Netanyahu at Holocaust memorial blames allies for inaction, says world repeating mistakes (LOL…..)

http://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog-april-23-2017/

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says over 4 million Jews could have been saved if the allied powers had bombed Nazi death camps in 1942.

“The allies knew, and didn’t act,” Netanyahu says at the official ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Museum.

“Since World War II, there has never again been a tragedy like Holocaust, but in many cases, the world stands by and does not prevent instances of mass murder or genocides,” he says noting the atrocities in Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan and today in Syria.

Netanyahu warns against the dangers of bystanderism, and praises US President Donald Trump’s missile strike on a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed nearly 90 civilians.

“There are bright points in the darkness, one them occurred just now with Trump’s decisive response to the massacre of Syrian children.

The prime minister goes on to say that anti-Semitism is still alive today, and often times is manifested as hatred of Israel.

“Hatred of the Jews is now directed at the Jewish state,” he says. “The new anti-Semitism is prevalent in the West and in UN bodies.

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Netanyahu rips New York Times for Barghouti op-ed

http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-rips-new-york-times-for-barghouti-op-ed/

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday slammed The New York Times for publishing an opinion piece written by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti without noting he is serving multiple life terms for the murder of Israelis.

The prime minister said that referring to Barghouti solely as a politician, as The New York Times did, would be akin to calling Syrian President Bashar Assad “a pediatrician.”

“I read, on Sunday, the article in the New York Times that presents arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti as a ‘parliamentarian and leader,’” said Netanyahu on a visit to the southern city of Dimona. “Calling Barghouti a leader and parliamentarian is like calling [Syrian President Bashar] Assad a pediatrician.”

Netanyahu was corrected by a member of his audience who pointed out that Assad actually trained as an ophthalmologist. The six-year-long civil war in Syria has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions.

Barghouti wrote his New York Times piece Sunday in defense of the mass hunger strike by Palestinian security prisoners he initiated on Monday.

A man holds a photo of convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti calling for his release during a rally supporting those detained in Israeli jails after hundreds of prisoners launched a hunger strike, in the West Bank town of Hebron on April 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)

The Times issued a clarification on Monday, saying, “This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization,” the paper wrote. “Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.”

The prime minister said, “The paper retracted it because we pointed [the errror] out to them.”

Barghouti is the former leader of the Tanzim armed wing of Fatah and the founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a Fatah terror group. He was convicted in an Israeli civilian court in 2004 on five counts of murder and one attempted murder, and was implicated in and held responsible for four other terror attacks. He is serving five life terms for the murders, and an additional 40 years for attempted murder.

The prime minister continued, saying, “The [jailed terrorists] are murderers and terrorists. We will never lose our sense of clarity because we are on the side of justice and they are on the side that is neither just nor moral.

“This moral clarity, the readiness to defend our country, the readiness to fight those who would destroy us, is one of our greatest strengths, alongside love of Israel.”

Meanwhile Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint (Arab) Party, visited Barghouti’s wife and lawyer on Monday to show his solidarity with the hunger strikers.

“I’m meeting with Fadwa Barghouti, the wife of Marwan Barghouti, his lawyer Elias Sabag and the team for the struggle for prisoners,” he wrote.

In an apparent reference to Barghouti, Odeh ended his post with a demand for “freedom for political prisoners” and an “end to the occupation.”

Other Israeli politicians had already criticized the New York Times for failing to say why Barghouti was jailed.

In an op-ed published in The Times of Israel on Monday, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid decried what he called The New York Times’ “intentional deception” of its readers by omitting any mention of Barghouti’s past.

Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid addresses the crowd during a “'Taking Back Zionism”' rally for Israel at Raoul Wallenberg Square in Stockholm on August 28, 2016. (AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand)

“Anyone who reads the column without prior knowledge of the facts will come to the conclusion that Barghouti is a freedom fighter imprisoned for his views. Nothing is further from the truth. The missing part of the column is that Marwan Barghouti is a murderer,” he wrote.

Lapid said The New York Times had been exploited by Barghouti. “The attempt by The New York Times ‘to be balanced’ amuses Barghouti. He understands that this sacred attempt at balance creates equal standing between murderer and murdered, terrorist and victim, lie and truth,” added Lapid.

MK Michael Oren at a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting in the Knesset, November 19, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren called the op-ed “a journalistic terror attack” and called on Israel to take steps against the New York Times. “We need to defend ourselves” he told Army Radio.

Oren, currently a deputy minister and a Kulanu MK, noted the op-ed was published on a Jewish holiday, which meant that the Israeli government could not respond to the article, which he said “was full of lies.”

The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which manages day-to-day relations between the IDF and the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, also attacked the newspaper for omitting Barghouti’s history.

A post on COGAT’s Facebook page read: “By referring to him only as a political figure, the Times failed to point out that after a fair trial in 2004, Barghouti was convicted of murder and carrying out terrorist acts and was therefore sentenced to five life sentences and an additional 40 years in prison.”

“Barghouti is a murderer of Israeli civilians,” it added.

