all of the allegations against him in both cases.

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COUNCIL HEADS IN THE NORTH DEMAND NETANYAHU HALT MEDICAL AID TO SYRIAN REFUGEES

 

Council heads in the northern Israeli region of the Galilee demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu order the immediate freeze of medical aid the country provides to Syrian refugees at the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya.

The government-run hospital is the main medical center in that country that officially helps injured people and refugees from the war-addled country.

According to the council heads, the 600,000 residents of the Western Galilee did not have sufficient medical care available to them because the hospital was short on funds and was invested instead in the treatment of injured Syrians.

“We fully recognize the importance of the humanitarian mission of treating our Syrian neighbors,” the council heads explained, but charged that it was “inconceivable that rehabilitating war refugees would come at the cost of the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of residents of the Western Galilee.”

According to the letter they penned and that was obtained by The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Ma’ariv, the government has been withholding financial resources that the hospital is legible to receive by law but still tasked the medical center with the responsibility of treating the Syrian refugees “without allotting [specific] funds for that.”

Council heads representing regional councils such as Ma’ale Yosef, Kfar Vradim, Shlomi, Ma’alot-Tarshiha and Acre accused the government of overlooking the medical crisis the hospital was suffering from, saying that it was “on the verge of utter collapse due to the blatant discrimination” it was facing.

The also mentioned that the hospital was in a deficit of NIS 300 million.

“It is unheard of that the government” places the singular responsibility of treating the Syrian refugees “without allocating a budget to their treatment,” the letter continued.

“And all that without fulfilling its [the government’s] obligations and legal duties to the people of the Western Galilee, who are starving and dying, day after day, because of [the government’s] helplessness,” they added.

The council heads concluded their letter by asking that the prime minister immediately get involved in the financial crisis the hospital is undergoing. “Your immediate intervention as prime minister is requested, including ordering right away that the health minister redirect the burden of treating the Syrian injured to other medical institutions in Israel- [such as] those that have more funding and those that did not fall victim to discrimination.”

Their letter comes amid an escalation on Israel’s border with its northern neighbor, as errant fire from the internal fighting in Syria struck the north twice within 24 hours. Speaking about the projectiles that hit Israel’s north, Netanyahu said in a stern warning to Syria that “We will not accept any kind of ‘drizzle, not of mortars, rockets, or spillover fire [from the Syrian Civil War]. We respond with force to every attack on our territory and against our citizens.”

Netanyahu approves Beit El settlement expansion project

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved on Thursday an expansion project for the settlement of Beit El in the West Bank, okaying the construction of 300 new housing units in the community.

The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying Netanyahu met this afternoon with Beit El Mayor Shai Alon and told him that the units would be approved for the next stage in September. The statement emphasized that the commitment to the project was not new and was agreed to by the prime minister in 2012.

The prime minister publicly pledged to build the 300 units five years ago, following the destruction of five houses in Beit El’s Givat Ulpana neighborhood. The High Court of Justice had ordered the demolition of the buildings due to their construction on private Palestinian land.

The Thursday announcement came after Netanyahu met Alon on Monday, following a public spat in which Alon accused the prime minister of lying to him about West Bank construction permits. In that meeting, Netanyahu assured the mayor that he would fulfill his promise, according to a release by the Beit El municipality.

Sitting at a protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Office earlier Monday, the mayor told reporters, “I hate it most when I’m lied to… Netanyahu promised… to build 300 homes in Beit El, but where are they? We have not gotten answers.”

Beit El Mayor Shai Alon (second from left) addresses the crowd at a protest outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 19, 2017. (Courtesy)

On Sunday, Beit El residents released a video campaign that featured five-year-old footage of Netanyahu pledging to expand the settlement with the words, “You cheated us,” flashing across the screen. The clip concluded with the threat: “If there is no building in Beit El, we have nothing more to say to you.”

