Jerusalem Post: A Bulgarian Love Affair with Israel

Bulgaria: Jerusalem Post: A Bulgarian Love Affair with Israel Bulgarian President (2012-2017) Rosen Plevneliev. File photo, BGNES

A politician who “wans to look to the future… has to come to Israel, not once, but many times,” Bulgarian President (2012-2017) Rosen Plevneliev has told the Jerusalem Post.

In an interview with the paper, which publishes a story about his live for Israel, he says:

Israel is a very special country in my heart. We feel very strongly attached to Israel. We share the same destiny.”

The Jerusalem Post recalls Plevneliev was given the Friends of Zion Award in Jerusalem this week.

The Jerusalem Post, whose story is available here, wrongly states Plevenliev left office “after losing reelection to Rumen Radev.”

Last spring, the previous head of state made an address in which he made clear he was not running for a second term.

Plevneliev is among the handful of world leaders who have received the award, including Pope Francis, George W Bush, and Prince Albert of Monaco.

The ceremony was aired on a billboard at New York’s Times Square.

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UN Reveals Israel’s Support for ISIS


I think that there are two prominent phenomena which will soon make people aware of the fundamental importance and extent of the Jewish question in the present world.

The first phenomenon is the existence of Israel, a prime signal of Jewish ethnocentrism’s inevitable double standard when compared to the ethnically and culturally pluralist attitudes of Diaspora Jews in the West.

The second phenomenon is the exposure of how easy it is for Jews to ally themselves with (or taking the side of) Muslims, if it suits their interest either in their war against the White gentiles — their perceived main Western enemies — or in other ways.

Among major examples of this tendency are European Jewry’s “heightened empathy and sympathy for Islam” and invention of the myth of Islamic tolerance; and the Jewish collaboration with Muslims during the invasion of Christian Spain.

Both phenomena are on display in the Middle East’s current events.

I’m referring to the recent UN documents revealing Israel’s support for ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria.

The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja’afari, has long complained of a conspiracy of Zionists and Syrian rebels to overthrow the country’s President Bashar Assad. Mr. Ja’afari has declared that the extremists have an “undeclared alliance with Israel and are engaged in a secret agreement” with its regime.

Now, a United Nations report seems to vindicate his claims. It reveals that Israel has been doing more than simply treating wounded Syrian civilians in hospitals, and details direct regular contacts between Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers and armed Syrian opposition fighters, working closely together in the Golan Heights since the spring of 2013.

Thanks to the American intervention which got rid of Saddam Hussein — and ultimately to the US Jewish neoconservative movement and Israel lobby that instigated it ideologically and politically, Iraq, once the strongest supporter of Palestinians (yes, contrary to popular Zionist assertions, they do exist), is weak and divided.

So it’s time to turn to another stable player in the region and potential enemy of Israel: Syria. The protracted civil war on the Syrian government is depleting the country’s army and devastating its infrastructure; rebuilding them will preoccupy Syria for a long time and defuse any military threat from it to Israel. Covertly, Israel is a crucial key player in prolonging this war and is the major beneficiary of maintaining what the Israeli pundit Amos Harel called the “stable instability” in Syria and the region.

But several recent developments have exposed Israel’s no longer discreet role, among which is the UN documentation.

The new report was the work of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) — UN observers in the Golan Heights — and was submitted to the 15 members of the UN Security Council at the beginning of December 2014.

The UNDOF 1,200-strong observer forces — contributed by six countries — have been monitoring since 1974 a buffer zone between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights, stretching about 70 kilometers from Lebanon in the north to Jordan in the south.

Reports by the UNDOF are regularly submitted to the UN Security Council, and since March 2013 have started to show that Israel admits wounded Syrians into the country for medical treatment in hospitals.

Initially the IDF claimed that this was only for medical assistance for civilians, but then UN observers witnessed direct contact between IDF forces and ISIS fighters.