Barghouti has remained politically active from behind bars, and is often touted as one of a few likely successors to the 82-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Many Palestinians see Barghouti’s move as chiefly an internal power play in an attempt to send a message specifically to the Fatah leadership and to Abbas, who excluded Barghouti’s loyalists from a recent Central Committee meeting and did not give Barghouti the anticipated position of deputy head of the PA.

Netanyahu doubles down on support for ‘moral’ US strike on Syria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday declared Israel’s full support for a US missile bombardment of a Syrian airbase, saying the military action was morally justified and showed that the use of chemical weapons would incur a cost.

Netanyahu also vowed that Israel will continue to care for Syrians wounded in the country’s civil war as part of its “humanitarian effort” to help the embattled country.

US warships fired 59 cruise missiles early Friday at the Syrian regime-held Shayrat Airfield, north of the capital Damascus, from which Washington believes a deadly suspected chemical weapons attack was launched three days earlier on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in the Idlib province. At least 86 people died in the gas bombing, including 27 children.

The US and other Western powers have blamed the regime of President Bashar Assad for the attack, while Damascus denied it used chemical weapons.

“Israel fully supports the American attack on Syria,” Netanyahu said before the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. “They did this for moral reasons in light of the difficult scenes from Idlib and also to make it clear that there is a price for using chemical weapons. ”

The missile attack came amid stalled UN talks over a Security Council call for an investigation into Tuesday’s chemical attack, which provoked global outrage.

Results from post-mortems performed on victims point to exposure to the deadly nerve agent sarin, according to Turkish health officials who treated some of the wounded.

Pentagon officials said Tomahawk missiles were fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet. The US missiles hit at 3:45 a.m. Friday local time and targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said.

Russia condemned the move as an act of “aggression.” But there was widespread praise from other nations, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which support the Syrian opposition.

In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7, 2017. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AP)

“There is an international commitment since 2013 to remove all chemical weapons from Syria, and as we saw this undertaking is yet to be realized,” Netanyahu continued in his remarks Sunday, referring to a September 14, 2013, deal between the US and Russia to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons by the middle of 2014, averting punitive US strikes at the time against the Assad regime.

“We call on the international community to complete the work, and this is an opportunity for US-Russian cooperation in this specific area,” Netanyahu continued. “This task needs to be completed. Israel is treating injured civilians from Syria as part of the humanitarian effort. We will continue to do so.”

Israel says that since 2013, it has quietly treated 3,000 Syrian casualties who were spirited across the border into Israel by the IDF for medical treatment at special field hospitals or in Israeli medical centers.

In a statement released about three hours after the US strike, Netanyahu praised the American move, as did Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the Israeli military.

US military officials said they had forewarned their Russian counterparts of the impending attack. The goal was to avoid any accident involving Russian forces.

Nevertheless, Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov warned Friday that any negative consequences from the strikes would be on the “shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful and tragic enterprise.”

Trump has advocated greater counterterrorism cooperation with Russia, Assad’s most powerful military backer. Earlier this month the Trump administration signaled the US was no longer interested in trying to push Assad from power over his direction of a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and led to the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

US officials portrayed the strikes as an appropriate, measured response and said they did not signal a broader shift in the Trump administration’s approach to the Syrian conflict. But there could be other problems. Russian military personnel and aircraft are embedded with Syria’s, and Iranian troops and paramilitary forces are also on the ground helping Assad fight the array of opposition groups hoping to topple him.

Pence tells Netanyahu: US appreciates Israel’s support for Syria strike

http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-thanks-israel-for-support-on-syria-strike-pence-tells-netanyahu/

 

The administration of US President Donald Trump thanked Israel on Friday for its support for Washington’s overnight strike on a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical attack on Syrian civilians earlier this week attributed to Syrian military forces.

The Prime Minister’s Office said US Vice President Mike Pence called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “thanked him – on behalf of US President Donald Trump – for Israel’s strong support for the American action in Syria.”

Pence also updated Netanyahu “on the details of the action and its results,” the statement said, adding that the prime minister “reiterated the need to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons.”

The vice president and the prime minister also “emphasized the strength of the alliance between Israel and the US.”

Israel was one of the first states to welcome the US’s strike overnight Thursday-Friday which saw at least 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two American naval destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean strike the Shayrat Airfield north of Damascus.

The strike, ordered by Trump, came as retaliation for a deadly chemical weapons attack Tuesday in the northern Syrian province of Idlib that left at least 86 people dead, including 27 children, and allegedly employed the nerve agent sarin. Footage of people and children choking on the gas prompted outrage across the globe.

The US and other Western powers have blamed the regime of Bashar Assad for the attack, but Damascus has denied it used chemical weapons.

In a statement released about three hours after the US strike, Netanyahu praised the American move, as did Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the Israeli military.

The Israel Defense Forces said Friday it was informed by the US ahead of the military strike and that it expressed its support for the operation during the talks.

This frame grab from video provided by Ikhbaria TV, a Syrian pro-government TV channel that is consistent with independent AP reporting, shows flames rising from US Tomahawk missiles which hit the Shayrat air base, southeast of Homs, Syria, early Friday April, 7, 2017. The Arabic on the screen reads: 'Around the Shayrat airport, top right, the first moments of the American aggression on the air base in the central region, center bottom.' (Ikhbaria TV, via AP)

“In both word and action, President Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” Netanyahu said in a statement by his office.