During a contentious Likud faction meeting on Monday, Netanyahu assured fellow lawmakers of his intentions to fulfill his promise to Beit El residents. “It will not take 10 years and it won’t take a year either.” He went on to imply that there were outside forces that had prevented him from fulfilling his promise until now.

“I will write in my memoirs what caused the delays,” he said.

Israel has faced pressure from the US not to build settlements, who argued that it hampered the peace process. However, this has eased since Donald Trump came into the office, even if not to the extent that some on the Israeli right had hoped.

Netanyahu met Wednesday with Trump’s envoys to the region, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Jason Greenblatt. They were joined by US Ambassador David Friedman.

Friedman is known to have been as strong supporter of Beit El and was the head of the American Friends of Beit El Institutions, which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the settlement.

Friedman’s name appears on several of the buildings in the West Bank settlement funded by the American organization.

The approval came the same week Israel’s Central Bureau for Statistics published data showing a 70% increase in West Bank building since last year.

From April 2016 to the end of March 2017, construction of 2,758 housing units began in the settlements, compared to 1,619 construction launches the year prior, according to the CBS. Meanwhile, all districts within the Green Line saw decreases in building across the board.

Notably, when it came to building completions, West Bank settlements saw a 26% decrease since last year, as opposed to Israel-proper districts, which largely enjoyed increases.

NETANYAHU CONFIDANT KEEPS SEAT IN FRENCH PARLIAMENT

 

http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Netanyahu-confidant-keeps-seat-in-French-parliament-497238

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received good news from Sunday’s run-off race in the French parliamentary election.

Netanyahu’s close friend and confidant Meyer Habib emerged victorious in the hotly contested race for the seat in the parliament representing French citizens in Israel, Greece, Italy and other Mediterranean countries.

 

Habib defeated Florence Pavaux-Drory, an aide to former French president François Mitterrand who lives in Jerusalem and is married to former Israeli diplomat Mordechai Drory. Pavaux-Drory, who had the support of popular new French president Emmanuel Macron, received more votes in the first round of voting.

A dual French-Israeli citizen, Habib was first elected to the assembly in 2013. Israel has nearly 80,000 registered French voters, more than all the other seven countries in Habib’s constituency combined, though more than 200,000 French citizens live in Israel.

 

Last month, Habib posted a video on his Facebook wall in which Netanyahu praised him in French and Hebrew and credited him for French-Israeli cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Habib won despite his Right of Center Republican Party fairing poorly in the election, which was dominated by Macron’s party En Marche.

Macron’s party won roughly four times as many seats in the assembly as the Republicans.

Palestinians say Netanyahu, not Abbas, to blame for Gaza crisis

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday blamed Israel for an energy crisis in Gaza, after Israel acceded to a request by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to slash the amount of power it transfers to the beleaguered Strip and defended the move by saying the matter was an internal Palestinian rift.

Youssef Mahmoud, a spokesperson for the PA, said in a statement Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unfairly attempting to exculpate Israel in the crisis in the Gaza Strip.

“The simplification of his portrayal [of the crisis] as an internal dispute over the payment of the electric bill does not absolve the Netanyahu government from taking responsibility,” he said.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said the crisis was not Israel’s to get involved with, defending Israel’s decision to allow Abbas to slash the electricity it transfers to Gaza by some 40 percent.

“The issue of electricity in Gaza is a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Hamas is demanding that the PA pay for the electricity, and the Palestinian Authority is refusing to pay. It is an internal Palestinian dispute,” Netanyahu said. Most see Abbas’s request to slash electricity as a tactic to increase pressure on rival Hamas.

Israeli officials are reportedly attempting to enlist international donors to make up the shortfall, fearing a humanitarian crisis in the Strip could inflame tensions and lead to an outbreak of violence.

Mahmoud said the rift between Abbas’s Fatah faction and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, which was caused by Israel, was not the cause of the crisis.

“The reason behind [the crisis]…is the existence of the Israeli occupation and the siege [of Gaza] that has stricken the Gaza Strip for 10 years. Furthermore, the disastrous [Hamas] coup would not have happened were it not for the existence of the occupation, the siege, and the dismemberment of Palestinian lands,” he said.