The UN reports said that 89 rebels were transported into the Israeli-occupied zone between March and May 2014, while activists in southern Deraa province and in Quneitra quoted in media reports claim that communications increased between rebels and the Israeli military before the eruption of heavy clashes in the area.

Israel’s health ministry says about 1,000 Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals.

In answer to a question by i24News on whether Israel hospitalises members of al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaeda terror group in Syria) and Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, or ISIS), an Israeli military spokesman’s office admitted: “In the past two years the Israel Defense Forces have been engaged in humanitarian, life-saving aid to wounded Syrians, irrespective of their identity.”

Syria maintains that it has “information indicating that there were undercover agents among the wounded Syrians recently treated by Israel”:

She further claimed that Israeli officers are operating in Syria and monitoring the fighting in the war-torn country…

Assad himself told an Argentinean newspaper a few months ago that Israel is assisting the rebels fighting to topple his regime.

“Israel is directly supporting the terrorist groups in two ways,” he claimed. “Firstly it gives them logistical support, and it also tells them what sites to attack and how to attack them.”

UN observations have been cut short, in part due to attacks on UN monitors by the very terrorists Israel is suspected of associating with — attacks that managed to prevent any further documentation.

Israel’s ties to militants have long been documented. In November 2014 members of Israel’s Druze minority published a statement accusing the Israeli government of supporting all factions fighting against the Syrian government, including al-Nusra — the militant group loyal to al-Qaeda — and the Islamic State, not only by offering them medical care but also by supplying them with weapons. The Druze group had issued similar warnings in the past.

Whenever Israel strikes at Syria, it strikes at the only viable nation fighting ISIS in the region.

The main — if not only — force providing a defence for regional minorities, including Christians, Jews, Druzes and Muslims of all sects, is the Syrian Arab Army. Attacking it undermines its ability to curb what can otherwise become uncontrolled genocide carried out by extremists.

The UN and other reports have described transfer of crates of unspecified supplies from the IDF to militant rebels, sightings of IDF soldiers meeting with Syrian insurgents, and cases of Israeli soldiers opening up the fence to allow Syrians through who didn’t appear to be injured.

Witnesses on a late December’s RT TV documentary said they had seen Israeli forces in talks with armed, militant anti-Assad fighters.

Foreign Policy wrote:

Ehud Yaari, an Israeli fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy [WINEP] and an expert on the Golan Heights, said that Israel is supplying Syrian villages with medicines, heaters, and other humanitarian supplies. The assistance, he said, has benefited civilians and insurgents.

Given that Yaari is Israeli and given that WINEP is a pillar of the Israel Lobby, Israeli assistance may in fact go well beyond humanitarian aid.

This is part of a continuing process. In early December 2014 Syrian officials demanded the UN impose sanctions on Israel after Tel Aviv conducted airstrikes in the areas of Dimas, known to contain military bases and research centres, and Damascus International Airport, damaging some facilities. This was the seventh major unprovoked air strike by Israel on Syrian defences since 2011 and the fifth in the previous 18 months.

The Syrians said the attack was a heinous crime against their sovereignty by a country that doesn’t hide its policy of supporting terrorism.

Israel claimed that it was a “defensive measure,” as Syria was “hiding sophisticated weaponry destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon”.

It is odd, however, that Israel attacks what it labels “regional threats” in Damascus while providing sanctuaries for terrorist groups like al-Nusra and ISIS by allowing them to maintain tanks and artillery along its borders.

That Israel’s aid to terrorist insurgents in Syria is not limited to medical assistance was also evident from what The Times of Israel reported in August 2014:

A Free Syrian Army commander, arrested last month by the Islamist militia Al-Nusra Front, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support, in a video released this week …

“The [opposition] factions would receive support and send the injured in [to Israel] on condition that the Israeli fence area is secured. No person was allowed to come near the fence without prior coordination with Israel authorities,” Safouri said in the video. …

Following the meetings, Israel began providing Safouri and his men with “basic medical support and clothes” as well as weapons, which included 30 Russian [rifles], 10 RPG launchers with 47 rockets, and 48,000 5.56 millimeter bullets.