He added: “Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”

Liberman called the Tomahawk missile strike “an important, necessary and moral message by the free world, led by the United States.”

The attack on the Syrian airfield shows that the world “will not tolerate the war crimes of the horrific regime of Bashar Assad,” Liberman said.

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said the operation “restored America’s regional leadership in a big way.”

President Reuven Rivlin said the US move was a “fitting response to such unthinkable brutality, and an example to the entire free world.” Opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Friday also hailed the strike, saying it came at the “right time and in the right place.”

Did Netanyahu skip AIPAC to avoid peace deal-pushing Trump?

WASHINGTON — One after another, the new leaders of the United States strode to the AIPAC podium here this week to hail Israel as America’s ally and the one true democracy in the Middle East.

Mike Pence, deeply moved to be addressing the vast crowd of Israel’s best American friends, related that he had been raised to “cherish” Israel, said that in his house they “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” and set out his lifetime’s Israel-loving bona fides in an address in which he appeared throughout to be holding back tears.

Nikki Haley proclaimed herself “the new sheriff” at the UN, riding to Israel’s rescue after its years of suffering at the hands of that “ridiculous” institution and its agencies, and vowing to “kick ’em every single time” they do something wrong.

Paul Ryan castigated the Obama administration for having “damaged this trust” at the heart of the US-Israel relationship, in large part via the “unmitigated disaster” of the Iran nuclear deal, and promised, by contrast, that the current president’s “commitment to Israel is sacrosanct.”

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley acknowledges the applause as she arrives to speak at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC, March 27, 2017 (AIPAC screenshot)

Music, it must have been, to the ears of Benjamin Netanyahu. After all those years of Clintons and Obama, Israel’s second-longest-serving prime minister finally gets to work with a Republican administration, one that would appear to share so much of his worldview — and most notably his belief in the accumulation and use of strength and power as the key to a nation’s well-being.

It was exceedingly strange, then, that Netanyahu, a habitual star turn at AIPAC, wasn’t there to hear all those politicians’ declarations of love for the country he leads. He skipped last year’s conference too, to avoid the partisan minefield of the various would-be presidents who were speaking. But of all the AIPAC policy conferences in the Netanyahu era, you’d have thought this year’s would be one he would have jumped at attending — affording, as these conferences so often have done, the opportunity for a White House stop-off and a presidential tete-a-tete.

Why pass up the opportunity to revel in caveat-free adoration for Israel after all those years of Obama-style conditional love?

The best excuse the prime minister could publicly muster for his absence was the lame joke he offered at the start of his speech-by-satellite that the “registration line waiting would be too long.”

A more credible explanation might be that he’s barely been in Israel in recent weeks, what with all the trips to the UK, Australia, Russia, China et al. But that wouldn’t have kept him away from Washington if he’d really wanted to be here. Nor would the coalition crisis back home; after all, he personally instigated our current round of domestic political chaos by backtracking on his support for a new state broadcaster just hours before he flew happily off to China two weeks ago. And yes, it’s true that it has been barely six weeks since he last journeyed to DC, to meet the new president at the White House. But ordinarily, Netanyahu would have relished the prospect of meeting Donald Trump twice in these early days of the new presidency: What better proof of the primacy of the US-Israel alliance?

So why the no-show? Why pass up the opportunity to revel in caveat-free adoration for Israel after all those years of Obama-style conditional love?

It’s not Iran, stupid

The Trump administration has been quick to signal the dawn of a new US era on one of the two issues that most divided Netanyahu and Barack Obama: the Iran nuclear deal. As Haley noted, the US has publicly put Iran “on notice”; it’s watching Iran “like a hawk.” Behind the scenes, it’s working out how best to salvage a coherent means of thwarting Iran’s rogue nuclear program from that Ryan-described “unmitigated disaster” overseen by the Obama administration.

US President Barack Obama (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

As the accord took shape in the Obama years, Netanyahu’s very unhappy Israel was informed, contemptuously, that it shouldn’t be complaining because it had no idea what was in the deal. Then, when the deal was done, it was asserted, falsely, that Israel’s complaints weren’t credible because no deal would have been good enough for us. Finally, a year later, the president claimed, outrageously, that Israel’s own security establishment belatedly recognized the deal as a positive game-changer.

For the Trump administration, by contrast, Netanyahu is the leader who battled heroically against a lousy accord that emboldens and enriches Iran, and paves the ayatollahs’ path to the bomb. And he’s a trusted ally in the complicated bid to fix things.

In these early, chaotic days, under an impulsive, unpredictable president, with an administration short not only on experience but on actual personnel, Israel’s neighborhood expertise is being welcomed, too, when it comes to sizing up a host of other regional challenges, notably including Syria.

All of which, again, makes it even more baffling that Netanyahu didn’t come to Washington.

Truly, madly, deeply

But then we turn to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And here the waters get murky indeed. There are lots of indications that this administration is going to be tougher on Mahmoud Abbas than Obama was. How did Haley put it? “Until the Palestinian Authority comes to the table… there are no freebies for the Palestinian Authority anymore.”

