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Posts tagged ‘The Zionism Plague’

Jewish group cancels meeting with Netanyahu in protest

June 26, 2017

JERUSALEM (AP) — A high-profile group of Jewish leaders cancelled a gala event with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to protest his government’s decision to scrap plans for a mixed-gender prayer area at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

The stunning move reflects an unprecedented gulf that has erupted between Israel and the Jewish diaspora over how Judaism can be practiced in Israel. Most American Jews belong to its more liberal Reform and Conservative streams and feel alienated by Israel’s ultra-Orthodox authorities that question their faith and practices.

The board of governors of The Jewish Agency, a nonprofit that works closely with the Israeli government to serve Jewish communities worldwide, said it was calling off its dinner with Netanyahu and altering the agenda of its annual meetings to address the crisis.

The government decision has set off a cascade of criticism both in Israel and abroad, where Jewish leaders warned that it could undermine their longstanding political, financial and emotional support for Israel.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky was just one of senior officials who condemned the move, saying it undermines Jewish unity and calling on the government to reverse course. “This gives a very strong message that you (the diaspora) are not important to us,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

Dennis Ross, a former top U.S. peace negotiator and currently chair of The Jewish People Policy Institute, said he was afraid that American Jews would no longer see Israel as a home. “We’re a small people. We are, in a sense, in one house and there shouldn’t be any exclusion and there shouldn’t be those who define for others whether or not they’re Jewish,” Ross told the radio. “It is dangerous if there are steps taken here that would alienate the vast majority of American Jews.”

The dramatic about-face at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting followed the initial approval of the plan in January 2016 to officially recognize the special mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall — the holiest site where Jews can pray. The compromise was reached after three years of intense negotiations between liberal Israeli and American Jewish groups and the Israeli authorities and was seen at the time as a significant breakthrough in promoting religious pluralism in Israel, where ultra-Orthodox authorities govern almost every facet of Jewish life.

But the program was never implemented as powerful ultra-Orthodox members of Netanyahu’s coalition government raised objections to the decision they had initially endorsed. Under ultra-Orthodox management, the wall is currently separated between men’s and women’s prayer sections and those attempting to hold egalitarian services in the area are often heckled and harassed.

Sunday’s nixing of the planned $9 million plaza, coupled with another government decision to promote a bill that would enshrine the ultra-Orthodox monopoly over conversions, sparked the immediate ire of liberal Jews.

Highlighting its sensitivity, the issue was not listed on the Cabinet’s agenda and no official statement on the decision was made. Netanyahu himself notably refrained from addressing it in a speech to young diaspora Jews on a Birthright trip to Israel and has kept mum amid the outpouring of anger, even among some of his closest allies.

Elazar Stern, a modern Orthodox lawmaker from the centrist Yesh Atid party, asked the attorney general on Monday to review what he called a murky decision-making process. “Cancelling the Western Wall agreement causes a severe crisis between Israel and the Jewish diaspora and when such a decision is taken secretly, away from the eyes of the public and without ministers having a chance to prepare for it adequately, a large shadow is cast upon it,” he wrote.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis strictly govern Jewish practices in Israel such as weddings, divorces and burials. The ultra-Orthodox religious establishment sees itself as responsible for maintaining traditions through centuries of persecution and assimilation, and it resists any inroads from liberals it often considers to be second-class Jews who ordain women and gays and are overly inclusive toward converts and interfaith marriages.

The liberal streams have made some progress in recent years, but have encountered a wall of ultra-Orthodox resistance when it comes to official state recognition and breaking the monopoly on religious practices.

“We made a mistake. We believed the government, we believed the prime minister, we believed that we needed at last to end this squabbling among ourselves over the Western Wall, and we agreed to a compromise arrangement,” Yizhar Hess, head of the Conservative movement in Israel wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily. “But the Cabinet’s decision last night — a cynical, even wicked decision — took this historic agreement and threw it in the faces of millions of Jews around the world.”

Columnist Amihai Attali wrote the decision was even more outrageous, given how much Israel relies on the donations of the Jewish diaspora. “The Jews of the diaspora are our reserves,” he wrote in Yediot.

Morocco refuses to attend African summit due to Israel’s presence

June 2, 2017

The Moroccan Foreign Ministry yesterday stated that King Mohammed VI has cancelled his attendance of the 51st Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) because Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also been invited.

In a statement the ministry said King Mohammed VI had planned to visit the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on 3-4 June to attend the 51st ECOWAS Summit, which was expected to examine Morocco’s request to join the regional group as a full member.

The statement added that, “During this Royal visit, a meeting with the President of Liberia, talks with ECOWAS Heads of State and a speech at the Summit were all scheduled.”

