in talks

In talks with Putin, Netanyahu to focus on Iran threat

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held consultations with his top security officials on Tuesday, a day before he travels with them to Sochi for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss threats from Iran.

“I will discuss with him Iran’s accelerated attempt to establish a military presence in Syria,” said Netanyahu in a statement.

“This attests, of course, to Iran’s aggression which has not lessened in the wake of the nuclear agreement,” Netanyahu said, adding that “this also presents a problem not only to Israel, but rather to all the nations of the Middle East and the entire world.”

The prime minister will be joined on the trip to the Black Sea resort city by Mossad chief Yoram Cohen and newly appointed National Security Council chief Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Head of Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at the launch event for Libertad foundation. June 27, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The pair will sit in on the meetings with the Russian leader, during which Netanyahu is expected to raise concerns over a ceasefire in Syria brokered by Washington and Moscow. Israel has opposed the deal, saying it does not properly address Israel’s concerns about Iranian ambitions in the region.

The Israeli delegation will also try to secure assurances that after a ceasefire brings the fighting in Syria to an end, Iranian forces will be pulled out of the country and its territory, a Ynet report said.

Iran is said to be trying to forge a land corridor from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon, where its ally Hezbollah operates.

Netanyahu last met with Putin in Moscow in March, but they have spoken by phone frequently since then.

“The two set the meeting to discuss the latest developments in the region,” a Saturday statement from the PMO said, adding that “it must be noted that in the last two years Prime Minister Netanyahu has met with President Putin every few months to discuss bilateral and regional issues with the intention of preventing any clashes between Israeli and Russian air forces in Syria, with success until now.”

Meir Ben-Shabbat, who was named National Security Adviser on August 13, 2017. (Courtesy)

Russia entered the Syrian civil war in 2015 in support of the regime of President Bashar Assad, carrying out bombing runs against rebel groups fighting against Damascus.

While Israel has rarely acknowledged carrying out its own airstrikes in Syria, numerous raids on weapons transfers have been attributed to Jerusalem.

Despite the coordination between the two countries, some of the reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria on weapons convoys have led to tensions between Jerusalem and Moscow.

In April, Moscow summoned Israel’s ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, to protest a reported Israeli strike that nearly hit Russian troops stationed in the area. 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.

Netanyahu subsequently denied reports Moscow had told Israel to end airstrikes in Syria, vowing that the IDF would continue attacking weapons convoys.


Israel said to be in talks with Egypt, EU in bid to head off Gaza electricity crisis


Israel is reportedly in talks with Egypt and the European Union to head of an impending humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip amid an escalating crisis over electricity supply to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, according to a report on Wednesday.

Sources in Israel told the Israeli daily Haaretz on Wednesday that discussions were underway with Cairo and with European countries on ways to solve the power supply to the Strip, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to distance Israel from the situation by saying the matter was an internal Palestinian dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu’s comments came a day after the Israeli security cabinet decided Sunday night it would cut the amount of power it supplies to Gaza, at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who is seeking to ramp up pressure on Hamas, the ruling party in the Strip and his Fatah party’s bitter rival.

Egypt, meanwhile, which has tense relations with Hamas, has offered the terror group more freedom at its border and much-needed electricity, in exchange for it agreeing to a list of security demands, Arab media reported Tuesday.

The list of includes a demand that Hamas hand over 17 men wanted by Cairo on terrorism charges, more protection by Hamas at the border, the cessation of weapons smuggling into the Sinai, and information on the movement of militants into Gaza via underground tunnels, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported.

A picture taken on June 13, 2017, shows Palestinian children at home reading books by candle light due to electricity shortages in Gaza City. (AFP/ THOMAS COEX)

Gazans currently receive only three or four hours of electricity a day, 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 megawatts 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, Israeli 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.

“The issue of electricity in Gaza is a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony to launch a major housing construction drive in the central Israeli town of Be’er Yaakov. “Hamas is demanding that the PA pay for the electricity, and the Palestinian Authority is refusing to pay. It is an internal Palestinian dispute.”

“In any case, I want to make it clear that Israel has no interest in an escalation [with Hamas] and any other speculation is wrong. But we have an interest in security, and our policy is clear on the subject of security and it won’t change,” he said.

The power cuts, as well as a number of other steps taken by the PA since last month, are aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the Strip, or begin footing the bill itself.

Both Israel and the PA charge that Hamas would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if it didn’t expend a large part of its resources on armament and preparation for future conflict with the Jewish state.

Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 after a violent conflict with the Fatah party. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

The enclave’s only power plant stopped running in April, after Hamas ran out of fuel and refused to purchase more from the Palestinian Authority over what it said were high taxes.

Egypt also provided a small amount of power to Gaza, but those power lines have been malfunctioning.

According to Major General Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, the Defense Ministry unit that administers civilian manners in the Palestinian territories, Israel currently supplies Gaza with 125 megawatts monthly — around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.

After the new decision is implemented, Israel will supply Gaza with only 75 megawatts a month.

Kushner family (Kikes) in talks to buy Miami Marlins

(JTA) — The family of presidential adviser Jared Kushner is in talks to purchase the Miami Marlins baseball team, The New York Times reported.

The Kushners, a New York area real estate family, regard the team’s $1.6 billion price tag as too high, the Times reported Thursday.

The negotiations, which have been ongoing for several months, are being led by Joshua Kushner, a venture capitalist and Jared’s younger brother, and Joseph Meyer, his brother-in-law and key lieutenant for the family’s investments.