But still. The embassy isn’t moving. Abbas has got his White House invitation. The president’s envoy is making visits to Palestinian refugee camps. And the president himself is describing settlements as unhelpful to peace, and publicly asking Netanyahu to “hold back” on them a little. A lot of people didn’t see any of that coming.

Now, a carte blanche from the president to build for Jews wherever Israel wants in Judea and Samaria might not have been the greatest blessing either for Netanyahu. How, then, could he resist the pressure from Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home and much of his own Likud Knesset faction to do just that? To build. Everywhere.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on March 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

But hours of talks with Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt have failed to produce an agreed framework for settlement building, and that’s problematic for Netanyahu, who (whisper it) doesn’t really want to build too much outside East Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs but who has promised to give the Amona evacuees a new settlement. Sources on both sides now talk, instead, of trying to reach “understandings.” And understandings can all-too easily produce misunderstandings.

Remember when Joe Biden visited Israel in 2010, and a bureaucratic blip produced spectacularly ill-timed Israeli approval for new housing in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood built over the pre-1967 lines? Obama went ballistic, and Biden almost went home.

Can you imagine how Trump might react if, from deep within the impenetrable machinations of Israeli bureaucracy, an inconvenient settlement move was advanced at a sensitive moment when the president was engaged in an attempt at Israeli-Palestinian deal-making? Nobody, honestly, can know what might happen.

And here’s the thing. The word in DC is that Trump truly, madly, deeply, wants to broker a deal, and believes he can do so. In the face of all evidence to the contrary. Quite probably because of all the evidence to the contrary.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in the Jordanian capital Amman, on March 26, 2014 (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/AFP)

As far as I have been able to discern, the very small team that Trump has deployed to grapple with our problems is not seeking input on gradually creating a climate in which the demonstrably impossible deal might, one day, become possible. It is, instead — however misguided and dangerous this may sound — looking to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian accord. And never mind the fact that, as John Kerry’s doomed endeavor confirmed unnecessarily, there simply are no terms for a permanent accord that both sides would conceivably accept. It’s a mission impossible, assigned by a president who doesn’t want to take no for an answer.

At the risk of repetition: There’s simply no knowing where the determined American pursuit of a currently impossible Israeli-Palestinian peace deal might lead. Expectations might be raised and dashed with incendiary consequences. A more circumspect approach could yet prevail. Or, stymied, Trump might just turn his attention elsewhere. And that’s only three of a host of unknowable scenarios.

Now, does that explain why Netanyahu chose to give Washington a wide berth this week — to steer clear of a president with a peacemaking glint in his eye?

Well, maybe.

NETANYAHU: FOREIGN RELATIONS EXPANDING

 

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Netanyahu-Foreign-relations-expanding-485487

 

BDS notwithstanding, Israel’s diplomatic ties with other countries are on the rise.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that Israel, which has diplomatic relations with 161 countries, will reportedly solidify ties with Nicaragua some time next week.

Nicaragua, one of Israel’s harshest Latin American critics – along with Valenzuela, Bolivia, and Cuba – cut off ties with Israel following Israel’s raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in 2010 that killed nine people.

The Mavi Marmara was trying to break the blockade of Gaza.

Netanyahu was speaking at the President’s Residence at the annual memorial ceremony for deceased presidents and prime ministers, where he characterized Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, and its second prime minister and first foreign minister, Moshe Sharett, as “men of the first magnitude.”

He repeated this comment, declaring that he, as a disciple of Jabotinsky, regarded these two Mapainiks (supporters of the historical Israeli Labor Party) as men of the first magnitude who were dedicated to Israel’s independence.

The ceremony is held annually on the first day of the Hebrew calendar month of Nissan. According to the Book of Exodus, this is the Jewish New Year (one of four) and is also known as the beginning of the Month of Kings. Because Israel no longer has a king, it was decided that this would be the date on which Israel would honor its late presidents and prime ministers, and select one from each group each year as a subject for literary research. The best examples of such research would receive the President’s Prize and the Prime Minister’s Prize.

Leah Marmorstein-Yarhi received this year’s President’s Prize and Prof. Gavriel Shefer received the Prime Minister’s Prize. An honorary mention was awarded to Ya’acov Sharett, the son of Moshe Sharett, for establishing the Moshe Sharett Heritage Society to preserve his father’s legacy.

A native son of Jerusalem, Navon, who was born on the first of Nissan, was the first sabra Sephardi president. Moshe Sharett was the architect of Israel’s foreign policy and responsible for the initial establishment of diplomatic relations with many countries.

Netanyahu also credited Moshe Sharett with opening Israel’s gateway to Asia. In this context, Netanyahu mentioned his own recent visit to China, while President Reuven Rivlin went to Vietnam. He also mentioned his visit to Singapore, where Rivlin visited two years ago, as well as Rivlin’s recent visit to India and the upcoming visit to Israel by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“There is a dramatic change in the world” in its attitude toward Israel, Netanyahu said. Representatives of other countries see Israel as an economic, technological and military power house and they want to be part of that. They are coming to Israel and saying that they want to boost relations, he added.

Netanyahu also spoke admiringly of Navon, and recalled how they used to meet each year during the Bible Quiz, where Navon “was sharp but with a sense of humor.”