In March 2014, Haaretz reported:

The Syrian opposition is willing to give up claims to the Golan Heights in return for cash and Israeli military aid against President Bashar Assad, a top opposition official told Al Arab newspaper, according to a report in Al Alam…

The Western-backed militant groups want Israel to enforce a no-fly zone over parts of southern Syria to protect rebel bases from air strikes by Assad’s forces, according to the report.

On 20 January 2015, Foreign Affairs interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who accused the IDF of conspiring with al-Qaeda. Asked what he thought Israel’s agenda is, he replied:

“They are supporting the rebels in Syria. It’s very clear. Because whenever we make advances in some place, they make an attack in order to undermine the army. It’s very clear. That’s why some in Syria joke: “How can you say that al Qaeda doesn’t have an air force? They have the Israeli air force [a reference to its attacks on regime and Hezbollah positions in Syria].”…

“The question that we have is, how much will does the United States have to really fight terrorism on the ground? So far, we haven’t seen anything concrete in spite of the attacks on ISIS in northern Syria. There’s nothing concrete. What we’ve seen so far is just, let’s say, window-dressing, nothing real. Since the beginning of these attacks, ISIS has gained more land in Syria and Iraq.”…

So are you saying you want greater U.S. involvement in the war against ISIS?

“It’s not about greater involvement by the military, because it’s not only about the military; it’s about politics. It’s about how much the United States wants to influence the Turks. Because if the terrorists can withstand the air strikes for this period, it means that the Turks keep sending them armaments and money. Did the United States put any pressure on Turkey to stop the support of al Qaeda? They didn’t; they haven’t.”…

So are you suggesting there should be U.S. troops on the ground?

“Not U.S. troops. I’m talking about the principle, the military principle. I’m not saying American troops. If you want to say I want to make war on terrorism, you have to have troops on the ground. The question you have to ask the Americans is, which troops are you going to depend on? Definitely, it has to be Syrian troops. This is our land; this is our country. We are responsible. We don’t ask for American troops at all.”…

The US has backed the Syrian insurgents since early in the civil war, and is planning to train over 5,000 “vetted” rebels. During the same interview Assad argued that such US plans are “illusory” as these rebels would eventually defect to the jihadists: “They are going to be fought like any other illegal militia fighting against the Syrian army.”

There are no “moderate rebels” in Syria. Even the groups and leaders considered moderate by the West openly admit that they are working closely with the extremists and the most radical, who always end up having control over the anti-Assad opposition. Terrorist al-Nusra and the “moderate” Free Syrian Army have collaborated in the battlefield against the Assad regime. In short, Israel is supporting ISIS and terrorists.

And, even if the fantasy of moderate rebels were reality, helping these people would mean distracting and using up Assad’s resources for the battle against them, thus weakening the only viable force fighting ISIS in the region.

As the Syrian government has been saying since 2011, Syria is engaged in a war not against its own people or “pro-democracy” forces, but against extremists and terrorists.

Last January’s Foreign Affairs interview with Assad quoted above has an interesting ending:

If you were able to deliver a message to President Obama today, what would it be?

“I think the normal thing that you ask any official in the world is to work for the interests of his people. And the question I would ask any American is, what do you get from supporting terrorists in our country, in our region? What did you get from supporting the Muslim Brotherhood a few years ago in Egypt and other countries? What did you get from supporting someone like Erdogan?”

These policies are not in the interests of the US but seemingly for Israel: supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, like invading Iraq, has served to destabilise the consolidated powers in the region. Assad continued:

“You [Americans] are the greatest power in the world now; you have too many things to disseminate around the world: knowledge, innovation, IT, with its positive repercussions. How can you be the best in these fields yet the worst in the political field? This is a contradiction. That is what I think the American people should analyze and question. Why do you fail in every war? You can create war, you can create problems, but you cannot solve any problem. Twenty years of the peace process in Palestine and Israel, and you cannot do anything with this, in spite of the fact that you are a great country.” [Emphasis added]

All this seems nonsensical and contradictory if you indeed start from the premise that US foreign and domestic policies are meant to benefit the US. But it immediately becomes rational if you see that American elites are at war with their own people and don’t act with their best interest at heart.