Israel’s current blockade on Gaza, meant to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of Hamas, was put in place after the Islamist terror group violently took control of the Strip 10 years ago when it pushed out the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority. Israel withdrew entirely from the Gaza Strip in 2005, handing over control to the PA.

“The coup and the [Palestinian] division constitute a pure [Israeli] benefit,” Mahmoud said.

“Netanyahu’s government insists on continuing the occupation, refuses to bring peace, and hastens to obstruct any opportunity to revive the [peace] process. It is the political situation that is driving the internal Palestinian situation to further deterioration,” the spokesman added.

On Sunday the Israeli security cabinet decided it would cut the amount of power it supplies to Gaza, at the request of Abbas who is seeking to ramp up pressure on Hamas, the ruling party in the Strip and his Fatah party’s bitter rival.

Gazans currently receive electricity delivered from the territory’s own power station and others in Israel and Egypt. In April, the PA told Israel that it would only pay NIS 25 million ($11.1 million) of the NIS 40 million ($5.6- 7 million) monthly bill. Israel currently supplies 125 megawatt hours to Gaza, around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.

The Israeli cabinet decision would see a reduction of about 45 minutes to the amount of time every day during which Gaza receives electricity, Hebrew media reported.

Hamas responded to the decision by saying it would have “disastrous and dangerous” results that could lead to an outbreak of violence.

Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was not seeking a confrontation with Hamas.

Caught between a right-wing base and a new peace initiative, Netanyahu ducks and weaves

In public, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likes to project a calm confidence about his political future. “Likud is going to be in power for years to come,” he asserts roughly once a month at Knesset faction meetings or other forums.

But in private, Netanyahu seems less certain. Across a wide range of audiences, the message often seems to be that his government teeters on the cliff’s edge.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, a Likud man, has been telling American officials that “if you press Netanyahu too much” on US President Donald Trump’s hoped-for peace initiative, “Netanyahu will fall.” That’s according to a Channel 2 report last week that fits with what sources close to both administrations say they have been hearing for some weeks now from the Israeli government.

On the face of it, this is probably incorrect. The idea that if Netanyahu entered a meaningful peace process he would lose the support of the far-right Jewish Home party assumes that Jewish Home has somewhere else to go. If Netanyahu falls, the alternative is not a further-right Jewish Home-led government, but one led by centrist Yesh Atid or center-left Labor. The last time this question was tested was in Netanyahu’s 2009-2013 government, when the Jewish Home happily inhabited the coalition alongside Labor, even during the unprecedented 2010 settlement freeze. In the end, it was Labor, not the far-right, that pulled out in 2011, and only because it was in the throes of an internal leadership battle.

While Likud tells the Americans that Netanyahu is vulnerable from the right, it simultaneously tells the right that the prime minister is vulnerable to American pressure. At a closed-door meeting with Likud lawmakers in the Knesset last week, Netanyahu reportedly said: “I want to tell you, we don’t have a blank check on the political level” from the Trump administration. “This president is determined to get a deal.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US President Donald Trump speak at Ben Gurion International Airport prior to the latter's departure from Israel on May 23, 2017. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

He clarified: “We are a sovereign country, we can make a decision on many things and announce many things, but as far as the consent of the Americans goes, I would not go that far. It is true that there are warm relations and there is a lot of understanding for our basic positions, but it is not true that we have a blank check. That is far from the reality.”

The upshot was clear: Stop pressuring me to expand settlements or annex areas of the West Bank. The Americans won’t tolerate it.

This has been the most consistent and predictable element of Netanyahu’s diplomatic strategy over the years. When faced with pressure from either side, deflect it by blaming the other. It held Netanyahu in good stead throughout the Obama years. The famous quarrels between Netanyahu and Barack Obama over Iran or the Palestinians were authentic and substantive — but also, for Netanyahu, politically useful. He could explain to right-wingers that he could not move right-ward in his policy toward the Palestinians because of Obama’s pressure, and to Obama, that his coalition politics prevented him from acquiescing to Palestinian preconditions for peace talks.