Rivlin spoke of Navon and Moshe Sharett exchanging notes in Arabic when they didn’t want anyone else to understand.

Rivlin said that Navon had been one of the most beloved of Israel’s presidents and that he was “an educator in his soul.” He campaigned against illiteracy and encouraged the teaching of Arabic in schools.

“He was from a family that enabled him to call me a new immigrant,” quipped Rivlin, whose family came to Jerusalem in 1809. Navon’s father’s family was expelled from Spain and had gone to Turkey, arriving in Jerusalem in 1670, and his mother’s family came from Morocco in 1742.

Both Rivlin and Netanyahu mentioned that Navon’s fluency in Arabic had won the hearts of the Egyptians when he addressed the Egyptian Parliament. Netanyahu went even further, saying their hearts had melted.

Rivlin also commended Navon for having fought hard for the preservation of Sephardi culture during a melting-pot period. Although he believed that there should be a national common denominator, he disagreed with Ben-Gurion, who wanted to do away with the traditions that immigrants had brought with them. Navon believed that traditions should be preserved and passed on to future generations.

Rivlin and Netanyahu each paid tribute to Shimon Peres, who had been involved in all major decisions of the state since its inception.

Netanyahu said that it is still difficult to absorb the fact that he is no longer here.

A strike among office workers at the President’s Residence threatened to mar the memorial ceremony.

To prevent this, the State of Israel asked the Jerusalem District Labor Court to order the strikers back to work. The court president, Judge Eyal Avrahami, issued an interim injunction ordering the employees to desist from any action that would undermine the ceremony or the visit on Wednesday of Slovakian President Andrej Kiska.

NETANYAHU: TRUMP HAS ALREADY TURNED WORDS OF SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL INTO ACTIONS

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no mention of a two-state solution during a 10-minute speech broadcast live Monday to the AIPAC annual conference in Washington, a marked departure from his speech to the same group last year.

During a 10-minute address from his office in Jerusalem to the 18,000 attendees of the AIPAC conference, the premier said that Israel’s hand is extended to all its neighbors in peace.

 

“We teach peace to our children, and it’s time the Palestinian Authority does the same,” he said. “It must stop teaching hatred to its children.”

“It must stop paying terrorists. It must stop denying our legitimacy and our history. It must, above all – once and for all – recognize the Jewish state.”

Netanyahu said that Israel is committed to working with US President Donald Trump to advance peace “with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors.” He reiterated his position that the common dangers faced by Israel and many of its Arab neighbors now present a unique diplomatic opportunity.

But what was noticeably absent was a reference to the two-state solution. Not only did he not commit himself to the idea, as he did last year, but he made no mention of it.

In his 2016 comments to AIPAC, Netanyahu said, “The best formula for achieving peace remains two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state finally recognizes the Jewish state. Now, I know there’s some skepticism about my views on this. So let me state unequivocally, and here’s the acid test: I am ready to begin such negotiations immediately, without preconditions, anytime, anywhere.”

Netanyahu told this year’s conference that the Trump administration has already turned its strong words of support for Israel into concrete actions. This support has been reflected in US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley “standing up for what’s right for Israel and the truth at the United Nations,” he said to loud applause. He added that this support is also reflected in the recent budget request submitted by Trump.

This budget, Netanyahu said, leaves military aid for Israel “fully funded even as the fiscal belt is pulled tighter, and we appreciate that. Israel is deeply grateful for the generous support of the president, the Congress and the American people.”

The prime minister said that for the sake of both Israel and the US, it is essential that “the forces of militant Islam are defeated.”

Netanyahu said that in this battle he is confident that the US and Israel will stand “shoulder to shoulder” to ensure that “light triumphs over darkness, that hope triumphs over despair. That means preventing Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons. That is our policy, it will always be our policy.”

This partnership, he added, means also “confronting Iran’s aggression in the region, and its terrorism around the world. It means utterly vanquishing ISIS, not partially. It means building alliances with moderates in the region, those moderates who seek to build a better future and embrace modernity and peace.”

Netanyahu opened his remarks by saying that Israel has no greater friend than America, and America has no greater friend than Israel, and ended it by saying that AIPAC helps ensure that the Israeli-US relationship stands the test of time.

“Your commitment to Israel makes you part of the rebirth of the Jewish people, the renewal of Jewish sovereignty in our ancestral homeland,” he told the crowd.

Netanyahu to ToI’s Chinese site: I hope Beijing’s ‘superb’ relations with Israel will affect its UN votes

BEIJING — Israel’s increasingly strong economic relations with China may yet change the country’s traditionally anti-Israel voting patterns at international organizations such as the United Nations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview for The Times of Israel’s Chinese site on Wednesday.

Speaking to ToI’s diplomatic correspondent Raphael Ahren and Chinese editor Yifeng Zhou as he wrapped up his visit to Beijing, Netanyahu said he raised the issue during his meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. “It is my hope that over time we’ll see a greater consonance between China’s superb relations with Israel on the bilateral side and its votes in multinational forums,” Netanyahu said.

Speaking to The Times of Israel on the 18th floor of Beijing’s St. Regis hotel, the prime minister made no claim to have changed China’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian nuclear agreement, which are markedly at odds with Israel’s own. But he did see bilateral relations strengthening, and noted that “President Xi said he believes that strong economic ties help diplomacy.”