The talks include a complicated financial arrangement that would include bringing in partners later, unnamed sources told the Times.

Jared Kushner is a senior adviser to President Donald Trump and the husband of his eldest daughter, Ivanka. The couple married in 2009 following her conversion to Judaism.

Neither Jared Kushner nor his father, Charles, the family patriarch who spent over a year in prison for illegal campaign donations, tax evasion and witness tampering, is participating in the effort, the sources added.

Any deal would have to be approved by Major League Baseball, which would closely scrutinize the buyer’s financing and probably seek to ensure that Charles Kushner had no role in operations, according to the Times report.

Jared Kushner, who has pledged to refrain from any involvement in transactions tied to his family to avoid the possibility of conflict of interests, had previously bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers with his brother. They eventually withdrew from the bidding in 2012. The winning group paid over $2 billion.

Representatives for the Kushners, the Marlins and the LionTree investment bank declined to comment when approached by the Times.

The Marlins are currently owned by Jeffrey Loria, a Jewish businessman from New York. He paid $158 million for the team in 2002 after selling the Montreal Expos back to Major League Baseball.

The Marlins won the World Series in 2003, defeating the New York Yankees, but since then have not returned to the playoffs.

Sanders said in talks with Clinton over endorsement

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns are discussing a potential event next week in New Hampshire during which the Vermont senator would endorse Clinton’s White House bid.

A Democrat familiar with the plans said Wednesday if the two sides continue to make progress, Clinton and Sanders would appear at the joint event Tuesday in New Hampshire. The Democrat spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the plans.

Clinton and Sanders officials declined comment on the possible rally, which was first reported by NBC News.

Sanders has withheld his endorsement of Clinton since the effective end of the Democratic primaries in mid-June, pressing for policy commitments from the campaign and party leaders developing the platform that will be considered at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. But he has shown signs of coming around.

The senator praised Clinton’s announcement of a proposal earlier Wednesday to tackle the rising cost of college tuition and the burden of student loan debt, calling it a “very bold initiative.” In a positive sign for Democratic unity, Sanders said he hoped to find more areas of agreement with Clinton “sooner rather than later.”

Sanders trounced Clinton in the New Hampshire primary, and holding the event in the Granite State would put the two rivals in a fall battleground state where Clinton will compete against Republican Donald Trump. It would also draw comparisons to 2008, when then-Sen. Barack Obama joined Clinton for an endorsement event in Unity, New Hampshire, a symbol-rich town where Obama and Clinton split the vote in the primary.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives to speak on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Wednesday, July 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Sanders was wildly popular with young voters during the Democratic primaries, with many drawn to his calls for free tuition at all public colleges and universities. Clinton cast her opponent’s proposals as unrealistic, saying that while she shared his concerns about rising debt, she didn’t want wealthier families to be able to take advantage of opportunities aimed at the middle and lower classes.

The new policy proposal from Clinton would place a three-month moratorium on loan payments for all federal borrowers. It would also ensure that families with annual incomes up to $125,000 pay no tuition at in-state public colleges and universities.

Sanders said the plan combined “some of the strongest ideas which she fought for during the campaign with some of the principles I fought for. The final product is the result of the work of both campaigns.”

EU, Israel said in talks to restore ties hurt by labeling

European Union officials were said Wednesday to be in talks with their Israeli counterparts in an effort to end a diplomatic row over the EU’s new labeling guidelines for West Bank and Golan Heights products.

The EU announced last November it was instructing member states to begin labeling products manufactured by Israeli-owned companies in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as made in those areas rather than “made in Israel.” At the same time, EU foreign ministers voted to required any future agreements signed between the EU and Israel to stipulate that they do not apply to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights.

The decisions, especially over labeling, infuriated Israeli leaders, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charging that the moves gave the Palestinians an incentive to continue their campaign of international appeals instead of engaging in direct peace talks with Israel. In November, Netanyahu ordered that Israeli government agencies exclude the EU, a member of the peace process Quartet, from any Israeli-Palestinian engagement or negotiations efforts.

According to a report in the Haaretz daily Wednesday, the EU and Israel have launched quiet talks aimed at healing the breach.

While EU officials were quoted as saying the labeling recommendations would not be withdrawn, sources spoke of an unspecified concession the EU could grant Israel in compensation.

The talks may have been first proposed when Netanyahu and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, met at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month.

European External Action Service Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs Helga Schmid at the OSCE's Annual Security Review Conference in Vienna, June 26, 2012 (OSCE/Jonathan Perfect)

The talks were reportedly launched in the last two weeks, including during an unpublicized visit to Israel last week by the EU foreign service’s Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs Helga Schmid, Mogherini’s top policy adviser, who met with Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold and officials from Israel’s National Security Council, among other government agencies.

During the meetings in Jerusalem, Israeli officials told the EU diplomat “that the decisions of the foreign ministers’ council of the European Union and the decision to mark [settlement] products were unilateral, and in practice adopted the Palestinian narrative,” an unnamed senior Israeli official told Haaretz. “That’s not how one conducts a respectful dialogue.”

Another unnamed official was quoted as saying that the EU “is very unhappy that we’ve frozen [all contacts] connected to the peace process. They understand they have to give us something in words and deeds.”

The tension between Israel and the EU has seen the union’s officials, especially European Union Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Fernando Gentilini, all but absent from discussion with the Quartet and other forums. Meanwhile, Israel has begun demolishing EU-built Palestinian housing it says was constructed illegally in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank.

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