Ironically, Trump’s election threatened to upend this double-deflection strategy. Within hours of last November’s election results, Jewish Home lawmakers announced they would call Netanyahu’s “bluff.”

“There are no more excuses,” Jewish Home leader Education Minister Naftali Bennett has said repeatedly, usually just before urging Netanyahu to publicly abandon the two-state solution, to annex the Ma’ale Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem, or the like.

It took Trump’s Israel advisers, chiefly envoys Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, both longtime and rather doctrinaire critics of Obama’s Israel policy, some weeks to realize that a US administration that is too openly supportive of the Israeli right might actually destabilize the Israeli right. The Obama administration’s greatest mistake in this conflict was its accidental demolishing of the Palestinian capacity for negotiating by siding too much with the Palestinian Authority, thereby bringing unbearable pressure on PA leaders to stiffen their demands and hold off on talks while the Americans were doing the dirty work of making the Israelis more compliant. The Trump administration very nearly committed the same mistake in reverse, backing the Israeli right to the point where it could no longer convince its own base of the need for negotiations or compromise.

US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit in Amman, March 28, 2017 (Wafa/Thair Ghnaim)

It is now the accepted wisdom in Knesset hallway chatter that Netanyahu’s staffers explained this danger to their counterparts in the Trump administration and averted this politically disastrous bear-hug — that is, that they asked for American pressure to be brought to bear on the Israeli government.

It isn’t all political maneuvering, of course. Some of the pressure Netanyahu is referring to is real. Trump really does seem to want a peace deal he can chalk up to his struggling presidency. And while Netanyahu is not likely to fall from power just for negotiating with the Palestinians, there is a point in the negotiations where Jewish Home will stop caring about its coalition position and start to worry about alienating its voter base and surrendering its fundamental ideological commitments. Netanyahu can negotiate, but it’s unlikely his government will be able to actually cede territory in the West Bank without — at the very least — a dramatic shakeup to his coalition.

In the end, these considerations are not what keeps the prime minister up at night. Only Palestinian concessions on issues like refugees or the Jordan Valley could push him into having to choose between his coalition and politically destabilizing compromises, and these are unlikely to come in the foreseeable future. For now, the important thing from his perspective is that the comforting pressure from the Americans has been restored.

There’s just one problem. In recent weeks, it has become clear that neither Netanyahu nor his rightist flank seem to be playing along. The pressure on Netanyahu from the right continues unabated — and Netanyahu’s rhetoric continues to lurch rightward in ways that break the double-deflection mold.

On June 3, Yossi Dagan, the same mayor who helped Netanyahu play the deflection game with the Trump administration only the week before, published an unusual Facebook post.

“The prime minister,” he announced, “is trying to institute a [building] freeze [in the West Bank] voluntarily.”

Construction workers work on clearing land for new caravans in the Jewish settlement of Ofra, in the West Bank, on January 29, 2017. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

He explained: “[On Friday,] we again learned that the prime minister has decided to reject most of the building requests” in the settlements. “After eight years of the Obama freeze, a right-wing prime minister once again freezes the settlement of Judea and Samaria…. After eight years, today there are no more excuses. If the building freeze is approved, and if even now [i.e., during the Trump administration] construction in Judea and Samaria is frozen once again, then the Likud, as the leader of the national camp, and I write this with great sadness, must consider running a different candidate for prime minister, one who will be committed in deed, not just in word, to the ideology of the national camp in Israel.”

And it’s not just Dagan. The backers of the ideological settlement movement are planning a major public campaign against Netanyahu’s purported “freeze,” a campaign sufficiently worrying to the Prime Minister’s Office that Netanyahu released his own statement on the night of June 3.

“It’s strange that after Prime Minister Netanyahu approved only in the last few months the advance of some 5,500 housing units for construction in Judea and Samaria, in addition to the establishment of a new settlement for the residents of Amona — something that hasn’t been done in decades — he is accused of a ‘freeze,’” the statement reads.