Stressing the economic part of the trip, he talked at length about how Israeli technology can dramatically improve the lives of the 1.3 billion Chinese people. Giving just one example, Netanyahu said there are 100 million cars in China, which causes traffic jams, accidents and heavy pollution. “All of that is changing with new technology, a lot which emanates from Israel,” he said, referring to Mobileye, a Jerusalem-based company that computer chip giant Intel bought last week for the staggering amount of $15 billion, and Waze, a crowd-sourced innovation app that was acquired by Google in 2013.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and China's President Xi Jinping (R) shake hands ahead of their talks at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on March 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Etienne Oliveau)

Netanyahu’s trip was officially timed to mark 25 years since Israel and China established diplomatic relations, and was replete with ceremonial elements. Arriving on Sunday, Netanyahu was welcomed at Beijing airport by an honor guard. Before his meeting with Prime Minister Li Keqiang in the Great Hall of the People, the national anthems were played. Israeli flags fluttered on lampposts at Tiananmen Square throughout the three-day visit. On Tuesday, Netanyahu and his wife Sara laid a wreath at the Monument to the People’s Heroes, making him the first Israeli leader to be granted such an honor.

But the ceremonial aspects were not the focus of the visit. Rather, Netanyahu and his delegation — which included four ministers and dozens of businesspeople — signed more than a dozen bilateral agreements, agreeing to cooperate chiefly in the fields of technology and innovation.

“Israel is renowned, precisely as President Xi said, as a leader in technology,” Netanyahu told The Times of Israel. “In many of these areas, we can have a very fruitful cooperation between Israeli technology and Chinese marketing and industrial power.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center left, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stand on the podium as they listen to the national anthems during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Monday, March 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

On Tuesday, Beijing announced the creation of a China-Israel “innovative strategic partnership.”

“As President Xi himself said, this particular designation applies only to Israel, and to Israel only,” Netanyahu enthused. “And it shows the primacy of Israel’s position in innovation. We’re a small country (of 8.6 million people). We could fit twice, or maybe even more, into Beijing (21.5 million) or Shanghai (24.5 million), in terms of population. But we have a predominance in many areas of technology that are changing the lives of people.”

Here is a full transcript of our interview:

The Times of Israel: President Xi Jinping said you told him Israel is hoping for China to take a more active role in Middle East affairs. What exactly do you have in mind?

Prime Minister Netanyahu: Well, actually I was talking about the economic side and the logistical possibility. China wants to increase the access of Asia — China specifically — to the world. There are two ways of doing it: One is the mutual exchange of Israeli technology with Chinese business. I think we’re well en route to doing that. A third of the investment in Israeli high technology is Chinese. We welcome more. And we would like to advance the free trade association, which would enable a two-way movement to proceed. We agreed that we’d accelerate it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a business / economic in Beijing, China, March 20, 2017 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Secondly, there is a transportation route that we’re planning now, which is a rail connection between Asia and between the Red Sea and Mediterranean ports (such as Eilat and Ashdod). We think it could be of interest to China. So we’ve been discussing that as well.

But you envision no role for China in the Middle East peace process?

Well, we’re going to a pursue our attempt to achieve both a broad peace with the Arab states and Palestinian-Israeli peace. And China is always seen as a valued supporting party.

The Chinese president said he “appreciates Israel’s adoption of the two-state solution.” In recent weeks you have refrained from using this terminology. Was that a point of contention?

‘President Xi said he believes that strong economic ties help diplomacy’

First of all, I’d say that the overwhelming part of our conversation talked about economy and technology and the various possibilities of Israeli-Chinese cooperation. To the extent that we discussed this, I reiterated my position that the Palestinians would have to recognize a Jewish state and that Israel would have overriding security control over the territory west of the Jordan. These are not new positions. I have said that for many years; that hasn’t changed. But the thrust of our conversation overwhelmingly was on economic and technological cooperation.

When can we expect the excellent scientific and technological relations to be translated into diplomatic support at international forums such as the United Nations?

I raised my hope that extraordinary bilateral relations would also be reflected in multinational forums. President Xi said that he believes that strong economic ties help diplomacy. It is my hope that over time we’ll see a greater consonance between China’s superb relations with Israel on the bilateral side and its votes in multinational forums.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at the Monument to the People's Heroes in Beijing on March 21, 2017. (Haim Zach / GPO)

You said at the UN last year that in 10 years, the UN will cheer Israel. You’ve since said it could happen even sooner. How long will it take until China switches its traditional voting patterns in the UN [which consistently support Arab-sponsored anti-Israeli initiatives]?

I wasn’t speaking specifically of China. But I was speaking of a great number of countries that we see dramatically broadening and deepening relations their relations with Israel. And I expect, there, to see a change fairly quickly. I was specifically talking about the large mass of African countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with heads of China's largest corporations in Beijing, March 20, 2017. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

We discussed, quite apart from that, the possibility that Israel and China will have trilateral cooperation in third countries. We specifically spoke about Africa. China is in Africa, it has a big presence in Africa. And Israel’s coming back to Africa with great dynamism. In fact, I intend to take a second trip to Africa in a few months, this time to West Africa. We’re already cooperating with other countries, like Germany and Italy. There’s no reason why Israel and China shouldn’t cooperate, bringing our mutual expertise to the help of African countries. We agreed that our respective foreign ministries would begin discussions to that effect.