However, over the last few days, major ECOWAS member states have decided to reduce their level of representation at the summit, to the bare minimum, due to their disagreement with the invitation handed to the Israeli prime minister. The statement also noted that other member states also expressed their astonishment at this invitation.

The Foreign Ministry’s statement also mentioned that King Mohammed VI “does not want his first appearance at the ECOWAS summit to take place in a context of tension and controversy, and wants to avoid any confusion.”

During the summit, members of ECOWAS will decide on the admittance of Morocco as a full-fledged member of the regional bloc.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170602-morocco-refuses-to-attend-african-summit-due-to-israels-presence/.

Trump to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Vatican, meet with pope

May 04, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday his first foreign trip as president will feature stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican, where he will meet with Pope Francis, an ambitious foray onto the world stage that will include meetings with NATO and a summit in Italy.

Senior administration officials said Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first stop to show his commitment to improving U.S. relations with the Muslim world. Trump will meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and other leaders where they are expected to discuss efforts to defeat terrorism and discredit radical ideologies, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe internal planning.

Trump, joining religious leaders in the Rose Garden on Thursday, said his first foreign trip would “begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders all across the Muslim world.” “Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam and it is there that we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries,” Trump said.

The weeklong trip will mark the president’s first trip abroad and come about six weeks after the U.S. launched Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian air base in the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack in the war-ravaged country.

The trip will inject Trump into the thorny quest for Middle East peace, a prospect that has proven elusive for Trump’s predecessors. The announcement follows Trump’s meeting on Wednesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his optimistic pledge to mediate peace efforts between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Trump has sought to forge strong ties with Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of his presidency in hopes of facilitating peace. The visit to Israel will reinforce that alliance, officials said.

“Our task is not to dictate to others how to live but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East,” Trump said.

The Palestinians want to create a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Abbas noted that demand when he joined Trump at the White House.

But Netanyahu has rejected the 1967 frontier as a baseline for border talks and ruled out partitioning Jerusalem where Palestinians hope to establish a capital. Netanyahu’s government has expanded settlements despite U.S. efforts to curb the construction.

The White House had said previously that Trump would travel to Belgium for the NATO meeting and Italy for the G7 summit before Memorial Day. The president previously called NATO “obsolete” but has since recanted after listening to European leaders make the case for the military alliance.

Trump will be making his first overseas trip late into the start of his presidency compared to his predecessors. Former President Barack Obama visited nine countries by late April 2009, his first three months in office, meeting with allies such as Canada, Britain and Germany. The last first-term president to wait until May to venture abroad was Jimmy Carter in 1977.

His visit will also give him the opportunity to connect with Roman Catholics with his visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The White House said the president met privately Thursday with Roman Catholic cardinals.

Trump and Francis couldn’t be more different in their approaches to some of the pressing issues of the day, with immigration and climate change topping the list. Francis has spoken of the need for bridges between nations, not the walls that Trump has called for. He has called for an end to the use of fossil fuels, while Trump has pledged to cancel payments to U.N. climate change programs and pull out of the Paris climate accord.

But both share a populist appeal and speak with a down-to-earth simplicity that has endeared them to their bases of supporters. And both share a common concern about the plight of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic militants.

Francis recently called for the U.S. and North Korea to step away from the brink and use negotiations and diplomacy to diffuse tensions on the Korean peninsula — an issue that is likely to feature in any Vatican audience.

During the campaign, when asked about Trump’s border wall with Mexico, Francis famously said anyone who wants to build a wall is “not Christian.” Trump shot back that it was “disgraceful” for a religious leader to question someone’s faith.

Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Vatican City contributed to this report.

Israeli defense officials: Assad still has chemical weapons

April 19, 2017

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli defense officials said on Wednesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad still has up to three tons of chemical weapons. The assessment, based on Israeli intelligence, was revealed to reporters two weeks after a chemical attack in Syria killed at least 90 people. Israel, along with much of the international community, believes that Assad’s forces carried out the attack.

A senior military official told reporters that the Israeli intelligence estimates that Assad has “between one and three tons” of chemical weapons. The assessment was confirmed by two other defense officials. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity under military briefing rules.

Assad has denied the allegations that he was behind the April 4 attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhun in Syria’s southern Idlib province. The United States and many other nations have called the attack a chemical weapons attack and accused the Syrian government of responsibility. In response, the United States fired nearly 60 missiles at a Syrian air base it suspected of being the launching pad for the attack. Israel, which welcomed the U.S. strike, was notified two hours ahead of time, the military official said.

The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population. Assad agreed in 2013 to declare and dispose of all his chemical weapons under U.N. supervision, but his forces have repeatedly been accused of using them since then.