“No one safeguards the settlements more than Prime Minister Netanyahu,” it announces, and demands to know: “How many times can we return to the folly of the right undermining a right-wing government?”

Why are the rightists unconvinced, and why is Netanyahu so worried?

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attends the weekly cabinet meeting on July 31, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)

The answer, ironically, boils down to Kulanu, or rather everything the Kulanu party’s centrism represents in the current state of Israeli politics.

Netanyahu’s more or less dependable coalition of Likud, Jewish Home, Shas, Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism make up just 56 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, five short of a majority.

When the results of the last election were announced in March 2015, Kulanu chief Moshe Kahlon took a long time before he agreed to back Netanyahu for premier, first talking to Zionist Union and at one point calling on Netanyahu to form a national unity government with the center-left.

In the end, Kahlon was forced to side with Netanyahu because of Likud’s significant six-seat lead over Zionist Union (the parties won 30 and 24 seats respectively).

In a Knesset where explicitly right-wing parties make up about one-third of seats (Likud, Jewish Home and Yisrael Beytenu have 43 seats between them) and the left, about one-quarter (Zionist Union and Meretz have 29), and where the 13-seat ultra-Orthodox contingent of Shas and United Torah Judaism may favor the right, but will happily sit in any coalition that will have them — it is the center, in the 21 seats of Kulanu and Yesh Atid, that carries the day.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, February 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

To ensure their support, Netanyahu understands, he must have a larger showing than any opposing party on the left or center — not a larger “camp,” but his own faction must be large enough to make it untenable for Kulanu to turn elsewhere. And that means Likud must win more votes at any cost, and from any party.

Likud’s internal politics make it very difficult for Netanyahu to look for more voters to his left. It is far easier politically to try to poach them from the right — chiefly from Jewish Home.

And so each time the coalition seems slightly tense, each time the right criticizes Netanyahu for insufficient settlement construction, each time he tries to explain that Trump is just as limiting as Obama, and is met by disbelief on the right, Netanyahu’s response is calibrated to Jewish Home voters; he must become, in Likud’s florid rhetoric, the greatest of all defenders of the settlements.

The irony here is typical of Israel’s bewilderingly tangled politics: the growing power of the center forces Netanyahu to expand his own faction at the right’s expense, by swerving right-ward.

Polling in recent months seems to validate Netanyahu’s strategy. A great many voters appear to be wavering between Likud and Jewish Home.

In each poll taken in recent weeks, Likud’s swings from a low of 22 seats to a high of 30 are almost exactly offset by Jewish Home’s numbers. A Channel 10 poll on March 17 showed Likud at 26 and Jewish Home at 13 — for a total of 39 seats. A Channel 2 poll two months later, on May 26, showed Likud at 30, but with Jewish Home dropping to nine, for the same overall total.

Similarly, Netanyahu has good reason to fear coming in second place in the next election. Likud led Yesh Atid by just one seat in the March poll (26 to 25), then by a much more comfortable eight seats in the May version (30 to 22). But an April 4 poll by Channel 10 found Yesh Atid leading by two seats (29 to 27).

Taken as a whole, and with the significant caveat that polls consistently find over 30% of the electorate undecided, Netanyahu remains the favorite in any upcoming election, but not a shoe-in. His major challenger may be to his left — centrist Yair Lapid — but his most urgent political vulnerability lies to his right, in the capacity of the far-right to siphon votes away, shrink the Likud party and drive centrists like Kulanu into the arms of a less comfortable, but not far-fetched coalition anchored on the center and left.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid leads a party faction meeting at the Knesset on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As always, Netanyahu’s best defense may be his opponents’ bumbling offense. Left-wing and centrist politicians often speak of Netanyahu as besotted with the far-right and endangering Israel by his tolerance of ideological extremism. Netanyahu, whose actual policy prescriptions differ only marginally from those of either Zionist Union or Yesh Atid, must surely be grateful for this helping hand by his opponents, who seem committed to validating his right-wing credentials, even as the far-right finds good reason to doubt them.