Let’s speak about Iran, which is a strong ally of China. After your meeting with Prime Minister Li, a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official told reporters that Beijing still believes the 2015 nuclear agreement “will be very conducive for regional and international peace.” Clearly you disagree with this characterization.

Yes, that’s no secret. I made my views known in every forum possible, from the United Nations to the US Congress. And I obviously have not changed my view. And Iran’s actions since the signing of the agreement have not lessened this concern. Not to me or to many of the countries of the region, who view Iran as a source of a great deal of aggression.

To what extent were you able to convince the Chinese of your assessment? They plainly don’t see Iran as destabilizing factor but rather as a stabilizing factor.

Time will tell. But I have not changed my mind.

What benefits do you see Israel reaping from the innovative strategic partnership with China that was announced on Tuesday?

‘Every part of life, every area of human affairs, is now being technologized. This is what Israel specializes in’

It’s a remarkable announcement. It gives Israel a unique position. As President Xi himself said, this particular designation applies only to Israel, and to Israel only. And it shows the primacy of Israel’s position in innovation. We’re a small country. We could fit twice, or maybe even more, into Beijing or Shanghai, in terms of population. But we have a predominance in many areas of technology that are changing the lives of people.

We have [expertise in] such areas as water, digital health, cybersecurity, agriculture. Israel is renowned, precisely as President Xi said, as a leader in technology. In many of these areas, we can have a very fruitful cooperation between Israeli technology and Chinese marketing and industrial power.

In fact, I would say, and I recognize now a clear understanding of this in the leadership of China, that once you’ve established basic infrastructure — roads, utilities, factories — the way that you can sustain growth is only by consistently adding value to your products and services. The only way to do that, beyond a certain point, is with the addition of technology.

Every part of life, every area of human affairs, is now being technologized. This is what Israel specializes in.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (third from left) meets with Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich (to his left) and Mobileye founders Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram , respectively first left and first right; (Courtesy: Haim Zach, GPO)

We had a lengthy discussion over a very fruitful dinner about the changes that are happening for example in the car industry. China has a 100 million cars. There’s a problem of congestion. Road accidents. Air pollution. The new automotive technology — autonomous vehicles — and the computer networking makes driving a lot more efficient. All of that is changing with new technology, a lot of which emanates from Israel.

Intel just bought an Israeli company [MobilEye] for $15 billion that deals with driverless car technology. But there are hundreds of other such companies in Israel. So it’s become a world leader in this effort.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Monday, March 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

China is a classic, perhaps the preeminent country, that could apply this technology for the benefit of its people. Fewer road accidents. Less pollution. And you get more quickly to your destination, without the need to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a clumsy car that costs a bundle and is 95 percent of the time idle. These changes are all the products of technology. So it’s one of the areas that we spoke about.

We also spoke at great length about digital health, which means for example that the medical records of all Chinese citizens could be computerized so that every time you go to a different hospital you don’t have to go through the whole battery of tests to establish your medical record.

We in Israel have a computerized card, so that’s not necessary. You can go to any doctor, anywhere, and he knows instantly your medical record; what medicines you need, what medicines you should avoid. This is a tremendous saving and a tremendous improvement in health.

Netanyahu denies Russia told Israel to halt airstrikes in Syria

BEIJING — Russia has not changed its policy on coordination with the Israeli air force in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, denying reports that Moscow had told Israel to end airstrikes in the war-torn country and vowing to continue attacking weapons convoys.

“It’s simply incorrect to say the Russians are changing their policy toward us,” he said.

The report on Russia changing its stance came after an Israeli airstrike on Friday to which Syria responded by firing anti-aircraft missiles at the departing Israeli warplanes. The Israeli strike reportedly nearly missed a Russian asset and Moscow summoned the Israeli envoy following the exchange.

Netanyahu said that he told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a March 9 meeting that Israel will continue to thwart attempts by Iran and its terrorist proxies, such as Hezbollah, to smuggle advanced weapons to Lebanon via Syria.

“My policy is consistent, and this is also what I told Putin,” the prime minister said during a visit to China. “We will not allow Israel to be attacked from Syrian territory and we will not tolerate the transfer of advanced weaponry of those entering Syria — Hezbollah — to the extent that we detect it.”

Netanyahu said Israel was targeting Iranian attempts to move advanced arms within Syria, and that he had told Putin as much during their Moscow sit-down.

“It’s our policy to strike at the convoys of sophisticated weaponry, and the Iranians continue with them. We will continue to attack whenever the Iranians smuggle advanced arms. Therefore we need this personal connection [with Putin], which is important for Israel’s national security,” Netanyahu said.

“If there’s intelligence and operational feasibility, we strike, and so it will continue,” he told reporters in his Beijing hotel as he wrapped up the official part of his three-day visit to Chinese capital.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)

Israel reportedly launched several attacks on targets in Syria in recent days, one of which on Friday nearly hit Russian troops stationed in the area. Less than 24 hours later Moscow summoned Israel’s ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, to note its protest. Syria’s ambassador to the UN later said that Russia had changed its policy and no longer grants Israel freedom of action over Syrian skies.