But in the context of Syria, what would a better policy look like?

One that preserves stability in the Middle East. Syria is the heart of the Middle East. Everybody knows that. If the Middle East is sick, the whole world will be unstable. In 1991, when we started the peace process, we had a lot of hope. Now, after more than 20 years, things are not at square one; they’re much below that square. So the policy should be to help peace in the region, to fight terrorism, to promote secularism, to support this area economically, to help upgrade the mind and society, like you did in your country. That is the supposed mission of the United States, not to launch wars. Launching war doesn’t make you a great power.”

Assad’s suggested strategy is reasonable but is the opposite of what America is pursuing, because stability in the Middle East, by making Israel’s enemies stronger, is not in the interest of the Jewish state.

Which, while publicly condemning them, doesn’t hesitate to side with and help the terrorist groups capable of committing the worst atrocities, including beheading children, using women as sex slaves, and setting men on fire.

Enza Ferreri is an Italian-born, London-based Philosophy graduate, writer and journalist. She has been a London correspondent for several Italian magazines and newspapers, including Panorama, L’Espresso, La Repubblica.

She blogs at

Israel backtracks on barring Human Rights Watch staffer

(JTA) — Israel said an American employee of Human Rights Watch may enter the country on a tourist visa and should reapply for a work visa, days after barring his entry for alleged anti-Israel bias.

“This is to clarify that the HRW representative may enter Israel with a tourist visa,” Itai Bar-Dov, the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington, told JTA. “With regard to the working visa, this may be reconsidered if the organization appeals the Ministry of Interior decision.”

Earlier Friday, The Guardian had reported that Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised against granting a visa to Omar Shakir, the new Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, a leading nongovernmental organization in its field. Shakir is a U.S. citizen.

In a Jan. 20 letter rejecting Shakir’s visa application that the human rights watchdog shared with JTA, Israel accused the New York-based NGO of “public activities and reports [and being] engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights.’’’

Human Rights Watch, which had called the rejection “ominous” for Israel’s democracy, welcomed the statements from Israeli officials saying they would reconsider it.

“I am encouraged by the new and more reconciliatory tone,” Sari Bashi, HRW’s Israel-Palestine advocacy director, told JTA in an email.

“Despite differences of opinion regarding our well-researched findings, we have always had appropriate and professional relationships with the Israeli authorities, including and especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with whom we meet and correspond regularly,” Bashi said. “Just last year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached us to request our intervention in an issue involving Israeli victims of rights abuses, which by the way we agreed to do.”

At least two U.S. Jewish groups objected to the refusal of entry.

“Israel now finds itself in very poor company: Only a government with something to hide would work this hard to keep out human rights workers,” Daniel Sokatch, the CEO of the New Israel Fund, a group that raises funds for Israeli civil society groups – including a number that have also been singled out for attack by Israeli government figures – said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Israeli authorities apologized for detaining for questioning at the airport the New Israel Fund vice president, Jennifer Gorovitz.

Also criticizing the barring of Shakir was T’ruah, a rabbinical human rights group.

“Human rights and civil society groups play a prophetic role, even if their words may not be ones governments want to hear,” the group said in a statement. “The Israeli government should welcome Human Rights Watch and other such groups as voices that will ultimately push us toward justice and life.”

Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Chuck Norris (White Freemason, Zionist), says Israel ‘indestructible now’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Chuck Norris in Jerusalem on Wednesday, thanking the martial artist for his long-lasting support and cracking a few jokes about his famed toughness. (Instagram/@b.netanyahu)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Chuck Norris in Jerusalem on Wednesday, thanking the martial artist for his long-lasting support and cracking a few jokes about his famed toughness. (Instagram/@b.netanyahu) more >

“I think we can tell our security people to leave,” he joked. “We don’t need them anymore.”

Mr. Norris said he and his wife had been “looking forward” to their meeting.

“Believe me, you’ll always have my support,” the actor told Mr. Netanyahu.



WASHINGTON — Mike Pence addressed an annual gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas on Friday night, recapping an active two weeks for the vice president in the Jewish world.

On the heels of trips to Dachau, a former concentration camp run by the Nazis in Germany, and to a Jewish cemetery in Missouri that was desecrated last weekend, Pence underscored his personal commitment to the community and the Trump administration’s broader pledge to the safety and security of the Jewish diaspora.


Pence said the administration was “solemnly” sworn to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and warned Iran that its “terrorist minions in places like Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip” would no longer enjoy what he characterized as leniency under the former Obama administration, suggesting that new non-nuclear sanctions against the Islamic Republic may be coming down the pipeline.

The White House is still “assessing” whether to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he added, after both he and the president campaigned on a promise to facilitate the relocation with haste.

Offering few details of their plans, Pence characterized US President Donald Trump as personally committed to brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Under President Trump, let me assure you, America will support the negotiation process,” Pence said. “As the president said, any agreement must be reached by both sides. And where there will undoubtedly have to be compromises know this: The Trump administration will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish State of Israel.”

Pence thanked RJC for its courage in “endorsing” Trump’s candidacy in May, but the group’s support from that time was far less enthusiastic than a full-throated endorsement: Its leadership offered mere congratulations to Trump when he became the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, and proceeded to run exclusively negative material on his rival, Hillary Clinton, without ever actually mentioning Trump’s name or attributes.

Pence’s predecessor, Dick Cheney, introduced him at Friday’s event. The vice president has addressed the group before, and has a relationship with the organization’s chief benefactor, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who he met with while in Las Vegas. Pence said they discussed the Trump administration’s plans for a Middle East peace process.

Adelson was also reticent to support Trump, and struggled over whether to fund the brash nominee until the very end of the race. One week before Election Day, the billionaire flushed Trump’s operation with at least $25 million.

Pence to Republican Jews: World will know US supports Israel

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence assured the Republican Jewish Coalition that he and President Donald Trump will work tirelessly on foreign and domestic issues important to the group, such as enacting business-friendly policies at home and supporting Israel abroad.

“If the world knows nothing else, the world will know this: America stands with Israel,” Pence told the group Friday night. The Republican administration is “assessing” whether to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, he said, and has put Iran “on notice.”

Pence’s words served as evidence of the fruits of years of the politically active group’s labors. Its annual conference at billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson’s casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip has become a de facto campaign stop for Republican presidential candidates over the past few years. The RJC also drew the entire GOP presidential field to its December 2015 forum in Washington.

Now, with the first Republican White House in eight years, the group of Republican donors and Jewish leaders was among the first to hear from the new vice president. Former Vice President Dick Cheney introduced Pence. The roughly 500 attendees also are expected to hear from Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina this weekend.

Pence told the RJC that America’s bonds with Israel had already grown stronger under the young administration. President Barack Obama did not have a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and many Republican Jews saw the Obama administration as insufficiently supportive of Israel.

Pence also ticked through Trump’s domestic agenda, saying the president had already brought back American jobs. “This White House is in the promise-keeping business,” he said.

The vice president shared stories from his trip to Germany last weekend — his first abroad as vice president. He’d paid a visit to the former Dachau concentration camp, where thousands of Austrian and German Jews were among those imprisoned and killed. He was joined on the tour by a survivor of the Holocaust who was at Dachau when it was liberated by American soldiers at the end of World War II.