It is possible — nothing in politics is certain — that a wiser strategy for Yesh Atid or Labor might be to portray Netanyahu as a centrist, to mock him with his long history of dovish actions and sarcastically invite him to join the centrist political lists. Any political career that has spanned as many decades as Netanyahu’s offers plentiful grist for that mill: Netanyahu was the prime minister who withdrew the IDF from Hebron in 1997 and signed the last agreement actually reached between Israel and the Palestinians, the Wye River Memorandum of 1998. He implemented an unprecedented American-ordered settlement freeze in 2010 and openly negotiated the handover of most of the West Bank to the Palestinians in 2014.

There is a strategic overlap here between settlement advocates like Dagan and Netanyahu’s critics from the left: both have an interest in depicting him as farther left than his base. Thus far, Netanyahu has played a shrewder game, keeping his own rightist base in check, while avoiding destabilizing commitments to either the Americans or the settlers. Those who wish to dislodge him from his high perch must first disrupt his fundamental strategy of deflection. There is no sign at the moment that anyone on the center or left really grasps the many layers and threads that keep Netanyahu afloat, and so, despite the prime minister’s own anxieties, there is no sign that his premiership is in any imminent danger.

CONFIDANT OF NETANYAHU IN DANGER OF LOSING SEAT IN FRENCH PARLIAMENT

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s close friend Meyer Habib could lose his seat in the French National Assembly if too few Israelis come out to vote next Sunday, when a runoff race will take place.

Habib, a dual French-Israeli citizen, was elected to the assembly in 2013, representing French citizens in Israel, Greece, Italy and other Mediterranean countries. Israel has nearly 80,000 registered French voters, more than all the other seven countries in Habib’s constituency combined, though more than 200,000 French citizens live in Israel.

 

In the first round of voting, Habib finished second among 17 candidates, winning 35.1% of the vote, just behind the 36.73% of Florence Pavaux-Drory, a former aide to former French president François Mitterrand, who is married to former Israeli diplomat Mordechai Drory.
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Among Israelis, Habib won 74% of the vote, but only 7% of eligible voters cast ballots.

He would need a much larger turnout to win, especially considering that Pavaux-Drory has the support of popular new French president Emmanuel Macron.

“It will be OK with God’s help, but it is important that everyone wakes up,” Habib told The Jerusalem Post Monday.

Netanyahu has praised Habib for defending Israel in the assembly, stopping anti-Israel resolutions and bringing key French dignitaries to Israel.

Pavaux-Drory, who also campaigned in Israel, has said that Habib has not done enough to serve his constituents outside the Jewish state.

Habib has denied that charge.

Last month, Habib posted a video on his Facebook wall, in which Netanyahu praised him in French and Hebrew. The prime minister also said Habib was responsible for French-Israeli cooperation in fighting terrorism.

“He loves France and is loyal to France, but he loves French-Israeli relations very, very much,” Netanyahu said.

“He constantly speaks to me about it, how to strengthen the connection that is so important, not just to Israel, but also for France.”

Habib has said that Pavaux-Drory is too pro-Palestinian and anti-religious, charges she denies.

In another race of interest to the French Jewish community, former prime minister Manuel Valls will face off Sunday in a run-off for his seat in the assembly against comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who has 10 convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews.

UNRWA SHOULD BE DISMANTLED, NETANYAHU TOLD NIKKI HALEY

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that he had told US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley during her visit last week that the United Nations should consider shutting down operations of its Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Netanyahu’s remarks came after UNRWA faced backlash over the weekend after the body announced discovering a Hamas tunnel underneath two of their schools in the Gaza Strip.

The UN body’s announcement of the discovery of the tunnels came a day after Nikki Haley visited an UNRWA school in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Established by the UN General Assembly in 1949, the agency exists expressly to provide aid to “Palestinian Refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.”