Israel officially acknowledged one strike on Syrian territory.

Israel does not inform the Russian forces stationed in Syria ahead of attack there, out of fear for the Israeli pilots, according to an Israeli source.

“It’s not simple. We are very careful not to hit whoever is not supposed to be hit,” Netanyahu told reporters travelling with him in China.

The Israeli-Russian process to prevent an accidental clash, in which officials from both sides ensure that each others’ forces do not get in each other’s way, requires constant maintenance, he added. “I am not traveling to Moscow simply to chat,” he said.

The Israeli military said its aircraft on Friday struck several targets in Syria and were back in Israeli-controlled airspace when several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria toward the jets. One incoming missile was shot down by an Arrow defense battery, while two more landed in Israel, causing neither injury nor damage.

The army said the Arrow was deployed — a first for the system — against the Syrian surface-to-air missile because the projectile “behaved like a ballistic threat.”

The Arrow 3 missile defense system that was delivered to the Israeli Air Force on January 18, 2017. (Defense Ministry)

Syria complained to the United Nations secretary-general and to the director of the UN Security Council calling the Israeli attacks a violation of international law and of Syrian sovereignty.

The Syrian army said the Israeli strikes were conducted to support “[Islamic State] terrorist gangs and in a desperate attempt to raise their deteriorating morale and divert attention away from the victories which Syrian Arab Army is making in the face of the terrorist organizations,” a statement read.

Israel has been largely unaffected by the Syrian civil war raging next door, suffering mostly sporadic incidents of spillover fire that Israel has generally dismissed as tactical errors by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. Israel has responded to the errant fire with limited reprisals on Syrian positions.

The skies over Syria are now crowded, with Russian and Syrian aircraft backing Assad’s forces and a US-led coalition striking Islamic State and al-Qaeda targets.

Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations.

Netanyahu chief of staff heads to US to sort out settlements

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff Yoav Horowitz left for Washington on Sunday to discuss settlement building with the Trump administration.

He will join Ron Dermer, Israel’s Washington ambassador, to continue discussions with US special envoy Jason Greenblatt in an attempt to reach an understanding between Israel and US President Donald Trump’s administration about building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu left Israel on Saturday night for a three day trip to China, and the fact that Horowitz did not accompany the prime minister but went instead to Washington highlights the importance of the negotiations with the US.

Greenblatt visited Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan last week to gain a deeper understanding of the situation. Despite two meetings with Netanyahu during the course of the visit, no agreement was reached on settlement construction.

Netanyahu and Greenblatt made “progress on the issue of Israeli settlement construction following up on President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s agreement in Washington last month to work out an approach that reflects both leaders’ views,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office issued after the second three-hour meeting Thursday night.

“Those discussions are continuing between the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office,” it said.

Netanyahu and the Trump White House have been trying to reach an understanding on Israeli settlement activity since last month’s meeting between the Israeli leader and the US president, who in a joint press conference told Netanyahu that he wanted him to “hold back” on the settlements.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Netanyahu has been trying to get the White House’s approval for the construction of a new settlement — the first in some 25 years — to replace the illegal outpost of Amona, which was evacuated and demolished last month.

Last month, he indicated to members of his security cabinet that the government may have to back off the pledge, drawing vociferous protests from the settlers and their allies in the coalition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

The Israeli prime minister has also been actively trying to avoid friction on other fronts related to settlements, pushing to postpone a Knesset committee vote next week on a bill that calls to annex the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

On Thursday, Greenblatt sat down for an unprecedented session with a delegation from the settler umbrella group the Yesha Council, led by Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi and Shomron Regional Council head Yossi Dagan — a meeting that according to Channel 2 was coordinated with Netanyahu.

Ahead of Greenblatt’s trip to Israel, Dagan told Likud ministers that a Netanyahu agreement to rein in settlement construction, or to a partial freeze of settlements, would lead to political crisis, Channel 2 reported, adding that the settler movement has argued that the freeze imposed by the administration of former president Barack Obama constituted “a breach of their human rights.”

A statement from the Yesha Council following the meeting with Greenblatt described it as “fruitful and positive,” and added that the council “looks forward to continuing this important dialogue.”

Channel 10 reported that officials who have met with Greenblatt over the past several days came away with a sense that the administration is determined to make progress on a regional peace accord, with talk of convening a possible regional conference in the coming months, and that White House efforts to get Israel to rein in settlements would come into play then.

Netanyahu said earlier Thursday that Israel was “in the middle of a process of dialogue with the White House and it is our intention to get to an agreed-upon policy on construction in the settlements.”

He noted that it was preferable to reach such understandings quickly rather than engaging in drawn-out negotiations.

Many on the Israeli right had anticipated that Trump would be more supportive of the settlement enterprise than his predecessor Barack Obama. However, last month, at a joint White House press conference with Netanyahu, Trump asked the prime minister to “hold back on settlements a little bit.” He also said in a newspaper interview that Israeli settlements “don’t help” in negotiating a peace agreement.