Pence also talked about how this week he had made a surprise visit to a Jewish cemetery in Missouri where more than 150 gravestones had been toppled and vandalized. Speaking through a bullhorn at the site, he said there was “no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism” and then picked up a rake and helped clean up the cemetery.

In Las Vegas, the vice president effusively praised the Adelsons from the stage, saying that they “in so many ways have given America a second chance” through their political work in the US and Israel. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave more than $20 million to a pro-Trump super PAC, making them among Trump’s most generous benefactors, campaign records show.

“Rest assured we’re going to keep our end of the bargain, too,” Pence said, thanking the Adelsons and RJC for “steadfast support” throughout the campaign.

Yet, like so many staples of party politics — including the conservative activist conference taking place this week near Washington — the RJC has fit uneasily with Trump.

Adelson, who helps finance the RJC, didn’t openly support Trump until the final weeks of the presidential campaign. The wariness was mutual. Trump had called his GOP rivals “puppets” of Adelson and prompted major heartburn among Republican Jews with his freewheeling comments at the 2015 RJC forum.

Trump has been appreciative. At one of his final campaign stops, in Las Vegas, he called the couple “really incredible people” who have been “so supportive” The Adelsons also were front and center for Trump’s swearing-in last month, and Sheldon Adelson was one of Trump’s first dinner guests at the White House.

And Trump picked the leader of the super PAC that landed Adelson’s money, Chicago businessman Todd Ricketts, as deputy commerce secretary.

Australia reaffirms ties to Israel as Netanyahu wraps up historic visit

(JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his Australian counterpart reaffirmed the strong relationship between their two countries as the former completed his landmark visit to the island nation.

The statement issued Thursday by Netanyahu and Malcolm Turnbull also said that “Australia re-affirmed its commitment to Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people, in peace within secure borders, and its steadfast opposition to attempts to undermine Israel’s legitimacy. Israel thanked Australia for its consistent support in this regard. Both countries re-stated their support for a directly negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Australia affirmed its support for a two-state solution.”

Bilateral trade between the two countries stands at $1.1 billion. In 2016, Israel exported to Australia goods and services worth $700 million.

Several bilateral agreements and memorandums of understandings were signed between representatives of the two countries during the three-day visit, the first by an Israeli head of state.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu visited the Sydney Central Synagogue, where he attended an event with hundreds of members of the Jewish community. He also visited the Moriah College Jewish day school in Sydney, where he sat in on a Hebrew class and spoke to the students. Netanyahu called on all of the students to visit Israel.

“If there’s one thing that I could tell you here today: Be proud Jews. Stand up. Be proud. Stand with Israel. Stand with our people. Be proud Jews. Do this in Sydney and do it in Jerusalem and come this year to Jerusalem,” he said.

Netanyahu invited Turnbull to visit Israel “at his earliest convenience.”

India’s Modi (Towelhead Freemason, Zionist) approves NIS 9.4 billion missile deal with Israel

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved on Wednesday a NIS 9.4 billion ($2.5 billion) purchase of an Israeli-developed anti-aircraft missile system for the Indian Army.

The Indian security cabinet committee on security approved the procurement of 40 units of the Medium Range Surface to Air Defense Missile (MR-SAM) system, known in Israel as the Barak 8, the Mail Today paper reported, citing government sources in New Delhi.

The system is under joint development of Israel Aerospace Industries and the Defence Research and Development Organisation, India’s primary state military research and development agency.

According to the Mail Today report, “the system can shoot down enemy aircraft, drones, surveillance aircraft and AWACS planes at the strike range between 50 km to 70 km in the sky and will help the country in filling gaps in air defense.”

Delivery of the first unit for deployment in the field is expected in 2023.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, during the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris on November 30, 2015. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The report noted that part of the project’s development is taking place in India, including cooperation in developing the homing system.

Additional joint Indian-Israeli missile programs are underway, according to the report, including the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM) system, which will be deployed on Indian Navy warships.

Israel has sought to tighten defense ties with New Delhi in recent years, especially in the fields of air and missile defense.