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu charged that “in various UNRWA institutions there is a lot of incitement against Israel, and therefore the existence of UNRWA – and unfortunately its work from time to time – perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem rather than solve it.”

“Therefore, the time has come to dismantle UNRWA and merge its components with the [UN] High Commissioner for Refugees,” the premier added.

Netanyahu further stated that following the discovery of the tunnel under the UNRWA sites, he had instructed the Foreign Ministry’s Director-General to submit a formal complaint to the UN Security Council against Hamas.

“Hamas is using school children as human shields, and that is the enemy we have been fighting for years; an enemy that commits two-fold war crimes,” he stated, adding that “On the one hand, [Hamas] intentionally attacks innocent civilians all the while hiding behind children.”

On Friday, Israel called on the UN to “strongly and unequivocally condemn Hamas” and formally classify the group a “terrorist organization” following the discovery of a tunnel that runs beneath two UN Relief and Works Agency schools in the Gaza Strip.

In a letter to the president of the Security Council, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon demanded that “this time, the international community must not turn a blind eye toward such cynical exploitation” of civilian infrastructure in Gaza by Hamas.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Following discovery of two Hamas  tunnels built under @UNRWA elementary schools in , Israel submits letter of protest to .

UNRWA has been the subject of considerable pressure in recent months. In February, allegations emerged that an UNRWA employee had been elected to the Hamas political leadership. The individual in question was suspended by the organization and subsequently resigned.

And earlier this month, the UNRWA apologized after it was revealed that it had used a photo of a Palestinian child living in Syria for its fund-raising campaign in Gaza. The photo was later removed

Netanyahu to right-wing leaders: No settler will be uprooted in peace deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday implored right-wing leaders to unify behind him in future peace efforts, promising that he would not bring a “tragedy” upon the settlements and that not a single settler would be uprooted as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

In his remarks in the Knesset, during an event marking 50 years since the Six Day War and the beginning of the settlement enterprise, Netanyahu also hinted that US President Donald Trump was sticking to traditional peace-making formulas, influenced by “50 years of propaganda.”

‘We are still facing this problem,” he said, vaguely but unhappily, “… even when a new administration enters.”

During the election campaign, right-wing leaders had touted Trump as more supportive of the settlements than any of predecessors, buoyed by his campaign pledge to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem and the reluctance by his fledgling White House administration to condemn West Bank building. However, those hopes have largely been dashed in the months since, as Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to cut the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians and sought curbs on settlement building. Trump told Netanyahu publicly in February to hold back a little on settlements.

Seeking to reassure the settler leaders, whom he referred to as “my friends” and “the pioneers of our generation,” Netanyahu pledged he would always protect the settlements.

“Alongside our desire to reach an agreement with our Palestinian neighbors, we will continue to protect the settlement enterprise and strengthen it,” says Netanyahu. “We are doing this responsibly and with discretion.”

US President Donald Trump, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after giving final remarks at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before Trump's departure, May 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He said that in talks with world leaders, in addition to demanding the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, “I explain that everyone has the right to live in their home, that no man will be uprooted from his home.”

“No one will be uprooted from his home,” he reiterated, to applause. Netanyahu has in the past floated the suggestion that settlers be allowed to remain in Jewish enclaves within a Palestinian state, an idea forcefully rejected by the Palestinians.

Netanyahu argued that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “not a territorial dispute” but rather stems from the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize the Jewish state and their desire to “destroy the country.”

Thanks to attempts by Israel to drive this message home to world leaders, it “is starting to sink in,” he said, but “there is much work to be done.”

“Fifty years of propaganda” to the international community on the root of the conflict will not quickly be unraveled, he said. “We’ve made some strides, but there is a long way to go.

“And therefore, even when we went through difficult changes… here we are still facing this problem — even when [US] governments change, even when a new administration enters,” said Netanyahu. “I will not detail here what ideas were raised; those who need to know, know. And we did not accept things that would have harmed our basic rights and essential matters.”

In a plea for unity, Netanyahu promised again that the settlements would not be disturbed.