The disarmament, which was carried out amid a chaotic conflict, has always been the subject of some doubt, and there is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.

A fact-finding mission from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international watchdog, is investigating the incident and is expected to issue a report within two weeks. Turkish and British tests also have concluded that sarin or a substance similar to the deadly nerve agent was used in the Idlib attack.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert U.S. strikes in September 2013, following a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs in August that year that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.

Ahead of disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas. The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. The chemical weapons were shipped outside Syria and destroyed abroad, with the most toxic material disposed of at sea aboard a U.S. ship. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed.

Earlier this week, Assad’s former chemical weapons research chief told Britain’s The Telegraph that Syria had “at least 2,000 tons” of chemical weapons before the war and only declared 1,300. Former Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Sakat said the Syrian government still possessed hundreds of tons of chemical weapons.

Israel has largely stayed out of the civil war raging in its northern neighbor. But it has carried out a number air strikes against suspected arms shipments bound for Assad’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, and in retaliation to errant fire into the Golan Heights.

New Lebanese army chief warns against ‘Israeli schemes’

March 10, 2017

Joseph Aoun, Lebanon’s newly-appointed military chief, said Friday that the Lebanese army must remain on guard against “Israeli ambitions and schemes” in the region.

Addressing army officers in Beirut, Aoun cited perceived threats to Southern Lebanon.

“I have full confidence that you will… be prepared to protect our southern border from the Israeli enemy’s sabotage,” he asserted.

Aoun also stressed Lebanon’s readiness to cooperate with the international community with a view to applying UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which was adopted following Lebanon’s 2006 conflict with Israel.

Resolution 1701 called on Israel to withdraw its forces from Southern Lebanon to allow the deployment of UN peacekeepers along the border between the two countries.

Aoun also said that the Lebanese military would continue to work for the release of nine Lebanese soldiers captured by the Daesh terrorist group three years ago.

In mid-2014, Daesh militants captured several Lebanese military personnel following clashes in the Lebanese town of Arsal on the Syrian border.

Aoun was made commander of Lebanon’s armed forces on Wednesday after being promoted to the rank of general.

Replacing General Jean Kahwaji at the post, Aoun is known to be close to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, although the two are not related.

Before assuming the post, Aoun had commanded the Lebanese Army’s 9th Brigade, which is deployed on Lebanon’s border with Syria.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170310-new-lebanese-army-chief-warns-against-israeli-schemes/.

Israel concerned by growing instability in Jordan

March 9, 2017

Israeli politicians and security officials are concerned by growing instability Jordan; Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said.

The paper reported yesterday: “This pessimistic outlook came in the wake of a report presented by Israel’s Ambassador in Amman Einat Schlein during a meeting with the Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot several months ago.”

Eizenkot held a closed door meeting with foreign diplomats in Tel Aviv in which he was disturbed by the ambassador’s assessment, the paper explained, adding that Israel should be ready to support King Abdullah II should things get out.

Eizenkot is reported to have explained that Tel Aviv’s keenness to support Jordan’s stability stems from the security relationship and intelligence cooperation between the two countries.

The newspaper quoted a senior Israeli official as saying: “Israeli officials have been urging both the Obama and Trump administrations to support Jordan economically and militarily, which has absorbed more than a million Syrian refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.”

In 1994, Jordan and Israel signed the Wadi Araba peace treaty to become the second Arab country after Egypt to normalize relations with Tel Aviv.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170309-israel-concerned-by-growing-instability-in-jordan/.

Israel says it will bar entry to fugitive Peruvian president

February 12, 2017

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel said Sunday it would not permit Peru’s fugitive former president to enter the country after reports he had boarded a flight from the United States. The Foreign Ministry said Alejandro Toledo, who governed Peru from 2001 to 2006, would only be allowed into Israel “once his affairs in Peru are settled.”

Toledo, whose wife has dual Belgian-Israeli citizenship, may seek refuge in Israel, which does not have an extradition treaty with the South American nation. He was believed to be in San Francisco over the weekend and possibly on a flight set to land in Israel later Sunday. Israeli officials said they did not know whether he was on the plane

An international manhunt is underway after a judge issued an arrest order for Toledo, finding that there was a high probability he had received bribes from a Brazilian construction firm that has admitted to paying off officials throughout Latin America.

Toledo is accused of accepting some $20 million in bribes from Odebrecht to help the company win a contract to build a highway from Brazil to Peru’s Pacific Coastline. Odebrecht last year admitted in a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to paying some $800 million in bribes to politicians throughout Latin America, including $29 million during the 2001-2006 governments of Toledo and his two successors.

Toledo, who was last believed to be in Paris a week ago, has denied any wrongdoing.

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