On Monday, the director of Israel’s Defense Export Controls Agency, a branch of the Defense Ministry, told Knesset lawmakers that Israel planned to relax its regulations on the exports of arms and defense products, amid a reform program for the industry.

In a session with the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the agency’s director outlined key concessions to be offered to defense exporters and emphasized that stiffer penalties would be levied on those who violate the new regulations.

According to a report in business daily Globes, the relaxed regulations include “extending exporters’ exemption from the requirement for marketing licenses for exports of weapons systems to 98 countries around the world, permission for exporting an item for [demonstration purposes] or display at a defense exhibition without obtaining an export license, and an exemption from a marketing license for a product categorized as non-classified (so that it can be marketed through an intermediary party from one of the 98 countries on the list of license-exempt countries)” and an expansion of the agency’s online services for exporters, with the aim of shortening waiting times.

Alongside the concessions, the stronger penalties would include sanctions, fines and restrictions on companies and executives found to have violated the Defense Export Control Law.

In December 2016, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors the arms industry worldwide, released statistics that showed Israel’s major arms manufacturers benefiting from a sales increase of some 10 percent, amid a global slump.

According to the report, Israel was listed as the seventh largest arms seller in the world, with its major manufacturers accounting for 2.1% of global sales. The US came in at number one, then Britain, Russia and France.

Israel’s Elbit Systems was, according to the data cited, the world’s 29th largest arms seller, with $2.95 billion in sales, while Israel Aerospace Industries, with $2.78 billion in sales, was 32nd on the list. Rafael came in at number 43 with sales totaling $1.98 billion. The majority of the sales of all the companies were of weapons and weapons systems.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported this week that worldwide arms trade has risen to its highest level since the Cold War in the last five years, driven by a demand from the Middle East and Asia.

Despite détente with Israel, Turkey to host Hamas confab

Despite the recent thawing of ties between Israel and Turkey, Istanbul is set to play host this weekend to a well-attended conference whose speakers and organizers are either affiliated with Hamas or once held senior posts in the Palestinian terror group.

The Conference for Palestinians Abroad is named for the group organizing the event. It has faced vociferous criticism from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization, who accuse the organizers of undermining the PLO’s position as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Hamas’s military wing is one of the bodies publicizing the event, slated for Saturday and Sunday, which is also hosting among its speakers members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the leaders of the organizing group is Issam Moustafa Youssef, who the US Treasury Department has said was the head of Hamas’s political bureau at least until mid-2008.

Yousef, originally from Nablus in the northern West Bank, is currently a leader in the Interpal group, named a terror group by the US in 2003.

The event’s website presents a map of Israel with arrows pointing at the country and the caption “Our national plan — the path of our return.”

Other speakers include Majed a-Zir, who has been described in Egyptian media as “the regional director of Hamas in Europe.” He is officially a member of the “Palestinian Return Centre” in London, which Israel, at least, considers an illegal group.

Also on the list of speakers are media personalities such as Qatar-based Al-Jazeera anchor Jamal Rayyan and columnist Bashir Nafi, as well as Zaher Birawi, Rowan a-Damen, Ziad Aloul and others.

Hamas has held similar events not just in Turkey, but throughout Africa and Latin America. It uses the Muslim Brotherhood organizational infrastructures in those countries to organize the events, connect to activists, raise funds and engage in public relations worldwide.

Trump’s pick for Israel envoy boasted of removing 2 states from Republican platform

US President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel bragged on the eve of the 2016 election about having removed all mention of the two-state solution from the Republican party’s platform, calling it a distraction and a waste of time, CNN reported Thursday night.

In a video obtained by the news network, David Friedman also claimed to have helped excise any mention of Israel as an occupying power in the West Bank, called Jewish group J Street a “dangerous organization” whose board is “more than half Arab” and said liberal Jews were not friends of Israel.