“I am doing what is necessary to protect the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria… we will continue to develop it. And we will not bring a tragedy upon the settlements, if we agree to work together. This is the most important thing — to work together.”

The prime minister also defended the security cabinet decision to self-impose some curbs on settlement expansion. The announcement on March 31 said future construction would be limited to existing settlement boundaries or adjacent to them. However, according to the decision, if legal, security or topographical limitations do not allow adherence to those guidelines, new homes will be built outside the current settlement boundaries but as close as possible to them. While billed as restrictions, the directives allow for considerable construction.

We are building “from the inside [of settlements] out,” he said. “This is the rule we decided on. This is something I think gives us a lot [of leeway].”

Regarding the Six Day War, Netanyahu maintained that Israel did not take the territory from any sovereign nation, saying that Jordan was retaining certain areas but without full international recognition.

“When the IDF waved its flag in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, it did not take control of an area from any sovereign state,” he said. “We did not take a foreign land… this is our country.”

Seeking to boost ties, Netanyahu meets with African leaders (Nigger Freemasons)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Sunday with West African leaders in Liberia for discussions on boosting ties.

After being greeted by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf upon arriving in the capital Monrovia, Netanyahu met with Marcel Alain de Souza, the president of the Economic Community of West African States, to speak about how to further the relationship between Israel and the bloc, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Netanyahu then met with Gambian President Adama Barrow, with whom he discussed bilateral ties. He also offered to send Israeli assistance to the country to help with its development.

During his meetings, Netanyahu also stressed that the improving relations between those nations with Israel should be reflected into support for the Jewish state at international bodies such as the United Nations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is greeted by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at the airport in Liberia's capital Monrovia after arriving for an official state visit on June 4, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Prior to leaving for Liberia, Netanyahu said he would use his trip to the ECOWAS summit to try and garner support for Israel at the UN and other international forums.

“The purpose of this trip is to dissolve this majority, this giant bloc of 54 African countries that is the basis of the automatic majority against Israel in the UN and international bodies,” he told journalists Saturday evening ahead of the flight.

Netanyahu said he hoped to use his attendance at the annual conference of the ECOWAS to build off his July 2016 visit to the East African nations of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia, which marked the first time in decades an Israeli premier had traveled to Africa.

“Israel is returning to Africa in a big way,” the prime minister said Saturday, reiterating a message he repeated throughout his previous trip to the continent.

Netanyahu noted that the trip marks the first time a non-African leader will speak at ECOWAS — an organization that includes 15 nations with a combined population of some 320 million — which he called a “badge of honor for the State of Israel.”

Moroccan King Mohamed VI in 2016 (YouTube screenshot)

On Friday, however, Morocco’s foreign ministry said that Mohamed VI had scrapped his plans to attend the meeting in light of Netanyahu’s attendance, saying the king “wishes his first visit to a ECOWAS summit not take place in a context of tension and controversy.”

Last July, de Souza became the first leader of the organization to visit Israel. He met with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin to discuss economic cooperation and regional security issues.

In December, Jerusalem hosted seven ministers and many other top officials from over a dozen Western African countries at an agricultural conference in Israel, which was co-sponsored by ECOWAS and Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.

A group of 11 diplomats from seven African countries visited the area known as Robinson's Arch in the Old City of Jerusalem, November 28, 2016. Second from right is Ze'ev Orenstein of the City of David archeological park, who led the envoys' tour (Michel Rozili/City of David)

Starting in early 2016, Netanyahu made strengthening ties with Africa one of his main foreign policy goals. Besides seeking new markets for Israeli agriculture, high-tech and security know-how, the prime minister was also keen to improve African nations’ voting record on Israel-related matters in international forums such as the United Nations Security Council or UNESCO.

“In seizing the future, Israel is coming back to Africa in more than a verbal way,” he said in February.

Netanyahu is also scheduled to attend an Africa-Israel summit in Togo in October, where the prime minister is expected to meet with the leaders of 25 African countries to discuss cooperation in high-tech, security and development.