“We put together a platform that frankly, by a wide margin, is the most pro-Israel of either party in the history of this country,” Friedman said in the video of a private gathering on November 7. “There is no longer a reference to a two-state solution… And most importantly the Republican platform with respect to Judea and Samaria — Israel is not an occupier.”

Friedman elaborated: “Why would I want Israel to be distracted by a two-state narrative that — for whatever you think of it, whatever your hopes might be for some time in the future — is going absolutely nowhere right now.” He added that Palestinian attitudes did not allow the formation of a Palestinian state at this time and “The last thing the Middle East needs right now is another Arab dysfunctional state, which is all that a Palestinian state would be.”

Friedman said that peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians would not happen in this generation. “It’s not worth wasting anyone’s breath on it right now, it’s not gonna happen. It’s not in the interest of Israel and therefore it’s not in the interest of the United States.”

CNN noted that the video of Friedman speaking at the event, which had been available on Facebook and Vimeo, was taken down after it published the story.

On J Street, which Friedman has in the past called “worse than kapos” — the Nazi term for Jewish collaborators in concentration camps — the potential envoy said the group “is a great thorn in our side” and does “tremendous damage because they purport to speak for the Jewish people, and they don’t, and frankly their board is more than half Arab. But they are a dangerous, dangerous organization.

“When you don’t support Israel, when you don’t support traditional Jewish values, when you don’t view the Torah as God-given legacy, no matter how religious you are, if you don’t have those views, you know you don’t really have much in common,” he said.

“The liberal Jewish community has not been a friend, not been a pro-Israel force in this country,” he added. “The danger of that community and the J Street community is that it enables people like [then Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary Clinton to say: ‘What are you talking about. I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m not anti-Israel, I’m supported by two thirds of the American Jewish community.’ And she’s not wrong when she says that. And that’s an issue and we face it everyday and it’s not getting any better.”

Friedman also repeated a false claim that Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Friedman was heckled during a stormy confirmation hearing last Thursday, in which he walked back some of his previous statements and expressed support for a two-state solution. The nominee apologized for his “kapo” statement on J Street, though the Israel director of the group has rejected the apology as insincere.

A protestor, holding a Palestinian flag, interrupts David Friedman, nominated to be US Ambassador to Israel, as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Liberal Jewish groups and past US ambassadors have spoken forcefully against the nomination of Friedman, who has been a vocal supporter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“You do not represent us and you will never represent us,” chanted Jewish activists who disrupted the proceeding. They blew a shofar, a ritual horn, and called him a “war criminal,” before being escorted out by police.

Last week the Reform movement became the largest Jewish body to oppose the nomination of Friedman.

In a statement released last Friday, one day after the launch of Senate hearings to confirm Friedman, Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said Friedman is “the wrong person for this essential job at this critical time.”

The statement said Trump’s longtime bankruptcy lawyer lacks the qualifications for the position, noting he has never been involved in professional foreign policy issues “other than as a zealous partisan and financial supporter of settlement activity.”

Friedman serves as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, which supports a large West Bank settlement.

“Mr. Friedman’s views on key issues suggest he will not be able to play a constructive role,” said the URJ statement, which was signed by the leaders of its main clergy as well as congregational and membership bodies. “The US Ambassador to Israel has the important responsibility of advising, shaping, and helping implement the president’s foreign policy goals. Indeed, it appears that Mr. Friedman’s extreme views on key issues related to the two-state solution, Israel’s borders, settlements, and the location of the US Embassy are already reflected in the White House. Such positions are detrimental to peace and a strong US-Israel relationship.”

Also last week, following the release of a letter from five former US ambassadors to Israel urging the Senate to reject Friedman’s nomination, the Zionist Organization of America released a long statement accusing the former envoys of being “hostile to Israel.”

The five signatories – Thomas Pickering, Daniel Kurtzer, Edward Walker, Jr., James Cunningham and William Harrop – damaged US-Israel relations and exacerbated the situation in the Middle East,” the ZOA said in its statement.

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